Exorcising Free Exercise: Texas Supreme Court Rules That Church Can Injure Minors During Exorcisms

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.

For a copy of the opinion, click here.

For the full story, click here.

36 thoughts on “Exorcising Free Exercise: Texas Supreme Court Rules That Church Can Injure Minors During Exorcisms”

  1. Everyone but Martha:

    I think we’ve gone a little far afield here picking on “the Church.” I have a sneaking suspicion that if we had the ability to follow the history of any group that’s been around as long as Christianity we’d find just as many misdeeds. I’m sure the only reason we don’t know about atrocities committed by the equally old non-western religions is because as a society we’re pretty ignorant of most things things that happened outside of Europe before colonialism. I think that religion is a hold-over from an earlier point in our development as a species and in general fosters a lot of unhealthy attitudes that humanity as a whole would be better off with out.

    Prestigious lawyers shouldn’t “take on” religions. They should take on people committing crimes in the name of religion, but there’s a difference between a small fringe (the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God, or Pope Innocent VIII for instance) and the whole of the religion. There’s less major cases like that involving other religions in this country because there’s significantly less people that practice other faiths, so less people to commit crimes in the name of those faiths. It’s the same reason why there’s more cases involving people with both eyes then involving people missing an eye.

  2. Hi Jill,
    I wonder if either V.P. Cheney or Mr. Addington was Pope Innocent VIII, the Pope who created the MALLEUS, in their “past life.” The fact that a supreme “head of the church” could create such a hideous torture program against so-called “witches” or “heretics” tends to destroy any credibility or respect for that church, as far as I’m concerned anyway.

  3. Susan,

    The Malleus Maleficarum was written by David Addington and Dick Cheney in their past lives! They brought back some of their best techniques with them this time around. Continue “piling on” with facts!


  4. I’m wondering if Martha would have a problem with Christianity’s (all branches included) own past terrorist campaigns in previous centuries. You know, like the INQUISITION and MALLEUS MALEFICARUM during the 1400’s in Europe and the Salem, MA Witch Trials in 1692/93. Or is that “piling on Christianity” too much. @@

  5. martha h:

    “the last credible statistic i saw estimated that religion has killed 1/100th as many people in 2,500 years as communism killed in 100 years.”


    [This is just too easy] ok, martha I am now prepared to concede that Communism was a more successful murderer than religion by a factor of one hundred. Quite high praise indeed for religion!

  6. Martha H,
    Come on now. Don’t hold back this credible source that estimates that communism has killed more than religion in 100 years compared to religion’s 2,500 years. You are either blind or naive. Give us he evidence that the Commies killed more than the Crusades. Don’t for get to add in the various Israeli/Palestinian conflicts. Don’t forget the Indian/Pakistani squabbles, Northern Ireland, the list goes on.

  7. rafflw asks how many people have been killed in the name of religion:

    the last credible statistic i saw estimated that religion has killed 1/100th as many people in 2,500 years as communism killed in 100 years.

  8. “Isn’t mentioning Bin Laden outing a CIA agent?”

    Actually, I meant to say ‘the only American tree growing in the VIP garden was a G. H. W. Bush.’

  9. martha h wrote:
    mespo: are you unable to post an articulate paragraph or just an up-chucking of useless baseless inaccurate factoids.

    Martha h, Mespo is VERY capable of posting articulate sentences AND paragraphs. Do you respond so rudely to those who criticizes ANY religion or do you just respond this way to anyone criticizing christianity only? Just so that’s clear.

  10. “please go. i implore you. help those poor people realize the error of their religion.”

    “go. oh you won’t?”

    “so you are all talk, eh”

    I visited Pakistan in May of 2002; ventured deep into the heart of an Oliver Stone movie/conspiracy.


    And destined to take the place of the mudshark in your mythology…

    No Bin laden goats were found; however, the only tree growing in the VIP garden outside Islamabad was a Bush– G.W. Bush

    Stay in your own movie.

  11. I thought I would correct my first posting and then I thought I would use a Niblet tactic and just keep posting against myself. It is pretty cool.

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