An academic study of the use of cultural relativists in the treatment of religious subjects has found that the concept has no legal definition.
This is a developing story.
The study, conducted by two University of British Columbia law professors, shows that, when applied to religious matters, the term does not include the definition of “religion”.
The researchers, Professor Jennifer L. McQuarrie and Professor John S. Hines, used a dictionary to compile the definition for the term.
The definitions for religious concepts include belief in a creator, theism, theistic consciousness, a personal god and godhood.
The definition for “cultural relativist” does not require that a person have a particular belief system.
“It is unclear what this means for the ‘catholic ethic’ that has become so commonly used in discussions of religious ethics and spirituality,” the researchers wrote.
The term is not defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The Canadian Human and Civil Liberties Association said it would be helpful to see a definition of cultural non-conformity.
“We know from previous studies that religious groups may object to certain definitions of religiousness and may object also to some definitions of cultural conformity,” said Sarah Whetstone, a spokesperson for the association.
“The concept of cultural conformism is an important one and a critical one, given the significant influence religious organizations have on our social, cultural and economic lives.
It is particularly important for religious communities to understand the potential for religious expression and expression of diversity, especially when it comes to issues such as sexuality and gender.”
In the study, the professors used the term “cultural non-compliance” to refer to behaviour by religious groups that does not comply with the tenets of their faith.
“This would include practices that are considered inconsistent with the religious beliefs of their community or groups, such as the practice of ‘cultural conformity’ or the non-recognition of the ‘official’ religious doctrines,” the study said.
“However, these are often more limited than the general definition of ‘culture’ in that they may include more subtle and subtle forms of cultural acceptance, and they may not require explicitly religious beliefs to be in play.
For example, it is possible for an individual to accept a religious teaching that is not explicitly religious, or for an institution to acknowledge the existence of a religious belief without requiring it.”
McQuarries research found that people who engage in ‘cultural nonconformism’ have a higher risk of mental health problems.
“In the context of a high prevalence of mental disorders, the association between religious adherence and mental health concerns may be relevant,” the report said.
“However, we do not know whether religious adherence is a risk factor for mental disorders or other mental disorders.”
The researchers wrote that while some religious groups have adopted a ‘cultural approach’, they have not embraced a ‘cult-like’ approach to their practice.
“Despite the cultural approach, some religious organizations may still engage in nonconforming practices,” the paper said.
“The lack of a legal definition of religious non-conscientiousness does not preclude religious groups from engaging in other practices, such an as cultural conformity, but such practices must be consistent with the basic tenets of the religious organization.”
In a press release, the Canadian Federation of Students said it welcomes the report’s findings and will be working with the authors to “determine a suitable approach for cultural nonconformance and religious accommodation”.
“As students and members of our communities, we recognize that our freedoms are precious and that the freedoms to believe, practice and observe religion are a cornerstone of our values and rights,” the statement read.
“It is our hope that these findings will help us better understand how to address this issue in our society.”