Think Texas is an irrelevant state this fall?  Think again.  The first thing probably everyone already knows is that every statewide office in Texas is held by a Republican -- every one.  

The top of the Texas "justice" system is comprised of 2 separate institutions --  the Texas Supreme Court, which deals only in civil matters, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which deals only in criminal affairs.  Each death penalty case in the state comes before the Court of Criminal Appeals, which, as with every other Texas office, is dominated by Republicans.  

The Texas Supreme Court is a 9-member body whose entire membership is comprised of Republicans.  Not only is there very little "justice" in the state of Texas, as a result, but there's very little dissent.  The membership of courts in Texas tend to march in lock-step with the far right wing of the Republican party.

Yesterday, the Texas Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom threw out the civil damages that had been awarded to a 17 year old girl who was the victim of an exorcism!  An exorcism!  Now, it's important to understand that I am a firm believer in the first amendment and that includes the free exercise clause.  However, as the Court has ruled many times, that clause extends to beliefs and not to actions.
Apparently, this girl -- Laura Schuster -- was pinned to the ground --  a 17 year old -- and suffered carpet burns and emotional trauma from the experience.  She eventually began to cut herself and attempted suicide.  The church's attorney, however, said only that "Laura breathes in attention the same way we breathe in air."  

It's important that we understand that nowhere does ANY COURT deny that she suffered emotional trauma as a result of being pinned to the ground and "laid hands upon" by up to 8 members of her church.  The Texas Supreme Court only said, essentially, that exorcisms are protected by the free exercise clause.  Apparently, it doesn't matter if the person is being abused VOLUNTARILY or being coerced into this situation.  It doesn't matter what kind of trauma the victim suffers as a result of the exorcism.  What matters, according to the Texas Supreme Court, is that churches have the right to perform exorcisms, apparently w/o regard for the consequences.

I am thankful that 3 Republican justices did have the foresight to dissent with the court's ruling.  Wallace Jefferson, perhaps the only sane member of the court, said that "the First Amendment guards religious liberty, it doesn't sanction intentional abuse in religion's name."  Still, 6 of the 9 justices disagreed with Jefferson's radical notion.

Oh yeah, the last thing -- the author of the court's opinion was one David Medina.  Many of you may remember Justice Medina as the justice who was indicted, along with his wife, back in January for arson in connection with a fire at his home in Spring -- a Houston suburb.  Though he was indicted by the grand jury, the Houston DA, Chuck Rosenthal, pushed as hard as he could to dismiss the charge.  Rosenthal was in the middle of quite a mess at the time as he had gotten caught sending romantic emails to his secretary -- a former mistress who he had given a cushy job in the DA's office.  He was in a mess w/ his party as there had been many calls for him to step down, which he hadn't yet done when he pushed courts to dismiss the arson charges against Medina.

Think Texas elections don't matter?  The Texas "justice" system is rampant w/ cronyism and corruption.  And now there's the endorsement of the state's top court of abusive exorcisms of minors.  Can we count on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn this egregious ruling?  I doubt it.

Originally posted to chuckb on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:48 AM PDT.

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