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Religion Items In The News

May 27, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 87)

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.

=== Main
1. Police raid AUM's Osaka HQ
2. Aum gave false details to set up firm, police say
3. A doomsday cult lives (Aum)
4. Aum problems reported in 12 prefectures
5. Govt considers ways to restrict Aum
6. Life term sought for Asahara's driver (Aum)
7. Rising fears prompt calls to keep Aum in check
8. 'Hateful' cult plotters held (Gate Disciples)
9. Militia leader jailed for 40 years
10. New Zealand police checking millennium suicide rumors
11. Millennial cult misery 'will fill therapy clinics'
12. Former televangelist calls Y2K a picnic compared to coming apocalypse (Jim Bakker)
13. Y2K refugees are heading for the hills of Floyd County
14. Expert on apocalyptic beliefs fear Branch Davidians to repeat tragedy
15. Scientology Book an Open Issue
16. Danger from Scientology organization apparently overestimated for years
17. "Dianetics," No. 1 All-Time Self-Help Bestseller, Now Released in Over 50 Languages
18. More people in KC finding way to Scientology's door
19. Former Victory Church packs up
20. Africa's sisters rip MOVE
21. Destroying our last vestige of sanity (Wicca)
22. No Wiccan haters here, just a good Catholic boy
23. Witchful thinking
24. Phipps responds to heresy claim
25. Dalai Lama Seeks Peace Via Music
26. Guru to the world (Dalai Lama)
27. 'All that was, is and will be is in the Torah' (Torah Codes)
28. Federal judge finds school violated religious rights
29. Utah Christians Unite Today in March for Jesus (Mormons)
30. Mormons launch online genealogy database
31. Genealogy site is a hit — 7 million times a day
32. Ground Broken for Monument at Site of Mountain Meadow Massacre
33. Nauvoo's prospects on rise with Mormons' temple plans
34. United States: Islam Growing, But Subject To Misperceptions

=== Noted
35. Focus on the Family groups dreads the day its founder leaves
36. Being a Skeptic Doesn't Take a Leap of Faith
37. Religion in the workplace: a growing legal issue

=== The Church Around The Corner
38. Tavern owner riled at new church nest door

=== Main

1. Police raid AUM's Osaka HQ
Mainichi Shimbun, May 26, 1999
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news04.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Police raided the AUM Shinrikyo Osaka headquarters and three computer
shops related to the cult on Tuesday for allegedly using false names
when setting up a company that runs one of the outlets in the city.
(...)

Meanwhile, 24 members of the doomsday cult in Sanwa, Ibaraki Prefecture
asked a bar association in the prefecture to look into violation of
their human rights by the town's municipal government on Tuesday. The
AUM members alleged that the town breached their rights by rejecting
their application for resident registrations on April 26, and doing
nothing despite their formal protests.
(...)

On condition of anonymity, a Sanwa official says "It's really cheek of
the AUM members to ask for protection of their human rights, as they
are still the same organization (as the one that attacked the Tokyo
subway with sarin gas)."
[...more...]
Back To Top


2. Aum gave false details to set up firm, police say
Daily Yomiuri, May 26, 1999
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0526cr06.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) The executive reportedly submitted faked minutes of a meeting of
employees containing the names of fictitious company executives to the
Kyoto District Legal Affairs Bureau, police said.

Police believe that System A is a dummy company set up to facilitate
the operation of the computer store, which is located in Nipponbashi,
Osaka. The store opened in February, police said.
(...)

The Osaka prefectural police, who suspect that much of Aum's wealth
comes from the production and sale of computers, plan to investigate
the cult's finances.
[...more...]
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3. A doomsday cult lives
US News & World Report, May 31, 1999
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/990531/aum.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Aum Supreme Truth is back. Last week, Japanese police raided four sites
connected with the cult. Inside one, they found a Geiger counter and a
partially constructed concrete bunker with two stories underground. Was
it a bomb shelter for nuclear Armaggedon, which the cult is awaiting
this year? Or a nuclear laboratory in the making? Police refused to
speculate, but many nervous Japanese could not help wondering whether
the site was meant to take over for the labyrinthine complex of
buildings near Mount Fuji, where the cult once produced poison gas and
biological agents and tortured, killed, and incinerated errant members.
[...more...]
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4. Aum problems reported in 12 prefectures
Daily Yomiuri, May 26, 1999
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

In the past year, residents from at least 25 municipalities from 12
prefectures experienced problems with facilities and companies related
to the Aum Supreme Truth religious cult, a Yomiuri Shimbun survey
revealed Tuesday.

