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Religion Items In The News

April 4, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 78)

About Religion Items In The News      More Religion Items In The News

Rainbow
NOTE: Unlike the edition posted to the AR-talk list, items in the archived newsletters will, time-permitting, link back to entries in the Apologetics Index.

If links have not yet been provided, check the Apologetics Index for further information.

Religion Items in the News - April 4, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 78)


=== Main

1. Concerned Christians member leaves doomsday group
2. Seizure of sect children ruled unlawful (The Family)
3. Christian group's tactics spur probe at UMass (ICC)
4. Church Universal shifting focus away from Prophet
5. Egypt: alleged cult members to be tried in May
6. Cult firm in same building as gas-attack widow (Aum Shinri Kyo)
7. Vampire cultist claims time wasn't on his side at trial
8. Religious Group Will Get $56,000 (...) Settlement (Summum)
9. P&G lawsuit against Amway thrown out (Satanism Hoax)
10. Amway Suit Tossed by Federal Judge (Satanism Hoax)
11. Lure of money was a deadly trap for teens ("commercial cults")
12. Amazon Tribes Fight Patent On Sacred Vine
13. Holyfield's 'holy' mentor (Benny Hinn)
14. A new clue in atheist's case (Madalyn Murray O'Hair)
15. Digging at Texas ranch reportedly linked to atheist disappearance
16. Faith Adds a New Twist to Saga of Atheist O'Hair
17. Nation of Islam moves more toward Islamic orthodoxy
18. Lott hounded by link to supremacists (CCC)
19. Clergy denounce whites-only Easter Sunday... (Aryan Nations)
20. When Scientology goes to court, it likes to play rough - very rough.
21. Scientology: 'We like to make peace'
22. Scientologists settle legal battle
23. Scientology copyright suit settled
24. At home: Critics public and private keep pressure on Scientology
25. Abroad: Critics public and private keep pressure on Scientology
26. Internet is battleground in foes' war of information (Scientology)
27. Easter troubles for Scientology in Italy
28. Store selling Scientology vitamin regimen raises concerns
29. Scrutinising craft of modern witches (Wicca)
30. Plan To Eradicate Witchcraft Violence
31. Safety at stake over witchcraft accusations
32. Filipinos seek millennium light on mountain (Various sects)
33. Fortune Telling Thrives On Economic Woes (Beliefs in China)
34. Brazil: Every Year 600,000 Catholics Join Evangelical Sects

=== Noted

35. The Year of Believing in Prophecies
36. Yisha Sathane, yisha tokoloshe' (Universal Church .. Kingdom of God)
37. The CEO From Cyberspace: Joe Firmage, A Master of the Universe at 28
38. Religion is back in fashion (HTB/Alpha Course)
39. ... martial arts with the yin of alternative therapies (Chi-Gong)
40. Religion is now pushing rewards on earth for donors

=== Books

41. In Search of African Spirits (Voudou)
42. The medium has the message (Van Praagh)
43. Mystic Business - New Book Explores Workplace Witchcraft
44. Millennium fever fuels books about the shape of things to come

=== Online

45. LDS Church Starts Test of Genealogy Web Site
46. Uri Geller's Weird Web [Column by Geller] (Aleister Crowley)

=== FAQ about Religion Items in the News


=== Main

1. Concerned Christians member leaves doomsday group
New Jersey Online/AP wire feed, Apr. 4, 1999
http://wire.nj.com/cgi-bin/nj_nview.pl?/home1/wire/AP/Stream-Parsed/JERSEY_NEWS/j0190_AM_NJ--ChristianCult-Desoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A member of a doomsday cult whose members left the Denver area last
year in anticipation of the Second Coming reportedly has withdrawn from
the group.

John Bayles left the Concerned Christians and returned to his family in
Pennsylvania, where he is undergoing counseling, according to KCNC-TV.
(...)

"To go to a family he's been told is Satan (by fellow cult members) is
a big step," said Denver police officer Mark Roggeman, who has been
tracking the Concerned Christians.

Bayles was among 14 cult members who were rounded up by police in
Israel in January on grounds they planned to commit acts of violence
near Jerusalem holy sites in hopes of triggering a bloody Armageddonoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
that would bring about the return of Christ.
[...more...]
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2. Seizure of sect children ruled unlawful
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Apr. 1, 1999
http://www.smh.com.au/news/9904/01/index.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Police acted lawlessly when they raided houses belonging to the
Children of God sect in 1992 and seized nearly 60 girls and boys from
their homes in the early morning.

The NSW Supreme Court found the children were entitled to seek damages
from the NSW Government because search warrants used in the raids were
worthless.
(...)

Police and DOCS officers involved in the raids claimed the children
were being physically and sexually abused by the sect, formerly known
as the Children of God, now called The Family.

The sect, a fundamentalist Christian group, denied the allegations.
[...more...]
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3. Christian group's tactics spur probe at UMass
Boston Globe, Apr. 4, 1999
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/094/metro/Christian_group_s
_tactics_spur_probe_at_UMass+.shtml
offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) They identified themselves as members of a campus Christian
group, the Upside Down Club, and invited him to Bible study meetings.
He thought it sounded harmless - until he started going.
(...)

They kept him separate from other recruits, and they told him every
other religion was wrong.

''Eventually, what they were telling me equated to, if I didn't join
them, I would burn in hell. It was an incredible guilt trip,'' he said.
''That's when I started to get really worried.''

In fact, he learned that they were part of the International Churches
of Christ
, a fast-growing global organization known for aggressive
recruitment and dictating members' personal lives. Just before
Lastowski was to be baptized into the church, he decided to quit.
(...)

The Upside Down Club is now under investigation by the UMass student
government. The student attorney general, Jesse Burchfield, has filed a
petition with the student judiciary, asking that the club's status as a
''registered student organization'' be rescinded.
(...)

The International Churches of Christ has been dogged by charges of
harassment and manipulation since it was founded in 1979. It has been
banned from more than 30 colleges, including Harvard, Boston
University, and Smith College. In those cases, administrators said club
members were caught going door to door in the dorms, accosting people
in dining halls, refusing to accept no for an answer, denigrating other
religious faiths, putting so much pressure on students' time that they
suffered academically, and forcing them to cut off communication with
families.

''The freedom of religion is not absolute,'' said Herbert Rosedale,
president of the American Family Foundation, an educational
organization focused on cults. ''You've got a privacy right.''

Rosedale, an attorney, says UMass not only has a right to ban the
Upside Down Club, but an obligation to do so. ''The university
certainly is a marketplace for a range of ideas, but it's also an
institution of learning, and people have a right to an atmosphere in
which they can learn and not be put upon.''
(...)

UMass polymer science professor Robert Lenz is one local crusader
against the Upside Down Club. Twenty years ago, he said, he ''rescued''
his college-age son from the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification
Church
. Lenz has since been on the boards of several cult awareness
organizations, and lectures about cults on campus.
(...)

Carol Giambalvo, co-author of a book on the Boston Movement, says the
university should be more focused on the rights of families. ''If you
get enough calls from parents who say,`I just had to spend $12,000 to
get my kid out of this group, and they joined on your campus. What are
you going to do about it?' Then maybe this isn't a religious issue.
It's a behavioral issue.''
[...more...]
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4. Church Universal shifting focus away from Prophet
Billing Gazette, Apr. 2, 1999
http://www.billingsgazette.com/region/990402_reg012.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The president of the Church Universal and Triumphant says the religious
sect is shedding its focus on spiritual leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet,
becoming less authoritarian and more decentralized.

