While browsing through the Customs Tarriff T2011-3, as most of us regularly do, I came across some interesting duty differences. Though it is frustrating to see religious exemptions, I was mildly entertained by the related statements.
In Chapter 62 (pdf) (some in Chapter 61 as well), you will find that the Most Favoured Nations (MFN) duty rate for most clothing is 18%. However, there are a few items that are less than 18%, see below:
You will notice that under "Other made up clothing accessories; parts of garments or of clothing
accessories", it states "For clerical or ecclesiastical garments or vestments", the tax rate is 7.5% - for all "other", it is 15%. A 50% savings in duty simply because it is "For clerical or ecclesiastical garments or vestments".
Below that you will see that prayer shawls are 0% duty and all others are 18% (with the only other exception being one that made me giggle - "Of protective suits to be employed in a noxious atmosphere;", which, for many of us, "noxious atmosphere" includes anywhere that someone is babbling about their sky-fairy daddy (ie. church, on your doorstep, at family dinners and the like.). Does "protective suit", in that situation, simply mean any article of clothing that clearly suggests to the babbler that you are an atheist? If only.)
Sadly, just below that, you will also see that bullet-proof vests are subject to a regular duty rate of 18%! Something that can help you (a bullet-proof vest) costs you 18% (duty) while something that can't help you (prayer/prayer shawl) is duty free. Religious exemptions seldom make sense - this is no exception.