Apologetics Index
News about cults, sects, alternative religions...

Religion Items In The News

July 23, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 97)

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


Religion Items in the News - July 23, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 97)

=== Falun Gong
1  Massive protests prompt China to outlaw meditation group
2  U.S. concerned about China's ban on meditation group
3  Outlawed sect leader fears bloodshed in China
4  Elusive Falungong leader says mass following rattles China
5  Followers defend falun gong as innocuous
6  Many People in China Search For a Place to Put Their Faith
7  Banned sect joins long Chinese history of religious suppression
8  China assails "feudal superstition" after protest
9  Full Yahoo! News Coverage
10  The Party Line
11  Falun Dafa Web Site

=== Main
12  Cultist gets 18 years for multiple murder attempts (Aum)
13  Aum member gets 18 years in prison
14  Expert testifies on Aum head-twisting
15  Mother slates police for not preventing her son going off with
religious cult (Jesus Christians)
16  Scientology goes visiting
17  Copyright -- or wrong? (Scientology)
18  The War Over Your Personal Privacy Is Over (Scientology; privacy)
19  House endorses compromise faith healing bill
20  Judge Rules Finks Can't Use Religious Defense (Faith Healing)
21  'Bloodless' Transplant Saves Life
22  Doctors get to grips with tokoloshes, witches and aliens
23  Feds seeks help finding O'Hair's gold
24  Alabama police arrest man in ... teen slaying (Satanism)
25  Teen behavioral centers push 'tough love' (Teen Help)
26  Christian group linked to KKK
27  LDS-oriented high school to open in Utah County
28  Israeli Law Governs Bible Book Dispute (Bible Code)
29  Jains now affiliated with Hindu temple in Middletown
30  Russian region wants to allow men up to four wives
31  Justice official: Decree on polygamy in Russian region illegal
32  Dark side of the eclipse

=== Noted
33  Jack Kelly: Wackos and terrorists - The other Y2K problem
34  Explorer of the World's Spirituality (Huston Smith)
35  Controversy follows US Bible professor (John Crossan)

=== Internet
36  Religion's salvation: Logging on to God

=== Falun Gong

1  Massive protests prompt China to outlaw meditation group
Nando Times, July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
China banned the popular Falun Gong meditation sect Thursday after
three days of widespread public protests intensified the government's
fears the group was a threat to their authority.

Beijing is especially eager to stifle dissent before the 50th
anniversary of communist rule on Oct. 1. Scores of people have been
jailed in a crackdown on political and labor activists.

The ban on Falun Gong, announced by state media, came after up to
30,000 members held protests in Beijing and other cities over the
arrests this week of dozens of sect leaders.

The sect, whose doctrines draw on martial arts, Buddhism and Taoism,
was founded in 1992. The government said at one point the group had up
to 70 million followers, but it claimed Thursday that has fallen
sharply. By comparison, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has 61
million members.

2  U.S. concerned about China's ban on meditation group
CNN, July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
WASHINGTON -- The United States said Thursday it was "disturbed" about
China's repression of a quasi-religious sect that staged protests
across the communist country this week.

"While we take no positions, as a government, on the teachings or
practices of this movement, we do urge China to adhere to its
obligations under the international human rights instruments to permit
Falun Gong practitioners to engage in peaceful expression of their
views and in peaceful assembly," said spokesman James Rubin.

3  Outlawed sect leader fears bloodshed in China
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Globe and Mail (Canada), July 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The founder of a movement that is the target of a massive crackdown in
China says he is shocked by what has been happening to his followers,
that he is not orchestrating their actions and that he worries
bloodshed might follow.

Falun gong founder Li Hongzhi, a former Chinese grain official who
lives in New York, told The Globe and Mail yesterday that he "cannot
comprehend" the crackdown.

Mr. Li, 48, spoke by telephone from a downtown Manhattan apartment
belonging to a falun gong member. Supporters have been nervous about
revealing his whereabouts, because of fear of Chinese government
agents. Mr. Li said he had not given any directions to falun gong
followers in China, from whom he has been cut off, and has had to
follow developments through the media.

The group's Web site, a key vehicle in its rapid growth both inside
China and around the world, has been blocked by Chinese authorities and
phone lines are all tapped or cut off, he said.