President Gilbert Cleirbaut noted that with Prophet ill and retiring,
church needs to end its "codependence" on her and members need to
become more "interdependent" on each other.

There are no plans to appoint a new spiritual leader after Prophet
retires, Cleirbaut said in a recent interview.
(...)

Cleirbaut said Prophet and her late husband, Mark Prophet, were
appointed by the spiritual entities the church calls "Ascended
Masters," not by humans.
(...)

Cleirbaut also said he has requested a survey to determine exactly how
many members the church has; none has ever been conducted.

Cleirbaut estimated, however, that membership dropped by about 50
percent during the church's so-called "shelter phase" 10 years ago,
when Prophet warned of a possible apocalypse that never happened. He
said he believes the church has now regained perhaps 30 percent of the
lost membership.

Church Universal and Triumphant teachings incorporate elements of
Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.
[...more...]
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5. Egypt: alleged cult members to be tried in May
Infoseek/Reuters, Mar. 25, 1999
http://www.infoseek.com/Content?arn=a1467LBY271reulb-19990325&qt=%2Bcult+&sv=IS&lk=ip-noframes&col=NX&kt=A&ak=news1486offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Egypt has set the date for the trial of an alleged cult leader accused
of advocating illegal drug use and wife-swapping, court sources said on
Thursday.

They said Mohammed Ibrahim Mahfouz, who claimed to be a prophet, and 18
of his followers would be tried at a misdemeanour court in the
Mediterranean city of Alexandria on May 3.
[...more...]
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6. Cult firm in same building as gas-attack widow
South China Morning Post, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www.scmp.com/news/template/Asia-Template.idc?artid=19990330020105020&top=asia&template=Default.htx&maxfieldsize=1577offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Aum Shinri Kyo cult, accused of spreading deadly sarin gas in
Tokyo's subway, has further outraged the widow of one of its alleged
victims by having rooms rented in her apartment block.

A computer firm linked to the cult has leased the rooms in the building
in Tokyo's northern Adachi district, said the Nikkan Sports newspaper
yesterday.
(...)

The 52-year-old woman's husband was one of two subway workers who died
trying to clean up the liquefied poison. Mrs Takahashi is head of a
victims' group which has filed a damages suit against the cult.
[...more...]
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7. Vampire cultist claims time wasn't on his side at trial
Orlando Sentinel, Mar. 27, 1999
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/032799_vamp27_19.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Vampire cult leader Rod Ferrell was back in a Lake County courtroom
Friday, appealing his death sentence on grounds that a judge unfairly
limited his lawyer's time for closing arguments.
(...)

Death-sentence appeals go on for years. Ferrell pleaded guilty in
February 1998 just as his murder trial was set to begin. Jurors then
listened to extensive testimony in the penalty phase of the trial.
After hearing the evidence, the panel recommended 12-0 that the
Kentucky teenager should be put to death for killing the Wendorfs.
[...more...]
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8. Religious Group Will Get $56,000 From County in Monument Settlement
Salt Lake Tribune, Apr. 2, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/04021999/utah/94905.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A legal battle over a 10 Commandments monument that stood for decades
before a Salt Lake City courthouse is over -- with Salt Lake County
agreeing to pay $56,000 to the alternative religion that objected to
the engraved stone.
(...)

The settlement concludes a 1994 lawsuit filed by Summum, a religion
founded more than 20 years ago in Salt Lake City. The payment
represents a compromise on the group's legal tab, said its attorney,
Brian Barnard.

Summum had sought just $1 in damages after the county refused its
request to place its own monument, describing its Seven Principles, on
the 3rd District courthouse lawn. Members believe pyramids have the
power to channel cosmic energy and support mummification to prepare
bodies for the journey through the afterlife.
(...)

Summum has filed a new federal lawsuit over Ogden's 10 Commandments
monument, which stands on the Ogden City-Weber County Municipal
Building grounds. A Wisconsin foundation and a taxpayer are suing to
demand its removal; Summum is suing for permission to erect a monument
explaining its beliefs nearby.
[...more...]
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9. P&G lawsuit against Amway thrown out
Detroit Free Press, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www.freep.com/business/qamway30.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A federal judge in Utah has thrown out a Procter & Gamble lawsuit
suggesting Amway Corp. and its distributors spread rumors the company
is linked to devil worshiping.
(...)

The consumer products company accused competitor Ada-based Amway and
several of its distributors of perpetuating a more than 20-year-old
Satanism rumor about the company.
(...)

Amway officials say a Texas distributor in 1995 innocently repeated the
Satanism rumor in a voice mail to a Utah distributor who forwarded it
to others. However, they say the distributors formally retracted the
messages.
(...)

"After the lawsuit was filed, it appeared that P&G was cynically using
Amway as a publicity scapegoat for a rumor that P&G has not been able
to stop for almost 20 years," Mike Mohr, an Amway attorney, said
Monday.

The rumor suggests P&G's president once spoke in support of Satanism on
television and that the company's moon-and-stars trademark is a Satanic
symbol.

P&G sources say no president has ever spoken in favor of devil
worshiping and that its trademark dates back to the mid-1800s, when a
man in the moon was a popular design.
[...more...]
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10. Amway Suit Tossed by Federal Judge
Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/03301999/business/94217.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Procter & Gamble has countered the devil-worship rumors that
began widely circulating in 1981 with repeated lawsuits, including a
case pending in Houston that also targets rival Amway.
(...)

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball in Salt Lake City
dismissed the suit, ruling the rumors were not defamatory and that
Procter & Gamble hadn't made a case for specific damages.

"We believe the Utah ruling is wrong, and we are appealing it
immediately," company spokeswoman Elaine Plummer said from Cincinnati
on Monday. "The case in Houston remains strong, and the trial will
begin May 3."
(...)

Kimball said the Satan-worship rumors may be offensive to a respectable
business but did not associate Procter & Gamble with unlawful activity.
"A comment that may offend some segments of society, but not others,
does not constitute defamation" without a specific showing of the harm
done, the judge said.

The rumors grew out of Procter & Gamble's former corporate logo, which
depicted a bearded man on the moon and stars, and fueled by a rumor the
company's president had promoted devil-worshipping on a Phil Donahue
show. No such show was ever taped.
[...more...]
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11. Lure of money was a deadly trap for teens
Boston Globe, Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/090/metro
/Lure_of_money_was_a_deadly_trap_for_teens+.shtml
offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Meanwhile, the tragedy has cast a spotlight on sales companies
that exploit runaways, troubled teens, and unemployed students. They
are paid low wages, are held to extraordinarily high sales quotas, and
are victims of high-pressure tactics designed to keep them on the job.

The Wisconsin crash also spurred an investigation in Oklahoma City,
where Yes Sales, which hired the young people, did business. That probe
turned into a larger investigation of seven related companies that sent
vans all over the United States, said Trey Davis, deputy director of
the Oklahoma Labor Department.
(...)

With a nomadic work culture that some specialists call cult-like, the
companies typically control when the peddlers eat, when they can call
home, and deprive them of sleep if they fall short of sales goals.
Until the crash, officials said, most of the parents of the Wisconsin
victims had no idea what their children were involved in.

Priscilla Coates, former executive director of the Cult Awareness
Network
, called the sales companies ''commercial cults'' and said they
use mind-control techniques to control their employees..

''They'll punch somebody in front of the group, to scare the rest of
them,'' Coates said. ''Then they're afraid to say they want to leave.''
But the abuse isn't always physical, she added.

