Apologetics Index
News Items of Interest to Apologists
and Counter-Cult Professionals
spacerSpacer Rainbow
A-Z Index

How To Use

Color Key

About AI

Contact Us

Religion Items In The News

September 17, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 114)

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

Religion Items in the News is always posted first to the AR-talk list.

Unlike the edition posted to the AR-talk list, items in the archived newsletters will, time-permitting, link back to entries in the A-Z Index.

As most of these items stay online for only a day or two, URLs to the original stories are provided here as inactive links. If you can not find a story online, Read this).

Religion Items in the News - September 17, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 114)

=== Waco
[Story no longer online? Read this]
1. Judge not removed in Davidian case
2. Judge delays Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit
3. Waco Prosecutor in Texas Removes His Office From Case
4. Justice Dept. removes attorney from Waco Davidian case
5. Report details siege
6. Investigators may ask for ballistic tests
7. FBI sniper still faces Idaho trial
8. Danforth Prepares for Waco Probe
9. 10 questions about Waco that need clear answers

=== Scientology
[Story no longer online? Read this]
10. Missing Scientology Papers Addressed
11. Officials: Scientologists have infiltrated Elysée Palace
12. Narconon - Sad story of an affected family
13. The law council said no to curtailed publicity

=== Other News
14. Rights of Campus Groups Clash With Fear of Cults
15. Court reinstates suit over children's removal after satanic ritual claims
16. Study on Christian Scientists finds health benefits
17. Ex-counselor cautions: Mind games played here (Walden House)
18. Thriving death cult riles rural Japan (Aum Shinrikyo)
19. Jiang gives Clinton book on banned meditation group (Falun Gong)
20. China Arrests 4 Catholic Leaders
21. Evangelical church members detained in Turkey
22. Aged author of hate literature jailed for not signing letter to commission
23. Not all hate crimes are work of misfits, conference is told
24. Mistrial declared in abortion protest trial (Operation Rescue)

25. 3 protesters of church draw crowd (LDS)
26. New Orleans Priestess Taking Voodoo Rites to the Russians
27. A Day of Devotion Downtown ( Virgin of Guadalupe)
28. Jews view Baptists' intolerance as offensive
29. Latest battle over Jerusalem (Disney...)
30. Family, Allah and USA: The Chaudharys are among 10,000 Muslims in the area
31. Use of sacred symbol causes New Mexico controversy (Zia)
32. Gilbert OKs "character-based' education (Bill Gothard)
33. California public school returns Christian textbooks after ACLU suit
34. ["Pussycat Church"] (United Methodist Church)

=== Death Penalty
35. Germany: U.S. Violated Human Rights
36. Germany Sues U.S. For Breaking Law
37. Ex-Illinois death row inmate to sue for millions

=== Books
38. Apocalypse Tomorrow
39. The history of Christianity's greatest controversy
40. Attorney weighs evidence of Jesus' life in new book

=== The Church Around The Corner
41. Happy to be Catholic
42. Man who placed ad to find heir now turning to clergy

=== Waco

1. Judge not removed in Davidian case
Dallas Morning News, Sep. 17, 1999
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a motion to recuse U.S. District
Judge Walter Smith from the trial of a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by
survivors of Branch Davidians. Plaintiffs' attorneys tried to have Judge
Smith removed from the case, arguing that he was biased.

In 1994, Judge Smith sentenced eight Branch Davidians to prison for various
crimes, including weapons violations and voluntary manslaughter.

2. Judge delays Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit
Nando Times, Sep. 15, 1999
A judge delayed the trial of a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by surviving
Branch Davidians against the government, saying Wednesday more time is needed
for federal officials to produce the evidence he demanded.

Smith has yet to set a new court date. He said the government's request for a
fall 2000 date was "unrealistic" and he will not postpone the trial for a
year. A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Jim Brannon of Houston, called Smith's
decision "wonderful news. That allows us more time to dig for the evidence we

In delaying the case, Smith apparently took into account the far-reaching
nature of his Aug. 9 order demanding that all federal agencies turn over any
Waco-related documents or items to his court. That order prompted a skirmish
with Justice officials, who contended Smith was overstepping his authority
and that the request would "impose an unwarranted and substantial burden on
the federal government."

3. Waco Prosecutor in Texas Removes His Office From Case
New York Times, Sep. 15, 1999
The top Federal prosecutor in Texas responsible for handling all legal
matters related to the F.B.I. tear-gas assault near Waco, Tex., has asked for
and received permission from the Justice Department to be recused from the
case, according to legal papers disclosed on Tuesday in Texas.

The request by the United States Attorney in San Antonio, James W. Blagg,
also applies to other prosecutors in the Western District of Texas who have
any involvement in the case. That would include Bill Johnston, a prosecutor
who had recently complained to Attorney General Janet Reno about what he said
was a possible cover-up involving the attack on the Branch Davidian compound
in 1993.

The court papers filed on Tuesday, called a notice of recusal, do not explain
why all personnel for the United States Attorneys' office for the Western
District of Texas, including Johnston, an outspoken critic of his superiors,
were removed from the case.

But law-enforcement officials said on Tuesday that Blagg sought the recusal
because he and other prosecutors would be witnesses in the investigation by
former Senator John C. Danforth into the assault, which used tear gas
cannisters that could have started a fire.

The officials said the action was not intended to silence Johnston. But he
and his superiors had tangled in recent months over the handling of evidence
recovered from the compound after the tear gassing and the fire.

Earlier, Johnston had angered Justice Department officials in Washington when
he allowed Michael McNulty, a documentary film maker who had long challenged
the Government's account of the assault, to examine physical evidence from
the compound, where about 80 people died.

Johnston was quoted by The Associated Press as saying he was not sure what to
make of his removal from the case. "I'm trying not to be paranoid," he said.
"I don't know how to characterize it. Nothing in this case surprises me."

