Apologetics Index
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Religion Items In The News

November 9, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 131)

About this news letter   More Religion Items In The News   News Database

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 - November 9, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 131)

=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. 15 years sought for Aum lawyer in sarin gassing
2. The Asahara Trial: Aum member explains VX attack

=== Waco/Branch Davidians
3. Film sequel continues charge of Waco cover-up

=== Falun Gong
4. China Reportedly Sends 500 in Sect to Camps
5. 111 Falun Gong Members Arrested
6. China Says Its Future Depends on Routing Banned Spiritual Movement
7. China Seizes Documents From 5 Western Reporters Over Sect News Conference
8. Expert: Cult Crimes Must Be Punished
9. Cult draws Chinese upset by changes, official says
10. While Defending Crackdown, China Admits Appeal of Sect
11. Up-to-date Falun Gong News

=== Scientology
12. Police no longer monitoring Scientology
13. Questions about Scientology: Recognition as Religion?

=== Israel - Deportations
14. Israel Deports Christian Predicting Second Coming
15. Israel Deports Christian to N.Y.

=== Cults - General
16. Project Megiddo
17. Sect information center "too academic"
18. Is Religion more than just a private matter in the final analysis?

=== Unification Church
19. Probe Into Moonie Son Death Plunge

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
20. Mother complains about Jehovah's Witness daughter

=== Hate Groups
21. Youths' White Power Views Stir Concern
22. 'Disgusting pamphlet' on Jews getting new shelf-life in Hungary
23. National Hate Crimes Legal Resource Information for Consumers Now Online
=== Other News
24. Colonia Dignidad: a Hamburg man hunts sect founder Schaefer
25. Catholics extend hand to Hindus
26. Evangelism efforts creating hard feelings among non-Christians, Christians
27. Pope: Religious Freedom a Right
28. Hindus, others picket Baptist church over prayer booklet
29. Tolerant Baha'is battle misconceptions
30. Secrets and lies (Binjamin Wilkomirski)

=== Religious Freedom/Religious Intolerance
31. Court test for Russian law restricting religions
32. Americans as protectors of religion: a fox guarding the hen-house?
33. Boy sues upstate school for expelling Jesus

=== Noted
34. A&E goes gaga over polygamy in Utah
35. He's a guru of 'practical spirituality' (Dan Millman)
36. Court to Review Student's Objection to Activity Fees
37. Adventists grapple with embracing diversity
38. A Friendlier Face for Islam
39. Convert Faces Hatred, Threats in Middle East

=== The Believers Around The Corner
40. Monsters Among Us (Pokemon, et.al.)
41. Freethinkers Honor Scientist

=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. 15 years sought for Aum lawyer in sarin gassing
Japan Times, Nov. 8, 1999
Prosecutors on Monday demanded 15 years in prison for a former Aum Shinrikyo
[Story no longer online? Read this]
lawyer accused of conspiring to kill anticult lawyer Taro Takimoto in May
1994 by releasing sarin gas. Takimoto suffered minor injuries at the time.

Yoshinobu Aoyama, 39, stands accused of seven other charges, including
defaming a company president, harboring Aum fugitive Takeshi Matsumoto and
submitting false documents to local authorities.

In a statement read before the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said Aoyama
attempted to help the cult dodge its responsibility in the series of crimes
by misusing his knowledge as a lawyer. They added that Aoyama went so far as
to attempt to kill his legal opponent.

Aoyama falsely claimed at a January 1995 news conference that a local
agricultural chemical company spread poison gases at the Kamikuishiki complex
in Yamanashi Prefecture, prosecutors said.

Asahara told Aoyama to hold a news conference to stress that Aum was the
target of a poison gas attack, they said. Asahara also told Aoyama to file a
lawsuit against the president of the agricultural chemical firm for the gas

2. The Asahara Trial: Aum member explains VX attack
Japan Times, Nov. 4, 1999
A former Aum Shinrikyo follower testifying in cult founder Shoko Asahara's
trial Thursday explained how he sprayed deadly VX gas on victims without
their realization.

Taking the witness stand for Asahara's 135th hearing at the Tokyo District
Court, Akira Yamagata said that in 1994 and 1995 while jogging he would use a
syringe to spray VX onto the neck of his targets right before passing them.

The attacks were carried out on separate occasions on Noboru Mizuno, Hiroyuki
Nagaoka and former follower Tadahito Hamaguchi. Both Mizuno and Nagaoka were
targeted because they were protecting former cult members. Hamaguchi, who
died from the attack, was targeted because the cult suspected he was a police

=== Waco/Branch Davidians

3. Film sequel continues charge of Waco cover-up
Dallas Morning News, Nov. 4, 1999
Your typical movie premiere doesn't include allegations of homicide by the
federal government. But that was the theme of Waco: A New Revelation,
unveiled Wednesday to reporters and researchers of the 1993 siege that ended
in the fiery deaths of more than 80 Branch Davidians.

Federal law enforcement officials dismissed the film as conspiracy mongering.

The film is a sequel to an effort called The Rules of Engagement. Despite an
Oscar nomination for best documentary and an Emmy for investigative
reporting, the movie drew fire for factual inaccuracies and garnered little
attention in Congress.

No formal release date has been set for the new movie, but it is expected to
be widely available by the end of the year. The movie, using clips from FBI
news conferences in 1993 and congressional hearings in 1995, outlines what
some Texas Rangers and law enforcement officials call fault lines in the
conduct of federal agencies.

Other aspects of the Branch Davidian investigation are left out of Waco: A
New Revelation.

It makes little mention of the group's efforts to amass a huge arsenal of
guns, explosives and ammunition. That was the reason for the initial raid by
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on Feb. 28, 1993.

The film also does little more than hint at the group's unorthodox religious
practices. They included the dissolution of all marriages and the assignment
of all women in the compound to leader David Koresh.

=== Falun Gong

4. China Reportedly Sends 500 in Sect to Camps
Los Angeles Times/AP, Nov. 8, 1999
Authorities have sentenced more than 500 people to labor camps in the latest
crackdown on the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a human rights group
reported Sunday.

The Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China
reported that the sentences were handed down to Falun Gong members from
Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing. It cited unidentified sources.

Only a small minority of high-profile Falun Gong members are likely to
stand trial because too many trials would risk international condemnation,
the group said. Chinese police have the authority to send citizens to labor
camps without trial for up to three years.

5. 111 Falun Gong Members Arrested
AOL/AP, Nov. 8, 1999
Chinese police have formally arrested 111 Falun Gong members in their 3
1/2-month crackdown against the banned spiritual group, and at least two
other followers died while in custody, a government spokesman said today.

Authorities in Beijing rounded up more than 1,000 followers who streamed into
the capital from other provinces in recent weeks to protest a tightening of
the government's ban, said Li Bing, spokesman for the State Council, China's

Those followers were subjected to lectures about the supposed evils of Falun
Gong - a process the communist government calls education - and most were
then sent to their home provinces, Li said. A few, however, have refused to
say where they are from, he added.

