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Religion Items In The News

June 16, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 91)

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

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 - June 16, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 91)

=== Main
1. Asahara said unaware of Kariya scheme (Aum Shinrikyo)
2. Cultist says Inoue lied about guru (Aum Shinrikyo)
3. AUM's computer firms bankrolling cult
4. 4 Aum facilities searched after arrest
5. Police confiscate Aum incentive awards
6. China warns sect not to stir up trouble (Falun Gong)
7. Young Victims of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
8. Boot Camps for Wayward Youths Offer Hope, Help, Hell (Teen Help)
9. Officials worry about possible upsurge in Jerusalem Syndrome
10. Scientologists' copyright suit shapes Net liability
11. 'John Doe' Suits Threaten Internet Users' Anonymity (Scientology;
12. First Basel, now Buchs (Scientology)
13. Libertarian.net (Earthlink/Scientology)
14. Shooting suspect alleges plot
15. 3 Militia Members Sentenced in Mich.
16. French court orders destruction of cult statue (Mandarom)
17. Family defends fatal decision to block transfusion (Jehovah's
18. Keeping noses in Bible, eyes on what's ahead (Jehovah's Witnesses)
19. RIGHTS: Witnesses paved way for other faiths (Jehovah's Witnesses)
20. Religious groups urge Christians not to join Army until witchcraft
rituals banned
21. Santeria stirs suspicions — and belief
22. Signs of Satan
23. Rituals feed on violence (Satanism)
24. Lawyer Argues Polygamy Protected
25. Mormons stockpile, but not for Y2K
26. Questioning the Relevance of the Feng Shui Column
27. Gathering Revives Ways of Indians
28. Look who's talking . . . tentatively (Islam)
29. Evolution debate taking spotlight in Kansas
30. Earth Day rites at school draw criticism
31. In river, ritual comes to life (Mandaeans)
32. S.F. group's interfaith meeting draws Dalai Lama to Jerusalem
33. 'Gender-accurate' Bible stirs debate
34. Christians set up camp on site of Rajneeshpuram

=== Noted
35. Revival noisy and full of humor (Rodney Howard-Browne)
36. The Truth is out there (Joe Firmage)
37. Spirituality is surging in schools

=== Internet
38. High-Tech Temple (Internet evangelism)
39. Web becomes a virtual 'spiritual supermarket'
40. Online religion sites can bridge differences

=== Books
41. A Summation of Cutting-Edge Bible Scholarship (Revisionism)
42. Deseret Book adds brand, reorganizes

=== The Church Around The Corner
43. Sinners to be offered absolution by phone

=== Main

1. Asahara said unaware of Kariya scheme
Japan Times, June 11, 1999
An Aum Shinrikyo member testifying as a witness for cult founder Shoko
Asahara's defense said on Friday that the alleged drugging-killing of a
Tokyo notary public in 1995 was not done on the orders of the guru, but
on a suggestion made by late senior cultist Hideo Murai. It is the
first testimony in Asahara's trial to contradict that he was behind the

Noboru Nakamura, 32, told the Tokyo District Court that Asahara became
angry when he was informed that Kiyoshi Kariya, a brother of a follower
who was missing at the time, was dead. But when Nakamura and two senior
cultists, Yoshihiro Inoue and Tomomasa Nakagawa, asked who should
incinerate Kariya's body, Asahara ordered the three to take care of the
job, he said.

Although expressing continued faith in Asahara and his teachings,
Nakamura said he was sorry for what he and the cult did to the victims,
and added that he was prepared to accept heavy punishment

2. Cultist says Inoue lied about guru
Japan Times, June 10, 1999
An Aum Shinrikyo senior cultist on Thursday accused another former
follower of giving false evidence in the alleged drugging-killing of a
Tokyo notary public in February 1995.

Yoshihiro Inoue, who left the cult after his arrest, testified in a
trial hearing for Aum founder Shoko Asahara, that the guru ordered
other cultists to abduct and drug Kiyoshi Kariya. Asahara gave them
detailed roles in a meeting the day before the alleged abduction, Inoue

But Noboru Nakamura, 32, who said he is a faithful follower of Asahara,
told the Tokyo District Court that the cult leader did not order the
abduction of Kariya.

3. AUM's computer firms bankrolling cult
Mainichi Daily News, June 10, 1999
Two AUM Shinrikyo front companies have served as the hub of the cult's
computer sales network, which pumps billions of yen into the group's
coffers, police discovered on Wednesday.

This was the first time that tax authorities have conducted an
inspection of the doomsday cult, the move aimed at developing a
comprehensive financial picture of the organization.

The tax authorities are further expected to inspect 11 other companies
that they believe are related to AUM, even though the cult maintains
that it has only one affiliated company.

