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Religion Items In The News

March 12, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 75)

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Religion Items in the News - March 12, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 75)

1. Russian police carry children out of religious school
2. Minority faiths under siege in Russia
3. Russian: Study Jehovah's Witnesses
4. Jehovah's Witnesses 'must be allowed to die'
5. [Crack down] on psychiatrist who told of 'satanic ritual abuse'
6. Former football player, says he's sorry (Yahweh Ben Yahweh)
7. Sex and the Singular Swami (Ananda)
8. Unification Church Is Tied to U.S. Gun Company
9. Church school plan draws parking, traffic concerns (Unif. Church)
10. Russia puts Scientologists under scrutiny
11. Putting Friendship to the Test (Human Rights/Scientology)
12. Scientology and city trying to be better neighbors
13. Scientology church expands
14. Mormon Institute Bombed in California
15. LDS church plans to put family history archive on World Wide Web
16. Stats Show Mormons Buck Secularization
17. Cult's Boulder financier in Greece (Concerned Christians)
18. Deaths spur questions about church (Faith Healing)
19. Shield-law bills face easy win in House (Faith Healing)
20. Imam Mohammed, Farrakhan signal healing of Muslim rift
21. Muslims raise $3 million for mosque
22. Religious rights a factor as year 2000 nears (Doomsday Issues)
23. Extreme cultists could usher new year violently
24. Spiritual adviser to Clinton says religion divisive (Campolo)
25. Hands of faith (Benny Hinn)
26. Laughter soothes their souls (Holy Laughter)
27. Gulfport fortunetelling issue tied to long spiritual history
28. Gospel of Thomas expert questions familiar Bible themes (Cameron)
29. Seattle Buddhist Temple in transition to survive
30. UFOs lured to Great White North
31. Flag duties likened to mind control

1. Russian police carry children out of religious school
Fox News, Mar. 10, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Russian riot police forcefully removed about 25 children from a
Christian school Wednesday and took them away in buses, ending a 17-day
standoff. City officials say the school building belongs to the local
government. Human rights groups maintain the real issue is freedom for
religious minorities in Russia.

The school, Prins Maurits, is run by a Dutch-based religious society
called Open Christianity. The group received rights to the building in
1991, principal Inga Ivanova has said. Officials sued for control of
the building in 1995. A court decision is pending.

A Dutch co-founder of the school, Bert Dorenbos, said from the
Netherlands that some adults were hospitalized after being taken from
the school. Authorities in St. Petersburg said they could not confirm
the report.

2. Minority faiths under siege in Russia
Star-Telegram, Mar. 7, 1999
[URL removed because it currently refers to inappropriate content]/news/doc/1047/1:RELIGION13/1:RELIGION13030799.html
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) In recent months, a slew of apparently unconnected incidents has
drawn worldwide attention to the situation of minority faiths and new
religions in Russia.

The fast-growing Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim 250,000 members in this
country of 146 million people, are in the midst of a trial in which a
Moscow prosecutor is seeking their "liquidation". Meanwhile, 402
Pentecostals accused of "zombifying" the people of the remote city of
Magadan have applied for political asylum in the United States. On
Wednesday (March 3) 65 self-described Pentecostals who had been
threatening mass suicide ended a three-day occupation of a local
government building in Siberia. In St. Petersburg on Thursday, a
standoff between riot police and parents and children refusing to leave
the Open Christianity School continued for the 12th straight day. And
for months, ultra-nationalist politicians have been blaming Russia's
half million Jews for the country's economic woes.

3. Russian: Study Jehovah's Witnesses
Washington Post, Mar. 5, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A Russian judge hearing the case to ban Jehovah's Witnesses from Moscow
ordered a panel Friday to study the group's literature, a move church
officials called a delaying tactic.

Judge Yelena Prokhorycheva is stalling because of strong opposition to
an acquittal, church officials said, and the delay keeps in place a
number of restrictions against the group.

