Iowa Imam in Sex Assault Case Says His Religious Freedom is Being Violated

A curious case is wending its way through the Iowa court system. It involves an imam named Nermin Spahic, 40, who’s been charged with one count of third-degree sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist.

The Des Moines Register reports that Spahic

… was arrested in August after a 42-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter told police that Spahic sexually assaulted them during a religious ceremony. … The woman on Aug. 12 called Spahic to her house in Johnston for help with her daughter, who reportedly suffered personal issues, including depression and drug use, police and court papers said. Spahic allegedly performed an Islamic ceremony that involved “chanting and rubbing the body with oil,” court papers said.

Spahic’s lawyer has now filed a motion to drop two of the charges, arguing that the defendant performed a religious service, and didn’t engage in counseling or therapy.

In one interpretation of the motion, Spahic wants to be allowed to sexually touch patients God-believers because it’s part of the religious freedom he should enjoy in the United States. A kinder take on it is that the District Attorney has indeed charged him under a statute that, strictly speaking, isn’t applicable to the situation, and that all’s well because Spahic will still have to stand trial for third-degree sexual abuse.

The case is worth watching because most U.S. clerics do arguably see and sell themselves as counselors. Some believe that stories and lessons from their Holy Book, in which they claim to be experts, are all that’s needed to cure everything from addiction to schizophrenia; others attempt to do the same with a combination of traditional religious training and modern psychological methods.

The line between therapy and religious service has become blurred. Maybe the Iowa judges can re-establish some clarity.

In any case, applying oil and chanting to treat depression and addiction are on the kooky side of the treatment spectrum, although surely no crazier than the familial advice this depression sufferer from a Sikh background received:

[Her] grandmother took her to temples, and once invited a priest and a faith healer to her house to pray for her. Another time, she was given a coconut and told to throw it into a river.

(The coolest thing about religion is that it mocks itself.)

Spahic, who’s out on bail, will have to go to court next month. It’s unknown whether there’s currently any remaining demand for Islamic body rubs in the greater Des Moines area.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • baal

    Get enough judges ( and buckets of cash) appointed from your religion and this Islamic oil appointing (or whatever else they dream up) could get an exception from normal law.

    EDIT: Link fixed.

    • wmdkitty

      um… link is kaput.

      • baal

        Thanks for the heads up. I’m more than annoyed that the link is not what I put in the link yesterday.

  • LesterBallard

    I hope so, too, but turning to religion, to a religious person, for help with problems like depression and drug use is stupid.

  • A3Kr0n

    My religious beliefs tell me to set on fire any Imam named Spermin Phallic, Nermin Spahic (whatever), and I should have the freedom in the USA to do it.
    How does that sound?

    • baal


    • jimlouvier

      It sounds Islamic.

  • flyb

    You should be careful about where he points that crossbow…..

  • cryofly

    (The coolest thing about religion is that it mocks itself.)
    Well said… but… a millennia of self-mockery and it still has adherents. Adherents who go the extent of letting a stranger rub oil on them… on adults and on babies. That is what Mr. Vermin, I mean, Nermin calls as ‘religion freedom’.

  • C Peterson

    If a minor were involved, I’d have a different opinion. But we have adults who believe in batshit voluntarily seeking help from a practitioner of batshit, who did what he did with nobody drugged, nobody asleep, nobody unconscious, no suggestion of force.

    I’m hard pressed to see where there was a crime committed, at least until we make stupidity illegal.

    • icecreamassassin

      It’s not so much making ‘stupidity’ illegal. It’s making ‘the act of taking advantage of the stupid’ that should be illegal.

      • frankbellamy

        Doesn’t every cleric take advantage of the stupid though? And I’m pretty sure we can’t make being a cleric illegal.

      • C Peterson

        Wow, I see a whole new area of law here. The plaintiff’s attorney will need to demonstrate that his client is stupid (possibly utilizing expert witnesses?), or the DA will have to demonstrate that the alleged victim is stupid. The defendant’s lawyer will try to prove the opposite.

    • Feminerd

      And when a licensed therapist sexually assaults hir patient, well, the patient didn’t resist because the therapist said it was part of therapy. Nobody drugged, nobody asleep, nobody unconscious, no suggestion of force.

      Do you still see no crime committed?

      • cyb pauli

        The force/coercion is in the power imbalance between the patient and the therapist. This is medical/psych/leadership ethics 101.

        • wmdkitty

          That same power imbalance applies to a cleric/congregant relationship.

          • smrnda

            Agreed. For people, particularly those raised in a religion, the clergy are seen as an even higher authority than professionals or legal authorities.

          • C Peterson

            I believe it isn’t well established that a legal power imbalance necessarily exists in that case, however. I’d like to see courts make it clear that no such trust relationship exists between a cleric and his adult congregants.

            • Feminerd

              Or that it does. One or the other. After all, priests cannot be subpoena’ed for things told them in confession, and other religious leaders have claimed like privilege; confession is protected by the same laws that protect doctors and attorneys from being forced to talk about their clients in court.

              So legally, such a trust relationship does, in fact, exist between a cleric and hir adult congregants.

      • C Peterson

        No. This wasn’t a licensed therapist. This doesn’t seem like overt sexual assault. This was somebody who utilized some sort of religious ritual, being utilized by somebody else who believe in that approach. It is unclear to me from the limited information available that anybody was taken advantage of, at least not against their will. If you want to be treated according to a professional ethical code, you don’t go to a cleric (unless they are also a licensed therapist).

        I’d be curious to know if this oil technique is recognized as standard practice within Islam, or some Islamic sects. I mean, if the guy just made it up himself, it makes his motives more suspicious.

        • Feminerd

          No. These women trusted the imam, and he abused that trust to sexually assault them. It doesn’t matter that he isn’t a licensed therapist, it matters that he said he could help and then abused that trust to gain sexual access to the women.

          People usually don’t realize that clerics advertising their services as counselors aren’t licensed. Any sexual contact against the will of the victim is abuse. What the imam did is wrong, both legally and ethically. Stop victim blaming.

          • C Peterson

            Sorry, but I’m not enough of an expert on Islamic counseling practices to know that there was anything wrong here, that there was anything that should have surprised the alleged victims. Until that is resolved in court, I’ll reserve judgment on whether a crime was committed or not.

            • Feminerd

              Obviously there was something that surprised them and did not make them happy, or they’d not have gone to the police.

              And there isn’t a single religious or counselling practice that involves sexual assault. Not one. Most rapists aren’t convicted, but that doesn’t mean a crime wasn’t committed. Are you this dismissive of all women who report abuse at the hands of people with power or social status? Do you really think Strauss-Kahn was innocent, for example?

              • C Peterson

                I don’t know the motives of the people claiming they were victimized. Simply making the accusation does not mean they were victims at all.

