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Religion Items In The News

May 5, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 83)

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[One section only] 1. Businesswoman suing church wins application (Scientology)
2. Stoiber announces leadership role (Scientology)
3. Cult figures
4. Federal Trial Opens Against Amway
5. Amway sells Satan rumors, Procter & Gamble claims in court
6. Chinese movement is quietly growing here (Falun Gong)
7. The Power of the 'Force' (Falun Gong)
8. Tremors of Discontent (Falun Gong)
9. How Master Li channels cosmic energy (Falun Gong)
10. Police holidays cancelled to foil cult actions (Falun Gong)
11. Jains break ground for temple in Milpitas
12. Mormon president oversees surge in temple-building
13. Mormon President Dedicates Temple in Colombia
14. Exec Sought to `Lock Up' LDS Accounts
15. Polygamy Patriarch Sect Head Oversees 2 Towns, 3 Dozen Wives
16. Bishops see God in a river that's restored
17. Anti-Semitic incidents rise across globe
18. Son of renowned, missing atheist describes his trip toward faith
19. Smile: Aura on camera
20. Can faith and mental health mix?
21. New Trends: Is Satanism Taking Root In Zimbabwe?
22. An interfaith group prays for mutual respect and tolerance
23. Group of Western Christians apologize for Crusades
24. Protestants to publish Catholic Bible
25. Clinton unfit to criticize Taleban, leader says
26. 'Miracle child', 7, memorises Koran
27. Progressive church to vote on quitting Southern Baptist Convention
28. Ex-priest takes the blasphemy out of evolution

=== Main

1. Businesswoman suing church wins application
Irish Times, May 1, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A 33-year-old Dublin businesswoman who is suing the Church of Scientology for
damages because she claims she was "brainwashed" yesterday in the High Court
won her application to see her "counselling notes."

The church's claim to be entitled to "sacerdotal privilege" in relation to
the notes was rejected by Mr Justice Geoghegan.

In her statement of claim Ms Johnston, a former interprovincial squash
player, alleged that while undergoing "treatment" offered by the church she
suffered increasingly with a "disassociative stress reaction", became
intolerant and rejected family and friends.

She claimed she suffered a distinct personality change, would often adopt a
fixed stare and simulated smile while switching off her feelings. She became
increasingly confused, and her general health suffered.

She alleged she was pressurised into subscribing for "a purification rundown
and training routeing".

Mr Justice Geoghegan, in a reserved judgment, held that as Ms Johnston had
waived any privilege alleged to exist in relation to her counselling notes he
could not uphold the plea by the church of sacerdotal privilege.

The church had not produced any evidence that it was part of its doctrines
that any disclosure of what transpired in auditing led to some kind of
eternal punishment.

Furthermore, the question as to whether the Church of Scientology was a
religion or not remained controversial throughout the world.

2. Stoiber announces leadership role
Stuttgarter Zeitung (Germany), Apr. 28, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
(Story no longer online? Read this)
[CDU = Christian Democratic Union, a German political party]

(...) In the future, Scientology members will find it more difficult to be
accepted into the CDU. Applicants must affirm in advance that they do not
belong to this organization.

3. Cult figures
Cnews (Canada), May 2, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) "I believe there are between 300 and 500 cults operating in Alberta,
some as small as two people," said Dr. Norman Costigan, who helped organize a
cult awareness conference taking place in Edmonton this weekend. The term
cult, he said, can be applied to any manipulative group which exploits its
members, causing psychological, financial and physical harm.

It came as experts from the U.S. and Canada gathered for the two-day
conference, Cults - Families in Crisis: The Need is Now, which continues
today at the Coast Terrace Inn on Calgary Trail North.

Whatever shape they take, cults share several menacing characteristics,
experts say.

But Irving Hexham, professor of religious studies at the University of
Calgary, hotly disputes some claims of anti-cult activists. "Many of the
groups that get labelled as cults are new religious organizations. But that
doesn't necessarily make them dangerous," said Hexham.

Church of Scientology spokesman Al Buttnor travelled to Edmonton from Toronto
to attend the conference. "Conferences like this breed intolerance of
religious freedom," said Buttnor, adding his church has been unfairly dubbed
a cult. "When you have unscientific ideas being bandied around and if you
don't have people exposed to the other side, that's as much brain-washing or
information management as so-called cults are accused of."

4. Federal Trial Opens Against Amway
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Star-Tribune, May 3, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A federal trial got under way Monday in a lawsuit accusing Amway distributors
of reviving false rumors linking rival Procter & Gamble with satanic cults.

