Johnny Flynn: 'Experts' and sweat lodge death case
"New Age guru and erstwhile sweat lodge expert James Arthur Ray was arrested and booked on three charges of manslaughter on February 3, 2010 in Prescott, Arizona. Bail was set at five million dollars, and as of Monday morning February 8, Ray was still in the Yavapai County jail.

Since the October 8 incident that resulted in the deaths of three people in a Ray-led “Warrior Sweat,” Sheriff’s deputies have interviewed hundreds of witnesses in the investigation leading to the indictments. Dozens of participants were treated at area hospitals after the sweat lodge, and by the end of that fatal day Kirby Brown and James Shore were dead. A third participant, Elizabeth Newman, died a week later at a hospital in Flagstaff, Arizona.

I am not a psychic or an attorney, but my experiences through the years with American Indian religious issues tell me this: even though James Ray will be sitting at the defense table, it will be our religious practices on trial in that courtroom. And it will be experts who will argue both sides of the case.


Experts on terrorism have led the United States into two wars since 9/11 and this past week on Fox News, political “expert” and former governor Sarah Palin shared her view that the Obama presidency could shore up sagging poll numbers by invading Iran.

Fertility experts have brought us the “Octomom,” and experts on the meaning of the biblical decree to “go forth and multiply” have TV viewers goggle-eyed over the nearly score of Duggar children in Arkansas.

In following the Ray story over the past few months, I am amazed at the number of non-Indian sweat lodge experts the media has been able to locate. Few Indians if any have been interviewed; and even decidedly liberal MSNBC featured Court TV anchor Ashleigh Banfield as their expert on the sweat lodge."

Get the Story:
Johnny P. Flynn : Religious Practices on Trial in Arizona: The Problem With “Experts” (Religion Dispatches 2/9)

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