Imagine this scenario: you’re in court because your insurance company refused to pay for your wife’s hospital stay. Your premiums are paid, and up to date. The doctors worked around the clock to make her better. She’s Ok now, out of the hospital and getting better every day. You believe it’s because you prayed to God for her to get better and that’s what you told your family, neighbors and business associates.
Well, it turns out the Insurance company policy states that they are also firm believers in god. They are a good Christian company. In court, they say that since god actually healed your wife, then the hospital doesn’t have the right to charge them for the work they did. So they’re refusing to pay for their services.
The court agrees with them, and the hospital comes after you for $ 233,039 that they WERE going to bill the insurance company. But, as expected in this new reality, this has set a precedence for future cases, and the court says you don’ thave to pay either. God cured your wife. Soon all insurance companies stop paying medical professionals for work done. Hospitals across the nation start shutting down; doctor’s offices soon follow. Before long the only recourse for the seriously ill is to go to a church and ask for their members to pray for them. Mortality rates climb exponentially, and life expectation in American drops to what it was in 1800.
Seem far-fetched? Why? Did god cure her or not? Didn’t the hospital staff work hard to save her as you pleaded them to? Shouldn’t they be paid? For what?
It wasn’t so long ago that this could have actually played out in a real court. Back before and during the Salem Witch Trials there was a form of evidence that was allowed called spectral evidence. And people were killed because of it. Spectral evidence is a form of evidence based upon dreams and visions, and it was based on the Christian belief system.
“Spectral evidence refers to a witness testimony that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location. It was accepted in the courts during the Salem Witch Trials. The evidence was accepted on the basis that the devil and his minions were powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to pure, religious people in order to lead them astray. In spectral evidence, the admission of victims’ conjectures is governed only by the limits of their fears and imaginations, whether or not objectively proven facts are forthcoming to justify them. [State v. Dustin, 122 N.H. 544, 551 (N.H. 1982)].”
If your neighbor said that your spirit attacked him (or even was currently attacking him in the court room). Then that was enough for the superstitious people of that time to find a woman guilty of witchcraft, and take away her life or liberty.
Thankfully, Massachusetts Gov. Phips put an end to that in 1692.
“Phips eventually suspended the court proceedings, pardoned a number of people sentenced to death, and released more than 100 from jail, but not until after twenty had been executed.” – Wikipedia article “William Phips”
So consider what it would mean today if your religious claims were taken seriously in today’s legal system?
Should insurance companies refuse to pay for natural catastrophes? Since they are considered Acts of God, and they wouldn’t want to stand in the way of God’s wrath.
If a person confessed to being an atheist should the courts assume they’re possessed by a demon, or maybe even by Satan himself? Should they be able to commit them to an exorcism? Some churches do that today. In America. How could they tell if the exorcism worked? What should they do if the person continued to be rebellious? The Inquisition took those charges VERY seriously; to the point of torture, imprisonment and death.
If a neighbor had heard a wife say she wished her husband was dead, should she be charged with murder if he died? Even if he died from natural causes, or in a car accident? Many people believe that a wish is a kind of prayer, and a prayer is asking a supernatural being to act on your behalf.
If my neighbor says he has put a curse on me but won’t tell me the specifics of the curse, should he be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony? Should I be able to sue him if ANYTHING bad happened to me or my family, even illness?
If a friend places a blessing on my enemy, should I be able to prosecute him the same as if he placed a curse on me?
WHY do you think it is that religions consider all of these things real but courts don’t accept them as evidence? Have you ever considered that? Why not? Are there two realities? Really? Which one is valid?
Think! Would you really want the legal system to hold people accountable for your religious claims? What about THEIR religious claims? What about when they come into conflict?
Then why do you press your legislator to pass laws based on them?
One thought on “Why don’t courts accept religious claims? They used to.”
Have you ever considered that the whole concept of mental health and the lack of burden of proof as well as rubber stamping in that system could be an evolution of spectral evidence? I’ve actually read some college student’s paper (which is available somewhere on the interwebs) claiming that the *accused* (and not the accusors) in the witch trials suffered from forms of delusional disorder (which is laughably ironic at best), and while the author was way out in left field, perhaps this represents beliefs that are held by more than that individual?
I think you’re jumping the gun on claiming things have changed. They have, on the surface – but as the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.