Friday, April 18, 2008

MEDIUMS THREATENED BY NEW EUROPEAN LAW

Your editor ran into this problem while putting out a community paper in the 1960s. On reflection he could discover no difference between a medium telling someone what was going to happen next week and an established minister telling someone what was going to happen to them when they died. So we accepted advertising from both.

INDEPENDENT, UK For centuries, spiritualists have faced down the challenges of science and established religion. Now they fear changes to the law could leave them open to civil action from skeptics. Representatives of British mediums will march up Downing Street to deliver a petition containing some 10,000 signatories demanding that the Government change its decision to repeal the 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act in favor of a new EU directive.

While the move has prompted a flurry of "they should have seen it coming" gags from detractors, spiritualists are anything but amused about the new laws.

"What we have here is a fundamental attack on our right to practice our religion. We want to stop the charlatans but the existing Act gives us reassurances which the Government seems unable to do under this new legislation. They tell us we will probably be all right but we fear this will end up with one of us in court in front of a judge," said David McEntee-Taylor, head of the Spiritual Workers Association (SWA), that organised the protest.

The SWA complains that the 1951 law, which replaced the 1735 Witchcraft Act, guarantees "genuine" mediums legal protection, penalizing only those who seek to hoodwink the public.

However, by treating spiritualism as merely a consumer service, mediums believe they risk being sued if customers are dissatisfied with advice brought from the other side – advice they say they always point out should always be treated with care. The solution to the present impasse, according to lawyers advising the crystal-ball fraternity, is via the prosaic expedient of a pre-consultation disclaimer, describing any dialogue with the deceased in terms of either entertainment or scientific experiment. It does not sit comfortably with purist believers.

Psychic mailings netted L40m from the British public last year and the number of telephone and internet services are soaring – an unsurprising fact considering some 50 per cent of the public claims to believe in the phenomenon, according to Professor Richard Wiseman, a stalwart critic of the religion. A further third claim to have had a psychic experience. "The problem is that there is no repeatable scientific evidence to back this up," he said.


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