Apologetics Index
News about cults, sects, alternative religions...
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Religion Items In The News

March 20, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 76)

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

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

If links have not yet been provided, check the Apologetics Index for further information.

Religion Items in the News - March 20, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 76)

=== Main
1. Rocking towards Armageddon (Items 1-7: Aum Shinrikyo)
2. Doomsday cult resurfaces
3. Aum cult's quiet comeback causing new concerns in Japan
4. On anniversary of Japanese subway attack, many fear cult resurgence
5. Key Members of Aum Shinri Kyo Cult
6. Fearful local residents block moves by Aum to move into communities
7. Keeping the cult out
8. CSIS fears Y2K cults
9. Nation Of Islam Denies Farrakhan Near Death
10. Likely succumbing to prostate cancer (Farrakhan )
11. A Miracle In Our Midst (Farrakhan )
12. Sermons on Islam Anger Black Muslims (Frederick Price)
13. New Islamic Movement Seeks Latino Converts
14. Britain Arrests Islamic Cleric Sought by Yemen
15. Montana Freemen leaders receive long prison sentences
16. Religious group defends school plan (Unification Church)
17. Polygamy Ban Should Be Ended, Legislator Argues
18. 10-year term in death of Jehovah's Witness
19. Judge Orders Experts To Study Witnesses
20. Scientology told to release notes on late member
21. Scientology plans $40 million campaign in Germany
22. Scientologists underestimated?
23. Sect invitation has city seal on the envelope (Scientology)
24. Florida Ministry Group Charged With Fraud (Greater Ministries)
25. Worshippers To 'Borrow' Cash From Goddess
26. Gold Teeth! (Toronto)
27. Death raises church-state questions anew (Faith Healing)
28. Canadian boy must have chemotherapy despite religious beliefs
29. Faith, hope and a child (Faith Healing)
30. Schnyder's Ties to Guru Raise Concerns
31. Agency backs voodoo, Helms says
32. Haitian healers funded by U.S. use voodoo
33. Why I gave it all up to be a witch (Phyllis Curott)
34. U.N. urges religious tolerance
35. Proposal To Create Observation Group To Watch Sects
36. Ex-Klan Leader Duke Writes Of 'Aryan Vision'
37. Aryan group plans civic service
38. Interfaith dialogue and the difference it makes
39. Sikhs to mark 300th year of formal religion
40. Buddhism After Baseball (Soka Gakkai)

=== Noted
41. Religious Leaders Call For Halt To Executions
44. Son of murder victim calls for end to death penalty
43. Biblical values taught in prisons
44. Group Says Jesus Didn't Eat Animals, Christians Should Follow Suit

=== Books
45. Beyond the Fringe (Apocalypse Pretty Soon)

=== Further Beyond The Fringe
46. Judge rejects lawsuit against God

=== Main

1. Rocking towards Armageddon
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BBC, Mar. 14, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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The "doomsday" cult accused of a nerve gas attack in the Tokyo
underground has found a new way to win young supporters - staging a
rock concert in Tokyo.

The Perfect Emancipation Concert featured members of the Aum Shinri Kyo
cult singing songs composed by their spiritual leader Shoko Asahara,
who is in jail pending trial for the sarin gas attack in which 12
people died and more than 5,000 were injured.

"His supreme vibration, profound doctrine and esoteric teachings are
condensed in each song so that everyone can understand it," according
to the Aum Shinri Kyo website.

Apart from the "Master's" songs, sound clips on the site demonstrate
Astral Music ("pure melodies that Master Asahara has brought back from
the higher Astral world") and Symphonic Music with titles such as
"Gods' sexual love" and "Creation of the gross world".

* Links provided by BBC:
American Family Foundation: Aum Information

[Story no longer online? Read this]

Japan Times: Aum Chronology
[Story no longer online? Read this]

Aum Shinrikyo Music Page
[Story no longer online? Read this]

2. Doomsday cult resurfaces
Detroit News, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Approaching the fourth anniversary of the deadly nerve gas attack on
the Tokyo subway system, the Aum Shinri Kyo doomsday cult is coming
back to life.

Police say members are once again preparing for the Armageddon they
have been promised will come this year by their jailed messiah -- Shoko
Asahara, who is on trial for murder in the March 21, 1995, subway
gassing and other killings.

Authorities see a disconcerting effort by Aum to expand in a year
that is of special significance to Asahara's followers. According to
the guru's teachings, Judgment Day will come on either Sept. 2 or 3 and
only cult members will survive. Possibly in preparation, investigators
say, the cult has set up several offices or meeting places around the
Tokyo Detention Center, where Asahara is being held while on trial.

"I'm concerned about the situation," said Kenji Kawashima, a cult
specialist who teaches at Tokyo's Keisen University. "Many young
Japanese can be easily influenced by a cult with teachings that trigger
fears about the turn-of-the-century catastrophe."

* Includes chart: Cult's source of income

3. Aum cult's quiet comeback causing new concerns in Japan
The Times of India, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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(...) "We must keep a very close watch on the group,'' the report
warned. Aum has significantly increased its fundraising activities.
Last year, its computer sales earned it more than 7 billion yen ($57.5
million, nearly double from the year before. And in the final four
months of 1998, it earned at least 27 million yen ($221,900) from 310
seminars attended by 7,000 people, the report said.