''If they don't make their quota, they are humiliated in front of the
group,'' Coates said. ''They may have to polish the other people's
shoes. They make them do things that are demeaning.''

Steve Hassan, 44, of Cambridge, a cult specialist and author, said
businesses like Yes try to create dependent employees by gaining
control of their lives. He suspects the peddlers may also have been
hypnotized.
[...more...]
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12. Amazon Tribes Fight Patent On Sacred Vine
Fox News, Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.foxnews.com/js_index.sml?content=/etcetera/wires/0331/e_rt_0331_12.smloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Amazon tribes asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Tuesday to
revoke a patent granted to an American businessman on their most sacred
plant, a vine that grows wild in the jungle.

Shamans of the Amazon rain forest believe the vine called ayahuasca has
medicinal properties and they use it to make a potent hallucinogenic
brew for their religious rituals.

"Ayahuasca gives shamans the power to heal our sick, meet with spirits
and divine the future,'' wrote native leader Antonio Jacanamijoy in a
petition to cancel the patent granted in 1986 to Loren Miller.
Jacanamijoy is an Inga from southern Colombia.
[...more...]
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13. Holyfield's 'holy' mentor
Dawn (Pakistan), Mar. 29, 1999
http://dawn.com/daily/text/spt7.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
OF ALL THE tens of millions who watched him when he took the ring for
the big fight against Lennox Lewis there were be three who mean far
more to Evander Holyfield than all the others.
(...)

It is the Reverend who raises more than eyebrows: he is the supposed
performer of miracles and cures, healer of ailments of soul, mind and
body.

Benny Hinn has added Holyfield to his list of millions of devout
followers - affording him a colossal sway over the colossus of boxing,
the man who knocked out Mike Tyson. And over the past few weeks, Hinn
has become a litigant in a vituperative lawsuit that threatens to blow
his empire apart, one which accuses him of corruption and, Hinn himself
retorts, puts donations worth some $5O million a year at stake.
[...more...]
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* Note: The article does not give further details on the lawsuit


14. A new clue in atheist's case
Boston Globe, Mar. 26, 1999
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/085/nation/A_new_clue_in_atheist_s_case+.shtmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The former office manager for the atheist leader Madalyn Murray O'Hair,
who has been missing since 1995, is being investigated in connection
with the possible murder of O'Hair, his lawyer said yesterday.
(...)

O'Hair, who founded American Atheists Inc. and played a role in the
1960s court battles that removed prayer from public school, disappeared
in September 1995 at age 76 with her son, John Garth Murray, then 44,
granddaughter Robin Murray, then 31, and $500,000 in gold coins. They
left a note saying an emergency had arisen.
(...)

Carruth did not specifically link Waters to O'Hair's disappearance at
yesterday's hearing, but told US Magistrate Stephen Cappelle that the
affidavit supporting the apartment search was sealed and would remain
so until trial.
[...more...]
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15. Digging at Texas ranch reportedly linked to atheist disappearance
CNN, Apr. 3, 1999
http://cnn.com/US/9904/03/MissingAtheist.ap/offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
FBI agents began searching a Texas ranch in an apparent attempt to
locate the bodies of missing atheist leader Madalyn Murray O'Hair and
two relatives.
(...)

The FBI confirmed that a search warrant was executed but refused to
elaborate. "We're acknowledging that a search warrant was executed,
but we're not acknowledging why we're doing it or whether there was any
digging or whether it's related to the O'Hair investigation," said
agent Mike Appleby.
[...more...]
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16. Faith Adds a New Twist to Saga of Atheist O'Hair
Los Angeles Times, Apr. 1, 1999
http://www.latimes.com/excite/990401/t000029131.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
In the end, it was curiosity and Christian charity that may have
relaunched the search for atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair. Long after it
seemed authorities had given up on the 1995 disappearance of O'Hair,
her son and her granddaughter, a San Antonio newsman who liked a good
mystery and O'Hair's born-again Christian son appear to have
re-galvanized official action. If so, the men represent just two more
unlikely elements in an already confounding saga.
(...)

The arrests gratified O'Hair's son William Murray, a Christian
religious lobbyist who hadn't spoken to his mother in decades. He was
the only person to file a missing persons report on his mother, whom he
once called a "madwoman." In recent months, Murray pleaded with Rep.
Dick Armey to call the FBI into the case.
(...)

His feelings for his mother notwithstanding, Murray said faith drove
him to try to solve what he believes is a murder. The perpetrators
probably couldn't grasp such an attitude, he said, but "they did not
understand the very essence of being a Christian."
[...more...]
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17. Nation of Islam moves more toward Islamic orthodoxy
San Diego Union Tribune, Mar. 26, 1999
http://www.uniontrib.com/news/utarchives/ registration required (free)
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Overlooked in recent press accounts of the illness that has
severely weakened Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is the debate
among American Muslims over whether he may be trying to steer the sect
toward Islamic orthodoxy.

Muslims outside the group noted possible theological shifts in the
Nation of Islam about three months ago during Ramadan, the month-long
Islamic fast. For the first time in Nation of Islam's history,
Farrakhan told members to fast along with other Muslims.
(...)

For many Muslims, the Nation of Islam's claim to being authentically
Islamic is bogus.

Most grating to traditional Muslims is the sect's claim that Allah
(Arabic for God) incarnated in Detroit in 1930 as W. Fard Muhammad, the
man who founded the Nation of Islam. They are also disturbed by the
group's belief that whites were created by a renegade black scientist
and that the Original Man, the sect's term for Adam, was black.

While there has been no public statement by Farrakhan that he is
divorcing himself from these central tenets of the Nation of Islam, he
reportedly told a closed-door meeting here of Nation of Islam's
ministers from around the country in late January or early February
that they should disregard the "old teachings."

Another sign of Farrakhan's possible move toward orthodox Islam was the
attendance by Imam Warith Deen Mohammed at jumma, the Islamic Friday
prayer service, held in conjunction with the Nation of Islam's annual
Savior's Day convention in Chicago in late February. The imam, whose
Muslim American Society organization claims as many as 2.5 million
members and is far larger than the Nation of Islam, is Elijah
Muhammad's son.
[...more...]
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18. Lott hounded by link to supremacists
San Jose Mercury News, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www7.mercurycenter.com/premium/nation/docs/lott30.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) So the NAACP chairman wants to know where the same senators are
when it comes to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which promotes
the preservation of the white race and whose Web site features articles
warning that the nation is turning into a ``slimy brown mass of glop.''

Sen. Trent Lott once addressed the group's national board, welcomed its
leaders to Washington, had photos taken with them in his office and
then said he didn't know what they were about. The CCC's directors wink
and nod at that. One of them was a county chairman of Lott's '94
re-election campaign. One of them is his uncle.
[...more...]
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19. Clergy denounce whites-only Easter Sunday celebration
Sacramento Bee, Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.sacbee.com/news/calreport/calrep_story.cgi?N152.HTMLoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Clergy denounced a whites-only Easter Sunday celebration as an event
that distorts gospel teachings, but the Aryan Nations leader hosting
the event said his group's religious freedom allows his group to
interpret the scriptures differently.

Local clergy are upset that the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, an
Aryan Nations white supremacist group, is hosting the event at the
Escondido home of longtime group member Newman Britton, The North
County Times reported Sunday.
(...)

Britton defended his group's religious freedom, but said "I wouldn't
say that all the clergy are upset, probably a few." Britton, 72,
national chaplain of its church, has been named as successor to Aryan
Nations founder and leader Richard Butler, 81.
(...)

