“Spiritual But Not Religious”: Rethinking the Legal Definition of Religion

Article — Volume 102, Issue 3

102 Va. L. Rev. 833
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Through the statutory mechanisms of RFRA and RLUIPA, Free Exercise jurisprudence has expanded the scope of religious protection. In the absence of a clear legal definition of religion, however, this protection has an unknown and biased reach. In particular, courts and legal scholars embody a misunderstanding of a burgeoning group of Americans who identify as “spiritual but not religious,” excluding them from religious protection. This Note uses a recent case, which dismissed as nonreligious the beliefs of a plaintiff whose beliefs are paradigmatic of this growing cohort, to analyze how the law defines religion. It argues that while such belief systems reject the institutional characteristics of organized religion, they are sufficiently analogous to religious belief systems to deserve the same legal protection.

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  Volume 102 / Issue 3  

Confronting and Adapting: Intelligence Agencies and International Law

By Ashley S. Deeks
102 Va. L. Rev. 599

“Necessary AND Proper” and “Cruel AND Unusual”: Hendiadys in the Constitution

By Samuel L. Bray
102 Va. L. Rev. 687

Judicial Capacity and Executive Power

By Andrew Coan and Nicholas Bullard
102 Va. L. Rev. 765

“Spiritual But Not Religious”: Rethinking the Legal Definition of Religion

By Courtney Miller
102 Va. L. Rev. 833