Presenter/s: Professor Pauline Ridge
Event type: Inspiring Women of ANU - Inaugural lecture
Event date: Wednesday, 31 October 2018 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Event venue: Theatre 1, Hedley Bull Building #130, Garran Road, ANU
The Financing of Religion
‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.’ 1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV Bible)
The association of religion with wealth-generation can provoke strong feelings. Yet, as with other not for profit entities, it is legitimate and necessary for religious groups to fund their religious activities. They do so from a variety of sources, including the donations of believers, investments and non-religious commercial activity. Religious groups pursuing purposes for the advancement of religion also benefit financially from the State’s conferral of charitable status.
An exploration of the legal questions raised by the financing of religion reveals universal themes concerning the right to freedom of religion, legal neutrality and gender. There are both private and public regulatory dimensions to such questions. On the one hand, how far should the law intervene in relationships within a religious community? In manifesting religious faith, believers expose their most intimate selves and are correspondingly vulnerable to exploitation for financial gain. Advantage may be taken, even in good faith, by a devout leader. Should the law override a believer’s donative autonomy by presuming the exercise of undue influence when a large gift is made by a believer to their spiritual leader? And can religious exhortations to donate ever be ‘misleading and deceptive’ or ‘unconscionable’ within the meaning of Australian law?
On the other hand, there is a public dimension to religious funding. The State and religion have a symbiotic relationship in which financial benefits are traded for regulatory power through the mechanism of charity law. Why does Australian charity law presume that purposes for the advancement of religion provide a public benefit? And what constitutes ‘public detriment’?
My objective in this lecture is to propose an interpretive legal theory project that will address the legal regulation of religious financing in all its manifestations.
Professor Pauline Ridge is an internationally recognised private law scholar and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She researches in equity, restitution and contract law, and has a special interest in the legal regulation of religious financing. She co-edited Fault Lines in Equity (Hart Publishing, 2012) and is co-author of Accessories in Private Law (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Pauline has given interviews, written opinion pieces and made government submissions concerning the reform of religious charity law. She is a former Director for the Centre for Commercial Law at the ANU College of Law and member of the Charity Law Association, Australia and New Zealand.