Police cracked down hard on Aum after the subway attack. A total of 428
cultists were arrested and the cult was stripped of its legal status as
a religious group and declared bankrupt. The cult is still a skeleton
of its former self.

At its peak, Aum claimed 10,000 followers in Japan and tens of
thousands more in Russia, Germany, the United States and several other
countries. It now has a core of only about 500 cultists who remain at
its communes, but hundreds more consider themselves members although
they have not taken the final step of giving away all worldly

But one of Asahara's closest and most charismatic disciples, Fumihiro
Joyu, is expected to be freed as early as November after serving time
for forgery and other minor charges from a 1990 land deal. His return
could be a big boost to Aum.

While Asahara's teachings still dominate the cult's web site, Joyu, who
served as the cult's spokesman before his arrest, is also featured

4. On anniversary of Japanese subway attack, many fear cult resurgence
CNN, Mar. 20, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) They said the most pressing concern about Aum was the group's
acquisition of real estate.

"This is a commune-based cult, and once they're in their own space they
aren't ruled by Japanese laws, but Asahara's laws. And they see no
reason to obey Japanese laws," one official said.

The cult has Internet pages that get as many as 1,000 hits a day,
security officials said earlier this year.

5. Key Members of Aum Shinri Kyo Cult
Waco Tribune, Mar. 15, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
What's happened to some of key figures in Aum Shinri Kyo cult:

SHOKO ASAHARA: (...) Still worshipped as cult's absolute leader.

FUMIHIRO JOYU: Regarded as most charismatic leader after Asahara,
attracted many young women to cult with boyish looks.

REIKA MATSUMOTO: Asahara's third daughter, known by her holy name
Archary. Though role largely symbolic, the teen-ager has highest title
in cult and heads its computer division, group's most important

TOMOKO MATSUMOTO: Asahara's 39-year-old wife. Sentenced last May to
seven years in prison for 1994 murder of cult member.

6. Fearful local residents block moves by Aum to move into communities
Daily Yomiuri, Mar. 17, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Local residents around the country are striving to prevent the Aum
Supreme Truth cult from establishing a presence in their communities.

Residents of areas targeted by the cult have reacted by setting up
around-the-clock vigilance and other community solidarity efforts.

The actions of Kitamimakimura residents have the backing of neighboring
municipalities. Their round-the-clock watch comprises four shifts,
involving 30 people, including residents of other villages and towns.

7. Keeping the cult out
BBC, Mar. 19, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The police estimate that it has 1,000 members and is actively
buying up properties around the country to give those members a home,
much to the alarm of their new neighbours.

Kitamimaki residents have installed close circuit television, dug a
trench of World War 1 proportions, and are mounting a 24 hour vigil
against what they perceive as an evil force.

Shoko Asahara's trial for mass murder is still continuing, ironically
right near one of the stations affected by the gas attack. His
followers and relatives of his victims compete for the lottery tickets
needed to watch each session of the trial.

The lucky winners hear how at his headquarters on the slopes of Mount
Fuji, he masterminded the manufacture of nerve gases such as sarin and
VX, sent his followers to acquire lethal doses of anthrax and the ebola
virus, and planned the murders of his critics.

A recent documentary film about the cult shows them in a very different
light: outsiders who are hassled by the authorities.

And in Tokyo, even the authorities are scared of Aum. The National
Police Agency refused to be interviewed by the BBC. They have reason to
be afraid: the police chief was shot and almost killed by Aum.

8. CSIS fears Y2K cults
Ottawa Citizen (Canada), Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Canada's intelligence agency warns the coming millennium could spark
terrorist attacks by cult members and other extremists.

The report also underscores the threat from North American terrorists,
including militia groups, neo-Nazis and racists, as well as extremists
involved with animal rights, environmentalism and anti-abortion causes.

9. Nation Of Islam Denies Farrakhan Near Death
Excite/Reuters, Mar. 19, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is not near death, his followers
said Friday in response to a report in the group's own newspaper that
he was in grave condition.

The prostate cancer with which he was diagnosed in 1991 is under
control but the 65-year-old Farrakhan has been suffering from a
persistent viral infection, his personal physician, Abdul Muhammad told
a news conference.

"This should serve notice to all the vultures ... you can go home.
There is no death vigil ... no death watch," said the doctor who also
serves as the group's minister of health.

The group's chief of staff, Leonard Muhamad, was asked why the
organization's newspaper, Final Call, earlier this week had published a
story written by a long-time Farrakhan acquaintance saying that he had
been gravely ill since January.

The article, which was also posted on the group's Internet site,
www.noi.org, described Farrakhan as "struggling to overcome the forces
of death."

Muhamad avoided a direct answer but criticized New York's weekly
Village Voice, which in its current issue took note of the article and
said insiders believed Farrakhan might have been poisoned by the U.S.

Farrakhan has been the most controversial U.S. black leader for nearly
three decades. He has condemned Jews, called the Pope an "anti-Christ"
and once said Adolf Hitler was a "wickedly great" man.