                I didn’t say a crime wasn’t committed. But I hear plenty of people making the assumption that one was committed, before any legal determination has been made. And that’s a pretty scary thing.

                Here’s a fact: it has not been legally determined if any crime took place. Until that is decided, I do not intent to assume that one has.

                • Feminerd

                  /facepalm. I’ve heard that before. I only hear it when it comes to sexual harassment and assault, though.

                  She’s only saying she was raped (and yes, the cleric is charged with much less serious crimes than rape) to ruin his reputation. What a slut! What a whore! Let’s ostracize her and rally around the football star. Why’s she trying to hurt him? What’s she trying to hide? He’s clearly the victim here! No consideration that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t lying.

                  Innocent until proven guilty is an absolutely necessary legal assumption, and a good one for general use. However, what you’ve said here isn’t holding judgment. You have blamed the victim for being dumb enough to go to a religious leader (what else could she expect?), you have said you don’t believe the victim actually got hurt, you have questioned the motives of the people reporting the crime, and you have said a crime was not committed. You know what we call that? Rape apologetics. Go to any MRA website, and your hyperskepticism about sexual assault will fit right in. I don’t think you are a MRA, but when I can’t distinguish what you’re saying from what they say every single time rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or institutionalized sexism comes up, then you’re Doing It Wrong.

                • C Peterson

                  I have not blamed any victim. I have suggested that perhaps there is no victim. Very, very different, although you seem to be wearing blinders that prevent you from seeing that.

                • Feminerd

                  People don’t go to the police to report a crime unless A) they have been victimized or B) they are lying to get someone else in trouble. When the police (technically a prosecutor, but close enough) bring charges, it’s because they think A happened and that A’s attacker broke a law.

                  If you don’t think A happened, then you think B happened. And that sort of hyperskepticism about whether anyone has been victimized is something I only ever see out of you and most other people when the victim is a woman claiming to have been sexually assaulted. Why is that, do you think?

                  What would convince you, sans trial and conviction, that there is a victim here? Do you think every woman who reports a rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment is lying about it until her attacker is convicted?

                • C Peterson

                  People also go to the police to report a crime when they believe they have been victimized. That doesn’t mean they have been.

                  When the police arrest, and a prosecutor brings charges, it is not necessarily because they believe a crime was committed. It is because they believe the evidence is strong enough to suggest a crime may have been committed, and that a court should decide that.

                  What I think in this case is that sufficient consent may have been given that what occurred may not legally rise to any definition of assault.

                  I’m not prepared to say, on the evidence, that there was a victim. So far, there is just a complainant. Whether there is a victim depends on what comes out in court.

                  I certainly don’t think everybody who reports a rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment is lying. But neither do I make an automatic assumption they are telling the truth, or that their perception of what occurred is necessarily accurate.

                • Feminerd

                  Do you also make the assumption that anyone reporting a theft, robbery, mugging, or beating (ie assault and battery), is not necessarily “telling the truth, or that their perception of what occurred is necessarily accurate”?

                  After all, they may have donated their watch and phone to a complete stranger. Or maybe they dropped them in the gutter and decided to make trouble for that random guy across the street. They’re all equally likely, and who can know before a full trial? It’s best to treat all cases of crime against persons as probably not true, and to be very skeptical of the alleged victims. It’s only a bit of psychological trauma (on top of the trauma of the crime itself) if it turns out to be true, after all, and creating an environment in which people who report crimes are also automatically suspect isn’t a bad thing at all.

                • C Peterson

                  People report thefts when they misplace things. The reality is that people report as crimes things which may not be. And they most certainly may have very different perceptions of the events than what actually took place.

                  The whole point of a trial is to decide what really happened. And the system works much better if we allow that process to happen, and not assume up front who is the victim, if there is a victim, even if a crime took place in some cases (as here, where there is virtually no physical evidence, just two opinions about how a consensual therapy session played out).

                • Feminerd

                  Nono, you didn’t answer my question. If a person accuses that guy over there of robbery, and an eyewitness backs hir up, do you believe a crime as been committed or not? Even before trial and conviction, do you, personally, withhold judgment on whether the person has been mugged? Do you tell the person to their face that, well, it’s possible they were mugged but maybe they weren’t, and you really can’t support them because they could be lying or mistaken. You just don’t know.

                  Do you think this creates an environment in which crimes are likely to be reported and fully investigated?

                • FTP_LTR

                  If a person accuses that guy over there of robbery, and an eyewitness backs hir up do you believe a crime as been committed or not?

                  Why then do we need a trial and (possible) conviction?

                • Feminerd

                  As always, due process must be followed. It does not follow that because due process must occur, everyone outside the jury box must withhold judgment. Strauss-Kahn got away with rape because he chose his victim well; that does not mean a crime was not committed, it means he was able to avoid punishment for it. Trials establish technical guilt or innocence, and they try to determine what happened, but they are merely the best flawed mechanism we have for doing so.

                  Accused criminals also have many rights. They don’t stop being persons just because they (maybe) did something wrong. Our system is designed to let guilty people go if those rights are violated; this is intentional to avoid violating people’s rights and is a good thing. However, being released on a technicality does not change that a crime was committed, does it?

                  Also do keep in mind that if your modus operandi is to not believe any crime victims, they will stop reporting crimes. It’s not a healthy attitude to have.

                • C Peterson

                  I believe a crime has been committed when a court decides that a crime has been committed. How confident I am that a crime was actually committed depends on the quality of evidence I know about. The quality in this case is low. The value of the eyewitness is low. There’s no indication of physical harm.

                  A prosecutor decided that the evidence was strong enough to warrant filing charges. I don’t see the problem. A court will decide what happened. I hope they don’t find for the Imam because of any religious privilege, but they might reasonably find for him by determining that what he did was a normal practice and not any sort of assault. We’ll see.

                • smrnda

                  Just to ask – when you say that you believe a crime has occurred when you see a conviction, are you applying this to across the board assessments of the prevalence of crimes? I mean, if you want to determine how many people are using drugs, do you go by the # of convictions for drug use or some other statistic? How many rapes occur in a year? Do you go by the # of convictions or other statistics? How many acts of vandalism?

                  Assessing overall crime rates is different than deciding what happened in a given case, but I just want to see what your opinion was on that.

                • C Peterson

                  I’m not sure I have an opinion on that. I’d have to think about it for a while. But to be clear, I was speaking of individual cases when I said I wouldn’t generally decide a crime had been committed, or especially that I wouldn’t consider somebody guilty, until that was settled in court.

                • smrnda

                  Would you ever permit yourself to disagree with a court verdict? Let’s say you had access to the same evidence presented in court, you could view the entire proceedings and look up any facts you wanted. Would you always defer to the verdict given by the jury or, would you permit yourself an opinion?

