Friday, June 23, 2017

"Satanic Panic" Victims Exonerated

Back in 2013, I covered the case of Dan and Fran Keller, who were finally released after 21 years in prison. The couple ran a daycare center and were accused of "Satanic Ritual Abuse" during the "Satanic Panic" of the early 1990's. That is, the crimes they were convicted of were entirely imaginary, the product of what some therapists now call "false memory syndrome." Four years later, the Kellers have finally been exonerated of the lurid and bizarre crimes for which they were convicted all those years ago. After 25 years, it's been a long time coming.

“I still can’t believe it’s happening,” Fran, now 67, said on Tuesday morning while driving with her husband to sign the legal paperwork. She’s still wary; they’ve been waiting for this day for so long she isn’t yet sure it is real. “I guess I’m just tired of having to hang on for so long.”

Dan, 75, is slightly more upbeat — he always thought this day would come. He recalled a sleepless night in prison in 1995 when he said he heard God. “He said, ‘You’re going home, but I have some things to sort through first.’” Dan said he slept soundly that night. “We have to try to not have doubt in our life.”

The exoneration is the first for the nascent conviction integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office under the new DA, Margaret Moore. Court documents filed Tuesday announced that there is “no credible evidence” against the Kellers. Moore said she personally reviewed the case and believes exoneration “to be a just outcome.”

Fran and Dan Keller were each sentenced to 48 years in prison for the alleged sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl who was an occasional drop-in at their home daycare center on the rural outskirts of Austin. The child initially accused Dan of spanking her “like daddy” used to, but under intense and repeated questioning by her mother and a therapist, the story morphed to include claims of rape and orgies involving children.

From there, the number of children alleging abuse increased and the accusations grew even more lurid and confounding: The Kellers had sacrificed babies; they held ceremonies in a local graveyard; they put blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; Fran cut off the arm of a gorilla in a local park; they flew the children to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by military officials.

As a point, there's no "Satanic" or even magical reason for anyone to do most of those things. You might hold a ceremony in a graveyard to communicate with spirits of the dead buried there, but that's about it. Most of the "Satanism" in these cases has to do with "evil for evil's sake," a concept that really only makes sense according to the inaccurate Manichean view of the spirit world found in Christianity. If God is good and Satan is evil, and those are the only two options, Satan might want you to be "more evil" - but seriously, that's not how any of it works.

Going further, I keep bringing this next fact up here on Augoeides because a lot of people still don't realize the whole story of what was going on back then in the fundamentalist Christian community, and it's something that no practitioner of any minority religion should ever forget. I attended one of those fundie churches for about six months, and the fact is that lots of people there knew the accusations weren't real. In fact, the whole thing was more organized than you probably realize, and many of the people in charge knew exactly what they were doing.

Fundamentalist churches ran seminars that taught therapists how to create these false memories, and then set them loose on the world. The goal was to produce a whole crop of ritually abused children so that they could put forth the legal argument that "Satanism" should be banned. They thought that with the influence they had in the Reagan White House that pushing it through might be possible. Then, they wanted to push for to define all religions but Christianity as "Satanism," which is of course what they really believed.

That second piece of legislation would have effectively established an official state religion in the United States and made the practice of all other religions illegal. In order to keep that from being found unconstitutional, though, they needed Supreme Court justices who were hostile to the idea of the separation of church and state. So that was part of the push by these folks, too. If anything, the entire idea is as much a "fever dream" as anything found in "Satanic Ritual Abuse" cases, and it was clear by the early 1990's that it was falling apart. But that wasn't soon enough to save the Kellers.

So when I sit here and rail against the Poor Oppressed Christians, understand that they are the next generation of these people who decided that burning false memories into the brains of small children was totally justified by the simple fact that non-Christians made them uncomfortable. Given that, it seems to me that it should be apparent who the real monsters are in this entire affair. And understand, with the rhetoric I see out there, I see nothing to convince me that they wouldn't just try again if they thought they could get away with it.

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