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Orianna2000
05-20-2014, 11:29 PM
Say you have a Christian religious order, seven hundred years in the future, that confines its people to villages outside the city limits. There are quite a lot of these villages, especially throughout New England and the Northeastern US. (My MC's village is just south of Boston.) The religious leaders are fairly influential, and since global warming has devastated parts of North America, authorities have better things to do than chase after the local religious nuts. So, for the most part, they get left alone.

Eventually, however, their actions are going to catch up with them. I need to know what (modern) laws they could get in trouble for breaking.

They live a simple life, closed off from the rest of the world. They are highly xenophobic, preaching the evils of "those who are not God's children," i.e.: aliens. They have strict rules against showing affection, touching, and nudity, even in marriage. Woman must dress modestly, with high necklines, long sleeves, long skirts, and caps to cover their hair. They don't permit modern technology into their villages, although they do have old-fashioned electricity, central heating/AC, and gas stoves. (It's one law they cooperate with--there were too many accidents due to dropped lanterns, not to mention elderly folks dying of hypothermia in the winter.) Attending daily religious services is compulsory. Certain things are absolutely forbidden, such as premarital sex, looking for omens/telling the future. Basically, they've taken Biblical commandments to a twisted extreme.

Those who break the rules are punished openly. If you're caught alone with a member of the opposite sex, you're put in the stocks for a day. More severe offenses necessitate beatings, shunning, and in rare cases (like using psychic abilities or becoming pregnant out of wedlock), stoning or stake-burning.

For the most part, as I said, the US government looks the other way, but toward the end of my novel, things start spiraling downhill. One of my MC's brothers is going to become an informant, leaking information to the police about what's happening within the village walls. But I need to know what laws are being broken, other than the obvious (unlawful execution/murder). What would the police or DA's office be interested in? For instance, is it illegal to control how someone dresses, forbidding them from showing their elbows or ankles? Or is it the punishment itself that would be illegal (being considered assault, or something like that)? Would any of this be considered a violation of civil liberties? And if so, could they be prosecuted for that? Or can the authorities only act when they learn about the beatings and executions?

What laws would putting someone in the stocks break? Would it be considered abduction or unlawful imprisonment? Assault? Something else? Also, who exactly would be charged with the crimes? The village deacons are the ones laying down the law and meting out punishments. Would they be collectively charged? Or would individuals be singled out, perhaps the head deacon, since he's overseeing everything?

Sorry this is such a long, complicated question! Any help and/or advice will be rewarded with rep points. :)

waylander
05-20-2014, 11:36 PM
If there are still central authorities then there are still taxes to be paid - are they paying those?
Physical punishment by people within the order who are not state-mandated officials of some kind would be assault.

King Neptune
05-20-2014, 11:44 PM
You'll have dream up the legal system of your fiction. You could have each village have independent authority. The civil authorities could be actively trying to enforce the civil laws, or the religious groups could have separate legal authority over their people.

What is the relationship between the civil authorities and the religious authorities?

ironmikezero
05-20-2014, 11:57 PM
Assuming the US Constitution still exists, you've got a cornucopia of violations, criminal and civil, of the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments) that would be ample fodder for a host of books - and that's just a sampling of federal laws. You also have plenty of state violations. You will have to narrow your scope considerably; pick a specific violation and work from there - don't worry, you'll find plenty more. Try not to get overwhelmed.

cornflake
05-21-2014, 12:05 AM
Say you have a Christian religious order, seven hundred years in the future, that confines its people to villages outside the city limits. There are quite a lot of these villages, especially throughout New England and the Northeastern US. (My MC's village is just south of Boston.) The religious leaders are fairly influential, and since global warming has devastated parts of North America, authorities have better things to do than chase after the local religious nuts. So, for the most part, they get left alone.

Eventually, however, their actions are going to catch up with them. I need to know what (modern) laws they could get in trouble for breaking.