                  I myself have known a number of people who worked to clear people convicted of crimes (most convictions were overturned owing to DNA evidence, and most convictions were made owing to plea bargains, coerced confessions and such in these cases) and I have seen cases where overwhelming evidence seems to fail to convict, so I have limited confidence in trusting verdicts.

                • C Peterson

                  Sure, I might disagree with a verdict. But I’d accept it.

                • smrnda

                  What would that mean to ‘accept’ it?

                  I know of people who have spent years and even decades clearing people convicted of crimes they did not commit. The questioned the verdict, and rather than accepting it, they decided to push for a retrial. In fact, I’d say that being too willing to accept the conclusions of courts is just a bad thing in general, since our courts are not perfect, and often corrupt and biased.

                • C Peterson

                  I mean I would consider the decision legal. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see it changed, and to some extent our system allows for that (at least, in the most important direction, appealing a guilty verdict).

                • UWIR

                  “She’s only saying she was raped (and yes, the cleric is charged with much less serious crimes than rape) to ruin his reputation. What a slut! What a whore!”

                  And, as usual, you flat-out lie about what your opponents are saying.

                  “However, what you’ve said here isn’t holding judgment. You have blamed the victim for being dumb enough to go to a religious leader (what else could she expect?), you have said you don’t believe the victim actually got hurt, you have questioned the motives of the people reporting the crime, and you have said a crime was not committed.”

                  With the exception of the first on, every single one of those are withholding judgment. The idea that any doubt about any accuation of sexual assault constitutes “rape apologetics” is disgusting bullying.

                  “I don’t think you are a MRA, but when I can’t distinguish what you’re saying from what they say every single time rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or institutionalized sexism comes up, then you’re Doing It Wrong.”

                  Has there been any case of a man accused of raping a woman in which an “MRA” has said that the man should be sent to prison without a trial? Either there has been such a case, or it logically follows from your statement that anyone who doesn’t take that position is Doing It Wrong. Your argument is basically the same “logic” as saying “Hitler was evil, Hitler was a vegetarian, you’re a vegetarian, so you’re evil”. If you have to resort to arguing against a position on the basis that people you don’t like also make that argument, then you’re the one Doing It Wrong.

                • Feminerd

                  Shoo, troll.

              • UWIR

                “And there isn’t a single religious or counselling practice that involves sexual assault.”

                That is either flat-out false or a vacuous No True Scotsman type statement.

                “Do you really think Strauss-Kahn was innocent, for example?”

                DSK was accused of specific acts which, if true, would constitute sexual assault. We have not been presented with any specific acts in this case that would constitute sexual assault. Your inability to comprehend the difference between the two cases does not speak well of your intellect.

                • Feminerd

                  Newspapers specifically don’t go into the details of most sexual assaults because of voyeurs and people who enjoy invading women’s privacy and requiring them to relive some bad moments in their lives. You know, it’s a courtesy to victims to elide a lot of details.

                  Both you and C Peterson are applying hyperskepticism to a case where it is not warranted, and you would not apply it were this imam merely charged with mugging someone on the street. But because it is sexual assault, you are asking for more everything before giving it even some credence. This says exceptionally poor things about the both of you.

                  I will not be responding to you again.

                • C Peterson

                  “Hyperskepticism”? I’m simply unwilling to assume a crime has been committed in the absence of convincing evidence. I take that view for all crimes, although I certainly weigh the likelihood of criminality on the quality of the evidence as I interpret it.

                • NickDB

                  Maybe it’s because of cases like this;


                  Which IMO is almost as disgusting as rape or sexual assault as.

                  Your argument is “Someone is accused of sexual assault, therefore with 100% certainty there was sexual assault”

                  C Peterson’s argument is “I’d like some more evidence before commenting”

                  If we lived a few centuries ago you’d be at the front of the mob with pitchforks and torches wouldn’t you. You disgust me.

                • Feminerd

                  Maybe it’s because of cases like Steubenville, Maryville, Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott, the RCC child rapes, Hasidic child rapes, and numerous others, where rapes were covered up and no one believed the victims because the people accused were higher on the social totem pole than the victims.

                  Maybe it’s because I know the statistics on prosecution- even when reported, rape (let alone milder sexual assault) is prosecuted less than 50% of the time. It’s estimated that a whopping 3% of rapists are ever convicted. A much lower percentage of stalkers, gropers, and people who sexually assault without raping are ever convicted. Does that mean there are never false accusations of rape? No. But false accusations of rape occur less often than false accusations of car theft, so it’s very uncommon. And yes, it’s very bad when it happens, but overall I’m inclined to believe people who say they’ve been victims of this sort of thing, because over 99% of the time, they are telling the truth. We don’t assume people who say there were mugged were lying, just because a few people lie about that. We assume they’re telling the truth. Why do you or C Peterson find women reporting sexual assaults less credible than people reporting muggings? And yes, on a jury I would be far more skeptical because it would be my job to be skeptical. As a person reading a blog? Yeah, I’m pretty damned sure the man’s guilty, and I hope he is tried and convicted through all due process of law and punished as hard as the law permits.

                  You disgust me. I wouldn’t lead a pitchfork mob (hello, read my responses about the need for due process, dumbass), but you’d be standing outside the man’s house who was seen raping a girl in the field, claiming it was totally consensual because eyewitnesses and personal testimony don’t count as actual evidence.

                • smrnda

                  On Strauss-Kahn, the idea that housekeeping just spontaneously decides to give guests at a hotel blowjobs seemed a bit hard to believe.

          • UWIR

            “These women trusted the imam, and he abused that trust to sexually assault them.”

            You reached this conclusion based on what alleged facts?

            “it matters that he said he could help and then abused that trust to gain sexual access to the women.”


            “What the imam did iswrong, both legally and ethically.”

            What actions, exactly, do you assert the imam performed?

            • Feminerd

              “The woman on Aug. 12 called Spahic to her house in Johnston for help with her daughter, who reportedly suffered personal issues, including depression and drug use, police and court papers said”

              You apparently cannot read. They called him in for help as an imam. That means they trusted him.

              He rubbed oil on their bodies in ways they obviously did not want him to. They talked to the police about what happened (which is rightly not explicitly spelled out in the article for voyeurs to peruse) and charges were then brought based on their evidence.

              I don’t know exactly what the imam did. From the charge of third-degree sexual assault, I’d guess fondling of breasts and/or buttocks, but no penetration.

              I will not be responding to you again.

          • smrnda

            Something worth noting is that many clergy present themselves as ‘counselors,’ taking advantage of the fact that it’s an ambiguous claim and that many people are not aware that counselors are professionals who have specific education, training, and who are held to standards of competence and ethics by a professional licensing organization. For purposes of promotion, they are ‘counselors’ and the moment something goes wrong, they never said they were ‘licensed counselors.’

            It’s blatant deception. Drug treatment is another area where religious leaders lie and deceive.