Conflicts between residents and the cult often began when the cult
acquired property, which was purchased under either names of
individuals or false identities. Cult members would soon inhabit the
site, provoking opposition from residents.
(...)

Since the cult has decreed the world will end this year, cult members
have likely relocated to mountainous areas in central Honshu to protect
themselves from the expected Armageddon, police sources said.
[...more...]
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5. Govt considers ways to restrict Aum
Daily Yomiuri, May 22, 1999
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0522po11.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

The government on Friday decided to set up a liaison conference as
early as Monday to consider measures to control the renewed activities
of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, a government leader said.
(...)

There has been strong public reaction toward the cult, including calls
for tighter restrictions on it, such as making it subject to the
Antisubversive Activities Law or other special legislation. But most
members of the government are reluctant to take these measures
because they think they would be ineffective in curtailing the cult's
activities.

Therefore, the conference will examine and propose ways by the end of
the month to restrict the cult's activities using existing laws.
[...more...]
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6. Life term sought for Asahara's driver
Japan Times, May 19, 1999
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news5-99/news5-19.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Prosecutors demanded life in prison Wednesday for a former Aum
Shinrikyo
fugitive accused of chauffeuring one of the cultists accused
of releasing sarin in the deadly Tokyo subway gas attack of March 1995.

In a statement read before the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said
Koichi Kitamura, 31, actively played a part in indiscriminately
murdering 12 people and injuring thousands of others in the subway
because of his belief in the cult's self-righteous doctrine, and should
thus be sentenced to life imprisonment.
[...more...]
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7. Rising fears prompt calls to keep Aum in check
Japan Times, May 19, 1999
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news5-99/news5-19.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) Nonaka said the government is considering a new law to block the
sect's activities, but it is having difficulty formulating one. "It is
extremely difficult to draw up a new law targeting Aum Shinrikyo. If we
use the term 'cult' in new legislation to regulate the group, it would
also provoke problems in modern society," he said.
(...)

Police on Tuesday morning searched Aum-related facilities in Aichi,
Nagano and Fukushima prefectures, as well as in Tokyo, in connection
with a case in which a 39- year-old male follower of the cult allegedly
used forged documents to buy land without revealing Aum was involved in
the deals.
[...more...]
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8. 'Hateful' cult plotters held
South China Morning News, May 25, 1999
http://www.scmp.com/news/template/China-Template.idc?
artid=19990525023842050&top=china&template=Default.htx&maxfieldsize=853
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Authorities have rounded up 71 members of a religious cult in Chongqing
and thwarted a plot to assassinate a town official, it was reported
yesterday.

The members of the Mentu Hui (Gate Disciples) sect were arrested in
Heyu village in the Sichuan city on April 21 when they met to plot the
killing of an unidentified official, the Press Digest said.
[...more...]
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9. Militia leader jailed for 40 years
USA Today, May 26, 1999
http://www.usatoday.com/news/ndstue10.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

A militia member convicted of plotting to blow up government buildings
and threatening to murder federal officers was sentenced Tuesday to 40
years in prison without the possibility of parole. Bradford Metcalf,
48, faced at least 30 years in prison. He was convicted in November of
weapons and conspiracy charges.
(...)

He was one of three North American Militia members arrested last year
as part of what the government said was a plot to blow up TV and radio
stations, electric transformers and federal buildings, including the
Internal Revenue Service office.
[...more...]
Back To Top


10. New Zealand police checking millennium suicide rumors
Nando Times, May 25, 1999
http://www.nando.com/noframes/story/0,2107,52695-84507-598609-0,00.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Police are looking into rumors that foreign cults could travel to New
Zealand's east coast town of Gisborne for millennium suicides at the
first dawn of 2000.
(...)