Amway Corp., based in Ada, Mich., denies the allegations.

" This rumor was started in churches ... and Amway didn' t have a thing to do
with it, " defense attorney Charles Babcock said. " A few Amway independent
distributors talked about the rumor -- not in a mean-spirited way but in an
informational way."

In March, a Utah federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit against Amway,
ruling the rumors were not defamatory and that Procter & Gamble hadn' t made
a case for specific damages.

5. Amway sells Satan rumors, Procter & Gamble claims in court
Nando Times, May 3, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Procter & Gamble lawyers said Amway Corp. had tried to take away sales
by fomenting the mistaken belief, prevalent in some religious circles, that
Procter & Gamble's venerable trademark incorporated satanic symbols such as
the number "666" and devil's horns.

"They (Amway) know full well the malignant, cancerous effect of associating
someone with a satanic cult," Procter & Gamble attorney Mike Gallagher said.
"It incorporates everything that is bad and nothing that's good."

Babcock said the satanism rumors emanated not from Amway but from religious
groups unhappy about Procter & Gamble's sponsorship of controversial
television programs. He charged that the company had handled the problem
badly from the beginning.

6. Chinese movement is quietly growing here
Chicago Sun-Times, May 3, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
When more than 10,000 people gathered quietly outside a Chinese government
compound last month, attention focused on Li Hongzhi's Falun Gong, a movement
with an estimated 100 million members worldwide--including scores in the
Chicago area.

Despite the English translation of Falun Gong as ``Buddha Law,'' the movement
is not a strain of Buddhism. There may be some overlap, but experts link it
more to ancient Chinese qigong tradition, in which physical and spiritual
forces are intertwined.

``It's definitely not a religion,'' Cook said. ``There's no formal structure.
We do not pray to anybody. We do not gather in a church. No money is

Mark Allee, professor of early modern Chinese history at Loyola University
Chicago, said definitions vary.

``People want to pigeonhole [Buddha Law], but it may offer different benefits
to different people who participate in it. For some, it may just be about
health. For others, it could be spiritual,'' Allee said.

Side effects that some believe come as a result of training--the power to see
through solid objects or to peer into the future--are not goals of the order,
backers said.

7. The Power of the 'Force'
Newsweek International Edition, May 10, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Police estimate that Falun Dafa has 30 million adherents. The group
itself claims twice that number in China and 100 million worldwide.

Its growth has been explosive. Like many new spiritual movements in China,
Falun Dafa is rooted in Qigong, a traditional form of meditation and
breathing exercises intended to harness the body's flow of qi—often
translated as "life force." By performing these exercises and adhering to
Buddhist and Taoist teachings, Falun Dafa's followers hope to reverse aging,
rid themselves of disease and master supernatural feats, such as seeing
across dimensions with a third eye. Falun Dafa believers say they follow only
one master, Li Hongzhi, who founded the group in 1992. Coming under pressure
from the government as his ranks grew, Li immigrated to the United States in
1996 but retains influence.

Whether or not Falun Dafa followers choose to display their might again, they
have already changed China's political landscape. "They've shown their
power," says a Beijing academic, "and it's huge."

8. Tremors of Discontent
AsiaWeek, May 7, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The sect says it is entirely apolitical and non-confrontational.
According to some non-believers, it serves a useful social purpose by helping
rebuild individual self-esteem and maintain stability at a time of rapidly
changing values in China. But the group is not above intimidating opponents
or branding rivals as "demons." Sensing that his movement might be growing
too fast for the comfort of the authorities, Li emigrated to the U.S. last
year. He has since been working to attract followers in North America and

Initially, what drew most adherents to the group were probably the exercise
and the camaraderie of group activity. Later they began to absorb the
spiritual and more esoteric aspects of Li's philosophy. These apparently
include belief in faith healing, reincarnation, the supernatural, mental
telepathy, communication with aliens and "opening an eye to the universe."
Such credos have invited criticism and ridicule from some rationalists. "Some
of it is really wacko," says one academic.

Falungong believers are highly sensitive to any suggestion that they belong
to a "cult," which the government might consider the group to be, given its
refusal to register officially.

9. How Master Li channels cosmic energy
Tages Anzeiger (Switzerland), Apr. 29, 1999
http://www.tages-anzeiger.ch/990427/index.ausland.htm (German)
Translation: German Scientology News
(Story no longer online? Read this)
However, Master Li Hongzhi brings enlightenment. He has given the world Falun
, a mixture of Buddhism and the practices of traditional Chinese Qigong,
the art of healing by breathing.

Today, says Li, he knows the "truth of the cosmos" and the future of
humanity. The future looks bleak except for those who purify themselves with
Falun Gong (translated: "The cultivation of the dharma wheel") and who work
to achieve a higher plane.

10. Police holidays cancelled to foil cult actions
South China Morning Post, May 3, 1999

(Story no longer online? Read this)
The mainland cancelled holidays for police in Beijing and major cities in
three provinces to prevent Falun Gong members from repeating protests that
shocked communist leaders last week.

11. Jains break ground for temple in Milpitas
Contra Costa Times, May 2, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The temple is being built by local Jains, who practice an ancient
Indian religion. Jainism's tenets include nonviolence, strict vegetarianism,
a belief in not becoming too attached to worldly possessions and a belief in
respecting multiple viewpoints.

Mahatma Gandhi, although not a Jain, was influenced by Jainism when he
practiced non-violence in confrontations with the British government that led
to the independence of India more than 50 years ago. There are 51 Jain
centers in the United States.

The Jain organization has increased its members by word-of-mouth and by
contacting local technology companies that may have hired immigrants from
India who are also Jains.

Jain is derived from the word "jina," meaning a person who has conquered all
the passions. Parveen Jain, chairman of the board of the Jain Center, said
that about 30 percent of all Jains carry the Jain name.

12. Mormon president oversees surge in temple-building
Star Democrat, Apr. 20, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) As president of the 10.4 million-member church since 1995, Hinckley has
worked to double the number of temples where Mormons in good standing perform
sacred ordinances considered essential to the faith's concept of eternal

So far, the church has 57 operating temples and 55 in some stage of planning
or construction. Forty-seven are of the smaller type.

13. Mormon President Dedicates Temple in Colombia
Salt Lake Tribune, Apr. 28, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The president of the Mormon Church on Saturday dedicated a temple in Bogota,
Colombia, then traveled to Chile for a church conference.

The Bogota temple is the church's 57th around the world. Columbia has nearly
100,000 Mormons.

14. Exec Sought to `Lock Up' LDS Accounts
Salt Lake Tribune, Apr. 29, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A Microsoft public-relations strategist in 1994 suggested his company try to
"lock up" LDS Church and Brigham Young University accounts as one way to
damage rival Novell Inc., according to a federal court document filed

15. Polygamy Patriarch Sect Head Oversees 2 Towns, 3 Dozen Wives
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) "It's a guaranteed ticket to heaven if you marry the prophet; that's
why they do it," said Jason Williams, brother-in-law to the sisters who
married Jeffs.

The government's last major attempt to crack down on polygamy occurred more
than 45 years ago. Today, as many as 30,000 polygamists live in Utah, with
another 30,000 elsewhere in North America.

The members of Jeffs' church -- known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints
-- consider themselves to be the "true Mormons"
and criticize the Mormon Church for abandoning polygamy. Jeffs' followers
say they have been called by God to continue the practice of polygamy --
known as "The Principle" -- and will be rewarded with exaltation in heaven.

16. Bishops see God in a river that's restored
Seattle Times, May 2, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The Columbia River letter calls for theological solutions to
environmental ills: a "God-centered and sacramental view" of the universe,
justice for the poor and recognition of "a common good."

The letter was written after a series of workshops during the past two years
in which experts - Catholics and non-Catholics - were asked to suspend
secular opinions and consider the river spiritually.

While the Catholics are heading this effort, other religious groups are
cheering them on, said John Boonstra, executive minister of the Washington
Association of Churches. "We all need to look at the work done by Native
Americans, whose message about the river has always been a spiritual one.
This is a good use of the spiritual tradition."

17. Anti-Semitic incidents rise across globe
Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, May, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Anti-Semitic incidents worldwide rose slightly in 1998, reversing a trend
seen in the past few years.

18. Son of renowned, missing atheist describes his trip toward faith
The Journal/Michigan Live, May 3, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
William J. Murray painted an unflattering picture of his mother, Madalyn
Murray O'Hair
, the country's best-known atheist, as he spoke Sunday evening
at Central Church of the Nazarene. A Christian evangelist since 1980, Murray
told about 1,000 listeners that his mother was a power-hungry woman who
thought she knew more than anyone else and had no compassion for others.
But he also said she was like anyone who hasn't found God.

"I knew there had to be a god," he said. "If there is this much
self-centeredness ... in one place, there has to be an opposite. But I didn't
know the name and nature of God."

He said he found his answers in the Bible.