At a news conference on June 1, Hiroshi Araki, deputy head of the
cult's public relations department, said, "There is only one
cult-affiliated company, which holds seminars and other events."

4. 4 Aum facilities searched after arrest
Daily Yomiuri, June 11, 1999
Police searched four locations in connection with the case of a
33-year-old Aum Supreme Truth cult member who was arrested on suspicion
of trespassing in Nakahara Ward, Kawasaki, on Tuesday.

5. Police confiscate Aum incentive awards
Daily Yomiuri, June 15, 1999
Police have seized a series of commemorative plates with the words
"monthly relief activity bronze award" printed on them and a number of
testimonial awards from the Tokyo headquarters of the Aum Supreme Truth
cult in Toshima Ward.

The seizure was made on Monday after an alleged intrusion into an
apartment building by a cult member distributing pamphlets in Bunkyo
Ward, Tokyo.

The Metropolitan Police Department's Public Security Bureau believes
that the cult used the commendations to encourage members to compete
with each other to boost their productivity and make the organization

6. China warns sect not to stir up trouble
China's government has stepped up pressure on a popular exercise and
meditation group, warning members that they are banned from holding
large gatherings that could upset social stability.

The warning demonstrated the suspicion with which Communist Party
leaders have viewed the Falun Gong group since thousands of its
members surrounded the leadership's compound in Beijing in a silent
protest April 25.

7. Young Victims of Krishna Consciousness
Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1999
Hare Krishnas with shaved heads and saffron robes still preach "God
consciousness" on the streets and in temples. But in private talks and
on public Web sites, many accuse their fellow devotees of the most
godless of crimes. After surviving scandals involving drug and weapons
charges against some leaders, the movement is in crisis again. This
time the issue is child abuse.

For at least a decade, current and ex-devotees claim, leaders of the
International Society of Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON, knowingly
permitted suspected sex offenders to work among 2,000 children in its
boarding schools. Now a law firm that has won millions from the
Catholic Church is taking their case.

8. Boot Camps for Wayward Youths Offer Hope, Help, Hell
Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1999
(...) Those who have been in the program long enough to be allowed to
speak to outsiders claim a commitment to turning their lives around, to
positive and constructive action. Their families often express joy and

But the methods used to achieve that conversion are criticized by some
former participants in the program and by some families who say it
involves coercion, brainwashing and, in some cases, physical abuse.

"Desperate situations need desperate solutions," he adds.

That could be the motto for the World Wide Assn. of Specialty
Schools, a nonprofit group in LaVerkin, Utah, also known as Teen Help.

The program employs a kind of boot-camp method of "behavior
modification" that includes spare living conditions, a strict code of
conduct and swift punishment for violating that code. The drastic
approach has not been accepted by everyone.

Two associated schools, in Cancun, Mexico, and in the Czech
Republic, have been shut down by authorities amid allegations of abuse.
Some parents, believing their children were treated too harshly and
subjected to unsafe and unhealthy living conditions, are denouncing the

Donna Burke, a Houston real estate agent, said her two teenage sons
were mistreated at Tranquillity Bay's $30,000-a-year program and turned
into "Stepford children."

She fought to have them returned home, and they finally were, in late
1998. Burke's boys have been reluctant to speak about their experience.
They are, however, perfectly behaved. "There's no lip, no back talk, no
arguing," she said. "All of those things are nice, but I want normal
kids. I don't want my kids doing drugs, but I don't want robots. I got
back two strangers."

9. Officials worry about possible upsurge in Jerusalem Syndrome
CNN, June 14, 1999
Jerusalem Syndrome strikes with little warning: After a few days in the
holy city, seemingly normal pilgrims imagine they are biblical figures,
sing psalms at the top of their lungs, preach to passers-by or dress up
in hotel bedsheets.

Jerusalem clergymen and officials came together Monday to discuss ways
to spot and deal with the mental illness, which one psychiatrist says
may strike as many as one in 100 pilgrims and disrupt Jesus' 2000th
birthday celebrations. About 4 million Christian pilgrims are expected
to visit Israel and the Palestinian areas in 2000.

The Jerusalem mental health commissioner, Dr. Yair Barel, who first
diagnosed Jerusalem Syndrome, predicted about 40,000 millennium
pilgrims might suffer from religious delusions. Of those, some 600 to
800 pilgrims may need to be hospitalized and some may become dangerous,
Barel said.

10. Scientologists' copyright suit shapes Net liability
Linking to a site that contains material that infringes someone's
copyright also is an infringement, a Dutch court ruled today, according
to the Church of Scientology, the plaintiff in the case.