        • invivoMark

          Your sort of thinking is exactly why we have this kerfuffle among atheist activists about what constitutes “consent” and when sexual interaction turns into sexual assault or rape.

          Just because a woman does not explicitly say “no” does not mean that the touch was consensual.

          This is a case where there is a clear power differential because of the perceived authority of religious leaders. It’s a case where the daughter almost certainly didn’t want the imam to even be present, much less rubbing oil on her body. This is a case where both the mother and daughter probably found themselves thinking, “Whoah, WTF?” while the event took place, but being too shocked to speak up about it.

          This case has every hallmark of straight up sexual assault. Don’t blame the victims here. Don’t try to rationalize why the imam isn’t at fault for a crime.

          • C Peterson

            No, the reason there is a kerfuffle is because sometimes there really is consent. In the real world, fairness demands making that determination. And more to the point in a case like this, it becomes a legal determination as to whether what took place can even be reasonably considered sexual assault at all. What we don’t know is the intent of the cleric. What we don’t know is if this is a recognized technique. What we don’t know is what degree of information was provided to the alleged victim.

            Terry is right about this being a case that can test some of these ideas, even beyond simply determining the facts in this specific incident.

            Do not accuse me of blaming the victim. As I said, it isn’t clear that there are victims here. To automatically assume that the party making a sexual abuse claim is a victim is legally and morally wrong. That’s why we have courts.

            • invivoMark

              “[I]t isn’t clear that there are victims here.”

              Holy shit.

              I’m done with you. You disgust me.

            • smrnda

              I’d like at this time to mention the bizarre “journey into manhood” project which was often used to ‘fix’ gay men. The project would get men out in the middle of nowhere and then in some cases the people running the project would engage in highly questionable behavior, unprofessional pseudo-therapy and such. The project of course maintains that it had consent, but the nature of the program was not spelled out. (I also read about cases where, owing to the remote nature, men weren’t able to leave.)

              So when I take a case and judge whether or not what happened was consensual I have to ask whether or not all that would happen was spelled out.

          • UWIR

            “This is a case where there is a clear power differential because of the perceived authority of religious leaders.”

            And by “clear”, you mean “Inferred from nothing but the fact that he has the title of ‘imam’ “?

            “It’s a case where the daughter almost certainly didn’t want the imam to even be present, much less rubbing oil on her body.”

            It’s amazing how you can be “almost certain” based on no evidence whatsoever.

            “This case has every hallmark of straight up sexual assault.”

            Except for, you know, actual factual, rather than conclusory, claims to support the accusation of sexual assault. It’s quite telling that you don’t think actual facts are part of the “hallmark” of a rape case.

            • smrnda

              I’d say in the case of religious leaders, people raised in a faith are taught obey them, and not to challenge their authority, AND to side with religious leaders against outside authorities. This is why ‘sharia courts’ exist in some places, or why adults in some polygamist Mormon cults can have their spouses or kids reassigned to another person in better standing with the cult. They have no standing legally, but a tremendous amount of power, particularly of those raised on the inside.

      • UWIR

        “Sexual assault” is a crime, so if a sexual assault occurred, then, by definition a crime occurred. Your question assumes what is in dispute. Why are you wasting our time with these idiotic posts?

        • Feminerd

          Ask C Peterson. He seems to think that the imam didn’t commit a crime because, and I quote, “nobody drugged, nobody asleep, nobody unconscious, no suggestion of force.”

          If the imam did exactly the same thing but was a licensed therapist instead of an imam, would C Peterson think that was a crime? It is a valid question to get at the root of his hyperskepticism regarding all claims of sexual crimes. After all, the imam is accused of sexual assault, a crime as you so helpfully pointed out. I’m trying to pin down why C Peterson thinks it wasn’t a crime.

          If you think this is so idiotic, why waste your time replying or reading them?

          • C Peterson

            I didn’t say the Imam didn’t commit a crime. I said that I considered that a real possibility based on the evidence. It isn’t my place to make that determination.

            Whether a licensed therapist doing this was committing a crime would depend, I think, on what sort of disclosure was presented before, and what kind of formal consent could be demonstrated. A licensed therapist is subject to both legal constraints and professional ones. The situation with a pastor is different. The alleged victims are adults. They had the opportunity to secure professional assistance and chose not to.

            • Feminerd

              Which doesn’t change the fact that (yes, yes, assuming the allegations are true) someone in a position of power took advantage of that position to sexually assault two women. Why are you blaming them for being assaulted?

              • C Peterson

                I’m not. You are making up loads of stuff I didn’t say. This is clearly a topic that knocks you off the rails of rationality.

                • Feminerd

                  You have repeatedly said they could have gone to a licensed secular therapist, which strongly implies that they deserved this to happen for going to a religious leader instead.

                  You have repeatedly said they were adults and thus consented to anything that occurred because … well, because they were adults, I guess, and adults can’t be taken advantage of?

                  How can I read that as anything other than blaming the victims? Your words condemn you- I get passionate about this, yes, but to argue that I become irrational is both incorrect and unbecoming of you. Shall I point out that accusing women of hysteria is an age-old way of shutting them up? That even though I don’t think that is your intention at all, you are once again playing into tropes too perfectly not to point it out and ask you to at least be aware of the environment surrounding your langauge?

                • C Peterson

                  Again, you use words like “deserved” that imply they are victims. That’s precisely what I don’t think has been established. And yes, I do think that by choosing an unqualified therapist they put themselves at risk of an unsatisfactory result, and that doesn’t necessarily mean an illegal one.

                  I’m not blaming anybody for anything. But I expect adults to act like adults.

                • Feminerd

                  By never making poor choices or putting themselves in vulnerable positions? Adults make mistakes sometimes. I suppose you think that women who go out to bars take unnecessary risks and are thus to blame for anything bad that happens? How can you not see this as victim blaming?

                  Pretend for a second that the man is guilty. Why are you saying that the women deserved to be sexually assaulted because they went to see an imam instead of a licensed counselor?

                • C Peterson

                  “Pretend that the man is guilty”? What a load of crap. Why don’t I pretend that you are insane. Am I not wasting my time arguing with somebody who is barking mad?

                  I don’t need to pretend. I don’t need to assume. I’m not blaming anybody for anything. All I’ve done is suggested that we don’t have the whole story, and that nothing illegal may have occurred. Why that suggestion should raise such ire in you makes absolutely no sense to me.

                  If the man is guilty of inappropriate sexual contact without the consent of the woman, he should be held accountable. On the other hand, if what he did was an accepted form of Islamic “treatment”, I have no sympathy for the woman who voluntarily chose to use his “services”, and most certainly don’t think he should be found criminally guilty of anything.

                • Feminerd

                  I’m no expert in Islamic “treatment”, but there are very, very strict rules about men and women touching or seeing each other’s bodies. No Islamic anything would involve a man not related to her touching a woman’s body. Seriously, that this is almost certainly criminal activity is not hard to figure out.

