Monday, October 20, 2008

Separation of powers, Religion and the state

Separation of powers, Religion and the state
There is a current call for submissions open until 31 January 2009 by the Australian Human Rights Commission on the

Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century project

This is something all sceptical and legal minds should be aware of and partake in. In 1998 the commission made recommendations for the removal of anti-witchcraft and fortune telling laws from Queensland law.

The current research is looking at state and religion issues and if state and religion separation is important then submissions should be made. This writer will be making submission form the view that the state is and should be separate from religion.

There needs to be questions made regarding religion in other guises especially with regard to government funding of groups with a religious agenda. I am especially wary of an agenda of planned parenting where the service providers are of a religious persuasion and perform the legislated service using public monies.

Counselling of a medical type should be based on the science of the problem. If there are questions of morality and ethics then they are for the person with said problem to decide for themselves without the provider of medical information providing morality and ethical hints.

Fortune telling laws

The laws were formerly in the Queensland Criminal code act and are noted in the list of amendments in the current act as such;

Pretending to exercise witchcraft or tell fortunes
s 432 amd 1988 No. 88 s 5
sch 2
om 2000 No. 58 s 2 sch

As can be seen they were omitted from the act in the year 2000.

The old section was as follows;

Pretending to exercise witchcraft or tell fortune
432. Any person who pretends to exercise or use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration, or undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from the person’s skill or knowledge in any occult science to discover where or in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for 1 year.
I am not sure removing the section in its entirety was the correct action to take in light of the harm sought to be prevented. I think there is lots of potential harm this type of action can have. I think this is the case especially in light of persons claiming to be able to track missing children.

To date there I have been unable to find a corroborated story that shows a single event where a psychic or clairvoyant has been able to accurately locate a missing person by use of their powers.

There are examples where this has gone phenomenally wrong. I recommend looking at the supporting information for the story of a couple whose child was abducted and they were told by a psychic the child was dead. The child was located alive at a later date in relation to investigation of another child disappearing. When they investigated the new missing child they found the child they were looking for and also the supposedly dead child.
The story in question with supporting documentation is available at the link;
This is not to endorse the site against this person. The site does link to to reliable evidence to support the story. This instance was one that is easilly tracked using reliable evidence since the pronouncement was made in an open public forum.

I believe these wrongs were the type the legislation sought to prevent. A rewording of the section to remove the discriminatory nature against witchcraft would be advisable in light of the belief system of witchcraft being a genuine system that the government under the Australian Constitution is not permitted to make laws against.

116 Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
I am in favour of this section of the Constitution and feel the section as it stood was not in line with this section.
It should be noted that Section 116 does not apply to State Legislation but only to Commonwealth. The Queensland constitution appears to not mention religion in any way so technically they can do it subject to anti-discrimination law.

Yet fortune tellers are not in technical sense a religion or a belief system and as such do not warrant the protection of section 116 or an equivilent . Even though there is a section of the community who are believers this is not a system that should attract the protection.

Clairvoyants, psychics and similar persons who promote (and charge money for) a service whereby they claim they can locate missing items and persons should be examined critically. If they can prove in a scientifically tested situation such an ability exists then it is genuine. No proof exists for the existance of these powers that would stand scientific scrutiny or even a legal arguement in a court of law. At the current point these practitioners are merely exploiting a vulnerability of persons in these situations.

This is a wrong that should be legislated against to protect people in the hour of vulnerability.

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