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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - January 10, 1999 (Vol. 4, Issue 154)

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=== Karmapa Lama
1. Tibetan in Hiding
2. Karmapa Lama goes into hiding
3. Analysis: Lama's flight embarrasses Beijing
4. Karmapa's defection a blow to China
5. The politics of the Karmapa's flight
6. Who is the Karmapa Lama?
7. Boy lama can trace his lineage to 1283
8. A bold trek to freedom
9. Buddhist leader's exile spotlights China religious repression
10. China Still Has Panchen Lama

=== Ho No Hana Sanpogyo
11. Ho no Hana leader to step down

=== Aum Shinrikyo
12. Police raid AUM facilities
13. Police search Aum cult's branch after return of top member
14. AUM tries worming out of compensation

=== Falun Gong
15. Australian sect petitioners leave China -official

=== Scientology
16. Ghost-Written Column
17. "Scientology has lost influence"

=== Y2K Fallout / Doomsday Calendar
18. Apocalypse postponed: Y2K flop leaves doomsayers unfazed
19. FBI moves to thwart up to 20 Y2K threats
20. So, predictions of Y2K global ruin didn't pan out...

=== "Attleboro Cult"
21. Former cult member afraid of retaliation against his family

=== Other News
22. "Queen Shamhia" finds new home
23. S.Korean cult infighting leaves 170 injured over two days (Daesoon Jinri
24. Man held in assault during ritual (Voodoo)
25. Polygamist Says He Didn't Get Fair Trial
26. About 6,000 rally round the Confederate flag in S.C.
27. Dealing with the end of the world time after time: Eileen Barker:
Professor whose faith in people wins trust of the cults
28. "Get off the horse" (Success coaches)
29. Motivating Investors; Anthony Robbins Makes An Internet Play
30. Psychic Uri Geller Redeems His 'Mind Power'
31. A series of events for issues of worldview (Cult in Germany)
32. Acupuncture 'fails smokers'
33. Churches Curse Broadcast Ruling
34. Islam in Utah
35. Rabbis forbid Internet use

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance
36. Muslim students file complaints against colleges
37. Apology offered to Islamic student
38. Government's two-faced view of religion put teacher in spot
39. Food Fight: Inmates want the right to eat religiously
40. Outreach a sore point in Israel

=== Interfaith
41. Games to have a spiritual side

=== Noted
42. Faith in religion renewed at school
43. Alpha Course Brings Comfort Level to Evangelism
44. Beliefs: World's Religions Look as They Did a Millennium Ago

=== The Believers Around The Corner
45. Accidental tourist returns 'cursed' stone
46. New ways to pray are just a mouse-click away

=== Karmapa Lama

1. Tibetan in Hiding
ABC News, Jan. 9, 2000
A teenage Buddhist leader who escaped Chinese-ruled Tibet has been moved to a
secret hideaway, a minister of the Tibetan government in exile said today.

His defection and that of five followers, including his 24-year-old sister, a
Buddhist nun, cheered Tibetan exiles, embarrassed Beijing and surprised the
Indian government. It is the most significant exodus since the Dalai Lama and
tens of thousands of Tibetans departed their homeland after a failed 1959
uprising against Chinese rule.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that the boy left a letter
saying he did not mean to betray "the state, the nation, the monastery or
leadership" and asserted he had only briefly left China to fetch religious
costumes and musical instruments.

The escape could prod the Chinese communist leadership to intensify an
already stern four-year campaign to purge Tibetan monasteries of Dalai Lama

The Karmapa's Kagyupa sect, known as the "Black Hats," was once Tibet's most
politically powerful but was supplanted by the Gelugpa school of the Dalai
Lamas 350 years ago. Leaders of the Tibetan sects are revered as the
reincarnations of their predecessors.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Karmapa Lama goes into hiding
BBC, Jan. 9, 2000
(...) The 14 year-old Karmapa Lama had stayed at the Dalai Lama's official
guesthouse since his arrival in India on Wednesday.

There was no official announcement about where he was heading. Local police
said he had gone to nearby Gyuto monastery in Sidavari, 25km (15 miles)
southeast of Dharamsala.

However, a source close to the leaders of the Karmapa's Kagyu sect said the
Buddhist leader had moved into the Dalai Lama's official residence.

The Karmapa's Kagyupa sect, known as the "Black Hats," was once Tibet's most
politically powerful, but was supplanted by the Gelugpa school of the Dalai
Lama 350 years ago.

There is speculation that he may eventually take up residence at a monastery
in the Sikkim border province, where his predecessor settled after fleeing

The black hat which is a symbol of his authority, and which his followers
believe is woven from the hair of female deities, is in Sikkim.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Analysis: Lama's flight embarrasses Beijing
BBC News, Jan. 7, 2000
The escape of a teenage boy regarded as the third highest ranking Lama of
Tibet has come as a surprise to thousands of his followers across the world.