Founded by Ku Klux Klan organizer Wesley A. Swift after World War II,
The Church of Jesus Christ Christian is part of the Christian Identity
movement, a white supremacist organization that reportedly has about
50,000 members.
[...more...]
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20. When Scientology goes to court, it likes to play rough -- very rough.
St. Petersburg Time, Mar. 28, 1999
http://www.sptimes.com/News/32899/TampaBay/Hardball.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) In a 14-month, worldwide survey, the St. Petersburg Times has
documented a consistent pattern of church officials relentlessly
pursuing its critics in legal actions that some charge are designed as
much to harass as to achieve legal victory. In one year alone, the
Times has found, Scientology spent more than $30-million on legal and
professional fees.

From critics outside the church to former members who sue for fraud and
abuse, when Scientology goes to court, most often it is with lawyers
and legal papers that can overwhelm less wealthy opponents. In France,
England, Sweden and Germany, the pattern is similar: sue the critics,
sue the government and sometimes overwhelm the judges. Whenever
necessary, use private investigators to probe your opponents'
weaknesses and exploit them.

In the case of McPherson, who died in 1995 while in the care of fellow
Scientologists in Clearwater, the church has responded to official
inquiries in ways that bolster this reputation:

By investigating the attorney who represents McPherson's family in a
civil suit filed against Scientology and assailing his credibility.

By investigating the veteran medical examiner who spoke out about the
case, and calling her a liar.

By mounting an angry march against Clearwater's police chief shortly
before his detectives recommended criminal charges in the McPherson
case.

By filing a motion in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court asking for a special
judge to hear their many motions and to plan for a lengthy trial.

Some suggest it's all being done by the book -- L. Ron Hubbard's book.

"The purpose of a lawsuit is to harass and discourage rather than to
win," Scientology's late founder wrote in a 1955 magazine article. "The
law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on
somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway . . . will generally be
sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course,
ruin him utterly."

Judges have repeatedly criticized Scientology for "playing fast and
loose with the court system," escalating the costs to opposing parties
and the judiciary. In 1993 a federal judge in California included a
picture of a court file that had grown to more than 100 volumes in a
decision that denounced Scientology for "evasions, misrepresentations,
broken promises and lies" and criticized the organization for "viewing
litigation as war."

"They don't practice law, they practice Scientology," says Daniel
Leipold, a Los Angeles lawyer who has defended clients against
Scientology. "For every nickel we spend, they spend $1. I consider
Scientologists litigation terrorists."
[...more...]
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21. Scientology: 'We like to make peace'
St. Petersburg Times, Mar. 28, 1999
http://www.sptimes.com/News/32899/TampaBay/Scientology___We_like.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
[Abstract] In two days of interviews, officials from the Church of
Scientology and five of its lawyers answered a wide range of questions
in an effort to combat the church's reputation as litigious, secretive
and closed to scrutiny.
(....)

Continually citing the 1993 IRS decision to grant the church tax-exempt
status, they compared their operations with mainline church
denominations, including the Catholic Church, and compared their
litigation history with that of the St. Petersburg Times.
(...)

Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, two of Scientology's top officials, say
they are part of the management team that abolished the old Guardians
Office which directed the criminal conduct.
(...)

"History has vindicated us on every front," says Rathbun. "We are at
the turn of the millennium. A lot has changed, across the rest of the
United States and the rest of the world when you say you're from the
Church of Scientology, you immediately get respect."
(...)

"Our counsel will be the first to tell you that we have to be dragged
to court kicking and screaming, it's the last thing in the world we
like to do, we like to make peace," Rathbun said.

Most of those who are still engaged in litigation against Scientology
in the United States have one common denominator, money provided by
Robert S. Minton, a Boston millionaire who has helped several people
involved in lawsuits with Scientology, say the Scientologists and their
lawyers.

Church officials say they are at a loss to explain why Minton is
spending money to fuel litigation against them, but speculate the more
than $2-million Minton has used to help several people involved in
lawsuits with Scientology has come from the German government,
psychiatric interests or drug companies, all of which have opposed
Scientology practices.

"It's not true," Minton told The Times. "That is unbelievable."

Forty-eight hours after the Times began questioning Scientology about
its history of litigation, Minton says he was contacted by church
officials who wanted him to sign a letter agreeing not to provide money
to any of those litigating against the church. Minton said he could not
agree to abandon the civil case filed on behalf of Lisa McPherson, the
Clearwater woman who died while in the care of Scientology staffers in
1995, and finally concluded he could not sign such an agreement at all.

But late Friday Scientology reached agreement with lawyers for FACTNet,
a library of anti-Scientology information which the church sued in
1995. In return for dismissing the lawsuit, Factnet agreed not to
violate the church's copyrights in the future.

The five lawyers who answered questions about Scientology's litigation
insist that they have never used lawsuits or legal proceedings to
harass enemies of the church. Handling litigation for Scientology is no
different from handling the lawsuits of any other client, they insist.
[...more...]
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22. Scientologists settle legal battle
CNET, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,34410,00.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Church of Scientology International has settled a long-standing
legal battle to repossess about 2,000 unpublished and copyrighted
documents and keep them from being accessed by computer users in the
future.

Under a settlement reached in a U.S. district court earlier this month,
a Colorado-based nonprofit group called FACTNet is permanently enjoined
to pay the church $1 million if FACTNet is found guilty of future
violations of church copyrights.
(...)

The court order doesn't prohibit FACTNet from making "fair use" of
copyrighted materials. But the defendants could face a heavy fine if
they are found to infringe on the church's copyright down the road.
(...)

None of the disputed materials--most of which Wollersheim and his
attorneys say were gathered during the course of earlier legal
proceeding--have appeared on FACTNet's Web site.
(...)

In 1980, FACTNet's founder Wollersheim himself sued the church for
damages resulting from his own experience as a member and was awarded
$30 million. That sum later was reduced to $2.5 million, which
Wollersheim still is fighting to collect.
[...more...]
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23. Scientology copyright suit settled
Denver Post, Apr. 1, 1999
http://www.denverpost.com/news/news0401c.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) "This is the first time in the church's history that it reached
an amicable settlement that didn't end up in the destruction of a
critic,'' said Lawrence Wollersheim, a Boulder resident who co-founded
F.A.C.T.NET Inc. Wollersheim, a former Scientology member, said he has
spent the past 19 years fighting with the church. He said F.A.C.T.NET
spent $2.7 million in attorney's fees - $2 million from an insurance
fund and $700,000 in cash.

"We came to the decision that donor funds could be better spent by
settling and ending the litigation. We are moving forward from that
money pit to victims' support and social education,'' he said of the
nonprofit Web site.
(...)

"Awards for copyright claims are made for each work that can be
protected. I've never seen anyone spend more effort in breaking down
each work into subsets that could be copyrighted,'' said Clifford Beem,
the attorney representing F.A.C.T.NET., in describing how the claims
became so numerous.

"This case was unique because the church litigates with gusto. They had
nine lawyers in court every time there was a hearing. When they filed a
motion for summary judgment, they had a cart with 25 boxes of documents
wheeled in. The church admits that it isn't out to just win a lawsuit.
It's purpose is to bankrupt the other side,'' he said.
[...more...]
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24. At home: Critics public and private keep pressure on Scientology
St. Petersburg Times, Mar. 29, 1999
http://www.sptimes.com/News/32999/Worldandnation/At_home__Critics_publ.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Leaders of the Clearwater-based Church of Scientology say they hope the
years of heavy legal expenses are over. That may not be a realistic
hope. While the number of cases Scientology is currently pursuing is
down in the United States, a survey of the cases still under way shows
a persistence and bitterness on both sides that make it hard for either
to walk away.