4. Justice Dept. removes attorney from Waco Davidian case
Dallas Morning News, Sep. 15, 1999
The government will not fight a federal judge's demand for control of all of
its information and evidence tied to the 1993 Branch Davidian siege, a
federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

News of that decision came the same day that Justice Department officials
confirmed that an assistant U.S. attorney who has publicly complained about
the department's recent handling of the Branch Davidian case has been removed
from further participation in the case.

Justice Department officials said the recusal involves not only Assistant
U.S. Attorney Bill Johnston of Waco but all prosecutors across the entire
judicial district that stretches from Waco to San Antonio and includes Austin
and much of Central Texas.

Justice Department officials tried to characterize the move as relatively
routine. But law enforcement officials expressed dismay. They noted that its
timing was particularly troubling in the light of Mr. Johnston's recent
efforts to help the Rangers answer questions about evidence directly
challenging the government's account of what happened in Waco.

"People were stunned by the order - shocked and amazed," one Texas law
enforcement official said.

Some congressional critics said they fear that the move may be an effort to
silence Mr. Johnston, who sent Attorney General Janet Reno a letter on Aug.
30 warning that other Justice Department lawyers had long misled her and the
public about some of the government's actions during the tragic final day of
the Waco standoff.

The recusal raises questions whether the Justice Department lawyers preparing
to defend the government in the wrongful-death case will also be removed,
department officials said. The case is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 18,
but court observers in Waco have said that recent skirmishes over control of
evidence and other matters may force it to be delayed until early next year.

5. Report details siege
San Antiono Express-News, Sep. 13, 1999
Evidence of high-powered ammunition, including a dozen .308-caliber sniper
rifle shell casings and 24 Israeli-made .223-caliber casings, were retrieved
from a house used by an elite FBI team during the 51-day siege on the Branch
Davidians' compound in 1993, according to a Texas Rangers' report released

The report draws no conclusions about the significance of the spent shells
and doesn't say who fired them or when, but the FBI has said previously that
the casings could have come from agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms.

Finding the shells goes to the heart of a new inquiry headed by former Sen.
John Danforth, who was appointed last week by the U.S. Justice Department to
re-examine the case which led to the deaths of 80 Branch Davidians, including
the group's leader David Koresh.

The Rangers' report also raises questions about the scope of the original
investigation into the siege and level of involvement by the FBI, which has
always insisted that the case was led by a special task force of more than 30

6. Investigators may ask for ballistic tests
Dallas Morning News, Sep. 15, 1999
Congressional investigators may seek ballistic tests to determine whether
shell casings recovered after the 1993 Branch Davidian standoff came from FBI
snipers, officials said Tuesday.

FBI officials have long insisted that their agents did not fire a single shot
during the 51-day standoff. But officials with the House Committee on
Government Reform say that forensic tests on the FBI's arsenal at Waco may be
needed to determine whether any FBI weapons discharged any of the
unidentified rifle shell casings recovered after the standoff.

The Rangers' report to Congress stated that a dozen .308-caliber sniper rifle
shell casings and 24 Israeli-made .223-caliber casings were recovered from a
house used by the FBI's hostage rescue team throughout the siege.

Agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also used the
house during the Feb. 28, 1993, raid that began the standoff. Four ATF agents
died when a gunfight erupted as the agents tried to search the compound and
arrest Branch Davidian leader David Koresh.

7. FBI sniper still faces Idaho trial
Spokane.net, Sep. 15, 1999
FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi still faces a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit and
possible criminal prosecution in Idaho, stemming from the fatal 1992 siege at
Ruby Ridge. Horiuchi's name is back in the news because of reports that
spent rifle cartridges were recovered from a house used by the FBI during the
1993 standoff with the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas. Horiuchi was in
charge of the FBI's sniper post there.

The spent cartridges included .308-caliber casings, which are from the same
type of weapon Horiuchi used at Ruby Ridge eight months earlier. Horiuchi has
denied firing any shots at Waco.

At Ruby Ridge, Horiuchi shot and wounded separatist Randy Weaver and friend
Kevin Harris, and shot and killed Weaver's wife, Vicki. The FBI had issued
special "rules of engagement" that said agents on the scene "could and
should" kill any armed adult male they saw near Weaver's cabin.

8. Danforth Prepares for Waco Probe
Washington Post, Sep. 13, 1999
Former Missouri senator John C. Danforth said yesterday that he is already
assembling a team of private attorneys and federal investigators to probe the
government's 51-day standoff against the Branch Davidian sect in 1993 and
would not hesitate to prosecute officials for wrongdoing.

Burton praised Danforth but said his committee planned a wider probe to
determine not only whether federal officials were criminally negligent, but
also whether they were incompetent in the way they handled the siege and
subsequent internal reviews of the matter.

9. 10 questions about Waco that need clear answers
Boston Globe, Sep. 15, 1999 (Editorial)
(...) As one of the Justice Department panelists asked to make
recommendations about how to deal with future Wacos, I thought it was obvious
that the investigations of the ATF raid, the FBI siege, and the final-day
conflagration had left many unanswered questions. One does not have to be a
right-wing, ultra-conservative conspiracy theorist to be highly critical of
these official investigations. Based on my own inquiry in 1993, these are the
10 questions that still need clear answers; let's hope Danforth will provide

What evidence is there that the initial ATF military style raid on the Branch
Davidians was really justified?

Why was the ATF's surprise raid not canceled when those in charge learned
that the Branch Davidians knew they were coming?

Why does the ATF investigation insist that their agents were ''ambushed''
when, by all reports, David Koresh came to the door unarmed and informed them
that there were women and children inside?

Since the ATF raid was premised on the idea that there was a locked armory of
weapons on the second floor of the compound that could be taken only by a
surprise attack, why, when the element of surprise was lost and the fire
fight began, were ATF agents sent up on the roof to die in a futile attack on
a target that no longer existed?