*** Note: news about the trial is posted to these sites, operated by
Jehovah's Witnesses:

http://www.jw-russia.org and http://worldnews.lbtech.com

4. Jehovah's Witnesses 'must be allowed to die'
BBC, Mar. 9, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Doctors have accepted that Jehovah's Witnesses, whose faith forbids
them from having blood transfusions, must be allowed the right to die
if they do not consent to life-saving treatment. However, children
must be given blood where necessary irrespective of the parent's

The Association of Anaesthetists has issued guidelines to its members
which state that they must respect the wishes of Jehovah's Witness

Dr Michael Ward, chairman of the Association of Anaesthetists working
party, which drew up the guidelines, says: "Administering blood to a
Jehovah's Witness without consent has been likened by the movement to

There are an estimated 145,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the UK and
Republic of Ireland.

5. Illinois cracks down on psychiatrist who told of 'satanic ritual
Nando Times, Mar. 7, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The claims were startling, if not unbelievable: psychiatric patients
who had ritually abused family members and eaten them in the name of
Satan. Could psychiatrist Bennett Braun - who first assembled his
colleagues in Chicago nearly 15 years ago to discuss the matter - be
onto an alarming trend?

They named it "satanic ritual abuse" and deemed it the work of a
clandestine network of devil worshippers who'd been torturing people
for centuries. Braun seemed so sure that he talked of death threats
from self-proclaimed cult members and, according to a 1996 deposition,
their possible links to the FBI and CIA.

Then doubters began to come forward. In 1992, the FBI declared that
there was scant physical evidence of widespread satanic ritual abuse.
Even some of Braun's own colleagues admitted that memories induced by
hypnosis were sometimes unreliable. And, one by one, former patients
came forward with allegations of mistreatment and malpractice lawsuits.

This summer, Braun faces another challenge - from the state of
Illinois, which is now considering revocation of his medical license.
The case, scheduled to go to trial in May, focuses largely on the
treatment of Patty Burgus. Braun diagnosed this mother from suburban
Glen Ellyn with multiple personality disorder, now commonly called
dissociative identity disorder.

A year ago, after seeking treatment from other therapists, Burgus
settled a civil claim against Braun for $10.6 million, according to
Burgus and her attorneys. In Burgus' original complaint, she claimed
that Braun wrongly convinced her that she possessed 300 personalities,
ate meatloaf made of human flesh and served as high priestess of a
satanic cult.

6. Convicted killer, former football player, says he's sorry
Tampa Tribune, Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Federal prosecutors say former NFL player Robert Rozier set out to
become an angel of death as an executioner for a Miami cult leader.
Convicted of four murders, but given a reduced sentence for cooperating
with authorities in Florida and then given a new identity and released
in the federal witness protection program, Rozier now says he has
``total remorse'' for his actions as Neariah Israel and says he rebuilt
his life in an intense spiritual and intellectual transformation.

In a confession, Rozier said that to prove himself to Yahweh Ben
, he descended into Miami's Coconut Grove district and repeatedly
stabbed an intoxicated man and his roommate until they died. He
ultimately pleaded guilty to four other murders in Florida and
confessed to three more.

Rozier, 43, was living anonymously in Cameron Park when El Dorado
County deputies arrested him last month for allegedly bouncing checks.

7. Sex and the Singular Swami
SF Weekly, Mar. 10, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Since the '60s, the Ananda Church of Self-Realization has grown from a
Northern California commune into a worldwide New Age empire. Its leader
has grown fond of sex with young believers.

From its beginnings in tents and geodesic domes 30 years ago in the
Sierra Nevada foothills, Ananda has grown to include a vast, far-flung
empire of churches, meditation centers, businesses, and “world
brotherhood colonies” in places as far away as Italy and Australia.

In New Age circles, Ananda has been the poster child of cooperative
spiritual communities for years. In the late ’80s, the New York Times
went to Ananda’s headquarters and flagship colony near Nevada City and
reported excitedly that the church was a successful exception to the
hippie communes that were founded in the 1960s and “have long since

Recently, though, Ananda has revealed itself to be less an exception
than an example of the rule of wayward ’60s communalism.

