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

Religion Items In The News

September 20, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 115)

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

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

As most of these items stay online for only a day or two, URLs to the original stories are provided here as inactive links. If you can not find a story online, Read this).

Religion Items in the News - September 20, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 115)

=== Waco/Branch Davidians
[Story no longer online? Read this]

1. Branch Davidian church rising at Mount Carmel
2. Nation changing views on siege
3. FBI revelations inspire skeptics
4. Tucson lawyer presses for truth about Waco
5. Danforth seeks 30-day delay in depositions in Waco civil suit
6. Jailed Branch Davidians wait, hope as Waco probe reopened
7. Waiting for the flames
8. Up-to-date Waco Cover-up news (Instant news searches)

=== Scientology
[Story no longer online? Read this]
9. Trial of Scientologists Begins
10. French Scientology fraud trial goes ahead
11. Scientology now

=== Other News
12. Brazil: Moonies plough cash into learning
13. Receiver seeks new law to liquidate Aum assets
14. Cultist wins suit against estate agent (Aum Shinrikyo)
15. China Arrests More in Falun Gong
16. Claiming to be a supreme being can serve a charlatan well in China
17. Fears of satanist violence in Moscow
18. Russian law on religion
19. Sikh priest faces weapons charge
20. Sect Commissioner warns of "psycho-market"
21. Sects do not flinch from children
22. Exhibition in Graz explains about sects
23. Threat Of Brainy Bullies
24. State prison officials to pay more attention to hate group links of
25. Race, Religion, Rhetoric Simmer in Georgia Town (Nuwaubians)
26. TBN Seeking Wider Appeal for 'Omega Code'
27. Godsmack To Shed Light On Wicca Faith In New Video
28. 'Bible Answer Man' Hits Out At Y2K Alarmists
29. Vatican issues updated manual on indulgences
30. Atheist Renews Legal Battle Over Mount Soledad Cross
31. Cases Give Court Chances to Define Church and State
32. Russian olim boost messianic congregations
33. Council to Seek Curbs After Complaints on Congregation's Banners
34. Disney Alters Controversial Israeli Exhibit
35. Israel insists Disney exhibit shows Jerusalem as capital
36. Classes, center, integrate mind, body, spirit and relationships

=== Noted
37. Correspondence [re: books on Christian Scientists]
38. L.A. Answers a Holy Calling (World Festival of Sacred Music)
39. The Dalai Lama's View

=== Books
40. Forgotten Debate on Jesus' Origin Vividly Revived

=== Waco/Branch Davidians

1. Branch Davidian church rising at Mount Carmel
Star-Telegram, Sep. 19, 1999
As grasshoppers flitted in 90-degree heat, workers as young as 4 and as old
as 71 broke ground yesterday for a new Branch Davidian church at Mount

The project was organized and led by Austin radio talk show host Alex Jones,
25, who has called the Davidians victims of "a government cover- up of its
violation of the First Amendment."

Jones called the church project a "healing process" for the Branch Davidians
and the country.

The caravan of volunteers from Austin to Waco included Koresh's mother and
stepfather and consisted of about 60 vehicles including pickups, motor homes
and a luxury sedan.

Exactly who owns the 77- acre compound site in Central Texas isn't clear. It
has been claimed by at least three parties: Clive Doyle and other followers
of David Koresh, who lived at Mount Carmel; Douglas Mitchell, who claims to
be the divinely appointed leader of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventist
Association; and Amo Bishop Roden, who has said that she was married "by
contract" to the late George Roden, the former Branch Davidian leader.

2. Nation changing views on siege
San Antonio Express-News, Sep. 19, 1999
(...) Koresh, the self-proclaimed Lamb of God, is buried in a Tyler cemetery.
Around Waco, a surviving handful of the faithful await his promised return,
confident he'll bring divine justice with him.

"I hope he'll be back soon. He's gonna deal with those who are responsible
for what's happened. It's in the Bible. That's what God says," said Edna
Doyle, 84, whose granddaughter, Shari, perished in the fire.

In certain political and legal realms, Koresh already has returned. Public
attention is again focusing on an episode in American history that, to
those distrustful of the federal government, represents Big Brother at his
brutal worst.

The survivors' wrongful death lawsuit is far smaller than when it began.
Government lawyers defending the suit succeeded in having all of the
individuals named, except Horiuchi, dropped as defendants.

Most of the other claims, including all involving constitutional issues, also
were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, who's called the Waco
affair, "an American tragedy of epic proportions."

But Smith, who in 1993 presided over the criminal trial in San Antonio that
ended with convictions of eight surviving Branch Davidians, has made clear
certain critical issues will be addressed at trial.

But Smith has acknowledged the plaintiffs have some basis for their claims,
including affidavits of surviving Branch Davidians and the opinions of
experts in thermal imaging. The experts say certain flickering images
captured on infrared tapes from government helicopters are automatic weapons
being fired outside the compound during the final tear gas assault.

These claims were first aired in the documentary film, "Rules of Engagement,"
which has fed public paranoia about the government role in the Waco affair.

The surviving Branch Davidians hold little hope of winning in Smith's
courtroom, noting how harshly he dealt with the defendants in the criminal
trial he presided over in San Antonio in late 1993. Smith, they note,
sentenced the Branch Davidian defendants to long prison terms after a jury
acquitted them of the most serious charges.

