(Originally posted on Talk2Action)
My past few posts on Talk2Action--and a major interest in mine in fighting dominionism--have been on the subject of religiously motivated child abuse, a subject that is now (thankfully) starting to get a bit more attention. I've also written on parallels between "deliverance ministry" groups and Scientology, including in the practice of involuntary exorcisms.
A recent case involving the abuse and involuntary exorcism of the daughter of an Edgewater, Florida council member brings this particular disturbing facet of dominionism and religiously motivated child abuse into new light.
I myself take the subject of religiously motivated child abuse--and in particular the subject of religiously motivated child abuse related to "deliverance ministry" in neopentecostal dominionist groups--rather personally, as I myself was a victim of this sort of abuse growing up. In part, it's my own story as a survivor why I've been so determined to fight dominionism now--I've already had a bit of a taste of the "dominion" and found it quite upsetting to my stomach.
Hence, I've followed stuff on dominionist religious abuse and (in particular) religiously motivated and exorcism-related abuse for years.
Today, I saw another case of something highly upsetting, and something I experienced too much as a kid--a report of an involuntary exorcism in the Daytona Beach News-Journal Online:
EDGEWATER -- A city councilwoman and her husband face criminal charges after allegations stemming from an effort to exorcise their daughter of "demons" by covering her with olive oil, police said.
Police forwarded complaints of misdemeanor domestic battery and felony false imprisonment to the State Attorney's Office on Thursday afternoon against Debra and Daniel Rogers. No arrests have been made.
Police said the couple physically restrained their 18-year-old daughter Danielle against her will while drenching her with olive oil at their home June 27.
Danielle Rogers also told police the incident was the "breaking point" in a long-standing conflict with her father and his "controlling nature."
. . .
In her police report, Investigator Heather Brady said the councilwoman told her, "It is common for the family to gather together to pray in times of tension and also to anoint the children with olive oil to cleanse their spirits."
However, the councilwoman added, when her husband began to "put a little dab of oil on Danielle's forehead, she went crazy and began flailing about," causing the oil to spill.
. . .
All that is really known about what happened in the Rogerses' half-million dollar home in the 500 block of Riverside Drive comes from police accounts and statements made to officers by those involved.
It began about 8:18 p.m. when police dispatchers received a 911call from Christina Rogers saying her twin sister was "acting like a crazy woman."
Responding officers said they found Danielle Rogers "out of control" and unable to rationalize. Her father was holding his daughter's arms behind her back. Officers put her in restraints until she calmed down. She was then voluntarily taken to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach for a mental-health evaluation and released shortly afterward.
The same night, hospital officials contacted police, saying the young woman was bruised and wanted to file assault charges against her father, Daniel Rogers.
When Danielle Rogers showed up at the Police Department on June 29 to make her complaint, she told Brady the incident was sparked by a dispute with her father over her going to see a boy.
She told Brady she is scared of her father and his controlling nature, including threats to shoot the boy if she saw him again.
"Danielle advised all this started a long time ago and she was at her breaking point of putting up with being hit and treated like a piece of property," Brady wrote in her report.
Danielle Rogers told Brady during the interview such incidents went back several years, including her father dragging her by the hair and shoving his fist into her mouth to stop her from crying. She said he had also pulled her nude from the shower to read her excerpts of her diary he disliked.
"She said her father has an anger problem and is extremely controlling and she is afraid of him," Brady wrote.
During an interview with Brady, Daniel Rogers stated "he had confronted Danielle on numerous occasions about writings in her diary."
The father also told Brady that when Danielle returned home from hanging out with a boy, her father "would sit her down and he would have her graphically 'confess' her sins as to exactly where they touched each other and kissed each other."
During that same interview session Debra Rogers also blamed Edgewater Police Victim Advocate Dina Wentworth for her daughter's behavior, even going so far as to allege Wentworth had punched Danielle to cause a bruise, "just so she would have something to report."
The Orlando Senitel article notes even more bizarre details:
Danielle Rogers' shirt and bra were partially torn off and she was covered in olive oil after the incident, which took place June 27 about 8 p.m.
The incident unfolded after the 18-year-old woman swore at her twin sister Christina, and her father Daniel threatened to shoot one of Danielle's friends.
"We need to get the demons out of her," Daniel, 47, said to his wife, Debra Rogers, 46, councilwoman in the Volusia county city. "Go get the oil," he said to Christina, the papers claim.
. . .
Daniel Rogers accused police officers of wanting to have sex with his daughter.
When Danielle returned under police supervision to gather her belongings, Debra Rogers complained that the Police Department's victims' advocate was the "devil's advocate," and complained she had put too many ideas in Danielle's head about her rights as an adult.