Before the interview began, Mr. Li's interpreter warned that falun
gong, a mixture of ancient Chinese exercises, meditation and the study
of Mr. Li's teachings, should not be called a cult.

It is nothing more than another form of qi gong,Chinese healing
exercises and meditation that have been around for thousands of years,
Mr. Li said. These are mixed with Buddhist and Taoist teachings and a
heavy reliance on the Internet to get the message out. "We are only
teaching people to heal their illnesses and keep fit," Mr. Li said.

But there is more to it than yogalike exercises. Adherents regularly
study and put into practice Mr. Li's teachings, which preach of a
higher morality. These are available in five books, which are sold in
Chinese and English, or free on the Internet.

Mr. Li's teachings include a disdain for money, fame, power and
traditional religions. But he insists he has no political agenda.

Mr. Li refused to discuss some of his controversial personal views,
including a purported belief in space aliens and his comparisons of
himself with Buddha and Jesus.

Reports that falun gong is some kind of doomsday cult come directly
from Chinese security officials, Mr. Li added. "If you search all over
my books, I have never mentioned the words 'end of the world.' "

North American members have also repeatedly denied the group is a cult,
has a doomsday message or believes their meditation leads to magical
powers, like levitation and invisibility.

But Mr. Li has also told Western reporters that humanity will soon be
wiped out, that space aliens are on Earth trying to replace human
beings with clones and that he is invested with supernatural powers
allowing him to move through dimensions. He also criticizes rock 'n'
roll, science and homosexuality.

4  Elusive Falungong leader says mass following rattles China
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Yahoo, July 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
NEW YORK, July 22 (AFP) - The mystical Falungong meditation and
exercise group, now the target of China's toughest crackdown in a
decade, has rattled authorities because of the sheer number of its
followers, founder Li Hongzhi says.

A former soldier and native of mountainous Jilin province, Li
immigrated to New York last year after Chinese authorities banned his
books, first published in 1992, and signaled that they would welcome
his departure. He now maintains a home in Queens, New York, with his
wife and teenage daughter, along with a very private life that keeps
even his handful of close aides guessing as to his whereabouts at any
given moment.

5  Followers defend falun gong as innocuous
The Globe and Mail (Canada), July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) What she believes in is something called falun gong (pronounced
fah-luhn goong), a mixture of ancient Chinese exercises, meditation and
the study of Mr. Li's teachings. It has spread rapidly around the
world, fuelled by the Internet, its simple tenets and the fact that
people of all ages and backgrounds seem to be able to fit it easily
into their daily lives. There are no fees, no organization to join, no
compulsory meetings or programs and no offices.

North American adherents say that despite what Chinese authorities say,
falun gong bears no resemblance to a cult or religious organization of
any kind, has no political interests and does not have a doomsday view
of the world.

Adherents of falun gong (falun means wheel of law, and gong translates
as spatial powers) say emphatically that they do not worship Mr. Li, a
48-year-old former clerk in China who has lived quietly in the New York
City-area with his wife and teenage daughter since going into
self-imposed exile in 1996.

"We consider him a teacher, master of the system he developed," said
Ms. Leichter, who has not met Mr. Li. "We have sincere respect for him
and consider him a very enlightened person. But we don't worship him
and we don't follow him."

Mr. Li insists he is no better than any of the people who read his
teachings, but the Web site devoted to his teachings
(http://www.falundafa.org) makes much of various honours accorded to

6  Many People in China Search For a Place to Put Their Faith
Washington Post, July 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
One hundred years after cults preaching immortality and xenophobia
helped bring China's last dynasty to its knees, sects, ancestor
worship, fortunetellers and conventional religions are again blossoming
in China, challenging the rule of the country's officially atheist
Communist Party.

Manned by an army of the dispossessed and led by alienated government
workers, scam artists and self-described visionaries, religious
organizations have spread across China, popping up in almost every
county, every town.

This blooming of religion -- which is both officially recognized and
illegal, because the new groups are not approved religions --
illustrates a phenomenon central to understanding China at the turn of
the century. Twenty years of breakneck economic growth and frantic
materialism have killed communism's value system. Now people are
desperate for something to replace it.

7  Banned sect joins long Chinese history of religious suppression
CNN, July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) By banning Falun Gong (pronounced fah-luhn gung), Chinese leaders
are continuing a long tradition of suppressing such popular movements.