Did ATF agents or others in the helicopters fire their automatic weapons at
the compound, as Branch Davidians claimed on the audio tape made at the time?

Military personnel participated in the ATF raid, in the FBI siege, and in the
final tank and gas assault. What was their role, and why did the government's
investigations not include them?

Why did the FBI reject the advice of its own experts who warned during the
siege that psychological warfare would drive the Branch Davidians to mass

Why did no one in authority recognize that the planned gas assault risked the
lives of the children?

Why did the tank drivers depart from the plan agreed upon with Janet Reno and
start leveling the compound before the fire started?

The autopsy reports reveal that many of the Branch Davidians died of gunshot
wounds, but there was no forensic evaluation of where the bullets came from.
David Koresh was shot between the eyes. We were told that the FBI did not
fire a single round. If that is true, what about the military personnel?

Alan A. Stone is a professor of law and psychiatry at Harvard Law School.

=== Scientology

10. Missing Scientology Papers Addressed
Washington Post/AP, Sep. 15, 1999
The controversial disappearance of 3 tons of documentary evidence in the
upcoming trial of several members of the Church of Scientology was due to a
mistake by a court clerk, the French justice minister said Wednesday.

Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou said a report by inspectors turned into her
Tuesday ``confirmed that this disappearance is an error.''

The documents were related to an investigation that began in 1990 into
Scientology leaders in Marseille and Nice for alleged fraud, illegal practice
of medicine and premeditated violence. They are to go on trial on Sept. 20.

Asked about the disappearance last year in Paris of documents that were part
of a judicial investigation on scientologists, Guigou replied that ``that is
perhaps not an error.'' She said she has requested more information from
inspectors on that disappearance.

11. Officials: Scientologists have infiltrated Elysée Palace -
Luedenscheider Nachrichten/AFP (Germany), Sep. 15, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
The Scientology Organization, according to statements by the French
government's sect commissioners, has previously infiltrated top state offices
in France. "The Scientologists have succeeded in infiltrating the environment
of a former state president, and this has never been disproved," said the
Director of the anti-sect agency, Alain Vivien, in an interview with the
daily newspaper "Le Figaro." Members of the organization were also said to
have attempted to infiltrate the anti-terrorism unit of the French police
(Raid). Vivien made no statement as to which of the predecessors of State
President Jacques Chirac could have been meant. The Scientology Organization
rejected the accusations as being false, and mentioned defamation.

Similar to Germany, where the Scientologists are under surveillance by the
Constitutional Security agency, their actions are also closely followed in
France because an infiltration of political and commercial key positions is
feared by which a totalitarian, commercial structure established for pure
profit will be put in place.

12. Narconon - Sad story of an affected family
Metzinger Suedwestpress (Germany), Sep. 14, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
Narconon, according to its own statement, is one of the most effective
rehabilitation programs of the world. Despite that, branches had to be closed
down in Berlin and Schliersee, Bavaria, after spectacular lawsuits, because
they were violating the medical practice law. The director of the institution
was sentenced in 200 cases because he did not have any evidence of education
in the medical profession.

The organization also accepted a serious defeat in Baden-Wuerttemberg. In
Narconon's lawsuit against the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Narconon was not
able to produce a single, cured patient. Although Narconon often disputed
belonging to Scientology, that has turned out to be a verified fact. In one
written communication which the establishment published, it said, "Our
activities can be seen to contribute to the expansion of Scientology." It has
also since become clear that most members are ruined financially, physically
and psychically with the drug therapy which is seemingly so convincing and
which is supposed to gain new members for the sect.

* The story includes a case history.

13. The law council said no to curtailed publicity
Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), Sep. 14, 1999
Translation: Zenon Panoussis
[Highlight and copy entire URL]
The government's bill on curtailed access to public document
is not approved by the law council. The proposal that certain
documents would be exempted from the Swedish principle of free
access to public documents(*2) is unconstitutional.

The ministry of justice is now working on a new bill that,
as estimated, could be in force early next year(*3).

* Item is annotated by Panoussis.

=== Other News

14. Rights of Campus Groups Clash With Fear of Cults
Washington Post, Sep. 16, 1999
(...) Rausch and Colvin are among those who have made their voices heard at
meetings of a special task force set up by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening
(D) to look into activities of certain groups at the state's public schools
and universities.

The task force's recommendations on how the state's public campuses should
handle what the committee calls destructive groups eventually could lead to
legislation affecting the campus activities of certain groups. The 17-member
task force, headed by University System of Maryland President William T.
Wood, will present its recommendations to the governor in a report
due Sept. 30.

The task force was set up under a House of Delegates resolution passed last
year at the urging of worried parents. The resolution estimated that there
are "as many as 2,000 cults operating within the United States with 4 million
to 6 million members." Students, it noted, are "particularly vulnerable to
cult recruitment because they are often grappling with becoming independent,
overwhelmed with new responsibilities and relationships, adjusting to new

Jonathan Abady, a lawyer from New York who spoke on behalf of the ICOC, said
the group is composed of students and professionals--"people respectful of
the views of others." Abady, whose law firm is fighting a case involving
the ICOC and the State University of New York, said it is the courts and not
legislators who have the primary role to regulate groups. "Legislators," he
said, "should not act as parents."

Members of the Seventh-day Adventists and the Unification Church have filed a
federal lawsuit in Baltimore against the task force, saying it is violating
constitutional rights and conducting a "religious inquisition." One of the
lawsuit's plaintiffs, Unification Church member Alex Colvin, said: "The
resolution is unconstitutional. The state does not have the power to
determine what a religion is."

Gulick said that 50 to 100 of the 36,000 students at College Park are
involved with three to five destructive groups that are active on the campus.
A survey done by the Department of Resident Life at College Park in 1997
showed that 35 percent of the students on campus had been invited to join
cults and that 21 percent knew someone who had joined a cult.