Gisborne will be a center for millennium celebrations, with its claim
to be the first city to greet the new millennium dawn, due to its
proximity to the International Date Line.
[...more...]
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11. Millennial cult misery 'will fill therapy clinics'
The Times, May 24, 1999
http://www.the-times.co.uk/cgi-bin/BackIssue?2488675
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Therapists and counsellors expect a surge in clients after the dawn of
the new millennium. As prophecies of doom and upheaval - such as the
emergence of a world ruler, the end of commerce or the second coming of
Christ - fail to materialise, they believe that many disillusioned cult
members will turn to them for help.

Yvonne Walsh, a counselling psychologist at City University in London,
said that psychologists should prepare themselves by learning to
recognise the signs of cult activity.
(...)

"Socialisation techniques within cults can loosen links with the
outside world." But counsellors did not have to worry about
"deprogramming" cult followers who had been "brainwashed", she said.

"Brainwashing is extremely rare and tends only to happen in
totalitarian situations. Most people who have been involved with cults
have been socialised or culturally assimilated into certain ways of
life and it is this that can lead to problems later when they return to
the mainstream."
(...)

Cults also controlled the way people thought by a technique called
"loading the language", which gives new meaning to ordinary words. In
one cult called The Family, for example, "roman" means "police".
[...more...]
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12. Former televangelist calls Y2K a picnic compared to coming apocalypse
Sacramento Bee, May 24, 1999
http://www.sacbee.com/news/calreport/calrep_story.cgi?N175.HTML
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Disgraced ex-televangelist Jim Bakker warned believers of a
fast-approaching apocalypse, predicting an asteroid will crash into
Earth and block out the sun and moon.

"Y2K is going to be a Sunday picnic compared to what else is going to
happen. All I say is don't fall in love with this world," Bakker told
an soverflowing crowd Sunday at the Solid Rock Christian Center.
[...more...]
Back To Top


13. Y2K refugees are heading for the hills of Floyd County
Union Tribune, May 22, 1999
http://www.uniontrib.com/news/uniontrib/sat/index.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) Dozens of Y2K refugees have moved to Floyd County, a sparsely
populated area of the Blue Ridge Mountains about 230 miles southwest of
Richmond that has welcomed social dropouts for generations, including
the hippies of the '60s and the New Agers of the '90s.
(...)

Truitt, 68, moved in before the Y2K scare but has since become the
county's point man for the Cassandra Project, a nationwide grass-roots
clearinghouse for Y2K preparedness. In Greek mythology, Cassandra had
the gift of prophecy, but her warnings of misfortune were always
disbelieved.
(...)

Some 1960s arrivals were lured by advertisements in Mother Earth News,
others by the psychic visions of Edgar Cayce, who said Floyd County
would be one of the few safe places in the event of nuclear war. Now
it's the Internet that is drawing people.
[...more...]
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14. Expert on apocalyptic beliefs fear Branch Davidians to repeat tragedy
FACTNet, May 21, 1999
http://www.factnet.org/
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Theologian Ken Newport has been studying groups that espouse
predictions of an impending apocalypse.
(...)

The difference between earlier groups and the Branch Davidians, Newport
says, is that the Davidians not only believe the apocalypse is coming,
but also that it is their duty to provoke it.
(...)

Newport has been studying materials recently produced by the successors
of David Koresh who call themselves Students of the Seven Seals, some
of whom are serving jail sentences. Newport believes they are preparing
to create another Waco between now and August 6, which they believe is
doomsday.
[...more...]
Back To Top


15. Scientology Book an Open Issue
Wired, May 25, 1999
http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/19869.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

A book removed from Amazon's site because of alleged legal troubles is
now among the top 150 books sold by the online bookstore.
The book, a controversial exposé of the Church of Scientologyoffsite,
languished deep in Amazon's list of 4.5 million titles before being
dropped in February. A Wired News report on that decision prompted
Amazon to reinstate the book late last week.
(...)

Amazon spokesperson Lizzie Allen said the company dropped the book
after being contacted by representatives of Margaret Ishobel Hodkin of
the United Kingdom. Hodkin successfully sued the book's author for
defamation in 1995 over a single paragraph in the book that referred to
her.
(...)

But Allen said that the legal issues have still not been resolved.
Hodkin's attorneys are still trying to have the book removed, and
advocates in the UK argue that the book can be legally sold there.
(...)

