Impossibility of killing people by prayer
VOLOKH at LAW.UCLA.EDU
Thu Dec 18 13:43:58 PST 1997
> > It seems to me that courts can quite reasonably determine the
> > impossibility of killing someone by prayer: This impossibility is,
> > after all, the basis for religious freedom principles. If killing
> > someone by prayer were possible, we'd promptly outlaw such prayer,
> > freedom of religion (and difficult enforcement problems) be damned.
Jim Maule writes:
> Wouldn't such a determination be, in effect, a governmental
> determination of the *validity* of a religious belief? After all,
> there ARE people who believe prayer can be used to kill someone.
Yup, it would be such a determination, and, yup, there are people
who believe prayer can be used to kill. Fortunately for you and me,
they're wrong. If they were right, then religious freedom for any
religion that teaches its adherents how to do this would be a pretty
stupid idea: Seems to me that we should try to suppress this
religion as quickly as possible.
If I recall correctly, Jefferson's defense of religious freedom
was something like "Whether my neighbor believes in one God or twenty
doesn't break my leg or pick my pocket." If the neighbor's belief --
or the neighbor's prayer -- does break my leg, then the chief factual
predicate for religious freedom disappears.
> My point is that the court COULD permit scientific evidence that
> proves the POSSIBILITY but that it cannot determine the IMPOSSIBILITY.
> Concluding that something cannot be proven IMPOSSIBLE is not the same
> as proving that it IS POSSIBLE.
> Agreed, once killing by prayer is proven to be possible, with the
> proof being something more than someone's *belief* that it is, then
> it should be in the same manner as human sacrifice. ("yes, yes, your
> deity requires this, but we have a small problem with it")
Actually, it would unfortunately have to be dealt with in a much
harsher manner than human sacrifice. If someone can kill with a
prayer, then locking him up wouldn't do much good, no? And I take it
that it would be much harder to catch him, too. No, if a religion
springs up that teaches people how to effectively kill others with
prayer, the only solution would be to silence these teachings
utterly, as violently as necessary.
The good news is that, to the best of our knowledge, we don't live
in such a world -- which is why we can afford religious freedom. The
reason we condemn the Salem witch trials is that there ain't no such
thing as witches.
"In youth, we learned that Eugene Volokh
a company must grow; now UCLA Law School
we teach it to shrink." (310) 206-3926
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