They live a simple life, closed off from the rest of the world. They are highly xenophobic, preaching the evils of "those who are not God's children," i.e.: aliens. They have strict rules against showing affection, touching, and nudity, even in marriage. Woman must dress modestly, with high necklines, long sleeves, long skirts, and caps to cover their hair. They don't permit modern technology into their villages, although they do have old-fashioned electricity, central heating/AC, and gas stoves. (It's one law they cooperate with--there were too many accidents due to dropped lanterns, not to mention elderly folks dying of hypothermia in the winter.) Attending daily religious services is compulsory. Certain things are absolutely forbidden, such as premarital sex, looking for omens/telling the future. Basically, they've taken Biblical commandments to a twisted extreme.

Those who break the rules are punished openly. If you're caught alone with a member of the opposite sex, you're put in the stocks for a day. More severe offenses necessitate beatings, shunning, and in rare cases (like using psychic abilities or becoming pregnant out of wedlock), stoning or stake-burning.

For the most part, as I said, the US government looks the other way, but toward the end of my novel, things start spiraling downhill. One of my MC's brothers is going to become an informant, leaking information to the police about what's happening within the village walls. But I need to know what laws are being broken, other than the obvious (unlawful execution/murder). What would the police or DA's office be interested in? For instance, is it illegal to control how someone dresses, forbidding them from showing their elbows or ankles? Or is it the punishment itself that would be illegal (being considered assault, or something like that)? Would any of this be considered a violation of civil liberties? And if so, could they be prosecuted for that? Or can the authorities only act when they learn about the beatings and executions?

What laws would putting someone in the stocks break? Would it be considered abduction or unlawful imprisonment? Assault? Something else? Also, who exactly would be charged with the crimes? The village deacons are the ones laying down the law and meting out punishments. Would they be collectively charged? Or would individuals be singled out, perhaps the head deacon, since he's overseeing everything?

Sorry this is such a long, complicated question! Any help and/or advice will be rewarded with rep points. :)

If they're killing people, there's that. If by 'confined' you mean held against their will rather than segregated, there'd be that, but I was reading it as communities.

If it's communal, not conscripted, I don't see any laws they're likely breaking, by your description.

These are adults, no? This isn't a government entity doing any of this telling or punishing, correct? Where's the crime? If people don't want to be punished, then yes, locking someone up or beating them would be things. If they agree these are proper punishments and consent to them, :Shrug:.

jaus tail
05-21-2014, 12:28 AM
Maybe an influential leader's daughter/son joins the cult and the president wants the cult exposed. Or maybe a foreign national's son/daughter is kidnapped by the cult.

Maybe a journalist tries to get some story, sneaks in and gets kidnapped, or after exposing the story, the conscious of the people(outside the community) forces them to interfere.

The police maybe hesitant to act saying, 'They are adults and they seem to be having no problem in being beaten for petty crimes, so we can't interfere.'

But this is not always the case, sorry to go off tangent, but in several cases cops do interfere, even if the victim doesn't want any action against the criminals.

Stockholm Syndrome, battered wife syndrome.

There are cultures where wives act as servants for their husbands, cultures where kids are beaten by parents. I read a story where a woman was burnt by her husband, though she survived, she still stayed with her husband and didn't report it. Neighbors told the cops and they said, that the woman isn't well and acted against the husband, sending the woman in therapy.

The victim's consent to crime, doesn't necessarily make it less of a crime.

You just need a trigger. You can make the cop, bullied in school, well informed in Stockholm syndrome and he decides that whether they the victims want it or not, it's his duty to save them because someone had saved him when he was a kid. Add an experience in his life that makes him want to be a hero and save lives.

wendymarlowe
05-21-2014, 01:31 AM
Do some research into religious cults - fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, some of the weirder Texas communes, etc. Usually they end up getting nailed for a fairly small group of charges:

1) tax evasion
2) sexual assault on minors (for communities which require girls to get "married" before age 18, often in "spiritual marriages" with no legal standing)
3) negligent homicide/child neglect/abuse, when a child has a preventable illness and the parents refuse secular medical treatment and the child dies

