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Religion Items In The News

July 7, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 94)

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Religion Items in the News - July 7, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 94)

=== Main
1. Branch Davidian Suit Will Continue
2. AUM dishing out awards to top cult recruiters (2 - 6: Aum Shinrikyo)
3. Manager arrested as cops raid AUM facilities
4. Japanese Cops Storm PC Maker
5. Adachi folks demand AUM eviction
6. Japan Cult Cites Persecution
7. Coalition bid with New Komeito frays LDP - Anti-Soka Gakkai
religious groups warn against plan
8. Bart: Defenders of the faith should stand at ease (Scientology)
9. Did Variety bow to Scientologists?
10. France OKs Scientology Acquittals
11. France Upholds Ruling on Scientology
12. Scientology Loses Swiss Appeal
13. Federal Court snubs Scientology
14. The Scientology Network and the Real Estate Market
15. Since you asked... (Scientology/Others)
16. Dark side of Krishna
17. Midwest Gun Spree Suspect is Dead (17 - 22: World Church of the
18. A 'religion for, by sociopaths'
19. Racist group calls gunman a martyr
20. Hate group honored gunman for his abilities as a recruiter
21. Behind the Hate: A Racist 'Church' Linked to Violent Plots and
22. Rich kid turned violent racist
23. Cult leader: praise the Lord and pass the malnutrition (MMM)
24. Piecemakers given 20 days to resubmit claim
25. Where Aliens Aren't A Foreign Concept (UFOs)
26. Nuwaubian cult pledges cooperation in Georgia zoning dispute
27. This month is defining moment for Nostradamus' predictions
28. Apocalypse Now — or Maybe Later?
29. Wiccan Wins Right to Wed Coven Couples
30. Pagan Leaders Champion Religious Freedom in Military
31. Religious Pluralism Is Newest Theater For Military Action
32. Christian, Indian Beliefs Blended
33. Blessing that created waves at surf contest ("traditional healers")
34. Klan presses for rally permit
35. Aryan Nations members, demonstrators scuffle in Idaho
36. United Nation of Islam celebrates success in KCK (*not* NOI)
37. Hasidic Outpost In D.C. (Lubavitch)
38. Boy Who Refused Cancer Treatment Dies in Saskatchewan
39. Court rejects therapist's religious-freedom appeal
40. Churches in conflict over inclusion of gays
41. Mormons now target California (political lobbying)
42. Evangelicals take issue with rivals (Bill McKeever)
43. A 4-Year Spiritual Milestone (Pensacola/Brownsville)

=== Noted
44. Return of the Swami (Self-Realization Fellowship)
45. Evangelical groups have revival plans for their millennium
46. Some say Masons designed D.C.
47. Falwell continues to play the fool, media the messenger

=== Official Reports on Cults
48. Swiss National Assembly's Report on Cults

=== Books
49. Two books offer insights into Americans' search for spirituality
50. Controversial pastor's book explores prayer life of Jesus (Taussig)
51. Scholar shakes up beliefs on Jesus, Bible (Pilch)

=== Internet
52. Ministry hopes to show second coming on the Web

=== The Church Around The Corner
53. Ultra-Orthodox throw tear gas, garbage at secular drivers

=== Main

1. Branch Davidian Suit Will Continue
Washington Post, July 3, 1999
A federal judge has cleared the way for a lawsuit that claims the
federal government is responsible for the fiery and deadly end to the
1993 Branch Davidian standoff.

The lawsuit -- filed by surviving Davidians and the relatives of the
dead -- challenges the government's conclusion that the Davidians
started the fire and that they also shot first during the federal raid
on their compound. David Koresh and about 80 followers died in the
fire that ended the 51-day standoff.

The defendants include Attorney General Janet Reno and top officials of
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI, including
then-Director William Sessions.

Congressional hearings have pointed to mistakes by the law enforcement
officers, but none has been charged with a crime.

2. AUM dishing out awards to top cult recruiters
Mainichi Daily News, July 7, 1999
The AUM Shinrikyo religious cult has given awards to successful
recruiters in an apparent attempt to increase the cult's membership to
100,000, investigators have said.

Public security officials told the Mainichi that the cult is expanding
its numbers as well as increasing its funds.

AUM awards its followers who play a major role in three fields:
persuading newcomers to become members of the cult; sales of books; and
distribution of handbills, police said.

3. Manager arrested as cops raid AUM facilities
Mainichi Daily News, July 3, 1999
Police on Friday raided some 20 facilities in Saitama and four other
prefectures linked to the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult in connection
with its lucrative computer-sales business. Saitama Prefectural Police
also arrested the manager of a cult-affiliated computer shop in Tokyo
the same day on suspicion of falsifying documents.

The latest probe is aimed at shedding light upon AUM's manufacture and
sale of personal computers - a business that pumps billions of yen into
the cult's coffers.

Other locations searched by police include the cult's legal affairs
department in Tokyo's Adachi-ku, cult-affiliated computer shops in
Tokyo's Chiyoda-ku, Osaka and Nagoya, and an affiliated construction
company in Yokohama.

4. Japanese Cops Storm PC Maker
WIRED, July 2, 1999
(...) The raid was part of a bigger sweep carried out on 23 businesses
tied to Aum Shinri Kyo, or the Supreme Truth Sect. Targets included
shops, offices, and computer assembly factories north of Tokyo, which
police believe were established using forged documents, but are
actually owned by the sect.

Aum runs computer and publishing businesses, produces and sells music
tapes, and runs seminars to fund its activities, according to a Public
Security Investigation Agency report.

5. Adachi folks demand AUM eviction
Mainichi Daily News, July 3, 1999
Amid a climate of growing concern about the re-emergence of the AUM
Shinrikyo cult, residents of Tokyo's Adachi-ku have collected more than
10,000 signatures on a petition demanding the eviction of the cult and
its followers from a building in the ward.

Reflecting mounting anti-AUM sentiments elsewhere in the metropolitan
area, it was estimated that about one-third of those who signed the
petition are not residents of Tokyo.

6. Japan Cult Cites Persecution
Washington Post, July 1, 1999
The Japanese doomsday cult whose guru has been charged with murder in a
1995 subway nerve-gas attack accused the goverment on Thursday of
unfairly cracking down on the group.

Hiroshi Araki, spokesman for Aum Shinrikyo, said the cult's activities
have been peaceful since its top leaders were arrested after the Tokyo
gassing, which killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

7. Coalition bid with New Komeito frays LDP -
Anti-Soka Gakkai religious groups warn against plan
Daily Yomiuri, July 3, 1999
As the Liberal Democratic Party eyes a three-party coalition with
Jiyuto (Liberal Party) and New Komeito, religious organizations that in
the past have supported the LDP are now distancing themselves from the
party due to their animosity toward Soka Gakkai, the lay Buddhist
organization that forms the backbone of New Komeito.

The April Society was formed in June 1994 by religious organizations,
including Rissho Koseikai and Bussho Gonenkai Kyodan, both of which
oppose Soka Gakkai.

