The faithful in Yucaipa, California don’t want psychics in their town. After all, what’s next? Soon you’ll have meetings of people being told wild stories about miracles and virgin births and resurrections, and…oh.
This is one of those situations where the intolerance of religious Americans undermines their own cause, though I know they don’t see it that way.
John Johnson is asking Yucaipa for a home occupation permit so he can continue to provide psychic readings, which he has done without incident for decades. However, it looks like opposition from surrounding neighbors at the public hearing might foil Johnson’s efforts to let his home business pass muster as a nonconforming use in a commercial zone. This makes no sense to him. (It makes no sense to me either.)
“I’ve never hurt any children or gone astray,” he said at the hearing. “I don’t take drugs nor have any tattoos. You people judge me without even knowing me…. I’m a devoted Catholic.”
No, the godly of Yucaipa think you’re evil, John. Here are some of the comments at the meeting:
George Bedlion Sr.: “I don’t want to see a psychic reader in Uptown Yucaipa. My church sponsors the soap box race and we just don’t want to see this kind of influence. It’s opening something that is not very good.”
Joél Vincent, a pastor from First Assembly of God Church: “I believe that danger and harm is brought to our community if we encourage this and God’s own judgment on our city. There’s concern for our children, our youth and all our citizens. I think the Lord would like us to be a city that is thinking of him and is focused on him.”
John Pohl : “Why would you want to come to Yucaipa? We don’t need a business like that. Yucaipa believes in the morals of the Lord and they don’t need a thorn in their eye.”
Flora Pohl: “I do not like psychics and I do not approve it. There’s so many bad things and I’m not for it. He can pick up and go back to where he came from.”
Ceasar Flores: “If we permit this, than anything else (can come here). We do not approve or believe in this. Not any part of it.”
Yolanda Flores: “What’s next? Like my husband said, someone’s gonna sell drugs in front of our church? I’m sorry but I don’t believe good people would go into this business. I’m sorry. I’m against this.”
I think I can summarize these trenchant arguments thusly: “We don’t like what you do and it clashes with what we believe, so even though it is legal, you can’t do it because we say so. “
So much for the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s good to know the core values that led to the founding of this country by religious people oppressed for their beliefs are still vigorous and strong. Sarcasm aside, how ethically inert does one have to be not to recognize the hypocrisy and unfairness of saying to someone “our faith in the supernatural tells us that your faith in the supernatural is harmful”? The growing hostility to religion in the U.S. has led to the oppression of psychics in some jurisdictions: when organized religion was strong across U.S. society, belief in psychic readers, faith healers, mediums and related phenomenon was widespread and accepted. The line between these and religious activities is thin beyond discerning, but never mind: John Johnson’s enemies don’t comprehend the slippery slope they are leaping down.
As I did when discussing New York’s dubious conviction of a psychic for fraud last year, let me quote the superb dissent of Justice Jackson in U.S. v. Ballard, in which the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a faith healer for fraud:
I should say the defendants have done just that for which they are indicted. If I might agree to their conviction without creating a precedent, I cheerfully would do so. I can see in their teachings nothing but humbug, untainted by any trace of truth. But that does not dispose of the constitutional question whether misrepresentation of religious experience or belief is prosecutable; it rather emphasizes the danger of such prosecutions…. I find it difficult to reconcile this conclusion with our traditional religious freedoms….as a matter of either practice or philosophy I do not see how we can separate an issue as to what is believed from considerations as to what is believable. …How can the Government prove these persons knew something to be false which it cannot prove to be false? If we try religious sincerity severed from religious verity, we isolate the dispute from the very considerations which in common experience provide its most reliable answer.
…William James, who wrote on these matters as a scientist, reminds us that it is not theology and ceremonies which keep religion going. Its vitality is in the religious experiences of many people. “If you ask what these experiences are, they are conversations with the unseen, voices and visions, responses to prayer, changes of heart, deliverances from fear, inflowings of help, assurances of support, whenever certain persons set their own internal attitude in certain appropriate ways.'”
If religious liberty includes, as it must, the right to communicate such experiences to others, it seems to me an impossible task for juries to separate fancied ones from real ones, dreams from happenings, and hallucinations from true clairvoyance. Such experiences, like some tones and colors, have existence for one, but none at all for another. They cannot be verified to the minds of those whose field of consciousness does not include religious insight. When one comes to trial which turns on any aspect of religious belief or representation, unbelievers among his judges are likely not to understand and are almost certain not to believe him.
These religious people want Johnson’s business to be rejected by the government because they don’t believe in what he does. In doing so, they are engaging in conduct that is indistinguishable from religious intolerance and persecution. They are also providing one more compelling reason for skeptics to mock and persecute them.
Pointer: Alexander Cheezem (Thanks!)
Source: News Mirror