The decision appears to be the first time a court has ruled on the
legal status of hyperlinking and could expose Dutch and multinational
Internet publishers to new liability for a practice that is rampant on
the Internet.

The Church of Scientology, whose aggressive lawsuits policing its
copyrights have helped forge new law on the Net, also got an order from
the court requiring an Internet service provider to take down the
infringing material.

* Note: This demonstrates the journalistic danger of listening to
Scientologists' spin-doctoring. The linking issue could have
serious implications, but only for those who willfully and knowingly
link - directly - to material *they know to be in violation of
copyright.* What the Church of Scientology failed to point out

a) that material in violation of CoS copyright had already been
removed from Karin Spaink's site (right after the CoS asked
for it to be removed, before their first lawsuit)
b) the court decided that certain CoS scriptures are published
works from which others can quote under the fair use clause.
c) the court therefore decided - *for the second time* - that Karin
Spaink's current site, complete with OT quotations and material
from the Stephen Fishman Affidavit is *legal.*

Those last two items have far more serious implications for the
CoS than the first, though controversial item, has for others.

* The page that started it all:

The Dutch text of the court order is online. English translation
will follow.

11. 'John Doe' Suits Threaten Internet Users' Anonymity
Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1999
On the Internet, the joke goes, nobody knows you're a dog.
But the anonymity that has emboldened countless Internet users to post
their opinions on everything from stocks to religious cults is
increasingly being punctured by a simple legal maneuver.

Publicly traded companies and other targets of such postings are
filing a surging number of "John Doe" lawsuits that enable them to
subpoena the identities of their online critics from America Online,
Yahoo and other Internet firms.

Companies that file the "John Doe" suits say the tactic is one of their
few weapons against what they consider digital defamation. It seems to
be working, often forcing online critics to slink away from message
boards and in some cases exposing critics within the companies
themselves who subsequently leave or are fired.

But the growing volume of these suits--and the subsequent dropping of
them in some cases after identities have been disclosed--makes some
experts fear that the legal process is being abused by organizations
seeking only to "out" online foes.

The use of the legal tactic is also spreading beyond the corporate
world. A law firm affiliated with the Church of Scientology, for
example, last week compelled AT&T's Internet service to reveal the name
of a subscriber who had been critical of the church in an online

Bridge Publications Inc., which publishes literature for the Church
of Scientology, recently took advantage of a federal law enacted last
year--the Digital Millennium Copyright Act--that allows subpoenas to be
issued even without the filing of a suit in cases involving potential
copyright infringement.

12. First Basel, now Buchs
Pedestrians in Buchs may no longer be confronted by Scientology members
on public ground. The District Council based its decision on a criminal
code of the Basel City Canton. The new Basel criminal code has been in
force since last November. An open objection by Scientology before the
federal court cannot serve as a delaying tactic, according to court

13. Libertarian.net
Forbes, June 14, 1999
(...) He seems to relish taking jabs at AOL. "If EarthLink is the Rebel
Empire, then AOL is the Borg," he rails, referring to the centrally
controlled villains in Star Trek. "Communism versus capitalism. A
closed, vertically integrated society where they watch everything."

Is there not a paradox in Dayton's association with Scientology, a
pseudoreligion that keeps an autocratic grip on its members and its
holy writings? Yes and no. The celebrity-studded church is also famous
for its run-ins with the government. Dayton doesn't see a connection to
his business.

14. Shooting suspect alleges plot
The Arizona Republic, June 16, 1999
A shooting suspect arrested at a convenience store said Tuesday that he
recognized the two men he admits he fired at Monday night as members of
a nationwide religious cult that continually harasses him, following
him around the city and spiking his coffee with poison.

Venhaus said during a jailhouse interview Tuesday afternoon that the
cult has stalked him for months, calling him a child molester and
murderer. He demanded blood and urine tests to prove he's been slipped
mercury in his Circle K coffee by a group he says is called Religious
Warriors and works with police and the Sheriff's Office.

Police discredit his account.

15. 3 Militia Members Sentenced in Mich.
Las Vegas Sun, June 10, 1999
A militia member accused of plotting to kill government officials and
commit terrorist attacks in western Michigan has been sentenced to 55
years in prison Thursday. Randy Graham, 42, had been convicted of
conspiracy and of growing marijuana to bankroll the conspiracy.

Prosecutors said he and two other members of a group called the North
American Militia plotted to assassinate Gov. John Engler, Sen. Carl
Levin and federal judges. They also allegedly schemed to blow up the
federal building in Battle Creek and the Internal Revenue Service
building in Portage.

16. French court orders destruction of cult statue
AP, June 16 ,1999
[No URL yet]
A French court on Tuesday upheld a decision ordering destruction of a
giant statue dedicated to Gilbert Bourdin, a self-proclaimed messiah
and cult leader who died last year.