10. Likely succumbing to prostate cancer
Philadelphia Daily News, Mar. 19, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) With reports circulating that Minister Louis Farrakhan of the
Nation of Islam is gravely ill, almost every detail of his life, his
religion, his legacy and his health remained in dispute yesterday.

Jabril Muhammad is one of several followers, including Farrakhan's son
and daughter, who have been rumored as possible successors. Outsiders
suggest the Nation of Islam, without its charismatic and media-seducing
leader, will split, fade in influence, or blend into mainstream Islam.

Stirring the pot is an article in the Village Voice, in New York,
citing unidentified NOI sources as saying Farrakhan believes he is the
object of a poisoning plot, possibly by the U.S. government.

The Voice article also predicts a power struggle and lists eight
Farrakhan relatives and followers under the heading "pretenders." The
list omits Khalid Abdul Muhammad, forced from the movement after
Farrakhan criticized him for calling Jews "bloodsuckers."

Abdul Rahim Muhammad, director of the Philadelphia Islamic Cultural
Preservation and Information Council - who left the Nation of Islam
after the 1975 death of Elijah Muhammad - said he believes Nation
members will move toward mainstream Islam as he and tens of thousands
of African-Americans have done.

He praised Farrakhan as "a charismatic speaker loved by members of the
African-American community" with influence far beyond his Nation's
estimated 50,000 members.

* Sidebar:
Farrakhan: From humble roots, he rose in stature
[Story no longer online? Read this]

11. A Miracle In Our Midst
The Final Call, Mar. 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
[Nation of Islam publication. The article beyond the news.]

12. Sermons on Islam Anger Black Muslims
Los Angeles Times, Mar. 11, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Pastor Frederick K.C. Price, the Los Angeles "prosperity preacher" who
commands one of the nation's largest predominantly black congregations,
is distorting Islam in an inflammatory series of sermons and setting
off conflict between African American Muslims and Christians, area
Muslims charge.

Among other things, Muslims say, Price is mixing up the racist
ideology of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam (God is black, the devil
is white) with the egalitarian message of orthodox Islam now followed
by the majority of black Muslims.

Price, critics say, has also offended Muslims by saying that Allah
and the Christian God are different. This violates one of Islam's
pillar beliefs in one God and the validity of all prophets of the
Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, said Imam Saadiq Saafir, religious

head of Masjid Ibaadillah in South-Central Los Angeles.

The ensuing national furor has touched off brawls between black
Muslims and Christians in prison, affected interfaith projects in the
inner city and fueled family divisions, said Muslim activist Imam Najee

Price, in a statement, questioned whether critics had actually
listened sequentially to all 23 sermons on Islam and Christianity. "If
they have, it will answer every one of their allegations and prove each
allegation unfounded," the statement said.

The Muslim controversy is the latest to arise from Price's sermon
series, "Race, Religion and Racism." In the past year, the preacher has
taken on an unidentified white Southern minister who was taped telling
his flock not to allow children to date interracially.

Driven by a sense of what he calls "holy anger," Price has also taken
on the Mormons and what he called racist comments appearing in the
"Dake Annotated Reference Bible." The publishers apologized for the
comments, which they had in fact revised.

13. New Islamic Movement Seeks Latino Converts
Los Angeles Times, Mar. 15, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Here at the ILM Foundation, a new Islamic movement is being born.
Yet it lies far from Mecca, where the faith was founded more than 1,400
years ago. And the language of choice for this group of Islamic
followers is not Arabic. These Muslims worship Allah in Spanish.

If you were inclined to believe that most Muslims are Arabs, you
would be wrong. Over the past 10 years, Islam has become one of the
fastest-growing religions, with an estimated 1 billion adherents
worldwide and 6 million followers in this nation. About half of the
Muslims in the United States are African American converts. But, in
recent years, Islamic teaching has begun gaining acceptance among
members of the Latino community. Though precise statistics do not yet
exist, Islamic leaders estimate that there are at least 15,000 Latino
Muslims across the nation.

Last month, about 30 Southern California converts founded the
Latino-Muslim Movement with the intent of educating Spanish-speaking
Muslims and spreading Islam to other Latinos. After meeting informally
for the past seven years, the group appointed officers and elected to
meet at the ILM Foundation once a week.

Scores of Latinos throughout the country--specifically in New York,
New Jersey, Chicago and Miami--have fled the church of their birth and
embraced Islam as their newfound faith.

14. Britain Arrests Islamic Cleric Sought by Yemen
International Herald Tribune, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
An Islamic fundamentalist leader whose son has been charged with
plotting terrorist activities in Yemen was arrested Monday in London,
the police said.

A group representing British Muslims, the Muslim Parliament of Great
Britain, urged that he be given ''due process of law'' during his
arrest. Despite what it called the sheikh's ''exaggerated and
irresponsible'' statements in the last few months, the group said no
evidence had been produced to substantiate his involvement in acts of
violence or terrorism.

Sheikh Abu Hamza, who was born in Egypt, has been vocal in encouraging
Muslims worldwide to fight for a more Islamic way of life.