15. Court reinstates suit over children's removal after satanic ritual claims
Sacramento Bee/AP, Sep. 16, 1999
A federal appeals court reinstated a lawsuit Tuesday by a San Diego County
family whose children were taken away for 21/2 months after a mentally ill
relative claimed the father planned to sacrifice his son in a satanic ritual.

Bill and Becky Wallis and their two children are entitled to a trial on
whether the policies of the Escondido city government caused police to take
the children without investigating the allegations, and subject them to
"highly intrusive" medical examinations without notifying their parents or a
judge, said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

16. Study on Christian Scientists finds health benefits
Christian Science Monitor, Sep. 14, 1999
A first-of-its-kind study on the health practices of Christian Scientists,
released yesterday by Harvard Medical School, shows "intriguing health
benefits." People identifying themselves as Christian Scientists in the
study "use far more spiritual healing" than others and "are far, far more
likely to be satisfied with their lives," the researchers found.

These findings "are at odds with the perception that Christian Scientists are
less healthy than non-Christian Scientists," say the researchers at Harvard's
Mind/Body Medical Institute.

Results of the national survey on "self-reported health and illness" counter
conventional wisdom on several fronts. For example, it shows that Christian
Scientists report fewer illnesses than non-Christian Scientists, but also
that they are as likely as the general population to report going to a doctor
or a hospital.

This study grows out of an interest in the relationship between spirituality
and health that has burgeoned in the medical community the past 15 years.
Research studies are multiplying, and are beginning to look at prayer as well
as the link between church-going and well-being. This is the first study of
its type on Christian Scientists.

Dr. Benson says his study focused on Christian Scientists "because of the
perception that they use their religious beliefs in healing and their
tendency to not use routine medical care."

17. Ex-counselor cautions: Mind games played here
San Francisco Examiner, Sep. 14, 1999
(...) It sounded good. Santos didn't feel right about Walden House's
induction ceremony and a few other things, but he didn't let that stop him.
He remembers candles, incense and blindfolds. He also remembers huge photos
of Walden House founder and CEO Alphonso Acampora on the walls at Corcoran *
pictorial monuments like those to Mao, Lenin and Stalin.

Less than a year after going to Corcoran, Santos was fired * the victim, he
felt, of a cultish group that had played bizarre mind games and denigrated
his professionalism, his humanity and his Mexican ancestry.

He sued, but his was not an ordinary wrongful-termination case, he claimed.
It was an attempt to shed light on an alleged scam. Walden House denied all
Santos'charges, rejected any allegation that it was a cult and disputed his
claim that it engaged in brutal behavior-modification techniques.

Nonetheless, Santos' attorney, Russell Koch of Visalia, claims his story is
proof that Walden House is doing a "con job" on the Corrections Department.
Showing he'll put his money where his mouth is, Koch has hired UC-Berkeley
cult expert Richard Ofshe to consult.

Santos says he had not been on the job long when it began to look to him as
if Walden House was the reincarnation of Synanon, the disbanded and
discredited cultlike group based in Tulare County.

Walden House was not Synanon, Santos knew. But it felt like it to him. Its
treatment of staff was "virtually identical in terminology and practice" to
Synanon's, he claimed in his suit. Acampora, its highly paid founder, had
been a Synanon employee.

18. Thriving death cult riles rural Japan
CBC News (Canada), Sep. 16, 1999
(...) Since the 1995 attack, which killed a dozen people and injured 6,000,
the leaders of Aum Shinrikyo, the Sect of Supreme Truth, have been jailed.
But the remaining, few thousand members have moved into small towns.
Residents are terrified; they don't want Aum Shinrikyo in their midst.

In Otawara, a small farming community two hours north of Tokyo, the presence
of AUM has residents worried.

Residents have also been holding meetings in the street and protests. Local
governments are refusing to supply water or garbage collection to the cult.

Last Tuesday, the Japanese government promised to write a new law that would
severely restrict AUM activities -- without upsetting civil libertarians and
other religious groups.

19. Jiang gives Clinton book on banned meditation group
San Francisco Gate/AP, Sep. 12, 1999
As China and the United States sought to mend recently damaged ties,
President Jiang Zemin gave President Clinton an unusual gift: a book
defending China's ban on a popular meditation sect.

During their hourlong summit Saturday, Jiang handed Clinton a book purporting
to expose the crimes committed by Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, the
popular group that China's communist government outlawed in July.

Titled ``Li Hongzhi and His 'Falun Gong:' Deceiving the Public and Ruining
Lives,'' the book's 150 pages in English is a relentless barrage of
propaganda from China's entirely state-run media.

20. China Arrests 4 Catholic Leaders
Northren Light/AP, Sep. 14, 1999
Police have arrested an 81-year-old bishop and three priests of China's
underground Roman Catholic church, a U.S.-based church group said Tuesday.

China has frequently imprisoned priests and worshippers who remain loyal to
the Vatican and refuse to participate in the state-approved church, set up in
the 1950s. Beijing has stepped up efforts to crush dissent during its
vigorous preparation for planned Oct. 1 celebrations to mark 50 years of
communist rule.

21. Evangelical church members detained in Turkey
Fox News/AP, Sep. 13, 1999
Police arrested 40 members of an evangelical church during Sunday prayers for
allegedly holding a religious service without prior authorization, police
said Monday. All were released Monday for lack of any evidence, police said.

Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country with strict secular laws.
Authorities do not tolerate proselytizing, and foreign missionaries are
regularly detained and expelled from the country.

22. Aged author of hate literature jailed for not signing letter to commission
Miami Herald, Sep. 10, 1999
The Jews killed JFK Jr. They massacred the Branch Davidians. They sabotaged a
Swissair jetliner.