Take, for example, Keith Henson, a 56-year-old computer consultant who
has taken up picketing to protest the death of Lisa McPherson, a
Clearwater woman who died after being held by Scientologists for 17
days.
(...)

To counter his pickets, Scientology has accused him of being a
dangerous, crazed man who is capable of cutting off human heads and
exploding bombs like the one that blew up the federal courthouse in
Oklahoma. Henson says the allegations come from the days he worked with
a cryogenics program that takes the heads from dead bodies to be frozen
in hopes that medical science will one day find a cure for whatever
caused their death. His experience in bombmaking dates back to a job
for the mining industry in the Arizona desert where he used dynamite
and other explosives.
(...)

Scientology reacts to the pickets by sending staffers out to confront
them and take pictures. Increasingly, Scientologists go out and picket
critics' homes or offices, distributing fliers that accuse them of
being "religious bigots." Some pickets say Scientologists have
frightened elderly family members with visits and questions about their
picketing.
(...)

Mike Rinder, one of Scientology's top officials, says the church seeks
an injunction only against pickets who have threatened violence. Rinder
also said the counterpickets conducted by Scientologists at the homes
and businesses of critics are "spontaneous" events, not something that
is organized by Scientology.

Critics scoff at the notion of spontaneity, noting that virtually
identical fliers assailing pickets as "religious bigots" have been
distributed at homes in Canada, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, San Francisco,
Phoenix, Boston and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Another persistent source of legal challenge against the church has
come from onetime members who quit and sue to recover funds they charge
were taken inappropriately.
[...more...]
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25. Abroad: Critics public and private keep pressure on Scientology
St. Petersburg Times, Mar. 29, 1999
http://www.sptimes.com/News/32999/Worldandnation/Abroad__Critics_publi.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) But as disciples have carried L. Ron Hubbard's teachings away
from America's shore, the reception has been almost universally chilly
at best -- and at times openly hostile.

At one time Scientologists were banned in Australia and forbidden entry
to study in England. Scientology has been shut down in Greece,
indicted in Spain, restricted in Russia, rebuffed by Sweden's highest
court, expelled from college campuses in Norway, convicted of crimes in
Canada and denied status as a charitable organization or a religion in
most European countries.

High-ranking Scientologists have been jailed in Italy, France and Spain
in connection with what were called crimes associated with Scientology
practices, and France keeps Scientology on a list of organizations that
need to be monitored for cult activity.
(...)

Scientology's lawyers note that the troubles have come in countries
that have no tradition of religious freedom and often in places that
have state religions which control the political process.

"It's not so much Scientology practice they have criticized," says
Washington lawyer Monique Yingling. "It's the absence of freedom of
religion."

Scientology's willingness to join with other religious groups like
Jehovah's Witnesses has helped strengthen religious freedom in some
countries.
(...)

Scientology also lost an appeal of Canada's biggest libel judgement:
$1.6-million assessed by a jury after Scientology tried to discredit
Casey Hill, the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the
church.

In upholding the libel verdict, the Canadian court said, "Every aspect
of this case demonstrates the very real and persistent malice of
Scientology."
(...)

In the Netherlands, Scientology is battling Internet service providers
and Scientology critic Karin Spaink over criticism and Scientology
secrets that have been posted on the Internet.
(...)

Spaink and the Internet service providers won the first round when a
judge in 1996 said the service providers could not be held liable for
items posted to the Internet and Spaink's Web site did not violate
copyright laws because it was "fair use" of materials.

Unsatisfied, Scientology sued again. At a hearing early this month,
Scientology asked a court in the Hague to declare Spaink and the
service providers guilty of violating copyright laws. A decision is due
April 28.

In Sweden Scientology won a $1,250 judgment against a critic who posted
Xenu's story on the Internet, but lost the war. The critic, Zenon
Panoussis, also deposited a copy of the scriptures with the Swedish
Parliament, where tradition demands that records remain open to the
public. The Swedish government has sold hundreds of copies of the
copyright work for about $50 apiece.
[...more...]
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26. Internet is battleground in foes' war of information
St. Petersburg Times, Mar. 29, 1999
http://www.sptimes.com/News/32999/Worldandnation/Internet_is_battlegro.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Around the clock, from Norway, the Netherlands, Australia and every
corner of the United States, the critics of Scientology discuss the
controversial organization and its practices.
(...)

Many of those who post messages to the central anti-Scientology news
group, alt.religion.scientologyoffsite, have their own critical Web sites with
much more on Scientology. The best known of the critical Web sites is
Operation Clambake (http://www.xenu.net/offsite), a massive library of
information on Scientology operated by Andreas Heldal-Lund, a Norwegian
critic who has operated his Web site despite dozens of letters
threatening legal action by Scientology.

Heldal Lund says he keeps secret Scientology documents available on
request by offering to send them via e-mail to anyone who wants them.
(...)

Scientology lawyers repeatedly threaten critics who operate Web sites
and post items to the news group, and have filed lawsuits against
several. Companies that provide Internet services are constantly under
attack from Scientology lawyers who threaten lawsuits if they don't
toss critical Web pages off the Internet.

"The Internet is Scientology's Vietnam," says Mark Plummer, a former
Scientologist who signs his name as "Warrior."
(...)

To help sort out the news group, Rod Keller, a Philadelphia critic,
writes a weekly review of items posted to the news group and e-mails it
to anyone interested (rkeller@voicenet.com).
[...more...]
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27. Easter troubles for Scientology in Italy
La Nuova Sardegna (Italy), Apr. 4, 1999 (in Italian)
http://www.lanuovasardegna.it/lanuovasardegna/arch_04/sardegna/24ore/sk103.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
NOTE: "quick and literal" translation as posted to
alt.religion.scientologyoffsite by the webmaster of Allarme Scientology:
http://xenu.com-it.netoffsite
Scientology stays under the fire of the Public Prosecutor's Office of
the Republic: Cagliari Digos [1] searched some executives'
dwellings as well as the homes of other people connected to the
religious organization that follows the 'Dianetics' bestseller author
Ron Hubbard's writings. The investigation is related to the suicide
committed by a Cagliari 20 years old boy on March 1997: Roberto D. put
an end to his life jumping from the 8th floor of a building. No one
could explain the reasons for such a tragical decision. His relatives
only knew that the boy attended the Scientology Cagliari branch office
in his latest times.

According to the accusation hypothesis on which Public Prosecutor
Guido Pani is working - circumvention of an incabable and extortion -
the boy would have been prompted to suicide after having been reduced
into a psychological subjection by members of the Cagliari Scientology
branch.
(...)

[1] Digos: special police corp created in the '80s to fight terrorism
and subversion.
[...more...]
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28. Store selling Scientology vitamin regimen raises concerns
St. Petersburg Times, Mar. 28, 1999
http://www.sptimes.com/News/32899/Pasco/Store_selling_Sciento.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Two members of the state physician's board are questioning whether a
health-food store with ties to Scientology is practicing medicine
illegally by offering a church-sanctioned vitamin regimen.

The treatment, called "purification rundown," is one of the first steps
Scientologists take upon joining the church. Church members tout the
rundown as a purifying routine that enables people to kick drug abuse
and "think more clearly and have more energy." Some physicians, and a
former Scientologist interviewed by the Times, call it dangerous and
ineffective.
(...)

