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Saturday, October 24, 1998

Court bars church doctrine from exorcism case

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A judge has ruled that church doctrine concerning demonic possession cannot be a part of a Fort Worth family's lawsuit against an Assembly of God church in nearby Colleyville.

Tom and Judy Schubert contend the church traumatized and injured their daughter, 18-year-old Laura Schubert, during an exorcism.

The 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled Thursday that bringing church doctrine into the lawsuit would violate Pleasant Glade Assembly of God's right to religious freedom.

"We find that the Schuberts' claims would involve a searching inquiry into Assembly of God beliefs and the validity of such beliefs, an inquiry that is barred by the First Amendment," the court opinion stated.

The family claims church leaders held down Laura Schubert as they tried to exorcise demons from her.

Tom Schubert, an ordained Assembly of God minister, said that's something not usually practiced by the church on Christians.

The family contend that the teen suffered physical injuries and lasting emotional damage, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

David. M. Pruessner, the attorney for the church and three of its leaders, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that religious beliefs should not be part of the lawsuit.

"Churches should resolve their own disputes within themselves about beliefs and practices without going into court," he said.

But William O. Wuester, the Schuberts' attorney, said the church leaders had participated in "ritual abuse" that strayed from basic Assembly of God beliefs.

The Schuberts' complaints start with a chain of events that began with a June 1996 youth "lock-in."

The family claims that during the Friday overnight stay, Laura was frightened by stories of demons in the church and efforts to purge them by sprinkling holy oil throughout the building.

At services the next week, the Schuberts said their daughter was held down for several hours as church members attempted to exorcise demons from her.

Wuester said he has witnesses who can testify that the teen was held against her will.

The case is scheduled to go to state district court.


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