However, they say their version of what happened in 1993 will be heard by the
American public for the first time.

Dr. Alan Stone, a professor of psychiatry and law at Harvard University,
reviewed the Waco affair at the Justice Department's request several years
ago. Stone believes the government and the media share responsibility for the
standoff's terrible outcome.

"The most tragic thing is that you people, the press, and the ATF and the FBI
and the politicians have demonized the Branch Davidians," he said by phone
from Cambridge. "And it's time for the press to admit that. We got it wrong.
We believed the FBI. We were told these were terrible people, and in fact
they weren't," he said of the Branch Davidians.

"At some time in our history, we're going to have to face up to the fact that
the Branch Davidians were just like the Mormons were 200 years ago, and we
killed them or forced them into suicide, so this is a tragic chapter of
American history, both for law enforcement and the media," he said.

3. FBI revelations inspire skeptics
San Antonia Express-News, Sep. 19, 1999
(...) But old doubts die hard among militia members, conspiracy theorists and
other skeptics. Among the incredulous, the possibility of renewed scrutiny
yielding long-awaited vindication inspires hope, satisfaction and mostly,

Bacon said a 1995 congressional investigation into possible wrongdoing at
Waco left too many questions unanswered. This time, while some expect the
renewed allegations to pump new blood into militias, others like Bacon, a
former defense-industry employee who saw work dwindle after the Cold War
thawed, doubt the inquiries will have much effect.

Some theories are posted on Web sites under pseudonyms, sometimes as terse as
their proclamations. Among comments, one message proposes that the Waco
revelations amount to a carefully laid bait.

But those who monitor computer communications among militias and sympathizers
say the attention on the Branch Davidian siege has excited new activity in a
dormant, if not dying, community.

4. Tucson lawyer presses for truth about Waco
The Arizona Republic, Sep. 20, 1999
(...) As for Waco, Tucson attorney Hardy said his own experience as a federal
bureaucrat helped him conclude that the real villains at Waco were what he
calls the "Omnipotent Peons."

"The government isn't run by Cabinet members or department heads," he said
with a laugh. "The government is run by middle-level and lower-level peons
who do what they damned well please. "I doubt that (U.S. Attorney General)
Janet Reno or (FBI Director) Louis Freeh had any idea of the cover-up we've
been discovering," he said. "But I believe subordinates of theirs did. And
the people who were on the scene certainly did."

Since 1995, Hardy has filed eight freedom of information act requests with
federal officials seeking material relating to the Waco incident. His
persistence has resulted in the government turning over to him hundreds of
documents and stacks of audiotapes and videotapes.

Hardy has worked closely with Michael McNulty, a one-time Colorado insurance
agent turned documentary filmmaker. The two have forced the government to
admit that potentially flammable tear gas canisters were indeed used at Waco
and that elite Delta Force soldiers were on the scene of the siege advising
government agents.

Hardy said he hopes that his research into the Waco incident will do more
than cause government officials some embarrassment. "I have for some time
been trying to show that law enforcement is becoming increasingly
militaristic," Hardy said. "The military attacks, shoots, kills, destroys,"
he said. "Law officers are supposed to talk to people and perhaps make
arrests. We're seeing too many law officers in black suits, calling
themselves SWAT teams, with submachine guns, sniper rifles and an attack

5. Danforth seeks 30-day delay in depositions in Waco civil suit
San Francisco Gate/AP, Spe. 17, 1999
The special counsel investigating the possibility of an official cover-up
after the 1993 Branch Davidian siege has asked a Texas judge to delay
lawyers' fact-finding in the civil lawsuit filed against the government by
Davidian survivors and relatives of the dead.

Former Sen. John Danforth asked a federal judge in Waco to issue an order
delaying for 30 days any discovery and witness interviews by government and
plaintiffs' lawyers in the upcoming trial. He also requested permission to
interview all witnesses first.

``It is my firm belief that our inquiry will benefit by interviewing
witnesses prior to their preparation for testimony in a civil trial,''
Danforth wrote Thursday to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith. ``Because a
civil trial inherently involves advocacy, testimony tends to be very
well-rehearsed and coordinated with the testimony of other witnesses.''

6. Jailed Branch Davidians wait, hope as Waco probe reopened
CNN, Sep. 17, 1999
(...) While Congress and a special investigator prepare to take another look
at what happened at Waco, there is little talk about the Davidians who remain
behind bars. "I want to know what they're going to do about innocent people
who are convicted and are spending 40 years in federal prison," says Rocket
Rosen, an attorney for the Davidians. "I never hear that talked about."

Branch and other Davidians believe there has been a widespread cover-up, and
the prospect of another congressional probe doesn't give him much hope.

Seven Branch Davidians remain in federal prison in connection with the
shoot-out. One is expected to be released in 2006 and another in 2010. The
other five, including Branch, Castillo and Whitecliff, aren't expected to be
released until 2028.

8. Waiting for the flames
Boston Phoenix, Sep. 16, 1999 (4,166 words)
Six years after the fire at Waco, David Koresh's followers are actively
recruiting new converts, and millions of believers are preparing for a future
apocalypse. Congress is asking whether the FBI set the fire, but that's not
the most important question. Why didn't the agents know that the Davidians
expected to die all along? And when will Waco happen again?