The flight of the Karmapa Lama, the 14-year-old head of the Kagyu lineage of
Tibetan Buddhism, has also complicated an already delicate political
situation for China in Tibet.

His arrival in India to join Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama , is
equally sensitive for the Tibetan Government-in-exile in the north Indian
town of Dharamasala.

China maintains the boy left with a group of monks to retrieve religious
artefacts his predecessor had left in India. Beijing says the Karmapa left a
note behind saying he did not mean to betray the state or the leadership.

Born to a nomadic family in eastern Tibet, the Karmapa was officially
recognised as the 17th reincarnation of the previous Karmapa by both Beijing
and the Dalai Lama in 1992.

Tibetans therefore consider him the most significant person to leave
Chinese-ruled Tibet since the current Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959.

The Chinese authorities groomed the boy as a patriotic servant of the state.
But the Tibetan Government-in-exile have accused Beijing of using him as a
puppet to gain more credibility among Tibetan people. The fact that he had
Beijing's seal of approval, and has now decided he needed to leave Tibet,
will certainly cause China considerable embarrassment.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Karmapa's defection a blow to China
Boston Globe, Jan. 9, 2000
The escape of one of Tibet's most revered spiritual leaders has dealt a
devastating blow to China's propaganda campaign in the territory, specialists
said yesterday, several days after the Gyalwa Karmapa Lama surprised his
followers by escaping to India.

As recently as two months ago, the Chinese government brought the 14-year-old
monk to Beijing and broadcast footage of him reading Buddhist mantras on
government TV. They told the largely Mandarin-speaking viewers he was
reciting Tibetan prayers for the soul of former Communist leader Mao Zedong.

But the monk, whom Tibetans revere as a ''living Buddha'' of equal religious
importance to the Dalai Lama, set out from his monastery in central Tibet on
Dec. 28. He reportedly told his Chinese guards that he was embarking on a
spiritual retreat, which they mistakenly thought meant he planned to take a
solitary walk in the surrounding hills, according to Tibetan officials close
to the Karmapa.

The defection was a major setback for Beijing, which had projected the
Karmapa as supporter of Chinese rule and an ally in its bid to supplant the
Dalai Lama.

China had ''been setting enormous store by having what they would call a
patriotic, pro-Beijing religious leader of the importance of the Karmapa
under their control,'' said Richard Oppenheimer, director of the London-based
Tibet Information Network. The monk is believed to be the 17th incarnation of
the Karmapa, the spiritual leader of the prominent Karma Kagyu sect of
Tibetan Buddhism.

However, he argued that while the Karmapa's escape was an obvious
embarrassment for Beijing, it might do more harm than good for the Tibetan
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. The politics of the Karmapa's flight
The Times of India, Jan. 10, 2000
The flight to India of the 17th Karmapa, the third-ranking Tibetan lama, is
unlikely to seriously worsen relations between China and India, diplomats
say. But other sources add two conditions to this optimistic assessment.
Relations will not worsen, provided China does not carry its current campaign
of repression over into international relations, and provided that India does
not act in a way that encourages Beijing to escalate its pressure.

One reason for the view that the 17th Karmapa's flight will have minimal
impact upon Sino-Indian relations lies in the fact that the Chinese have
sought to save face (and have left open the possibility of the Karmapa's
eventual return) by publishing an alleged letter in which the Karmapa says he
does not mean to ``betray the state, the nation, the monastery or the
(Chinese Communist) leadership.'' While this letter may have been concocted
by the Chinese officials in charge of Tibet who hope to demonstrate that they
were more on the ball they than actually were, the fact that it was published
by the New China News Agency suggests that it represents Beijing's policy

The publications of the letter in Xinhua and of the sect's soft-spoken denial
offer a faint hope that moderate forces within the Chinese Communist Party
may yet adopt a more flexible policy. For the moment though, the hardliners,
bent upon suppressing religious freedom, are clearly in charge.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Who is the Karmapa Lama?
BBC News, Jan. 8, 2000
The Karmapa Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four major schools of
Tibetan Buddhism, ranking only behind the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama in the
Tibetan spiritual hierachy.

Karmapa Living Buddhas belong to the oldest line of Tibetan reincarnations,
stretching back to the 12th Century.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Boy lama can trace his lineage to 1283
Electronic Telegraph (England), Jan. 7, 2000
The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa is the ruling lama of the Karma Kagyupa sect, one of
the four great sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The boy, born in 1985 and
identified in 1992 as a reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa, can trace his
lineage back to a lama who died in 1283.

