The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God cannot be held liable for injuries to a 17-year-old girl from an exorcism performed on her by the church members. Laura Schubert was cut and bruised and suffered lasting psychological trauma but the Texas Supreme Court said that it is all part of free exercise of religion.
The 6-3 decision could have major repercussions for people injured by churches.
What some call a “hyper-spiritualistic environment” seems more like a hyper-negligent environment to tort lawyers. Schubert in 1996 was pinned to the floor for hours and received carpet burns during the exorcism. The experience, the jury found, led her to mutilate herself and attempt suicide. The jury found that she had been falsely imprisoned and abused by the church — awarding her $300,000 (an amount later reduced to $188,000).
The jury determination of false imprisonment is particularly troubling. Since when can a church hold an individual against her will and physically harm her? If she is treated as an adult, it is clearly false imprisonment. As a minor, it would be abuse. Either way, the sweeping immunity extended in the case could allow a wide array of abuse by churches.
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