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The Real Danger of Sarah Palin's Witch Hunter

It's easy to think of the connection of Sarah Palin to Thomas Muthee, a man who hunts people he accuses of witchcraft, as just a story of harmless eccentricity, something to giggle about or a matter of personal conscience on Sarah Palin's part that should be beyond serious consideration. After all, we all know that there's no such thing as witchcraft, except on Halloween, ho, ho, ho!

I want to plead with people to give this story a second, more serious, round of consideration. Sarah Palin and the Wasilla Assembly of God church certainly do. You see, while you and I may not believe that evil spells cast by witches actually exist, other people do, and what they do on the basis of that belief is horrific.

Thomas Muthee used fear of witchcraft to gain political power in the town of Kiambu, Kenya. He identified a woman who was connected to local leaders, and made her the target of a campaign of terror. He sent mobs of people, some of them threatening violence, to stand outside the clinic where she worked. At Muthee's instigation, police stormed into her home firing their guns. Muthee had her arrested on suspicion of killing people with magic spells. Muthee demanded that she convert to Christianity or be forced out of Kiambu, and the woman ran away in fear of her life. Some believe that the woman never actually made it out of town, but was murdered.

This incident exposes Thomas Muthee as a violent bully who is willing to endanger the lives of innocent people for the sake of his own personal gain. After the fame he gained because of his witch hunts, the Wasilla Assembly of God church became Muthee's financial sponsor, and Muthee claims to have started hundreds of churches.

However, it would be a mistake to think that Thomas Muthee's persecution of accused witches is an isolated event of personal eccentricity or an expression of his individual, unscrupulous ambition. It's important to understand the larger cultural context within which Muthee was able whip up crowds into a violent fervor against an accused witch. Muthee exploited a widespread fear of witchcraft that exists in many places in Africa, and cynically use that fear to promote his own power.

You see, violence against people accused of witchcraft is not uncommon in Africa. In the case of Thomas Muthee's mob the accused witch is presumed to have escaped in the nick of time, before she was stoned to death. In many other cases, the accused witch is actually murdered.

Thomas Muthee has one of his many churches in the Kisii region, just 125 miles from Kiambu. Kisii has been the scene of many murders of people accused of witchcraft. In the latest of these incidents, in May 2008, at least eleven elderly people were killed, some of them burned alive, by a mob of hundreds that accused the victims of being witches. The following two video news reports describe the attacks:

It isn't just elderly people who are accused of witchcraft. The very young are also often accused of being witches. Children are tortured and killed after being accused of being witches. Evangelical Christian churches encourage these accusations of witchcraft, their preachers seeking to profit from the accusations by charging money for exorcism ceremonies which often turn brutally violent against the children.

The children are beaten, starved, tied to trees and left to die, buried alive, and if they survive, are abandoned. They're treated this way because they're suspected of witchcraft, submitted to the same accusation that Thomas Muthee has used to gain power himself.

It's not just in Africa that there is violence against people accused of witchcraft. It happens in places like India as well, where, for example, the woman in the following video was tied to a tree and beaten because she was accused of casting evil spells:

Neither can we cast Europe and the USA as above this kind of thing. In Switzerland, the last person executed for witchcraft was exonerated only a few weeks ago. Here in the United States, we like to forget about the Salem witch trials, but the fear of witchcraft and evil spirits continues among many here. In the 1980s, people were put into prison, convicted of engaging in acts of black magic with children in their custody in day care centers.

For a description of these events, see the book Satanic Panic, by Jeffrey S. Victor. American churches sponsored touring lectures by supposed experts, who described a plague of satanic cults killing babies in ritual witchcraft ceremonies. The mainstream media bought into the idea, even though there was no especially large number of missing babies that would be associated with such a killing spree. People were told that finding parts of baby dolls was a sign of witchcraft in a community, though such a find would more likely be a sign of children breaking their toys and leaving them behind.

Remember the warnings about Halloween? A generation of children was warned not to eat its Halloween candy before it was checked by parents for signs of tampering. We were told that satanists across America were poisoning Halloween candy, and hiding razor blades and needles in Halloween treats too. TV and print journalists repeated the story, but the truth is that it never happened. It was all just a hoax.

Now, in Wasilla, Alaska, a church has sponsored Sarah Palin to be a candidate for Governor of Alaska, but only after giving her a ceremony of supernatural protection from witchcraft.

The USA is not apart from the rest of the world. There are many people here in the United States who believe in evil witches casting satanic spells. They are trying to get leaders like Sarah Palin to "infiltrate" the government on their behalf. They are attempting to use the power of government to spread their paranoid ideas.

The one thing that has prevented us in the United States from falling into the shadowy world of witch hunts and exorcisms by the government is the separation of Church and State. Sarah Palin's supporters are attacking the separation of Church and State, because they want to bring us back into the Dark Ages, when people were burned as witches on nothing more than hearsay, and the church that sponsored such grisly executions was the state itself. Sarah Palin's supporters claim that they are trying to defeat evil, but their own methods are wicked and cruel.

An ideology that cannot effectively promote itself without accusing others of being the servants of Satan is not an ideology worth having.

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