The Buddhist sect led by the Dalai Lamas, the Gelugpa, was not founded until
more than 100 years later. For some years, the Kagyupa sect was the more
powerful, thanks to alliances with neighbouring Mongol kings. The Kagyupa
sect still remains a major force within Tibetan Buddhism.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. A bold trek to freedom
US News & World Report, Jan. 17, 2000
(...) For years, Chinese officials had sought to use the young Buddhist
leader as a showpiece of its own religious tolerance and of its rule over

The young lama, who was born Ugyen Trinley Dorje to a family of Tibetan
nomads in 1985, is considered to be the 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa,
the leader of the influential Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhists.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Buddhist leader's exile spotlights China religious repression
Detroit News, Jan. 8, 2000
The dramatic escape into exile of Tibet's last primary Buddhist leader was
the second incident in two days to show the Chinese government's persistent
problems with organized religion.

On Thursday, Catholics aligned with China's communist regime ordained five
new bishops not recognized by Rome on the very day that Pope John Paul II was
conducting his annual elevation of new bishops from around the world. That
timing was interpreted as a snub that dooms, at least for now, Vatican
efforts to normalize the church situation.

The harrowing flight of the Karmapa across the Himalayas "reveals the
shambles of China's policy of trying to manage religion," says Robert
Thurman, Columbia University professor and friend of the Dalai Lama. "Their
suppression is not working, and their attempt to pretend to get along with
Buddhism doesn't work, either."

"Some distinguished teachers still remain behind, but among the leaders of
the major forms of Tibetan Buddhism, all have now felt it necessary to escape
in order to practice their religion," said Donald Lopez, professor of Tibetan
studies at the University of Michigan.

The only major Buddhist figure who remains in Tibet, said Lopez, is the
Panchen Lama designated by the Chinese government. But he "has absolutely no
status with the Tibetan people" because the Dalai Lama has recognized a
different youth whose whereabouts are now unknown.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. China Still Has Panchen Lama
New York Times, Jan. 7, 2000
China's struggle to win over Tibet's people suffered a severe blow with the
flight of the 17th Karmapa, and Communist leaders are now left with only one
major Buddhist figure within their control: a 9-year-old boy shrouded in

The government intervened four years ago to supervise the selection of the
11th Panchen Lama, the second most important lama in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibet's clergy were forced to snub the Dalai Lama's candidate and appoint
another boy in an attempt to diminish the influence of the Dalai Lama,
Tibet's traditional ruler and a Nobel Peace Prize winner living in exile.

Tibetans across China disparagingly refer to Gyaincain Norbu as "the Chinese
Panchen'' or Chinese President "Jiang Zemin's Panchen.''

Tibetan spiritual leaders are believed to be the reincarnations of their
predecessors and are found using special rituals while they are young

China's Communist leaders ventured into the politics of reincarnated lamas in
an attempt to assert their claim to Tibet.

Tibetan history is dotted with tales of power-hungry clerics backing rival
candidates as the reincarnations of high lamas.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Ho No Hana Sanpogyo

11. Ho no Hana leader to step down
Asahi News (Japan), Jan. 7, 2000
The head of a religious organization that was searched by police last month
on suspicion of defrauding followers of money said Thursday that he will step
down. Hogen Fukunaga, 54, leader of Ho no Hana Sanpogyo, made the
announcement at the organization's New Year's ceremony. He also said he will
dismiss six other executives from their posts.

Fukunaga added, however, that he will remain as "the only symbol who conveys
the voices of heaven."

Those who filed lawsuits against Ho no Hana Sanpogyo said Fukunaga's plan to
resign was part of an effort to preserve the organization.

Masaki Kito, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: "If Fukunaga does not step
down but stays on as leader, the religious organization will suffer serious
damage and could collapse when he is compelled to answer police questioning.
In order to avoid that situation, Fukunaga announced his resignation.''

Fukunaga emphasized that Ho no Hana Sanpogyo will continue to exist, and
said, "The activities of the organization will be conducted under the
instructions of the voices from heaven."

As for his own role, Fukunaga said: "No one can judge me. My role of
conveying the voices from heaven will be unchanged."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aum Shinrikyo

12. Police raid AUM facilities
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 9, 2000
For the first time since the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult's top-ranking
leader, Fumihiro Joyu, was released from prison in late December, police
raided AUM facilities in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture and Yokohama on
Saturday morning.

The Saitama Prefectural Police conducted the probes on suspicion that a cult
member filed false documentation to police last year to obtain a garage
certificate, police said.

However, the raid on the group's Yokohama branch, where Joyu reportedly
lives, meant more than just an alleged false documentation investigation,
investigative sources indicate.