China's history is filled with religious uprisings. The most
catastrophic was the 1845-1864 Taiping rebellion, led by a failed
scholar who deemed himself the "Son of God." Some 20 million people
died in the uprising, which culminated in a battle in the rebel capital
in the eastern city of Nanjing, where 100,000 people were killed.

The ban was preceded by a clampdown on other groups deemed by the
officially atheist Communist Party to be propagating superstition.
Among those arrested was the founder of the Master of God sect, which
by official count had 10,000 members spread over 22 provinces. Its
leader was sentenced to death.

8  China assails "feudal superstition" after protest
Yahoo!, July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
China ordered police on Thursday to crack down on "feudal
superstition" after thousands of members of a spiritual movement staged
a nationwide protest against perceived official persecution.

"The Public Security Bureau calls on all public security organs to
vigorously investigate and prosecute cases in which feudal superstition
is used to disturb social stability and cheat the masses of wealth," an
official newspaper said.

"In cracking down, show no softheartedness," the China Consumer Journal

The size of the group and the fervour of its practitioners have shocked
China's leadership, which bristles at the beliefs espoused by the
sect's founder, Chinese-born Li Hongzhi. He says science has created
an immoral world plagued by drugs, television and rock and roll music.
Li says his followers do not need doctors when ill because they can
cure themselves by practising his beliefs.

9  Full Yahoo! News Coverage
* Yahoo's special section includes news items, articles, editorials,
videos, audio, and links to related web sites

10  The Party Line
* China.org is the China Internet Information Center, where you
"get news and read Chinese government white papers, including ones
on human rights, Tibet, and arms controls and disarmament."

It's "Special Report" includes

- China Bans Falun Gong
- CPC Central Committee Forbids Party Members to Practice Falun
- China Prohibits Pro-Falun Gong Activities
- Falun Gong Practice Causes Health Problems and Death
- True Face of Li Hongzhi Exposed
- Life And Times Of Li Hongzhi
- Transcripts and video of press conferences
- Etc.

11  Falun Dafa Web Site
* Includes news coverage

=== Main

12  Cultist gets 18 years for multiple murder attempts
Japan Times, July 22, 1999
Senior Aum Shinrikyo figure Masahiro Tominaga was sentenced to 18 years
in prison Thursday for trying to kill an anticult lawyer with sarin gas
in 1994, sending an injurious letter bomb to Tokyo's governor and
planting cyanide gas in Shinjuku Station.

Although Tominaga, 30, a former doctor who was once part of Aum's
so-called household agency, owned up to the charges in June 1996 during
his first trial hearing, he insisted he should not be held liable
because his mind was under the control of cult founder Shoko Asahara
and he was unable to judge right from wrong.

But Judge Takao Nakayama of the Tokyo District Court dismissed this
argument, saying Tominaga had intended to kill and was able to judge
his actions.

13  Aum member gets 18 years in prison
Daily Yomiuri, July 23, 1999
(...) The Tokyo District Court also determined that Tominaga, 30,
attempted to kill the lawyer, Taro Takimoto, under instructions from
Aum leader Chizuo Matsumoto, 44, also known as Shoko Asahara. The
conclusion was that rulings handed down on members of the cult to date
indicate that Matsumoto played a leading role in all 17 incidents in
connection with which he has been indicted.

Thursday's ruling will likely make it extremely difficult for Matsumoto
to present a persuasive defense case at trials for the series of crimes
he allegedly masterminded.

Tominaga, a member of Aum's "Imperial Secretariat," became the first
cult member to be found guilty in connection with the attempted murder
of the lawyer with sarin nerve gas in April 1994 and the letter bomb
sent to the Tokyo metropolitan government offices in May 1995.

Meanwhile, Matsumoto has been indicted in 17 Aum-related cases, six of
which are currently being tried.

During the trial, defense counsel for Tominaga argued that he had been
brainwashed by Matsumoto. However, the presiding judge dismissed the
assertion, saying, "It is impossible to determine that, at the time of
the crime, the defendant was mentally incapable of controlling his own

14  Expert testifies on Aum head-twisting
Japan Times, July 22, 1999
A Teikyo University medical professor testified Thursday at the Tokyo
District Court on the death of Aum Shinrikyo follower Shuji Taguchi,
who died in an alleged lynching in February 1989.