Although Pure Health does not advertise any connection with the church,
the purification rundown is a trademarked service of Scientology that
can only be offered with the consent of the church.
(...)

The purification rundown -- sometimes used as a recruiting tool by the
church -- has been questioned by doctors.
(...)

"I just found that it was useless," Gots said in a telephone interview.
"Useless and fraudulent, considering the claims that were made. And
very expensive."
[...more...]
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29. Scrutinising craft of modern witches
London Times, Mar. 29, 1999 (Letter to the Editor)
http://www.the-times.co.uk/ - registration required (free)
(Story no longer online? Read this)
[NOTE: In response to an article noted in Issue 76, item 33]
From Professor Philip G. Davis
Sir, While it is quite true that witchcraft is one of the
fastest-growing spiritual phenomena in North America (interview with
Phyllis Curott, March 19; see also letter, March 24), some of us who
are watching its progress see elements in it which are not merely
silly, but worrying.

Almost every specific assertion propounded by these modern witches is
demonstrably false. Their claim to be practising a form of
pre-Christian spirituality collapses when tested against the actual
evidence from their favourite primordial cultures, whether pre-Celtic
Britain or Minoan Crete.

Meanwhile, their exaltation of Wicca as an anti-patriarchal,
female-oriented religion conveniently ignores the movement's own
documented history, which runs back through the English occultists
Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley to 19th-century male devotees of
the Romantic ideal of femininity, notably Jules Michelet and Johann
Jakob Bachofen.

As Ms Curott so deftly demonstrates, contemporary witchcraft embodies a
cavalier disregard for factual accuracy in such matters, appealing
instead to "experiences" like visualisation sessions. These,
supposedly, permit us to activate the so-called divine power deep
within our very being, the life-force. In North American Wicca, with
its heavily feminist orientation, this life-force is identified with
the specifically female bio-energy of "the Goddess".

These matters are explored more fully in my book, Goddess Unmasked,
which was reviewed jointly with Ms Curott's in the Los Angeles Times
(November 8, 1998). While Wicca and the derivative movement of Goddess
Spirituality may seem harmlessly exotic on the surface, they popularise
notions which carry disturbing potential.

Mixing a belief in one's own inner godhood with a definition of
immanent divinity in which biological factors like sex or race assume
paramount importance has already proven a recipe for disaster in other
hands.

Yours etc,
PHILIP G. DAVIS
(Associate Professor of Religious Studies),
University of Prince Edward Island,
Charlottetown,
P.E.I., Canada C1A 4P3.
davis@upei.ca
March 25.
[...entire item...]


30. Plan To Eradicate Witchcraft Violence
ANC (South Africa), Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/briefing/nw19990401/29.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Commission on Gender Equality is leading a national action plan for
the eradication of witchcraft violence following the increasing deaths
of men and women suspected of witchcraft, a commission spokeswoman said
on Wednesday.
(...)

Police statistics for April 1, 1994 to February 16, 1997 showed that 97
women and 46 men were killed as a result of witchcraft allegations.
[...more...]
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31. Safety at stake over witchcraft accusations
The Sowetan (Johannesburg), Mar. 31, 1999 (Commentary)
http://www.africanews.org/south/southafrica/stories/19990331_feat3.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The interest in witchcraft violence took root during a visit to
Northern Province earlier that year. As commissioner of this province,
I am overwhelmed by the needs of women there to basic safety and
security.

Violence associated with accusations of witchcraft has been rife and
increasing each year. The victims are those most vulnerable in any
society: old men and women. Those accused of witchcraft are faced with
death, injury or exclusion from their communities.

The Ralushai Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual
Murders in Northern Province (1995) found that, traditionally, women
were accused of practising witchcraft, although men were also victims
of witchcraft burnings or purges.
[...more...]
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32. Filipinos seek millennium light on mountain
Infoseek/Reuters, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www.infoseek.com/Content?arn=a3616LBY144reulb-19990330&qt=%2Bsect+&sv=IS&lk=ip-noframes&col=NX&kt=A&ak=news1486offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Three hours by car from Manila, Banahaw gained its mystic
reputation from 19th century tales about ``a sacred voice'' that spoke
to those who had gone there to seek talismans or pursue pagan beliefs
which Spanish colonisers had tried to suppress.

At least 120 Christian-based sects have shot up since then to worship
the mountain. To them, the new millennium will bring either Armageddonoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
or unprecedented prosperity to the Philippines.
[...more...]
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33. Fortune Telling Thrives On Economic Woes
Inside China, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www.insidechina.com/china/news/1999033011.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) As China's economy slows and painful reforms put millions out of
work, despondent masses from the industrial northeast to rural
southwest are turning to organized religion, underground worship or
just plain old superstition to soothe their aching souls.
(...)

Scorned by orthodox Communists as an "opiate of the masses," religion
is on the march in China.
(...)

The ministerial-level Religious Affairs Bureau now records at least 10
million Protestants and four million Catholics. Religious experts
estimate double that number meet regularly for unofficial prayer
services.
(...)

But the surge is strongest outside the official churches and state-run
temples, where a powerful cocktail of orthodox religion, ancestor
worship and superstition feeds the rural need to believe.
(...)

Across the street lies Li's competition for the hearts and minds of the
village's 2,000 residents -- a brightly lit, newly built cathedral-like
building dedicated to the controversial Zhu Shen Jiao, or Supreme
Spirit Sect.

China launched a crackdown on the sect last year, calling it the
country's largest cult and arresting 20 members of the congregation in
the central province of Hunan.
[...more...]
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34. Brazil: Every Year 600,000 Catholics Join Evangelical Sects
EWTN/Zenith, Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.ewtn.com/ewtn/news/getstory.asp?number=13953offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Pentecostal Protestant churches are growing so fast in Brazil that
they are not reticent to say that by the year 2000 there will be an
"Evangelical majority." Although it seems to be an overly optimistic
forecast, the truth is that the number of Catholics leaving the Church
is considerable: 600,000 persons a year decide to join one of the
Evangelical denominations of the country.
(...)

The Evangelical churches have lots of money. Some believe they have too
much. A recent report described "The Universal Church of the Kingdom of
God
as the largest Brazilian multinational." Edir Macedo, its
president, says without any reservations, that "money, health, and
happiness are proof of divine blessing." In 20 years, he has been
successful in accumulating a personal fortune of more than $100
million.

Many of these newly formed groups, which locals call "sects," have
nothing to do with traditional Protestantism, and engage in very
aggressive proselytizing and straightforward rivalry with the Catholic
Church. The fact is they have been successful in enticing 16 million
Brazilians into their ranks, having become the third country in the
world in terms of number of Protestants.

But it has met its match in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
(...)

There are eight million Catholics living their faith in the Charismatic
Renewal, double the figure of just four years ago.
[...more...]
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=== Noted

35. The Year of Believing in Prophecies
Los Angeles Times, Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.latimes.com/excite/990331/t000028599.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Unbelievers may call them kooks. More polite, less apocalyptic
Christians call them misguided. But as the new millennium approaches,
the prophets and promoters of the end-times are revving into high gear.
(...)

Even when prophecies don't pan out, though, the prophetic churches
sometimes survive. The Worldwide Church of God, headquartered in
Pasadena, took the rare step in 1994 of publicly revoking its prophetic
teachings and apologizing for them. The founder, Herbert Armstrong, had
predicted Christ would return in 1975; after Armstrong died 11 years
later, his successor, Joseph Tkach, accepted the judgments of a
doctrinal review committee that the teachings were false.