In an admission of the difficulties the government has experienced in
intimidating believers, another State Council spokesman, Qian Xiaoqian, said
more than 60 percent of those rounded up and sent home later came back to the

Li's account is the government's most authoritative statement on the numbers
placed under arrest, and yet it does not convey the sweep of the crackdown.
Under Chinese law, suspects may be detained without formal charges for
weeks, and only those formally charged are considered arrested. An unknown
number of practitioners also have been sentenced without trial to labor

Authorities monitored Falun Gong practioners' Internet traffic about planned
protests last month and used the information to detain dozens of people, said
a Hong Kong-based rights group, the Information Center of Human Rights and
Democratic Movement in China.

Today, authorities also charged a college student accused of e-mailing
information to Falun Gong Web sites in the United States and Canada and of
downloading news about the group and sharing it with practitioners in China,
the center said.

6. China Says Its Future Depends on Routing Banned Spiritual Movement
New York Times, Nov. 6, 1999
Just when it seemed that official invective against Falun Gong could grow no
harsher, Friday's issue of the People's Daily has suggested that the very
fate of China hangs on the struggle against the banned spiritual movement.

A front-page commentary in the newspaper, which speaks directly for the
Communist Party, carries the headline "Totally Expunge Evil, Pursue It to the
End." First declaring that the government has achieved a "decisive victory"
against Falun Gong, which it banned last July, the editorial goes on to say
that the struggle to defeat the movement will be a "long and arduous one."

In many cities, it has become clear, a vigorous struggle continues as
believers defend the movement and continue to practice its trademark
slow-motion exercises, only to face fines, detention, threats to their jobs
and even banishment to labor camps. Thousands of followers converged on
Beijing last week, many of them showing up in Tiananmen Square only to be
shipped back to the police in their hometowns.

In the eyes of the Communist government, which brooks no organized
opposition, this defiance in itself is proof of the group's supposed cultish
and subversive nature.

7. China Seizes Documents From 5 Western Reporters Over Sect News Conference
New York Times, Nov. 4, 1999
The police called in at least five Western reporters on Wednesday for
questioning about a clandestine Falun Gong news conference that they attended
on Oct. 28 and seized the reporters' accreditation cards and residence

In separate sessions on Wednesday that lasted from one to two hours, Public
Security Bureau officers warned the reporters, who included Erik Eckholm of
The New York Times, that because Falun Gong was banned in July, interviewing
members of the spiritual movement is illegal.

8. Expert: Cult Crimes Must Be Punished
Northern Light/Xinhua News Agency, Nov. 5, 1999
It has been revealed that the Falun Gong group has a organizational
structure, with 39 centers, 1,900 coaching centers, and 28,000 practice sites
across the country, controlling at one time over 2.1 million followers.

Since August, 1996, when it held its first illegal demonstration outside a
national newspaper the Guangming Daily, Falun Gong has organized a total of
78 illegal demonstrations with at least 300 followers participating on each

9. Cult draws Chinese upset by changes, official says
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nov. 5, 1999
Acknowledging a spiritual vacuum amid China's stunning economic growth, the
government's top religious official said yesterday that the banned Falun Gong
spiritual movement attracted people lost in the unsettling changes.

While the government claims most people were drawn to Falun Gong's
slow-motion meditation exercises as a way to keep fit, Ye Xiaowen said it
also attracted people unable to cope with rapid social changes brought about
by economic reforms.

It was an unusual concession coming from a representative of the communist
government. The Communist Party has long claimed to be building a spiritually
inspired as well as materially prosperous China. But Ye's remarks underscored
how rattled Chinese leaders have been by Falun Gong.

Using video clips of Li's teachings, Ye tried to prove the government's claim
that he is a cult leader who tricked his believers, leading 1,400 of them to
their deaths by advising them to eschew medicine.

"In China, I am the only person who is taking people to higher levels," Li
said in one clip. In another, he said he had been reincarnated countless
times. "I am the oldest in the universe. I produced my own parents," he said,
according to the subtitled footage.

Ye indicated that the government acted too slowly against what he called "a
cult organization that has seriously endangered society." "If there are any
lessons to learn on the part of the government, we should have outlawed it
earlier," he said.

10. While Defending Crackdown, China Admits Appeal of Sect
New York Times, Nov. 5, 1999
The government continued to lash out at the Falun Gong spiritual movement
Thursday, comparing it to "organized crime" and predicting it would soon

"The government can not sit back and do nothing about Falun Gong, a group
that has seriously endangered public safety and order," said Ye Xiaowen,
director general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, at a news
conference at the Great Hall of the People.

Thursday's news conference highlighted what Chinese officials called the
"dangerous" and "superstitious" aspects of Falun Gong with video clips that
showed the movement's leader, Li Hongzhi, discussing supernatural powers,
millennial visions and reincarnation.

Li, a former government clerk who started the movement in 1992, now lives in
New York. "I am the oldest in the universe -- I produced my parents," he
says at one point in the tapes. And, at another: "I have so many
incarnations, I can protect you all."

Other segments are said to show him urging practitioners to forgo medical
care with admonitions like this: "If you go to the doctor it shows you don't
trust me."

The group's leaders have said they do not forbid members to seek medical
care, but they have also said that practicing Falun Gong promotes health and
may limit the need for medical treatments. "The Chinese government has
produced more fabricated stories about Falun Gong practice, but the truth
will prevail since the Chinese people keep coming back to Tiananmen Square,"
said Erping Zhang, a Falun Gong spokesman based in the United States.

11. Up-to-date Falun Gong News

Only a representative selection of stories regarding Falun Gong are noted
in RIN. For additional, current wire services and newspaper reports on Falun
Gong, see

[Story no longer online? Read this]

=== Scientology

12. Police no longer monitoring Scientology
[Story no longer online? Read this]
St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 6, 1999
The Clearwater Police Department no longer assigns an officer to gather
intelligence about the Church of Scientology, a major policy shift ending 20
years of vigilance against the controversial group.

Police Chief Sid Klein disclosed the change in an interview Friday, saying,
"It's time to move on." But he emphasized his department will continue to
investigate, when appropriate. "Let me make it clear," Klein said. "We have
and will continue to investigate aggressively any allegations of criminal
conduct perpetrated by the church, any of its members or against the church."

The change does not affect the case of Lisa McPherson, the Scientologist who
died in 1995 after 17 days in the care of church staffers. Scientology's
corporate entity in Clearwater has been charged with two felony counts for
allegedly abusing McPherson and practicing medicine without a license. A
trial is scheduled for March 6.

Klein's decision quietly took effect months ago, after the city settled a
four-year court battle with Scientology over whether the department's
intelligence records could be released.

But the change was made, Klein said, independent of the court settlement. He
said a major factor in his decision was the possibility of litigation against
the city by the church. He said he felt an obligation to protect the city
from that threat.