During cult founder Shoko Asahara's 127th trial session, professor Ikuo
Ishiyama said wrenching the head and neck of a person, even with bare
hands, could be lethal because of fractures and injuries the motion
inflicts on the spine and nerves.

15  Mother slates police for not preventing her son going off with religious cult
Surry Advertiser, July 16, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
THE mother of a Surrey University student is considering action against
Guildford police after being arrested as she tried to stop her son
leaving with a "dangerous" religious cult. Bernadette Sheridan said she
would consult a solicitor after police pinned her down and handcuffed
her outside Guildford police station on Tuesday night last week.

Miss Sheridan, a religious education teacher, had been clinging to her
19-year-old son Kyri to prevent him joining the Jesus Christians, a
religious group that insists its members reject their families. Friends
and family claim the mechanical engineering student was not in his
right mind, but police said they could not stop him. Inspector David
Callender said: "We asked if he was happy to be with them and he said
yes. He added: Our hands are tied. Kyri is 19 and free to make his own

According to Graham Baldwin of Catalyst, a charity to help families of
people involved with cults, Kyri had only been in touch with the Jesus
Christians for a few days before he made his decision to leave. He had
swiftly changed from being an energetic and easygoing character to
secretive and zombie-like.

Eyewitnesses claim a cult member, Francisco, told Kyris distraught
mother: "He's not your son any more."

* Jesus Christians Homepage

16  Scientology goes visiting
NOW magazine (Canada), July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) From the regular demos in front of the church's Yonge Street
offices to the photographing of church members and posting of their
mugs on the Internet, Hagglund has been relentless in his attempts to
expose the "truth" about the curious practice of Scientology. Behind
the scenes, he's been trying to put the kibosh on the church's
controversial efforts to win charitable status.

The church has returned the favour with demos in front of Hagglund's
Oakville home, but more recently upped the ante by paying an
unannounced visit to his elderly parents' home in Ottawa and sending a
letter to his brother, also in Ottawa, warning Hagglund to cease and
desist, or else.

Church member Peter Ramsay, who fired off the missive to Hagglund's
brother, didn't return calls. Hagglund says his family is horrified.

But church spokesperson Al Buttnor says Scientology's actions are not
intended to intimidate, although that seems to have been the result.
Hagglund's father and brother declined to comment.

"We were hoping to get some assistance," says Buttnor. "They did not wish to be involved and we left. It's as simple as that." [...more...]

* The Church of Scientology is notorious for its harrassment
campaigns. Documentation:

[Story no longer online? Read this]

17  Copyright -- or wrong?
Salon Magazine, July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Church of Scientology takes up a new weapon in its
ongoing battle with critics, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Susan Mullaney is not a fan of the Church of Scientology. A longtime
poster to the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology, she spends
much of her energy online exposing what she feels are the Church of
Scientology's repressive activities. Her two-year-old Web site
[http://www.primenet.com/~xenubat/index.html]contains a library of
short audio excerpts from L. Ron Hubbard speeches and a "secret"
Scientology questionnaire, as well as her biting commentary about this
material -- the usage of which she claims falls well within legal "fair
use" boundaries.

In March, Mullaney was informed by her Internet service provider,
Frontier GlobalCenter, that her Web site had been partially blocked,
due to a letter from the Church of Scientology that alleged she was
illegally using copyrighted materials. Thanks to the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act, which the Church of Scientology invoked in this case,
Frontier was required to block the Web site unless Mullaney agreed to
contest the charges in court. She did agree and filed the paperwork,
but still it took four months for Mullaney to have her Web site

Susan's tussle with the Church of Scientology is, in many ways, an old
story. In a war
against what it calls the "cult of Scientology," the online community
of Scientology critics has long copied, distributed and annotated
hundreds of "top secret" and copyrighted documents from the Church of
Scientology -- usually invoking fair use laws, (which allow publishers
to excerpt copyrighted material for the purpose of comment or
criticism), to defend their actions. The Church of Scientology has
determinedly fought to dismantle the Web sites that have republished
its material all across the Net -- using legal threats, filtering
software [http://www.salon.com/21st/feature/1998/07/15feature.html] and
innumerable pro-Scientology posts in Usenet groups.