The church weathered an enormous loss of income and members--from
155,000 to 55,000, said Monte Wolverton, managing editor of the Plain
Truth magazine, which is affiliated with the church. But it has held
its now mainstream theological ground and recently produced a video,
"Millennium Madness," that looks at past movements and how "not one of
them was right," Wolverton said.
(...)

[Perry] Stone was one of the hottest draws at the four-day prophecy
conference in Tampa. Sponsored by the Christian broadcast ministry,
God's News Behind the News, the conference is the granddaddy of North
American events to track the end-times.
(...)

The conference's 13 speakers are the hottest stars on the biblical
prophecy circuit. They are men of passionate conviction who spend much
of their time poring over current events and matching them up with the
ancient prophecies.
(...)

The men say they rely on divine guidance and hours of daily research
to draw their end-times scenarios. Any developments supporting them are
pounced upon and posted on any number of prophecy Web sites. News about
Russia, the Mideast, a national ID system, globalism, astronomy,
natural disasters or disease are particularly prized.
[...more...]
Back To Top



36. 'Yisha Sathane, yisha tokoloshe'
The Mail & Guardian (South Africa), Apr. 2, 1999
http://www.africanews.org/south/southafrica/stories/19990402_feat7.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
They came in their thousands to collect on a promissory note. The
promise was simple yet quite profound: "On Sunday the 28th of March
there will be a special healing service at Joubert Park. If you are
suffering from HIV or Aids or if you have other problems you must come
because you will be healed!!!"

The note bore the seal of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
(...)

The Universal church has exploded in most working-class areas of South
Africa. It has taken over every conceivable form of premises, from
storefronts to halls to movie houses.
(...)

Everyone has now broken into individual prayers and to soundtrack this
process Pastor Abel intones into the microphone, "Yisha Sathane. Yisha
tokoloshe [Burn Satan. Burn tokoloshe]."
(...)

Pastor Abel tells them that this is the most important part of the
service, "Where you receive the blessings that you came here for." A
few people smile as he says that those who want to receive those
blessing should come up front. "I am going to start with anyone who
wants to give R200 upwards to come forward. Come and plant and you will
reap. Come forward. Do I have anyone for R200 upwards?"

His delivery is now akin to that of an auctioneer.
(...)

Pastor Abel asks one, a well-dressed man, "How many cars do you have?"
The man responds: "Six." A satisfied smile spreads across Pastor Abel's
face as he says: "You see, he had nothing when he came here, now six
cars. This is what happens when you plant."

The scale goes down right down to 50c, the blessing session with the
most subscriptions.
[...more...]
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37. The CEO From Cyberspace: Joe Firmage, A Master of the Universe at 28
Washington Post, Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-03/31/175l-033199-idx.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) He devotes himself to his mission. His mission is "The Truth."

That's the title of his book, which is posted on the Internet at
www.thewordistruth.org. Joe Firmage believes he has found The Truth,
and he is using all his entrepreneurial skill to disseminate that truth
to the world at large.

In a single month, his Web site received 6 million hits. He's placed a
full-page ad in USA Today. He is about to be profiled in Wired and
Rolling Stone. The local papers have followed his recent moves. He's a
hot topic in certain Internet chat rooms -- a sudden silicon celebrity.
(...)

All roads in the Firmage universe lead to UFOs. For Firmage, the
visions reported by prophets and religious figures -- including Joseph
Smith, founder of the Mormon faith -- are strikingly reminiscent of
modern encounters with aliens.
(...)

His next step will be to print 100,000 copies of "The Truth" as an
elegant hardback, self-published, he says, so he'll have total
editorial control. This summer he'll embark on a 20-city book tour. He
won't do ordinary book signings but will speak, he vows, in auditoriums
and other large venues. He's thinking big all the way.
(...)

The professional UFO debunker Philip Klass says of Firmage, "In terms
of establishing or proving that we have ET visitors, he adds nothing."
[...more...]
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38. Religion is back in fashion
This Is London, Apr. 1, 1999
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/dynamic/lifestyle/review.html?in_review_id=130037&in_review_text_id=106082offsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The last Easter of the 20th century looks set to be a bumper one
for London churches - with or without the help of those posters that
went up last week using an image of Che Guevara as Jesus Christ, but
boosted, it is thought, by the conflict in Kosovo.
(...)

There is no doubt that the biggest single reason for the increase in
church attendance is the extraordinary influence of Holy Trinity,
Brompton (HTB)
, the well-heeled Knightsbridge church run by Old
Etonians and whose links now extend to more than 80 countries worldwide
through its Alpha course.

In London, at least 70,000 people have attended an Alpha course, which
offers a weekly introduction to fundamental, Bible-based Christianity,
combined with a touchy-feely social environment.
(...)

HTB is now the most famous church in London apart from St Paul's and
Westminster Abbey. "We are very much on the tourist map for
foreigners," said Mark Elsdon-Dew, a former journalist who runs HTB's
media department.
(...)

Dr Eileen Barker, professor of sociology at the LSE and expert on
religious movements, rejects the idea that the approaching millennium
has made people focus on spiritual matters. "A lot of the success of
HTB has to do with making people feel they belong. They are given an
identity. They feel part of something and are encouraged to believe
that they are making a contribution to the greater good."
[...more...]
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39. Korean kung-fu master Yim Hon-suk blends the yang of martial arts
with the yin of alternative therapies
Korea Herald (Korea), Apr. 2, 1999
http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/kh0402/m0402c03.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Closely associated with the Chinese martial arts are a series of
therapeutic exercises known as Chi-Gong (in Korean, Ki-Gong; loosely
translated as energy, vital force or breath work) which combine
specialized postures with deep breathing, concentration and meditation;
it is these exercises that Yim is now concentrating upon to move his
practices and instruction to the next level. A student of chi-gong for
the last 20 years, Yim is currently researching, treating patients and
teaching these practices.

There are actually various forms of chi-gong, both traditional and
modern; some are associated with martial arts, some with religion, some
with scholarly pursuits such as calligraphy; others are concerned
solely with health promotion. Despite extensive research in China and
the West, there is as yet no scientific rationale for the existence of
chi. Some researchers believe chi-gong exercise oxygenates the blood;
others claim chi is a form of electro-magnetic energy; traditionalists
believe that it is a bio-energy or life force that flows through a
series of invisible meridians in the body (as are used in acupuncture).
What is clear is that chi-gong exercise has gone through a major
renaissance in the Far East over recent years (in Korea for example,
Dan Jun Hop classes have mushroomed dramatically nationwide in this
decade), and has also caught on in the West, where it, and allied forms
of alternative medicine such as acupuncture and acupressure are now
being seriously examined by medical professionals and insurers as
viable forms of preventative medicine and rehabilitative therapy.
"Spiritual chi-gong can be dangerous," said Yim, adding, "I teach a
system of martial chi-gong, which prepares the body for the traumas of
intensive training, and health chi-gong, which can dramatically improve
one's quality of life."
[...more...]
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40. Religion is now pushing rewards on earth for donors
San Diego Union Tribune, Mar. 19, 1999
http://www.uniontrib.com/news/utarchives/ - Registration required (free)
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Maybe money can't buy a ticket to heaven, but it can buy some nice
perks from religious organizations here on Earth.

Tickets to the Super Bowl in Miami this past January were bestowed on
more than a dozen prospective donors to Campus Crusade for Christ.