Whether or not an investigation reveals that the FBI used incendiary devices
in the final assault, the reality is that the fatal error occurred much
earlier: federal agents simply had not taken the Davidians seriously enough
to do homework on the sect's apocalyptic beliefs.

Bolstered by this fatalistic faith, the Davidians weren't as easily dominated
as federal agents seem to have expected. Nor were they as helpless as the
current mythology has it. After all, they managed to outblast the agents in
the first assault, demonstrating almost military preparedness. That turn of
events should have alerted the FBI (which took over the siege from the BATF
on the second day) to the poor logic of the initial plans. But even if it
had, it was already too late to recover: having made no attempt to understand
the Davidian faith, the federal agents were operating at a loss.

Indeed, even when consulting theologians such as James D. Tabor -- later the
co-author, with Eugene V. Gallagher, of Why Waco? (University of California
Press) -- FBI agents did not ever seem fully to process that they were
dealing with an organized (if unconventional) belief system, or that David
Koresh truly believed that he was carrying out the will of God (which led him
to break his promises to negotiators to come out). They had no interest in
learning about Koresh's greatest theological passion: the "Seven Seals," a
set of mystical events leading to the Apocalypse that are described in
Revelation, the last book of the Bible.

The FBI's attitude was clear to Mark Swett, a theology student and
self-appointed archivist of a vast collection of materials from the Waco
standoff. Swett possesses and has transcribed tapes not only of the
negotiations, but of the secret bugging done by the FBI (bugs planted by
negotiators who were allowed into the compound early on and later concealed
in medical supplies that were sent in to the wounded). "The Seven Seals were
a constant on his mind -- he was thinking of nothing else," Swett told me.

Even now, some of the remaining Davidians doggedly wait for the next
apocalypse, just like their Millerite forefathers, their Davidian
predecessors, and their lost Student loved ones. Renos Avraam, writing from
prison, calls himself the Chosen Vessel and predicts the Sixth Seal and its
cataclysms will be opened with further bloodshed this December. New believers
are attracted to his teachings by Seven Seals Web sites
(http://www.sevenseals.com and http://www.branchdavidian.com).

Others, loyal to Koresh and skeptical of Avraam's "new light," continue to
worship together in Texas, under the leadership of siege survivor Clive
Doyle. They and their supporters try to have it both ways: still adhering to
the apocalyptic vision of the Seven Seals but denying that this was a factor
at Waco (Koresh's own opinion notwithstanding).

* Mark Swett's site, billed as "the definitive Internet site for information
regarding David Koresh and the Branch Davidians," is at:


8. Up-to-date Waco Cover-up news

[Story no longer online? Read this]

=== Scientology

9. Trial of Scientologists Begins
AOL/AP, Sep. 20, 1999
The controversial trial of seven members of the Church of Scientology began
Monday in southern France, but was immediately bogged down by a scandal over
missing evidence. The head of the Scientologists' international wing lashed
out in a statement, saying he would complain to human rights organizations
that France was threatening the right of members of minority religions to a
fair trial.

The seven Scientologists are charged with fraud in a case dating back to 1990
that has focused attention on the group, which is trying to win recognition
as a legitimate religion in Europe.

The Scientologists' defense demanded Monday that the trial be postponed
because of the ``dreadful climate'' created after documents relating to the
case disappeared from the Marseille court.

An official inquiry found that the loss of the documents two weeks ago was
due to a mistake by a court clerk.

But Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International,
said in a statement that the French government was ``trying to turn the
French justice system into a Roman circus.'' He said he would complain to
the U.N. Human Rights Commission and other human rights organizations.

The case against the Scientology leaders from the southern French cities of
Nice and Marseille was lodged by a former member of the church, and on Monday
a second man came forward as a civil party to the case.

10. French Scientology fraud trial goes ahead
AOL/Reuters, Sep. 20, 1999
Seven Church of Scientology officials went on trial in this southern French
port city on Monday accused of fraud in connection with fees charged to
members of the group for spiritual purification.

The seven defendants, five of them women, face up to five years in prison on
charges of fraud and illegally practising medicine.

The court rejected a bid by the defendants to have the hearing postponed on
the grounds that a controversy over the disappearance of legal documents
relating to the case would make a fair trial impossible.

French authorities, worried by the influence of the Church of Scientology,
are keeping the group under close scrutiny. Alain Vivien, who heads a
ministerial committee investigating sects, has called it a totalitarian
movement and raised the possibility of a ban.

11. Scientology now
The Observer, Sep. 19, 1999 (Editorial Column)
Our old friends the Scientologists have adopted a new softly-softly approach
towards press criticism. In the old days if you attacked them you were likely
to get a libel writ and in extreme cases become the target of black

Now the response is more likely to be a pained letter to the editor and an
invitation to the Scientology HQ at East Grinstead to talk it through over a
nice cup of tea.

Such tactics are already paying off. In their march towards public acceptance
and respectability, the Scientologists have embarked on a massive advertising
campaign (with the help of the authorities).

The success of this sinister organisation lies precisely in persuading people
such as the ITC that it is a religious faith, but if anything is a breach of
advertising ethics it is the Scientologists calling themselves the 'church'
of Scientology when the organisation is nothing of the kind. There are no
churches, no religious beliefs, no services and the only thing approaching a
god is the person of the late L. Ron Hubbard, one of this century's
greatest-ever rogues and con men.

