New Legislation for UK Spiritualists
Since 1951 practising UK Spiritualists have been carefully aware of an Act of Parliament, which for the most part has not interfered with the religion of Spiritualism. In it's fifty seven year history, the Fraudulent Mediums Act, 1951 has only ever been used to prosecute about half a dozen people.
Sceptics would argue that two loopholes in the FMA allowed mediums to operate without fear of prosecution; the first would be that any public demonstration of mediumship would be for "entertainment purposes only" and the second being that any admission fees paid at a demonstration of clairvoyance would be for the hire of the room and not for the medium's services.
After a group of sceptics petitioned the Government to remove these loopholes in the FMA it came to light that the Government already had plans to repeal the Fraudulent Mediums Act in April 2008, and would be replacing it with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2007, to harmonise UK legislation with Europe. A group of Spiritualists from Essex then set in motion a counter petition which was eventually signed by 2,612 people. The petition read as follows...
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Consider the discriminatory implications of singling out the Spiritualist religion for inclusion within the Consumer Protection Regulations and not other religions. Any changes to the Fraudulent Mediums Act should only be made after extensive consultation with all the main spiritualist organisations."
The Government's response to this petition was...
"The Consumer Protection Regulations implement the EC Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. The Directive harmonises Member States' laws protecting consumers from unfair trading. It requires traders in all sectors not to behave unfairly towards consumers.
The Consumer Protection Regulations will apply to the activities of all persons acting in trade or business connected with the supply of goods and services to consumers. The Regulations will prohibit those activities that are misleading or aggressive.
So the Regulations will not affect the supply of spiritualistic services in themselves. They will however apply to misleading activities related to the supply of such services.
Consumers must be protected from misleading activities by traders connected with the supply of all services including spiritualistic services.
The EC Unfair Commercial Practices Directive's broad scope means that it overlaps with much existing legislation intended to protect consumers from unfair trading. The Government has decided to repeal most of this overlapping legislation, including the Fraudulent Mediums Act, to modernise and simplify the law in this area."
It is very obvious that these regulations are intended to target unfair trading in general and are not specifically aimed at Spiritualism.
The reality is that all laws have to be refined and developed over time to engage any business practices which are of concern to the public.
Since Spiritualism is legally recognised equally alongside other religious denominations in the UK, I believe that any divine service comes firmly under "religious worship", where only freewill donations are made for the upkeep of the church.
All that Spiritualism needs to do is to ensure that it's mediums operate within the new law regarding any services which involve transactions that could be interpreted as a "consumer contract". This may require some precautions such as verbal disclaimers and possibly in the case of private sittings, signed indemnity statements, but surely this is perfectly possible for any responsible Spiritualist medium to arrange.
There has been much scare mongering about the repeal of the FMA in April; driven mainly by sceptics who delight in attacking Spiritualism at every opportunity. In my opinion, the sky is definitely not falling, and the new legislation will serve to eliminate the undesirables, the fortune tellers and the con artists.