19. Smile: Aura on camera
The Australian/Daily Telegraph, May 1, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
THIS should be the newest addition to the family photo album – a picture
which its makers claim will reveal new insights about the subject's,
personality, ambitions and hidden talents. It may look like a Polaroid snap
gone wrong, but according to the photographers it is a genuine
representation of the aura they claim surrounds all of us.

Aura photography has emerged as the must-do activity for new- agers at
Sydney's biggest convention on alternative therapies and lifestyles, the
Mind, Body and Spirit Festival at Darling Harbour.

Aura photography – also called biofeedback imaging – is supposed to
"translate a person's energy, measured from the electromagnetic impulses of
the hands," according to the information given out by one of the groups
promoting it at the festival.

20. Can faith and mental health mix?
The Wichita Eagle, May 1, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
An Ohio psychiatrist who is an Orthodox Jew has developed a course that
incorporates spirituality with medicine.

"The history of psychiatry has been extremely secular," he says, "taking the
view that religion is something to be interpreted and is a neurotic defense

As a result, Rube says psychiatrists often shut out their patients' spiritual
sides at a time when they're most likely to surface. That's one reason he
developed a course for residents at the Wright State University School of
Medicine, which was recognized last month for incorporating spirituality with

21. New Trends: Is Satanism Taking Root In Zimbabwe?
Africa News Online, May 3, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Calling other people Satanists now seems to be common in Zimbabwe, but
most people are asking why satanism is widely talked about. So much has been
said about the act of openly worshipping the devil but there seems to be no
end to discussions on a topic that evokes mixed emotions. Acts of satanism
allegedly include drinking of human blood as well as eating the flesh.

The satanic movement is an international organization understood to have its
headquarters in Honolulu, United States. The African headquarters is believed
to be in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Various individuals and groups have been
calling upon the Government to ban satanism. But the Ministry of Justice,
Legal and Parliamentary Affairs say the Government has no plans to prosecute
or ban satanic organizations since there are no laws to act upon.

The emergence of satanic sects in Zimbabwe is one of the many signs that the
coming of Jesus Christ is near, says evangelist Admire Kasingakore. Instead
of Christians calling on the Government to intervene and ban these sects, he
says they should brace themselves and pray in preparation for the Lord's

Social communication secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Father
Oskar Wermter however, dismisses the emergence of satanic cults as predicting
the coming of Jesus, saying this was only speculation.

Satanists, he says, can be compared to some traditional healers who promise
riches to their clients while inciting them to commit incest or some other
immorality. Stanley Nherera, senior pastor of the Lord Sanctuary Church here,

says the solution to the satanic sects is a spiritual one. He notes that
calling for the government to ban them "is really asking for too much".

"It is not the duty of the government to ban satanic sects but the
responsibility of the church because it has the spiritual capacity to counter
satanism," he says.

22. An interfaith group prays for mutual respect and tolerance
Orange County Register, May 1, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
About 250 people gathered at 7:30 a.m. in a basement dining hall at
Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. They bowed their heads. They prayed for
the blessings of tolerance and mutual respect. It was the first public event
of the Interfaith Council of South Orange County.

"I think that interfaith tolerance and understanding is not only important,
it's critical," Martin says. "If you look around the nation and the world, we
have a lot of conflicts that have their roots in religious intolerance."

Craig Scott, a Laguna Hills councilman and a member of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints
, addressed the issues in his opening prayer,
asking that we see opportunities to secure ourselves, the community and the
nation from evil.

Representatives of Islamic, Sikh and Hindu faiths also spoke of the need to
fight evil, to eliminate it from the personality, to destroy it by engaging
in the well-being of all creatures. Followers of Jewish, Baha'i and Buddhist
[Story no longer online? Read this]
faiths shared their perspectives on peace and mutual respect.

Pope John Paul II, Brown says, has asked for God's grace in interfaith

It is also time for Christians to get their own house in order, Brown told
the gathering. Make it real — act with justice and kindness in all that we
say, do and think.

23. Group of Western Christians apologize for Crusades
CNN, May 2, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Nine centuries after Christian Europe sought to redeem the Holy Land, a group
of Western Christians is seeking forgiveness for the slaughter and
destruction left in the Crusaders' wake.

Bearing printed apologies in Arabic, Hebrew and English, the participants in
the "Reconciliation March" said Sunday they planned to hand the neatly bound
plastic folders to Jews, Muslims, and Eastern Christians whose forefathers
were killed during the invasion.

The group's trip will culminate on July 15 when up to 1,500 participants
travel by foot from a Crusader fortress in northern Israel to Jerusalem to
apologize to religious leaders on the 900th anniversary of the fall of the
city to the Crusaders.

Niebur cited apocalyptic Christian groups who have unsettled Jews and Arabs
in the region, and said such apocalyptic outlooks mirror those of the
Crusaders. "We have a similar situation developing today with the turn of
the millennium," he said. "We want to say that that was not really what
Jesus' message was about."

24. Protestants to publish Catholic Bible
Detroit News, Apr. 28, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A major Protestant house will publish a Bible designed for Catholics.
An agency of the national Catholic bishops' conference granted Zondervan
Publishing House permission to use the New American Bible text in its
Catholic Serendipity Bible.

The Catholic Bible is a first for Zondervan, a major Evangelical Protestant
firm founded in 1931. Zondervan, a division of Harper Collins, has the
copyright to the best-selling New International Version of the Bible.

25. Clinton unfit to criticize Taleban, leader says
Nando Times, May 1, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A senior figure in the Taleban's religious police said that President
Clinton's sexual misconduct with Monica Lewinsky disqualified him from
criticizing the movement's human rights record.

"When Clinton touches that lady (Lewinsky), this is a contradiction and a
deviation from the U.S constitution and Christian religion," the deputy
minister said in a weekend interview. "A good Christian will not commit
adultery. Clinton should not be given as an example," said the minister,
whose department is also known as the religious police of the Taleban

Haqani was responding to a Clinton statement this month that the Taleban's
strict interpretation of Islamic laws "is one of the worst examples of
systematic human rights abuses in the world today, and a terrible perversion
of Islam." Clinton's statement echoed other Western human rights groups who
say that the Taleban's interpretation of Islam undermines basic freedoms and
reduces women to second-class citizens.

The official insisted that the Taleban's laws requiring men to grow beards
and not to trim them was in conformity with the Koran.

"All the messengers of God had beards - Moses, Jesus and the Prophet
Mohammad. Any society that is a follower of the Prophet should grow a beard.
Otherwise it will be repugnant," he said.

He added that trimming a beard laid its owner open to all sorts of health
hazards. Police beat men who shave their beards.

26. 'Miracle child', 7, memorises Koran
Sydney Morning Herald, Apr. 27, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
London: He is a little over a metre tall and only seven years old, but each
night for the past week crowds of up to 2,000 Muslims have been gathering in
a corner of north-west London to listen in rapt silence to his every word.

Mohammed Husayn Tabatabai, from Iran, is being hailed a "miracle child". He
has memorised all 600 pages of the Koran, Islam's holiest book, as well as
hundreds of sayings from the Prophet Mohammed.

Last year, aged six, Mohammed became a doctor of religion after proving to
Islamic examiners he had grasped the meaning of the verses too.

27. Progressive church to vote on quitting Southern Baptist Convention
Columbus Dispatch, Apr. 30, 1999
Members of the First Baptist Church, Greenville, S.C., a prominent
progressive Southern Baptist church, will decide Sunday whether to drop its
affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Louise Stanford, a church spokeswoman, said it has felt more and more distant
from the denomination during the last 20 years. In 1979, conservative
leadership began to take control of the denomination and supported biblical
inerrancy, or the belief that the Bible is without error.

"We believe in the Bible. It's the inspired, written word of God,'' Stanford
said. "But we do exercise the right to read different translations and
paraphrases and we are not able to accept the idea of total inerrancy.''

Last year's vote to amend the denomination's statement of faith to read that
wives should "submit . . . graciously'' to their husbands prompted many
church members to call for the disaffiliation.

"We don't adhere to that,'' said Stanford, the former chair of the church's
board of deacons. "We don't think it's biblical. We don't believe it.''

28. Ex-priest takes the blasphemy out of evolution
Contra Costa Times, Apr. 27, 1999
Francisco J. Ayala, former Dominican priest, present day wine grape grower,
art collector, author of 12 books and 650 articles on genetics, and a
professor of biological sciences and philosophy at UC-Irvine, is known in the
science world as the Renaissance man of evolutionary biology.

With Catholics, I take out the pope's address to the Pontifical Academy of
Sciences in October 1996 where he endorses evolutionary teachings. If the
students are Christian fundamentalists, I tell them that there are many
Protestant theologians who agree with evolution. I say that evolution, in my
view, is not only NOT anti-Christian, but the idea of special design, which
many fundamentalists adhere to, might be -- because it teaches the view of
God that is blasphemous. The Special-Design-God is a God who messes up. Think
about all the backaches, infected wisdom teeth and painful childbirth that
exist because we humans evolved incompletely! "Do you think God is
absent-minded?" I ask them.

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