Now I look forward to getting another pained letter from East Grinstead.

=== Other News

12. Brazil: Moonies plough cash into learning
The Times - Educational Supplement (UK), Sep. 17, 1999

(...) The new school is at the heart of an ambitious plan recently launched
by the Moonie sect to build its vision of an "earthly paradise" in Brazil's
impoverished Matto Grosso do Sul state.

Initiated by the Rev Sun Myung Moon it is part of a multi-million-dollar
scheme to resurrect his sect as an engine of Third World development.

"The school is the first step," said headteacher Gloria Ferneda, a Brazilian
from Sao Paulo who has been a sect member for 25 years. "Next on the agenda
is the building of a university and a research centre to bring modern
agricultural technology to the region."

13. Receiver seeks new law to liquidate Aum assets
Daily Yomiuri, Sep. 19, 1999
Saburo Abe, court-appointed receiver for the Aum Supreme Truth cult, which
was declared bankrupt in March 1996 by the Tokyo District Court, changed his
initial plan to finalize the cult's bankruptcy proceedings by the end of this
year, and decided to continue liquidation of its assets, it was learned

Abe will request that the government and political parties draw up a special
law that will enable him to liquidate the current assets of the cult--which
have been made by selling computers and by other means since declaring
bankruptcy--to help injured survivors and families of victims of crimes
committed by the cult, according to a source close to the receiver.

According to the current Bankruptcy Law, it is impossible to liquidate assets
obtained by the cult after its bankruptcy in March 1996 to compensate the

14. Cultist wins suit against estate agent
Daily Yomiuri, Sep. 18, 1999
The Urawa District Court on Friday ordered a real estate agent to grant
ownership of property in a village in Saitama Prefecture to a follower of the
Aum Supreme Truth cult.

The two-story ferroconcrete building facility has a floor space of about 600
square meters. It stands on 1,300 square meters of land in the Ono district
of Tokigawamura. If the ownership is transferred, it will be the largest
chunk of real estate owned by Aum or any of its followers.

15. China Arrests More in Falun Gong
Washington Post/AP, Sep, 19, 1999
Members of a popular meditation group are defying a two-month-old ban by
China's communist government, prompting a renewed wave of arrests, state
media and a human rights group reported Sunday.

Police in nine cities have detained at least 300 practitioners of Falun Gong
in the past week, ten of them on Sunday in a park in Changsha, a southern
provincial capital, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights
and Democratic Movement in China reported.

While most are being held for 5 to 15 days as detention regulations allow,
police are beating and mistreating those Falun Gong followers who insist on
continuing their banned practice in prison, the group said.

16. Claiming to be a supreme being can serve a charlatan well in China
Deseret News/AP, Sep. 18, 1999
(...) Finding a deep spiritual hunger among ordinary townspeople, the
would-be god, Liu Jiaguo, quickly attracted thousands of followers who
eagerly subscribed to his bizarre teachings and revered him as the "Supreme

This cult, attracting more than 10,000 people at its peak in 1997, is one of
hundreds that have appeared in China, demonstrating a marked eagerness of
ordinary Chinese to seek spiritual fulfillment in a fast-changing society
that many find bewildering. When Chinese authorities began a crackdown in
July on Falun Gong, one of the largest spiritual movements in China, with
perhaps 20 million members, they lifted a lid on a multitude of cults that
have thrived. In an effort to show how easily people can be tricked by
charlatans like Liu, the authorities have been publicizing cases that had
been kept secret.

Once he was arrested, Liu, perhaps in hopes of winning a reduced sentence by
showing humility, readily admitted that he tricked his followers and pointed
to his own predicament — stuck in jail — as evidence.

"If I were a god, would I be here today?

17. Fears of satanist violence in Moscow
Stetson University, Sep. 9, 1999
(...) According to intelligence from the Service for the Struggle with
Terrorism of the Moscow UFSB, the former leader of the "Black Dragon"
satanist sect, who had been followed since 1997, is suspected of planning a
series of terrorist acts for the Day of the City, aimed at Christian
religious objects in Moscow.

* Additional item:

Satanist Terror
The recent arrest of twenty-two-year-old Mikhail Naumenko, suspected of
planning terrorist acts against Christian religious objects, and the
subsequent discovery in his apartment of explosives could force the public
and law enforcement agencies to take a different view of the problem of
the spread of satanism and other related destructive movements in Russia.

18. Russian law on religion
Newsroom, Sep. 7, 1999
The December 1999 deadline to re-register religious organizations under
Russia's controversial law on religion may be delayed by another year, the
Keston News Service reports. The proposed extension is the result of a strong
international campaign against the 1997 legislation which prompted its
authors to promise "that the government would work on the law," according to
Mikhail Osadchev, assistant to the deputy of the Duma, Russia's parliament.

19. Sikh priest faces weapons charge
Akron Beacon Journal/AP, Sep, 19, 1999
A concealed weapons charge against a Sikh priest could be dropped if
prosecutors agree the knife he was carrying was required by his religion.
City Prosecutor Ron Graham said Friday he is unsure whether the arrest and
the confiscation of the knife -- called a kirpan -- violated the beliefs of
Gurbachan Singh Bhatia.

Although state law does not allow for exceptions, ``we don't want to
prosecute anyone for exercising religious freedom,'' Graham said. Police
Chief Richard Amiott said his officers acted properly in enforcing the law
banning concealed weapons.