After the 1995 injunction, Hodkins' attorneys wrote to bookstores and
libraries to enforce the ruling. Though Scientology representatives
told Wired News it was not affiliated with the defamation lawsuit,
those letters, addressed to Hodkins' attorneys, appear on a Scientology
Web site.
[...more...]
Back To Top

* Note: The Scientology web site referred to is
http://www.parishioners.org/ReligiousExperts/atack1.htmoffsite The site
contains hate material reminiscent of similar postings masquerading
as "press releases" on the Scientology-operated CAN site -
and typical of the way Scientology deals with its critics. See
"Dead Agent" in the ARS Acronym/Terminology FAQ:
http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~av282/terms.htmoffsite


16. Danger from Scientology organization apparently overestimated for years
Neue Westfaelischen (Germany), May 21, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
http://www.lermanet.com/cisar/990521f.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) In contrast the danger from the Scientology organization appears
to have overestimated for years. While it hangs onto its ideological
endeavors against democracy and human rights, it does not have,
according to Constitutional Security, 30,000 people nationwide, but
only about five to six thousand members, 400 of those in
Nordrhein-Westfalen. The financial condition of Scientology is also
said to be worse than was presumed.
[...more...]
Back To Top


17. "Dianetics," No. 1 All-Time Self-Help Bestseller, Now Released in Over 50 Languages
Excite, May 20, 1999 (Press Release)
http://news.excite.com/news/bw/990520/dianetics-translations
(Story no longer online? Read this)

L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" --
the No. 1 bestselling self-help book of the 20th Century, with over 18
million copies sold throughout the world -- was just made available in
over 50 languages, marking the 49th anniversary this month of the
book's original landmark publication with the simultaneous release of
the book in 30 new languages.
(...)

A massive, multiple translation project will also be launched this
spring for four other bestselling L. Ron Hubbard self-improvement
titles.
[...more...]
Back To Top


18. More people in KC finding way to Scientology's door
Kansas City Star, May 22, 1999
http://www.kcstar.com/item/pages/religion.pat,fyi/30daffec.520,.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) So many people, in fact, that the Kansas City church won an award
in March for being the fastest-growing Scientology church in the
country. The prize was given in Clearwater, Fla., at an international
Scientology birthday anniversary celebration of church founder L. Ron
Hubbard. The only four other expansion awards went to overseas
churches.
(...)

The Rev. Heber Jentzsch, international church president, credits the
growth to Kittinger, who has overseen the training of new ministers,
who are helping more people. He said Scientology is expanding each
year, with more than 600,000 joining the church last year, one-third of
whom are in the United States.

Kittinger said another local factor is that Scientologists are becoming
more involved in community activities and giving an increased number of
lectures throughout the city. Most recently a group of volunteer
ministers went to Oklahoma to help with disaster relief after the
recent tornado.

In addition the local group is benefiting from national public
relations efforts, such as the widespread distribution of a revised
What is Scientology? book, advertising campaigns on television,
billboards, buses and the Internet plus endorsements from celebrities
like John Travolta and Kirstie Alley, Kittinger said.
(...)

The local church leaders do not think their group has been adversely
affected by years of controversy surrounding Scientology. Ex-members,
family of church members, anti-cult groups, the media and others have
harshly criticized the church for being controlling, for its
denouncement of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs, for costly training
and intimidating its critics. The group has been the object of numerous
litigations and investigations.

Kittinger thinks a lot of the controversy is due to a lack of
understanding of Scientology. All new religions have gone through this,
she said, adding that Christianity went through a period of
persecution.
[...more...]
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19. Former Victory Church packs up
Grand Forks Herald, May 23, 1999
http://www.northscape.com/news/docs/0523/2624CF5.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) The church gained notoriety in March 1994, when several
ex-members brought in a cult expert and denounced the Julisons as
abusive and cult-like leaders. The Julisons held their own seminar
shortly after, bringing in their own cult expert, who said the Julisons
practiced basic Christianity and that ex-members were practicing
religious intolerance.

In a dramatic moment, while he entered the church for his seminar, Ed
Julison was served with a civil lawsuit. Seven ex-members sued the
Julisons for more than $50,000, alleging emotional, psychological and
spiritual abuse. The suit was dropped a year later.
(...)

