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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Faith or Fraud

Fortune-Telling, Spirituality, and the Law

The growing presence in Western society of non-mainstream faiths and spiritual practices poses a dilemma for the law. For example, if a fortune teller promises to tell the future in exchange for cash, and both parties believe in the process, has a fraud been committed?

Using that example as a case study, and building on a thorough history of the legal regulation of fortune-telling laws in four countries, Faith or Fraud examines the impact of people who identify as “spiritual but not religious” on the future legal understanding of religious freedom. Traditional legal notions of religious freedom, Jeremy Patrick explains, were conceived in the context of organized religion; now the law needs to adapt to a contemporary spirituality, in which individuals can select concepts drawn from multiple religions, philosophies, and folklore to develop their own idiosyncratic belief systems. Faith or Fraud exposes the law’s failure to recognize individual spirituality as part of modern religious practice, concluding that legal understanding of freedom of religion has not evolved along with religion itself.

280 pages | 6 x 9

Law and Society


"[Patrick] builds a compelling case for how and why legal conceptions of religious freedom can change to better accommodate nonmainstream forms of spiritual practice."

Nova Religio

"Faith or Fraud is clear, concise, and raises a large number of interesting questions related to trenchant legal issues, namely the interpretation of protections for constitutionally and statutorily guaranteed rights. With strong scholarship and the occasional insertion of Patrick’s own voice and opinions, this work should stimulate serious discussion."

Journal of Law and Religion

Table of Contents

1 Fortune-Telling
2 English Law
3 Canadian Law
4 Australian Law
5 American Law
6 Analysis of Arguments for and Against
7 Spiritual Counselling and Freedom of Religion
Appendix 1: Chronology of English Statutes and Cases on Fortune-Telling
Appendix 2: Further Reading
Notes; Index

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