Can you sue for a failed exorcism?
My attention was caught this week by a news article about a Romanian lawyer who sued his local Orthodox bishop and four priests claiming they failed to properly exorcise flatulent demons that were forcing him out of his home. The case alleging ‘religious malpractice’ is reportedly the first time there has been such an allegation made in a Romanian court.
Is religious malpractice a crime anywhere else? Can you sue someone over a religious ceremony that doesn’t produce the desired result? It doesn’t seem to be a frequent cause of action in the common law world. Searches of various legal databases on “religious fraud” “exorcism fraud” and “demonic possession” reveal nothing.
I think though, that Mr Ciculescu was quite fortunate. Those few cases involving exorcism that have made it to the European Court of Human Rights are generally distressing and traumatic to the people involved.
In most places, it does not appear to be a crime to perform an exorcism. Of course if that exorcism is conducted on an unwilling participant, or results in death or injury to a person, that can certainly be a crime, regardless of whether the person being exorcised consented.
Failure to conduct an exorcism according to a “proper” method does not seem to be a cause of action in itself.
Performance of or even attendance at an exorcism can be a breach of proper professional boundaries for a psychologist treating a patient. However in Australia at least, you don’t have to be an expert to be an exorcist.
“Although a person does not need to be an expert on Christianity in order to evangelise or practice exorcism,[…] spreading the gospel entails at least understanding what the gospels are all about.”[RRTA 696]
It actually isn’t that hard to find an exorcist, um, I mean deliverance counsellor. Deliverance counsellors will perform something that looks remarkably like an exorcism. It seems that “the ONLY remedy prescribed in the Word of God for demonization is that the demons MUST BE CAST OUT!”. And if you look hard enough, they will give you detailed instructions on HOW TO DEFEAT DEMONS.
Perhaps Mr Ciculescu simply put his faith in the wrong service provider. 😉
The Queen v Lee  NZCA 60 (7 April 2006)
R v Vollmer and Ors  VicRp 9;  1 VR 95 (7 September 1995)
HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS COMMISSION v TYNAN  NSWPST 1 (10 February 2010)
1204154  RRTA 696 (15 August 2012)
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT – 188 F.3d 1083
Olson v. Morris, 188 F.3d 1083 (9th Cir. 1999)