                  That people who go to a counselor should never be sexually assaulted, whether that counselor is licensed or not, should damned well be a given. What I want to know is why you are basically assuming that the women should have known better, should be held accountable for being victimized instead of their victimizer held accountable, etc. The reason I asked you to pretend the man was guilty for one second is if he is, all your statements- reread them. Do they not sound like victim-blaming to you? She shouldn’t have put herself in that situation. She could’ve gone to someone else. It’s her fault for being religious/gullible. She should’ve known what “Islamic treatment” entailed, as though there was a singular entity known as ‘Islam’ instead of two major sects and many minor ones.

                  All I read is someone “withholding judgment” by blaming two women who reported sexual assault to the police (a very difficult and scary thing to do) for being in a situation where assault *might* occur.

                • C Peterson

                  That people who go to a counselor should never be sexually assaulted,
                  whether that counselor is licensed or not, should damned well be a

                  So what’s the issue? We’re 100% in agreement.

                  As for the rest of your comments, they’re rubbish. I’ve already answered them, and you continue to invent things I never said, or interpret them in bizarre ways.

                  This is clearly a subject that you are unable to address rationally. There’s no point in further discussion.

                • Feminerd

                  Sigh. Disqus ate my comment. Here we go again.

                  we have adults who believe in batshit voluntarily seeking help from a practitioner of batshit, who did what he did with nobody drugged, nobody asleep, nobody unconscious, no suggestion of force.

                  It wasn’t “legitimate” sexual assault.

                  Just because you are a believer doesn’t mean you can’t choose to go to a professional therapist for issues that require that. If you are a believer, you are agreeing to be taken advantage of by certain church leaders.

                  They implicitly consented to anything that might have happened anyways.

                  If a compos mentis adult chooses to recognize somebody as superior, that doesn’t automatically make that person into someone with a position of trust in any legal way.

                  Which is why when women were in a Quiverfull or religiously submissive mindset, and then leave, we don’t prosecute the men for domestic violence. Oh wait.

                  This wasn’t a licensed therapist. This doesn’t seem like overt sexual assault.

                  They should have known better and besides, it was “minor” assault. What are they even complaining for?

                  I don’t know the motives of the people claiming they were victimized. Simply making the accusation does not mean they were victims at all.

                  What is this I don’t even? Victim-shaming at its finest.

                  A licensed therapist is subject to both legal constraints and professional ones. The situation with a pastor is different. The alleged victims are adults. They had the opportunity to secure professional assistance and chose not to.

                  It’s their fault. They trusted someone untrustworthy, and thus bear the blame for their own assault.

                  This is clearly a subject you are unable to address rationally. You can’t see that you’re treating this with more skepticism and requiring far higher standards of evidence for this than you would for any other crime. You are so steeped in our culture’s toxic stew of rape apologetics that you can’t recognize them coming from your own mouth.

                • marshmallow

                  Feminerd is the most rational person I know.

          • marshmallow

            C Peterson is also a moral relativist who believes that if society thought slavery was great then slavery is totes cool and moral.


            • C Peterson

              Yes. I think that’s the only rational position possible unless you believe in some sort of deity handing down morality. If humans don’t define what is and is not moral, who does?

              • DavidMHart

                There is the issue of ‘deciding what is and isn’t moral’, which is separate from the issue of ‘deciding what the word ‘morality’ even means’.

                Most people of a secular and humanist persuasion are happy to take it that ‘morality’, broadly, means the search to figure out what behavioural guidelines will produce the most wellbeing and the least suffering. If we agree on that, then it is perfectly possible for a majority of humans to be mistaken about whether a particular course of action will cause more harm than good. We could, for instance, fail to recognise the victims of a policy to even be sentient beings whose capacity for suffering is comparable to our own (I suspect that this view of black people did a lot to perpetuate slavery). Or we could pursue a policy in the mistaken belief that, on average, the harms it causes are outweighed by the greater harms it prevents (the policy of criminal penalties for recreational drug use seems like a very good candidate for this category).

                If we agree on that, you have to admit that questions of what is morally good are not identical with what the majority of people think is morally good.

                If on the other hand, we take the perspective of those who cannot agree on what the word ‘morality’ even means (some people think it pertains to questions of the wellbeing and suffering of sentient creatures, some people think it pertains to fulfilling the wishes of one or more deity, regardless of suffering caused, yet other people think it pertains to refraining from enjoyable activities regardless of whether doing so entails greater future happiness etc), then and only then can you say that moral relativism makes sense. But that is only possible because people are using the word ‘moral’ to mean completely different things, just like a violinist and a zoologist could use the word ‘frog’ to mean two different things that have nothing in common.

                • C Peterson

                  I do think that was is moral is what is decided by consensus. I do think that in most societies throughout history, slavery has been perfectly moral. Indeed, in most societies I think having slavery did actually result in a reduction in human suffering. I do think that nothing is intrinsically immoral.

                  What I distinguish between is the quality of moral systems. One can be better than another- on rational, functional grounds such as maximizing well being- without making the other immoral.

                  For the vast majority of human history, the vast majority of human beings have had almost no personal freedom. They were slaves, or serfs, or subjects of some kind, who lived at the will of one person, or some oligarchy, or the strongest. That was the norm, accepted as such by ruler and subject alike. To suggest that all those people were immoral makes no sense to me.

      • frankbellamy

        The critical difference, in my view, is that a psychologist is a person licensed by the state. The state represents to the public that the psychologist is qualified to practice psychology, and the state therefor holds the psychologist to certain standards of conduct that it does not hold ordinary people to. A cleric, by contrast is not licensed by the state. The state has never represented the cleric as being qualified to do anything. The individual has chosen to place their trust in the cleric all on their own, knowing that the cleric is regulated only by the governance structures within their church. The individual is therefor responsible for the consequences of that decision.

        • Feminerd

          Incorrect. Clerical sexual abuse is still illegal, as well it ought to be. No one is responsible for sexual abuse except the abuser.

          Furthermore, as was pointed out above, many clerics misrepresent themselves as counselors. They neglect to tell their parishioners they aren’t state-licensed counselors, eliding the meaning of the two terms. It is the responsibility of the cleric to be honest, not the responsibility of the parishioner to be skeptical (not to mention that it isn’t super easy to find that information).

          • frankbellamy

            My point is exactly that it is constitutionally problematic, and contrary to our ideals of religious equality, to criminalize any conduct by clerics in particular. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse, and if a cleric does something that is illegal between any two adults, then the cleric should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But he can’t legitimately be prosecuted for something that would be perfectly legal between two laymen.

            I find it difficult to believe that parishioners are unaware that clerics aren’t licensed by the state. This is middle school social studies. Do you have a citation to back up your claim?

