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Feb 27 2005
Outrage Over First Exorcism on Television

Outrage over first exorcism on television

By Nicole Martin

(Filed: 25/02/2005)

An exorcism was shown for the first time on British television last night.

Channel 4 provoked outrage from religious groups by screening "the deliverance" of a man called Colin who claims he was possessed by evil spirits.

Neuro-imaging technology was used to monitor the changes in his brain as the Rev Trevor Newport performed the exorcism in front of a panel of religious and scientific observers in east London.

Viewers watched Mr Newport, a minister with 20 years' experience of "deliverance", as he prayed over the man in an attempt to drive out "demons" that apparently have possessed him for many years.

Speaking afterwards, Colin said: "I feel that I have had demons in my life and that they have been delivered.

"I believe there is a merciful God and this country needs to know that Jesus cast out spirits and still does. I was a bit nervous beforehand but after I was prayed for the nervousness just went. It was the most relaxed deliverance I have ever had."

The minister, who was trained in the Pentecostal Church 25 years ago, said: "A lot of people were perhaps expecting a more graphic demonstration this is quite a normal deliverance." During the exorcism Colin was attached to an EEG machine an electro-encephalograph which measures the electrical activity in the brain.

Dr Jonathan Bird, a neuro-psychiatrist at the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol who studied the findings, said he was unable to say for certain what had prompted the changes in Colin's brain.

"During the procedure we saw very little activity in the parietal region of the brain," he said. "We also saw some asymmetry in the temporal lobe. Whether that is a brain process or a spiritual process, I leave to the experts."

Channel 4's decision to screen the programme is the latest attempt by the broadcaster to push boundaries in television.

Last year it caused controversy by screening an abortion, and in 2002 it showed an autopsy.

Friar Pat Collins, a priest in Dublin who has performed hundreds of exorcisms said that Channel 4 was taking a risk by playing with the Devil.

He said: "An exorcism should always be done in private and to me this seems like a sick stunt."

The Rev Tom Willis, who has performed exorcisms for 40 years, said: "I was asked to be on the programme but declined. This is not something that should be turned into entertainment. If the person is genuinely possessed then I'm not sure that televising it is a good idea. It could be dangerous."

Channel 4 defended the programme, saying it was part of its remit to explore the boundaries in science. Simon Andreae, its head of science, said: "We are delighted to have been part of one of the first scientific investigations into the neurology of possession and I hope that the programme will form part of a wider debate about the relationship between science and religion."

A spokesman also said the channel wanted to dispel the image of exorcism shown in the 1973 film The Exorcist in which a 12-year-old girl is possessed by a demon.

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