It also marks another example of how in recent years the once-icy relations
between Scientology and the city have thawed. For the first time since the
church moved to Clearwater in 1975, Scientologists are participating in
discussions about downtown redevelopment. At the same time, the church is
constructing a $45-million building downtown as part of a $60-million to
$90-million expansion at various sites.

Critics of the church have alleged that Klein's decision was ordered by City
Manager Mike Roberto, whom the critics view with contempt for breaking with
past practice and including Scientology in discussions about civic affairs.
But Klein said the decision was his alone. He said he did not consult

The policy change was never announced to the public, but Klein discussed it
this week after Scientology critic Robert S. Minton posted an e-mail message
about it. Minton, a New England millionaire, was arrested by Clearwater
police Sunday on a misdemeanor battery charge, accused of striking a
Scientology staffer.

Police began gathering intelligence on the church in 1979, the beginning of a
turbulent time that saw 11 high-ranking Scientologists jailed for breaking
into federal offices in Washington. As a result of their investigation,
federal authorities found Scientology internal memos outlining plans by
church officials to control public opinion in Clearwater, concoct a sex smear
campaign against then-mayor Gabe Cazares and infiltrate local institutions.

Klein added: "I think the history will clearly demonstrate that the
Clearwater Police Department didn't start this. It started when the Church of
Scientology arrived and how they arrived in Clearwater."

13. Questions about Scientology: Recognition as Religion?
Neue Zuercher Zeitung (Switzerland), Nov. 5, 1999
Translation: CISAR
From the Federal Court
The Federal Court is apparently having difficulty with the question of
whether Scientology should be recognized as a religious denomination or not.
This deliberation arises from a written basis for a court decision which says
that the new regulation in Basel-City Canton conforms to the Constitution in
that it says that pedestrians may not be recruited on public land in an
unfair manner (NZZ of 1 July 99).

In the course of the public discussion on the decision of June 30 of this
year, several judges have insisted that the delicate question remain open and
have cautiously reviewed the charges brought up in regard to the disputed
regulation in the Basel City code of violations only for the event that
Scientology should be treated as a religious denomination. However, such a
so-called "self-contained-if-clause" is not found as such in the written
basis for the decision. Much more will be carried out after a detailed
reference to the various judgments on the question in various countries of
Europe, that support the practice of the Federal Court and the Strassburg
Organs and will answer to the charges of violation of freedom of religion
(BGE 118 Ia 46). That is augmented by the judgment of the First Public Legal
Department directly, finally and sybilically: "Whether the teachings of
Scientology and their practices have religious character in every regard and
therefore the protection of religious freedom has not been decided."

Decision 1P.571/1998 of 6.30.99 - from a BGE Publication.
[...entire item...]

=== Israel - Deportations

14. Israel Deports Christian Predicting Second Coming
AOL/Reuters, Nov. 5, 1999
(...) Police spokeswoman Linda Menuhin said Brother David, who moved to
Israel 20 years ago and headed the "House of Prayer" group, was put on an
El Al Israel Airlines flight to New York's Kennedy Airport.

He was one of 20 Christians rounded up from homes on Jerusalem's Mount of
Olives last month and ordered deported. Israeli police said they were
suspected of plotting violent acts intended to trigger the apocalypse.

Their deportation raised to around 60 the number of Christians expelled from
Israel this year in the approach to 2000.

"We got information from the police and from abroad, the U.K. and the U.S.,
that they were a danger to public safety," a Ministry of the Interior
spokesman said of the detainees.

U.S. diplomatic sources said it had been unclear for some time after his
detention whether Brother David could be deported to the United States at
all. He renounced his U.S. citizenship when he came to Israel and destroyed
all his documents.

15. Israel Deports Christian to N.Y.
AOL/Reuters, Nov. 5, 1999
Israel deported this morning the last Christian from a group of 21 detained
last month on suspicion of planning violence during the millennium year,
police said. An American who calls himself Brother David and lived in
Jerusalem for two decades was put aboard a plane bound for New York early

The Christians said they were peaceful, and provided shelter and guided tours
for pilgrims. The Israelis countered that they were apparently laying the
groundwork for fanatic Christians and doomsday cults to carry out violent
believing they would hasten the Second Coming during the millennium
[Story no longer online? Read this]

Tourism Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak said the information about the groups
comes mostly from their home countries. He admitted that police could make
mistakes, but said his first priority is safety for the tourists and the holy

=== Cults - General

16. Project Megiddo
[Story no longer online? Read this]

The FBI released a report yesterday entitled "Project Megiddo." It is
intended to analyze the potential for extremist criminal activity in the U.S.
by individuals or domestic extremist groups who profess an apocalyptic
view of the millennium or attach special significance to the year 2000.

* Note: pdf file (you need the free Adobe Reader to view this file).
Adobe: http://www.adobe.com

Apologetics Index provides an HTML version of Project Megiddo.

17. Sect information center "too academic"
Berner Zeitung (Switzerland), Nov. 8, 1999
Translation: CISAR
(...) Even though sects are hardly a danger to the state, they can exert
considerable force on individual members. Or, said Alexander Tschaeppaet,
Social Democrat of the Bern National Assembly: assimilative religious
movements are turning more and more into catch basins for people who suffer
from social isolation. An active sect politic is needed for their protection,
Tschaeppaet stated the day before yesterday at the meeting of the Reformed
Church of Bern-Jura on the theme of sects.

Religion can not continue to be seen as strictly a private matter, said
Tschaeppaet. However, the state, as protector of tolerance, must acknowledge
the basic right of freedoms of belief and conscience, he continued. But it
has to step in if groups exert force on their members. In order to be able to
recognize dangerous assimilative groups in a timely manner, the Federal
Assembly would have to create an information and counselling center for sect
issues, he said.

Zurich sect specialist Hugo Stamm voiced doubts about the effectiveness of an
information and counselling center. An information center run by religious
sociologists and theologians would be too academic, he said, and he was
afraid that people who had been affected would receive too little actual

18. Is Religion more than just a private matter in the final analysis?
eBund (Switzerland), Nov. 8, 1999
Translation: CISAR
Sects / At long last the feathers flew at a podium discussion: at a meeting
in Bern on the theme "Do sects endanger our state?" sect critics on the one
side and representatives of independent churches ("Freikirchen") and special
groups on the other side demonstrated that consensus will probably never be
reached on the issue: while the critics demand the state take action, the
critics of the critics plead for reserve. "One does not have to immediately
call for help from the state."

The event, conducted by the Theology Department and the by the Ecumenical
Work Group "New Religious Movements in Switzerland," was held in connection
with the report of the Business Review Commission of the National Assembly
(GPK) on assimilative movements in Switzerland. In the report, which was
published on July 2 of this year, the Federal Assembly was called upon to
formulate a sect politic, to establish an independent information and
counselling center and to conduct an information campaign.

The sect specialist [Hugo Stamm - awh] from Zurich, to be sure, is against a
general ban on assimilative groups. Society's laws of freedom he said, are of
greater value. But that did not mean that the state should not do
anything, even though the legal path for doing anything was difficult. There
was a great danger that "thought police" activity could result. Therefore
the problems with sect would have to be understood as a "situation of
addiction," Stamm said, and noted that millions were distributed for drug

The podium discussion, in which, besides Tschaeppaet, Stamm and four other
speakers participated, including one representative each from Jehovah's
and from Scientology, made it clear how controversial the sect
issue is.

And Juerg Stettler, press speaker for Scientology, used the podium to parry
the accusations handed down in the course of the meeting.

Stettler demanded a "neutral ombudsman agency" which minority religions could
also turn to "when they were discriminated against." The discussion was
supposed to be objective. "One does not immediately have to call for help
from the state" to help one state church "to keep others away." The podium
discussion, as a result, was marked primarily by "Scientology versus
everybody," he said. Hugo Stamm accused Stettler of wanting an ombudsman
agency for the purpose of obtaining a public platform. He also said that a
discussion would not be possible at all, because Scientology made up its own
truth. Georg Schmid, of the Evangelical information center of "Churches,
sects and religions,"
put Stettler on the spot: "In what way are you liberal?
Where did Hubbard err?" Stettler said, however, that he did not come to
discuss Hubbard. "This is about misuse -- of quotation marks."

=== Unification Church

19. Probe Into Moonie Son Death Plunge
Yahoo! UK, Nov. 6, 1999
POLICE are probing the death of the son of cult founder the Rev Sun Myung
Moon. Young Jin Moon, 21, fell to his death from a 17th-floor hotel window.
His body was found on the roof of a ground-floor canopy at Harrah's hotel in
the gambling resort of Reno, Nevada, last week.

The death was originally put down to suicide - but family and friends say the
young man had no reason to kill himself. They insist Moon, who had been
married for two years and was about to start a college course in hotel
management, was not depressed and did not leave a note.

The Rev Phillip Schanker, of the Family Federation for World Peace and
, said: "His death doesn't fit the character that I knew. He was
not despondent. "He was having a rocky time with his wife, which was fairly
normal. I and many others are not convinced."

Detectives are trying to discover why Moon, who lived in Las Vegas, checked
into the hotel and how he spent his final hours.
[...entire item...]

=== Jehovah's Witnesses

20. Mother complains about Jehovah's Witness daughter
Rossiiskaia gazeta, 21 October 1999 (Letter to the editor)
Posted by Stetson University
(...) From the depths of our soul we thank the newspaper and your reporter in
St. Petersburg, Sergei Alekhin, for the proper and very timely article in
your paper of 2 October 1999 [sic, properly 2 September], "Question to the
Petersburg mayor Yakovlev, Are you a governor or simply a Witness?" [see
also Continuation of topic: Jehovah's Witnesses and their Petersburg
Advocates, RG, 14 October 1999]

Here in our city there exist the circumstances for the spiritual expansion of
the Jehovah's Witness totalitarian sect because of the patronage for it on
the part of the city government and the indifference and inaction of
the governor.

They offered salvation and subsequent life of paradise "within the only true
visible organization of God," of which they identified themselves as the
witnesses. Here they even caught my fifteen-year-old daughter in their
Jehovist net, which radically changed her worldview which already had been
formed and completely wiped out her family upbringing and school education
regarding life and her country. Whereas before the Jehovists showed up she
was an active, serious, and diligent person (a good student, who worked in
crafts, read a lot of classical literature, engaged in music, swimming and
hoped to be a good writer in order to serve people following the example of
her favorite teacher), subsequent to the sect's influence she began to hate
the world around her and constantly said that "the devil sits" in the hearts
of people who do not want to learn the "truth" from Jehovah's Witnesses.

In the past two years the sects has stopped expecting the end of the world in
the near future since "Armageddon" has not happened in the times that the
Jehovists have often named.

At present my daughter has quit her job as a maid since she was assigned by
the Brooklyn center of the Watchtower Society to the depths of Russia where
according to the assembly's preachers more preaching is needed. In that place
she will work 140 hours per month as a "special pioneer" receiving a miserly
salary from the society.

According to statistics reported in NG-religii on 8 September 1999, in the
article "Jehovah's Witnesses in the mirror of statistics," in the Russian
affiliate of the sect there are 70 percent women and 30 percent men, aged
from 9 to 70 years.

In all countries of the world active opposition to the spread of the
"destruction cult" of Jehovah's Witnesses is going on. This work has been
increased especially in European countries.

The governor himself appealed to the absence of "a supreme Russian law" which
would permit banning the activity of totalitarian sects. Such a law was
worked out by the duma in 1997, and President Yeltsin signed it despite
pressure from the congress of USA against this law and numerous letters from
foreign members of the Jehovah's Witnesses' organization. The press has
reported that in the preparation and production of the law "On freedom of
conscience and religious organizations" the president received during June to
December 1997 about 5,000 letters from 44 countries, where Jehovah's
Witnesses are found.

According to article 14 of the law, the Jehovah's Witnesses organization
could be prohibited right away on several points, on which was based the
petition of the procurator in Moscow court for prohibition of the activity of
Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow. The trial which began in autumn 1998 has still
not been completed. But the bureaucrats in the Petersburg administration act
as if this law does not exist. And the media, apparently, have received
orders not to talk about the topic of destructive cults, since both
newspapers and television have been silent about this topic. In this matter
the article of your reporter has been very timely and useful for our city.
Thank you very much for this publication.

=== Hate Groups
[Story no longer online? Read this]

21. Youths' White Power Views Stir Concern
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 7, 1999
(...) The numbers aren't great. No more than a few hundred kids at most. Some
of them worse than others. About the time they start developing their white
power views in their early teens, many are already in trouble for drugs or
fighting or petty crime.

Chris Weidenheimer, who heads Ventura County Juvenile Hall, says the white
power youths she sees typically come from lower middle-income families with a
single, uneducated parent. "I don't think parents promote it," she said. "I
think parents ignore it until it's out of control." But Ventura Police
Cpl. Mark Stadler says that isn't always the case. He says the racism
espoused by teenage white supremacists is often a reflection of their
parents' views.

Stadler, who tracks white power gangs for the Ventura Police Department,
said gang activity died down about 1997, when several leaders went to prison.
But recently there has been a resurgence of white supremacy, he said.

"What we've seen from white supremacy groups is that they tend to be a lot
more violent than other groups," Stadler said. "They are responsible for a
lot more violent crimes. And the more extreme they are, the deeper the
beliefs are, the more violent they are, and the more likely they are to lash
out against a person of another race."

22. 'Disgusting pamphlet' on Jews getting new shelf-life in Hungary
Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, Nov. 5, 1999
Hungary is the newest battlefield in a century-old war against a pamphlet
that has incited anti-Semitic hatred the world over. "The Protocols of the
Elders of Zion," first penned in the 1890s to expose a supposed Jewish
conspiracy to dominate the world, is viewed by most as a great hoax.

In August, an obscure publisher released the first Hungarian edition of the
"Protocols" since the Holocaust. Jewish leaders here, usually reticent to
make waves, sprang forth in protest. Describing it as a "disgusting
pamphlet," they accused the publisher of inciting hatred against Jews.

As a result of the publicity, book sales soared, reportedly from an initial
press run of 3,000 into the tens of thousands. Leaders of the 100,000-strong
Jewish community felt compelled to speak out. Only two years ago Hitler's
"Mein Kampf" reappeared in kiosks.

Now, as the Hungarian government drifts farther to the right, there's word
that an even more venomous prewar rant, "The Jewish Question in Hungary," is
set for re-release.

The "Mein Kampf" and "Protocols" cases are under review by state prosecutors,
as post-communist Hungary dawdles in drawing the line between unfettered
freedom of expression and blatant efforts to whip up anti-Jewish hatred.

23. National Hate Crimes Legal Resource Information for Consumers Now Online
Boston Globe/AP/US newswire, Nov. 4, 1999
(...) A comprehensive new 250 page publication summarizing civil and criminal
remedies for hate motivated violence has been posted on the internet by The
Equal Rights Center, a Washington, D.C. based civil rights organization.

* http://www.equalrightscenter.org

=== Other News

24. Colonia Dignidad: a Hamburg man hunts sect founder Schaefer
Hamburger Abendblatt (Germany), Nov. 3, 1999
Translation: CISAR
For almost 40 years, Wolfgang Kneese's life has been revolving around the
same focal point. It turns around what the 54 year old calls "simple evil."
This evil wears a human face and has a Germanic name: Paul Schaefer. For nine
years as a child, Kneese was struck, tortured and sexually abused by the sect
leader - four of those years in the "Colonia Dignidad" in the mountains of
southern Chile. That is where Schaefer brought him and other German children
in 1961. When Schaefer was sought in Germany for abuse, he, with 200 Germans,
built a colony in Chile - and refined his perversions.

Schaefer has committed about 10,000 child rapes altogether, Wolfgang Kneese
estimates. He believes that the reason the sect chief has never been
apprehended lies in the fact that he has important friends. He was not to be
found during the raid two weeks ago. "The state police have to drive 40
kilometers," said Fernandez. "And the whole way is watched by the colony:
with motion detectors, cameras and computer technology." He said the only
ones who can arrest Schaefer are the criminal police - because they have
helicopters. "But they would not want to get him at all." Hunting Paul
Schaefer is a type of therapy for Wolfgang Kneese; it helps him through
depression and thoughts of suicide. "But this is no longer just a matter of
my own suffering," said Kneese. "This fight is against evil itself."

25. Catholics extend hand to Hindus
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Florida Times-Union, Nov. 4, 1999
While Baptist leaders have called for their faithful to pray that Hindus will
abandon the "hopeless darkness" of their religion, Catholic leaders have
adopted a very different strategy to mark the coming Hindu holiday of Divali.

A senior Vatican official has released a two-page letter for Divali, wishing
Hindus friendship, esteem and "an abundance of divine blessings" during what
is one of India's most popular festivals.

The letter, an annual greeting, stresses commonalities between Christians and
Hindus, and calls for those of both faiths to work together to alleviate
human suffering. In doing so, it highlights the differences between Baptists
and Catholics on evangelism and the means of salvation.

Both documents, however, come at a moment when many Hindus in India have
begun to rethink their previous tolerance toward Christians.

The pope has strongly embraced the cause of interfaith dialogue, addressing
an international assembly of different faiths held at the Vatican at the end
of last month. But the pope has also emphasized the need for Catholic

"Even if Christ is working outside the church, it's still better to be inside
the church," Clooney said.

This subtlety has not been lost on Hindu nationalists, said Vasudha
Narayanan, a professor of religion at the University of Florida. They have
taken issue with passages of Cardinal Arinze's letter that assert Jesus is
the "ultimate fulfillment of the human heart's restless searching," she said.

They see evangelization as a sign of disrespect for Hinduism, Narayanan said.
Hindu nationalists ask "how can we have a cordial relationship with a group
that is trying to convert you," she said.

26. Evangelism efforts creating hard feelings among non-Christians, Christians
Star-Telegram, Nov. 4, 1999
For most Christians, spreading the Gospel -- the "good news" of Jesus -- is
The Great Commission. But, in an increasingly multicultural society, that
imperative doesn't always sit well with those targeted for such attention.

"The Great Commission is more than sharing," said Bill Bright, founder and
president of Orlando-based Campus Crusade for Christ. "We talk about
presenting the Gospel to every human being on planet Earth so that everyone
will have a chance to say 'yes' to Jesus Christ. They can't respond if they
haven't heard of God's love and forgiveness revealed through the Lord Jesus."

But evangelism in the modern age has its limits, said Bright, who has
steadfastly refused to target Jews for conversion.

"No matter how gifted the speaker, ultimately it's impossible for anyone to
proselytize, because it is the Holy Spirit of God who draws men to our

There are conservative Bible teachers and evangelists who take a much harder
line. R.C. Sproul, whose national radio ministry is based in Lake Mary, Fla.,
said that evangelism is not simply a matter of making an offer or issuing an
invitation, as Billy Graham does. God, Sproul said in a recent broadcast,
"will not tolerate the rejection of Christ." Quoting the Apostle Paul, Sproul
said that the New Testament "commands and demands" submission to Jesus.

Yet forced conversions, at the point of the sword or the threat of the stake,
have given evangelism a bad name over the centuries.

"Those 'conversions' could not have been real unless the Holy Spirit worked
in the heart of the believer," Bright said. "The only way anyone can become a
believer is through the wooing of the Holy Spirit in the life of that

Under the leadership of Pope John Paul II, who has voiced regret for
historical excesses of the Catholic Church, the Vatican has clearly signaled
that Jews are off limits for its evangelism. During the High Holy Day period
in September, New York Cardinal John J. O'Connor wrote a conciliatory letter
to the Jewish community. In the letter, which was printed as a full-page ad
in the New York Times, O'Connor expressed sorrow for any harm inflicted on
the Jews by members of the Roman Catholic Church.

Some evangelical Protestant leaders strongly disagree, insisting that The
Great Commission requires them to approach all people, including Jews.

27. Pope: Religious Freedom a Right
AOL/AP, Nov. 8, 1999
With his minority church under fire by some Hindus for its missionary work,
Pope John Paul II said Sunday that freedom to practice or change one's
religion must be considered a basic human right.

"No state, no group has the right to control either directly or indirectly a
person's religious convictions ... or the respectful appeal of a particular
religion to people's free conscience,'' John Paul told them.

The visit, John Paul's second to India in 13 years, was preceded by weeks of
small but noisy protests from radical Hindus who accuse the church of
illicitly inducing Hindus, mostly from poor and illiterate tribal areas, to
convert to Christianity.

But the pope told people Sunday that he looks forward to a period of
religious coexistence in Asia. Paying tribute to the ancient cultures of the
region, he spoke of ``my hope and dream that the next century will be a time
for fruitful dialogue leading to a new relationship of understanding and
solidarity and the tolerance of all religions.''

The pope's visit coincided with Diwali, the festival of lights, marking the
victory of the god Rama over the demon king Ravana in Hindu mythology. It is
a holiday when families unite and often celebrate with fireworks and special
candles. "Many people are celebrating the festival of lights,'' the pope
said at the Mass. "We rejoice with them.''

The Mass came a day after the Pope issued a call to his bishops to spread
Christianity throughout Asia, a continent where Roman Catholics are a tiny
minority. His encouragement of evangelism angered militant Hindus who are
campaigning against missionaries.

28. Hindus, others picket Baptist church over prayer booklet
CNN, Nov. 7, 1999
More than 100 people protested outside one of the nation's largest Baptist
churches Sunday over a booklet that urges Southern Baptists to pray for
Hindus' deliverance from the "power of Satan."

"We want all people to understand that religious intolerance is rearing its
head in this country," said Houston attorney Amit Misra, a leader of the
coalition of local Hindu groups who organized the protest. "Some people
aren't aware of the type of hate that is being preached by mainstream
churches," Misra said.

The booklet, distributed during Divali, the major Hindu festival of lights,
says Hindus have no concept of sin or personal responsibility and "worship
gods which are not God."

"I think it is our God-given responsibility to pray for them to be
converted," Second Baptist Church member Tara Imani said after speaking to a
woman demonstrating outside the church.

"She asked me what I think about (the Hindu belief that there are) many
," Ms. Imani said. "I said that there is one path. If there were many
paths, then (Christians) would be fools. If they were right, it would mean
Jesus was a liar, God was a liar."

29. Tolerant Baha'is battle misconceptions
Toledo Blade, Nov. 6, 1999
Christy Besozzi was in a booth offering educational materials on the Baha'i
[Story no longer online? Read this]
faith during Perrysburg's recent Harrison Rally Days when she overheard
someone say, "Don't bother, that's a cult." It is a characterization that
is familiar, but still frustrating, to the followers of Baha'i (ba-HIGH), a
world religion founded in 1844 in Iran and known for its emphasis on the
unity of all faiths and races.

Despite its high level not only of tolerance, but acceptance of other
religions and a policy against proselytizing, the world's 6 million Baha'is
are regarded with suspicion by many people because of their unusual name and
foreign roots.

For example, they teach that Christ has reappeared on Earth in the form of
Baha'u'llah, who is considered the founder of Baha'i.

In 1863, Baha'u'llah revealed himself as that messenger, the latest in a
succession that included Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ,
and Muhammad.

All of this is contrary to traditional Christian and Islamic teaching because
Christians still are awaiting the return of Christ, and Muslims regard
Muhammad as the last prophet and one who brought the complete and final
proclamation of God's laws and commands for humanity.

But because of their belief that all the major religions are of God and all
religions are evolving into one, Baha'is desire to have a relationship with
other faiths. Nonetheless, their efforts to be involved in the local National
Day of Prayer observance have been quietly rebuffed, said Bruce Modarai of
Sylvania, a member of the local Baha'i community.

"We don't consider other religions the enemy," said Ms. Besozzi, a
spokeswoman for area Baha'is, who number about 50, and safety coordinator at
Toledo Hospital. "We want to bring other religions the good news that their
prophecies have been fulfilled."

Although Baha'is believe they have an obligation to share that "good news,"
just as Christians believe they have a commission from God to spread their
message, they were commanded by Baha'u'llah not to do it aggressively.

To combat negative and incorrect impressions, the National Spiritual Assembly
of Baha'is in the United States is currently sponsoring an educational
advertising campaign.

Mr. Modarai said, however, that the ads are strictly educational. "We are not
saying this faith is for you, or you need this and you've got to have it . .
. We're saying a spiritual force exists on the planet, and if you're
searching for truth, here is an option."

Baha'is say that kind of message is in direct contrast to the way religious
cults gain followers. Furthermore, they say, Baha'is lack other cultic
characteristics, such as devotion to a charismatic leader, control over
members, and doomsday prophecies.

They point out that there is no living central Baha'i figure and that none
could ascend to a position of power because the religion teaches that humans
have progressed spiritually to the point that they no longer need clergy to
guide them.

Many modern-day Baha'is are initially attracted to the religion because of
dissatisfaction with more established religions, Ms. Besozzi said.

Ms. Besozzi said her religion often is confused with Islam and mistakenly
referred to as a sect of that religion. She said this is partly because
Baha'u'llah was born into a religious Muslim family and the Bab also had been
a devout Muslim.

30. Secrets and lies
The Guardian (England), Nov. 1, 1999 (Commentary)
Binjamin Wilkomirski was caught faking reminiscences of a childhood in a Nazi
death camp. Now a documentary about the incident is itself playing games with
the concept of factual reporting

Television documentaries are frequently accused of book-plugging, so not the
least of the virtues of the programme of the week - Child Of The Death Camps:
Truth And Lies (9.30pm, Wednesday, BBC1) - is that it is an exercise in book
un-plugging. A man who appeared on his dust-jackets as Binjamin Wilkomirski
wrote a book called Fragments in which he described a childhood in Nazi
concentration camps.

The documentary - written and directed by Christopher Oligiati - takes two
huge risks: one historical, one technical. The first is the possibility that
Wilkomirski's story will encourage denial of the Holocaust. The documentary
is clearly well aware of this possibility, tuning, in its final moments, on
the Swiss journalist who first raised doubts, Daniel Ganzfried - previously a
sympathetic witness - and pointing out that quotes from his articles have
been misused by extreme right-wing groups. But surely the film is as liable
to malicious misinterpretation as the journalist's pieces, and it would
presumably offer the same defence: that the truth must be told even if idiots
may half-listen to it.

The interview with Wilkomirski which dominates the first half of the film
treats him as a serious and plausible witness, even using historical footage
of the camps to illustrate his stories.

I understand what Oligiati is doing. Like a prosecution counsel, he needs the
witness to establish the story which will later be demolished; but - when
Wilkomorski is exposed as a fraud - the programme also reveals its own first
half to have been a lie.

These decisions, however, are not recklessness but calculated risk. Child Of
The Death Camps is a highly thoughtful film and one which provokes many
thoughts about both its story and its form.

* Note: the documentary included Lauren Stratford, whose stories have also
been exposed as lies. See:

Bob & Gretchen Passantino document "Lauren Stratford'"s latest hoax.
Cornerstone, vol. 117, Oct. 13, 1999

=== Religious Freedom/Religious Intolerance
[Story no longer online? Read this]

31. Court test for Russian law restricting religions
EWTN/Keston, Nov. 3, 1999
On October 21, a preliminary hearing on the constitutionality of Article 27
Point 3 of the 1997 law on religion took place at Russia's Constitutional
Court. The challenge to the law was brought by the Jehovah's Witness
[Story no longer online? Read this]
congregation in Yaroslavl and the Glorification Pentecostal Church in

According to Andrei Sebentsov, adviser to the prime minister on church- state
relations, at least 12,000 of Russia's roughly 17,000 religious organizations
(including 6,000 Orthodox, 1,500 Muslim, 140 Buddhist, 70 Jewish
congregations, and many others) could face mandatory curtailment of their
activities since they were registered only after 1990.

In presenting their challenge to the 1997 law, Jehovah's Witness elder Viktor
Gladyshev explained that his congregation in Yaroslavl had existed since
1967, but was registered only in 1991. "It was officially recognized that we
were persecuted, and we have been rehabilitated," he observed.

According to Lazarev: "The rights of the individual and the citizen are one
thing and the rights of an organization are another; we need to separate the
wheat from the chaff. The rights of the individual and the citizen may be
realized without entering an organization. When I ask the Holy Trinity for
something-- or Allah, if it is for my Tatar friends-- then I don't need any
intermediaries." The rights of religious organizations, said Lazarev, may and
should be restricted "in the interests of public order." Thus, in order to
obtain the status of a religious organization, a group must exist for 15
years. In Lazarev's view, "Religions are made over centuries! The state is
obliged to place any organization in doubt."

Representing the Council of the Federation, the upper house of Russia's
parliament, Viktor Ulyanishchev also made a firm distinction between the
right of citizens to freedom of worship and "the right to engage in some kind
of financial or other activity." As he put it: "Only a citizen can believe in
God, not an organization. A state has the right to deprive an organization of

In this context, he remarked, Christianity did not initially have the status
of a legal personality, but the Christian faith still developed. (One of the
judges did not agree with this point and quipped: 'Thanks to persecution!')
His conclusion was: "The challenges by Glorification Church and the Jehovah's
Witnesses result from an incorrect interpretation of the law and are

32. Americans as protectors of religion: a fox guarding the hen-house?
Rajeev Srinivasan
Rediff on the Net, Nov. 3, 1999 (Commentary)
I was amused to find a news report that an obscure American official, one
Robert Seiple, US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom,
was lecturing India on religious tolerance. I was even more amused when Anand
from Fremont, California wrote that this Seiple person used to be the head of
World Vision, a gigantic Christian missionary (and, to be fair, disaster
relief) organization that according to its own data gets 18 per cent of its
funding from the US government! Rather a lot like the proverbial fox in the

First, there are far more instances of religious intolerance in the US than
in India. Second, it is no business of America's what India does to Indian
Christians (or Australians for that matter). Third, America has no locus
standi in matters religious -- as, say, the Pope might. Fourth, the Americans
are curiously silent about certain cases of religious oppression. Fifth,
their definition of religious tolerance is, shall we say, quirky?

As I have said before in my column Death of a Missionary, instead of hanging
its head, the Indian government should demand explanations for the various
acts of violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the US. We should
respond to sanctimonious posturing and finger-wagging by Americans with the
Chinese tactic of shouting from the rooftops about their sins.

Moving closer to home, Seiple is concerned that Hindus are putting obstacles
in the path of Christian missionaries! Personally I'd say this is a good
thing. Why does Seiple not shed tears about the obstacles faced by
Rajneeshis, who were hounded out of the US by tax authorities and by irate
locals in Antelope, Oregon, where they had set up shop? Similarly with the
Hare Krishnas. So it's okay for the US public/government to oppose a foreign
cult, but not for the Indian public/government to the same to foreign cults?

* Note: the last paragraph quoted above is representative of the author's
unbalanced approach. Nevertheless, it provides some insight into how
others view America's policies.

33. Boy sues upstate school for expelling Jesus
New York Post, Nov. 5, 1999
As presidential candidates battle over whether religion belongs in the
classroom, one 7-year-old upstate boy has entered the fray - with crayons and
a lawsuit. Little Antonio Peck of Syracuse drew a poster of Jesus for a
classroom assignment, but his teacher told him it wouldn't be displayed
because of its religious content.

Now his mom, Jo Anne Peck, is suing the Baldwinsville Central School District
and Catherine McNamara Elementary School, accusing them of violating her
son's constitutional rights by censoring the poster in the incident last

The Pecks' lawyer, Mathew Staver, is arguing that a 1995 federal Education
Department directive says students may express their beliefs about religion
in the form of homework, art, and other written and oral assignments.

=== Noted

34. A&E goes gaga over polygamy in Utah
Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 8, 1999
(...) Fascinating sometimes despite itself, Kurtis' Investigative Reports
never seems satisfied with the simple truth, even though it often visits
weird places where the truth can boggle the mind.

Check out this itinerary for the show's "True Believers Week," unfolding over
the next five nights:

Tonight: "Inside Polygamy."
Tomorrow: "Jonestown: Mystery of a Massacre."
Wednesday: "Attack at Waco."
Thursday: "Inside Scientology."
Friday: "Inside Heaven's Gate."

Town after rural town in Utah has its own sect of polygamists, many of whom
are willing to go on camera and testify to the godliness of their lifestyle.

Who needs to gild the lily, or add sulphur to the rotted rose, with material
like that, and with so many interviews of garrulous polygamy practitioners
and the broken wives and daughters who have escaped their clutches?
Investigative Reports, apparently.

Instead of "gee whiz," the show often instills the "oh, gross" response in
its viewers, with cheesy reenactments, trashy music and lurid narration.

35. He's a guru of 'practical spirituality'
Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 7, 1999
(...) The speaker, Dan Millman, moved lightly across the Convention Center
stage, tossing out these spiritual jewels wrapped in his own parables and
anecdotes. "We're immersed in the spirit of God all the time. We just don't

And, in fact, he is a man with no formal religious credentials. That has not
stopped him, though, from establishing himself as a guiding light of New Age

The 53-year-old Californian is the author of 10 books, including the
best-selling Way of the Peaceful Warrior, that have ministered to the
human-potential movement's body-mind-spirit trinity for nearly 20 years. His
specialty, translating guru-talk and ephemera into "practical spirituality,"
has resulted in more than one million books sold and a roster of celebrity
fans including Paul Newman, Michael Douglas, Billie Jean King and Los Angeles
Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

In the New Age counterculture, as in many storefront churches, credentials
count less than preaching power and plain wisdom - and Millman, by
acclamation, is felt to have the goods.

Millman is a veteran seeker himself, and his credo is a mix of self-esteem
guidelines, Yankee pragmatism, humor, horse sense, and concepts from Eastern
and Western religions. He uses classical religious terms (grace, soul,
saints, miracles, sacredness) in a loose way that Christian watchdogs call
"theological shoplifting." He diminishes other concepts (dogma, commandments,
sin, moralism, hierarchy) and never recommends exploring life in a
traditional Western congregation.