            • Feminerd

              If someone is in a position of authority over others, then they must be scrutinized more closely. Relationships between doctors and patients, lawyers and clients, therapists and patients; all treated with extreme suspicion. There are laws that give clerics the same exemption from subpoenas and requirements to testify that doctors, therapists, and lawyers receive, so clearly clerics are legally in the same category of “power over someone” that doctors, therapists, and lawyers are in.

              You’re right, sexual abuse shouldn’t be criminal just because a cleric did it. It should always be criminal no matter who does it. If anyone promises treatment for a mental illness and then uses that opportunity to sexually assault someone, it doesn’t matter their credentials or lack thereof. If they present themselves as having credentials they don’t in fact have, that makes the crime worse, but it was always criminal behavior that must be treated as such.

              Your question for citations is actually asking for significant research that simply doesn’t exist to my knowledge. Far from “middle school social studies”, this is research work that graduate students or professors might be doing. However, from talking to many religious people who have gone to pastors or priests for counseling and reading the stories of many more on various forums, I have yet to meet a single person who was aware that a pastoral degree did not include a degree or formal training in counseling. They all thought that was part of the cleric’s job. While this is purely anecdotal, I find it telling that no one was aware that pastors have no formal training, let alone a license, in counseling.

              • frankbellamy

                I meant that the idea that the state does not regulate or license clergy is a middle school social studies concept, everyone should know it. That you find ignorance among a sample specifically selected for having gone to a cleric for counseling is unsurprising and uninformative.

                • Feminerd

                  If someone is presenting hirself as a counselor, wouldn’t you expect hir to be licensed by the state as one?

                • frankbellamy

                  Was this Imam holding himself out as being a counselor separately and apart from his role as an Imam? Or was he presenting counseling as part of his role as an Imam? Because I would not expect the latter to be licensed by the state, no. Nobody who passed middle school social studies should.

                • Feminerd

                  I certainly don’t recall a discussion in middle school or high school about the role of the state in licensing counselors, nor a specific warning that religious leaders were not licensed professional counselors. If that’s the norm at the schools you went to, great! It isn’t the norm in the country as a whole, though.

                • frankbellamy

                  Was discussing the establishment clause and the separation of church and state part of the norm in your middle school or high school?

                • Feminerd

                  Not much, no. We talked about the freedom of speech parts a lot and freedom of the press a little, but I didn’t get into Establishment Clause jurisprudence until college, and even those were elective classes. And even knowing the establishment clause doesn’t mean anyone is going to automatically make the connection to the state not licensing clerics, especially given that some do have counseling licenses if they meet the requirements for being a professional counselor. They aren’t licensed pastors (such a thing does not exist in the US, of course), but that has no bearing whatsoever on whether they are licensed counselors or not. If a cleric presents hirself as a “counselor”, most people are going to think ze means a licensed counselor, not whatever made-up definition the cleric has thought up.

    • cyb pauli

      This is blaming the victim. I think belief in deities is stupid, but that doesnt make the believer responsible for being taken advantage of by the con-artist.

      • C Peterson

        I think it does. Just because you are a believer doesn’t mean you can’t choose to go to a professional therapist for issues that require that. If you are a believer, you are agreeing to be taken advantage of by certain church leaders.

        This is only “blaming the victim” if we assume there is a victim. Maybe there is, but it isn’t obvious to me from the information presented.

        • baal

          That’s why we have a court system. The mother or daughter found the anointing offensive touch as it was done. That’s the legal predicate for (criminal) assault. The prosecuting attorney can then choose to press the charge or not. The Imam can then defend himself in court with a “they consented” since the Imam was invited to treat the daughter. Depending on the jurisdiction, that defense could work or not or be barred from being raised. There are other potential defenses as well. etc.

          There certainly isn’t a blanket rule that all touching done in the context of religious tradition (agreement to being taken advantage of) is not a legal matter.

          • C Peterson

            That’s why we have a court system.

            Absolutely. And that’s why I find the knee-jerk “guilty until proven innocent” mentality of otherwise reasonable posters here to be a little disturbing.

            • baal

              You read a little bit like you don’t think there was a harm at all let alone something that could go to court, however. I think that’s what’s getting the blow back.

              • C Peterson

                What I said is that it isn’t apparent to me that a crime was committed, or that there were any victims. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask given the limited information available here.

                Ultimately, this will be determined by a court, as it should be when two parties have different interpretations of an incident.

        • Feminerd

          So con artists bear no blame whatsoever and have committed no crimes in taking advantage of gullible people. When priests tell people that they will be “spiritually blessed” if they suck off the good pastor, that’s not abusive or criminal at all. Got it.

          What the fuck is wrong with you?

          • C Peterson

            We may consider priests and imams to be con artists. Their followers do not, and I think that trying to label them as such in court, in order to press a criminal case, is going to be tricky (and is something likely to lead to all manner of unintended consequences).

            Sorry, but it is not generally seen as illegal for a religious leader to sell snake oil to his willingly gullible flock. Whether he can rub them down with that snake oil remains to be decided.

            • Feminerd

              He is never allowed to sexually assault them, though. Never ever. That’s always a crime. It is always illegal to sell someone snake oil and then take advantage of the opportunity to commit sexual assault. Anointing with oil usually means pouring it over your head. If the imam is already in the home and starts ordering someone to take off her clothes, shock and religious conditioning kicks in. Afterwards, the victim knows what happened is wrong (and thus goes to the police) but during the assault can’t stop it. This does not negate that a crime occurred.

              And I’m not talking about religious leaders when I say con artists- I mean people who unquestionably fall into that category. Phishers. Triangle schemes. People who call old people and tell them they’ve won a prize but their bank account number and social security number are needed. People who pretend to be government employees to help with ACA enrollments in order to access Medicare and social security numbers. The old fly-by-night business investment opportunity. They’re all taking advantage of gullible people. Do you consider what they do a crime?

              Also, if a pastor tells a member of his congregation ze will be “spiritually blessed” if ze sucks off the good pastor, is that abusive or criminal at all in your mind?

              • C Peterson

                He is never allowed to sexually assault them, though.

                I agree completely. But the evidence presented so far does not convince me that any such assault took place.

                Also, if a pastor tells a member of his congregation ze will be “spiritually blessed” if ze sucks off the good pastor, is that abusive or criminal at all in your mind?

                If the member of the congregation is an adult, then no, I don’t consider that abusive or criminal. At some point people have to take responsibility for their own beliefs and actions. I do not consider pastors worthy of the respect that earns somebody the status of being in a position of power. I consider the act you describe some sort of weird sex between consenting adults. Kooky, maybe, but not criminal.

                • Feminerd

                  And if the member of the congregation has a known mental illness, such as, oh, depression? A known history of drug addiction? Obvious desperation to try anything to get better?