``How can you describe for me the difference between a ceremonial knife and
any knife?'' he asked.

In a similar case in Cincinnati in 1996, the 1st Ohio District Court of
Appeals overturned a municipal court conviction of a Sikh man for carrying a
concealed weapon.

20. Sect Commissioner warns of "psycho-market"
Passauer Neue Presse (Germany), Sep. 16, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
(...) The speaker for issues of sects and weltanschauung of Fulda Diocese
would like to inform businesses, especially mid-size businesses and their
management, with a brochure from the chamber of industry and commerce. The
written informational brochure contains statements about the practices of
unprofessional providers in the area of continuing education. The danger of
unprofessional influence in personality training is not only a result of
Scientology, but often blooms in its shadows. Professional offers of
continuing education, sales, management and personality training and dubious
promises from psycho-groups and pseudo-sects are often mixed together.

21. Sects do not flinch from children
CDU/CSU Press Release, Sep. 17, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
Initiated in 1954 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, World
Children's Day is on September 20, 1999. For the occasion, the CDU/CSU
Federal Assembly faction for "So-called Sects and Psychogroups," Klaus
Holetschek, MP:

In the Federal Republic of Germany, from 100,000 to 200,000 children and
youth grow up in so-called sects or psychogroups. These children are
dependent upon their parents for education, and have been placed, without
their consent, under the various influences of these communities.

Many sects are closed systems with absolute claims in which any form of
"cross-thinking" is regarded as unhealthy. Natural development of children is
not permitted. Children are the weakest members of our society, and therefore
have claim to special protection. Unfortunately, we still know altogether too
little about the situations of children and young adults in sects. In order
to make up for this deficiency, more research and advancement in research is
necessary in this area, as is a problem-specific continuing education of
trainers and teachers.

22. Exhibition in Graz explains about sects
Kleine Online (Austria), Sep. 16, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
The travelling exhibition, "So-called sects. Authoritarian currents and
preventive alternatives" can now be seen in Graz until the end of September
at 4 Albrecht Alley.

For two years, the presentation has been touring Styrian schools in the form
of a work shop.

City youth representative Tatjana Kaltenbeck looks forward especially to the
attention of youth and their parents being put on the problem of sects,
esoterica and satanism. That is because she believes that the sects' power of
attraction is getting increasingly stronger.

A particularly high demand continues to come from the Styrian schools, where
the travelling exhibition is already booked until 2001.

23. Threat Of Brainy Bullies
Yahoo UK, Sep. 8, 1999
WHAT do a 10-year-old bully, an autocratic boss and a cult leader have in
common? They are all a lot brainier than we give them credit for, according
to new research. And, left unchecked, the classroom bully could grow up into
a threatening boss or the ruler of a sect.

Psychologists found bullies are often clever and able to manipulate their
victims with mindgames.

Almost 200 children aged seven to 10 were questioned as part of the study by
researchers at Goldsmith College, London. They were tested on their
understanding of other people's emotions and feelings. From this, the
researchers found ringleader bullies were able to victimise fellow pupils
when they were at their most vulnerable. About a quarter of primary school
pupils in Britain are believed to be bullied at least "some time" each term.
[...entire item...]

24. State prison officials to pay more attention to hate group links of
San Francisco Gate/AP, Sep. 16, 1999
With a Washington white supremacist charged in an Aug. 10 shooting spree at a
Los Angeles Jewish community center, state prison officials will pay closer
attention to inmates with a history of involvement in hate groups, the state
prison chief said Thursday.

The man charged in the shootings, Buford O. Furrow, had strong ties to the
neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, a fact that apparently got little attention
from authorities who assessed Furrow's mental health after he was charged
with second-degree assault last year, and who monitored his behavior
following his release from jail.

``It is my belief that racism'' and other forms of hate are ``diseases of the
heart, not of the mind,'' said Joe Lehman, secretary of the state Department
of Corrections. Still, Lehman said the Furrow case helped convince him that
``as a matter of policy'' a person's links to hate groups should be
considered as among reasons for mental health treatment and for closer
scrutiny upon release from prison.

25. Race, Religion, Rhetoric Simmer in Georgia Town
Salt Lake Tribune, Sep. 18, 1999
(...) Welcome to Eatonton, county seat of Putnam County and birthplace of
writers Alice Walker and Joel Chandler Harris. Folks here are proud of both,
the black novelist whose work won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and the white
creator of the Uncle Remus tales.

Then, the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors came to town. The Nuwaubians'
philosophy includes claims of being a sovereign nation and prophecies that
they will be delivered by beings who will arrive in a spaceship. When they
moved here from Brooklyn in 1993, they bought more than 400 acres west of
town and built "The Egypt of the West" in the fertile red earth that
supported stands of white pine.

Curiosity has turned to concern now that the Nuwaubians have become embroiled
in a months-long, racially tinged zoning dispute with Putnam County officials
over plans to open a nightclub and market.

It's a fight that has had a full measure of twists and turns. County
officials have come to compare the Nuwaubians to some of the nation's most
notorious cults. The Nuwaubians have taken up their cause in town, blanketing
the town square with fliers that make inflammatory, unsubstantiated
accusations against county officials.

And the accusations and complaints have marred the patina of harmony.
"There's never been any trouble," said Marianne Tanner, an administrative
assistant in the county's Building and Zoning Department. "But we haven't had
a spaceship here before. We haven't had a group that said they were going to
take over the county. So there's nervousness, and rightfully so. "

Tanner was referring to the Nuwaubians' literature. It says the group's
founder, Dwight York, is a being from a galaxy called Illyuwn, and that in
the year 2003, spaceships will come to Earth and pick up a chosen group of

26. TBN Seeking Wider Appeal for 'Omega Code'
Los Angeles Times, Sep. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]

(...) Another young producer might have been discouraged by such a brushoff.
But one senses that Crouch easily forgave his father, the controversial
televangelist Paul Crouch. The father-and-son team are behind "The Omega
Code," set to open Oct. 15, which marks a rare foray into theatrical films
for Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network, the world's largest
Christian television network.

Paul Crouch, 65, founder and president of TBN, is credited as executive
producer on the film. TBN put up part of the $8.5-million production budget
and is kicking in free advertising worth at least $3 million. In return, the
privately held network gets a large chunk of the theatrical rentals.

TBN is even broadcasting appeals to faithful viewers--who fork over an
estimated $80 million in solicited donations to the network each year--to
volunteer for promotional work.

Crouch hedges when asked if "The Omega Code" is a religious film, but clearly
he's aiming primarily for a core audience of evangelical Christians, who
according to religion experts number roughly 75 million in the U.S. Stephan
Blinn's script is about an evil genius (played by Michael York, most recently
of "Austin Powers" fame), who conspires to rule the world using the Bible
code, a mathematical pattern that supposedly runs throughout the Scriptures
and allows users to predict major events.

What's more, many biblical scholars have cast skepticism, and sometimes
ridicule, on the code, which they say trivializes the ancient texts for the
sake of parlor tricks.

"It's completely, utterly bogus . . . it's using the Bible as Ouija board,"
says Benjamin Hubbard, chairman of the comparative religion department at Cal
State Fullerton. He adds, however, that the success of "The Bible Code" at
bookstores proves the concept's appeal to Christian fundamentalists and
others who take the Bible literally.

The televangelist's business practices have sometimes been questioned. Former
employees have accused Crouch of avoiding paying workers' Social Security
taxes and charging personal expenses to his nonprofit ministry, both of which
the company has denied. In an unusual move, the Federal Communications
Commission last April pulled Trinity's license for a Miami TV station after
concluding that the network had created a fake minority-owned broadcasting
company to evade government rules limiting station ownership. (TBN is
appealing the FCC ruling; repeated attempts to reach Paul Crouch, who
generally avoids mainstream media, were unsuccessful.)

* As noted in the Sep/Oct 1997 issue of the Christian Research Journal, Paul
Crouch wholeheartedly endorses the equidistant letter sequencing technique
which underlies the Bible code theories.

See also

'Bible Code' Debunked by Scholars
Religion Items in the News, issue 112, item 22.

27. Godsmack To Shed Light On Wicca Faith In New Video
MTV, Sep. 16, 1999
Godsmack frontman Sully Erna has never hidden his Wicca faith, and the singer
will flaunt it even more in the band's new video. When the Boston-area hard
rockers shoot the video for "Voodoo" this weekend in Massachusetts, they will
include an actual Wicca ceremony in their footage. Erna, a practicing Wicca
witch, has tapped his mentor, Salem witch Laurie Cabot, to join him for the

Erna, who has followed the Wicca faith for a decade, hopes that the clip will
help to demystify the religion. The band will team with director Dean Karr
(Marilyn Manson, Deftones, Dave Matthews Band) for the shoot, set for
September 18 and 19.

28. 'Bible Answer Man' Hits Out At Y2K Alarmists
Charisma News Service, Sep. 17, 1999
Radio host Hank Hanegraaff, an outspoken critic of aspects of the charismatic
movement, has a new target--the "chronic alarmists" who he says are fueling
Y2K fears. The "Bible Answer Man" presenter says that the millennium computer
crisis predicted by some is "one of the most overblown--yet
dangerous--examples of sensationalism and sloppy journalism to hit the
Christian community in years."

He began to research the claims of a coming computer meltdown Jan. 1 after
his Christian Research Institute headquarters in California was "flooded" by
frightened callers. Now he says that the real crisis is one of credibility
for the church. "False Y2K information spread by Christians could undermine
the church's believability when we seek to advance real biblical truth," he
says in a letter to supporters.

Hanegraaff challenges the facts and Bible references of Christian leaders who
have warned about a pending crisis in a new book, "The Millennium Bug
Debugged." He says that if everyone followed financial adviser Larry
Burkett's advice to stash away a month's worth of cash, the very "economic
disaster" he warns of "could become a self-fulfilling prophecy due to bank

"Charisma" magazine warned against "millennium madness" in its July issue.
See the full report at www.charismamag.com.
[...entire item...]

29. Vatican issues updated manual on indulgences
AOL/Reuters, Sep. 17, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]
br> Lest anyone think indulgences are a medieval anachronism, the Vatican Friday
issued an updated manual for how modern Roman Catholics can receive them and
maybe get to heaven faster. The guidelines were contained in the new
Latin-language guidebook ``Enchiridion Indulgentiarum,'' a compendium
incorporating some of Pope John Paul's recent teachings on gaining

The 115-page manual incorporated some teachings on indulgences contained in a
papal edict issued last year on how Catholics can do good works and gain
indulgences during 2000, which the Pope has declared a Holy Year.