It's ridiculously hard to prove almost everything else, because consent comes into play. Okay, so there's a guy locked in your basement who hasn't eaten in two weeks and is being beat with a stick twice a day - is it kidnapping and abuse, or a consensual religious experience? If the guy undergoing the punishment refuses to go along with the secular authorities (and often they don't, if they believe their religious future depends on following their cult leader), the police really can't do much.

shadowwalker
05-21-2014, 04:50 AM
Only from what you describe, murder is the obvious one. Assault is a bit iffy, IMO. If the adults joined knowing those were the punishments versus state laws which may require arrest even if the victim doesn't press charges. The rest, as others have noted, depends on whether or not people are free to leave. (Some of the punishments would be illegal if used on minors.) If it's that far in the future, I'd make up some laws that could land them in hot water.

BDSEmpire
05-21-2014, 05:51 AM
They don't permit modern technology into their villages

WHAT??? No HoloInternet???

Bust these SpaceAmish monsters for cruel and unusual punishment! Book 'em, Dan-o!

CynHolt
05-21-2014, 02:53 PM
Since the US was founded on the principle of religious freedom we have always been reluctant to judge a religious group. In the past we have seen all sorts and they have gotten away with all manner of civil crimes, because they claimed religious freedom. We, the people, only interfere when we are morally outraged.

Take for instance the Mormons (Later-Day-Saints), they were considered a wholesome family oriented group until, in their fervor to recruit new members, they sold the same lots of land to multiple people. The local authorities drove them out of Illinois and they set up in Utah. When Utah wanted to become a state, the rest of the country didn't want them because of the polygamist marriages. That's when they outlawed them in Utah. Some religions conform to survive.

Then, there are other groups that destroy themselves. Ever heard of the Shakers? If you have it's probably because of their furniture. Lovely group, they just didn't believe in children. They had to rely on converts to continue, that's why they are no longer around. Other small groups are personality cults and they die one of three ways - mass suicide (Jonestown), death of the leader, or it's a group where all of the children are fathered by the leader. That one has all sorts of nasty endings, often in violence.

If this group has been around for multiple generations and you want to see the end of it, then one of two things has to happen - a change inside or outside of the group. A social change in society or a power struggle/change inside the group. With social change comes new laws. Today any religious group breaking a law was most likely legal in the past.

I hope this all makes sense. I feel like I'm rambling.

Orianna2000
05-21-2014, 06:33 PM
Only from what you describe, murder is the obvious one. Assault is a bit iffy, IMO. If the adults joined knowing those were the punishments versus state laws which may require arrest even if the victim doesn't press charges. The rest, as others have noted, depends on whether or not people are free to leave. (Some of the punishments would be illegal if used on minors.) If it's that far in the future, I'd make up some laws that could land them in hot water.
It's rare for adults to join, although not unheard of. Usually, though, children are born into the religion and never leave.

Adults might be free to leave the religion under normal circumstances, but if someone is being punished for their "sins" and tries to escape, the deacons will hunt them down to administer justice. This is what happens to my MC. She gets pregnant out of wedlock, they decide to stone her, she doesn't care for that idea and runs. They follow her across state lines, trying to capture her.

I may invent some new kind of law that will help spell their downfall. Thanks for the idea.


If there are still central authorities then there are still taxes to be paid - are they paying those?
I hadn't considered taxes, but it seems the sort of thing the village leaders would make sure of. They would probably do a group tax payment, where everyone in the village contributes to a common fund, which is then divvied up according to each family's owed taxes.


You'll have dream up the legal system of your fiction. You could have each village have independent authority. The civil authorities could be actively trying to enforce the civil laws, or the religious groups could have separate legal authority over their people.

What is the relationship between the civil authorities and the religious authorities?

In modern times, something like this wouldn't be possible, would it? You can't have a religious group administering its own brand of justice, unless it's non-illegal punishments, like revoking privileges, shunning, etc.