And now Ananda’s leaders have embarked on an unusual method of fighting
the judgment: filing for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy
code. To date, the filing has allowed the church to avoid paying the
judgment, but it is being challenged as a fraud upon the bankruptcy

Ananda’s form of self-realization seems to include a fair amount of

8. Unification Church Is Tied to U.S. Gun Company
International Herald Tribune, Mar. 11, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
With parts of its sprawling business empire in decline, the Unification
Church headed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon is finding profits in one
of the least-known of its commercial ventures: making guns.

Mr. Moon's four-year-old gun company, Kahr Arms, has prospered amid
glowing reviews for the workmanship of its small but potent pistols.
Last month, Kahr Arms expanded, purchasing the company that
manufactures Tommy guns, fabled in Roaring '20s mob shoot-outs from
speeding black sedans. The ties between Kahr Arms and the Unification
Church headed by Mr. Moon have received almost no notice, both within
the close-knit gun industry and among church members. The business arm
of the church, whose members believe that Mr. Moon is the Messiah and
was placed on earth to restore the Garden of Eden, declined to clarify
its involvement in the gun business.

One ex-member said that for years church leaders had tried to obscure
the movement's involvement with Kahr Arms. ''They were afraid if
anti-cult groups found out, they'd have a field day,'' the former
member said.

Some former members and gun industry critics see a contradiction
between the church's teachings and its corporate involvement in
marketing weapons promoted for their concealability and lethality.

''I see an irony, if not hypocrisy, that someone who professes peace
and says he's completing Jesus's work also manufactures for profit an
implement with no purpose other than killing people,'' said Tom Diaz,
author of ''Making a Killing,'' a new book critical of the firearms
industry. ''What's the message, turn the other cheek, or lock and

The parent company of Kahr Arms, Saeilo Inc., is an offshoot of a
cluster of 15 or so other Moon-affiliated concerns, all called some
variation of Saeilo and all in the machine tool or car repair business.

9. Church school plan draws parking, traffic concerns
Bergen Record, Mar. 11, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
For the past 12 years, a group associated with the Rev. Sun Myung
Moon's Unification Church has quietly operated a small, private school
near the foot of Garret Mountain. Now, the Jin-A-Child Care Center
wants to open a school in the Lakeview section for up to 100
kindergarten through eighth-grade pupils.

The Unification Church, which originated in South Korea, claims tens of
thousands of members worldwide and runs a global business empire.
Besides the school, it also has a church on Van Houten Avenue in
Clifton with a membership of about 300. It is the only Unification
congregation in the state.

But the church as a whole has never shaken its 1970s reputation as a
cult that recruited impressionable young people and isolated them from
family and friends while it indoctrinated them.

The pastor at the Clifton branch of the Unification Chruch said the
church has changed. She traced the evolution back to the early 1980s,
when Moon began conducting mass marriages of church members, including

"At that point, our church became a church of families rather than a
church of individuals," said the Rev. Carol Pobanz.

10. Russia puts Scientologists under scrutiny
Yahoo/AFP, Mar. 5, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Russian secret service has recently stepped up its surveillance of
the Church of Scientology amid suspicions that it is violating basic
rights of members, using violence if need be, and engaging in illicit
financial business.

The Moscow public prosecutor has initiated proceedings against the
Scientologists, citing legislation covering commercial activities and
religious and social organisations.

The FSB which searched the Scientologists' offices in collaboration
with tax officials last week, found some 15,000 files of members, some
of which were confiscated.

A former Church of Scientology member who spoke to AFP on condition he
not be identified, said that on the orders of the movement's leaders,
he had for several months collected "information on those who criticise
Scientology, journalists and priests particularly".

He said "the Church of Scientology is not a religious movement and is
organised on a military model". Activities of members are limited
strictly to learning as much as possible about the doctrine propagated
by Ron Hubbard, the movement's founder.

"Denunciations of members by other members are routine practice," he

"The Orthodox Church has nothing to do with these police raids," said
Alexander Dvorkin, the director of a centre for information about
sects, which is close to the Orthodox Church.

"Every day, I get phone calls from people accusing the Scientologists
of destroying their families," he said.

The Church of Scientology officially set up shop in Russia in 1993 and
claims 30,000 followers in the country.