In July 1994, the church was featured on the Oprah Winfrey television
show, in a segment titled, "Are you in a cult and don't know it?"
(...)

On the show, Brad and Karlene Croy of Grand Forks told their tale of
having Karlene "deprogrammed" by cult expert Rick Ross.
[...more...]
Back To Top


20. Africa's sisters rip MOVE
Philadelphia Daily News, May 14, 1999
http://www.phillynews.com/daily_news/99/May/14/local/MOVE14.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

On the 14th anniversary yesterday of the MOVE debacle, two sisters of
the late John Africa, founder of MOVE, took to the streets to denounce
a MOVE member and the group's support for cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
(...)

But a faxed statement allegedly authored by the MOVE organization
dismissed the Africas' protest, claiming that if the sisters "cared
anything at all about justice, MOVE, John Africa or Mumia, they would
be attacking the government, attacking the cops, Lynne Abraham, Ed
Rendell, Tom Ridge - not MOVE." The fax called Louise and LaVerne
Africa "two traitorous demons."
[...more...]
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21. Destroying our last vestige of sanity
WorldNetDaily, May 18, 1999 (Opinion)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/bluesky_dougherty_com/19990518_xcjdo_destroying.shtml
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) If these witches and warlocks, who call themselves Wiccans, are
serious about their "religion," why isn't the Pentagon and the Clinton
administration calling them "fanatics" and preventing them from living
a free and normal life? Or is that a term reserved only for Christiansoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
who fervently believe in their faith?
(...)

For example, isn't this the same administration that forced the
military to weed out so-called white supremacists and neo-nazis just a
few years ago (again, rightly so) -- even to the point of mandating the
removal of "offensive" and "divisive" tattoos? How, then, do you
justify permitting witchcraft -- the "study" and worship of Satan, in
and of itself evil and devoid of all traditional concern for life as we
know it -- but not permit neo-nazis to practice their beliefs? What
would the army have said if the neo-nazis claimed they were merely
practicing their own brand of religion? Would Gen. Hugh Shelton have
said, 'OK?'
[...more...]
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22. No Wiccan haters here, just a good Catholic boy
WorldNetDaily, May 18, 1999 (Opinion)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/bluesky_dougherty_com/19990519_xcjdo_no_wiccan_.shtml
(Story no longer online? Read this)

I received quite a number of e-mails in response to an article I wrote
denouncing the Pentagon's official recognition of witches -- or
Wiccans, if you prefer -- in the army.
(...)

First of all, yes -- Pagans say they don't worship Satan. But Wiccans
also don't acknowledge Satan because they don't acknowledge the
Christianity that explains who and what Satan is. Consequently, Pagansoffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]
wouldn't necessarily know that Satan works in just this way -- to
deceive those who do not believe in Christ. And the Lord of Darkness
takes everyone he can get, regardless of how he has to do it.
(...)

What I see in the "Wiccan faith" is not so much religion, but more a
cultist scientology based loosely on established religious faiths such
as Buddhism. And my faith teaches me that's wrong, like it or not.
(...)

For the record, I am also a jealous guardian of Catholicism and
Christianity in general because until a few years ago, I had mistakenly
left God and Jesus Christ out of my everyday life. When I became a
convert and seriously began to practice my faith, my life changed (and
continues to change) in ways you cannot imagine. These are real,
tangible changes -- not limited to "visions" or "prophesies" so many
non-believers tend to cite.
[...more...]
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23. Witchful thinking
WorldNetDaily, May 19, 1999 (Opinion)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/bluesky_excomm/19990519_xex_witchful_thi.shtml
(Story no longer online? Read this)

All the flack that my WorldNetDaily colleague, Jon Dougherty, caught
for his article yesterday on Wicca reminds me of a column by author
Michael Kilian of the Chicago Tribune about the cultural resurgence of
witchcraft.
(...)

Without addressing the dark side of witchcraft and goddess
spirituality, adherents are really only confessing their desire to
possess a generic New Age faith -- just people creating whatever
religious tradition suits their sensibilities and makes them feel good.
I find no reason for enthusiasm there. These days, everyone does that.
So what? Big deal.
[...more...]
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24. Phipps responds to heresy claim
Calgary Herald (Canada), May 20, 1999
http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/stories/990520/2623222.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

The spiritual leader of the United Church of Canada has sent a letter
of reassurance to the denomination's governing body in Calgary
attesting to his faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God.