Bourdin at times referred to himself as the ``Cosmic Christ'' and at
others as ``Hamsah Manara,'' which means ``god among men'' in Sanskrit.

His followers in his Mandarom cult had put up a 30 meter (yard) statue
near Bourdin's mountain retreat in the southern Alps that local
residents found appalling.

17. Family defends fatal decision to block transfusion
The Australian, June 14, 1999
A JEHOVAH'S Witness family mourning the loss of their daughter in a
weekend car crash have defended her decision to refuse a blood
transfusion, saying it was her horrific injuries which caused her

Ms Mortenson had signed a medical directive before the accident
disallowing any blood transfusions to be performed – a decision upheld
by her family and hospital staff.

18. Keeping noses in Bible, eyes on what's ahead
Toledo Blade, June 12, 1999
Let other religious people be anxious about the dawn of a new
millennium. For the Jehovah's Witnesses, there is no significance at
all to the year 2000, or any other year for that matter.

Although the Witnesses are steeped in biblical prophecy, always
studying it for signs of what is to come, they have no particular
concern and no dire predictions about the approaching change from 1999
to 2000.

As students of biblical prophecy, the Jehovah's Witnesses are
interested in the fulfillment of predictions made in the scriptures,
but not with specific times that certain things will happen. Thus,
though they look forward with many Christians to a 1,000-year reign of
believers with Christ, they don't necessarily expect it to occur in a
millennial year.

19. RIGHTS: Witnesses paved way for other faiths
Journal Now, June 12, 1999
It's a nightmare study in religious persecution: The believers were
beaten and jailed, their homes and meeting places were burned, and
their children were sometimes kept out of public schools. And it
happened not in a foreign land, but in America for eight years
beginning in the mid-1930s.

The victims were Jehovah's Witnesses, singled out across the country by
seemingly patriotic thugs simply because the Witnesses wouldn't salute
the American flag.

In 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Gobitases, upholding
compulsory flag saluting in public schools. ''. . . the overwhelming
decision against the Witnesses triggered a wave of persecution,'' David
Reed writes in Blood on the Altar, a critical look at the Witnesses.

The Witnesses, unconventional Christians, have continued to fight for
religious freedom, around the world and in America. Spears said:
''We've tried to establish ourselves legally. I think others have
benefited because of the effects.''

20. Religious groups urge Christians not to join Army until witchcraft
rituals banned
Dallas Morning News, June 11, 1999
Thirteen conservative religious groups called on Christians to boycott
joining or re-enlisting in the U.S. Army until it bans witchcraft on
its posts.

The conservative groups also are lobbying the Army to change its
chaplain handbook, which includes the Church of Satan among sanctioned
religious groups.

Mr. Weyrich called that inclusion "a direct assault on the Christian
faith that generations of American soldiers have fought and died for."

John Machate, coordinator for the Military Pagan Network, told the
Austin American-Statesman that the boycott was more of "a direct attack
on the Constitution of the United States," which includes freedom of
religion in the First Amendment.

21. Santeria stirs suspicions — and belief
Deseret News, June 5, 1999
Climb on the Internet, punch in the word "Santeria" and prepare for a
tidal wave. Santeria (San-ter-EE-a), once a shadowy spiritual
movement, is now a growing American religion found on nearly 2,000 Web

Today, from its Cuban roots, Santeria has branched out to cover other
forms of worship and magic. And the heady mix appeals to young seekers.

Not everyone feels the religion is so benign. With its history of
animal sacrifice and other dark traditions, Santeria — even in
its"kinder and gentler" form — still arouses suspicions. Many, in fact,
feel the religion's rituals are more unhealthy than the illnesses they
claim to cure.

22. Signs of Satan
The Ottawa Sun, June 14, 1999
A QUEBEC fugitive sat calmly watching television when police burst into
his apartment and found a chopped-up body they estimate had been there
for at least two days.

In a bizarre, ritualistic fashion, the victim -- discovered in a
Gatineau flat just before midnight Saturday -- had his arms, legs and
head cut off. His fingernails had been pulled out, and a cup of his
blood had been drunk.

Police believe the body was deliberately cut into six pieces to
represent "666," the symbol of Satan. Sources said it's believed the
killing may have been a botched drug deal.

23. Rituals feed on violence
The Ottawa Sun, June 14, 1999
The brutal tale of murder emerging from Gatineau may be more horrific
in its details, but there have been other incidents with cult-like
overtones in the capital in recent years, a police expert says.