11. Putting Friendship to the Test
Hamburger Morgenpost (Germany), Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Translation: German Scientology News
First the brutal execution of the LaGrand brothers, then the acquittal
of the killer pilot of Cavalese; the public sentiment between Germans
and Americans at at a low point.

A Bonn diplomat said bitterly, "The USA ignores the international court
and, at the same time, threatens Europe with sanctions on account of
the import restrictions on bananas."

These differences are completely based on reciprocity, "The USA does
not understand that we observe Scientology, that we do not want to eat
their genetically altered meat, or support their boycott of Cuba."

12. Scientology and city trying to be better neighbors
Tampa Tribune, Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Despite the uneasy relationship between the Church of Scientology and
the sleepy community where it is based, there are signs the two sides
are willing to shed their antagonism to redevelop the city's downtown.
Parishioners gathered recently at the downtown site where a six-story
Scientology training and counseling center is planned. Work on the
foundation began in early February.

The church corporation faces criminal charges and has entered an
innocent plea to charges of abuse in the case of Lisa McPherson, 36,
who died of a blood clot caused by ``dehydration and bed rest,''
according to the medical examiner's report. No trial date has been set.

Nevertheless, the church gradually is gaining acceptance in the
community, said Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson.

Each year, about 10,000 church members from around the world come to
the center for courses and counseling, Anderson says. When the new
center is done, the church expects that number to double.

Glenn Warren, chairman of the Clearwater Downtown Development Board,
says merchants hold mixed views about the new church facility.

``Many of my friends are dead-set against them,'' says Warren, whose
father started a family business downtown in 1930. ``But damn if I can
tell the difference between a Scientologist's dollar and a Baptist
dollar or a Presbyterian's dollar.''

13. Scientology church expands
Miami Herald, Mar. 9, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Work on the foundation, which began in February, confirms what
some residents consider anathema and others accept without emotion --
the church is growing.

The expansion comes almost 25 years after the church bought Fort
Harrison and turned it into its headquarters. For most of those years,
the church's relationship with the city has been uneasy. Two years
after its arrival, the FBI raided church offices in Washington and Los

Among the seized documents were plans to take control of Clearwater
through city leaders and major institutions.

14. Mormon Institute Bombed in California
Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 10, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A bomb exploded at a Mormon student center, blowing the front door off
its hinges and shattering windows, police said Tuesday. No one was
hurt in the 9:20 p.m. blast Monday at The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints' Institute of Religion near Humboldt State
University, police said.

15. LDS church plans to put family history archive on World Wide Web
CNN, Mar. 8, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it will make its
collection of genealogical records - the world's largest - available on
the World Wide Web.

The genealogy files are currently available to the public through a
system of 3,200 Family History Centers around the world.

16. Stats Show Mormons Buck Secularization
Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
In a stubbornly secular world, Mormons can take heart. Studies show
they tip the scales as a marriage-honoring, morally and politically
conservative people even as their growing faith has become a world

However, other studies -- including some in The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints' own publications -- detail lagging retention of
longtime members and converts, along with low levels of church activity
among those remaining.

Duke maintains all those figures are cause for Mormon pride, but warns
that the church is not without cause for concern.

For example, research published by both Ensign and the Church News
indicating a progressive falling away of young Mormon males is "a
somewhat discouraging statistic," he said.

"Of 100 males born in the church, only 76 were ordained deacons, 65
were ordained teachers, 58 were ordained priests and only 32 percent
went on missions," he said.

Meantime, the most recent published study on LDS Church member activity

-- done in 1988 by the church's Research Information Division -- shows
only 22 percent of every 100 people born Mormons maintain lifelong
church activity. "That means 78 percent are inactive for a year or
more at some time," Duke said, though slightly more than half of those
prodigals eventually return to the LDS Church.

17. Cult's Boulder financier in Greece
Rocky Mountain News, Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A Boulder man thought to be a key financier of the Concerned Christians
cult is among sect members now living in Greece, a source said Friday.

