Voodoo Agency Files Suit Against Sci Fi Channel Reality Show
By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion New Service
Apr. 5--(RNS) A Voodoo-certifying agency in Philadelphia has sued the Sci Fi Channel, demanding that a "questionable" Voodoo priestess be removed from a reality TV show.
The National African Religion Congress, which claims to represent 5,000 authentic "priests and priestesses of varying African-derived religions," said Voodoo rituals shown on the "Mad Mad House" reality show are inauthentic and offensive.
The cable network's show places 10 guests in a house supervised by five "Alts"--a naturist named Avocado, a Wiccan, a vampire, a Voodoo priestess and a "modern primitive." Guests are eliminated if they fail various rituals overseen by the "alts," and the last one standing wins a $100,000 jackpot. "Our guests live out a `Survivor' meets 'The Real World' meets 'The Osbournes' lifestyle--and try to get along living under one roof together," according to the show's Web site.
George Ware, president of the Philadelphia group, said in a March 31 statement there is "serious evidence" that the show's Voodoo priestess, Iya Ta'Shia Asanti, is illegitimate. He said botched rituals left followers "disgusted and equally furious."
"The Congress asserts that the practices have no basis in the Voodoo religion and that Asanti's authenticity as a priestess of any African-based religion is questionable," according to a press release.
The group filed suit, seeking an injunction to keep episodes featuring Asanti from airing. Federal District Court Judge Anita Brody ordered the two sides into negotiations, according to a press release, and "those talks are still under way."
Ware said he contacted Asanti about her credentials and she responded, "I am a priestess of all African traditions by way of the blood that flows through my veins. I am Voudoun, Ifa, Candomble, Santeria, Lukumi and Yoruba. My initiation began in the womb and included the traditions of all of these indigenous practices."
Ware said certification involves initiation by a senior cleric and at least seven years of apprenticeship. He said Asanti improperly berated one of her "guests" for not being sufficiently "Afro-centric."
A spokeswoman for the Sci Fi Channel and its parent company, Universal Television Networks, was not immediately available for comment. The show debuted on March 4 and airs Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.