                  At some point, sexual abuse is … still sexual abuse. Domestic violence and marital rape are still crimes, even though most marital rape doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of “legitimate” rape. No screaming, fighting, or even saying no. Just passive lying there waiting for it to be over, maybe a murmured “not now” but not much else. It’s still rape.

                  The threat of Hell is a psychological threat that can be very effective. The cultish quality of being a “man of God” can be very effective. At some point, you have to hold people accountable for taking advantage of the people they have power over; implicitly threatening your social life, your social status, and your salvation status if sexual favors aren’t performed is, in fact, just as bad as threatening your job if sexual favors aren’t performed. Just because you don’t think pastors are worthy of respect or power doesn’t mean they don’t have it from their parishioners, nor that we shouldn’t treat them as abusive if they do, in fact, abuse their position.

                • C Peterson

                  To me, it matters not in the slightest whether this occurred in a church setting. You can construct all sorts of scenarios, some of which will clearly not be sexual assault, some of which clearly will be sexual assault, and some of which are going to be gray areas.

                  If a pastor abuses his parishioner, he should be held accountable. But that abuse has to be real, not simply claimed. A person can feel victimized and still not be a victim in any legal sense. Until a court rules on this, I’m not prepared to say that a crime has taken place.

                • Feminerd

                  Who said anything about a church setting? Not me.

                  Why do you think all sexual contact between a boss and an employee is banned by policy and assumed criminal? Shouldn’t pastors be held to the same standard, since they often hold the same type of power?

                  What would convince you that abuse was real? Clearly, a victim telling hir story isn’t enough. An eyewitness to the abuse isn’t enough. Police reports and criminal charges aren’t enough. Is anything other than a full trial and conviction enough to convince you, and why do you treat sexual abuse as requiring a far higher standard of evidence than other crimes? Do you think that the high percentage of (self-admitted) rapists who are not prosecuted nor convicted is evidence that they don’t actually rape people?

                • C Peterson

                  Who said anything about a church setting? Not me.

                  You did. You’re making a case for a special relationship between a parishioner and a pastor.

                  I don’t believe that is appropriate. I don’t equate that relationship to a boss-employee relationship. I don’t think pastors should be held to that standard, because I don’t think we should recognize pastors as being in positions of power. A pastor and and adult congregant are mutually consenting adults. Either could potentially assault the other sexually, but contact that may be interpreted as sexual between them is not inherently abusive by virtue of their pastor/congregant relationship.

                  I don’t know why you keep bringing up irrelevant examples of criminal rape. This is clearly a very different situation. Stereotyping all cases of sexual assault accusations as equivalent to rape is unreasonable.

                  And I hold all crimes to exactly the same standard of evidence. That’s why I am open to the possibility that no crime occurred here: no evidence has been presented.

                • Feminerd

                  Whether you like it or not, pastors do have that amount of power in many churches. It’s always going to be better to recognize unpleasant realities and deal with them than to pretend they don’t exist, which then silences victims as well. Pastors have a fairly unique amount of power over a lot of their parishioners, and some of them abuse it to request or require sexual favors. This must be seen as the crime it is.

                  Of course not all instances of sexual assault are rape. Since they stem from similar views of women, though, it’s fair to ask how you handle rape accusations, since women who report rapes are not believed about sexual harassment or lesser sexual assault and are questioned using the exact same arguments you’re using. So again, I ask you what evidence you do find convincing. Does it have to be a trial and conviction? What standards less than that would convince you a crime has been committed? Because if a victim’s account, eyewitness testimony, and police charges aren’t at least somewhat telling … I honestly don’t know what could be. You tell me.

                • FTP_LTR

                  At the risk of sounding like a rape apologist, or victim blaming, not only is it true that not all instances of sexual assault are rape, but not all instances of unwelcome contact are sexual assault.

                  I don’t have enough information on this case to be convinced of the imam’s guilt or innocence. I do have enough information to be convinced that it should be in court where people who have all the information can be convinced.

                • Feminerd

                  Of course it should. There will be a trial, as there should be.

                  However, because the man was charged with sexual assault, I think it’s safe to say this case involves unwanted sexual contact, not just assault. And while I find it unlikely, it is definitely possible the imam is technically innocent of any crimes. However, arguments like C Peterson and UWIR, evincing skepticism of the victim’s motives and victimization, requiring more evidence of a crime even being committed than they would ask of any other crime while denigrating the victim as lying or mistaken, are a huge part of rape culture that needs to be shut down.

                • FTP_LTR

                  I more or less agree with you, Feminerd. The only point we diverge (I think) is on what the purpose of the jucidial process is. My view is that the process also includes establishing whether a crime has been committed, not just whether the imam is guilty or not. Being charged is not the equivalent of a crime having been committed. It just means there’s sufficient evidence that this is the case to warrant a formal process, surely?

                  As I said before, I’m convinced that there isn’t enough information available to me to decide either count. I’m pretty sure that there was a crime, and I believe he’s probably guilty.

                  (If we assume that there was a crime committed, the only question is ‘was it him?’ which should be a lot easier to answer!)

                  Sexual contact – let alone sexual assault – is (rightly) a very emotive topic, and isn’t a black-and-white issue.

                  Yes, individual cases may be black and white, but there are instances in which there are false accusations for various reasons. I don’t think that any victim should be dismissed, but I do think that each and every case needs to be treated with appropriate skepticism – in an appropriately delicate manner – so that justice can be done by both* parties.

                  (*or more)

                • C Peterson

                  I don’t care about power balance where that balance is entirely voluntary. If a compos mentis adult chooses to recognize somebody as superior, that doesn’t automatically make that person into someone with a position of trust in any legal way.

                  People have to take responsibility for their decisions, and the consequences. I don’t believe that pastors should be seen as legally in positions of trust in situations like this. This should be handled like any other case where there’s an accusation of sexual assault by one adult against another, with no evidence of battery. It becomes the word of one against the other, and up to a court to adjudicate.

                • Feminerd

                  How voluntary is brainwashing that began at birth?

                • C Peterson

                  I believe that bringing a child up in religion is abuse. But legally, it is not. And legally, this type of brainwashing is not only acceptable, but enjoys protected status.

                  If we can figure out a way to change that, I’d be all for it. But under current law, believing religious bullshit doesn’t make you a victim. It’s a choice.

                • smrnda

                  So you agree that morally, a child raised in a religion has been abused and subject to non-consensual brainwashing. It isn’t illegal, but something like this is often a mitigating factor in cases.

                • C Peterson

                  I do agree with that. But I don’t think this is often seen as a mitigating factor in legal cases unless the particular religion is very widely perceived as an extremist cult. Being raised Christian or Islam is unlikely to be seen as being brainwashed by a court.