A recent letter to Broward County commissioners including these and other
anti-Semitic allegations has landed its author in jail. The reason: not its
vitriolic content, but the fact that Lloyd Shank failed to sign his angry
missive. An obscure state statute allows citizens to publish and distribute
``hate'' literature as long as they include their name and address. Police
charged the 73-year-old Shank with anonymous publication

23. Not all hate crimes are work of misfits, conference is told
Sacramento Bee, Sep. 15, 1999
Some 500 law enforcement personnel from around the region continued their
crash course in how to better identify and respond to hate crimes Tuesday
during the second day of a national conference on the topic being held in

In the process, participants heard two bits of conventional wisdom shattered:
They learned that the vast majority of hate crimes are committed by
independent operators -- not members of established groups -- and that such
groups don't attract only misfits and losers.

Even with the recent spate of hate crimes such as the Sacramento synagogue
arsons and the murder of a prominent gay couple in Redding, thousands of hate
crimes go unreported in this country each year, the conference was told.

24. Mistrial declared in abortion protest trial
CNN/AP, Sep 14, 1999
A federal judge declared a mistrial in a lawsuit that accused Operation
Rescue and six protesters of illegally blocking entrances to abortion
clinics. U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice declared the mistrial Monday
after private meetings with attorneys for both sides. Rice made no
announcement in court. A defense attorney said the mistrial was declared
because of a problem with a prosecution witnesses.

"I do believe it's a victory," said David Mehaffie, one of the defendants in
the trial. "God has given a victory over a federal government that has
wholeheartedly endorsed, protected and even propagated infanticide."

But Vickie Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation,
said the mistrial merely amounted to a postponement and that she is confident
a new trial will be set soon.

25. 3 protesters of church draw crowd
Deseret News, Sep. 9, 1999
Three disaffected Mormons claim some local LDS leaders are "harassing" people
after they request to have their names removed from church membership roles.

Royal Fackrell, 23, said he hasn't been active in The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints for years, but the church's recent actions in California
to support a ballot measure that would prohibit same-sex marriage spurred him
to request that his name be removed from its membership rolls.

Consequently, he wrote a letter to the membership department of the church
asking that his name be removed from its rolls. Instead, his letter was
forwarded to his local bishop, along with another letter from the church
asking that ward leaders contact him, Fackrell said.

LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills said it is the church's policy to get local
church leaders involved in such cases. The church also issued this formal
response to the protesters allegations: "We regret that any member would ask
to have his or her name removed from the records of the church. A caring
bishop who calls to verify a member's wishes and soothe hurt feelings is
simply doing what the Lord taught -- showing concern for his congregation.
Ultimately, any member who wishes to leave the church has the right to do

* How to have your name taken off the Mormon church records
There seems to have been some change lately as people have been mentioning

to me that their names are not being removed as quickly as they have
requested. The Handbook of Instructions given to Mormon leaders is
supposed to be followed. Some bishops and branch presidents may need to be
reminded of the church policy and, if you live in the United States,
reminded there is freedom of religion. Other countries should have an
identical policy. I have a copy of the handbook from 3 years ago. This is
all you should have to do. Many times a follow-up letter with a threat of
publicity or use of legal counsel is required if the local church
leadership does not do what it is supposed to do within 30 days of your
initial request.

26. New Orleans Priestess Taking Voodoo Rites to the Russians
Salt Lake Tribune/RNS, Sep. 11, 1999
At the close of 1998, a mermaid appeared in a dream of Miriam Chamani, the
priestess of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple here. The mermaid told the priestess
to be prepared for a long journey.

On Thursday, the priestess was wide awake as she left for the foreshadowed
foreign shore. A Delta Air Lines flight took her to Russia, where for three
weeks she will serve as a sort of voodoo ambassador.

Accompanied by two female associates, Sherry Taylor and Miriam Dorn of
Wisconsin, the priestess will teach more than a dozen Russians spiritual
practices that are a mix of African rituals and Roman Catholicism wedded in
the Caribbean.

In New Orleans, Chamani is among the better known voodoo practitioners. The
priestess came onto the radar of many New Orleans area residents earlier this
year when her temple became the repository for the ashes of Chicken Man, so
named because of his willingness to demonstrate the sacrificial voodoo rite
involving biting the head off a chicken.

27. A Day of Devotion Downtown
Los Angeles Times, Sep. 15, 1999
In an overwhelming display of devotion Tuesday, thousands of Catholics
flocked to Olvera Street to behold and praise a reproduction of the image of
the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is a sacred and powerful image, especially for
Mexicans, based on a series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary as believers
say she appeared in 1531 to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity in
the hills outside Mexico City. After appearing to him as a dark-skinned
Virgin, it is believed that Guadalupe left her image on Juan Diego's mantle
or cloak. That original image lies inside the Basilica of Our Lady of
Guadalupe in Mexico City, which was built on the site where the original
appearance was reported.

On his visit to Mexico earlier this year, Pope John Paul II commissioned the
reproduction of the image and elevated Guadalupe's feast day, Dec. 12, to a
holy day for the Catholic Church in America.

Devotion to Guadalupe has spread throughout Latin America and to Latinos
across the United States. The dark-skinned Virgin emerged as a powerful icon
for indigenous peoples, then evolved as a protector and liberator of
immigrants and the poor in urban areas.

With the arrival of the reproduction, church officials hope to expand the
realm of Guadalupe devotion and attract people of all races and religions.
"This is a Virgin for everyone. Not just for Mexicans, not just for Latinos.
She is a Virgin for all of us," said Bishop Gabino Zavala at a liturgy
service held at Olvera Street. "She is here to unite all cultures together."

