Ballard and HeavensGate
MAULE.Prof.Law at LAW.VILL.EDU
Fri Mar 28 10:24:12 PST 1997
Mark Tushnet <TUSHNET at WPGATE.LAW3.GEORGETOWN.EDU> writes
> Suppose the California authorities locate someone
> still "alive" (the reason for the scare quotes
> will appear) who assisted the people in San Jose
> in committing suicide, and prosecute for an
> appropriate offense.
> The defendant contends that the bodies found in
> San Jose were mere containers for the persons who
> temporarily inhabited them, and that the persons
> are not dead but have gone to occupy other
> containers. How does one analyze this defense
> under Ballard?
> A variant: the defendant acknowledges that s/he
> does not believe that the bodies were mere
> containers, but defends on the ground that,
> because the victims believed the bodies were mere
> containers, the defendant committed no offense.
> (My guess is that this one turns on the precise
> definition of the offense with which the defendant
> is charged, but maybe there's a more general
> religion issue lurking.)
These cult members are not the only persons to believe that the body
is a repository of the soul. I have heard the phrase "temple of the
Holy Spirit" preached many times in the church in which I was raised,
which has hundreds of millions of members world wide. Similar
concepts are believed in the church to which I now belong, and by
many othes. That is not the unusual belief of the cult. The idea that
a UFO was arriving screened by Hale Bopp, the idea that suicide
(killing one's own temporal body) was appropriate, those are the
differences. The "body as container" arguments could be raised by
billions of believers belonging to a wide variety of denominations
and sects. I don't think anyone has ever done so before, but if they
had, it merely would have pre-existed your hypo.
Now, as to the question, regardless of who raises it. Somewhere I
remember (vaguely from Crim Law) that homicide is the killing of a
human being, that requires (in most instances) a dead body.
Period. Arguing that the soul or spirit is still alive is irrelevant.
Arguing that the "person" is still alive is irrelevant because the
issue is whether a human being (the human manifestation of being, to
be a bit more theological or philosophical) is the issue.
The suicide-assistance issue is a different one, discussed in other
threads, so I'll skip it. But if it turned out these people were
killed by a survivor (and did not commit suicide), the "the
soul/spirit/person/personality lives so there's no death and no
murder" argument won't work. So the belief in the continued spiritual
existence is irrelevant, need not be questioned or challenged, and
thus does not implicate any Constitutional issues.
Professor of Law
Villanova University School of Law
Villanova, PA 19085
maule at law.vill.edu
(610) 519 - 7135
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