John W. Cooper, a wealthy 63-year-old who once owned a local motorcycle
shop, has made contributions to the group's coffers that may exceed $1
million, according to one relative.

On Jan. 7, Boulder District Judge Carol Glowinsky granted a request by
John Cooper's 32-year-old daughter, Jennifer Cooper, that his assets be
placed under the control of a conservator. Glowinsky concluded -- based
in part on the testimony of family members -- that John Cooper had
"apparently" lost the ability to make decisions in his own best

Dave Cooper said he doesn't know how much money his brother has
contributed to Miller's ministry. "It could be in the millions or it
could be half a million."

"Without John, this wouldn't be happening," Cooper said. "Greece, with
all these cars, and having money come in monthly to supply their needs,
and so forth ... The entire scenerio, living there and having the means
by which to do that, was created, I believe, by John."

Bill Honsberger, a Baptist minister living in Aurora who has studied
Miller's group, agreed about John Cooper's importance to the Concerned
Christians' bottom line.

18. Deaths spur questions about church
Rocky Mountain News, Mar. 8, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Rather than take her grandmother to the hospital before she died, Jana
Colosimo watched members of her grandmother's church pour a mix of
bleach and water over her bed sores and then cover them with lard and

Colosimo's grandmother, a member of the General Assembly and Church of
the Firstborn, had fallen, probably breaking her hip, but the church's
strong belief in spiritual healing and the rejection of medical help
for the sick kept her from seeing a doctor. Colosimo and her sister,
Deborah Davis, said they respected their grandmother's desire to live
without medical care, but said they believe she would have gone to a
doctor before her death if church members had not kept such a close

"A simple medical technique could have taken care of it," Davis said.
"I believe she would have been alive." The same may be true for a
Clifton infant who died last week.

19. Shield-law bills face easy win in House
Oregonian, Mar. 5, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Two bills that would require faith-healing parents in Oregon to seek
medical care for their sick or injured children or risk criminal
charges seem virtually assured of easy passage in the House.

The House Judiciary Committee Criminal Law took the first testimony
Thursday on proposals by Reps. Bruce Starr, R-Aloha, and Kathy Lowe,
D-Milwaukie, that would eliminate spiritual-healing exemptions
throughout the state's criminal codes.

The debate about the law arose after the death of 11-year-old Bo
Phillips, an Oregon City boy who died in February 1998 after suffering
for days from painful complications from diabetes. His parents, members
of the Followers of Christ Church, treated him only with prayers.

Lewman said Bo was one of the more than 70 children buried in the
Followers of Christ cemetery outside Oregon City. Many of them could
have been saved with basic medical care, he said.

20. Imam Mohammed, Farrakhan signal healing of Muslim rift
Chicago Sun-Times, Mar. 3, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A simple get-well card from Imam W. Deen Mohammed to ailing Nation of
Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has begun the healing of a decades-old
rift between the two Chicago-based Muslim leaders.

And the groups may affirm their new ties on Oct. 30, when Mohammed said
he plans to participate in the Nation's annual celebration of his late
father Elijah Muhammad's birthday.

``To me it's not a reconciliation,'' Mohammed said Tuesday. ``It's a
recognition of the gradual movement of the Nation of Islam in the
direction I took in 1975, with the passing of Elijah Muhammad, my

In particular, Mohammed cited some Nation of Islam members' increased
observance of traditional Muslim practices, including Friday prayer, as
evidence of their desire to join the global Muslim community.

21. Muslims raise $3 million for mosque
Detroit News, Mar.8, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Imam Hassan Qazwini could hardly believe it. A one-night fund-raiser
for the Islamic Center of America brought in $3 million for a new
mosque, billed a historic turning point for Metro Detroit's 150,000
Muslims of Middle East descent.

Metro Detroit's Islamic community has thrived to the point of itself
affording a new, huge $10-million mosque and Islamic center, scheduled
to be built on 10 acres on the north side of Ford Road.

22. Religious rights a factor as year 2000 nears
San Jose Mercury News, Mar. 9, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Technological Armageddon triggered by the millennium computer bug would
be ominous enough for business. But what if one of your employees or
co-workers becomes convinced he's the Messiah?