15. Montana Freemen leaders receive long prison sentences
Seattle Times, Mar. 17, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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Seven leaders of the anti-government Montana Freemen were sentenced to
stiff prison terms for conspiring against the nation's banking system,
though a judge spared more jail time for two of the defendants' wives.

In addition to maintaining they are not subject to federal or state
laws, the Freemen also claimed that God intended white people to rule
the earth, that blacks are animals and Jews are descendants of Satan.

16. Religious group defends school plan
Bergen Record, Mar. 18, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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In the 1970s, they were youthful converts to a religion regarded as
outside the mainstream. Today, those followers of the Rev. Sun Myung
Moon's Unification Church say they are involved in normal pursuits:
bringing their community closer together and opening schools for their

That goal has brought them to Clifton, where Wednesday night they
outlined before the Board of Adjustment their plan to open a private
school for up to 120 children in first through eighth grades. Clifton
is home to a growing number of members of the Unification Church.
Indeed, the city is home to the only such congregation in New Jersey.

17. Polygamy Ban Should Be Ended, Legislator Argues
Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 17, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Despite stirring up Utahns' latent embarrassment, anger and even a few
isolated threats, Rep. David Zolman stands behind his proposal that the
Legislature consider removing the state constitution's polygamy ban.

"I don't want to legalize polygamy but I want polygamists in the
mainstream," says the 51-year-old conservative Republican lawmaker.
"They need to become part of what makes Utah great."
A Montana-born Mormon who makes his living as a family historian,
Zolman wants to start a public dialogue about polygamy.

Zolman says he has no personal experience with polygamy, nor ancestors
who practiced plural marriage before it was banned by The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890. He contends he is not a
polygamy supporter, but believes critics are too quick to attack it
without understanding.

18. 10-year term in death of Jehovah's Witness
San Jose Mercury News, Mar. 13, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
In a case that pitted religious beliefs against the law, a drunken
driver was sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter Friday in
the death of a Jehovah's Witness who refused blood transfusions.

19. Judge Orders Experts To Study Witnesses
Russia Today, Mar. 15, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A Russian judge overseeing a controversial court case against the
Jehovah's Witnesses ruled on Friday that a panel of experts should
decide whether to ban the religious group in Moscow. A spokesman for
the Jehovah's Witnesses said they would appeal against the judge's
decision, saying it risked prolonging the case indefinitely.

Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman Judah Schroeder told Reuters the
Witnesses had been allowed to name two of five specialists on the panel
that would decide their fate, while the prosecution would name the
other three.

Schroeder said his group had 10 days to appeal against the judge's
decision. An appeal would be examined by the Moscow City Court and
might let the Witnesses to take their case directly to the European
Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Schroeder said the European Parliament, also based in Strasbourg, had
coincidentally approved a resolution on Thursday urging Russia to
uphold international conventions which it has signed guaranteeing
freedom of religion.

20. Scientology told to release notes on late member
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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Two boxes of notes jotted in a unique shorthand sit in the office of a
Tampa judge while the Church of Scientology fights another legal battle
for what it says are its religious rights. The notes were written by
Scientology "auditors" who "counseled" Scientologist Lisa McPherson in
1995, the year she died after a 17-day stay at a church retreat in

On Monday, Hillsborough Circuit Judge James S. Moody Jr. rejected for a
third time Scientology's attempts to keep those records private.

But the church, fielding a battery of seven lawyers, said it would
immediately appeal. It contends the records of McPherson, like those
kept on all Scientologists, are as private as disclosures in a Catholic
confessional. Scientology indicated it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme
Court if necessary.

21. Scientology plans $40 million campaign in Germany
ZDF-Magazin Kennzeichen D (Germany), Mar. 17, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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Information released by the Federal Office of Constitutional Security
indicates that the Scientology Church is planning a new campaign
against critics in Germany in the amount of $40 million. President of
the agency, Peter Frisch, told ZDF magazine "Kennzeichen D" that
American officials would also support Scientology in Germany. "I regret
that to an exceptional degree," stated the agency president.

In his release, Frisch emphasized the anti-constitutional endeavors of
the Scientologists, "Scientology wants to build a new civilization in
which basic rights, as provided for by our fundamental, liberal
democratic order, would not be valid.

This assessment is supported by the statements of a former
Scientologist who reported to "Kennzeichen D" on his operations for the
sect's private secret service. That is the first time a former member
has verified the operational methods of such an establishment in
Germany. "There were neighbors questioned to find out negative things;
trash cans were rummaged through in order to find incriminating
material from people's private lives; artificial critics were
established who, in reality, were from Scientology," the former member
included in his report.

22. Scientologists underestimated?
Stuttgarter Zeitung (Germany), Mar. 11, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Opponents warns of secret dealing of the organization
Scientologists are not making the headlines anymore. The Aktion
Bildingsinformation (ABI), which has been fighting the Dianetics
disciples for years, regrets that. The danger potential of the
organization is said to have been "strongly underestimated."
Scientology allegedly "destroys families, infiltrates the economy and
intends "to establish a worldwide dictatorship."

The ABI, a tax-exempt consumer protection organization, allegedly has
data on 52,000 Scientologists in Europe and the USA. In Germany, the
organization has 10,000 members as well as another 20,000 sponsors and
followers. 650 companies are said to be "in the hands of
Scientologists," about 100 in Baden-Wuerttemberg alone. In the
southwest [of Germany] the controversial organization allegedly has
5,000 members, 30 to 40 percent of those are children.

23. Sect invitation has city seal on the envelope
Frankfurter Rundschau, Mar. 16, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
"This is a disgrace": After the FR [this newspaper's] editorial staff
of the local section received an invitation to an exhibition by the
"Scientology" sect, the envelope of which bore the seal of the
department of schools ("City of Frankfurt am Main - The City Council -
City Councilor Jutta Ebeling - Department of Schools, Education" and so
on, including the return address, the department, according to Ebeling
spokesman Michael Damian would consider "taking legal steps in case of
a repeat occurrence." "The city school office," said Damin, "has
nothing, absolutely nothing at all in common with the extremely
unprofessional organization of Scientology."

As reported, the sect intends to to hold an exhibit starting Friday on
the tour boat "Crest of Frankfurt," and is presently advertising its
operation city-wide with computer plug-in boards and personally
addressed invitations. A spokeswoman said that she could not explain
how the invitation to the FR arrived in an envelope which bore the
stamp of the school department - she said the sect had sent other cards
to the editorial staff.

"Speechless" in the meantime, spokesman Damian thinks there may have
been a counterfeit. "This must be manipulation," he presumes, "We are

24. Florida Ministry Group Charged With Fraud
Excite/Reuters, Mar. 12, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The founder of a Florida evangelistic group and six associates were
arrested Friday on charges of operating a double-your-money investment
plan that prosecutors called a pyramid scheme, federal agents said.
The defendants were affiliated with Greater Ministries International
Inc., a Tampa group whose investment and fund-raising practices have
come under scrutiny in several states.

The group has offered investment plans for years under names such as
"Faith Promise" or "Double Your Blessings," targeting their
solicitations to church congregations and claiming the money would be
invested in silver and gold mines, according to published reports.

25. Worshippers To 'Borrow' Cash From Goddess
Excite/Reuters, Mar. 12, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Hundreds of worshippers devoted to Buddhism -- and money -- queued
outside Hong Kong temples Friday to perform a "cash-borrowing" ritual.
More than 200 people waited at the Hung Hom temple to borrow money from
Kuan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, amid the territory's most
severe economic recession in decades.

The exercise is purely symbolic, and involves no real money.
Worshippers believe the ritual will bring them good fortune.

26. Gold Teeth!
Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, Mar. 17, 1999 (Press Release)
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) On Wednesday evening March 3rd, 1999 miracles began happening
in people's teeth. By Thursday evening, over 50 people were on the
platform at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship testifying to having
received what appeared to be gold or bright silver fillings or crowns,
which they believed had supernaturally appeared in their mouths after
receiving prayer during the Intercession Conference. Many received
one, two, three or more, and in some cases up to ten changed fillings!
On the Saturday night of the conference, there were 198 on the platform
saying that God had given them a dental miracle. By Sunday night, well
over 300 people were testifying to this unusual sign. Testimonies, even
now, are continuing to pour in.

Our leadership have encouraged people to verify these miracles with
their dentists, who in some cases, have been understandably hesitant to
explain why their patients' fillings have become so shiny and have
changed in colour from dark amalgam to bright silver or gold. In a few
cases, dentists were able to show from their records that the gold was
put in their mouths previously by the dentist and not by God. These
people had apparently forgotten that this work had been done. The
majority of these incidents however, seem to be beyond explaining,
other than that God has given these wonderful gifts.

Reports of people's fillings turning a bright silver or gold color are
coming in from South Africa, Australia, England, Mexico and across
Canada and the USA. The excitement here at TACF is electric with the
news of how these dental miracles are so rapidly spreading.

27. Death raises church-state questions anew
Denver Post, Mar. 15, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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As Warren Trevette Glory lay dying, Marvin Peterson anointed the
18-day-old baby with olive oil, laid his big trucker's hands gently on
his tiny body and bowed his head, praying to God to heal Warren.
The earnest prayers Peterson said over the dying baby - his grandson -
were the same that three generations of General Assembly Church of the
First Born elders have spoken over the sick and dying in lieu of giving
them medical care. First Born members believe only God can heal and
only when He chooses.

Warren Glory's death is not an isolated case. There have been hundreds
of child deaths across the country in the past 20 years among the
dozens of religious sects that don't believe in medical intervention.
They fall into a sensitive and confusing area of law that pits
religious freedom against child welfare - a conflict that believers
like Peterson can't fathom.

See also: Colorado authorities probe latest death in church opposed to medical care

28. Judge rules Canadian boy must have chemotherapy despite religious
Nando Times, Mar. 18, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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A cancer-stricken 13-year-old boy must undergo chemotherapy and
possibly have his leg amputated against his wishes and those of his
deeply religious parents, a Canadian judge ruled Thursday.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Duncan, said the Duecks have a
"fundamentalist, faith-healing" view of the world, and place great
trust in the power of prayer.

29. Faith, hope and a child
Montreal Gazette, Mar. 18, 1999 (Editorial)
[Story no longer online? Read this]
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(...) He was scheduled to go ahead with the operation and the
chemotherapy when he told his doctors that he didn't need their help
any more because his disease had been cured by God.

With that one heartbreaking statement, Tyrell Dueck could be speaking
for all the children whose lives are ravaged by life-threatening
disease. If only you could make it all go away just by saying it's
gone. If only every disease could be cured through faith.

They are unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse blood transfusions on
the basis of a literal reading of the Old Testament stricture against
consuming blood. The Duecks' beliefs are less formal.

Essentially, they seem to be arguing that they don't like the course of
treatment recommended by their son's doctors and want other options
explored. They further say that they do not want their child's belief
that God has cured him questioned because such questioning will leave
him bereft of spiritual comfort if he dies.

The Supreme Court ruled that freedom of religion is not absolute:
"While it is difficult to conceive of any limitations on religious
beliefs, the same cannot be said of religious practices, notably when
they impact on the fundamental rights and freedoms of others."

But with chemotherapy and amputation, if necessary, Tyrell could live,
possibly for many years. To ask a child to decide at age 13 whether to
continue with conventional medical therapy is unfair. The state exists
to protect his interests, to make decisions that give him the best
possible chance of continued well-being.

With all the sensitivity it can muster, Saskatchewan should order
Tyrell to undergo conventional therapy. That is the state's
responsibility. It is his parents' to assure him that God will not
abandon him.

30. Schnyder's Ties to Guru Raise Concerns
New York Times, Mar. 14, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) According to Patty Schnyder's former coach, former boyfriend,
former training partners and former parents (they have banned her from
their home), the 20-year-old Swiss player has been brainwashed and
virtually abducted by a charlatan. Rainer Harnecker, a German faith
healer, is under investigation in Germany for practicing medicine,
decidedly alternative medicine, without a proper license.

But Schnyder is the first to get involved with a trainer/paramour who
says that his methods, which appear to hinge on a strict vegetarian
diet and a variation on acupuncture known as Baunscheidt, named for its
18th-century inventor, have cured everything from his own bum knees to
cancer. Harnecker has been denied a German patent on his healing
method, a recipe of Chinese healing and herbs and oils that he guards
like Colonel Sanders once guarded his coating for fried chicken.

31. Agency backs voodoo, Helms says
News & Observer, Mar. 15, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., is accusing the U.S. Agency for International
Development of subsidizing witchcraft in Haiti -- and he wants it

Helms cited as the basis for his concern a recent exchange between
U.S. AID and the Foreign Relations Committee, in which AID was asked if
it provided "any assistance to any group, like [Planned Parenthood's]
affiliate PROFAMIL, which, according to [Planned Parenthood's] 1995
Annual Report, undertook 'a campaign to reach voodoo followers with
sexual and reproductive health information ... by performing short
song-prayers about sexually transmitted diseases and the benefits of
family planning during voodoo ceremonies.' " That means, said Helms,
that AID "is funding programs that endorse or legitimize what amounts
to witchcraft."

32. Haitian healers funded by U.S. use voodoo
Washington Time, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The State Department acknowledged yesterday that some of the
traditional healers involved in a U.S.-funded health-care training
program in Haiti may have participated in voodoo ceremonies. But State
Department spokesman James P. Rubin insisted that U.S. taxpayer money
had not been used to support the practice of voodoo.

Dr. Nils Daulaire, president of the Washington-based Global Health
Council, defended the use of traditional healers in Haiti, the poorest
nation in the Western hemisphere. "Haiti doesn't have a lot of doctors
and nurses, and as long as [voodoo doctors] are not performing surgery
... traditional healers can be of help," he said.

33. Why I gave it all up to be a witch
Times of London, Mar. 19, 1999
http://www.the-times.co.uk/ (registration required)
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Witchcraft is a fast-growing spiritual practice in America. Phyllis
Curott, once a celebrity lawyer, takes her new calling seriously.
Should we?

OK, so when she poured the tea there was no need to worry about the pot
containing the eye of a newt and the toe of a frog. It's all more
serious, right? Formally known as the High Priestess of the Circle of
Ara, the president of the Covenant of Goddesses, Curott claims
witchcraft is one of the fastest-growing spiritual practices in the
United States. Even the famous are drawn to it - in the preface to her
book, she names four women who have come out in public as believers in
the new goddess: Tori Amos, Cybill Shepherd, Erica Jong and Olympia

34. U.N. urges religious tolerance
Nando Times, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Vietnamese authorities have lifted some restrictions on religion but
still have work to do before there is true freedom of worship, a U.N.
report said Tuesday. The report by U.N. expert Abdelfattah Amor said
the government maintained elaborate controls over all religious groups
to prevent the emergence of any organization that might rival the
Communist Party.

35. Proposal To Create Observation Group To Watch Sects
EWTN/Zenith, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Experts and parents' associations in Spain and other European countries
have long been requesting more effective coordinated preventive action
to protect youth in face of the aggressive proselytism of the so-called
"sects." These destructive groups, not connected with any recognized
religion, have been guilty of coercive tactics in their recruitment.
More than 200 such groups are the subject of special legislation in
France, Belgium and Germany, but enjoy complete legal freedom in Spain.

The Chamber of Deputies is now studying a proposal, presented by the
"Convergence and Union" party (CiU), for the creation of an Observation
Group on Sects, with the objective of fighting against organizations
which deprive members their liberty.

The main purpose of the Observation Group would be to produce
information about the various sects. Such information is generally very
harmful to these groups, as they usually prey on the ignorance of
possible victims, generally people who are experiencing some sort of
crisis and see a way to "salvation" in these groups. For this reason,
the directors of sects try to do everything possible to neutralize any
bad press. In general, they use legal channels: their often great
economic power enables them to call on the best lawyers to neutralize
those they consider enemies. Some of these organizations even receive
money from the State to support their "charitable" activities such as
drug rehabilitation centers or homeless shelters.

36. Ex-Klan Leader Duke Writes Of 'Aryan Vision'
Excite/Reuters, Mar. 14, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Outlaw Republican David Duke, a "white rights" advocate who once led
the Ku Klux Klan and is trying to revive a flagging political career
with a run for Congress, details his beliefs in a new 736-page book
that calls for an Aryan resurgence.

In an interview with Reuters this week, Duke called his self-published
book, "My Awakening," a "thesis in the form of an autobiography -- the
story of my political and racial awakening that goes into the
philosophical, sociological and scientific ... (reasons for) what I
believe and how I came to believe it, as opposed to what the liberal
media claim I believe."

Duke says he is not a white supremacist, writing: "I'm opposed to any
sort of racial supremacy, and I believe the races should co-exist
peacefully ... (with) optional separate homelands" for minorities.

But he asserts that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to
whites and that a "physical revolution may be required someday to free
our (white) people and secure our survival, and such is justified by
the highest laws of Nature and God."

Duke's critics maintain that in his book he finally has shed the cloak
of mainstream conservatism and revealed himself as racist, virulently
anti-Semitic and homophobic.

37. Aryan group plans civic service
San Diego Union-Tribune, Mar. 14, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Billing itself as a civic pride organization, a white separatist group
has launched a campaign to help overburdened mothers, the disabled and
shut-ins. Just one catch: Only whites are eligible for aid. "We do not
discriminate," said Eric Owens, leader of the Los Angeles-based Aryan
International Movement, or AIM. "We will help all whites."

AIM, which formed in September, has a total membership of about 80 in
Southern California, including at least 10 each in Riverside and San
Bernardino counties, Owens said.

But officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.,
which monitors hate groups nationally, said Owens is likely
exaggerating the size of his group and derided the civic service offer
as just a recruitment tactic.

38. Interfaith dialogue and the difference it makes
Dallas Morning News, Mar. 13, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Interfaith is a growth industry: From ambitious international
multifaith conferences to a neighborhood synagogue class for
intermarried couples, people are reaching across traditional barriers.

So is interfaith work much more than academics and do-gooders having
polite conversation? Is the world different because all of these
organizations are working so hard?

"Often, interfaith experiences tend to be feel-good experiences with
little reference or relevance to the ills that face our society," said
the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Washington-based
Interfaith Alliance.

"There are major problems and challenges in the world which require for
their solution the cooperation of all believers," said Cardinal Arinze,
the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
"Problems of justice and peace do not respect religious frontiers."

A little later in the same speech, he suggested that interfaith
discussions are a good way to demonstrate the superiority of
Christianity in some areas. "Christianity has helped some religions to
shed some of their unworthy beliefs or practices."

39. Sikhs to mark 300th year of formal religion
Detroit Free Press, Mar. 10, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) This year, Sikhs around the world will mark the tricentennial of
Khalsa, the formal religious identity developed in 1699 by the 10th and
final Sikh guru.

There are 20 million Sikhs worldwide. (By comparison, there are roughly
14 million Jews worldwide.) Most Sikhs live in India, but nearly
500,000 call North America home.

40. Buddhism After Baseball
San Jose Mercury News, Mar. 14, 199
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
When Orlando Cepeda was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week,
San Francisco Giants co-owner Peter Magowan quipped that Cepeda will be
the first Buddhist in Cooperstown.

Cepeda is a member of Soka Gakkai International, a sect based in Japan
that claims 12 million members in 128 countries. It traces its origins
to a 13th-century monk named Nichiren Daishonin, who felt that Buddhism
had become too formalistic, caught up in elaborate ceremonies, and
tried to return it to basics. He taught that the most essential
practice was to chant a single phrase: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which
signifies homage to the mystic law of the Lotus Sutra. By diligent
chanting of that mantra, he said, Buddhists could awaken to their
higher selves.

Cepeda makes no bones that his Buddhism has brought him material
rewards. Without chanting, he says, he and his third wife, Miriam,
wouldn't have a house or a car. He believes that chanting helped turn
the hearts of baseball writers who repeatedly voted against his
induction to Cooperstown in years past.

