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Apr 17 2012

Indian Skeptic Faces Arrest for Debunking Catholic ‘Miracle’

Here’s another reason to love the First Amendment. Sanal Edamaruku, president of Rational International, faces possible arrest in India after he debunked a ‘miracle’ at a Catholic church in that country, where a statue of Jesus had water dripping from its feet. Stephen Law has a letter from the organization explaining what happened:

Dear friends,
On 10th March, Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Rationalist International, flew to Mumbai. The TV channel TV-9 had invited him to investigate a “miracle” that caused local excitement. He went with the TV team to Irla in Vile Parle to inspect the crucifix standing there in front of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni. This crucifix had become the centre of attraction for an ever growing crowd of believers coming from far and wide. The news of the miracle spread like wild fire. For some days, there were little droplets of water trickling from Jesus’ feet. Hundreds of people came every day to pray and collect some of the “holy water” in bottles and vessels. Sanal Edamaruku identified the source of the water (a drainage near a washing room) and the mechanism how it reached Jesus feet (capillary action). The local church leaders, present during his investigation, appeared to be displeased. See the investigation in detail on YouTube.

Some hours later, in a live program on TV-9, Sanal explained his findings and accused the concerned Catholic Church officials of miracle mongering, as they were beating the big drum for the drippling Jesus statue with aggressive PR measures and by distributing photographs certifying the “miracle”. A heated debate began, in which the five church people, among them Fr. Augustine Palett, the priest of Our Lady of Velankanni church, and representatives of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) demanded that Sanal apologize. But Sanal refused and argued against them. [The whole TV program is recorded. You can watch an abridged version of it on YouTube.]

When they saw Sanal refused to bow to their demands, they threatened to file a blasphemy case against him. And they did.

Yesterday (10th April,2012) Sanal received a phone call from a Police official of Juhu Police Station in Mumbai directing him to come to the said police station to face the charges and get arrested. He also said that FIRs have also been filed in Andheri and some other police stations u/s 295 of Indian Penal Code on the allegations of hurting the religious sentiments of a particular community. Mumbai police has announced that they were out to arrest him. It is apprehended that he can be arrested any moment.

The filing of FIRs by Mumbai police and threatening to arrest a well known rationalist who has been exposing miracles and superstitious beliefs for more than three decades is a serious attack on the freedom of expression. Clause (h) of Article 51-A of Constitution of India states that :

‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform.’

In exposing the said miracle, Sanal was performing his fundamental duty enshrined in our constitution.

It is distressing that the Mumbai police has chosen to harass and victimize him for doing his fundamental duty.

‘Sanal Edamaruku Defence Committee’ appeals to all progressive individuals and organizations to protest and oppose the reprehensible steps of the Maharashtra police in filing FIRs against Sanal and stand behind him in solidarity for the cause of scientific thinking and freedom of expression.

N.D.Pancholi
11 April, 2012 Convenor,
Sanal Edamaruku Defence Committee
PS. Please have a look at ‘www.rationalistinternational.net’.

This is appalling, needless to say, and unfathomable to me. Can you imagine Peter Popoff being able to file charges against James Randi for offending his religious sensibilities by exposing him as a fraud? This is the problem with all laws against “defamation of religion” or “offending” anyone’s religion.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    freebird

    I don’t suppose there’s an English translation available?

  2. 2
    noastronomer

    How India think they’ll ever leave the 3rd world with this attitude is quite beyond me.

  3. 3
    jba55

    ‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform.’

    How do they reconcile that with laws prohibiting “hurting the religious sentiments of a particular community”? The two are in direct contradiction to each other. I’d say they need to pick one and go with it, but I’m too afraid of which one they’d pick.

    Also, how the hell is water dripping from a statue a miracle? If it was a miracle shouldn’t it be, you know, miraculous? Blood I could see claiming miracle status, if it was beer I might almost be tempted to believe myself. But water? I just don’t get it. Course, I’m not Catholic…

  4. 4
    matty1

    I agree this is outrageous but what is this doing in a legal document like a constitution?

    Clause (h) of Article 51-A of Constitution of India states that :

    ‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform.’

    I cannot see how it works, are Indians stripped of citizenship for not being inquisitve enough?

  5. 5
    jaranath

    Priest buggers kids? That’s an internal matter of the Church and need not be reported to the authorities. On pain of excommunication.

    Skeptic exposes crappy miracle? “Help! POLICE!”

  6. 6
    leni

    Also, how the hell is water dripping from a statue a miracle?

    No kidding. Lamest miracle ever. At least the Jesus Cheeto was funny.

    Also, wouldn’t you think they’d want to know what they were “worshipping” a false miracle (or whatever the correct theological term for this is)? They should be thanking him, you know, the whole devil’s advocate thing and all.

  7. 7
    Skip White

    Doesn’t the Catholic church even have a group that investigates so-called miracles to make sure they’re “miraculous”, and not something like this, which is pretty clearly a natural phenomenon?

  8. 8
    eric

    jba55:

    Also, how the hell is water dripping from a statue a miracle?

    Well, if it’s capillary action, the source of the water could be below the statue instead of above it. Scientifically ignorant people might then rule that source out, because they “know” water doesn’t flow uphill, and thus, it looks like magic.