"The rituals will vary, but quite often it will involve the mutilation
of pets and the sacrifice of small animals," said regional police Sgt.
Daniel Dunlop, former head of the hate-crimes squad with a background
in the satanic subculture.

"Kids will sometimes fall into the trappings of satanic rituals but
won't be fully committed to it," he said. "To actually see someone go
the full nine yards is rare."

Dunlop said it's difficult to gauge how widespread Satanism is, but one
estimate suggests at least 5,000 groups are active in the U.S.

24. Lawyer Argues Polygamy Protected
Salt Lake Tribune, June 13, 1999
To Utah polygamists and their defenders, Gov. Mike Leavitt got it right
the first time. During the early days of the past year's incendiary
debate over plural marriage, the governor suggested the Constitution
might protect Utah's polygamists from prosecution.

"But then the ceiling fell in and in no short order it was explained to
him that religious liberty doesn't apply to fundamentalist Mormons and
he's more or less backing up as fast as he can ever since," says Scott
Berry, a Salt Lake attorney who has spent 12 years defending the
polygamists of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

"Religious freedom extends to everybody from Native Americans to Hare
Krishnas," says Berry. "But fundamentalist Mormons don't get it."

That Utah's estimated 30,000 polygamists lack religious liberty is not
just feeling; it's a fact. Not only does Utah's Constitution ban the
practice rooted in early Mormonism, a 109-year-old U.S. Supreme Court
ruling holds that the First Amendment does not apply to the practice of

25. Mormons stockpile, but not for Y2K
Charlotte Observer, June 12, 1999
Dick and Kay Silver have 85 pounds of flour in the pantry, 15,000
pounds of wheat in the basement, 60 pounds of meat in the freezer and
200 gallons of bottled water under the stairs. The Silvers aren't
bracing for Y2K. They're doing what members of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints have been doing for more than a century.

26. Questioning the Relevance of the Feng Shui Column
Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1999 (Letters to the Editor)
(...) A reading of the feng shui column reveals it is superstitious
nonsense. It is no more relevant to a major metropolitan newspaper than
are reports of space alien abductions.

27. Gathering Revives Ways of Indians
Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1999
There is no Bible, no sin, no conversion. At The Gathering, a
nondenominational Native American church that meets each week in Garden
Grove, there is no written Word, no right or wrong, no death or need
for redemption--just truth, accountability and a belief that all is
sacred and connected.

Services offer a blend of Native American tradition with touches
reminiscent of New Age philosophy and an Alcoholics Anonymous

Many in the congregation see The Gathering as a refuge from the
harder discipline of other faiths they learned in youth and abandoned
in adulthood. "It's a good feeling for someone to tell you you're not
a sinner," said 60-year-old Mary Miller, remembering the first time she
heard Little Crow speak in 1989. Miller--who is half Blackfoot
Indian--said she was reared Christian but left after feeling
disconnected. "[This] teaches a different way," she said, "an Indian
way of life that's not Christian."

The tug many Native Americans feel between Christianity and
traditional religious beliefs and customs is an ongoing battle,
according to Little Crow.

28. Look who's talking . . . tentatively
Star-Telegram, June 11, 1999
(...) As the American Muslim community continues to grow at a steady
clip -- current estimates generally range between 3 million and 6
million -- the nation's Christian churches have belatedly recognized
the need to go beyond stereotypes and provide their members with a
fuller understanding of Islam and the lives of ordinary Muslims.

Some churches are acting out of a pluralistic impulse to reach out to
Muslims as important newcomers to the nation's changing religious
scene. The hope is that better understanding will lead to better
relations and avoidance of the cultural clashes that have accompanied
the convergence of Islam and Christianity elsewhere in the world.

For others, the desire is to develop more effective strategies for
evangelizing Muslims. "We want to evangelize. No bones about it," said
R. Phillip Roberts, a Southern Baptist North American Mission Board
official whose denomination is stepping up its production of materials
that explain Islam to its 15.7 million members.

By and large, however, churches in both categories have been slow to
take up the Muslim challenge.

For their part, Muslims are often suspicious of Christian efforts to
open dialogue, fearing it's a mask for evangelization. "That's part of
the legacy of Western colonialization that Muslims carry with them,"
said Haddad. "Besides, sometimes that's what is it. For a lot of
people, dialogue is a way to undermine the other."

29. Evolution debate taking spotlight in Kansas
ABC News, June 10, 1999
In a resurgence of the controversy surrounding the infamous 1925
Scopes ``Monkey Trial,'' the Kansas school system has become a
battleground for religious conservatives intent on turning back the
clock on evolutionary science. The battle pits educators who support
the teaching of evolution in the classroom against those who say
evolution confuses children and undermines biblical teachings.