All of this, alas, has sad familiarity for me.
Dominionist neopentecostal groups--in particular, the Assemblies of God--like to use "annointing" with oil (doesn't have to be olive oil--it can be common Wesson oil, and frequently is) as a form of "territorial marking" to "name and claim" a person--or object--as "theirs". (Infamously, an Assemblies of God pastor attempted to "name and claim" the entire Senate in such a manner--essentially attempting to hex the entire chambers in the name of Christ to vote for Samuel Alito as Supreme Court justice; members of New Life Church (the former congregation of Ted Haggard) infamously tried to "name and claim" an entire city block in Colorado Springs in this manner with a 5-gallon sprayer filled with Wesson oil.) It's a surprisingly common practice, especially among Joel's Army neopente dominionists who have a very heavy emphasis on "naming and claiming" all manner of "territory" including in the literal sense.
I myself was subjected to involuntary exorcisms in the home for the perceived crimes of not agreeing with the pastor, expressing concerns over where the church's money was going, not feeling a televangelist was a "man of God", merely having the usual teenaged disagreements with my mom, and so on and so on. I was also threatened quite often with having both "out of control" warrants sworn on me and (as an adult) threats of involuntary exorcisms by deacons.
I was also (as much as my folks could manage) isolated from boyfriends, other people who weren't dominionists and could be a potential source of support, etc. (In one case, my folks had tried to get a social worker--in the wildly inappropriate "family therapy" sessions instituted after I dared to tell a high school counselor what was going on in my home--to order me not to see or contact one of the few people who were literally keeping me from suicide (a dear friend and her mother who were an invaluable source of support). Unfortunately, the social welfare system at the time was not exactly knowledgable about religiously motivated child abuse, especially not in "Bible-based" groups.)
There was a heavy emphasis--at home and at church--on the concept of "secret sins" and such; one of the reasons I never kept a diary at home was the real fear that my folks would in fact attempt to read it without my knowledge and that I would be in serious, serious, potentially life-threatening trouble if the contents were found. (It didn't help that the definition of "sin" in this church was broad enough to include things like "Listening to glam metal albums".)
It literally took until the year 1999 that I realised that this was not normal, and that other people were expressing quite a bit of concern about abusive "exorcism" practices in these churches. It was through the first walkaway support forums for ex-members of dominionist groups that I found I was not alone.
The first that I found was the now-defunct Walk Away forums, wherein Skipp Porteous describes his own memories of Assemblies exorcisms:
Exorcisms are long, arduous, and often violent. The church elders and I usually went to private homes to perform exorcisms. On some occasions our wives went with us, for extra spiritual power. In one home, an average, middle-class housewife knelt on the wall-to-wall carpet. As a dozen hands were laid on her head, we first prayed in tongues.
"Shun-da-da-da-ma hun-da. On-di, ma-kai-on-do," someone babbled.
"Come out! Come out in the name of Jesus! I command you to come out of her!" one elder shouted into her ear.
"You evil spirit of lust," he continued with great power and authority, "and you spirit of witchcraft, leave, in the name of Jesus!"
By now the atmosphere was charged and everyone continued to speak in tongues. The pitch grew louder as we feverishly prayed for the woman's deliverance from evil spirits.
Someone started to sing, "In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus." Everyone joined in and lifted their hands toward heaven. The woman slumped to the carpet floor and sobbed.
Seizing the moment, an elder clutched the woman with his burly hands. He blurted loudly in tongues and vigorously shook the woman. The rest of the group stopped singing and shouted incomprehensible utterances. The woman sat up, her knees digging into the carpet as the elder continued to shake the demons out of her.
"Come out! In the name of Jesus, I command you!" he yelled into her ear. Overwhelmed, she screamed and fought back. Now everyone held her by the arms and shoulders as they yelled for the demons to come out.
"(expletive) you! (expletive) you all!" the woman screamed. "You're all going to hell!"
While some of the women were shocked by the vulgarity, this outburst only encouraged us. Because a Christian wouldn't talk like that, we were now certain it was the demon speaking through her. Discovered, he was obviously ready to come out, but not before a last ditch effort.
Then she screamed again, and started to cough and gag. Having been through this many times, we had the whoopee bag ready, but she missed and vomited on the carpet.
Ecstatic, we shouted in unison, "Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!"
