Well now…if you’ve had a hankerin’ to torture, abuse, and do who knows what else to people at your whim, here’s what you do: move on down to Texas and set up a religion. The Texas Supreme Court just ruled on a case in which a young woman was subjected to extreme distress and restraint during a church-run exorcism (isn’t that insane enough right there? An exorcism in 21st century America?), and they threw the previous judgment against the church out. Why? Because holding a church liable for psychological damage “would have an unconstitutional ‘chilling effect’ by compelling the church to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs.”
Damn right it would. Holding religion accountable for the stupidity perpetuated by it certainly should send a shiver down the spines of hordes of witch-doctors and mullahs and priests and other such folk with a vested interest in superstition.
The court ruling basically says that because this church carries out this practice all the time, and because adherents of the religion accept it, it’s OK to pin people to the floor and scream at them for a few hours.
The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 opinion, said the church’s exorcism sessions were a matter of church doctrine and were thus subject to certain — though not absolute — First Amendment religious protections.
“The laying of hands” and the presence of demons are part of the church’s belief system and accepted as such by its adherents,” the ruling said in part. “These practices are not normally dangerous or unusual and apparently arise in the church with some regularity. They are thus to be expected and are accepted by those in the church.”
Hello, world. In the United States, it is not considered unusual to accuse teenagers of being possessed by demons, and we subject them to frightening magic rituals to cast out such satanic forces with some regularity. Do not be alarmed. We also have nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems. But I repeat…do not be at all alarmed.
One of the lawyers for the church noticed a key point of this ruling — it’s too bad he thinks it is a good thing.
“The key point of this ruling is that we don’t have a right to have our standards of reasonableness foisted upon some other religion,” Dallas attorney David Pruessner said. “None of our religious beliefs can be examined when they are emotionally disturbing to other people.”
No religious beliefs are to be examined critically, no matter how disturbing they may be. That’s the way things work down in Texas, I guess. Oh, but he hastily adds…
Pruessner said no one should think Friday’s ruling would give protection to a church leader accused of abusing a child.
Except that that is exactly what happened in this case: the victim of this church-endorsed abuse was 17 at the time, and the church has now gotten off scot-free, held not culpable for their insanity, and told that they can keep on doing it with the protection of the law…and they’ve been informed that any weird religious belief is “normal”.
I would suggest a well-known compromise, one that has been violated by the Texas court decision. You are free to believe whatever wacky nonsense you want — you can believe moody teenagers are possessed by demons, and you can believe that cutting out the hearts of virgins will guarantee that the sun will rise tomorrow, and you can even believe that barbecued babies are especially delicious — but you are not free to act on those beliefs in a way that infringes the rights of other people. The Texas court, in its zeal to protect religious beliefs, has gone too far and has endorsed the right of a church to do harm in the name of their god.