The trouble in Kansas began in May as a 27-member science committee
neared the end of a year-long process of writing new curriculum
standards that included evolution as a unifying concept linking all
scientific disciplines.

A group called the Creation Science Association for Mid-America
challenged the committee and came up with an alternate set of
standards that sidestep evolution.

In this modern version of the old debate, Kansas is not alone. In
February the Nebraska attorney general complained that new science
standards being written for children promoted evolution as fact rather
than theory and could contradict religious beliefs.

Similar debates have arisen recently in other states, including
Michigan, Arizona and New Mexico.

30. Earth Day rites at school draw criticism
Deseret News, June 5, 1999
Plant a tree, make the world a better place. It may not sound like
religious propaganda, but could it be? Paul Mortensen is asking that
question more and more these days as he hears stories of Earth Day
celebrations in schools where children are encouraged to hug trees,
listen to devotionals about Native American spiritualism and engage in
activities to "feel the spirit" of Mother Earth.

Mortensen says those are fundamental principles of New Age and
"neo-paganism" religious movements, and teaching them in schools
constitutes an illegal government sanction of religious teachings.

"There is a serious inconsistency at work where schools embrace Native
American and New Age eco-spirituality while scrupulously barring other
religion," he said.

Mortensen, a Utah attorney, is executive director of the Jefferson 21st
Century Institute, a small Bountiful-based research group dedicated to
separation of religion and government. He insists the nonprofit
institute is not anti-religion — he and others in the group are regular

31. In river, ritual comes to life
Boston Globe, June 14, 1999
(...) Those who were baptized yesterday are Mandaeans, members of a
tiny, 2,000-year-old religious group based in southern Iraq and Iran.
Their religion, neither Christian nor Jewish, is the last surviving
Gnostic group in the world, and they probably number less than 100,000.

The first religion to ever practice baptism, Mandaeanism regards John
the Baptist as its principal prophet and holds baptism in fresh,
running water as its major ritual.

The focus of a first-of-its-kind conference at Harvard University,
Mandaeans, a virtually unknown religious and ethnic minority, have
survived through two millennia at the mercy of dominant powers.
Although most still live in Iraq and Iran, some have emigrated from
their homeland in recent years, fleeing political and religious
persecution. Several hundred live in the United States, with the
largest populations in New York, Detroit, and San Diego.

32. S.F. group's interfaith meeting draws Dalai Lama to Jerusalem
San Francisco Examiner, June 11, 1999
(...) Now a group of San Francisco-based interfaith activists wants to
help transform Jerusalem into an international center for interfaith
dialogue, beginning with a conference this weekend that the Dalai Lama
will attend.

The meeting, which begins Saturday evening, marks the first time a
Buddhist leader has been a central figure in a major interfaith event
in the religious heartland of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The assembly, sponsored by the Inter-Religious Friendship Group, will
draw together dozens of participants from around the world, including
Shintoists and Hindus from Asia; Christians, Jews and Muslims from the
Middle East; and European and American religious delegations.

Swing founded the United Religions Initiative in the mid-1990s, in an
attempt to create an international forum for religious dialogue and
cooperation. Blum has been a close associate of the Dalai Lama's for
more than two decades and has traveled extensively with the Tibetan
leader, particularly to meetings with major world religious figures.

Swing and Blum joined forces in 1998. The Friendship Group is designed
as a loosely knit organization of more than a dozen spiritual leaders,
theologians and lay activists from around the world.

33. 'Gender-accurate' Bible stirs debate
News & Observer, June 11, 1999
Two years ago, the International Bible Society was swamped in
controversy until it canceled plans to publish a "gender-accurate"
version of the popular New International Version of the Bible. Now, the
Bible society has more quietly announced it has encouraged a Bible
translation committee to work on a "gender-accurate" translation that
will not be called the NIV.

"The changes between the 1984 NIV and the text that could be released
in a number of years are substantive enough ... it would be much more
than a revised NIV," said Steve Johnson, communications director for
the society based in Colorado Springs, Colo. "Since we committed to
freezing the 1984 text, they're not working on changes that would ever
be incorporated into the NIV."

Among the kinds of changes being considered: Where the current NIV
renders 1 Corinthians 11:28 as "A man ought to examine himself before
he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup," a possible new translation
could begin something like "A believer ought to examine him or herself
before" eating the bread or drinking the cup, Johnson said.

However, the IBS' Web site, on which the change in approach regarding
gender language was announced, notes there will be no change in
describing God or Jesus Christ in male terminology.

But World magazine is not pleased with IBS' recent decision,
according to an article in its June 5 edition. "It's sad that what
appeared to be an agreement is now effectively shredded," the article

Members of the Minneapolis-based Christians for Biblical Equality are
rejoicing. "We're turning cartwheels," said Catherine Clark Kroeger,
president emerita. "We have wanted to make the Bible accessible to
women, and we were very upset that the people obstructed access to the
spirit of the Bible."