It's one of the best-documented battles on the Net, but there is a new
weapon in these skirmishes, courtesy of the U.S. government: The
Digital Millennium Copyright Act, signed into law in November 1998, is
the first U.S. legislation to address online copyright protection.

Still, despite complaints about the way the Church of Scientology is
using the act, critics of Scientology also have an opportunity to use
the law to their own advantages. If a site owner files a
counter-notification agreeing to defend the usage of the "copyrighted"
materials in a court of law, then the Church of Scientology must begin
litigation within 10 days or the ISP must reinstate the site.

"The advantage for the customer with the material that gets taken down
is that the initial complaint is filed under penalty of perjury. So if
it's a bogus complaint, that person can also turn around and file a
complaint back," says James Lippard, a network security administrator
and owner of the site discord.org.

Now that critics have a legal fallback as well, will they be able to
more easily defend their usage of Church materials? Perhaps, but that's
a decision that will have to be made in court. Meanwhile, Lippard hopes
that "eventually the Church of Scientology is going to meet someone
with the resources and time to fight back."

18  The War Over Your Personal Privacy Is Over.
LA Weekly, July 23, 1999
(...) ISPs have themselves been the target of an increasing number of
"John Doe" lawsuits, which hamstring individual users' attempts to
shield their identity.

Many of these suits have been filed by companies hunting down online
detractors, but at least one has been filed by the Church of
Scientology to obtain the identity of a former church member who has
posted copyrighted Church texts in the past. That person responded to
AT&T WorldNet's dangerous lack of customer support, so to speak, in the
only way he/she could: "I guess it won't surprise anybody that because
AT&T has put my life at risk [from] this harassment organization, I
will be switching both Internet service providers and my long-distance
service from AT&T to MCI."

And what if the U.S., U.K., Canadian and other governments were working
together to spy on each other's citizens with such a device? It sounds
like X-Files conspiracy fodder. Problem is, last month the Australian
government admitted to The (Melbourne) Age that science fiction became
science fact years ago. The system is called Echelon, and it's run by
a five-country consortium called UKUSA, which for the past 50 years has
been in the business of signals intelligence ("sigint"). In the U.S.,
Echelon's operation falls in the bailiwick of the National Security

The good news is that the U.S. may be about to get its Echelon flakes
frosted by the international community. Since the U.S. and the U.K.
have been denying the existence of UKUSA for nearly half a century, one
can only imagine how overjoyed they were to see the Australians on the
record about it. Various European parliamentary bodies have
commissioned reports to discover exactly what info Echelon tracks and
what's done with it; a number of companies (including Boeing nemesis
Airbus) have already charged the U.S. with redirecting sensitive
information to "preferred" American competitors.

According to a recent article in The Progressive Review, more than 100
of the 137 predictors or indicators of a grim, totalitarian future in
Orwell's 1984 have already come to pass.

19  House endorses compromise faith healing bill
The Oregonian, July 21, 1999
The Oregon House on Wednesday endorsed a compromise bill that backers
say is sensitive to the religious rights of parents who chose to treat
their sick children only with prayer.

The bill contains most of the spiritual healing defenses that had
earlier been struck by the House in cases of murder and first-degree
murder. Plus, the bill now allows some leeway with the state's tough
sentencing guidelines for second-degree manslaughter, but only in
faith-healing cases.

After the vote, Rep. Betsy Close said she remained concerned that the
bill would still infringe on parents' religious freedoms.

Parents who attempt to heal their children only with prayer are immune
from prosecution on charges of murder, manslaughter, child abuse and
neglect under current state law.

20  Judge Rules Finks Can't Use Religious Defense
Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 1999
Accused of starving their 20-month-old son, then kidnapping him from a
Salt Lake City hospital, Christopher and Kyndra Fink are defending
themselves with a potpourri of religious tenets patched together from
vegetarianism, alternative medicine and snippets of Mormon doctrine.

Utah law protects parents from criminal prosecution if they withhold
medical treatment from their children on the basis of religious
. But on Monday, Senior 2nd District Judge Robert Newey ruled
the Finks' actions are not protected because the statute requires
religious beliefs to be in accordance with the practices of "an
established church or religious denomination."

