Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ontario Man Charged with Witchcraft Fraud

The Toronto Star has a story on an Ontario man named Gustavo Valencia Gomez who has been charged with the rare offence of fraudulently practising witchcraft.  According to the story, Gomez is alleged to have persuaded a 56-year-old woman that she was under a curse and that her children were in grave danger.  Allegedly, Gomez received more than $ 14,000 from the woman for a serious of spiritual interventions involving elaborate rituals to remove the curse.

The Canadian Criminal Code retains a provision specifically directed to witchcraft and fortune telling, and I think the provision raises some very interesting issues relating to freedom of religion that I hope to write about some time in the future.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion"

Morton Klass, Ordered Universes: Approaches to the Anthropology of Religion (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995)

Klass' book will be primarily of interests to anthropologists, but it's written clearly enough to be accessible to those outside of that discipline.  Much of the book is taken up with terminological issues: how should we approach, or define, concepts like "religion", "supernatural", "myth", and "magic"?  Much of the intra-disciplinary wrangling on these issues has little to do with law and religion generally, but Klass' emphasis on the constant need for neutrality and the avoidance of ethnocentrism is extremely valuable.  Legal issues such as what constitutes a religion for tax exemption, what constitutes a religious practice for constitutional protection, and whether "witchcraft" or fortune-telling can be prosecuted as fraud all involve definitional issues in which legal scholars need to be extremely careful not to bring their cultural baggage with them.