This Week in the Courts: Witchcraft

August 17th, 2013 | Posted by Ron in Uncategorized

Freedom of religion is protected by our Constitution, as well it should be.  Thus, courts generally will strive to avoid making any determinations based upon the religious beliefs, or lack of belief, of a litigant.  Whether a person professes to believe in Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Mother Nature, or to not believe at all, the courts will not touch the issue with a ten foot gavel.  Even if a litigant professes to be a witch, or to believe in witchcraft, that is none of the court’s business.  Or is it?

Recently I came across a litigant (let’s call her Rosemary) who believed absolutely in the reality and power of witchcraft.  Rosemary herself was not a witch.  Indeed, she was very much against witchcraft, and wanted nothing to do with those dark powers.  Rather, Rosemary believed that her little child (Rosemary’s baby) was a witch, and she believed that the child could use witchcraft to harm other people.  Being a good and caring mother, of course, Rosemary would on occasion find it necessary to punish her child for performing witchcraft on others.  Witchcraft being a very evil thing, Rosemary would now and then physically strike her child for some professed evil that the child had caused to a neighbor or a friend.

Rosemary’s punishments came to the attention of the authorities, and she was hauled into court on a charge of child abuse and neglect.  Although Rosemary had never seriously injured her child, the authorities and the court were concerned that she might.  In short order, the court determined that Rosemary was not mentally competent, and custody of the child was given to the estranged father.

Was Rosemary’s belief in witchcraft evidence of her mental instability, and suggestive of a potential threat to her child?  Or was Rosemary simply espousing what equates to a religious belief?

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