21  'Bloodless' Transplant Saves Life
Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) And Jennings is a devout Jehovah's Witness whose beliefs prohibit
a single drop of another person's blood from entering his body.
But when Jennings told nervous surgeons at USC-University Hospital that
he didn't fear dying on the operating table because he was convinced he
would "wake up in paradise," they agreed to try to transplant half his
brother's liver into him.

22  Doctors get to grips with tokoloshes, witches and aliens
Sunday Times (South Africa), July 18, 1999
THERE could be a new medical explanation for "tokoloshe" hauntings,
alien abductions and night terrors: doctors are calling it sleep
paralysis, a disorder that is the result of a disconnection between the
brain and the body when a person is on the edge of sleep.
And it is turning out to be increasingly common. Recent studies in
Canada, Japan, China and the US have suggested that sleep paralysis may
strike at least 40 to 50 percent of all people at least once.

The Japanese call it kanashibari and Kazuhiko Fukuda, a psychologist at
Fukushima University in Japan, says it could explain claims of
witchcraft and alien abduction.

Researchers have found that, while the symptoms of sleep paralysis
might be similar, the images in the hallucinations and the
interpretation of them vary from country to country.

Now that witches on broomsticks have moved into the realm of disbelief,
alien abductions have become the fashionable reason for the malady.

However, there are those - including John E Mack, a Harvard University
Medical School professor who believes in the possibility of alien
abductions - who think that the sleep paralysis theory does not fit the

23  Feds seeks help finding O'Hair's gold
APB Online, July 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Federal investigators are asking for the public's help in retrieving
about $80,000 worth of gold coins that may have belonged to missing
atheist leader Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

FBI officials, who have been tight-lipped about their probe into the
1995 disappearance of O'Hair, her son and granddaughter, would divulge
little else except to confirm that the gold coins had belonged to the
O'Hair family.

24  Alabama police arrest man in Santa Monica, Calif., teen slaying
Sacramento Bee, July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A fugitive wanted in the slaying of a 14-year-old girl in Santa Monica,
Calif., was arrested at a popular hangout.

Scott is charged in connection with the 1998 strangulation of Shevawn
Geoghegan in Santa Monica. Authorities said the slaying had ties to
satanic cult activity.

A witness who led police to the body testified that Mason preached
Satanism to the group and viewed the murder as a sacrifice that would
earn him credit with Satan.

25  Teen behavioral centers push 'tough love'
Detroit News, July 21, 1999
(...) Eric's story involves a Utah-based network of companies
operating a far-flung chain of facilities designed to break teen-agers
of behavior that has driven their parents to desperation. The companies
are commonly known as Teen Help.

The aggressive methods have spawned allegations of child abuse,
prompting authorities to raid or investigate facilities in Mexico, the
Czech Republic, Utah, South Carolina. Facilities in the first three
locations closed.

Parents pay the company $26,000 to $54,000 a year to modify the
behavior of their children. The company does that with methods that
include intense group encounter sessions run by "facilitators" who
generally have little academic training in psychology or similar

Several psychologists and psychiatrists expressed skepticism and alarm
about Teen Help's methods. "There's something very creepy about this,"
Seattle psychiatrist August Piper said. "It's kind of frightening. It
sort of smacks of brainwashing, doesn't it?"

26  Christian group linked to KKK
The Age (Australia), July 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Controversy has erupted over the revelation that the mayor of the NSW
tourist city of Coffs Harbor, and one of its councillors, head a group
whose parent body is linked to white supremacist and anti-Semitic
organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Christian Identity features on the Internet websites of the KKK, and
Christian Identity members in the United States have been responsible
for violent attacks on racial minorities.

* Extensive collection of The Age articles on the KKK in Australia

27  LDS-oriented high school to open in Utah County
Deseret News, July 20, 1999
Brian Bates wants his children to study Lehi's journey to the Promised
Land as written in the Book of Mormon while simultaneously culling
lessons from geography and history texts.

Mourning the absence of prayer, scripture reading and theological
discussions in public schools, parents like Bates opted to launch a
private school for Latter-day Saint students. This fall, up to 60
Utah County students are expected to start school at Ensign High
School, a sister school to a 6-month-old elementary and middle school
with the same gospel-centered mission.

