Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Legal Definition of Religion

Sometimes religious insights come from unexpected sources.

Today I read the following statement of Judge Dillon in the case of Re South Place Ethical Society*:

"Religion as I see it, is concerned with man's relations with God, and ethics are concerned with man's relation with man. The two are not the same, and are not made the same by sincere enquiry into the question; what is God?"

The background for this case is that in the UK trusts that are for the purpose of the 'advancement of religion' are charitable. This is important because charitable trusts have many advantages, most importantly exemption from income tax.

The South Place Ethical Society's objects were the "study and dissemination of ethical principles and the cultivation of the a rational religious sentiment."

Judge Dillon held that the purpose was not religious and therefore not charitable.

* [1980] 1 W.L.R. 1565.


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