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   Press Release on:
by Shawn Carlson, Ph.D.
   (From Dec 89 BASIS - Downloaded from Skeptics BBS 415 648-8944)
   For the last three years, I and several colleagues investigated
   monstrous allegations of Satanic crime. What we found are pillars
   of nonsense built on sand. Murderous cults of Devil worshipers
   are modern folk legends and a few opportunists, bereaved parents
   and religious fanatics have preyed on the public's imagination to
   create a lucrative cottage industry of fear. What follows is a
   press release describing our research. Copies of the 200-page
   report are available for $10 plus $1.50 P&H from me at Box 466,
   El Cerrito, CA, 94530.
   Those who worry about a rising tide of Satanic crime in America
   are giving the Devil much more than his due according to a report
   issued today by the Committee for Scientific Examination of
   Religion (CSER), a group of scientists and scholars dedicated to
   the critical evaluation of religious claims.
   "SATANISM IN AMERICA", compiled after three years of
   investigation, finds some evidence of Satanic or "occult-
   related" criminal activity in the United States, but cautions
   that its prevalence has been grossly exaggerated by self-styled
   experts who have wasted millions of tax dollars and countless
   thousands of police hours in search of a conspiracy that isn't
   In fact, according to CSER's study, a phalanx of Christian
   fundamentalists, political extremists, bereaved parents,
   opportunists, and several mentally unstable persons have combined
   to form a lucrative "information industry" on occult-related
   crime. The report asserts that public monies have been used to
   fund police and law enforcement training seminars (often costing
   hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars), and the
   publication of dozens of books and manuals, offering little more
   than "evangelism posing as criminology." And all of this has
   happened despite the fact that a person is more likely to be
   struck by lightning than to be the victim of a Satanic crime.
   CSER decided to begin its investigation in 1986, shortly after
   its widely publicized expose of fraudulent TV faith healers.
   Alarmed by the nationwide Satanism scare, which had been fueled
   by outrageous claims and sensational media coverage, the
   Committee later focused much of its attention on an analysis of
   Geraldo Rivera's special television presentation, "Devil Worship:
   Exposing Satan's Underground," aired on the night of Oct. 25,
   The report is sharply critical of the Rivera special, charging
   that it was:
     * poorly researched.
     * sensational.
     * highly irresponsible.
   "SATANISM IN AMERICA" tells that "The Rivera report was
   misleading, much of the information presented was inaccurate, and
   key facts were omitted." And these facts, CSER contends, would
   have left the viewing audience considerably less alarmed about
   the "threat" of Satanism.
   Says Dr. Shawn Carlson, the report's principal author, "Had
   Rivera been a bit more even-handed in his treatment of the
   subject matter, perhaps some of the hysteria could have been
   averted or avoided altogether."
   Carlson, a physicist and software engineer, points out that there
   was at east one confirmed case of homicide associated with the
   "Timothy Hughes of Altus, Oklahoma murdered his wife immediately
   after watching Rivera's special," Carlson says, "because he
   believed her to be part of the conspiracy."
      "20/20" IN THE ACT
   Carlson contends that since the airing of a special report on
   evil-worship on ABC's newsmagazine "20/20" in 1985, and the
   continuing fascination of TV talk-shows and the press with
   allegations of a Satanic conspiracy, numerous acts of violence
   have been committed by vigilantes and arsonists across the
   country against those suspected of Devil-worship. "A number of
   small churches, including several Black churches, have been
   vandalized and burned because of rumor-panics," says Carlson.

   "After the Matamoros incident -- which had nothing to do with
   Satanism -- people in Pharr, Texas began to hear rumors that
   blond-haired, blue-eyed children were to be ritually murdered in
   a little church called the Church of Fire. The church was
   destroyed in a mysterious blaze, and several of the members were
   threatened with similar fates.
   The same thing happened to a Black church in Illinois last
   winter." Carlson points to a similar incident involving the
   producer of the "20/20" segment on Devil-worship, Kenneth Wooden.
   "Wooden addressed an audience of 200 people in Olean, New York
   last April on the topic of Satanic crime, and told them that 25%
   of all unsolved homicides were ritualistic in nature. That's one
   in four -- an unbelievable number! There had been a rumor about
   Satanism spreading in Jamestown, a nearby town. Asked about it,
   Wooden said, 'It doesn't surprise me . . . it can happen here.'"
