Every once in awhile, you have to double check the calendar, to make sure it really is the 21st century ... A.D.*
Last month the Supreme Court of Texas overturned a series of lower decisions to hold that even physical injuries sustained during an "exorcism" are not actionable, because the First Amendment's Free Exercise of Religion Clause protects a church against the courts interfering in its affairs, no matter how bizarre and outrageous.
One Friday evening in 1996, Laura Schubert, 17, was preparing for a garage sale at her Pentecostal church with a group of teens when another teen announced he'd detected a demon lurking nearby. A "youth minister" appeared and, hearing the tale, decided there were indeed demons afoot, and the teens scrambled until dawn smearing petroleum (or possibly vegetable) products around the church.
Finally the youth minister announced that a cloud full of god had entered the church and the sleepless teens held their garage sale.
The next evening, Sunday, an exhausted, starving, and likely hypoglycemic Laura Schubert collapsed in church. Her fellow worshipers took this reaction to be a manifestation of demon possession and carried her to another room, where she was physically restrained and "pummeled" for two hours by seven individuals, despite her kicking, flailing, and screaming to be freed.
Following a 15-minute intermission, the youth minister again appeared with seven other individuals, and proceeded to subject Schubert to another hour of physical and psychological abuse.
During the following week, yet another church member grabbed Schubert and she was again attacked by eight more Pentecostals. Eventually she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered a series of psychological and personal setbacks in addition to the physical injuries she sustained during the "exorcisms."
She sued the church on a variety of claims and won a $300,000 judgment, which was affirmed on appeal. Last month the TX Supreme Court not only threw out the judgment but dismissed the case entirely, stating that the church and its members are immune from civil judgment thanks to the Free Exercise Clause.
The case is very likely to reach the United States Supreme Court, which several years ago — led by Antonin Scalia — decided that the Free Exercise Clause does not even protect an individual Native American's ceremonial smoking of a cactus plant.
The 6-3 decision, Pleasant Glade [sic] Assembly of God v. Schubert, is available here, along with the dissents in separate files.
* This is what we old timers used to use before a mischievous cabal of secularist devils replaced it with "C.E."