    The church’s response is completely indefensible. But the populace’s reaction to some wierd phenomena might be more understandable. Most of those folks probably don’t have the benefit of a 1st world high school education. Heck, they may not have what we’d consider a junior high or primary school education. I wouldn’t necessarily ridicule unschooled people for not understanding capillary action.

  9. 9
    frog

    matty1@ 4: There are days when I wouldn’t mind seeing certain Americans stripped of citizenship for not being inquisitive enough.

    Skip@7: except that every supposed miracle has a natural explanation. If they investigated properly, there would be nothing for them to label Genuine Certified Miracle. My best guess is that they separate the “humans are deliberately rigging this” from events where random chance and physics create a situation with interesting appearances. Presumably they believe the “random chance” part of that equation is driven by deity, not randomness.

  10. 10
    jba55

    eric: Yeah, the lay people’s reaction is much more understandable. There’s evidence all around us that the average person will believe just about anything. And the clergy seems to be mostly motivated by asses in the pews, so maybe they didn’t think it was one themselves but knew others would. Hm. I don’t feel better for some reason.

  11. 11
    IncredulousMark

    Every Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jew or Christian who voices their religious beliefs in India blasphemes the other religions. Claiming Vishnu is a god is blasphemous to non-Hindus just as claiming Jesus is the son of god is blasphemous to non-Christians. Why isn’t every Pandit, Granthi ,Imam, Rabbi, Priest and Pastor in India under arrest? Oh…the law only applies to non-believers…it doesn’t matter what bullshit you believe so long as you believe bullshit? That’s bullshit.

  12. 12
    Abby Normal

    Also, how the hell is water dripping from a statue a miracle? If it was a miracle shouldn’t it be, you know, miraculous?

    If water sprang forth from a stone without a natural cause I’d call that pretty miraculous. Of course I don’t think that’s ever happened in the history of the world. But if it did I wouldn’t quibble that the water wasn’t a special enough substance. From a Christian perspective, the Bible says that when Christ was speared through the heart, after dying on the cross, that water flowed from the wound. That passage figures prominently in many versions of the Grail story. So water fits in perfectly with Christian mythology.

  13. 13
    jba55

    @Abby Normal: Huh, I didn’t know that. I should have too, since I’ve read the bible and several Grail legends. I retract my derisive statement about water. I stand by my statement that beer would have been more miraculous though, if such a thing can be measured like that.

  14. 14
    d cwilson

    Most of those folks probably don’t have the benefit of a 1st world high school education.

    They went to school in the US?

    Doesn’t the Catholic church even have a group that investigates so-called miracles to make sure they’re “miraculous”, and not something like this, which is pretty clearly a natural phenomenon?

    Supposedly, they do. They even claim that these so-called investigators assume it’s a natural phenomenon until “proven” otherwise.

    But, miracles are great tourist attractions for the local churches. They can’t have the Vatican going around debunking every miracle. That’s bad for the collection plate.

  15. 15
    Abby Normal

    Tell someone you love them today, because life’s too short. But shout it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.

    jba55, John 19:34 is the Bible reference.

    But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

    I remember because a friend of mine, a Catholic priest, once presented it to me as evidence of the Bible’s accuracy. He claimed that Jesus must have suffered a heart attack, which can fill the area around the heart with a clear, water-like substance. He went on to say that people wouldn’t have known about that 2000 years ago, and therefore the Bible is divine revelation. It was not one of his better arguments.

  16. 16
    matty1

    MarkNS

    Claiming Vishnu is a god is blasphemous to non-Hindus just as claiming Jesus is the son of god is blasphemous to non-Christians.

    [Pedant hat on]Some versions of Hinduism will actually argue that just as all the different gods of their own religion are really just manifestations of the real hidden deity so are the gods of other religions. They would probably not find claiming Jesus as divine blasphemous, more likely they would add his name to their long list[/Pedant hat off]

  17. 17
    Bronze Dog

    On the topic of crying statues, I’ve heard one common pious fraud method is olive oil. The layer of oil remains shiny for a while instead of drying out quickly like water would, making it look like it’s being continually refreshed by continued crying. When you move around an oil-treated statue, the movement of the light reflections might also be mistaken for that of flowing water instead of a static line of oil.

  18. 18
    busterggi

    Considering all the foofurrah over Ganesh statues ‘drinking’ milk a few years ago you wouldn’t think Indians needed yet another explaination of how capillary action works.

  19. 19
    leni

    Tell someone you love them today, because life’s too short. But shout it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.

    Stealing this!

  20. 20
    leni

    @ Abby- did you just make that up? I’m just dying laughing about it. It kind of sounds like something Eddie Izzard would say.

  21. 21
    Abby Normal

    Leni, I can’t take credit. A friend found it, apparently on Failbook, and told it to me. I jotted it down then accidently included it when copy/pasting my comment. My employer insists on using an ancient browser with no spell-check. So I routinely type my comments in Word them transfer them.

  22. 22
    leni

    Funny :) It seemed totally random and irrelevant but I was laughing so hard I didn’t think to care.

  23. 23
    helenaconstantine

    He ought to surrender for arrest and bring a counter-charge of blasphemy against the priests running the fake miracle. They are doing a lot more to defame Christianity and dishonor its god than any skeptic ever could.

  24. 24
    jnorris

    What else can the Catholics do? Sanal Edamaruku was PERSECUTING them!

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