Skepchick Quickies 12.18

Skepchick Quickies 12.18
Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

13 Comments

  1. The right wingers really will stoop to any low to further their agenda. Yeah, now we’ll just ace up the security at schools. Armed guards, security checks, maybe some nice barbed wire. Children’s schools will soon look like a concentration camp. But don’t take away gun owner’s “freedom”.

  2. Amanda

    I’ve never even heard of Obeah, before.

  3. I yammered a bit about the race to blame Newtown on Bad Things The Blamer Doesn’t Personally Approve Of. If sharing a link to my own site isn’t appropriate here, I won’t fret if you decide to delete this, Amanda. But if not, perhaps some may be interested or want to share their own thoughts with me, i.e., tell me how I’m wrong. ;)

    http://wp.me/p2ecYb-qS

    • I don’t think that’s very controversial (among intelligent people, anyway) I have yet to see evidence that violent games moves etc cause violence.

      One news show asked (of all people, honestly) Quentin Tarantino what he thought of the role of violent movies. I was struck though by his thoughtful answer: he quoted Shakespeare. Blame the playmaker. That’s the way it’s always been.

      We’ll be in better shape when our society stops worshipping NFL players and politicians less and starts valuing sound science more.

    • Bryan Lambert had some great quotable thoughts at youaredumb.net:

      “Give God to the kids and a machine gun to the principal and, because Connecticut school principles are notoriously dead shots and incredibly calm under pressure, PROBLEM SOLVED.” (/snark)

      “Maybe someday, America will take the same obsessiveness with personal safety they use to enable the War on Terror and the authoritarian police state and apply it to things that might actually make them safer, like gun control and meat inspection. ‘

      I couldn’t agree more.

  4. I haven’t heard of Obeah, itself, but the description they give of some of the rites makes it seem similar to Voodoun and Santeria (especially the references to Babylon); syncretic combinations of West African and Catholic beliefs, with a fair bit of folk magic.

    Declaring it not a religion is fairly ethnocentric, especially with the “I wouldn’t have done this to REAL religions” disclaimer. In essence, this cop faked a crying virgin, and pretended to be a priest to extract a confession.

    • [In essence, this cop faked a crying virgin, and pretended to be a priest to extract a confession.]

      And do you find that acceptable? Should it hold up in court?

  5. What makes me more curious about the Obeah case is, could you consider this a confession made under duress? Like if they could prove that the actions of the police officer made them fear for their lives, or the lives of their families if they didn’t confess, then the confession is forced right?

    Is it still coercion when their lives were never really in danger? After all the officer was not a believer in or practitioner of Obeah, so he never thought any of the rituals or what have your would ever or could ever bring physical harm to these guys.

    You know what? It feels like exploitation to me. If a someone scams an old lady out of her money because she believes in Seances or something, that smells morally wrong to me. So if this police officer scams two people into writing confessions they had no intention of giving because they believed in Obeah, than still smells wrong.

    As for getting the conviction overturned, I have no idea what kind of other evidence was presented at their trial. That the confession was tricked out of them doesn’t make them automatically not guilty.

  6. The guiding principle behind the restrictions placed on confessions is that they are there to ensure the confession is accurate and that should be the main concern. We require doctors to report shootings and I think the right to confess crimes to your religious leader is slightly less important than not bleeding to death.

    I think the real question has to be whether his actions could have caused an innocent person to confess to a crime, if they felt afraid or threatened, if there was pressure to confess (it takes a lot less pressure than most people realise, basic peer pressure can be enough), those kinds of things can and do cause innocent people to confess. Sounds to me that this could likely be the case. I have a problem with undercover work in general when it is used to extract confessions because of this.

  7. I think it’s wrong that police can legally lie to suspects, even to children. Using people’s religious beliefs is similarly wrong.

    • I don’t think it is realistic to expect police to never be able to lie. If they couldn’t they wouldn’t be able to conduct undercover operations at all.

  8. “Det.-Sgt. David Jarvis testified at trial that the Obeah idea was his. Obeah is not a religion, he said, and he would not have infiltrated Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims or Hindus.”

    That’s the crux, right there. The police shouldn’t be deciding which religions are legitimate. If they wouldn’t impersonate a priest, monk, or imam, then it’s prejudicial.

    • I agree. How could you decide what is a “real” religion or not? The Canadian Police seem to be arguing just because Obeah beliefs seem strange and wacky to them it is ok to impersonate a spiritual leader of that community to get a confession out of a suspect.

      I can’t really see how this tactic is any different from the police impersonating a priest at the suspect Catholic church in order to get information from him during confession. Catholics believe that their spiritual leaders can magically change wine and bread into blood and flesh yet impersonating a priest would outrage just about everyone.

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