Voodoo and the First Amendment
MAULE.Prof.Law at LAW.VILL.EDU
Thu Aug 13 18:51:15 PDT 1998
Highlights from an article in this morning's paper about a local
incident -- this may or may not have received wider coverage:
An elderly woman's lawsuit against a voodoo priestess, alleging
that she was bilked of her life savings after having been promised
that the evil cabbage-head spirits multiplying in the elderly
woman's back yard, was dismissed by the state court trial judge
because "there was no way to prove legally that the evil cabbage
heads did not exist and that the voodoo did not work." The judge
said, "I don't find intent to deceive because there's no way to prove
whether the spirits were there or not."
The DA argued that the priestess told the woman that the woman's dead
husband supported voodoo. The DA also argued that the priestess told
the woman that if she didn't keep paying money to her then she would
be suffocated and killed by the cabbage head spirits.
The report then says this (and its nonsequitur quality suggests a
paragraph is missing....): "In fact, when the ... woman was writing
.. checks last summer, she and her maid believed the voodoo was
working. The mysterious white powder in the house was gone. [JEM:
WHAT white powder???] And so were the stomach pains the maid
experienced after a Haitian nurse allegedly placed a hex on the
The woman testified, after looking at the checks she wrote, "It's the
most ridiculous thin I've ever seen in my life. But I did it... I was
led to believe in the spirits."
The priestess' lawyer argued the voodoo was protected under the First
Amendment guarantees of religious freedom.
JEM somewhat smart-aleck comments: If I were the landlord of a
triplex, and the Haitian nurse, the elderly woman, and the priestess
each wanted to rent a unit, I might just start arguing SOMETHING so
that I could refuse to rent..... White powder? Hex? Better yet,
imagine when the elderly woman decides to rent to the priestess and
not the nurse and then gets sued.....
Professor of Law
Villanova University School of Law
Villanova, PA 19085
maule at law.vill.edu
(610) 519 - 7135
"government big enough to give you everything you want is also big
enough to take away from you everything you have"
-- George Herbert Walker Bush
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