A dress code is being considered for high school, although it may not
be as strict as the clothing regulations of the Ensign school in
American Fork, which caters to students ranging in ages from 5 to 14.

"We are sort of a mini-MTC (Missionary Training Center)," quips Sue
Otis, who founded American Fork's Ensign last year with her husband,

28  Israeli Law Governs Bible Book Dispute
Law News Network, July 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A dispute between a best-selling author and the Torah scholars who
customized software enabling him to "decode" the first five books of
the Bible will be decided under Israeli law, a Manhattan judge has

Michael Drosnin, whose book The Bible Code has made best-seller lists
in the United States and abroad, was sued by an Israeli company called
Torah Soft Ltd., when he allegedly failed as agreed, to mention the
company in the first edition of the book. The case is Torah Soft Ltd.
v. Drosnin, Index No. 602148/98. Torah Soft modified its software to
Mr. Drosnin's specifications and charged $20 per hour for the work,
which Mr. Drosnin paid.

The dispute arose out of the allegation, leveled by Torah Soft, that
Mr. Drosnin agreed with Torah Soft's principal shareholder, Rabbi
Yochanan Spielberg, to mention the software product by name, and
provide readers with contact information should they wish to buy it for
themselves. When the first edition came out, there was no specific
mention of Torah Soft. Mr. Drosnin apparently offered to mention the
company in forthcoming editions, but that offer was rejected.

29  Jains now affiliated with Hindu temple in Middletown
Boston Globe, July 23, 1999
''Many people believe God is the creator. We believe one can attain
godhood,'' said Faquir Jain, president of the Jain Center of Greater

Members of the region's Jain community, numbering more than 200
families in central Connecticut, met recently in Middletown at the Sri
Satyanarayana Hindu Temple to prepare the dedication, or Pratishtha
Mahotsav, of Jain statues.

The statues installed in Middletown represent Adinathji and Mahavir
Swami. Mahavir is regarded as the latest Tirthankar, or world teacher
of Jainism. Jains say their Tirthankars have come from all races of
the world and believe themselves to be a philosophy of universal

30  Russian region wants to allow men up to four wives
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CNN, July 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Russia's Moslem southern region of Ingushetia has authorised its men to
marry up to four women each, an official said on Wednesday, but the
move may face hurdles in federal law. Regional leader Ruslan Aushev
signed the decree on Monday, an aide in his office said.

The decree is based on a traditional Islamic practice allowing men to
have up to four wives.

31  Justice official: Decree on polygamy in Russian region illegal
Boston.com, July 21, 1999
A decree allowing polygamy in a predominantly Muslim republic in
southern Russia is unconstitutional and must be revoked, Russia's
justice minister said Wednesday.

The decree was part of an attempt to revive Islamic tradition in
Ingushetia, ITAR-Tass said. Russia is predominantly Orthodox Christian,
which categorizes polygamy as a sin.

32  Dark side of the eclipse
BBC News, July 23, 1999
(...) But forecasts of record traffic jams, hotel prices and food
shortages look tame when compared with the prophecies of astrologers,
druids and New Age enthusiasts. Some of them are convinced that the
eclipse heralds anything from the "re-encoding" of the Earth's sacred
sites to the end of the world.

Time is running out for retired civil servant Matthew Dumbrell and the
rest of us, if you share his view that St Matthew had 11 August, 1999,
in mind when he penned Verse 24:

"On that day, the Sun will be darkened, the moon will not give off its
light, stars will fall from the sky, and God will call his chosen from
the four corners of the present Heaven and the present Earth"

Mr Kellett insists that because the total eclipse line falls across
most of the places where the world's major religions and philosophies
were born, "it heralds spiritual rebirth rather than global
destruction". A theory which is supported, he says, by the discovery of
an "amazing astrological configuration", in the form of a grand cross.

33  Jack Kelly: Wackos and terrorists - The other Y2K problem
Toledo Blade, July 18, 1999
(...) Mr. Livingstone is CEO of GlobalOptions, a risk mitigation firm.
He and other senior executives held a news conference last week to
discuss what they call "the other Y2K problem."

There are three sets of folks we need to worry about as the millennium

First are cultists who think the world will end on New Year's Day, and
want to help it along.

Of approximately 1,200 cults monitored by watchdog groups,
approximately 25 per cent have apocalyptic belief structures, Mr.
Livingstone said.

