Four defendants on trial this week in France for performing an alleged exorcism are not members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as mistakenly reported by several news agencies.
The defendants were arrested on charges of kidnapping, acts of torture and barbarism after French law enforcement officials discovered a teenage Cameroonian girl bound to a mattress in a southern suburb of Paris. Officials said the girl had endured a weeklong crucifixion-style exorcism.
All four alleged perpetrators were expelled from the Adventist Church before the 2011 exorcism, local church leaders said, adding that they were “appalled” by the incident.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not condone or practice any type of action that inflicts bodily harm for the purpose of driving out spirits,” said Jean-Paul Barquon, Communication director for the church’s Franco-Belgian Union.
An October 10 press release from the church’s Inter-European Division similarly condemned the exorcism, underscoring the Adventist Church’s strong belief in protecting human rights and dignity.
In comments to French media, Barquon said the Adventist Church would offer prayer on behalf of a person in psychological distress, but would never practice “degrading behavior” to drive out a spirit. Leaders at Adventist world church headquarters in the U.S. state of Maryland agreed.
“While Seventh-day Adventists believe in the power of Christ, through prayer, to bring relief to persons suffering demonic attacks, we do not approve of exorcism as practiced by many Christian denominations,” said Kwabena Donkor, associate director for the Adventist world church’s Biblical Research Institute.
There are nearly 13,000 Seventh-day Adventist Church members in France.