   "Two weeks later, the police had to stop a mob armed with knives
   and clubs in Jamestown from converging on a wooded area. And a
   local warehouse, used for punk rock concerts, sustained $4000
   worth of damage because several townspeople believed that a
   ritual sacrifice was to occur there.
   "Wooden's report for '20/20', as well as his comments in that
   public meeting, were simply irresponsible," according to Carlson.
   The report claims that many of those making public allegations
   about Satanic crime have exaggerated the extent of the problem
   beyond reason. According to Carlson, "These people claim to know
   who the cultist are, where they meet, and how they dispose of the
   bodies of their victims. But unlike undercover police officers
   and informants on organized crime, they are unable -- or
   unwilling -- to provide names, dates, places, or any other
   tangible evidence."
   Carlson's charges are supported by many law enforcement officers
   and criminologists, among them Kenneth Lanning of the FBI's
   Behavioral Research Unit in Quantico, Virginia. Lanning, a
   specialist on crimes involving children, has recently published
   an article critical of the current Satanism scare in the October
   issue of "Police Chief" magazine, and reprinted as an appendix in
   CSER's report.
   "SATANISM IN AMERICA" addresses the entire spectrum of claims
   surrounding Satanism and occult crime -- child-abductions, ritual
   abuse, human and animal sacrifices, women who purportedly offered
   their own infants up for sacrifice, animal mutilations, the link
   between Devil-worship and Heavy Metal music, and the phenomenon
   of "backward masking." It concludes that most of the allegations
   made over the last several years are baseless.
   The report states that in the few instances where crimes with
   undeniable Satanic overtones have occurred, "there is no evidence
   to show that Satanism, per se, was responsible for the act.
   Nearly every Satanic criminal had a history of anti-social
   behavior long before he/she took up the trappings of Satanism.
   Satanism, in these cases, appears as an expression of one's
   mental illness, and not as the sole motivation for anti-social
   behavior. Satanism is a symptom, not the cause."
   According to Carlson, "Some of the people who are most public
   about this issue make the silliest claims -- insisting that
   between 50,000 and two million children are ritually murdered
   each year by Satanists. We know that this just isn't true. The
   FBI states that they have fewer than 80 open files on children
   abducted by strangers in any given year. And there were a total
   of 23,000 homicides in the U.S. last year, making the lowest
   sacrifice number often offered by the conspiracy theorists TWICE
   the national murder average for children and adults combined. The
   numbers offered by the so-called experts simply don't add up."
   "Far more children drown in our backyard pools than are killed by
   cultists," Carlson argues. "In fact, last year 2,100 children
   were murdered in the U.S. by their own parents! This means that
   children are far more likely to be killed by their own father
   than by a Devil-worshiper. If we want to help children, we should
   cover our swimming pools and do something about child abuse, not
   waste limited resources chasing after non-existent
   Devil-worshiping conspiracies." According to the report, there
   have been over a million violent crimes committed in the U.S. in
   the past five years, fewer than one hundred of them involving
   Satanism or the occult.
   "I'm proud of the work we've done, especially in the area of
   child abuse," says Gerald Larue, Emeritus professor of Religion
   at the University of Southern California and co-author of
   "SATANISM IN AMERICA". "The hysteria-mongers would have us
   exhaust our resources going after a non-existent, nation-wide
   cult of Satanic child-abusers. We must concentrate our efforts on
   finding the real abusers and taking them off the streets, as well
   as providing help for abused kids. We owe it to our children not
   to indulge ourselves in hysteria in their names."
   "Our investigation has shown that, in child-abuse cases,
   allegations of Devil-worshiping conspiracies are phantoms of the
   prosecutors' imagination and that juries tend not to convict when
   such allegations are raised. I can't help but think that real
   child-abusers may have been released from jails because some
   prosecutors failed to concentrate on the abuse by getting carried
   away with meager evidence of Satanic murders allegedly committed
   during black masses and the like," adds Larue. "This panic is
   hurting kids a lot more than its helping them."
   See also Debunking the Myths on SRA.
   Back to my homepage

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