Second are terrorists who want to make statements the world will

The third set of folks we need to worry about are enemies of the United
States who themselves don't attach any particular significance to the
date, but see in Jan. 1, 2000, an opportunity to strike because they
know that security forces will be stretched to the limit to deal with
the fruitcakes, and because - in the case of cyberterrorism - it will
be difficult for authorities to distinguish a deliberately injected
computer virus from the accidental problems that may occur from
an incomplete fix of the computer date problem.

=== Noted

34  Explorer of the World's Spirituality
Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1999
A garden hose beside his front door says as much about Huston Smith's
religious practices as the ashram-like study on the second floor of the

At 80, the country's dean of comparative religion, whose big book, "The
World's Religions," has sold more than 2 million copies in 25 years,
compares religion to a good meal. Christianity has always been his
entree, but he adds "vitamin supplements" from around the world.

Asked how he maintains his unusual approach to a religious practice,
Smith describes a routine that is not typical of a member of the United
Methodist Church, which he is. His daily rituals include hatha yoga and
reading from the Bhagavad Gita or the Tao Te Ching if not the Bible. He
meditates as often as he prays.

One minute he's reminding you of his graduate student years at the
rigorous University of Chicago. The next, he's confessing to a visit
with Ramtha, a warrior from the lost continent of Atlantis being
channeled through a former cable TV saleswoman in Yelm, Wash.

Reactions were extreme both times. Christian leaders publicly condemned
Smith in the '50s for comparing their faith to other religions of the
world, then congratulated him for doing the same thing in the '90s.
Neither review changed his approach; they only warned him of a shift in

"In one lifetime the response went from 'don't watch it,' to 'everybody
should watch it,' " Smith says of the PBS programs. "That signals a
real change in our culture's attitude."

He has explained to thousands of people in hundreds of lectures exactly
what the change in attitude has been, a growing awareness and
acceptance of other religions.

"I find nothing in modern science that rivals the convergent views of
the world's great religions, the wisdom traditions," he says. "They all
ask, 'What is the nature of ultimate reality, and how can we best live
within it?'

"Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam are fingers pointing
to the moon. Each one gains credulity by the fact that they all
converge. Even though people from different cultures were thinking
about these issues independently."

"I have no problem remaining a Christian," he says. "But then, I open
myself completely to insights from other faiths. These insights have
been immense."

35  Controversy follows US Bible professor
The Press (New Zealand), July 19, 1999
Wherever Irish-born American Professor John Dominic Crossan goes
outside academic circles (and sometimes inside them) he is followed by
controversy. He was in Christchurch last week for lectures on the
historical Jesus and on Friday, after his appearance on national
television, says he and the "conservatives" are still poles apart.

He co-founded and was co-director of the Jesus Seminar, a group of
several hundred academics who analyse the Bible, seeking, they say,
historical fact. Their views -- such as there was no resurrection, no
Sermon on the Mount, no walking on water, and no virgin birth -- have
brought the seminar into controversy.

He said he was not interested in church conservatives as they "did not
have a future".

Those who believed implicitly in the gospels could continue to do so,
he said.

=== Internet

36  Religion's salvation: Logging on to God
USA Today, July 19, 1999
(...) First, he helped found New Song Community Church in Oceanside,
Calif., just outside San Diego. Then, to boost attendance at New Song's
Sunday services, he developed a spiffy church Web site and interactive
religious CD-ROM.

Evans' blend of technology and theology has been so successful that
each week New Song is overrun with hundreds of people between the ages
of 20 and 45 who once gave up on religion.

"If you read the New Testament, Jesus was as relevant in his day as the
Internet is today," says Hal Seed, New Song's 42-year-old pastor.

After breaking through the stained glass barrier at New Song, Evans
formed Outreach Marketing in 1996 so he could help other churches.

"If I handed you a tract today instead of a CD-ROM," says Jim
Carpenter, vice president of communications for Dynamic Church Planting
International, "you'd probably trash it."

The CD-ROM connection is crucial because only 10% of first-time
visitors to a church become full-time members. About 25% of second-time
visitors end up joining. And 40% of those who make a third visit come
back week after week.

"Religion Items in the News" is now called "ReligionNewsBlog.com" - a service provided by Apologetics Index.

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