The Times – Churches must be ‘entertainment’ too<br/> If clairvoyants must have warning signs, why not faith healers and others places of worship? By Matthew Parris

Another example of careless jurisprudence this week: on Monday a new law came into force requiring fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, astrologers and mediums to stipulate explicitly that their services are for “entertainment only”.

Well, trades descriptions legislation is anciently established; but in the realms of the spirit, prophecy, invisible worlds, ghosts and human souls, it has generally been felt that the whole thing is too cloudy for law. By bringing access to other spiritual dimensions into line with access to (say) a British Airways club class lounge, and by deeming in law – for that is what this measure does – that claims about worlds undreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio, are false, Parliament has taken a serious step in principle, even if the measure itself is trivial and most clairvoyants are only jokers anyway.

What, for instance, about the “faith” community? Perhaps it’s there in the legislative small print already. There will have to be an exception in law for “religions”. Whereupon clairvoyants will presumably rename themselves spiritualists. And spiritualists will presumably claim the status of a religion. Whereupon lawmakers will stipulate that a “religion” has to centre around a deity. Whereupon Buddhism will cease to be a “religion”; and…

…Well you see the philosophical marsh into which this new principle leads. Is Parliament aware of any harder evidence for the efficacy of faith-healing than for the reliability of clairvoyance? I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, let the collecting boxes in church display a sign “for entertainment purposes only” and let Catholics buy candles to light “for entertainment purposes only”; and let trips to Lourdes be sold “for entertainment purposes only”. And let the raiment of the priest administering the Sacrament be embroidered likewise.

Imagine the churchyard billboard: the Power of Prayer (for entertainment purposes only).

So, seriously, was there really a pressing need for government to address the urgent need for the unsuspecting populace to be told that psychics aren’t 100% accurate? Was there a rash of little old WI ladies writing their MPs about this? Really?