Spiritualists Added To Philosophical Fold, But Jedis Still Out In The Cold

Alan Power is a spiritualist. He was employed as a trainer by Greater Manchester Police Authority in October 2008, but his employment was terminated after less than three weeks. He complained to an employment tribunal alleging that he had been dismissed because of his religious or philosophical belief, and that this amounted to discrimination.

He said he is a member of the Spiritualist Church and has a belief in spiritualism, life after death and that the dead can be contacted through mediums or psychics. His claim also referred to his belief in the "usefulness [of psychics] in police work" and he sought a declaration that this belief was "not a justification for dismissal". At a preliminary hearing, the tribunal agreed that a belief in spirituality is capable of being protected as a religious or philosophical belief under discrimination law.

The police authority appealed against the finding. Dismissing the appeal, the EAT took account of the fact that Mr Power was not alone in his beliefs, which were undisputed as genuine, as the number of worshippers of his faith in a 2001 Census was 32,404, which made it the eighth largest faith group in Britain. In the earlier Nicholson v Grainger plc case (HR Headmistress blog 26 March 2009), which established that a belief in the environment is capable of being a philosophical belief, Mr Justice Burton set out the limitations and criteria placed upon the definition of “philosophical belief” (which also applies to religious belief):

  • The belief must be genuinely held.
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
  • It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

He also made reference to the Attorney General’s further comment: “…an example of a belief that might meet this description is humanism, and examples of something that might not ... would be support of a political party or a belief in the supreme nature of the Jedi Knights.” So it seems that Jedis have been ruled out, for now at any rate. If you’re feeling the force of the law and not quite sure what to do, get in touch.

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