Taku Yamasaki, former chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council,
noted that the LDP has long criticized Soka Gakkai, but said some
politicians have suddenly changed their policies without knowing their
actions were monitored by support organizations.

8. Bart: Defenders of the faith should stand at ease
Yahoo, June 27, 1999
The most mail Daily Variety has received this year about a single
article has come in response to a story that the newspaper will never
run. The subject was Scientology and its influence on Hollywood.

The story was in the process of being researched by our film editor,
Dan Cox, who recently left the paper to accept a job as a literary
agent without finishing the article.

Despite all their constructive causes, however, there's always been a
certain acrimony between the media and Scientologists, stemming perhaps
from their fervent proselytizing as well as from their obsession with
their enemies.

But even Cox was surprised when several emissaries of Scientology, upon
learning of his research, started paying visits to him and to the
newspaper urgently demanding an audience.

And then, of course, came the predictable dispatch from that ubiquitous
attorney, Bert Fields, who decided to take time off from the
Eisner-Katzenberg wars to issue a warning of his own.

The problem with all these admonitions is that they're taking issue
with an article that no one has published or even finished writing, and
didn't contain any of the allegations that were being refuted.

Was this fusillade of legal letters really intended to clarify facts or
to intimidate a reporter? In the past, certainly, the Scientologists
have built up a reputation of being highly litigious. The net effect of
their actions has been to increase suspicions rather than allay them.
Why would any group be so militantly self-protective if it had nothing
to hide?

Relax guys. No pernicious article will be sprung on you. Tell your
lawyers to take the rest of the week off.

9. Did Variety bow to Scientologists?
MSNBC, July 1, 1999
Variety magazine caved into pressure from The Church of Scientology and
is killing an expose about the controversial religion, the author of
the article is charging.

DAN COX, a reporter with Variety for six years, spent six months
researching and writing an in-depth look at Scientology’s use of
celebrities in promoting the religion.

Cox says he came up with startling new information, including, for
example, an early document from the church, listing the specific
celebrities that it was going to try to recruit. When Cox handed in the
piece, he says, Bart told him it was too tough. “It wasn’t too tough at
all,” says Cox. “It was accurate and very well documented. There’s
nothing remotely libelous in it.”

“Unfortunately, the reporter left before completing the piece,” Bart
told The Scoop. When asked if the piece would be reassigned, he said it
wouldn’t. When asked if Cox were to finish it, would Variety run it, he
admitted it wouldn’t, saying that because Cox had left Variety, he
feared it would look like the writer had been forced to leave because
of the piece. He said that a letter from the editor explaining the
truth wouldn’t help.

“He’s lying,” says Cox.

10. France OKs Scientology Acquittals
Washington Post, July 1, 1999
France's highest court has upheld the acquittal of nine members of the
Church of Scientology accused of corruption and theft, ruling it lacks
the authority to decide whether Scientology is a religion.

In 1997, the nine church members were acquitted by an appeals court in
the southeastern city of Lyon which ruled that they had been convicted
without sufficient evidence.

Prosecutors had argued the church was a sect that defrauded people of
their money. The defense had argued it was a legitimate religion with
the right to ask members for money.

The 1997 ruling also said that the Church of Scientology, which is
classified as a sect in France, should be referred to as a religion. A
state prosecutor appealed the ruling.

France's Court of Cassation said Wednesday it could not rule on that
matter of the status of the church.

In a statement, the Church of Scientology said Wednesday's ruling
``means that practicing scientology is perfectly legal.''

* Frenchman Roger Gonnet, an ex-Scientologist turned anticult
activist, has posted a translation of the ruling, along with his

11. France Upholds Ruling on Scientology
Los Angeles Times, July 3, 1999
France's top court has upheld a lower court ruling that said
Scientologists are free to proselytize and practice their religion.

However, the Court of Cassation emphasized that it was not recognizing
Scientology as a religion.

The lower court had said the Church of Scientology--currently
classified as a "sect" in France--should be referred to as a
"religion," but the Court of Cassation stressed Wednesday that it
lacked the authority to decide whether Scientology is a legitimate

The church has been fighting to be declared a religion, a designation
that carries with it considerable tax benefits and would offset the
commission's action.

12. Scientology Loses Swiss Appeal
Washington Post, June 30, 1999
Switzerland's supreme court threw out an appeal by the Church of
Scientology on Wednesday, upholding a law aimed at keeping people from
being ``dishonestly'' accosted on the street.

But the judges questioned whether the law, which was prompted by
efforts to curb Scientology, could be enforced and said a blanket ban
on recruitment in public places would be inadmissible.

The church issued a statement saying it was satisfied with the verdict.
``The court confirmed that approaching passers-by and missionary work
in public places are not affected by this law and are permitted in
principle,'' it said.

13. Federal Court snubs Scientology
Neue Zuercher Zeitung (Switzerland), July 1, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
The controversial Basel criminal code prohibits certain methods of
advertisement on public land. "One who advertises or tries to advertise
to pedestrians on public land by using deceptive or unfair methods"
will be punished. The wording of the law uses "Allmend," which in Basel
is a synonym for public land.

The criminal code goes back to a motion approved by the Basel Council
in 1996 that addressed the aggressive and suggestive methods used in
Scientology advertising. Because of that, Scientology asserted that it
was an illicit individual case law which disregarded legal equality.
The court unanimously rejected that assertion. Scientology had indeed
been the reason for the ordinance, but the deciding factor was the
wording itself, which did not refer to the individual case of
Scientology. The Basel Parliament also made it clear from the beginning
that this would not be a "Scientology Law."

Measures against Scientology advertising operations on public land have
also been taken in Lausanne, Wil, Buchs and other communities.

14. The Scientology Network and the Real Estate Market
ZDF (Germany), June 28, 1999 (Press Release re: TV program)
Translation: German Scientology News
"Scientology is broke - dwindling membership and empty cash tills," was
only one of the many headlines from the past month which describe the
alleged demise of Scientology. Scientology is said to be on the
retreat; its power and image in Germany is over, say many sect experts.
Is that the truth?

Research done by ZDF writer Jens Monath comes to a completely different
conclusion: Scientologists are in high positions of power in German
business and have constructed a network of reciprocal agreement which,
to outsiders, is only vaguely discernible. On top of that are the
statements by insiders which lead one to believe that the
Scientologists have possibly been able to infiltrate whole market
segments. For instance, over one third of all management training is in
Scientology hands, according to a well-known church sect commissioner,
and he strongly warns of making light of the danger from sects: "We are
slipping into the American way of dealing with things. What Scientology
is implementing here is an insidious fascism. I believe that the battle
has long been lost; the Scientologists are established and they have
achieved their goals."

In his documentation, Jens Monath, the ZDF writer, manages to get an
insight into the strategy of the Scientologists who proceed with utmost
ruthlessness against their opponents.

15. Since you asked...
Neue Lucerne Zeitung (Switzerland), July 1, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
(...) The Federal Court decision hardly makes it more difficult for
Scientology to lure in new people, says sect expert Martin
Scheidegger*, because "The state cannot do much against the expansion
of sects."

Then how can action be taken against the loose cannon?