I've already established that it's illegal for them to execute sinners, but they generally get away with it, because no one in the village is brave enough to report them. They get a village doctor to sign a death certificate saying "accidental death" or "natural causes" and there's no repercussions.


If they're killing people, there's that. If by 'confined' you mean held against their will rather than segregated, there'd be that, but I was reading it as communities.
I did mean they are segregated from society, but in rare cases, someone is held against their will, like in the case of my pregnant MC.


Do some research into religious cults - fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, some of the weirder Texas communes, etc. Usually they end up getting nailed for a fairly small group of charges:

1) tax evasion
2) sexual assault on minors (for communities which require girls to get "married" before age 18, often in "spiritual marriages" with no legal standing)
3) negligent homicide/child neglect/abuse, when a child has a preventable illness and the parents refuse secular medical treatment and the child dies

It's ridiculously hard to prove almost everything else, because consent comes into play. Okay, so there's a guy locked in your basement who hasn't eaten in two weeks and is being beat with a stick twice a day - is it kidnapping and abuse, or a consensual religious experience? If the guy undergoing the punishment refuses to go along with the secular authorities (and often they don't, if they believe their religious future depends on following their cult leader), the police really can't do much.
Interesting. In most cases, it might be like this, where the people being punished believe they've sinned and deserve punishment. Or at least, they knew what they were signing up for. I think that once the split occurs and the informant starts feeding information to the police, I'll have more people come forward, telling of "unfair" punishments, etc.

They do pay their taxes. There are arranged marriages, which are sometimes against the bride's will, but they are careful to ensure the woman is always of age, so there's no child marriages going on. And usually, she consents, even if she doesn't want to, because she believes her father knows best, or it's God's will, or something like that.

They don't necessary refuse medical treatment, but the village doctor is not quick to recommend going to the city hospital. My MC's mother died in childbirth, along with the baby, because the physician wasn't willing to admit she had pre-eclampsia. By the time they reached the hospital, it was too late and both were dead. Perhaps there are more of these instances, covered up, which the informant could ferret out.



If this group has been around for multiple generations and you want to see the end of it, then one of two things has to happen - a change inside or outside of the group. A social change in society or a power struggle/change inside the group. With social change comes new laws. Today any religious group breaking a law was most likely legal in the past.
There's going to be a split after my MC escapes. Her family and a few others will claim she was innocent, while others will claim she was in league with the devil. Her brother decides there's too much corruption, so he becomes an informant and starts feeding authorities details on crimes that are occurring, such as medical neglect, executions, etc. The government cracks down on the villages and people start to leave, especially the younger generation. By the time 100 years have passed, the once-influential religious group has been reduced to preaching on the street corners in rags and being dragged away by police. Does that sound plausible?

King Neptune
05-21-2014, 06:53 PM
It looks like you have an interesting idea or collection of ideas. You might want to look at what was done to the Knights Templar, which went from being its own authority in every country where it had monestaries to being thoroughly destroyed in a rather short time. The Templars did administer their own system of justice until they were banned.

cornflake
05-21-2014, 09:15 PM
It's rare for adults to join, although not unheard of. Usually, though, children are born into the religion and never leave.

Adults might be free to leave the religion under normal circumstances, but if someone is being punished for their "sins" and tries to escape, the deacons will hunt them down to administer justice. This is what happens to my MC. She gets pregnant out of wedlock, they decide to stone her, she doesn't care for that idea and runs. They follow her across state lines, trying to capture her.

I may invent some new kind of law that will help spell their downfall. Thanks for the idea.


I hadn't considered taxes, but it seems the sort of thing the village leaders would make sure of. They would probably do a group tax payment, where everyone in the village contributes to a common fund, which is then divvied up according to each family's owed taxes.



In modern times, something like this wouldn't be possible, would it? You can't have a religious group administering its own brand of justice, unless it's non-illegal punishments, like revoking privileges, shunning, etc.

I've already established that it's illegal for them to execute sinners, but they generally get away with it, because no one in the village is brave enough to report them. They get a village doctor to sign a death certificate saying "accidental death" or "natural causes" and there's no repercussions.


