High Court Okays Exorcism -- Good for Bobby Jindal Or Not?

With a 1994 article by McCain V.P. candidate Bobby Jindal gaining fresh attention, the Texas Supreme Court on Friday overturned a judgment against the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God Church on Friday in a civil case surrounding exorcism. The justices ruled 6-3 decision that the jury's decision infringed on First Amendment rights.

A county jury had awarded Laura Schubert $300,000 in damages for injuries, both physical and psychological, during a 1996 exorcism performed by the church when she was 17. Schubert said she had been, essentially, kidnapped and suffered injures and psychological trauma, leading to self-mutilation and a suicide attempt.

Justice David Medina wrote in the new opinion that awarding a judgment against the church would "would have an unconstitutional 'chilling effect' by compelling the church to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs."

In 1994, Louisiana Gov. Jindal wrote an essay for the New Oxford Review in which he described performing an exorcism on a friend named "Susan." Susan had been diagnosed with skin cancer and complained of smelling sulfur in her room, which Jindal "interpreted " as a sign of demonic possession.

Jindal invited Susan to a prayer meeting, where Susan had a seizure. The details of what followed have been posted here previously, but suffice to say, that after the exorcism lasted "a few hours," Susan tried to leave but was restrained by the group (a kind of kidnapping, perhaps). Jindal claims Susan was tested not long after and was completely free of cancerous cells.

So does the new ruling help Jindal? He never talks about the 1994 article but, reputedly, Susan remains a friend and the ruling may actually help him. On the other hand, any attention or debate over exorcism just draws more attention to the Jindal article and his early views. The case will likely be appealed to a higher court. Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, in a dissenting opinion in the case, stated that the "sweeping immunity" is inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and extends far beyond the Constitution's protections for religious conduct.

"The First Amendment guards religious liberty; it does not sanction intentional abuse in religion's name," Jefferson wrote.
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Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.