34. Christians set up camp on site of Rajneeshpuram
The Oregonian, June 10, 1999
Rancho Rajneesh is about to be reoccupied, but by a Christian youth
group, not the robed, chanting followers of a cult leader from India.

Montana billionaire Dennis Washington gave the land to Young Life, a
nondenominational Christian youth group, in 1997 after he bought it in
1991 for $3.65 million.

From 1981 to 1985, the former Muddy Ranch was operated by followers of
Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

As many as 4,000 disciples lived at Rajneeshpuram, and another 15,000
attended summer festivals.

Several followers eventually were convicted of charges ranging from
attempted murder to arson to wiretapping. Rajneesh was deported to
India for immigration fraud. He died there in 1991.

More than 300 buildings remain from the Rajneesh era.

=== Noted

35. Revival noisy and full of humor
Cincinnati Post, June 10, 1999
Florida evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne feels like he's been filled
with ''living water'' and that he's splashing people with the overflow.

Some people doubtless came to see the ''show.'' They'd heard about
Howard-Browne's unorthodox style of ministry, his controversial
teachings, charming South African accent. Others, though, came ready to

The revival services in Northern Kentucky were a taste of
Howard-Browne's upcoming six-week crusade at Madison Square Garden,
scheduled to begin July 7.

Howard-Browne has come under criticism from Christian apologists such
as Hank Hanegraaff, whose book ''Counterfeit Revival'' (Word, $19.99)
labels him a fraud. But his defense on this day was simple: ''Isn't it
amazing that some people have a problem with this? How can you not like

36. The Truth is out there
The Red Herring, May 1999
(...) At this year's start, Mr. Firmage resigned from USWeb, rejected
serial entrepreneurship, and chose...well, the most lateral career move
conceivable, provided you reckon that career possibilities exist in
propagandizing about the extraterrestrials that have secretly guided
human history.

Mr. Firmage has summarized his beliefs in a 600-page work. It's
accessible at his Web site alongside documents billed, for example, as
President Truman's 1947 memorandum establishing the "Majestic-12"
committee in charge of U.S.-alien relations or JFK's communiqué to the
Central Intelligence Agency, "written ten days before his Dallas
assassination," about "UFO intelligence files." The book's hardcover
version will appear later this year. Meanwhile, Mr. Firmage has
arranged a downloadable condensed edition. Having read it, I can tell
Herring readers exactly what Mr. Firmage believes: everything.

Mainly, he thinks that emissaries from the cosmic civilizations have
visited us throughout our history -- perhaps even seeded Earth -- in
vessels tapping the universal quantum electromagnetic energy background
so as to manipulate gravity and space-time. These visitors have guided
humankind technologically and spiritually, disseminating religious
memes (a meme is an idea that spreads in a viral fashion from person to
person within a culture) so that we'll grow up to be good galactic

37. Spirituality is surging in schools
Chicago Sun Times, June 10, 1999
Teens are talking religion at pizza parlors, praying together before
school and forming Bible study groups, a spiritual surge that stems
partly from recent school shootings, youth ministers say.

Prayer groups have been growing at many area schools since a 1990 U.S.
Supreme Court decision upheld the right of the groups to meet as long
as the gatherings aren't during class hours and don't have teachers as

=== Internet

38. High-Tech Temple
Washington Post, June 9, 1999
(...) Mavrakos is a member of a new generation of evangelists who are
exchanging cordless microphones and glass pulpits for computerized
video screens, laptops and Web sites that help expand their ministries
far beyond the congregation they can see in church every week.

Mavrakos, who lives in Glenn Dale, said he is reaching people around
the world that he never would have been in contact with a few years
ago. He already had a high profile in the Potomac Conference of
Seventh-day Adventist Church, which includes all of the Adventist
congregations in the District, Virginia and Southern Maryland.

Mavrakos predicts that by "witnessing through the Web," he will have
more than 1 million followers by 2002. Although Mavrakos's predictions
may raise a few eyebrows, he pointed to the remarkable growth of the
Internet in the last few years.

Those who click on Mavrakos's Web site, www.rtm.org, will get a menu of
icons offering sermons, commentaries and Bible studies. There are audio
tapes, Christian games and activities available for teenagers. There
also is information about the beliefs and doctrines of the Seventh-day
Adventist Church, which has its world headquarters in Silver Spring.