I did mean they are segregated from society, but in rare cases, someone is held against their will, like in the case of my pregnant MC.


Interesting. In most cases, it might be like this, where the people being punished believe they've sinned and deserve punishment. Or at least, they knew what they were signing up for. I think that once the split occurs and the informant starts feeding information to the police, I'll have more people come forward, telling of "unfair" punishments, etc.

They do pay their taxes. There are arranged marriages, which are sometimes against the bride's will, but they are careful to ensure the woman is always of age, so there's no child marriages going on. And usually, she consents, even if she doesn't want to, because she believes her father knows best, or it's God's will, or something like that.

They don't necessary refuse medical treatment, but the village doctor is not quick to recommend going to the city hospital. My MC's mother died in childbirth, along with the baby, because the physician wasn't willing to admit she had pre-eclampsia. By the time they reached the hospital, it was too late and both were dead. Perhaps there are more of these instances, covered up, which the informant could ferret out.


There's going to be a split after my MC escapes. Her family and a few others will claim she was innocent, while others will claim she was in league with the devil. Her brother decides there's too much corruption, so he becomes an informant and starts feeding authorities details on crimes that are occurring, such as medical neglect, executions, etc. The government cracks down on the villages and people start to leave, especially the younger generation. By the time 100 years have passed, the once-influential religious group has been reduced to preaching on the street corners in rags and being dragged away by police. Does that sound plausible?

Stoning someone is not kosher, as it were, as we've covered the killing thing.

Yes, however, even today, a religious group can punish willing adult members, in a general sense, without killing. Just hitting someone isn't illegal by itself. Whipping someone might be assault, or it might be how Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have themselves a fun evening. The former is illegal, the latter is not. I'm not suggesting the latter is a religious experience, just saying.

CynHolt
05-21-2014, 09:24 PM
There's going to be a split after my MC escapes. Her family and a few others will claim she was innocent, while others will claim she was in league with the devil. Her brother decides there's too much corruption, so he becomes an informant and starts feeding authorities details on crimes that are occurring, such as medical neglect, executions, etc. The government cracks down on the villages and people start to leave, especially the younger generation. By the time 100 years have passed, the once-influential religious group has been reduced to preaching on the street corners in rags and being dragged away by police. Does that sound plausible?

It sounds very plausible. To make it work you need to establish that when all of this occurs medical neglect is a crime, today it's almost never used. Christian Scientists have seen to that. Although, I must admit, I've know members of Christian Science, people who were raised in the faith. They all tell stories of witnessing miracle healings. It's one of the reasons they are still around.

Basically, a faith will persist if it works for the participants. Good or bad, if it makes their lives better with it, people will stay in the faith and others will convert. I've been reading archaeological evidence of this in ancient Mesopotamia, where a pantheon of gods compete for the affection of the general population (dry but interesting reading).

For the group you are describing you will need their "language". I think of it as doublespeak. Murder will often be referred to as cleansing. They tend to like words like pure, the faithful, contamination. In order to leave a group you have to be exposed to new meanings of old words, a new language. Think of ways in which the brother will be exposed (contaminated) to this other language. It is said that to learn a foreign language is to think differently. This is only partially true in modern languages. But when you study ancient languages you find that they are so different that they don't have the same tenses or concepts and grammar is at times mind boggling. The younger someone is exposed, the easier it is to understand a different way of thinking. This is why when cults are broken up the old members have to go into some form of isolation for awhile. Many never change. Think of it like discovering the earth is not flat. If you never fly or take an ocean voyage, the concept works.

Common crimes that will bring down a religion, no matter the place or time are human sacrifices, incest, pedophilia, deaths from lack of food, enslavement, and crimes of theft upon the nearby populations.

ETA: Upon further thought (I find your idea fascinating) former members of a cult like this would probably become drug addicts. Members tend to have addictive personality types. Just FYI :)

Sounds interesting. Let me know when you have something for others to read.