Right Rev. Bill Phipps, a minister on leave from Calgary's Scarboro
United Church while serving as church moderator, has sent a half-page
letter responding to an accusation of heresy brought against him in
April by Bashaw minister Rev. Ted Wigglesworth.

In his first official response, Phipps says in a letter dated May 14
that "I wish to make clear to Calgary presbytery that I believe that
Jesus is the word made flesh, the son of God, God with us, and is the
second person in the Trinity, which continues to be, for me, a
significant expression of Christian faith and theology."
(...)

Wigglesworth said Wednesday that he is unsure if Phipps' letter will
change anything.
(...)

"In terms of my own understanding, what he said in the letter (to a
Toronto newspaper in April) is that Jesus is not God," Wigglesworth
said. "If Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, then Jesus is God.
Because the Trinity talks about the three aspects or persona of God. So
one (statement) is a total contradiction of the other."
(...)

The Bashaw minister alleges Phipps has been making theologically false
statements in public since 1997. In particular, Wigglesworth focused on
a letter to the National Post in which Phipps said: "I never said Jesus
was not the Son of God: rather I said Jesus was not God. There is a
world of difference between these two statements. . . ."

To which Wigglesworth responded in his complaint: "If Jesus is not God,
then I am worshipping another human being and that is idolatry."
[...more...]
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25. Dalai Lama Seeks Peace Via Music
Infobeat, May 17, 1999
http://www.infobeat.com/stories/cgi/story.cgi?id=2559584777-225
(Story no longer online? Read this)

The Dalai Lama said Monday that he hopes to promote peace through
sacred music in a series of concerts around the world.
(...)

The music festival is aimed at uniting people of different
nationalities, religions and cultures, he said.
[...more...]
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26. Guru to the world
The Age (Australia), May 25, 1999
http://www.theage.com.au/daily/990525/news/news27.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) The Dalai Lama must be striking a chord. Thousands are prepared
to go half-way round the world to hear him speak.

He explains that he is not trying to convert the West to Buddhism.
``Glenn Hoddle (the British football manager) caused real problems by
saying that the disabled are paying off bad karma. From the Buddhist
viewpoint, he is correct. But if you live in a Christian country, you
should keep these views to yourself. It is difficult to have a
mish-mash of religions. It may be better to remain Christian, but have
an understanding of other religions.''
[...more...]
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27. 'All that was, is and will be is in the Torah'
Jerusalem Post, May 20, 1999
http://www.jpost.com/Features/Article-0.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) A group of Orthodox scientists and computer experts, sure the
Torah contains hidden codes, has gotten together to set standards for
investigating them.
(...)

So, when God looked inside the Torah, what did He see? Was there some
infinite DNA code from which He would fashion His universe? More
importantly, can we see it too - or at least a hint of it?

Some people think we can, by analyzing the 304,805 letters in the Five
Books of Moses. Once all the spaces between the letters have been
eliminated, seemingly random occurrences of words and letters appear at
specified intervals known as Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS).
(...)

But the skeptics haven't deterred the believers, who continue to refine
their method of experimentation so that their research and results will
stand up to the most rigorous scientific tests.

IT WAS in this spirit that a new group, the International Torah Code
Society, held its first international congress last week in Jerusalem
in order to set standards for investigating the existence of codes in
the Torah.

It was a small gathering - fewer than 20 people - but an impressive
one, including two men who first published the theory of Torah codes in
a scientific journal a decade ago: Prof. Eliahu Rips of the Hebrew
University, a renowned authority on the mathematics of quantum physics,
and physicist and computer specialist Doron Witztum.
(...)

THAT THE members of this believing society are just as critical of
suppositions as any of their opponents was made clear following the
presentation of one startling paper on the Ark of the Covenant.
(...)

But according to Barry Roffman, who worked for the US Coast Guard for
23 years as a disaster-response planner, a search of the Torah via ELS
has revealed to him the longitude/latitude coordinates of the Ark's
final resting place: 31 degrees 16 minutes north, 33 degrees four
minutes east, which places it in the Mediterranean 4.6 km. north of the
Egyptian coast.
(...)