"Dan would be between traditional New Age and its next mature evolution,"
said Matthew Gilbert, editor of NAPRA ReView, a New Age trade magazine. The
movement's first wave rejected the traditions outright as suffocating,
Gilbert said, while its contemporary thinkers "are realizing that
do-it-yourself spirituality has much to learn from the traditional
religions," particularly from their mystical teachings.

Millman is the grandson of Russian Jewish immigrants and was raised by
religiously unobservant parents in California. Like his parents - and like
most New Agers - he stayed outside the bounds of a Western congregation as he
pursued meaning. He studied yoga, Zen meditation, martial arts, shamanism. He
joined a guru's community. He went to Asia. He read scriptures.

"Millman is one of the more typical and successful models of a do-it-yourself
spiritual mentor," said Gilbert, the New Age editor from Eastsound, Wash.

One of Millman's rallying cries, Gilbert noted, is that people trust their
intuition as a truth-teller greater even than their rational faculties. This
trust has been an article of faith for many New Agers, Gilbert said: "Perhaps
the pendulum swings too far to that side, to diminish rules and logic and
authority, to say none of that matters. It's probably one of the weakest legs
the New Age movement stands on. It has been a lightning rod of criticism even
by students of our contemporary spiritual movement."

Millman takes pains not to be seen as a master. Though he is a full-service
sage with self-help tapes and a pastoral Web site
(http://www.danmillman.com), he wants people to follow his advice, not follow
him. He hopes they become their own spiritual dowsers, and is mum about his
own practices so it doesn't seem he is advocating one way.

36. Court to Review Student's Objection to Activity Fees
Washington Post, Nov. 7, 1999
A conflict between a conservative Christian law student and a public
university famous for its liberalism arrives at the Supreme Court this week,
in a free speech controversy that could affect campuses nationwide and
possibly impact government funding of political or artistic expression.

The dispute concerns whether the University of Wisconsin at Madison--or any
other state school--can force students to pay "activity fees" that go, in
part, to groups engaging in political advocacy the students may oppose, on
topics such as abortion or environmentalism. Provoking dozens of "friend of
the court" briefs, the case is significant mostly for America's campuses,
where ideas are exchanged and society's dilemmas debated. But an eventual
ruling could touch on recurring controversies over government funding at all
levels for free expression and the arts.

The case before the court began when law student Scott Southworth objected
that his student activity fees were indirectly supporting several liberal
University of Wisconsin student groups, including the UW Greens, Amnesty
International, the Campus Women's Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender Campus Center. "It was a gut-level thing," Southworth said,
explaining that he opposed "being forced to support the propagation of
opinions that I disagree with--on an ideological basis, a political basis and
especially a religious basis."

37. Adventists grapple with embracing diversity
Chicago Tribune/Religion News Service, Nov. 7, 1999
As it becomes an increasingly diverse religious body, the Seventh-day
Adventist Church
has begun grappling with how to address the
opportunities--and sometimes tensions--its various cultures pose for the

About 350 Seventh-day Adventists gathered recently at the world headquarters
of the denomination for a four-day summit on race relations, turning "Make us
one, Lord" into the event's theme song.

While the worldwide denomination has more than 10 million members, Adventists
number about 900,000 in the United States and Canada.

38. A Friendlier Face for Islam
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Washington Post, Nov. 6, 1999
(...) But Abdelsalam Ragab, whose family owns the village, says a new Islamic
Museum on the site is a chief part of his mission--putting the religion and
its history in a tourist-friendly context.

In response to news reports about violence in Chechnya, where Islamic
militants have been fighting Russian troops for independence, or the threats
of a militant minority in Egypt, Ragab said he felt it important to
counterpose Islam's acceptance of Christian and Jewish prophets and its
advances in music, calligraphy, textile arts and architecture.

"Islam is something nobody [in the West] quite understood. . . . It was
always seen as a rival to Christianity," said Ragab, a pediatrician who
worked for several years in the United States before returning to Egypt. He
now travels between Cairo and Atlanta, where he maintains an office, intent
on improving the West's understanding of Islam. "There is so much
misunderstood," Ragab said. "It is not out of prejudice. It is out of

"We are trying our best to break the ice," Salim said. "People have a lot of
bad ideas . . . that you can't go to a mosque, that you can't talk to a
Muslim . . . that it is okay [for Muslims] to kill non-Muslims."

39. Convert Faces Hatred, Threats in Middle East
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 6, 1999
His e-mails from the Middle East read like the latest from John Grisham.

Steve isn't a character in a novel, nor does he work for the CIA, M-6 or
the Mossad. For the past nine months, Steve--who doesn't want his real name
used--has been in the missionary business, proclaiming the Gospel in the
Middle East. You may remember his story. I wrote about him in February, just
as he was leaving for the West Bank on a one-year mission sponsored by
Irvine-based Roberts Liardon Ministries, which is sending 500 missionaries
over five years to the areas of the world most hostile to Christians.

Steve, a shy, soft-spoken, 36-year-old Orange County resident, had spent part
of his youth in the West Bank, where he was raised as a Muslim. As a
teenager, he returned to the United States and converted to Christianity.

He had always known that trying to make converts out of devout Muslims in
the Holy Land would be tough and potentially dangerous. But he wasn't
prepared for the intensity of the attacks--both verbal and physical--against

"I've spoken to almost 500 people and almost, without fail, they have been
amazingly hospitable," Steve said. "They almost always want to find out about
me because they recognize my accent as being from the villages around
Jerusalem. "Many of the times, they try to win me back to Islam. But they
are always most hospitable and courteous."

The people Steve fears--and who he has run up against-- are the fanatics
who take the Koran literally: "If they desert you, seize them and put them to
death wherever you find them."

=== The Believers Around The Corner

40. Monsters Among Us
Fox/AP, Nov. 3, 1999
A North Carolina minister who called Barney the dinosaur an agent of Satan
has taken aim at another childhood fixture.

The Reverend Joe Chambers of Charlotte says Pokemon (POH'-kee-mahn) has lined
up with the devil as well.

Chambers says the whole scheme is sorcery and witchcraft -- because he thinks
Pokémon talks of characters gaining power from crystals. He says it's the
same type of thing that the two teen-agers at Columbine High School dabbled
in prior to their shooting rampage.

Chambers has previously attacked Power Rangers, Pocahontas and Cabbage Patch

41. Freethinkers Honor Scientist
AOL/AP, Nov. 5, 1999
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has named physicist Steven Weinberg, a
Nobel laureate, as the winner of its first ``Emperor Has No Clothes Award,''
honoring public figures who speak out about their non-religious views.

The foundation, based in Madison, cited Weinberg's remarks last April at a
meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
Washington, D.C.: "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without
it, you'd have good people doing good thing and evil people doing evil
things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.''

About "Religion Items in the News"
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