39. Web becomes a virtual 'spiritual supermarket'
Detroit News, June 10, 1999
When Don Lattin and Richard Cimino were writing their book Shopping For
Faith, the publisher suggested packaging it with a CD-ROM of the book's
text and adding thousands of links to religious sites on the Internet.
The thought had never occurred to Lattin. In retrospect, he wonders why

By 2001, as many as 600 million of the world's 6 billion people will be
using the Internet. Even without a CD-ROM for a guide, the Internet is
a worldwide library of information for anyone with a computer, modem
and phone line.

Clergy and congregations dismiss the Internet's influence at their
peril, says George Barna of Barna Research in California. "Our
projection is that by the year 2010, something like 10 percent to 20
percent will get their faith on the Internet," Barna says.

40. Online religion sites can bridge differences
CNews (Canada), June 10, 1999
(...) Virtually every major religion from Catholicism to Wicca has made
its organizational information and teachings available online.

The Internet has become an important tool for spreading the word of a
faith. But for many groups it has also become a forum for open dialogue
on a host of issues. The Canadian Society of Muslims, for example,
maintains an exhaustive site (http://muslim-canada.org) on Muslim
culture from a North American perspective.

"My Internet technician brought to my attention a letter from an
organization in Kingston (Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance),
just ordinary people not academics or theologians," says Ali.

"They said this is a wonderful site . . . they said 'Your content is
such that you're talking about Islam, your own religion yet being a
non-Muslim group we can also read and understand it.'

* Note: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance is "a group of 4
volunteers: two Unitarian Universalists, one Wiccan and one liberal
but unaffiliated Christian." See


The popular site is favored and promoted by Scientology's "CAN."

=== Books

41. A Summation of Cutting-Edge Bible Scholarship
Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1999
THE MYTHIC PAST: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel; By Thomas
L. Thompson; (Basic Books / $30, 412 pages)

Only after the rest of the academic world caught up with his
revolutionary ideas about the origins and meanings of the Bible was
Thompson invited back into the groves of academe.

"We can say now with considerable confidence that the Bible is not
a history of anyone's past," Thompson writes in "The Mythic Past,"
summing up the arguments that were once regarded as radical and even
heretical. "The question of origins which has dominated modern research
into the Bible belongs to theology rather than to history."

Nowadays, Thompson holds a professorship at the University of
Copenhagen, and the revisionism that got him into such trouble in the
1970s is the conventional wisdom of Bible scholarship. But Thompson is
a man with a fiery nature and a sharp pen, and even when he is summing
up what has become conventional wisdom, he insists on expressing
himself in provocative and even inflammatory ways.

"The Bible's 'Israel' is a literary fiction," he writes. "Not only
have Adam and Eve and the flood story passed over to mythology, but we
can no longer talk about a time of the patriarchs. There never was a
'United Monarchy' in history and it is meaningless to speak of
pre-exilic prophets and their writings. . . . The Bible deals with the
origin traditions of a people who never existed as such."

If the Bible is not history, then what is it? Here Thompson comes to
a conclusion that even open-minded readers may find off-putting.

The Bible "was formed of a collation of early West Semitic
monotheistic traditions," he writes. "It was never written for us, and
can hold false--when not falsified--messages for us. A contemporary
theology that would see itself based on the themes, metaphors and
motifs of Old Testament stories and poems is a highly artificial, and
one must also say, a highly arbitrary, exercise."

42. Deseret Book adds brand, reorganizes
Deseret News, June 12, 1999
The LDS marketplace turned another page this week, as Deseret Book Co.
announced the creation of a new imprint, or brand name, and
reorganization of its publishing division.

Ronald A. Millett, Deseret Book president, told a group of LDS authors
Thursday that both the Deseret Book and Bookcraft imprints will survive
under the reorganization. But starting with books published on or after
Jan. 1, 2000, the imprints will be redefined.

Dew said the reorganization is designed to make sure both the
Deseret Book and Bookcraft imprints are magnified.
"Our business has expanded dramatically during the last 10 years," Dew
said Friday. "Our reach is going into the national market, and we've
expanded our music and entertainment line. . . . This allows us to
publish things under four major imprints, each of which has a
specifically defined market and will include certain kinds of books."

=== The Church Around The Corner

43. Sinners to be offered absolution by phone
The Times (England), June 14, 1999
http://www.the-times.co.uk/ (Free registration required)
LAPSED Roman Catholics, too guilty or lazy to brave the confessional
box, are to get the chance to obtain absolution over the telephone.
Hundreds of sinners seeking forgiveness are expected to dial the
freephone hotline number in a week-long pilot scheme thought to be the
first of its kind in Britain. The trial service from the Church of Our
Lady Immaculate in Chelmsford, Essex, begins on June 28. The hotline -
0800 0282065 - will be open every day from 4pm until 6pm.

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