As convincing as Roffman sounded in his 40-minute presentation, the
members of the Torah Code Society would have none of it, denouncing in
no uncertain terms the methodology of Roffman's search, as well as his
conclusions.
(...)

To those skeptics who disbelieve, Gans says he would say: "Evaluate the
evidence for yourself, and if you don't come to the same conclusion as
I did, that's your prerogative. You don't want to believe in it, you
don't have to believe in it.

"As far as I have heard, although people at the NSA who have heard
about my work are quite skeptical about it, no one has made fun of it,
because they know my reputation. "If I'm involved in it, they know it
can't be nonsense. It might be wrong, but it can't be nonsense."
[...more...]
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28. Federal judge finds school violated religious rights
San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 1999
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/1999/05/21/national1426EDT0639.DTL
(Story no longer online? Read this)

A federal judge ruled Friday that a school district violated the
religious rights of three Catholic families by having youngsters cut
out elephant-head images of a Hindu god, make toothpick ``worry dolls''
and build an altar for an Earth Day liturgy.

U.S. District Judge Charles Brieant ordered the Bedford Central school
district to stop the activities and give clear instructions to teachers
about Supreme Court standards for the separation of church and state.
(...)

The case began in 1995, when students in the well-to-do Westchester
County district began playing the strategy card game Magic: The
Gathering. Some parents complained that the cards, bearing images
ranging from fairies to a woman about to be sacrificed, were satanic.

The two-week trial, which wrapped up in March, brought a parade of
witnesses, including a yogi-numerologist, a psychic-telepath and a
mineralogist who denied that crystals have special powers.

Brieant rejected the families' complaints about yoga lessons, cemetery
visits and the use of the card game. But he said he found ``subtle
coercive pressure to engage in the Hindu religion'' when a third-grade
teacher, during a lesson about India, had her pupils make
construction-paper cutouts of elephant heads after reading a story
about Ganesha, an elephant-headed Hindu god.
[...more...]
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29. Utah Christians Unite Today in March for Jesus
Salt Lake Tribune, May 22, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/1999/may/05221999/religion/107309.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

At the heart of Utah's first "March for Jesus" event in three years is
a call for Christians of all traditions to step over denominational
lines
to join hands in prayer today.
(...)

While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not endorsed
the event, individual Mormons have expressed interest in participating
-- and are welcome to do so, she said.

"Everyone who loves Jesus is welcome to march and publicly give him
praise," Fletcher said. "The March for Jesus unites believers,
regardless of color, race or denominations, into the Body of Christ.
The names on the church buildings don't mean a thing."
[...more...]
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30. Mormons launch online genealogy database
CNet, May 24, 1999
http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,0-36955,00.html?st.ne.140.head
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Family history research, which ranks among the Internet's most popular
activities along with sports, finance, and entertainment, got a big
boost today when the Mormon Church unveiled a coveted online database
of 400 million names.

The church, which encourages members to trace ancestors as a religious
obligation, plans to publish a total of 600 million names by year end
on its new FamilySearch site, spokesman Richard Turley said.
(...)

"We believe that family relationships can be eternal, and by searching
out our ancestors, we can begin to better understand who we are and
what we may become," Christofferson said of the Mormon Church, which
has 10.4 million members worldwide.
[...more...]
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31. Genealogy site is a hit — 7 million times a day
Deseret News, May 24, 1999
http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/1,1249,100003045,00.html?
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) "Tests have already shown that www.familysearch.orgoffsite may become
one of the most popular sites on the Internet. It is already racking up
millions of hits a day during its testing period," said an announcement
from the church. A separate announcement listed traffic at the site at
up to seven million hits per day.
[...more...]
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32. Ground Broken for Monument at Site of Mountain Meadow Massacre
Salt Lake Tribune, May 22, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/1999/may/05221999/utah/107409.htm
(Story no longer online? Read this)

[Mormonism]
A rock wall that for nearly 67 years surrounded the grave sites of 36
of the 120 victims killed in the 1857 massacre at Mountain Meadow has
been removed as part of groundbreaking ceremonies for a new monument.
[...more...]
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33. Nauvoo's prospects on rise with Mormons' temple plans
Chicago Tribune, May 24, 1999
http://chicagotribune.com/version1/article/0,1575,SAV-9905240166,00.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

The leading attraction in this riverfront town of 1,200 is a
meticulously landscaped, historically significant, theologically
momentous hole in the ground.
(...)