30. Atheist Renews Legal Battle Over Mount Soledad Cross
KGTV, Sep, 15, 1999
Philip Paulson filed a motion in federal court alleging the city of San Diego
violated the constitutional separation of church and state in the way it
handled the sale of the Mount Soledad cross and surrounding property last
year. That sale was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Paulson.

Paulson's motion claims the city structured bidding for the property in such
a way as to exclude any group that would not maintain the cross. The American
Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League filed friends of the
court brief in support of the atheist's motion.

San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn said he was surprised by the criticism of
the bidding process and had thought the Mount Soledad controversy was
settled. "Mr. Paulson and his atheist friends know that isn't true because
they bid on it. Their bids weren't even close," Gwinn said.

* Soon after Mr. Paulson moved to San Diego (named after a Saint) from Los
Angeles (City of Angels), he claimed the cross, a war memorial, ruined
his ability to picnic on top of Mt. Soledad...

31. Cases Give Court Chances to Define Church and State
New York Times, Sep. 19, 1999
With struggles over student-led prayer at high school football games and
legal brinkmanship over taxpayer-paid vouchers for parochial school tuition,
the line separating church and state appears as ragged and contested as it
has been in years. While the Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter of
constitutional boundaries, has stood by as a largely silent witness to these
escalating debates, that could change in the Court's new term that begins two
weeks from Monday.

32. Russian olim boost messianic congregations
Jerusalem Post, Sep, 17, 1999
Southern Baptists are praying that we will all become "messianic Jews,"
according to Yad Leachim, the anti-missionary group, which estimates that
missionaries have already won many thousands of souls. But according to Kai
Kjaer-Hansen and Bodil Skjøtt, two Danish scholars who worked for a
missionary organization here, there are just over 5,000 Jewish believers in
Jesus in Israel.

They also cite other sources which indicate that there are about 500
Catholics of Jewish origin with four Hebrew Catholic congregations, some 100
Jews who have become Seventh Day Adventists and 1,000 Jehovah's Witnesses,
almost all of them of Jewish descent, bringing the total number of Jews in
Israel who adhere to some form of Christianity to 5,063.

Their findings are published in Facts & Myths About the Messianic
Congregations in Israel, published by the United Christian Council in Israel
in cooperation with the Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies in

33. Council to Seek Curbs After Complaints on Congregation's Banners
Los Angeles Times, Sep. 16, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]

As Jews celebrate the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, many
have complained about 24 banners flying in the San Fernando Valley
proclaiming "Jesus Is the Messiah!" and "Yes There Are Jews Who Believe in

City permits for the banners were issued to Adat Y'shua Ha Adon Messianic
Jewish Congregation of Woodland Hills. "If it's offensive, we certainly
regret that," said the Rev. Michael Brown of Adat Y'shua. "We are not
intending to be offensive. We are merely stating what kind of congregation we
are. And we would hope that our fellow Jewish people would be tolerant even
if they disagree."

34. Disney Alters Controversial Israeli Exhibit
Excite/Reuters, Sep. 18
Walt Disney Co. bowed to Arab and Muslim pressure to alter a controversial
Israeli exhibit, but it was too soon to determine if the U.S. entertainment
giant can avoid a costly boycott, Arab officials said Saturday.

The officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Walt
Disney dropped all references to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and
altered a film that was to accompany the exhibit at the EPCOT theme park in

The exhibit, expected to open to the public on October 1, drew condemnation
from Arabs and Muslims. They said that it unfairly portrayed Jerusalem as
Israel's capital. The UAE vowed to boycott Disney products if the display was
not altered.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Friday attacked the campaign against the
exhibit and said he did not expect Disney to accede to the demands of the
Arab League, which sent a delegation to meet Disney on the matter.

35. Israel insists Disney exhibit shows Jerusalem as capital
San Diego Union-Tribune, Sep. 19, 1999
A controversial exhibit on Israel for Disney's millennium celebration
implicitly recognizes Jerusalem as the nation's capital, the Foreign Ministry
said yesterday.

Disney spokesman Bill Warren had said Friday that the display would not
present Jerusalem as Israel's political capital. But the Foreign Ministry
said the design of the exhibit implies it. "Presenting Jerusalem as the
central element in Israel's exhibit . . . speaks for itself," the ministry
said. "There is no clearer or stronger statement than that."

The Foreign Ministry said Disney would not alter the exhibit in any way. The
company has refused to say whether it would make changes or how the exhibit
would refer to East Jerusalem.

36. Classes, center, integrate mind, body, spirit and relationships
Detroit News, Sep. 16, 1999
A Lathrup Village minister believes prayer can be utilized far more
effectively to increase inner strength, peace and love. The Rev. John
Biersdorf is a spiritual counselor and the instructor of Praying With Your
Whole Being, a four-week series of classes that combines ancient and
contemporary approaches to prayer. Classes begin tonight at First Baptist
Church in Birmingham.

Biersdorf's classes signal the launch of the Center for Integrating Mind,
Body and Spirit. Located at the Birmingham church, the center's mission is to
integrate individual wholeness through mental, physical and spiritual
well-being and through healthy relationships with self, others and God.
Upcoming classes include Introduction to Reiki, Spiritual Guidance Practicum
and Embodied Prayer. "What I like about this movement," says Biersdorf, "is
the openness to people from various backgrounds and religious backgrounds.