Not only could it happen, it already has. ``Millennium fever'' has
gripped some workers, raising eyebrows and concern in the workplace.

California is home to practitioners of every mainstream and alternative
religion as well as to people who place their faith in hundreds of
cults, covens and clubs. Quite a few believe in the Christian
millennium prophecy. Some end-timers are fervent in their apocalyptic

Though it's unlikely to become a widespread phenomenon, some employment
lawyers warn that outbreaks of ``millennium fever'' may become more
frequent as the end of the century draws near.

Those outbreaks are sure to raise thorny legal issues. Jeff Tanenbaum,
a San Francisco lawyer, already has received several inquiries from Bay
Area companies. In all, Tanenbaum says he has fielded nearly a dozen
calls from human resources professionals and corporate managers
grappling with the religious beliefs and practices of millenarians in
the workplace.

In one instance, a worker who thought he was the Messiah would lie on
the floor and pretend he was nailed to the cross, frightening
co-workers and customers.

Are these workers and their beliefs and practices protected by state
and federal laws prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace?

In most cases, the answer is yes, Tanenbaum says.

And if your employee thinks he's the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

That's a tough call, Tanenbaum says.

The worker may well be protected under the Americans with Disabilities
Act for being emotionally or mentally unbalanced, Tanenbaum said. ``But
if you treat him under ADA, he could say he is being discriminated
against because of his religious beliefs,'' Tanenbaum said. ``It's
basically damned if you do and damned if you don't.''

Of course, the employee who claims to be the Messiah may actually be
the Messiah, Tanenbaum said with a straight face. ``In that case you
don't want to be wrong or you may well really be damned.''

23. Extreme cultists could usher new year violently
Tribune Review, Mar. 8, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Some 18,000 Americans are expecting a cataclysmic end to life as we
know it sometime in the next two years.

Ted Daniels, a leading folklorist and expert on millennium cults at
Philadelphia's Millennium Watch Institute, said dates and times are not
as important as sudden change.

Any millennium cult worth its weight in Nike running shoes has a Web
site, which Daniels said will be a prerequisite for cults seeking new
converts in the next century.

Cult prophets routinely choose the wrong date for the return of God -
as in the case of Harold Camping, a talk radio host from Oakland,
Calif., who told his followers to expect God's return during the Jewish
Rosh Hashanah holiday in 1994.

As for Camping, Daniels said his radio show audience is bigger than
ever and with the media exposure he received during 1994 and the
attention given the millennium, he boasted of recent profits
reaching $13 million.

24. Spiritual adviser to Clinton says religion divisive
Honolulu Star-Bulletinm, Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
From impeachment proceedings against the president to lawmaking on gay
rights, abortion and euthanasia, religion mixes into the debate on
political and social issues these days.

And that's not always a good thing, says a nationally known preacher.

"I think religion has become a major divisive force," said Tony
Campolo, a Baptist minister and one of President Clinton's spiritual
advisers. He spoke this week at two events in Honolulu.

"Liberal or conservative, these kinds of labels are very destructive,"
said Campolo, who has been labeled liberal because of his advocacy of
Christian acceptance of homosexuality.

"I am getting frightened by a kind of triumphalism that I sense
emerging in the evangelical community. I am worried about a kind of
self-righteousness ... which establishes a kind of we-they
relationship. We define ourselves as the good people and those who are
not with us are not defined as good people. I think this completely
contrary to Jesus."

25. Hands of faith
Orange County Register, Mar. 7, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Hinn, 46, has drawn millions worldwide to his Miracle Crusades.
More than 8,000 a week attend services at his Orlando Christian Center
in Florida. His book, "Good Morning Holy Spirit," is an all-time
Christian best seller.

Since Hinn jumped on the evangelical fast track in the 1980s, millions
have come seeking cures for everything from cancer to demonic
possession. But critics have complained about his showmanship,
theology, fancy lifestyle, even his big hair.

But Hinn wades expertly through the muck — promising to turn over a new
leaf, apologizing for missteps — and all the while, climbing in

Benny Hinn World Media Center is housed in an Aliso Viejo office park.
Records show the two buildings are assessed at about $6.1 million. He
will keep his church and fund-raising operations in Florida.