Martin Scheidegger:
The important thing is be be informed, to speak in plain language about
the methods used by the various groups and to warn people about them.
That doesn't happen with pretend battles over the question of whether
Scientology is a religion or not. It only happens when one takes a look
at the Scientology texts. Then one sees what kind of nonsense is there
and what kind of indoctrination is behind it.

Scientology may not be the only group from which people deserve to be
warned. Which sects are strongly active in central Switzerland?

Martin Scheidegger:
In our region the American Landmark psychosect is very much present,
not on the street, but by recruiting using word-of-mouth propaganda. On
the street you can meet Jehova's Witnesses, Mormons, Universal Life,
and rather fewer Hare Krishnas. One should especially be on guard for
new esoteric categories, such as the "I'AM" movement.

* Info provided by German Scientology News:
Theologian Martin Scheidegger manages the ecumenical counseling
center of "Religious Special Groups and Sects" in Lucerne. The
center gathers material and distributes information on existing and
new groups and critically researches their offerings on world view.

* Web site (German language only):

16. Dark side of Krishna
CNews (Canada), July 4, 1999
(...) Ben Bressack was one of the "special souls," the children born
in the early flower-child days of the Hare Krishna movement. These
children were gifts of Krishna, the devotees believed, born with
spirits evolved enough to be reincarnated as part of the "God
consciousness" movement that was poised to sweep the world.

Today some of the "special souls" are in disarray. Some live on the
streets. Others can't make a commitment, hold a job or have a normal
sex life. They were damaged by their freakish childhood and now they're
coming together to hit back at ISKCON (The International Society of
Krishna Consciousness) the group of about 1,000 that controls millions
in land holdings. The class-action suit to be filed in Texas later this
month may have 100 or more sexually abused plaintiffs.

17. Midwest Gun Spree Suspect Is Dead
Washington Post, July 5, 1999
(...) Ashley Shelby, an editor at the Indiana University student
newspaper, told a Chicago radio station that Smith, who was a junior
majoring in criminal justice, was well known on the Bloomington campus
for distributing "racist fliers" from the World Church of the Creator,
a neo-Nazi organization based in East Peoria, Ill.

Kennedy said the material that Smith distributed in Bloomington
"represents extreme right-wing views. It's very anti-minority and
antisemitic, and it certainly alarmed the people in this community."

Matthew Hale, head of the World Church of the Creator, told Chicago
radio station WMAQ-AM that Smith joined the group in June 1998 but quit
in May. Hale described Smith as "thoughtful and dedicated" and said he
"never had information or an inclination that he would do anything
illegal or violent."

Harlan Loeb, counsel for the Chicago regional office of the
Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said Smith's "Sabbath Breaker" tattoo is
a "white supremacist, extremist symbol, one that we've seen before."

The World Church of the Creator opposes "Christianity, Judaism, blacks
and immigrants with equal vehemence" and has declared a "holy war" on
minorities, the ADL said.

This year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 44 World Church of
the Creator branches nationwide, with 10 in California, seven in
Washington state, four in Illinois and four in Florida, where five
members were arrested in the past year for violent hate crimes and one,
George Loeb, is serving a life sentence for murdering a black sailor in
1991. There are no known branches in Maryland, Virginia or the

Although the ADL's southern area director, Arthur Teitelbaum, has
decried the organization as "one of the most violent groups of the
right-wing extremists," the ADL supported Hale's appeal after he was
denied a law license out of concern that the precedent could endanger
aspiring lawyers who hold unpopular opinions.

18. A 'religion for, by sociopaths'
Toronto Sun (Canada), July 6, 1999
It styles itself as a religion, but the World Church of the Creator --
to which alleged racist killer Benjamin Nathaniel Smith once belonged
-- has no altar and no place of worship.

Its leader, Matt Hale, is a skinny 27-year-old who reaches dues-paying
members mainly through an Internet site dripping with racism and
maintained from a swastika-adorned room in his parents' East Peoria
home. An Israeli flag serves as his doormat.

All that's needed to join the group is $35 U.S. For that, members get a
manual offering loyalty oaths and a glossary of terms like "Rahowa" --
which stands for "Racial Holy War" -- used as a greeting by members.

The group's Internet newsletter profiled Smith, 21, last November as
"Creator of the Month" for his efforts to distribute racist literature.

Hatewatch.org, which monitors hate sites on the Internet, says the
church has the fastest-growing Internet presence among racist groups.

* ADL info on "World Church of the Creator" (WCotC)

HateWatch on WCotC

HateWatch on Matt Hale


US Dept. of Justice statistics on hate crime

19. Racist group calls gunman a martyr
The Times of London, July 6, 1999
A GUNMAN wanted for killing two people and wounding several others was
yesterday acclaimed by a white supremacist leader as a "martyr for free
speech" after he turned his gun on himself.

Benjamin Smith, 21, was known to police as a member of the racist World
Church of the Creator.

Mr Hale said the fact that he, Mr Hale, was denied membership of the
Illinois State Bar last Friday may have provoked Smith's actions. "I
think it was more of a spontaneous act of rage at what he believed was

He declined to say how many paid members his organisation had, but
estimated it had 30,000 to 40,000 "adherents" in 22 countries. He said
he expected his followers would heed his message of nonviolence, and
would not go on similar shooting sprees. The group's website declares:
"Unless the white race soon becomes aware, aroused, organised and
militant, we will soon be an extinct species."

20. Hate group honored gunman for his abilities as a recruiter
Dallas Morning News, July 6, 1999
They call themselves a church.

Hate is their religion.

The World Church of the Creator, with several hundred members, is one
of the fastest-growing hate groups in the nation, according to those
who monitor white supremacist organizations. It boasts at least 46
chapters across the country, up from just eight in 1995. It
aggressively recruits on college campuses. And it reaches out to
children with a "kiddie Web page."

Although the group's leader, Matt Hale, insists he does not promote or
condone violence, he teaches that whites must one day wipe all other
races from the planet.

Though unmistakably neo-Nazi, Mr. Hale's World Church of the Creator
differs from other supremacist groups in philosophy. Those differences,
analysts say, have helped fuel the group's rapid expansion. Mr. Hale
says the church has 7,000 members, but outsiders peg membership at
several hundred.

Most notably, the church is virulently anti-Christian as well as
anti-Jew. Other neo-Nazi organizations, including Aryan Nations,
promote their ideology as a Bible-based Christian Identity. But Mr.
Hale's group shuns Christianity as part of a worldwide Zionist

21. Behind the Hate: A Racist 'Church' Linked to Violent Plots and
Washington Post, July 6, 1999
The World Church of the Creator teaches that Jews and non-whites are
subhuman "mud people." Its insignia is a capital "W" topped with a red
crown -- to make it clear that the white race rules. And its battle cry
is its creed: RAHOWA, racial holy war, which it sees as the inevitable
confrontation in the group's quest to build "a whiter and brighter

Even before last weekend's string of shootings, the group or its
predecessor, the Church of the Creator, had been linked to the 1991
murder of a black Gulf War veteran in Florida, foiled plots to
assassinate black and Jewish leaders and to bomb the largest black
church in Los Angeles in 1993, and to the bombing of a NAACP office in
Tacoma, Wash., also in 1993.

