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Laws and Rituals PICTURE THESE future Texas scenes: It’s the harvest season, and a knifewielding group of the faithful chase a terrified animal, slaughter it, cook it, then dismember the corpse while muttering prayers. Nearby, others surround an infant. A man, chanting in a strange language, lifts a sharp tool and ritually mutilates the screaming child’s genitals. Suddenly, police rush in, “Y’all’re under arrest! !” they shout to the Thanksgiving diners and the Jewish circumcision celebrants. The cops congratulate each other. “Caught us some of them ritchul abusers,” they grin. Absurd? Not according to the paranoid spirit and letter of three bills introduced in the Texas Legislature this session. SB 1832 and companion HB 3202, sponsored by Buster Brown, RLake Jackson, and Sam Johnson, R-Plano, would have made it a third degree felony to participate in a “diabolic” cult practicing rituals to “glorify” the devil including everything from cannibalism to mutilation, from sacrifice of animals to “psychological abuse.” Brown’s office says the bill attempts “to address the Matamoros problem.” Ironic, given that nobody in the Matamoros gang has said they were glorifying the devil. According to what the suspects have told authorities, they practiced a perverted mishmash resembling palomayombe, an Afro-Caribbean blackmagic sect that traditionally neither worships Satan nor sacrifices humans. The cult’s homicidal activity suggests that their leader invited rituals to express not religion but his own psychosis. Can these bills attack psychosis? Probably not. But what about constitutional niceties like separation of Church and State, or due process? Since our lawmakers don’t seem much interested in studying any religions except certified Judeo-Christian varieties, we can’t expect them to be very punctilious about defining “glorifying the devil.” Under Brown’s bill observing Thanksgiving or a b’ris probably wouldn’t get you arrested. If you’re a fundamentalist who believes the Bible says beat your kids, or if you’re a lunatic who practices incest because you think you’re Jesus both clearly documented and not terribly uncommon crimes you probably wouldn’t be indicted either. But if you’re a self-respecting wicca, pagan, or a Cuban immigrant who pleases your gods by offering them chickens, well, Lord help you if Buster, Sam, and friends mistakenly labeled you a Satanist. Another bill, SB 803, passed the Senate and is little better. Sponsored by Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, it raises criminal penalties for child abuse, including injury and sexual assault, if committed as part of a “ritual.” What’s a ritual? According to Abilene policeman Lee Reed, the mover and shaker behind the bill, it’s things people do when they gather in groups to terroristically molest children. Reed, an “expert” schooled by books like Michelle Remembers, tours Texas with people like Greg Reid \(see is widespread. He admits that not even one allegation has produced material evidence to support this claim. “But we’re working on finding some in Abilene,” Reed says. “In a case involving a babysitter. He needn’t worry about such trifles. When it comes to witch hunting, you don’t need real crimes much less evidence to prosecute. If Texas’ devil bills were to become law, the Crusade would be even easier. D.N. substantiated. Michelle Smith imitators used to say babies were buried in fields, but now that several excavated sites revealed nothing, the corpses are said to be burned in crematoria or buried in concrete. Any remaining evidence is suppressed, the rumor goes, because so many cops and politicians are Satanists. And for the past five years, the story has it that the Satanists are taking jobs in daycare centers in order to molest, torture, and recruit children. Lanning says that the reason a growing number of people tell an essentially identical story of ritual abuse is because the tale is so easy to learn from slasher movies and books like Michelle Remembers. Psychiatric anthropologist Mulhern has interviewed many self-styled cult “survivors” and their therapists and found faulty hypnosis techniques and other contaminating suggestions in virtually all cases. Conferences such as the one starring Joan Christianson bring together “cult survivors,” clergy, and selfproclaimed “born-again” ex-Satanists with DAs, police, child protection officials, and mental health professionals, allowing them to swap .intricate details about the alleged network and its “rites.” Such conferences hold a religious attraction for many participants. Other attendees, such as psychologists and social workers, take Satanic abuse stories literally because they don’t realize it takes a lot of training to do responsible “age-regression” hypnosis, and because of a facile reading of Freud that condemns him and his followers as anti-feminist betrayers of women for not unquestioningly believing the objective accuracy of every “memory” of childhood sexual abuse. But whatever the reasons for such conferences’ popularity, they are “spreading like wildfire” across the country, Lanning says. The biggest “conferences” these days, though, are tabloid TV broadcasts such as the “Oprah Winfrey” and “Geraldo” shows. To get an idea of who Attorney General Mattox was keeping company with on these programs, a roll call is in order. On “Geraldo,” a panelist wearing sunglasses and pseudonymed “David” told the nation that devil worship is a major problem throughout the Southwest and Texas; he also described witnessing, at age five, the sacrifice of a teenage boy by organized cultists. “David” is actually Greg Reid, 35, an El Pasoan raised in California whom I interviewed twice during the past year. Reid says he was raised in a fundamentalist Christian family and developed childhood fears of using public restrooms, of needles, and of doctors. Between the ages of seven and 15, he became obsessed with the Ouija boards, seances, and astral projection. Eleven years ago, he suffered multiple nervous breakdowns and major depression. He dreamed of a wolf’s head. He began seeing a “Christian therapist.” In 1981, as a result of studying Biblical history and reading Michelle Remembers, he began “remembering being kidnapped for a day at age five and being drugged with Nembutal by members of a Satanic cult. He is now a member of the fundamentalist Christian anti-cult, anti-heavy-metal-music WATCH Network in El Paso. WATCH members believe El Paso is a center of Satanic activity in the U.S. Reid, a self-styled minister who preaches to teenagers about Jesus, passes out business cards describing himself as an “Occult Research & Crime Consultant,” and says he frequently “advises” law enforcement personnel. Another “Geraldo” guest was Ted Gunderson, formerly head of the Dallas and Los Angeles FBI offices. Since retiring from the Bureau in 1979, Gunderson has several times claimed to have evidence of national Satanic cult crimes or of plots to kill him. He has never produced evidence. His most colorful pronouncement has been to call the FBI “Satanic,” rhetoric similar to that of Lyndon LaRouche, who, from his federal prison cell, issues claims that the Satanic Ordo Templi Orientis is ritually murdering and raping children, conspiring to conquer the world, and planning to kill Lyndon LaRouche. On the “Geraldo” show that Mattox appeared on, Gunderson stated that huge Satanic killing fields would be unearthed within the month in Mason County, Washington. Authorities there expressed shock at the claim Gunderson had not notified the police or sheriff there of any such information; and to date, no bodies have been unearthed. Plenty of local parents and children have been thrown into near 12 JUNE 2, 1989