Yenitza Colichon, a 33 year-old mother was about to leave for army basic training when she had a religious ritual performed on her 7-year-old daughter. Colichon’s religion is Palo Mayombe. Instead of prayers, she took her daughter out of Pennsylvania and into New Jersey to the home of a fellow believer and there they performed the protection ritual.
The 7-year-old girl watched a goat get decapitated and then was fed a chicken heart. After getting nightmares, the young girl told her teacher who called the state Division of Youth and Family Services. Yenitza Colichon was arrested and recently found guilty of cruelty and neglect of a child and child endangerment. She has now been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Her attorney, Joseph Manzo, argued that she has the freedom of religion on her side and that other religions have similarly cruel rituals which are similarly life endangering like the practice of circumcision in Judaism and in other Abrahamic religions. The judge didn’t accept that. He claimed that circumcisions are performed by trained and sometimes licensed practitioners. But Colichon took her daughter to a trained practitioner of Palo Mayombe and that didn’t seem to make any difference. I could understand the judge’s position if she had performed this ritual on her daughter herself, but she didn’t.
There are no licenses available for the Palo Mayombe protection ritual (that I am aware of), but would such a license really make a difference? The thing that I find so fascinating about this story is that some cruel and life endangering rituals are legal and others are not and it all has to do with which religions are popular and which are not. If Judaism was not a popular religion, circumcision would be cruel and child endangering. If Christianity were not popular, baptism could be cruel and child endangering. Teaching children about eternal torture in Hell would be emotional cruel and sometimes endangers the sanity of the child.
What if a 7-year-old child told her teacher that she got nightmares after going to church and hearing about Hell? What is the likelihood that the teacher would notify the state Division of Youth and Family Services? I’m thinking it would fall somewhere between less-than-zero to zero. In this country we should not elevate one religious belief/ritual over another religious belief/ritual. As an atheist, I find all these types of religious rituals silly and barbaric. What do you think?
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