"These incidents show the danger of groups like the World Church of the
Creator," said Brian Levin, who heads the Center on Hate and Extremism.
"They are skillful and crafty in their attempts to avoid civil and
criminal responsibility. But they take people who have a predisposition
to do this stuff and mold them into ticking time bombs."

22. Rich kid turned violent racist
Boston Herald, July 6, 1999
(...) The World Church of the Creator has its headquarters in the
living room of Matt Hale's East Peoria home, but spreads its message of
a racial Holy War through pamphlet campaigns and the World Wide Web,
the new chosen tool of haters across the globe.

The ``church'' doesn't adhere to Christian principles. Hale, who calls
himself the Pontifex Maximus, or supreme leader, professes to eat foods
only in their raw, or uncooked, state.

While the group has existed for 27 years, it was been reenergized by
its Internet pulpit and the work of Hale, an aspiring lawyer whose
application to the Illinois state bar was rejected last week because of
his racist views.

Its activities are doggedly monitored by anti-hate groups like the
Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama and the Chicago offices of the
Anti-Defamation League.

``We're seeing a lot of new trends in the last eight or nine years of
the appeal for this hate message,'' said Harlan Loeb, Midwest counsel
to the ADL. ``It's resonating with older high schoolers and younger
adults with middle-class and upper middle-class backgrounds. It works
like a drug, filling a void. It's become a drug of choice.''

23. Cult leader: praise the Lord and pass the malnutrition
Sydney Morning Herald, July 3, 1999
Debra Geileskey solemnly told her followers in the Magnificat Meal
Movement that the Lord had instructed her to follow the diet of the

Over 14 months, the MMM leader claimed to have consumed nothing but
"holy" wafers, except on 33 days when God told her she could eat
normally. Mrs Geileskey, an ex-teacher, has an international following
of thousands and claims to see Jesus and the Virgin Mary and to have
been chosen to report messages from God. "She is very convincing," said
Michelle Stewart, a former follower of the controversial
Catholic-influenced cult based at Helidon, near Toowoomba.

When Mrs Stewart grew suspicious of her plumpish leader's fasting, she
claims, she found cream biscuits, soft drink, fruit juice and
delicacies such as sugar lumps and sweetened ginger in Mrs Geileskey's
dress cupboard. "I confronted her and she told me the devil was
deceiving me and I had imagined it," Mrs Stewart said.

She now sides with Mrs Geileskey's husband of 26 years, Gordon, in a
split that threatens to destroy the cult, which the Catholic Church
brands a "clear danger to many good people". Mr Geileskey says he
realised only gradually that his wife's claims to see visions and
receive heavenly messages were false.

24. Piecemakers given 20 days to resubmit claim
Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1999
An Orange County Superior Court Judge ruled Wednesday
that a lawsuit by the Piecemakers against the son of one of the group's
members lacked basic and specific information. But the judge will allow
the group 20 days to resubmit the claim.

The Piecemakers live communally in Mesa Verde and run a country
store on Adams Avenue. They have been characterized by some experts as
a cult and have had numerous run-ins with city and county government
for refusing to submit to building and health inspections.

The Piecemakers filed a $5 million lawsuit in May, without the
assistance of an attorney, alleging that the member's son, Tom
Halliburton, defamed them and violated their civil rights by posting
critical letters on the Internet.

Halliburton sent e-mails to vendors who deal with the Piecemakers,
calling them a destructive cult and encouraging vendors to read Ronald
Enroth's book "Churches that Abuse," which devotes a chapter to the

* Thanks to Tilman Hausherr for alerting me to this item. He included
the following links:

http://www.xenu.org/factnet/AFF/FILES/CO0293/CO0293AB.TXT (item 9)

25. Where Aliens Aren't A Foreign Concept
Washington Post, July 3, 1999
The blinking red button on Tom Benson's madras shirt wishes you a Happy
Fourth of July as he talks about the third time he encountered aliens.
Many people misunderstand flying saucers, he says from behind his
vendor's booth at the 30th annual Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) symposium
being held this weekend in the Crystal City Hyatt Regency.

It would be tidy to conclude that Tom Benson represents something
"typical" about this convention, which is open to the public and
expected to attract about 500 people through tomorrow. But there is
nothing typical about MUFON. Here we have humans who claim to be
infused with alien consciousness and receive messages from other
galaxies. Here are researchers who believe they have bettered Einstein
and uncovered the secrets of "extraluminal" (beyond light speed)

For some, UFOlogy has become a New Age religion. One constant
controversy pits those who embrace UFO "evidence"--the sightings, radar
returns, declassified documents and eye-witness testimonials--against
ethereal approaches that seem to construe space visitors as angels.

"We don't get involved with New Agers. We avoid them like the plague,"
says Walter H. Andrus Jr., MUFON's 78-year-old international director.
"We're dedicated to the scientific study of the UFO phenomenon." He
quickly adds, "The evidence is overwhelming that the abductions take

This weekend, all the movement's most quoted mouthpieces are in
town--among them Stanton T. Friedman, who calls himself the "original
civilian investigator of the Roswell incident," a reference to the
purported crash of an otherworldly vehicle in New Mexico. But the star
of the conference is a newcomer with a neatly trimmed beard and a nice
blazer: Joe Firmage, 28, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

26. Nuwaubian cult pledges cooperation in Georgia zoning dispute
A largely black religious group whose spiritual leader claims to be
from space pledged greater cooperation with anxious neighbors and local

The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, who claim to be descended from
Egyptians, occupy a 476-acre tract in Putman County east of Atlanta.
After a two-hour meeting on Tuesday, called by a judge hearing a
contempt case, group leader Dwight York said he is optimistic he and
county offiicials can resolve their disputes over zoning and other

The Nuwaubians have said their difficulties with the predominantly
white county stem from discrimination. The group arrived in 1993 from
New York City and has since constructed a 40-foot-high black pyramid
with statues of Egyptian gods and goddesses on the grounds.

York has claimed he's from another galaxy and promises ships will
descend from the sky in the year 2003 to pick up a chosen 144,000
people for rebirth as supreme beings.

Such predictions about spacecraft remind some of the group's neighbors
of the Heaven's Gate sect in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., who committed
mass suicide in 1997.

27. This month is defining moment for Nostradamus' predictions
JournalNow, July 3, 1999
(...) History will render the final verdict on Michel Nostradamus, a
physician and astrologer, very shortly. More than 430 years after his
death, the July 1999 deadline is at hand for one of Nostradamus' most
widely discussed predictions, generating wild speculation among some

The approaching target date has generated excitement on the more than
40,000 Web pages devoted to Nostradamus, which perceive potential
import in everything from a new comet to the Cassini space probe.

The July 1999 prediction has meant a busy time for James Randi, a
former magician and Nostradamus expert whose James Randi Educational
Foundation seeks to debunk suspect claims of the supernatural.

RANDI SAYS THAT THEY should calm down. ''Nostradamus has a record of
being very, very wrong,'' Randi said. ''Most of his predictions are
easily explained in matters of his own day.

