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‘Not Fit for Purpose’

Evangelical Alliance has issued a report [PDF] that criticizes the phrase Spiritual Abuse as vague and incoherent.

Produced by Evangelical Alliance’s Theology Advisory Group, the report outlines how Spiritual Abuse is a seriously problematic term because of its inherent ambiguity, and because attempts by some to embed it within statutory safeguarding discourse and secular law would be unworkable in practice, potentially discriminatory toward religious communities, and damaging to interfaith relations.

“We take the harm caused by emotional, psychological, and other forms of abuse in religious contexts very seriously indeed,” said the Rev. David Hilborn, chairman of the advisory group. “The Alliance has worked closely with its partner organizations and member churches in this area. However, we are deeply uneasy about increasing usage of the unhelpful and potentially misleading term Spiritual Abuse.

“We believe the existing legal frameworks of emotional and psychological abuse are sufficient and need to be enforced in religious contexts, as in other contexts. However, creating a special category of Spiritual Abuse just for religious people potentially singles them out for criminalization. As such, it carries the risk of religious discrimination, and threatens social cohesion. As a diagnostic term, Spiritual Abuse may be well-intended, but this report shows that it is not fit for purpose.”

Adapted from Evangelical Alliance

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