Faith or Fraud
280 pages, 6 x 9
4 b&w photos
Release Date:01 Sep 2020
Release Date:15 Mar 2020
Release Date:15 Mar 2020
Release Date:15 Mar 2020

Faith or Fraud

Fortune-Telling, Spirituality, and the Law

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

The growing presence in Western society of non-mainstream faiths and spiritual practices poses a dilemma for the law. 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? Should someone with a potpourri of New Age beliefs be accorded the same legal protection as a devout Catholic?

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 have been conceived and articulated in the context of monotheistic, organized religions that impose moral constraints on adherents. Jeremy Patrick examines how the law needs to adapt to a contemporary spirituality in which individuals 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 the legal conception of religious freedom has not evolved to keep pace with religion itself.

Law and religion scholars in the United States, Canada, and Australia will find much to recommend this work, which also contains valuable material for British law and religion specialists and sociologists of religion.

As a detailed history of the debates over fortune-telling in four different countries, and as an argument for the expansion of religious freedom law to include this kind of practice, Faith or Fraud makes a valuable contribution to the field Tisa Wenger, Yale Divinity School, Nova Religio
Faith or Fraud is a thought-provoking read which could provide the catalyst for much further work. It provides a wonderful opportunity to confront our attitudes towards 'new Age' faith and to modern manifestations of faith...All this is done in the context of tantalising glimpses of other topical issues around the transmission of legal ideas within the common law world. Charlotte Smith, University of Reading, Ecclesiastical Law Journal
Faith or Fraud is a valuable contribution to the study of legal responses to fortune-telling...A comprehensive survey of this nature has never been conducted, and this is both an insightful and full addition to current scholarship. Taryn McLachlan, University of Saskatchewan Law School, Saskatchewan Law Review
Faith or Fraud is an ambitious work that fills a major gap in the literature about religious freedom and fortune-telling. Danielle N. Boaz, assistant professor, Department of Africana Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Patrick's book should enjoy wide reading. It is clear, concise, and raises a large number of interesting questions related to trenchant legal issues. The scholarship is strong, and the occasional insertion of Patrick's own voice and opinions should stimulate some serious discussion. Michael Camp, Independent scholar, Knoxville, TN, Journal of Law and Religion
This book situates 'fortune-telling' as an unorthodox religious belief at the margins of current definitions and explores how religious freedom rights apply to this marginal practice. It is an excellent piece of legal scholarship in an area that has rarely been studied before. Neil Foster, associate professor, Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle, Australia
Jeremy Patrick is a lecturer in the School of Law and Justice at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia, where he also convenes the law, religion, and heritage research program team. His work on religious freedom, the separation of church and state, blasphemous libel and similar topics can be found in journals such as the Journal of Law and Religion, the University of British Columbia Law Review, and the University of Queensland Law Journal.


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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