Now, following a surprise Easter announcement, this grassy plot is
fueling excited speculation throughout one of the world's
fastest-growing churches: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints
plans to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple, the monumental limestone
edifice that briefly towered over a 19th Century theocracy on the banks
of the Mississippi.
(...)

By the time the massive new temple throws its shadow over the town's
current tallest structure, the water tower, church leaders anticipate
seeing as many as 1 million visitors a year.
(...)

Colleen Ralson, a former Mormon who became a Baptist, came to Nauvoo
from Houston in 1987 for the sole purpose of rebutting Mormon doctrine
and preaching her brand of Christianity. She operates the one-woman
Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center.

"I'll just have more opportunity to witness to the Lord," she said.
"This place will be like a Mecca for Mormons."
[...more...]
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34. United States: Islam Growing, But Subject To Misperceptions
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 17, 1999
http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/1999/05/F.RU.990517135956.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States and today
includes an estimated six to eight million adherents. That means that
American Muslims are well on the way to becoming the country's largest
non-Christian denomination. But even as the number of Muslims in
America increases, analysts say that Islam is widely misunderstood in
the country, where many continue to view it as a foreign religion.
[...more...]
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=== Noted

35. Focus on the Family groups dreads the day its founder leaves
Star-Telegram, May 19, 1999
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/doc/1047/1:RELIGION42/1:RELIGION42051999.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(...) One thing has long been recognized and dreaded at the
headquarters of Focus on the Family, however: James Dobson is not going
to be around forever.
(...)

Once he leaves, the ministry likely would be led by two people -- a
chief executive officer and a "chief articulator of the spoken and
written word" -- roles now filled by Dobson.
(...)

The ideal scenario, the plan says, is to find in the next three years a
candidate for that job who would become an understudy of sorts to
Dobson. Paul Hetrick, a Focus spokesman, said no one is being groomed
for either position.
[...more...]
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36. Being a Skeptic Doesn't Take a Leap of Faith
Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1999
http://www.latimes.com/excite/990525/t000046824.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

(... ) While many probably took advantage of Saturday morning's
clouds to sleep in, members of the Pasadena-based Skeptics Society met
at Caltech to ponder these and other heady questions at its annual
conference.

The society of scholars, scientists, historians, magicians and teachers
was founded in 1992 by Glendale Community College professor Michael
Shermer
to investigate claims about a variety of theories including
creationism, cults, religion, Holocaust revisionism, conspiracy
theories
, mass hysteria, life after death, urban myths and more.
(...)

Shermer, the director of the Skeptics Society, said he used to be a
born-again Christian. Now, he said, he rejoices in the beauty of life.
[...more...]
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37. Religion in the workplace: a growing legal issue
San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 1999
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/
1999/05/21/national0114EDT0441.DTL
(Story no longer online? Read this)

[USA]
(...) A growing number of worshippers are pursuing workplace
complaints: among them, Muslim women who refuse to remove head-scarves
at work; evangelical Christians who bring religious objects to the
office; and Jews who oppose working on the Sabbath.

Jean Kamp, an attorney in the EEOC's Chicago office, says it's unclear
to what extent an employer has to accommodate an employee's religious
beliefs, and so the agency is giving priority to such cases in hopes
the courts will provide answers.
[...more...]
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=== The Church Around The Corneroffsite
[Story no longer online? Read this]

38. Tavern owner riled at new church next door
CNews, May 24, 1999
http://www.canoe.com/CNEWSHeyMartha9905/21_tavern.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)

Usually, it's the church that complains about the bar next door.

In Harmar Township, it's the other way around.

The owner of The Blue Haven Lounge said he wants township supervisors
to stop plans to build a Jehovah's Witnesses hall in order to prevent
complaints later about his business.

"It's really strange that Pennsylvania has a law prohibiting a bar
from being built next to a church, but there is nothing to stop a
church from being built next to a bar," owner Jerry Riscoe told
supervisors Wednesday.

Riscoe said his bar features a number of activities that he fears
could stir up trouble with Jehovah's Witnesses.
[...more...]

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