28. Jews view Baptists' intolerance as offensive
Miami Herald, Sep. 14, 1999 (Editorial)
(...) Judgment and laughter -- too much of one and not enough of the other
was evident when the Southern Baptist International Mission Board decided to
publish a prayer guide calling for its members to pray for the Jews'
conversion to Christianity during the 10 holy Days of Awe.

The board has published a similar missal of bad taste directing followers to
pray for Muslims during Ramadan, the Islamic holy days. And coming soon to a
Southern Baptist church near you: guides aimed at converting Hindus and

Jim Sibley, who headed the International Mission Board's first efforts of
praying for Jews in 1996, said that the board was not trying to be offensive
or provocative with its evangelical efforts timed to occur during the Jews'
holiest of observances.

Oy. How do you think Sibley and the mission board would have reacted if the
Jews, Muslims and Buddhists got together on Dec. 24 and called for prayers
the next day encouraging all Christians to turn away from their misguided
beliefs in the Redeemer? Can you say, ``Offended and provoked''?

It would almost be laughable if the Southern Baptists could find any humor in
such things, but the intolerance that they show for other religions is
exactly what is keeping some U.S.-based Christian churches from branching out
in places like Russia. The Moscow city prosecutor's office is trying to
outlaw the Jehovah's Witnesses by using a law that allows courts to ban
religious groups found guilty of inciting hatred or intolerance.

Intolerance is not always bad, but how it is manifested certainly can be.

29. Latest battle over Jerusalem
Jerusalem Telegraph Agency, Sep. 14, 1999
(...) The Arab League and Arab American groups are planning to meet with
representatives of Walt Disney World to discuss their concerns that a special
exhibit at Disney's EPCOT Center in Orlando, Fla., will depict Jerusalem as
Israel's capital.

Plans revealed by Disney executives last month in Jerusalem indicated that
Israel's exhibit will trace the religious history of Israel and showcase
Israeli technological advances.

In addition to contributing financially, Israel was responsible for the
content of the 24,000-square-foot exhibit, with Disney's ``creative input,"
say officials with Disney and with Israel's Foreign Ministry.

When asked whether there were any plans to change the exhibit because of Arab
pressure, Disney's spokesman said only that ``all exhibits are under
development and in a constant state of change." But he implied that nothing
would happen without Israel's approval.

30. Family, Allah and USA: The Chaudharys are among 10,000 Muslims in the area
Post-Gazette, Sep. 12, 1999
(...) They also are part of a trend that is changing the fabric of America's
religious life. As practicing Muslims, they are members of one of the world's
oldest -- and the United States' fastest-growing -- religions. They've
settled in America from their native Pakistan in pursuit of postgraduate
training, joining a community of 6 million Muslims now in the States, a
number that has grown tenfold since the early 1960s.

Recent immigrants such as the Chaudharys, as well as people who have
converted to Islam and those who are re-identifying with their faith and
coming back into the mosques, are behind the growth in numbers.

The Chaudharys, both trained as physicians in their native country, offer a
snapshot of how an estimated 10,000 Muslims in the Pittsburgh area are
quietly adjusting to life here while pursuing religious traditions that
stretch back centuries.

31. Use of sacred symbol causes New Mexico controversy
CNN, Sep. 14, 1999
The Zia sun symbol has become synonymous with New Mexico. Synonymous and

To the 850 people of the Zia Pueblo tribe, the sun sign is perhaps the most
sacred of their culture. "That's what we pray through -- the sun. Anything
to do with religion ... that's what we use," Zia Pueblo tribe elder Ysidro
Pino said.

Until recently, the tribe could only mount costly legal battles in an effort
to protect the symbol. So far, the tribe has won just one partial concession
from the state.

The second part of the tribe's two-pronged attack involved the federal
government. Since July, U.S. Patent and Trade Office representatives have
been meeting with Native Americans across the country. A report to Congress
is due on September 30.

People of the Zia Pueblo hope it will generate movement toward new
legislation aimed at protecting sacred icons.

32. Gilbert OKs "character-based' education
The Arizona Republic, Sep. 15, 1999
(...) Her continued push to have put an official "Character" label on the
town succeeded Tuesday over objections from the Arizona Civil Liberties Union
and two residents, including an Arizona State University child development
professor, Dr. Scott Christopher.

Dunham's declaration was pulled from the Aug. 31 Town Council agenda after
ACLU Executive Director Eleanor Eisenberg objected last month to a religious
connection between the trademarked "Cities of Character" program and a
conservative Christian organization.

A different resolution was approved by a unanimous council vote Tuesday; it
excludes references to that program and declares Gilbert a "Community WITH

She said other cities have rejected "character" education because of its
religious implications and because teaching character is not a responsibility
of government.

Dunham said representatives from the town, school district and community will
meet this month to select a program. They will not exclude the Institute for
Basic Living Principles' Character First! program recommended by Sen. David
Petersen, R-Mesa.

Eisenberg said the ACLU will monitor the town and school district's choice of
character education programs and will challenge any with religious agendas.
She said she is concerned about some of the traits described in the Character
First! educational material

* About Bill Gothard (Institute in Basic Living Principles)

33. California public school returns Christian textbooks after ACLU suit
Nando Times, Sep. 16, 1999
Pressured by the ACLU, a public elementary school has decided not to use
Christian textbooks that describe other religions as cults and claim God
helped Christopher Columbus discover America.

Belridge Elementary Principal Steven Wentland, who also serves as
superintendent of the 60-student, one-school district, said Wednesday that
"every last flashcard" would be delivered back to A Beka Books Inc., a
Pensacola, Fla.-based Christian publishing company.