=== Noted

41. Religious Leaders Call For Halt To Executions
Chicago Tribune, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The bishops, ministers, rabbis and priests noted that 11
prisoners on Death Row have been freed after new evidence cast serious
doubt on their guilt. Speaking from the altar of the Annunciation Greek
Orthodox Cathedral on the Near North Side, several said Kokoraleis'
conviction mirrors those cases.

In addition to pleading for Kokoraleis, who is Greek Orthodox, the
clergy called the news conference Sunday to decry the death penalty in
general and ask for a moratorium on executions. In light of recent
Death Row exonerations, they said the system should be thoroughly
studied by an independent commission.

42. Son of murder victim calls for end to death penalty
Foster's Daily, Mar. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Lowenstein, a member of Murder Victims Families for
Reconciliation, appeared at Christ Episcopal Church on Monday night for
a presentation on the death penalty sponsored by Amnesty International,
a London-based organization with more than a million members worldwide.

"Some people are opposed to the death penalty for religious reasons. My
reasons are not based on religion, nor to the surprise of some people,
are they based on revenge. Don't misunderstand me. Feelings of revenge
are human and understandable, and I still live with them.

Referring to statistics that refute the notion the death penalty serves
as a deterrent, Lowenstein recited a list of flaws in the promotion of
capital punishment.

Lowenstein said that while faith-based opposition remains the backbone
of the anti-death penalty movement, the challenge ahead is to look at
the death penalty in a secular manner.

43. Biblical values taught in prisons
San Jose Mercury News, Mar. 13, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The program, InnerChange Freedom Initiative, was developed by
Prison Fellowship Ministries, the Washington, D.C.-based group founded
by Charles Colson, a Watergate figure who spent time in prison himself.

Prison Fellowship started InnerChange in 1997 at a Texas prison. The
group recently won an Iowa contract to provide a values-based program
to up to 200 volunteer inmates, including some serving life sentences.

Jack Cowley oversees the InnerChange program at a prison in Richmond,
Texas, and will lead the Iowa program. He said only five of 59 released
Texas inmates who participated have again run into trouble with the
law. This compares with overall recidivism rates in the range of 50

44. A Meatless Mission: Group Says Jesus Didn't Eat Animals, Christians
Should Follow Suit
Washington Post, Mar. 13, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group, is
invoking the name of Jesus in its campaign to stop the annual slaughter
of billions of animals. Jesus, the Norfolk-based organization argues,
was a vegetarian. And every Christian should be, too.

L. Michael White, professor of classics and director of religious
studies at the University of Texas at Austin, has not seen the
billboards, but he read through PETA's Web site and calls its arguments
"so thin they're pretty difficult to deal with."

"This is just another cause making bad use of Scripture," said White,
principal historical adviser to last year's "From Jesus to Christ"
series on PBS. "I'd say to them: You can't make the Bible do that."

PETA's argument is detailed on its Web site, www.jesusveg.com. The gist
of it is that Jesus belonged to the Essenes, who some historians
believe were one of several Jewish sects that abhorred animal sacrifice
and were practicing vegetarians.

The feeding of thousands with a few fishes and loaves of bread? Not
true. Those miracles, PETA says, involved bread only. Fish were added
to the story by Christians for whom the fish had become a symbol of
their faith.

=== Books

45. Beyond the Fringe
Washington Post, Mar. 14, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Apocalypse Pretty Soon: Travels in End-Time America
By Alex Heard
Norton. 360 pp. $24.95
Reviewed by David Segal

Heard, a former Washington Post magazine columnist and a journeyman
editor, has made a hobby of tracking down and burrowing into
millennialists and utopian movements since 1987. His modus never
varies: Schmooze the leaders, dive into their canonical texts and get a
ground-up grasp of who they are and what they want.

Each subculture is treated in a separate chapter that is filled with an
explication of its origins and profiles of its leaders.

In an introduction, Heard opines that the millennium is sure to produce
some scary, violence-minded fringe groups. But he reasonably concludes
that his eight subjects are harmless and, who knows, maybe even on to
something. Perhaps Rabbi Chaim Richman is right that once a "perfectly"
red heifer is born in Israel, the Messiah will come. Maybe Ruth Norman
and her acolytes in the Unarius Academy of Science will have the last
laugh the day 33 spaceships land near El Cajon, Calif., and open a New
Age University, just as she predicted.

=== Beyond Left Field

46. Judge rejects lawsuit against God
CNN, Mar. 15, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A Pennsylvania man's lawsuit naming God as a defendant has been thrown
out by a court in Syracuse. Donald Drusky, 63, of East McKeesport,
Pennsylvania, blames God for failing to bring him justice in a 30-year
battle against his former employer, the steelmaker now called USX Corp.

"Defendant God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and took no
corrective action against the leaders of his Church and his Nation for
their extremely serious wrongs, which ruined the life of Donald S.
Drusky," the lawsuit said.

Drusky wanted God to return his youth and grant him the guitar-playing
skills of famous guitarists, along with resurrecting his mother and his
pet pigeon. If God failed to appear in court, federal rules of civil
procedure say he must lose by default, Drusky argued.

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