CNN's Ali Velshi discusses this clip showing Bridgeport, Connecticut's Manifested Glory Ministries Church members attempting to exorcise the demons of homosexuality from a teenager. The pastor explains the actions of the members to Mr. Velshi, claiming that they are not anti-gay, but believe that gays are possessed by "spirits", as are alcoholics, for example. "Everything carries a spirit," she says. The teen in the video has been identified as 16 years old. According to CNN, a youth advocate who has worked with him says "she doesn't think the church acted maliciously -- but that's part of her problem with the video. "None of the people in this video were intending to hurt this kid," she said. "They performed this ritual in an attempt to rid him of feelings that he didn't want to have." She also said he is the fifth teenager who has tried such radical measures to deal with conflicting feelings, although not all the teens asked religious organizations to assist them. During the CNN interview, the pastor says the teen is "doing much better." Here's reaction from viewers.
Prosecutors say a mother set her 6 year old on fire during a voodoo ceremony intended to drive out evil spirits. The girl's mother and grandmother didn't take her to the hospital until the next day, February 5th, according to the D.A. She remained in the hospital for nearly two months. The mother says the girl was burned accidentally while the mother was cooking. The girl is now in foster care, and apparently told her foster family about the incident; they reported it to law enforcement.
From MSNBC.com: Five New Zealanders, who attempted to exorcize demons from a family member, have been convicted of manslaughter. They used water to try to "flush out" the demons from the body of Janet Moses, who eventually drowned. They also tried to get at the demons they thought they saw in the eyes of a fourteen year old family member; she now suffers from eye damage.
The prosecution did not question the defendants' good faith belief that Ms. Moses was possessed by demons. But, said, prosecutor Grant Burston, this proceeding was "not about an inquiry into whether demons or spirits or makutu exist — this is all about whether the accused are guilty of the manslaughter of Janet Moses."
The defense attorney told the jurors that Ms. Moses asked her family for help, believing that she was possessed. "The family has a process of ridding themselves of evil spirits that had been done for generations and generations."
A jury acquitted three other defendants. All of those on trial were Maoris, who have apparently practiced these rituals for centuries. A judge will sentence those convicted later this summer.
I understand why the defense attorney, Paul Paino, would mount the type of defense he did. But one cannot consent to be killed, at least under U.S. law, and I doubt New Zealand law would be different in this respect. Even if one said to someone one trusted, "Do anything to cure me of this horrible affliction--I don't care what!" that does not amount to a license literally to do anything including end the life of the individual. Clearly, the death happened unintentionally--that's why the defendants faced manslaughter charges. If one suffers from an affliction--mental or physical--one must seek treatment from a licensed practitioner, and here I mean licensed, or recognized by the state. If the afflicted person can't seek the treatment, because of physical inability or mental disability, then a relative or friend try to do so.
Naturally, the suggestion that exorcism is not a proper treatment for the belief that one is possessed by demons raises the question of freedom of religion. But from the news accounts, it's not clear how much of a role freedom of religion, or protection of the rights of aboriginal peoples, played in the defense, here. Here's another account of the verdict, from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Here's a link to Dr. Nickell's appearance on CNN with the Rev. Larson and Pastor Miller, discussing Rev. Larson's new exorcism show (which I still haven't been able to find on the SciFi Channel). I must say that I don't understand 1) why the host doesn't tell Rev. Larson not to talk over Dr. Nickell and 2) why the she doesn't introduce Dr. Nickell as "Dr. Nickell" instead of as "Joe," in the same way that she introduces the two members of the clergy as "Pastor" and "Reverend." Joe Nickell has a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. He's entitled to an acknowledgement of that accomplishment. Instead, all he gets is "Joe," as if he's "Average Joe." There's nothing wrong with "Average Joe," of course, but this "Joe" is Dr. Joe and the host should address him properly. Excuse me! Rudeness! as Ally McBeal's Elaine Vassall would say.
That said, I was disappointed with this discussion of exorcism. The Rev. Larson makes an appeal to eyewitness evidence. That's fine. But he doesn't seem particularly interested in eyewitness evidence that anyone else might have to contribute, and he seems to suggest that if someone hasn't been present at the particular event he is discussing, then that person has nothing of interest to say, unless that person agrees with him. Eyewitness evidence is one thing. Interpretation of that evidence is quite another.
I also discern some equal time problems here. Rev. Larson seems to talk longer than anyone else. Pastor Miller barely speaks at all. I'd like to hear what Dr. Nickell has to say, uninterrupted, for a few minutes. Incidentally, would it be too much to ask CNN to invite him back, all by himself, to discuss the issue of exorcism? Yes? Well, then, perhaps Dr. Sanjay Gupta will have him on to discuss the health issues raised by exorcisms some time, especially since this isn't the first time that CNN has featured Rev. Larson, or shown interest in the issue. See here and here.