History books tell students that although American Indians "attained a degree
of civilization," they "had no knowledge of the true God, and without this
knowledge all other attainments are worthless." Another book warns that
non-Christians will be denied a place in heaven, and that Mormons, Jehovah's
Witnesses and Christian Scientists belong to cults.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Aug. 24, a day after
students were welcomed back from summer vacation with a banner in the
cafeteria that read: "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and
be glad in it."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a retired Methodist minister and Veronica
Van Ry, who felt compelled to pull her 13-year-old daughter out of the

34. ["Pussycat Church"]
ReligionToday.com, Sept. 16, 1999
(...) The United Methodist Church "has been reduced to a kind of
pussycat church," a Houston pastor says. "We're bringing up a
generation that will offend nobody, not even the devil," William
Hinson, senior pastor of the 13,500-member Houston First United
Methodist Church, said. He made the remark during his keynote
address at the national conference of the Confessing Movement
Within the United Methodist Church (see link #3 below), held
Sept. 9-11 in Indianapolis.

...The movement, an unofficial part of the UMC, says it is trying
to bring the denomination back to its doctrinal foundations. It
numbers 1,315 "confessing churches," 3,212 clergy, and 600,145
United Methodists.

...United Methodist pastors have become reluctant to preach
clearly on moral issues for fear of offending someone, Hinson
said. "We have to choose between being popular and being

..."When 2.5 million souls are lost in 30 years, it's safe to
assume something has gone wrong," Hinson said, referring to the
UMC's loss of members. The average age of members is more than
57, according to church reports, United Methodist News Service

...Hinson decried the "marginalization of those of us with a high
view of Scripture." Graduates of conservative UMC theological
schools, such as Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., are intimated
when seeking appointments, he said.

...The denomination's General Conference in the spring "will be
pivotal in shaping the direction of our divided, distracted, and
declining denomination," William Bouknight, president of the
Confessing Movement, said. "I am hopeful that God may yet help us
recover our Wesleyan heritage, based on biblical authority."
[...entire item...]

=== Death Penalty

35. Germany: U.S. Violated Human Rights
Washington Post/AP, Sep. 16, 1999
Germany filed a complaint with the World Court on Thursday accusing the
United States of human rights violations for the executions of two German
citizens last winter.

In the complaint, Germany said the execution violated the Vienna Convention
because the brothers were not informed of their right to assistance from the
German consulate after their arrest.

``We're seeking a guarantee that the United States will abide by the
decisions of the World Court in future human rights cases,'' Justice Minister
Herta Daeubler-Gmelin was quoted as saying by the Leipziger Volkszeitung.

36. Germany Sues U.S. For Breaking Law
Excite/Reuters, Sep. 16, 1999
Germany said Thursday it would sue the United States in the World Court in
The Hague for violating international laws and treaties when it executed two
German-born murderers earlier this year.

Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, who had called the execution of the
LaGrand brothers "barbaric," said the United States violated treaties when it
executed the brothers. They had been convicted of killing a bank manager in a
1982 robbery.

"Respecting international laws cannot be a one-way street," she said.

Germany said the executions violated the 1963 Vienna convention that required
U.S. justice officials to inform suspects of their right to assistance from
German consulates in the United States. It also criticized the United States
for executing the brothers even though the World Court had issued a
last-minute appeal urging the suspension of the execution while judges
considered a complaint from Germany.

"It cannot be allowed to happen again that the Vienna Convention and
decisions of the World Court can simply be ignored," she added.

Germany said the brothers had been denied consular access stipulated in an
international agreement signed by most countries, including Germany and the
United States.

"I am not oblivious to the problem that the government in Washington has with
(control over) the individual states," Daeubler-Gmelin said. "But the
obligation to respect international laws is valid for everyone.

"The United States represents its interests so robustly and directly, even in
issues of far less importance," she added, offering rare open criticism from
the German government of the United States.

37. Ex-Illinois death row inmate to sue for millions
CNN/Reuters, Sep. 16, 1999
A former Death Row inmate who was cleared of a double murder conviction
thanks to evidence dug up by journalism students has had a robbery charge
dropped and will seek millions in compensation for his imprisonment, his
lawyer said Thursday.

Another man, Alstory Simon, confessed to the murders after he was located in
Milwaukee based on an investigation by a class of Northwestern University
journalism students. Last week Simon was sentenced to 37 years in prison.

At the same time that Porter was convicted of the double murder, he was found
guilty of robbing $2 from a witness to the murders who has since died.

Porter served 16 years in prison, 10 of them on death row where inmates spend
23 hours a day alone in their cells, shower only once every other day, and
are moved about in shackles. He once was just a few hours from execution.

Four other Illinois men who spent a combined 65 years on death row for a
double murder and rape they did not commit recently received a $36 million
settlement from Cook County.

* Note: these items are included because they illustrate why many countries
consider America's reports on perceived human rights violations to be
hypocritical at best. I am a member of Amnesty International.

Amnesty International's Report on Human Right Violations in the USA

Death Penalty Information Center

Since 1970, 82 people have been released from death row with evidence of
their innocence. (http://www.essential.org/dpic/innoc.html)

=== Books

38. Apocalypse Tomorrow
Washington Post, Sep. 12, 1999
LEFT BEHIND, By Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Tyndale House. 470 pp.
$22.99; Paperback, $15.99

ASSASSINS, By Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Tyndale House. 413 pp. $22.99

(...) Religion has powered seminal end-of-the-world novels from Walter M.
Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz to Stephen King's The Stand; but Christian
evangelists traditionally have stuck to prophecy texts such as Salem Kirban's
I Predict (1970) and Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), which,
despite originally scheduling The End for 1981, remains the most popular
religious book written in our time.

If the Bible is to be read literally, why do we need mediators, particularly
those who twist its words into fiction? The simple reason, ignored or
downplayed by many fundamentalists, is that Jesus was a consummate
storyteller. His favorite teaching device, the parable, spoke elegantly
through symbols and metaphors. The "Left Behind" books, unfortunately, do

The books read like artifacts of a time machine sent to retrieve pulp science
fiction -- and our morality -- from the '50s.

Although this is not great fiction, it is effective evangelism, using fear as
its paramount means of persuasion. "God is more than a God of love and
mercy," the authors tell us, but their focus is wholesale death and
destruction -- and damnation.

La Haye and Jenkins will offer a suitably titled tract on Biblical prophecy
this November, just in time for the closeout sale on Millennial Madness: Are
We Living in the End Times?

39. The history of Christianity's greatest controversy
Christian Science Monitor, Sep. 9, 1999
When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight Over Christ's Divinity In The
Last Days of Rome, by Richard Rubenstein, Harcourt Brace
267 pp., $26

Richard Rubenstein is not a professor of religion, but of conflict resolution
and public affairs at George Mason University. Yet he has taken one of the
major religious controversies of the early Christian church, a controversy
that consumed its energies for most of the 4th century, and turned it into a
flesh-and-blood encounter of real people that reads like an adventure story.
And he has portrayed the elements of the doctrinal debate with understanding
and sensitivity.

The controversy concerned the divinity of Jesus. The antagonists in the drama
were Arius and Athanasius, and the conflict is generally referred to as the
Arian heresy, since Arius's views were on the losing side of what became
orthodoxy. Both men agreed on the divinity of Jesus, but it was how that
divinity was explained that divided them.

* Amazon.com listing:
When Jesus Became God

40. Attorney weighs evidence of Jesus' life in new book
Star-Telegram/AP, Sep, 7, 1999
Pamela Binnings Ewen was a true child of the '60s. She read Ayn Rand, author
of The Fountainhead. She hung out with people who argued philosophies with
names like objectivism and existentialism. She remembers the famous Time
magazine cover in the early 1960s that asked: "Is God Dead?"

Her question then became: If the testimony of the Gospels were held to the
same standards as any other testimony within an American court of law, could
a jury accept the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as fact?

While that might be an odd approach for most people on a spiritual quest, it
was not so strange for Ewen, now a partner with the law firm of Baker &
Botts. She practices corporate law, brokering the legal side of financial
deals between large companies.

The result of her 10 years of research and religious questing is Faith On
Trial: An Attorney Analyzes the Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of
Jesus (Broadman and Holman, $16.99).

Ewen places the reader in the jury box and explores the reliability of that
testimony in light of the Federal Rules of Evidence (legal standards applied
by attorneys) and common-law principles. She assumes the burden of proof.

"She made a very, very convincing case to me," said her husband, research
chemist John Ewen.

Until he read her book, Ewen said, he didn't realize there are many points in
the Bible that he "had prejudices about."

Pamela Ewen's pastor, the Rev. Walter Ellis of St. Christopher Episcopal
Church in League City, said the book "speaks for itself. To me, it gives the
lawyer, the professional type, a good logical approach."

Ewen, who talks about her book as a rational laywoman's exploration of faith,
spoke recently to an adult Sunday School class at St. Luke's United Methodist
Church on Westheimer. The invitation came through her law partner, Charles

Only now, after the years of painstaking research, has she returned to
church. Only now, in her 50s, is she comfortable calling herself a Christian.
Her faith is something she cherishes. But she respects other peoples'
religions, and the constant questioning of so many would-be Christians in her
own age group.

Let them search, she writes, "for the truth of the Gospels rests upon
knowable facts."

* Amazon.com listing:
Faith on Trial

=== The Church Around The Corner

41. Happy to be Catholic
US News & World Report, Sep. 20, 1999
The crowd of 50,000 sways, claps, waves, jumps forward and back,
enthusiastically copying the dance steps of the singing figure on stage. A
new samba? No, this is the Lord's aerobics, and the star here is a
31-year-old Roman Catholic priest, Padre Marcelo, an ex-physical education
teacher who is drawing crowds rivaling those of any successful rock group.
His new CD, A Present for Jesus, is due out September 19; his last one, Music
to Praise the Lord, has sold over 31/2 million copies since its release late
last year.

Brazil's latest TV and recording phenom is also Catholicism's biggest draw
here in luring back the faithful who have abandoned the church in droves over
the past decades. His followers, 40,000 to 70,000 at every service, arrive in
busloads from around the country. Wearing "I'm happy to be Catholic"
T-shirts, many of them regard him as nothing short of a miracle worker.

42. Man who placed ad to find heir now turning to clergy
Duluth News, Sep. 15, 1999
A 79-year-old Pine City man who was seeking an heir for his anticipated
$375,000 estate said Monday he will give his money to a church. But since
Clayton Goward doesn't belong to a church, he's inviting clergy from all
faiths -- and anyone else who is interested -- to a forum aimed at answering
some spiritual questions.

``I'm hoping someone there will enlighten me and I can feel better about
facing eternity,'' he said in an interview Monday.

In July, Goward put a personal ad in the Star Tribune asking for ideas on
what to do with his estate, saying he had no worthy heirs. He isn't on good
terms with his three adult sons.

On Sunday, Goward placed another ad in the Star Tribune, listing several
questions he has about spirituality.

``Why are there so many drastically different beliefs amongst those using the
same book of instructions, i.e. the Holy Bible?'' is one of his questions.
``How can I know I am right with God?'' reads another.

Next month -- no date has been set yet -- he will invite up to 50 people to
his home in east-central Minnesota for a discussion on religion.

About "Religion Items in the News"
  • These items are provided as "information only." 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.
  • Some 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 rin@apologeticsindex.org Each request should include Issue and Item numbers (e.g. Issue 86, Items 5, 8, 9).
  • These items are provided for personal use and educational research purposes only, under the "fair use" concept as noted in copyright laws. Copyright for each item remains with the original copyright holder.
  • 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.org, or send "subscribe AR-talk" to hub@xc.org without quotes.
  • Limited forwarding and reposting of "Religion Items in the News" is permitted only with this unedited footer attached.

Home | How To Use | About | Contact

[Story no longer online? Read this]