Exorcism Abuse Case May Reach Supreme Court

Young woman says she was abused, injured during exorcism

Monday, Dec 29, 2008  |  Updated 10:57 AM EDT
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Exorcism Abuse Case May Reach Supreme Court

AP

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Lawyers for a former Colleyville, Texas, woman who accused her fellow church members of abuse during a forced exorcism in 1996 when she was a teen have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case.

Laura Schubert alleged that members of the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God held her down, bruising her wrists and leaving carpet burns on her back when she was 17 and then known as Laura Pearson.

This summer, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a jury award Schubert received for her injuries, reasoning that it unconstitutionally drew the court into religious matters.

But Schubert's attorneys argue that the Texas Supreme Court's decision improperly tried to expand the First Amendment's religious protections. Schubert contends that someone's religious beliefs do not protect them from state laws prohibiting crimes such as assault and false imprisonment, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

"The Texas Supreme Court's majority ignored some of the most relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions and then misapplied others," said Scott Gant, a Washington, D.C. attorney representing Schubert and her family. He expects the court to decide by mid- to late January whether it will take the case.

Attorneys for the church, which has merged with another Colleyville congregation, write in legal briefs that the case has no business before the U.S. Supreme Court because it is a personal injury lawsuit for mental anguish damages and because it concerns protected religious conduct.

In a brief filed with the court, church attorney David Pruessner described the church's activities as "spiritual warfare."

"This was simply normal church life for (Schubert) and her family," Pruessner wrote.

Schubert testified in 2002 that she was cut and bruised and later suffered hallucinations after churchgoers pinned her to the floor for hours in an attempt to exorcise a demon. She later repeatedly cut herself and attempted suicide.

A Tarrant County jury found the Colleyville church and its members liable for abusing and falsely imprisoning the girl. The jury awarded her $300,000, though the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth later reduced the verdict to $188,000.

Schubert, now 29, lives in Georgia.

Lawyers for a former Colleyville woman who accused her fellow church members of abuse during a forced exorcism in 1996 when she was a teen have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case.

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