Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Line Between Church and State

This is an interesting case I have been reading about. A woman is suing a church for emotional distress caused by an exorcism done on her when she was 17 and led to her attempting suicide.

Mrs Schubert Pearson, 29, claims she was left bruised and traumatised after members of her church group allegedly kept her captive for two days so they could perform an exorcism in which was pinned to the ground and "pummelled".

The incident happened after fellow members of the church group became convinced she was possessed by demons. She was 17 at the time.

After the alleged ordeal, she dropped out of school and tried to slit her wrists.

A Texas court originally ruled in her favor, but a higher court overturned it and it may head to the Supreme Court. The church and those supporting it claim that the lower court overstepped its bounds and that the church's actions were protected by the First Amendment.

Mrs Schubert Pearson's claims were largely emotional and "so interwoven with religious practices" there was no way for a court to get involved, he added.

"The government can't get involved in overseeing religious practices. The best way to say it is it's not American.

"If she did prevail that would erase about 150 years of law in this country from the Supreme Court saying the government does not get involved in the internal affairs and operations of the church. It would effectively be the end of church independence and religious freedom in our country."

Here are some more articles: Left of Center, Religion News Blog, and

This is certainly a tricky matter. I think the separation of church and state is vital for our country and important for both entities. They would each be diminished by an intermingling. That said, in this case I am inclined to come down on the woman's side. She was only 17 when this happened, still a minor, and her parents were not around, nor aware of this incident until afterward. I think it would set a dangerous precedent to sanction the church's actions under the guise of the First Amendment. Where would the line be drawn for similar cases?

It would be different if the woman had been an adult or if the parents had been a part of this. Neither is true, however, and so I think the lower court made the right decision in siding with the girl. She is vowing to take her case to the Supreme Court which would be very interesting indeed. Which side would the conservative leaning court take? Either way, this is one to watch.

No comments: