Sunday, March 21, 2021
Phil Lord (McGill; Google Scholar), Religious Legitimacy, 90 UMKC L. Rev. ___ (2021):
This article seeks to demonstrate both the importance of expertise and scholarship in framing a religion’s claim of legitimacy in law, and how expertise can be harnessed by a religious group to gain this legitimacy. From a broad overview of the consequences of religious status, the article analyses the tests used to attribute the status, to show the crucial role that they afford to experts and scholarship. It then argues that new religious movements, and Scientology, are ideal case studies to illustrate the importance of scholars and scholarship. Scientology is indeed the only major religion to have emerged in the twentieth century and is unique in that it has, over this period, gained, lost, re-gained, and grappled with ongoing challenges to its status in law. The article then illustrates these issues with an analysis of two key periods from Scientology’s history: its ultimately successful fight to gain tax-exempt status in the United States in the 1980s, and its response to modern-day challenges to its tax-exempt status.
Both periods illustrate, in different ways, how Scientology has recognised the power of expertise and scholarship, and sought to harness it to frame its claim of legitimacy in law.