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Three girls led by ‘foremost expert on cults’ claim to cast out demons

Religion News Blog — Brynne, 17, Tess, 17 and Savannah, 20, from Phoenix are black belts in karate, expert horseback riders and avid musical theater fans. And they perform exorcisms.

ABC Nightline has done a video report on the girls, and notes Brynne’s father, Bob Larson, says he has performed more than 10,000 exorcisms in the last 30 years.

That would be Bob “the world’s foremost expert on cults, the occult, and supernatural phenomena” Larson — as he refers to himself at his website.

As we mentioned in a report yesterday one would be hard-pressed to find any Christian apologist, cult expert, or theologian familiar with these fields who takes those claims seriously.

In 2006 FOX 6 in San Diego asked Larson some tough questions:

Nightline says

Before agreeing to perform an exorcism, Larson interviews his clients to determine whether they are, in his opinion, demonically possessed. The client must fill out a questionnaire and give some background on his or her personal history.

But Larson claims that 50 percent of the population is probably affected by demons in some way and his girls are the front line of defense. Armed with crosses, Bibles and holy water, the girls summon the demon within the subject, and then the demon apparently takes over the person’s body. Brynne said she can tell when someone is demonically possessed when she looks into his eyes. […]

Larson said that sometimes the people who come to them to be exorcised are a little taken aback when they see how young the girls are.

“It’s like, ‘They’re going to exorcise me?’ It’s just totally out of the box. But a few minutes into it, when they see the boldness and the confidence, the maturity and the knowledge of these girls, that all fades away,” he said.

“We’re not proud of ourselves,” Tess said. “We’re humble. We’re still learning.”

Nonetheless, there are very serious questions about the safety and morality of what the girls are doing for others, especially those who might need mental health care. […]

When asked if she thought the exorcisms could be making people with mental illness worse, Brynne disagreed.

“We do this under Dad’s supervision. We never do it alone,” she said. “He’s been doing it for 30 years. He would know if something was going wrong.”

However, Bob Larson has been accused of fraud and taking advantage of vulnerable people who are either desperate or prone to suggestion.

The Rev. Darrell Motal of the “Soul & Spirit” Para Church, who believes in the existence of demons, told “Nightline” that Larson is too quick to blame someone’s problems on demonic possession and that it’s more likely that Larson’s clients need mental health care and spiritual guidance. […]

While Larson admitted that he was not a mental health expert, he said if a demon is “blocking the therapeutic help, the therapy’s not going to go anywhere significantly.”

“Get the demon out, the impediment, and then the therapy can go forward,” Larson said.

What’s more, Larson and the girls’ exorcism sessions are not free, and he insists that one session almost never does the trick.

For a brief ABC Nightline video as well as related video reports, see Teen Girl Exorcism Squad: Three Arizona Girls Claim to Cast Out Demons, and for the full item visit ABC Nightline’s YouTube channel.

Research resources on exorcism
Research resources on Bob Larson Ministries
How to select a cult expert

Doctors warn that exorcisms reinforce delusions

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has warned about the alarming rise in the number of exorcism attempts in Australia – some on children as young as two.

At Tory Shepherd reports

Perth-based Set Right is a non-denominational Christian ministry. Their Leader, known as ‘Apostle’ Michelle Pecoult, says they’ve seen a “massive rise” in possessions, and now exorcise four or five people a day. She said people find them online and through psychic fairs and they also visit schools and prisons.
The Set Right website notes that depression is a “common low ranking demon” while schizophrenia is “another demon we have met often and evicted”.
“We’ve removed schizophrenia. People have been healed of it… God is greater than any medical doctor, he’s greater than me. We’ve seen absolute physical healing… and people in a major state of depression,” Ms Pecoult said.
“Depression can be a symptom of a demonic power being in there. Jesus dealt with lunatic spirits, they’re real. You can’t get rid of them by medication. You have to renew your mind.” […]

Ms Pecoult says her team has intensive training through the Holy Spirit to treat people and worked in conjunction with her husband Vince who has a psychology degree.

“The two should go together,” she said. She also emphasised that they do not take payment for exorcisms but do it to “glorify God”.

Mr Pecoult said he studied psychology but then the Bible taught him that there might be a spiritual root to mental health issues. He said they counsel people after ‘deliverances’.

“The casting out of demons is the easy part of the process,” he said.

The Advertiser says

Exorcisms are a religious rite that some believe can remove demons from a person, and are reportedly on the rise in Australia and around the world.

Dr Choong-Siew Yong, who represents psychiatry on the AMA’s Federal Council, said he was concerned about untrained practitioners making claims that contradict science. He warned that saying someone was possessed could reinforce their delusions and stop them getting proper care.

“There is an enormous amount of research that has discredited the idea that people with psychiatric conditions such as depression and schizophrenia are because of demonic possession,” he said.

That’s a very old idea, not held up by science. We’d be concerned that people were missing out on reliable, well-evidenced, modern medical treatment.

Last Sunday Australia’s 60 Minutes TV show featured and item titled “God’s Angels,” in which ‘three American teen exorcists and their mentor, Bob Larson’ were interviewed.

Tory Shepherd writes spoke to WA former police chaplain and Anglican priest Barry May, who is also an author and ‘freelance exorcist’, about that program.
He says the ‘teen exorcists’ obviously did not have the experience needed to do the job, and that to do it properly requires far more investigation.
He says while demand for exorcisms was on the rise, he would only have done 25 exorcisms over 40 years.  He is approached far more often but prefers to offer people the “ministry of healing”.

As our parent website, Apologetics Index, notes

On his website, Bob Larson refers to himself as “the world’s foremost expert on cults, the occult, and supernatural phenomena.”

Yet you would be hard-pressed to find any Christian apologist, cult expert, or theologian familiar with these fields who would take those claims seriously.

Bob Larson is known as a sensationalistic and (deservedly) controversial “evangelist,” notorious for attacking rock music, alleged demons, wallets and critics (real or perceived).

Statements made by Bob Larson should not be considered representative of mainstream Christian beliefs and/or practices.

Research resources on exorcism and on demon possession
Man who turned alleged exorcism into cottage industry features on reality TV show