The Coatesville Cult? It’s generally not illegal to join a cult or participate in witchcraft or devil worship. But when your “religious” beliefs harm other people or innocent animals, then you may be committing a crime.
In Coatesville, police arrested two people after finding more than a dozen dog mutilations and dismembered dogs inside their home. Police say that the inside of the home had elements of witchcraft and occult display, reports The Associated Press.
In the living room, investigators reportedly found two dog skulls and a dog skeleton that had been gold-leafed. In the kitchen there were two dog skeletons on the counter and a dog's head in the freezer, reports the AP. And in a fire pit in the back yard, investigators found charred dog fragments and chicken parts hanging from a nearby tree.
Along with the mutilated animals, police also found books on witchcraft and the occult, marijuana, a gun, and knives and machetes.
For the animal abuse, the pair could face a misdemeanor of the first degree charge and up to five years in jail if convicted. As a defense, the two alleged Coatesville cult members may try to argue that a bona fide religious belief allowed them to sacrifice or mutilate the dogs.
A religious defense would most likely not absolve a human sacrifice or mutilation and a religious defense to animal cruelty and mutilation also likely would not fly in front of a jury.
But as the pair charged with the crimes allegedly engaged in dog mutilations, they probably do not exhibit model rationality or reasonableness, and could try the religious defense.
- Find a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- Dismembered dogs, occult items found outside home near Philly (MyFox Philly)
- Animal Rights (FindLaw)
- Pennsylvania Animal Cruelty Laws: Abused Dog Left for Dead (FindLaw's Philadelphia Criminal Law News Blog)