There eventually will be public tapings. A church museum is in the
works. "His dream is to have a place where people experience, through
old tapes, the great evangelists such as Kathryn Kuhlman and Oral
Roberts," Brokaw says.

Some ministers have criticized Hinn for such displays of wealth, saying
it is unseemly in a man of God. He has drawn fire for wearing a Rolex
watch, jetting to Europe on the Concorde, living in an exclusive
Florida home. Hinn says he must live in a gated community for security
reasons. Criticized at one time for driving a Mercedes, he once asked
an interviewer, "Where in the Bible does it say I have to drive a

The ministry raises about $50 million a year in offerings and employs
400 people, Brokaw says. This compares with Billy Graham's $80 million
yearly intake and Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller's $62

Hinn told a reporter in 1997 that his salary is somewhere between
$500,000 and $1 million, including book royalties. He hasn't been more

Hinn is Pentecostal. The faith espouses an emotional relationship with
Jesus and the biblical gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues and
healing. But some Pentecostals have criticized Hinn for at times
espousing a fringe Pentecostal belief called the "word of faith"

This theology maintains that faith is a force, words are the containers
of the force, and through the force of faith, one can create one's own
reality, says Hank Hanegraaff, head of Rancho Santa Margarita-based
Christian Research Institute, a watchdog Christian group.

These days, Hinn has backed away from chunks of that theology —
including the belief that Jesus was conquered on the cross by Satan.
Hanegraaff says that at his and other ministers' urgings, Hinn in 1993
told his congregation he was dropping the "word of faith" gospel,
including its health and wealth message.

However, since then, Hinn has preached that message on the
Praise-athon, the fund-raising event held on TBN founder Paul Crouchs'
show "Praise the Lord."

The praise-athons raise millions of dollars for the network through
teaching the so-called prosperity gospel. It says that if you donate
enough to God's servants, you'll get health and wealth in return.

Hinn then exclaimed, "The Lord has just told me to sow another $50,000
into TBN's ministry. ... I am building a studio here (in Orange County)
and I'm so in debt. ... I'm believing in God that everything will be
paid in that studio, because if we sow we reap. ... every one of us who
has sowed small or large amounts, we pray for a hundredfold return.
Thank you, Lord."

Hinn's preaching etiquette, which has also come under fire, has
changed. He has quit anointing the faithful by whacking them on the
head with his linen jacket or puffing on them until they fall in a heap
at his feet.

26. Laughter soothes their souls
Philadelphia Inquirer, Mar. 7, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The priest stands before the altar and, microphone in hand, exhorts the
congregation: "Ha ha, ho ho." From somewhere in the pews comes a
titter. "Ha ha, ho ho," the priest repeats.

The giggling spreads and grows into knee-slapping, side-splitting belly
laughs that leave worshipers gasping for breath. They howl through the
hymns, chortle during the Scriptures. The sermon cracks them up.

From the Main Line, and the sanctuary of Presentation of the Blessed
Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church, it's Wednesday Night Revival,
featuring "holy laughter."

Holy laughter is not a new phenomenon. Like speaking in tongues, or
glossolalia, it has been a staple of some Christian Pentecostal worship
services for years. But within the liturgical confines of Catholicism,
even its charismatic movement, holy laughter had been virtually unheard
of, regionally or nationally, until Msgr. Walsh introduced it at
Presentation four years ago.

Word spread fast and wide. The weekly revivals now draw from 400 to 500
Catholics, including several priests, nuns and seminarians.

Holy laughter got its first major burst of publicity in the United
States in the early 1990s, when a South African evangelist, the Rev.
Rodney Howard-Browne, drew 10,000 people a night to a series of
revivals at a Lakeland, Fla., Assemblies of God Church.

It also became part of revival services at the Toronto Airport Vineyard
Church and then spread throughout the small evangelical denomination,
including the Vineyard Christian Fellowship congregation in Wayne.