=== Noted

37. Correspondence [re: books on Christian Scientists]
Los Angeles Times, Sep. 19, 1999 (Letters to the editor)

Martin Gardner's article "Mind Over Matter" (Book Review, Aug. 22) purports
to review three books: Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health With Key to the
Scriptures;" Dr. Gillian Gill's 1998 biography, "Mary Baker Eddy"; and
Caroline Fraser's new "God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian
Science Church." Had these books received equal treatment along with their
equal billing, the first two books would have considerably redressed the
pointed imbalance of the latter.

Clearly the reviewer favors Fraser's rancorous indictment of Eddy and her
church over the scholarly study by Gill.

It would be a shame if the biases in Gardner's review and in Fraser's book
were to persuade anyone to ignore primary sources on Christian Science or to
preclude them from deciding on its merits for themselves.

Gary A. Jones
Committees on Publication
The First Church of Christ, Scientist
Boston, Mass.

Martin Gardner replies:
I was not asked to review "Science and Health," nor did I make any effort to
do so. The title was added to the other two books by the editors (for readers
interested in acquainting themselves with Mrs. Eddy's writings). If anyone is
curious to know what I think of Mrs. Eddy's Bible, in all its endless
revisions, they can buy my "Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy," soon to
be reissued in paperback by Prometheus Books.

Christian Science is a non-Christian, nonscientific cult. Whenever such a
cult is criticized, you can be certain it will arouse howls of angry protests
from true believers. It's good that so few Christian Scientists have read my
biography of Mrs. Eddy. They might have died of unreal apoplexy.

Caroline Fraser replies:
The letter by Gary Jones, spokesman for the Christian Science Church,
misrepresents my scholarship in "God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the
Christian Science Church," claiming that I rely on an "unreliable source,"
the 1909 biography of Mary Baker Eddy written by Willa Cather and Georgine
Milmine. More than 100 end notes in my book refer the reader not to the
Cather-Milmine biography but to the church's own published source on Eddy's
life, the three-volume biography by Robert Peel. Many other notes in my book
refer to primary sources on Eddy and the history of Christian Science, not
all of which are controlled by the church. As I recount in the book, it was
the church's history of manipulating scholarship on Eddy that led me not to
request access to their archives, a request that, in any case, would almost
certainly have been denied.

* Gardner's review was noted in Religion Items in the News, Issue 107,
Item 32.

38. L.A. Answers a Holy Calling
Los Angeles Times, Sep, 19, 1999
[Story no longer online? Read this]

In the fall of 1997, the Dalai Lama sent a message out into the world,
inviting the global community to consider using music as a tool for ushering
in a peaceful millennium.

So with the Dalai Lama as muse, communities on six continents began
formulating ways to stage community-driven festivals that would foster mutual
understanding by celebrating sacred music in its many possible incarnations.

Crazy or not, L.A. is going to give it a try with the World Festival of
Sacred Music, a series of 85 concerts taking place all around town, Oct.

The Dalai Lama will give the opening address at the kickoff event at the
Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 10, a nearly four-hour concert that will feature about
600 performers ranging from the Halau O Kekuhi hula group from the Big Island
of Hawaii, an assemblage of Tibetan monk choirs and Esa-Pekka Salonen leading
the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Despite his
participation in the opening festivities, the Dalai Lama's role in the
festival has turned out to be largely a symbolic one.

39. The Dalai Lama's View
Los Angeles Times, Sep. 19, 1999

In an interview, the spiritual leader speaks of music as one way to deliver
the message of global peace. But he says it is by no means the most

=== Books

40. Forgotten Debate on Jesus' Origin Vividly Revived
Los Angeles Times, Sep. 18, 1999
WHEN JESUS BECAME GOD: The Epic Fight Over Christ's Divinity in the Last Days
of Rome; By Richard E. Rubenstein; Harcourt Brace; $26.00, 268 pages

When Jesus Became God" is a book about the so-called Arian heresy, a point of
theological debate that prompted a crisis in late antiquity but is nowadays
relegated to dusty tomes about church history.

Yet there is nothing dry or pedantic about Richard Rubenstein's lively work.
By resurrecting, so to speak, the Arian controversy, he succeeds in bringing
fully alive a moment in history when matters of faith were capable of
inspiring authentic passion in ordinary men and women.

Yet he is neither a theologian nor a Christian. "What business," he muses out
loud, "did an American Jew have writing about the divinity of Jesus Christ?"
He was attracted to the arcana of early Christian history, Rubenstein
explains, by the notion that the Arian controversy marks the point in history
after which Jesus could no longer be regarded as "a tzaddik, a great sage,
perhaps even a prophet." As a result, a seemingly unrepairable breach opened
between Christians and Jews.

So the subtext of "When Jesus Became God" is whether we have come far enough
since the fall of Rome to talk to each other once again. "The great questions
that had generated the controversy over Jesus' divinity remained--and remain
yet--to haunt the imagination and provoke the conscience of humankind,"
concludes Rubenstein. But, tragically and ironically, what his book really
demonstrates is that men and women have always succeeded in finding something
to stoke their hatreds and to justify their worst acts of violence against
each other, even if it is expressed in a debate over the godliness of the
Prince of Peace.

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