                • frankbellamy

                  sexual contact between a boss and an employee is not banned in general (though individual companies are certainly free to set whatever policies they choose on such matters) or assumed criminal. It may be sexual harassment (a matter of civil, not criminal, law), and even there only if the boss offers some employment related benefit in exchange for the sexual contact. Aside from that quid pro quo scenario, a boss is in exactly the same position as anyone else with regard to sexual contact with an employee.

                • Feminerd

                  It is usually banned by policy. Every major and most minor corporations have this policy to protect themselves from sexual harassment suits. As for employment related benefits- the power differential between boss and employee guarantees there is always a subtone of employment related benefits. The boss can promote and fire at will, so any sexual contact will be made in the context of that power differential.

                  And no, sexual harassment doesn’t have to have a quid pro quo involved. Hostile environments are prohibited, and the people usually creating the hostile environments are coworkers, not only bosses. A coworker who has no power over employment or quid pro quo arrangements is still prohibited from sexually harassing hir colleagues, and the company becomes liable for it if a complaint is received and nothing is done to change it.

                • frankbellamy

                  Don’t try to re-write history. You said sexual contact between a boss and an employee was presumed criminal. That is what I objected to, and you seem to be admitting I’m right on that. This harassment stuff is all civil law, not criminal law. I also made no claim about the kinds of policies companies generally have, as those are also not criminal.

                  You are of course right about hostile work environment, which is why I was careful to say that quid pro quo harassment was the only thing distinguishing bosses in particular (since, as you correctly say, a co-worker who is not a boss can also create a hostile work environment). You were using the workplace analogy to show what you see as the problem with authoritative relationships, so the rules about how co-workers can interact are irrelevant to the issue at hand.

                  And I certainly don’t think that all sexual contact between superiors and subordinates in a company is problematic. For example, one of my professors (who reports to the dean, who reports to the provost, who reports to the president of the university) is married to the president of the university. Lets assume that there is sexual contact in that marriage. Do you really think that that is problematic?

                • Feminerd

                  It’s generally a bad idea, yes, and there are going to have to be a lot of safeguards taken to ensure that no favorable treatment exists. The fact that there is at least one person between them makes it some better. Ideally, even if working for the same organization, they would have completely separate command structures. That’s rather impossible when one of them is the leader of the organization, though.

                  Sexual contact between a boss and hir employee is generally assumed to be sexual harassment. You are correct that sexual harassment isn’t a criminal offense, but it is a civil one. Quite often, it also crosses the line into criminal conduct but charges are often never brought (why yes, slapping someone’s ass is in fact a criminal offense as well as a civil one).

        • smrnda

          What about people raised in a cult? It’s one thing for ME to reject cult leaders, but I wasn’t raised to believe in them. At 18, people don’t magically deprogram themselves.

          Another issue is that, I feel clergy take advantage of the mentally ill and emotionally unstable, people whose judgment and ability to stand up for themselves is questionable at times.

          • C Peterson

            See my answer above. I think a cult has to be pretty extreme before it loses its religious privilege and is seen in court as some sort of abuse.

            • smrnda

              I’m perhaps more willing to dismiss far more religions as cults, given that I often don’t see any difference except ‘cults’ are usually less popular.

              The Mars Hill church presided over by Mark Driscoll appears to be a cult to me. True, the designation is just “Christian” and to some extent “Reformed/Calvinist” (not that rare) but I’m willing to put it in the cult box.

              If courts don’t see these things as cults, then it’s only because religious brainwashing is so widespread that it’s viewed as normal. It’s kind of how beating babies can be seen as not child abuse because it’s normalized.

              • C Peterson

                Yeah, they’re all cults to me, too. But you’re right, the courts are as brainwashed as most religionists.

  • frankbellamy

    I don’t see this case as a religious person trying to use religion as a shield from general law. From the point of view of the law, a minister should be no different from anyone else. There are cases in which the law privileges ministers (the parsonage exemption), and there are cases where it disadvantages ministers (the ministerial exception upheld in Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC), and I (and I take atheists generally) are opposed to both. If the government is to be neutral with respect to religion, that means it shouldn’t care whether a person is a minister or not. So this person shouldn’t have been prosecuted under laws about how therapists relate to their patients, because form the point of view of the law he was never a therapist. If religious communities want to treat their ministers as counselors and apply some counselor-like standards of conduct themselves, that is an internal affair of the religious community, the law should take no interest in it.

    As for the generic sexual abuse charge, I don’t think anyone is claiming that religion justifies that. The issue I see coming up there is that such a law must have an element about the victim not consenting, and it sounds like this person did consent, so I don’t know how they are going to convict on that.

  • cyb pauli

    Apparently belief in God justifies any action.

  • UWIR

    There are no allegations presented in this blog post on which one can base any charge of sexual assault. I even read the article linked to, to see whether there Terry just didn’t bother including some relevant details, but there was nothing in the article that supported the accusation, either.

    If I were a judge, and the prosecutor’s case consisted solely of asserting that the defendant rubbed oil on the body of a woman, with no further details, I would throw the case out, and there is something seriously wrong with anyone who wouldn’t.

    I really don’t understand why people think that it makes sense to discuss whether the imam’s alleged actions constitute sexual assault, when we have not been told what the imam’s alleged actions are, other than rubbing a woman’s body with oil. I can see no reason other than a knee-jerk perversion of feminism for contributors’ defending the charge of sexual assault on no basis other than the fact that a charge of sexual assault has been made.

    • Feminerd

      I’m sure you can’t. It’s okay, UWIR, we’ll just take your known compassion deficiencies and bigotries into account.

    • smrnda

      So… rubbing oil on someone is somehow not sexual in any way? Would a teacher rubbing oil on students be alright? College professor with students? I’d suspect in the first instance, it would be illegal, and the second, unprofessional enough that it might lead to some form of censure.

      • UWIR

        No, rubbing oil on someone is not inherently sexual. Additional facts are necessary to establish that it is sexual, let alone sexual assault.

  • thingwarbler

    Well, why the hell not? After all, laws in the majority of US states exonerates parents who allow their child to suffer if they argue that it’s part of their religious conviction. Federal medical insurance and most private plans will cover 100 percent of the cost of male genital mutilation, a grotesque practice that largely can be traced back to religious roots. The Vatican claims exorcism is a legitimate practice — so who on earth shouldn’t our Imam here get away with getting a little nookie under the guise of a Koranic oil rub? Is the mom & the daughter really going to argue that, well, they wanted an Islamic treatment for the daughter’s woes, but they weren’t too keen on that particular kind of treatment? Seriously, ladies: if you call in the witch doctor, you better be prepare to be bewitched. If you want science and fact-based treatment, try a doctor next time. Odds are he’ll stick to running some tests and prescribing some pills…

  • Anymouse

    Funny how you don’t see Joe Klein giving out body oil rubs.

  • Robster

    No no, no. The Imam was spreading a massage from Big Al and his son (I guess), Mo. Any religion called I slam has to be hands on.