It's really only nowadays that the damage such things do is coming out. Rick Ross, an exit counselor who has specific experience in working with walkaways from abusive neopente dominionist groups, has noted that people have literally ended up in hospital from this sort of thing:
I dealt with a very destructive church associated with the UPCI in York, Nebraska, where children who belonged to the church were removed from a parent's custody, because the judge deemed that the church was a destructive Bible-based group that would do harm to the children emotionally and psychologically. The UPCI knew about the abuses of that pastor, and yet they continue to this day to allow his credentials to remain in effect. He was involved in a very destructive form of the Pentecostal movement I'm sure you're aware of, called "deliverance ministry."
I've worked with many, many people who have come out of deliverance ministries emotionally and psychologically scarred. I have worked with people who have, as a direct result of deliverance ministry, been placed in a psychiatric hospital and medicated by psychotropic drugs. And, of course, when we're talking deliverance ministry we're talking about people like Kenneth Hagin in the Pentecostal movement - and many of the Assemblies of God churches distribute this literature. A deliverance ministry basically tells their members that any type of negative feelings they may have - negative things that are occurring in their day-to-day lives - can be ascribed to demons or the devil, or that they are demon-possessed, and that they need to be "delivered." They go to someone in the group who's a self-styled exorcist who then joins together with others and they cast demons out of that individual. This can traumatize a person and cause almost irreparable psychological and emotional damage.
I worked with one young man who was hospitalized as a direct result of a deliverance ministry that was a small prayer group within an Assemblies of God church. And I worked with a 30 year-old housewife who also was victimized by a deliverance ministry. She also was involved in an Assemblies of God church and was hospitalized.
Now, these prayer groups were small cell groups that were within that church. The church knew they existed, but they were not necessarily functioning within that pastor's ministry, but they were under the umbrella of a particular Assemblies of God church in the United States - Pastor Tommy Barnett's Phoenix First Assembly, a huge church. This was a prayer group under the auspices of Phoenix First Assembly.
Unfortunately, I think Rick Ross may underestimate the common practice of "deliverance ministry" in Assemblies circles; in many ways, "deliverance" and exorcisms are part of the core theology of the Assemblies, dating all the way back to beliefs in dominion theology.
One particular case I've been following is the case of Laura Schubert--possibly the one person to have beaten the "deliverance men" in court:
But Bill Wuester, Schubert's attorney, said the teen- ager was a model high school student who held a job, paid for her car and looked forward to her senior prom. That changed in June 1996, he told the jury.
"This girl had no problems. ... She had a great life," Wuester said.
He reminded jurors that church officials and youth group members testified that they had pinned her to the sanctuary floor.
Schubert and other witnesses testified that she had kicked and yelled to try to break free.
"I don't know how many times a woman has to say `no' before she is believed," Wuester told the jury. "How many times does she have to say, `Get away. Don't hold me. Let me up. No!'?"
Charisma Magazine--normally friendly to neopentecostals--even was a bit disturbed"
Schubert's lawsuit described a bizarre night in which members anointed the sanctuary with holy oil, rapped on pews and propped a cross against the church doors to keep demons out.
Fortunately, Schubert won her court case:
AG CHURCH SUED OVER EXORCISM
In Tarrant County, Texas, a judge has awarded one Laura Schubert $300,000 in a civil case that charged the pastor and several members of Colleyvilles's Pleasant Glade Assembly of God with abuse and false imprisonment. Ms. Schubert successfully claimed in court that on two occasions, members of this church attempted to "exorcise" her after anointing the church with holy oil, and propping up a cross against the door to keep demonic forces out, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. These attempts were particularly abusive to Ms. Schubert, spurring this lawsuit; however the church claims in a statement that "We are a Bible-believing, Pentecostal church. For this we make no apologies."
Unfortunately, the church--and the national Assemblies of God HQ--have tied the award up in court ever since 1996, including trying to block all evidence relating to "deliverance ministry" from court, claiming PTSD relating to religious abuse doesn't exist, and (in a move reminiscent of poor Danielle Rogers' mother) claimed that the court was part of a liberal plot.
Whilst Laura Schubert still hasn't seen her award money, she HAS set a very powerful precedent--people can sue for religious abuse and win. And it seems that the Edgewater Police Department are taking a cue from this--the parents have been charged with felony false imprisonment.
More awareness seems to be coming out on this particularly dominionist form of abuse--in part because of infamous cases of "death by exorcism" and a growing awareness that religiously motivated child abuse is often related to "deliverance ministry". At least one group, Children's Safe Passage Foundation, is working for the interests of kids caught in these situations...
...but there needs to be a lot more done. How many more victims like Danielle Rogers, like Laura Schubert...hell, like me and a non-negligible survivor community reaching into the thousands...must there be before people start putting their foot down that this sort of thing is unacceptable?