''He made 104 verifiable predictions, in which he actually named a
place or a person or a time,'' Randi added. ''He's been wrong on 103 of
the 104. . . . We'll have to wait to see if he has a perfect record.''

''What is perhaps most mysterious about Nostradamus is how people
regard him as one of the greatest prophets of history without knowing
even one of his fulfilled prophecies, or any of his prophecies for that
matter,'' Adachi said. ''The reality is that there are very few of his
prophecies that can be considered to be clearly fulfilled,'' Adachi
added. ''This is mainly due to the vague and enigmatic wording of his
prophecies, which allows for numerous interpretations. This causes some
people to dismiss the prophecies as clever trickery, and some people to
think virtually every event in the world has been predicted by

28. Apocalypse Now — or Maybe Later?
Fox News, July 5, 1999
The world was to end on July 1, said Nostrodamus. If he is wrong, a
host of cults predict that Armageddon is nigh.

It's easy to poke fun at this numinous numerological nonsense — and
perhaps that is the healthy response. But there is a dark side.
Apocalyptic cults flourish as never before.

According to the FBI, there are 1,500 in America alone. Some are cranky
but harmless as they prepare for "end time." Some will do grievous
damage to themselves. Some, if recent history is any guide, will do
grievous damage to other people. All will claim to be carrying out the
will of God.

That is the chilling message of a television documentary to be
broadcast on Saturday as part of Channel 4's Nostradamus Night. In
Waiting for Armageddon, the filmmaker Paul Yule tracks down six of
these cults and allows their leaders to state their beliefs.

Interviewed at length in the program is Lorraine Snelson, a former
Heaven's Gate member, whose daughter was one of the 39. Was she sad
that her daughter had killed herself? Not a bit, said Mrs. Snelson. She
did the right thing.

Yule also gained access to Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth), the Japanese
cult that appalled the world in 1995 with a nerve-gas attack on the
Tokyo subway that killed 13 and injured 3,000.

"This was the most disturbing of all the cults I met," says Yule. "The
participants seemed so young, so intelligent, so sweet, yet they had
given themselves over completely to a man who had ordered death on the

29. Wiccan Wins Right to Wed Coven Couples
Washington Post, July 3, 1999
A judge who had denied a Wiccan priestess a license to perform
marriages for members of her coven has reversed his decision.

Last week, American Civil Liberties Union lawyers sent Powell
documentation that LaTronica had met the requirements necessary for
such a license. Powell then changed his mind and gave LaTronica her
license, the ACLU's Virginia chapter said today.

30. Pagan Leaders Champion Religious Freedom in Military
31. Religious Pluralism Is Newest Theater For Military Action
32. Christian, Indian Beliefs Blended
33. Blessing that created waves at surf contest ("traditional healers")
34. Klan presses for rally permit
35. Aryan Nations members, demonstrators scuffle in Idaho
36. United Nation of Islam celebrates success in KCK (*not* NOI)
37. Hasidic Outpost In D.C. (Lubavitch)
38. Boy Who Refused Cancer Treatment Dies in Saskatchewan
39. Court rejects therapist's religious-freedom appeal
40. Churches in conflict over inclusion of gays
41. Mormons now target California (political lobbying)
42. Evangelicals take issue with rivals (Bill McKeever)
43. A 4-Year Spiritual Milestone (Pensacola/Brownsville)

=== Noted
44. Return of the Swami (Self-Realization Fellowship)
45. Evangelical groups have revival plans for their millennium
46. Some say Masons designed D.C.
47. Falwell continues to play the fool, media the messenger

=== Official Reports on Cults
48. Swiss National Assembly's Report on Cults

=== Books
49. Two books offer insights into Americans' search for spirituality
50. Controversial pastor's book explores prayer life of Jesus (Taussig)
51. Scholar shakes up beliefs on Jesus, Bible (Pilch)

=== Internet
52. Ministry hopes to show second coming on the Web

=== The Church Around The Corner
53. Ultra-Orthodox throw tear gas, garbage at secular drivers

30. Pagan Leaders Champion Religious Freedom in Military
U.S. Newswire, July 4, 1999
(...) The following was released today by the Pagan Educational

Leaders of the major U.S. Pagan organizations have rallied to
uphold the First Amendment freedoms of military personnel. Calling
for interfaith dialogue and the affirmation of religious freedom as
an inalienable human right, the leaders rejected attempts by
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and other government officials to ban the
practice of Wicca on military bases (see statement below).

31. Religious Pluralism Is Newest Theater For Military Action
Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1999
(...) Confronted by an increasing diversity of religious beliefs in the
military, including a controversial neopagan group whose members ingest
the hallucinogenic peyote as part of their ritual, the Pentagon is
updating guidelines to deal with increasing religious diversity, even
as it confronts challenges caused by a sharp rise in those listing no
religious preference and a drop in the number of chaplains.

The soon-to-be released policy statement comes as chaplains must
minister to service members and their families who are affiliated with
some 250 different, mostly Protestant, denominations or faith groups.
Whether at an overseas outpost, a battlefield or a stateside base,
chaplains seek to reach out to all, regardless of faith.

32. Christian, Indian Beliefs Blended
Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1999
All Tribes Gathering is a church where American Indians can reconcile
two faiths: Christianity and tribal beliefs. The two-month-old church
offers traditional Indian powwows on the weekends and a Tuesday night
Christian service.

"This is fantastic. This is like coming home," said Helen Hillman, a
52-year-old Native American. "It takes the best of both worlds and fits
me into it." Hillman's brother, Casey Church, is an anthropologist
studying for the ministry and one of eight church leaders.

Craig Smith of Phoenix said returning to traditional Native American
ways that honor the culture but do not dishonor Christ's sovereignty is
a delicate balance.
[...entire item...]

33. Blessing that created waves at surf contest
Sunday Times (South Africa), July 4, 1999
(...) Accusations of "pagan and heathen" have been flying around
Jeffreys Bay, in the Eastern Cape, ever since organisers invited 10
Xhosa traditional healers to "bless the ocean" at Wednesday night's
opening of the R1-million Billabong prosurfing contest. But the idea
was scrapped after protests from Christians.

Bokka du Toit represents the traditional healers who say the ceremony
will be held soon despite complaints. He feels many residents are
ignorant, in theological and cultural terms, of traditional African

"These healers are upset. People assume they're witchdoctors, in fact
they are committed Christians," he said.

34. Klan presses for rally permit
Michigan Live, July 1, 1999
The Ku Klux Klan's national imperial wizard said Wednesday he'll bring
American Civil Liberties Union lawyers and his own security force of
"Nighthawks" to a planned July 17 rally here. And he promised an
expensive federal court suit against Three Rivers if leaders attempt to
deny the KKK an assembly permit or charge the group for the cost of
added police protection.

While the KKK's own literature describes it as a "Christian, civil
rights, white separatist group," the Rev. Jeffery L. Berry of Butler,
Ind., national imperial wizard for the Church of the American Knights
of the Ku Klux Klan, claimed his group is unfairly portrayed as
racially and religiously divisive.

The Indiana Klansman described the robes and hoods worn by members as
"religious attire." "The members wear the hoods to cover their faces
because they are sinners of God," Berry said. "They also protect the
identity of our people."

". . . We're a racial healing group, not a hate group. But how can we
heal when the government is passing laws against the white race?"

35. Aryan Nations members, demonstrators scuffle in Idaho
CNN, July 4, 1999
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) -- Aryan Nations members and human rights
activists scuffled at a downtown park on Saturday while the two groups
engaged in a shouting match before a rally by the racist sect.

The Aryans are holding their annual convention at headquarters in
nearby Hayden, and have scheduled a march in the area for July 10.

36. United Nation of Islam celebrates success in KCK
Kansas City Star, July 1, 1999
Skepticism from northeast Kansas City, Kan., area residents abounded
three years ago when the United Nation of Islam began refurbishing and
opening businesses along Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, Kan., the
heart of the city's high-crime area.

Members of the United Nation of Islam regard Solomon, a former dock
worker and auto mechanic, as Allah, the Supreme Being.

James 2X said the main reason for public skepticism is that many people
confuse the United Nation of Islam with Louis Farrakhan's Chicago-based
Nation of Islam or other mainstream Muslim faiths.

"Our purpose is not to come in espousing a religion," he said. "We do
not espouse the religion of Islam....There is no hidden agenda. We do
not proselytize....We are about doing."

37. Hasidic Outpost In D.C.
Washington Post, July 3, 1999
The American Friends of Lubavitch has opened a $2 million center in
Washington's embassy district, solidifying the Hasidic sect's presence
in the diplomatic community and increasing the visibility of its
director, Levi Shemtov, already considered by many to be the unofficial
rabbi of Capitol Hill.

The sect, a fringe movement of mainstream Judaism, has about 250,000
followers in 44 states and other countries, or about 3 percent of the
world's Jewish population.

In an interview, Shemtov said he practices a form of evangelism, but
"not to bring [people] to my way of doing it. I like to think that I'm
bringing them to their way. I've never pushed anybody to do anything.
If anything, I'm God's agent, not His enforcer."

He said, however, that some Lubavitchers have carried their zealousness
too far, claiming that the movement's late leader, Rabbi Menachem M.
Schneerson, called the "Rebbe," is the Messiah. Some have even
purchased billboard space here and in Israel with a photo of Schneerson
and the motto "Long live the Rebbe, King Moshiach [Messiah]. Forever
and ever."

38. Boy Who Refused Cancer Treatment Dies in Saskatchewan
Fox News, July 2, 1999
A boy who fought for the right to refuse court-ordered cancer treatment
has died, less than four months after his case gained national
attention. Tyrell Dueck, 13, died Wednesday night, according to
Saskatchewan news media. There was no immediate comment from his
parents, fundamentalist Christians who supported their son's decision.

The family refused chemotherapy and amputation to treat a tumor on
Tyrell's leg, opting instead for herbal and alternative remedies. The
provincial Social Services Department dropped efforts to force Tyrell
to undergo the treatment after doctors reported the cancer had spread
to his lungs.

At one point, a judge had ordered the boy to undergo treatment. Tyrell
steadfastly refused, saying prayer and herbal treatments could heal

39. Court rejects therapist's religious-freedom appeal
San Francisco Gate, July 2, 1999
An Arizona psychologist who lost his license for performing an exorcism
has lost an appeal to get it back.

Kenneth J. Olson, an ordained Lutheran minister and clinical
psychologist, performed an exorcism on an 8-year-old boy and then
billed it to the state as a psychotherapy session.

A state caseworker referred the boy to the Olson for evaluation and
psychotherapy, said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The boy's
foster father believed the child had been subjected to satanic ritual
abuse by his biological parents.

40. Churches in conflict over inclusion of gays
Contra Costa Times, July 4, 1999
(...) Homosexuality and religion is a crucible for American faiths. It
is a battle rooted in biblical interpretation fought across the land,
from Presbyterians to conservative Jews. Is homosexuality a sin, or
should gays and lesbians be completely accepted into the body of
believers? The reactions of congregations to those involved in
homosexual relationships range widely, from stripping them of church
membership to honoring their unions.

It's perhaps the most divisive issue facing clergy today, a debate that
at times degenerates to name-calling. Conservatives have accused
opponents of "promoting" the gay "lifestyle." Liberals have dismissed
adversaries as "homophobic."

Caught in the middle are many believers who generally take a
conservative view of biblical mandates, but struggle with doctrine when
faced with loved ones who are gay and lesbian. They sincerely want to
uphold what they see as God's truth while extending His grace.

In fact, religious leaders are sometimes more open to change than those
in the pews, said J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the
Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara. Methodist Bishop Melvin
Talbert of the Northern California and Nevada region, for instance,
called the prohibition of gay unions "unconscionable."

Bart Campolo, son of evangelist Tony Campolo, is a voice for a middle
ground. Though he believes homosexuality is a sin like divorce --
neither is part of God's plan -- the president of an inner-city youth
missions program hopes churches will some day accept "covenanted" gay
and lesbian relationships. If churches legitimize second marriages,
they should allow committed homosexual unions.

"What does Jesus say about homosexuality? Nothing," he said. "What does
Jesus say about divorce? It's very explicit."

41. Mormons now target California
San Francisco Examiner, July 4, 1999
(...) The Mormon Church has quietly instructed its California
followers to offer financial and political support for a ballot
initiative banning gay marriages -- a move that mirrors the church's
$1.1 million effort in Alaska and Hawaii.

A "Dear Brethren and Sisters" letter sent several weeks ago asks
740,000 California Mormons "to do all you can by donating your means
and time to assure a successful vote" on the March 2000 ballot measure,
which is expected to be one of the most divisive of the next election

The letter was authorized by the highest reaches of the Mormon Church
and should be considered as "inspired and coming from the Lord," said
church spokesman Dan Rascon in Utah. Individual members, however,
aren't absolutely required to support the ballot measure or give money
to the campaign, the spokesman said.

While the church says its support of the measure is based on moral
grounds, the existence of the letter also raises questions about how
far a church can go to support political causes and still keep its
tax-exempt status.

The letter was written by three church presidents who govern California
and who report to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints President
Gordon B. Hinkley, who is considered a prophet. Church leaders were
instructed to read the letter in services May 23 or May 30 throughout

"Yes, a statement from the first presidency we believe is inspired and
comes from the Lord," said Rascon. "But it's up to the members as to
how to proceed. This is the direction that is coming from the church,
but they still have the option. Nobody is going to be disciplined."

For some gay Mormons and ex-Mormons, however, a letter from high-level
church leaders is akin to marshaling armies in support of the
initiative. Some found it significant that the letter instructed "a
member of the stake presidency or high council" to read the letter
instead of other lower-level church leaders.

The letter has been circulating on the Internet, thanks in part to a
network of gay Mormons. A Sacramento group called Project Tocsin, which
analyzes the influence of religion in politics, also distributed the

42. Evangelicals take issue with rivals
Spokane.net, July 3, 1999
The largest single church in Spokane is taking on the fastest-growing
religion. Calvary Chapel Spokane is sponsoring a speaker whose entire
ministry is dedicated to "exposing the deception" of the Mormon Church.

Bill McKeever, founder of the California-based Mormonism Research
Ministry, will preach at three worship services July 10-11. The public
is also invited to a three-hour seminar July 11 at Calvary, 511 W.
Hastings Road.

Pastors at Calvary said they sought McKeever to counter the media blitz
that traditionally coincides with the building of a Mormon Temple, like
the one scheduled to open later this summer in the Spokane Valley.

Mormon officials say they're frustrated by the timing of the event, but
plan to "turn the other cheek" in response.

Garry Borders, president of the Spokane Stake of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he loves to discuss theology and
doctrines of his church, but is disappointed another church would
sponsor a forum solely to discredit Mormon beliefs.

McKeever will devote most of his time to examining and debunking the
Mormon understanding of the nature of God, Jesus and salvation.

Calvary Assistant Pastor Duane Wilson said McKeever was asked to come
because "he has a heart of love for the Mormons. He understands they
are deceived because they don't have an accurate portrait of Jesus

Although theological differences -- big and little -- are common among
different religious groups, rarely does one group openly challenge the
beliefs of another.

Mormons, who number just over 10 million worldwide, seem to be an
exception. The church is frequently accused of being a cult, because of
its unique practices, ritual dress in temples and strict rules.

"It's downright discrimination," Skylstad said of the attitudes toward

The pastors at Calvary said they hope McKeever will give area
Christians the tools to discuss their beliefs with Mormons.

"What kind of friend are you if you don't care about your friend's
soul?" asked the Rev. Duane Wilson, assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel.
"We are supposed to love one another, but it doesn't mean we have to
agree, especially if it has eternal consequences."

43. A 4-Year Spiritual Milestone
Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1999
The century's longest-running charismatic revival is still going strong
four years after it opened its doors--undeterred by defections,
questions about its financial accounting and criticism of its spiritual
practices, which include shouting, shaking and falling to the floor,
"slain in the spirit."

Thousands of people pack the Pensacola Outpouring, which started at
Brownsville Assembly of God on Father's Day 1995. As long as they do,
the revival will be in business, say the ministers who began the

It also is being taken on the road, and its presence on religious
television stations across the nation is growing. The revival has led
to the creation of a school where 1,700 students train as ministers and
missionaries. The goal is for 1 million people to make professions of
faith by Jan. 1, 2001, Hill said.

Critics such as Rev. G. Richard Fisher, a Baptist minister from
Bricktown, N.J., contend such "weird and crazy" goings on put emotion
before reason and are contrary to orderly worship dictated by the

"This is a feel-good culture. If you make them feel good, they think
something is happening," said Fisher, a board member of Personal
Freedom Outreach, a nonprofit association created to educate Christians
about what it contends are aberrational and false teachings.

Hill declined to comment on former Brownsville church member Vicky
Conroy's contention she had been told to fake manifestations. She is
among hundreds who have left the church because they disagree with
various aspects of the revival.

Though acknowledging departures, Kilpatrick said the church has grown
to about 5,000 members from 2,000.

Fisher and other critics contend that Brownsville's traveling revivals,
the Awake America crusade, are just another way to make money. Hill
denies it, citing high costs for travel, leasing stadiums and other

=== Noted

44. Return of the Swami
New Times LA, July 1, 1999
The Self-Realization Fellowship's campaing to reentomb legendary gury
Paramahansa Yoganando atop Mount Washington has placed the secretive,
L.A.-based sect in the spotlight. And the glare is not flattering.

For the publicity-averse Self-Realization Fellowship, the imbroglio
could have scarcely come at a more unfortunate time, and for reasons
that have little to do with the neighbors. For years, the church has
been locked in a bitter legal dispute with the rival Ananda Church of
Self-Realization, based at a rural enclave near Nevada City in Northern
California. Its founder, 74-year-old Donald J. Walters, was a direct
disciple of Yogananda and played a prominent role within the SRF until
he was kicked out in 1962. To the dismay of the mother church, the
Ananda group has continued to publish the original 1946 edition of
Yogananda's seminal work, Autobiography of a Yogi (after the SRF
slipped up by failing to renew the copyright). In doing so, the Ananda
Church, with its estimated 5,000 members, has positioned itself as a
prime competitor in drawing new adherents to Yogananda's teachings. By
some accounts, the SRF has spent more than $4 million in legal fees
while pursuing -- with little success -- trademark restrictions aimed
at elbowing Ananda out of the picture.

As New Times has learned, even as Ananda's woes were playing out
publicly last year, the SRF quietly paid $333,000 in hush money to a
female church member and her lawyer to keep the lid on a scandal
involving one of its senior monks.

45. Evangelical groups have revival plans for their millennium
Star-Telegram, July 1, 1999
"We believe that Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in
power and glory to consummate His salvation and His judgment. This
promise of His coming is a further spur to our evangelism, for we
remember His words that the Gospel must first be preached to all

So declares the historic Lausanne Covenant, adopted in 1974 by the
International Congress on World Evangelization. Though a
quarter-century old, it has keen importance to Christian evangelicals
today as they press their proselytizing efforts into the approaching

And pressing they are. A bonanza of revival and crusade campaigns --
more than 2,000 by one count -- are under way on local and global

Mission America, probably the largest of the domestic revival
consortiums, highlights the 2000 link but says its members' common
ground is the Lausanne Covenant alone. "Some of our members are looking
to the Second Coming, but we don't make theology a litmus test," said
spokeswoman Carolyn O'Brien.

Here is a summary of some of the larger campaigns:

--Celebrate Jesus 2000. Mission America, a Minnesota coalition of 70
denominations, 200 parachurch ministries, and 57 ministry networks,
launched this program in 1998 to "share the love and grace of Jesus
with every person in America by year-end 2000."

Mission America includes the big engines of evangelical outreach:
Promise Keepers, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Luis
Palau Evangelistic Association, Habitat for Humanity, and Campus
Crusade for Christ.

--Amsterdam 2000. Billy Graham has called a mass meeting of preachers
next summer in Amsterdam "to launch world evangelism into the momentous
times of the 21st century." Organizers expect more than 10,000 to come
from 185 countries, three-fourths of them so-called itinerant

George Barna, head of the Barna Research Group, a California polling
firm that does surveys for Christian groups, has urged evangelicals to
be realistic. In a report in October, he stated flatly that "the
Christian Church in the U.S. is not showing any visible signs of
widespread spiritual revival." Pastors' "errant claims" to the
contrary, he said, "could hinder the position and integrity of the

Dear, pastor of Crescentville Baptist, favors revival but not mass
revivals. As moderator of the fundamentalist Independent Baptist
Fellowship of North America, he feels "any kind of revival or ministry
really needs to take place foremost in local churches," where the
teaching and discipleship are most careful.

He lamented his experience with a Jack Van Impe crusade in 1976. "You
get a big emotional push," he said. "But along about a month or two
later, when you ask what was lasting that came out of it, you are
hard-pressed to find anything."

* Lausanne Covenant

46. Some say Masons designed D.C.
Washington Times, July 5, 1999
[Note: The Washington Times is owned by the Unification Church]

Not only did Washington have democracy as its floor plan, but it had
freemasonry as its cornerstone, according to several popular

The latest researcher to weigh in on Washington's past is Ron
Campbell, a Nazarene minister from Colorado Springs, who moved here two
years ago to organize a prayer ministry for the city. Also in 1997, he
wrote an article for a Christian magazine detailing how the
underpinnings of Washington's founding back in the 1790s were
influenced by Masons.

Freemasonry has been a lightning rod for several Christian
denominations. The Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Assemblies of
God and the Missouri Synod Lutherans, have stated that membership in a
Masonic lodge is incompatible with the Christian faith. Southern
Baptists, however, have refused to do so.

47. Falwell continues to play the fool, media the messenger
PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press, July 4, 1999 (Opinion)
(...) Now Falwell and his warriors in Lynchburg, Va., are attacking
Lilith Fair, a high-powered concert tour that drew 800,000 people
last year in locations across the United States.

In this case, Falwell stands on such sinking sand that he actually
turns to mythology to try to prove his point. He claims, with some
accuracy, that the Lilith character and legend come from Jewish
literature. Falwell says Lilith was Adam's first wife and that she had
problems being submissive and obedient. So, she ran away and got
involved with some male demons and bore their children. Her kids were
such terrible demons that she set about murdering them.

I called a local rabbi, who said the character of Lilith can be found
in the Midrash, a collection of very early rabbinical commentaries on
the scriptures. One should note that the Midrash is not consecrated
scripture, but rather the interpretation by rabbis of the great stories
that come out of Jewish literature.

=== Official Reports on Cults

48. Swiss National Assembly's Report on Cults
Note: .pdf file, in German:

Note: .pdf file, in French:

"German Scientology News," which provides unofficial, English translations
of German-language news reports on Scientology and other cults, is in the
process of translating the Swiss report. Currently, only the Synopsis is


(...) This is the Swiss National Assembly's recommendation to the Swiss
Federal Assembly. The National Assembly is the larger of the two, and
the number of its members is proportionate to the population of the
cantons. (Switzerland is a confederation of cantons.) The smaller
assembly has two representatives from each canton, or one from each
"half-canton." Deadline for review and recommendations of action is
September, 2000.

Regarding this report, see Massimo Introvigne's preliminary notes:


Regarding CESNUR, see


=== Books

49. Two books offer insights into Americans' search for spirituality
Star-Telegram, July 1, 1999
In the waning years of the 20th century, religion is turning into a
spiritual smorgasbord where millions of Americans are grazing.
Many people still prefer to focus on a single religious tradition. But
others feel free to dabble: to add a dose of Buddhist meditation to
their Catholic prayers or to sample Hindu insights from Deepak Chopra
along with their United Methodist worship.

Along the way, most people aren't even pausing to consider the two most
basic questions about this trend: Why is it happening? And where is it
going? Two intriguing new books grapple with these puzzling questions.

"God's Funeral" by A.N. Wilson (W.W. Norton & Company, $27.95) is an
overview of the 18th- and 19th-Century thinkers in England who launched
the first major assault on the pillars of Christendom in the modern

Meanwhile, "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" (Harper San Francisco,
$24) is a manifesto by controversial Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong
that envisions what a retooled Christian spirituality might look like
in the next millennium.

If the two books are read back- to-back, they form bookends around the
spiritual kaleidoscope Americans are experiencing at the end of this

50. Controversial pastor's book explores prayer life of Jesus
PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press, July 4, 1999
(...) He's the real Jesus. The historically accurate Jesus.

So says the Rev. Hal Taussig, anyway. Taussig, a Bible scholar and
pastor of Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church, has written a new book
with its own bold mission: to set the record straight about the nature
of Jesus' prayer life.

Taussig, 52, a self-described ``ultra-liberal Christian,'' can relate
to a brash-talking Jesus. He is a founding member of the Jesus Seminar,
whose modern text analyses of the Bible and critiques of church
verities have jarred Christian conservatives for 15 years.

The book uses the seminar's very methodology -- linguistic
cross-checking of the canonical Gospels and some disputed proof texts
-- and liberal extrapolating that have caused fury before.

51. Scholar shakes up beliefs on Jesus, Bible
Charlotte Observer, July 3, 1999
Each Monday afternoon, a dozen Episcopal priests congregate in North
Baltimore to get "Pilched." In discussions of Bible readings that form
the basis of Sunday sermons, the guide to unlocking the text's message
is John Pilch, a Bible scholar who writes easy-to-use manuals to the
Good Book.

His book "The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible" ($16.95, Liturgical
Press) is just off the presses, and the manuscript for another,
"Healing in the New Testament," has been sent to his publisher.

Pilch's approach differs from that of other biblical scholars. He sees
himself as a kind of biblical anthropologist. A member of the Context
Group -- about two dozen scholars committed to using the social
sciences in biblical interpretation -- Pilch believes it is essential
to understand the social and cultural milieu of the first-century
Mediterranean world to comprehend Jesus' actions and message.

The Rev. P. Kingsley Smith, the historiographer for the Episcopal
Diocese of Maryland who participates in the North Baltimore clergy
group, coined the term "Pilched" to describe the experience of some
students and readers who are at first distressed that their commonly
held biblical notions are being exploded but who come back to the Bible
with a deeper understanding.

=== Internet

52. Ministry hopes to show second coming on the Web
Wichita Eagle, June 19, 1999
Cameras broadcasting video live over the Internet have brought Web
surfers images of people's offices, the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
and even a coffeepot.

But the Daystar International Ministry, an evangelical Christian group,
hopes to use its Webcam to capture something much less mundane: the
second coming of the Messiah, which many religious groups expect around
the turn of the millennium. In preparation, Daystar says it is setting
up what it calls a "messiahcam." It is trained on Jerusalem's Eastern
Gate to capture the Messiah's entry into the city.

While thousands of the faithful are expected to visit Jerusalem in
2000, Daystar's Web site -- www.messiahcam.org -- is designed for
armchair pilgrims who can't be there for the real thing. "Virtual
watchmen can call up our Web site and pray for the peace of Jerusalem,
right over the computer," says Darg, who was inspired by a passage in
the book of Isaiah that calls for watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem,
who won't rest until the city is at peace.

But can the Second Coming be captured on-camera? And what would it look
like on a 15-inch PC screen?

=== The Church Around The Corner

53. Ultra-Orthodox throw tear gas, garbage at secular drivers
Contra Costa Times, July 5, 1999
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators threw garbage and tear gas at
secular Jews driving through their neighborhood Saturday during the
Jewish Sabbath, police said.

The ultra-Orthodox say driving through their neighborhood during the
Sabbath, which lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, is a
provocation. Jewish law forbids work, including driving, during the

Saturday's incident occurred between the two prayer times Saturday,
when the street was open to traffic. Demonstrators first threw bags of
garbage, then attacked a car with tear gas and blocked traffic with
their bodies until police cleared them away, Ben-Ruby said.

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