With some help from World Vision, a Christian relief organization,
Patricia Lanza of Scarsdale, N.Y., went on safari in South Africa. "We
saw all the animals," says Lanza, whose husband, Frank, is chief
executive of L-3 Communications. "I was just so delighted."
(...)

Aided by fund-raising staffs and consultants, these institutions have
perfected the art of saying please and thank you, wielding goodies such
as trips abroad with museum curators, handwritten notes from favorite
teachers and chauffeur-driven trips to the hospital.
(...)

If the poor are supposed to be the blessed, why are the rich getting
special treatment? If God is supposed to be everyone's father, why do
the million-dollar donors to the Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation --
a group of 51 that includes Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan,
as well as Birtcher -- get the chance to meet the pope, while those who
give lesser sums read about it in a newsletter?
(...)

Os Guinness, senior fellow for the Trinity Forum, a Washington, D.C.,
organization that studies leadership and faith, says the trend toward
more high-powered fund-raising runs counter to 2,000 years of Christian
belief, if not always practice, that people should give because they
have been given to, not because they will get something back.
[...more...]
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=== Books

41. In Search of African Spirits
Washington Post, Apr. 4, 1999
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-04/04/180l-040499-idx.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
AMERICAN VOUDOU
Journey into a Hidden World
By Rod Davis
Univ. of North Texas. 392 pp. $32.50
Reviewed by Madison Smartt Bell

(...) The mission of Rod Davis's American Voudou is to trace the
influence of the African religion in the American black community. At
the outset, he disclaims any intention to perform systematic
anthropology. Instead, he chronicles in first-person detail his
investigations of the subject in New Orleans, rural Louisiana, Atlanta
and the Southern seaboard.

An unfortunate side effect of this approach is a confused presentation
of the fundamental properties of the religion; this confusion is so
severe that one is moved to wonder whether Davis has really mastered
the sources in his own bibliography. In fact the reader would need to
have already studied at least one book on Haitian Voudou and another on
Santeria to understand what Davis is talking about. The book cries out
for a few lucid pages of basic explanation.
(...)

Meanwhile, Davis has his own story to tell: the story of a Southern
white man of a strong religious sensibility who left his Christian
church, in his youth, because he rejected racism.
[...more...]
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42. The medium has the message
San Diego Union Tribune, Mar. 12, 1999
http://www.uniontrib.com/news/utarchives/ - Registration required (free)
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Van Praagh is hot. Last year, his book, "Talking to Heaven,"
catapulted onto the New York Times best-seller list and stayed there
for 25 weeks. His recently released sequel, "Reaching to Heaven"
(Dutton; $22.95), is already on it.

The Southern California clairvoyant (his Spiritual Horizons Inc. is
based in Pasadena) also has become a medium to the stars. Among others,
Van Praagh is said to have connected Cher to Sonny (soul mates) and
Denise Brown to Nicole Simpson Brown (he won't reveal if O.J. did it).
(...)

"Talking" introduced readers to Van Praagh's version of life after
death and reincarnation. It also shared several accounts of how he
believes he helped bridge the gap between people in this world and the
spirit world.

"Reaching" cranks it up a psychic notch, providing readers with details
he says he's collected from his years of delving into what happens at
death and how souls go through the reincarnation process.
[...more...]
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43. Mystic Business - New Book Explores Workplace Witchcraft
ABC News, Mar. 30, 1999
http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/business/DailyNews/execmystic990330.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) But that’s beside the point. [Barrie] Dolnick has cast her own
spell over the American reading public, including her latest book,
Executive Mystic, which conflates two favorite end-of-millennium
obsessions: new-age mysticism and success in business.
(...)

Executive Mystic: Intuitive Tools for Cultivating the Winning Edge in
Business (Harper Perennial, 1999) is an earnest psychic’s look at the
old adages holding true, and how to follow instincts in the workplace.
(...)

Executive Mystic “advises” individual and corporate clients on
business and career decisions using all manner of ancient and
modern-day hocus pocus: astrological charts, runes, chakras (psychic
power centers), bibliomancy (picking quotes at random out of the
Bible), tarot, crystals and oracles.
[...more...]
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44. Millennium fever fuels books about the shape of things to come
Ottawa Citizen (Canada), Apr. 3, 1999
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/national/990403/2442216.htmloffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) "There is definitely an upsurge in interest in religious books
and prophecy going on right now and it is the fastest- growing segment
of the publishing market," says Stephen O'Leary, a communications
professor at the University of Southern California and a co-founder of
the Centre for Millennial Studies at Boston University, an academic
organization that tracks and studies millennial activity.
(...)

"The big prophecy authors have been coming out with a book every six
months to a year and a lot of it can be the same old thing rehashed
because of the huge market there is now."
(...)

Eugen Weber, a history professor at UCLA, says it is actually a lack of
religion that is making more people believe in prophecy.

"We are living in a society with less and less religion and when people
stop believing in something, they'll believe in anything," says Weber,
author of Apocalypses, Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs Through
the Ages.
[...more...]
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=== Online

45. LDS Church Starts Test of Genealogy Web Site
Salt Lake Tribune, Apr. 2, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/1999/apr/04021999/utah/94889.htmoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The LDS Church has opened its new genealogical Internet Web site to the
public as part of a beta test over the next few weeks.

No special password or clearance is needed to access the site, located
at the URL address http://www.familysearch.org.

As the site is tested, it will occasionally be offline. At other
times access will be slow, church officials warned.

A date for formal opening of the site has not been released
[...entire item...]


46. Column: Uri Geller's Weird Web [Written by Geller]
London Times, Mar. 31, 1999
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/Times/frontpage.html?2488675
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Aleister Crowley, the most infamous occult magician of this century,
who was rumoured to sacrifice children and conjure evil angels during
his rituals, is becoming a cult figurehead on the Web.
[...more...]
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=== FAQ
(This section will be included every now and then)

Some recurring questions answered in brief:

Q: How come you don't post the full items?
A: Copyright reasons, mainly. I include enough info for a casual
reader to get a quick update on the news, and for others to decide
whether to retrieve the rest of the story.

Q: I could not find [news item]
A: If an item is no longer online, I will email it to you. See
footer for details.

Q: Why did you not include [news item]?
A: I may not have been aware of it, or it may not fit the focus of
this newsletter (news of interest to those in apologetics
and countercult work)

Q: Why are some items covered multiple times?
A: Different newspapers may provide different perspectives.

Q: Why do you focus on Scientology?
A: I don't. They get a lot of press. I tell you about it.


About "Religion Items in the News:"
  • These items are provided to facilitate research. Unless otherwise indicated, no endorsements are intended.
  • If a URL breaks up, undo word-wrap.
  • Due to copyright considerations, only excerpts are quoted. For full story, see the URL provided.
  • Most of these links stay up for only a day or two. I therefore keep the full items on file. Should you not be able to find them online, email me at rin@apologeticsindex.org Include the issue and story numbers of the items you are requesting.
  • If you do not have WWW access, you can retrieve the text of Web pages by email using Leadership University's EDoc service. For instructions, email edoc@leaderu.com with in the body of the message one word: help.
  • "Religion Items in the News" is provided as a service to the AR-talk apologetics resource discussion list, where it is always posted first. For information about AR-talk, see http://www.apologia.orgoffsite or send "subscribe AR-talk" to hub@xc.org without quotes.
  • Forwarding and reposting of "Religion Items in the News" is permitted only with this unedited footer attached.


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