'Creed' is a 'protected characteristic' with respect to discrimination or harassment, at least in some U.S. jurisdictions or for some private employers.

The Wikipedia article "Creed" defines it thus:

A creed (also confession, symbol, or statement of faith) is a statement of the shared beliefs of a religious community in the form of a fixed formula summarizing core tenets.

Does the legal definition, or any (if there are multiple) legal definitions, significantly differ from the above?


It appears to be a grey area and does not appear to have an explicit definition aside from religion in many jurisdictions. Even those jurisdictions that discuss a broader definition, seem to shy away from actually doing so. Note that this is only a cursory search and experts in various jurisdictions may come up with more detailed results.

This case seems to mean that it is a formal declaration of a recognized religion.

Creed Legal Definition

The word creed imports a formal declaration of religious belief. The word has no reference to benevolent, philanthropic or fraternal organizations, secret or otherwise, even though of a moral character. [Hammer v. State, 173 Ind. 199 (Ind. 1909)].

This site

Says that it appears to be based on religion, but shows that (in Tennessee at least) there is no specific case law on the matter.

Since the law has not yet established what “creed” means, as far as prohibiting employment discrimination on that basis, employers have little guidance in this area. If an employee presents a non-religious but sincerely held belief, will that be enough to be considered a “creed” by the courts? With only a gut feeling to go by, we think it likely that Tennessee courts will lean toward the view that “creed” and “religion” are synonymous terms; thus, veganism, for example, since it does not constitute a religious belief, would not be a protected group under the THRA. However, to play it safe, employers should refrain from passing judgment or making derogatory comments regarding an employee’s expressed beliefs.

The hard part will come when an employer is faced with a situation that may appear he is terminating an employee due to his creed. Sooner or later, the courts will be ruling in such cases. While we tend to think that Tennessee will decide that creed equals religion (for THRA purposes), the last time we checked, the courts were not giving us a vote on the question. So, employers, proceed with care!

Ontario Human Rights Commission

Various other cases have left open the possibility that non-religious belief may constitute a creed under the Code (as discussed below). Overall, the courts appear to be reluctant to offer any final, authoritative, definitive or closed definition of creed, preferring a more organic, analogical (“if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck”)[232] case-by-case assessment. This has yielded a variety of results. Courts and tribunals have recognized a wide variety of subjectively defined religious and spiritual beliefs within the meaning of creed under the Code and religion under the Charter, including:

Aboriginal spiritual practices,[233]
Hutterian Bretheren[235]
Practitioners of Falun Gong[237]
Members of the Worldwide Church of God[238]
Rocky Mountain Mystery School.[239]

There is nothing in the case law that would prohibit redefining “creed” more broadly and include secular ethical and moral beliefs. Therefore, the question of what should constitute a creed in terms of the right to be free from discrimination under the Ontario Code – in particular with respect to secular, moral or ethical beliefs – remains an open one. In fact, this is a central question being considered in the current creed policy update. At the same time, the courts have offered some guidelines around the outer limits of what they will recognize as meriting protection under the Code ground of creed (as discussed below)


  • 2
    This is a fantastic answer – thanks. I'm gratified to learn that others have noted the ambiguity of the term. – Kenny Evitt Apr 21 '16 at 18:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.