Thursday, June 18, 2009

Georgia woman arrested for performing exorcism on son

Left: Sandra Alfred and Larry Powell from

I was not aware that exorcisms are now also against the law.

Georgia woman arrested for performing exorcism on son
Kevin Rowson • • Atlanta

LILBURN, GA -- A Lilburn mother was arrested after she allegedly told police she was performing an exorcism on her 15 year old son. Sandra Alfred and a friend, Larry Powell, were charged with Cruelty to Children. Alfred was also charged with False Imprisonment.

Powell, who was released on bail, answered the door at his home and told 11-Alive News "Everything has been blown out of proportion." He says he and Alfred, who recently moved in with him, were not performing an exorcism. Asked why police would say that they were, Powell responded "I have no idea."

Lilburn Police say they were called to Powell's home on Burns Road in Lilburn on June 10th. The call came in as "an unruly juvenile" according to Lilburn Police Detective Matthew Lake. Detective Lake says Alfred made that 911 call. When police arrived, they found handcuffs in the house. "The mother said that she was trying to perform an exorcism on her child," Detective Lake said. When asked if she believed the boy was possessed, Lake answered "I believe she did."

Detective Lake says the mother told police officers she and Powell handcuffed the boy for 12-hours at a time with no food or water. Lake said this went on for three days.

Larry Powell says that's not true. He says the boy was trying to hurt himself and hurt them. "He actually bit my thumb, pushed her (Alfred) and pulled her hair and he was a little aggressive," Powell said. When asked if he handcuffed the boy, Powell said "No comment on that." "We prayed for him constantly, kept praying, that's basically it," Powell said. "No exorcism."

Detective Lake said "If somebody's a threat to them, they need to call the police department; they don't need to handcuff the boy."

The 15 year old boy was treated at Gwinnett Medical Center and then turned over to the Department of Family and Children's Services. Detective Lake says the boy had some lacerations and bruises on his wrists from the handcuffs. Lake said he also had to be treated for dehydration.

Alfred is being held in the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond. She has a court appearance scheduled for June 26th.
If this teenaged boy had been abused without any claims of exorcism, would there have been this sensationalist news report and arrest?

The fact that this story has been broadcast throughout the south has something of a "warning" element attached to it: don't try any exorcisms at home!

Meanwhile, I am not aware of any church exorcisms that have been outlawed. Does law enforcement know everything that is going on with all of the churches behind closed doors? (Are these standard operational procedures, or did Alfred and Powell improvise? Where did Alfred get her protocol from?)

This whole thing leaves a very bad taste in my mouth as a possible erosion of religious freedoms. "Exorcism" should not be the "official reason" for the arrest.

And what do you think?


Thene said...

There was a furore in the UK about exorcisms after Victoria Climbie's death, one that had a distinctly racialised/immigrant-bashing slant. See this version from the Beeb, and this from the Grauniad. Do you think there's also an element of race here - non-whites being inherently suspect, even in terms of their Christian practises - or do you think it's more about religion in general?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Definitely I do... I was saying this over at Renee's. But its "institutional racism"--since in the Atlanta-area, the arresting officers (and everyone else directly involved) are likely black also.

I wouldn't know how to make the argument too well in this particular instance, for these reasons.

K.C. Jones said...

Exorcisms aren't legal, because they frequently use starvation, bondage, and other forms of abuse to get the "devil" out. To me, that's a reasonable explanation for outlawing exorcisms. I do think you're right though-they probably wouldn't have cared as much for the story if the couple in question was white-or at least instead of it making the news, it would be made into a movie!

DaisyDeadhead said...

KC, check out Matt Taibbi's recent book titled THE GREAT DERANGEMENT--in which a "spiritual retreat" put on by a Megachurch prominently featured exorcisms on the third day of the retreat (Taibbi "infiltrated").

Must be read to be believed.

Courtney said...

If the exorcism is performed on an unwilling individual, it should absolutely be outlawed, if for nothing more than false imprisonment or kidnapping. Religious freedoms do not include the right to hold persons against their will, whatever you may think about the state of their soul.

Mama Moretti said...

Courtney - all exorcisms are on "unwilling" individuals, aren't they?

D - Now you have me curious about the Taibbi book. Think I'll check it out.

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