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Spiritist Centers Are Not Churches

posted Dec 20, 2011, 10:52 AM by Lia Gouveia   [ updated Apr 2, 2013, 7:49 PM ]
Why Spiritist Centers Should NOT Be Registered As Churches

The United States Spiritist Council (USSC) strongly encourages Spiritist groups to register as non-profit organizations in full compliance with local, state, and federal law. In order to do so, the need will arise for Spiritist groups to choose a classification that will describe their purposes and activities --that is, if they wish to become, among others, a charitable organization, an educational organization, etc.-- and at the same time remain true to the character of the Spiritist Doctrine in its triple aspect.   

Under the categories of non-profit organizations, there is one, however,  that should not be an option: to denominate a Spiritist organization as a Church.  

To substantiate this recommendation, the USSC has (1) sought the opinion of renowned Brazilian medium Mr. Divaldo Pereira Franco; (2) researched published Spiritist manuals for guidance on this specific matter; and (3) went to our most definite source:  Allan Kardec himself. 

Divaldo Pereira Franco

In looking for a reliable and secure source of enlightenment on this issue, the USSC turned to Mr. Divaldo Pereira Franco, who kindly and straightforwardly answered our question.     

USSC:   Why should Spiritist groups not register themselves as Churches?
DIVALDO:    All religions and doctrines deserve our respect.  However, it is my opinion that if Spiritist Societies opt to register themselves as Churches they will compromise the character or our Movement and will run the risk of introducing practices that are completely contrary to the dispositions of the Spiritist DoctrineThe public associates Churches with external forms of worship, and the leadership of pastors and ministers, while Spiritism is carried out with simplicity, without any rituals or external forms of worship and clerical hierarchies.  The Spiritist Societies, therefore, have to present and register their organizations with clarity in order not to confuse the public that knocks on their doors or the authorities that will grant their registration.  Another point to consider is the three-fold aspect, scientific, philosophical and religious of the Spiritist Doctrine.  In sum, it is our responsibility to employ our best efforts so that Spiritism and its practices don't get dispersed among definitions and practices related to churches, temples, and similar organizations.
Manual for Administration of Spiritist Organizations

(Edição USEERJ, 2000, p. 20) 

  Spiritist Centers, whether organizing or re-organizing, shall take the following steps regarding their denomination:

a) avoid adopting complicated or exotic names that do not translate the Spiritist idea and could bring discredit or ridicule;
b) do not adopt the denomination of CHURCH, temple,  . . . or similar; (emphasis added)
c) ensure that the denomination of a Spiritist institution, whether classified as doctrinal, educational, or assistential, is discreet, expressive, short, in good language, and will not be exposed to ambiguity, cacophony, or other modes of ridicule.  .  .  .

Allan Kardec

Allan Kardec throughout his writings presented the Spiritist Doctrine in its three-fold aspect: scientific, philosophical, and religious.  To confine it to a religious denomination solely at the expense of its wide-ranging and all encompassing principles would indeed be a great disservice to Kardec, who worked so tirelessly to codify a doctrine that would span all human knowledge.  (Notably, in Posthumous Works, [Obras Postumas], in the chapter on the Constitution of Spiritism, Kardec gives us invaluable guidance as to how a Spiritist Society should be structured, giving clear evidence of his practical and conscientious approach in the planning of a viable Spiritist Society.)  

The following examples of Kardec's characterizations of Spiritism further gave the USSC the guidance it needed to issue its recommendation.  No instances were found where Spiritism is referred to as a new religion or a Church.  Quite to the contrary, as clearly attested below.   

" Spiritism is the new science which has come to reveal to mankind, by means of irrefutable proofs, the existence and nature of the spiritual world and its relationship with the physical world."  ("Spiritism"  - The Gospel According to Spiritism - Ch. I, at pg. 25.  HPC Publisher, 1987). 

"Spiritism is a philosophical doctrine with religion effects, as is any spiritualist philosophy, because it inevitably reaches to the roots of all religions:  God, soul, and future life.  But it is not a constituted religion, since it has no services, no rituals, no temples, and no one among its adherents received the title of priest or high priest."  ("Quick Answers to the Detractors of Spiritism" - Obras Póstumas [Posthumous Works], First Part at pg. 261; 26 th Ed. FEB, 1993.)

“Why then do we declare that Spiritism is not a religion?  Because one single word cannot express two different ideas, and in the general opinion the word religion is inseparable from religious services; it evokes solely an idea of format that Spiritism lacks.  If Spiritism denominated itself a religion, the public would see nothing more than a new edition, a variation if you wish, of the absolute principles in the matter of faith; . . ..  Since Spiritism has none of the characters of a religion in the customary use of this word, it could not and should not adorn itself with a title that would not be true to its substance.  That is why it is simply stated that Spiritism is a moral and philosophical doctrine.   [“Is Spiritism a Religion?” - Revista Espírita [Revue Spirite], Vol. 12, December 1868, at pg. 357.  EDICEL.]

“Spiritism therefore is not a religion.  If it was, it would have its services and rituals, its temples,  [and] its ministers.  No doubt anyone can transform their opinions into a religion, as well as freely interpret all known religions; but to leap from there into the constitution of a new CHURCH is too great of a stretch, and I think it imprudent to follow such course. “ (emphasis added.)  [“Rebuttal to an Article in “L'Univers” - Revista Espírita [Revue Spirite],  No. 5, May 1858, at pg. 148.  EDICEL.]

Comments On The Same Subject From Other Reputable Spiritist Authorities:

Léon Denis – “Kardec referred to us that it [the Spiritist Doctrine] is a science of observation , not tied to this or that limit of knowledge.  It is a wide-ranging science.”  (Oral message conveyed through the mediumship of Divaldo Pereira Franco, at the closing of the International Spiritist Council meeting in the city of Porto, Portugal, on October 31, 2002.  Reformador, January 2003, at pg. 38.)    

J. Herculano Pires – “Kardec refused to refer to a Spiritist religion, maintaining that Spiritism is a scientific and philosophical doctrine of moral consequences.”    ("The Experience of God" -  A Agonia das Religiões [The Agony of Religions] - Ch. III, at pg. 28.  Ed. Paideia, 1989.)

Camille Flammarion – “Because, gentlemen, Spiritism is not a religion, but a science, from which we know only the a,b,c.  The time of the dogmas has passed.”  (Speech of C. Flammarion at Allan Kardec's Tomb  -  Obras Póstumas [Posthumous Works], at pg. 25.   26 th  Ed. FEB, 1993.)

So, Dear Spiritist Friends, based upon the testimonies gathered above,  it falls upon us, the workers of the last hour, to set the solid bases for the establishment of Spiritist societies that will foster the unshakable faith that can meet reason face to face and is the keystone of Spiritism.  To this end, the quality of the seeds we sow now will determine if the harvest will be plentiful in bringing the Doctrine of consolation and hope to America once and for all as it was codified in its triple aspect by Allan Kardec.  We pray that,  with the permission of God, our Father, and under the loving watch of Jesus, our Master, and meriting the loving support of the Good Spirits that help us in this endeavor, all our efforts combined turn out to be fruitful indeed.

The United States Spiritist Council, May 2003