27. Gulfport fortunetelling issue tied to long spiritual history
Sun Herald, Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Ongoing debate over a Gulfport ordinance prohibiting fortunetelling not
only raises questions about human laws but also touches people's
beliefs about the existence and nature of unseen spiritual dimensions.

Urich said she believes fortunetelling is an extension of her Catholic
faith and that her insights allow her to do the work of God by helping

So if both prophesying, or people speaking for the God of the Bible,
and telling someone's fortune have to do with a person's revealing the
hidden, what's the difference between the two?

"They share superficial similarities," said the Rev. Clem Ferris,
pastor of City of Palms Christian Center in Fort Myers, Fla., who also
has an international prophetic ministry and will be at Northwood
Christian Center in Gulfport at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday to talk
about prophecy. "What's the source. The source determines the

The word divination comes from Hebrew roots that can mean several
things, including enchantment, soothsaying or observing times,
according to the Illustrated Bible Dictionary. And, although prophets
in the Bible are sometimes said to divine information from God, the
term usually refers to practices outlawed by God, according to the
dictionary, as in the Old Testament passage of Deuteronomy 18:10-11.

SIDEBAR: What does the law say?
Here's the full text of the Gulfport ordinance against fortunetelling.

28. Gospel of Thomas expert questions familiar Bible themes
Topeka Capital-Journal, Mar. 10, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
New Testament scholar Ron Cameron isn't afraid of bucking traditional
beliefs concerning religious studies, Christianity or the Bible. At
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Cameron will speak on "The Gospel of Thomas and
Christian Origins" ...

The author of several books on the subjects of the non-canonical
gospels and Christian origins, Cameron now is working on a commentary
on the gospel of Thomas.

Cameron said no one really knows why the gospel of Thomas wasn't
included in the New Testament. "We already have four gospels," he
said, "none of which agrees with the other."

In 1985, Cameron became a charter member of the controversial Jesus
Seminar, composed of about 30 scholars.

Cameron is still a member of the Jesus Seminar but hasn't participated
actively in it since 1991, having focused his attention on the Society
of Biblical Literature, serving as chairman of its Seminar on Ancient
Myths and Modern Theories of Christian Origins.

29. Seattle Buddhist Temple in transition to survive
Seattle Times, Mar. 10, 1999
(...) To survive, its leaders say, the temple must attract
non-Japanese, and to do this, it must become less Japanese and more
American. Not an easy conclusion to arrive at, leaders say, but the
only realistic one.

Longtime temple member Alan Hoshino sums it up like this: "It'll become
an Americanized institution, or it'll become extinct."

Japanese Buddhist temples all over the country - the Seattle temple has
60 sister temples, most of them on the West Coast - face the same
predicament, signaling something deeper and broader taking place among
Japanese Americans as a whole. The community as a distinct cultural
group seems to be disappearing into the great American melting pot.

30. UFOs lured to Great White North
CBC (Canada), Mar. 6, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Aliens apparently aren't afraid of the cold. Far fewer Canadians
reported seeing UFOs last year. The only exception is Yukon, where
sightings tripled.

Consider the numbers: The territory has about one-tenth of one per cent
of Canada's population. Yet last year, more than 10 per cent of
reported Canadian UFO sightings came from Yukon.

31. Flag duties likened to mind control
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Mar. 11, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A 48-year-old middle school teacher in Hachioji, Tokyo, distributed
material to 260 students in which she compared school principals who
follow board of education orders to sing "Kimigayo" and raise the
Hinomaru national flag to brainwashed religious fanatics, sources close
to a local board of education said Tuesday.

Printouts the teacher made for her students drew parallels between the
principals and followers of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, who had "lost
the ability to make up their own minds," according to the sources.

The teacher included a copy of a newspaper article about an Aum
follower. The report said that the accused, who helped carry out the
sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995, told a
court that he had committed the crime because he was ordered to do so,
the sources said.

Below the article, she wrote questions, including, "Don't you think the
accused believer's words are similar to the words and thoughts of
principals in this country who are instructed to raise the Hinomaru and
have 'Kimigayo song?'"

Compiled by Anton Hein
Apologetics Index

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