The raid at the Yokohama branch was partly investigators' attempt to uncover
information about what Joyu's intentions are.

In a related development, people representing the residents of the
condominium where the cult's Yokohama branch is located, visited the branch
to meet Joyu and hand him a letter demanding he and the cult leave the
condominium. Members of the cult told them that they could not accept the
letter because police are making raids against them.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Police search Aum cult's branch after return of top member
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Jan. 8, 2000
(...) The apartment in Yokohama, south of the capital, was searched in
connection with forged documents that had been submitted to police, the
police spokesman said.

But local media, including Jiji Press and Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK),
said the real purpose of the raid was to monitor the sect's movements after
the return of Fumihiro Joyu on December 29.

The police spokesman declined to comment on the media speculation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. AUM tries worming out of compensation
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 8, 2000
Aum Shinrikyo tried to outwit its receivers by telling them it would use
money from the sale of land it owned to compensate victims of its terrorist
acts, but then actually attempted to siphon the money away, sources said

Saburo Abe, the doomsday cult's receiver, said he cottoned on to what AUM was
trying to do and took out a court order late last year that prevented the
cult from getting its hands on money that most would prefer was diverted to
its victims.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

15. Australian sect petitioners leave China -official
AOL/Reuters, Jan. 9, 2000
Three Australian Falun Gong followers questioned by police after appealing to
Chinese leaders against the ban on the movement have left China, an
Australian diplomat said.

On Sunday the three, practitioners of the banned meditation movement who were
visiting China as tourists, tried to pass a letter to President Jiang Zemin
and Premier Zhu Rongji through the state-run Xinhua news agency, witnesses
said. The Australian diplomat said Xinhua had confirmed receiving the

In Australia, Turcu's mother Julianna told the AAP news agency the three had
been Falun Gong practitioners for about two years and were alarmed at the
treatment of Chinese members.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

16. Ghost-Written Column
ABC News, Jan. 7, 2000
(...) So, given Time's Saturday deadline, just when did President Clinton
compose this 1,088-word essay on his relationship with Yeltsin?

The answer is, of course, that he didn't.

Among those receiving warm New Year's wishes from President Clinton: the
Church of Scientology. The controversial religious group celebrated its 50th
anniversary on Dec. 28 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

A White House spokesman says the letter was essentially "boilerplate" and
was not the product of any high-level decision. But the language in Clinton's
message clearly recognizes Scientology's fears of persecution by government

It's not the first time the White House has appeared to be cozying up to
Scientology. In 1997, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger met with actor
John Travolta and other Scientologists to discuss the German government's
concerted effort to shut down the group's operations in that country. Several
State Department reports have also taken issue with Germany's heavy-handed
approach. The German government says Scientology is a cult more akin to
organized crime than organized religion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. "Scientology has lost influence"
Stuttgarter Nachrichten (Germany), Jan. 7, 2000
Translation: CISAR
Scientology's influence in politics, business and society, in the words of
Helmut Rannacher, President of Baden-Wuerttemberg Constitutional Security, is
less than feared in years past. Nevertheless, Rannacher made a case in a
meeting with the dpa news agency to continue the observation of the
organization by Constitutional Security. "If we stop the surveillance, the
dams will burst again."

The number of the organization's adherents are considerably less than was
first assumed, said Rannacher. That, however, changes nothing about the goal
of the organization: "they want a different political system in the mid- and

In the meantime, businesses and the general public have been reacting much
more sensibly to Scientology and its cover organizations. Many know very much
more quickly than they did a few years ago with whom they are dealing and
"keep their hands off."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Y2K Fallout / Doomsday Calendar

18. Apocalypse postponed: Y2K flop leaves doomsayers unfazed
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Jan. 7, 2000
[end-time predictions]
The world may not have ground to a halt on January 1 as a result of the
millennium bug, but the ranks of prophets of the apocalypse are not
disarming. They are simply fine-tuning their forebodings.

Cult-watchers warn that few of the millenarian groups and sects busy
announcing the end of time or the imminence of the second coming of Christ
will have changed their minds, and that apocalyptic fervour is likely to
continue for the rest of the year.

One American-born believer who has travelled to Israel in order to be there
for what she sees as "the last days" confidently announced the apocalypse for
April 6, coinciding with the first full moon after the first spring equinox
of the third millennium.

Another favoured date is May 5, when Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn
will be aligned and, according to author Richard W. Noone, "the ice build-up
at the south pole will upset the earth's axis, sending trillions of tons of
ice in the water sweeping over the surface of our planet."

Only a handful of millenarians had specifically linked their end-of-time
prophecies to the January 1 date-change or to the Y2K computer phenomenon,
Ted Daniels, director of the Millennium Watch Institute in Philadephia,

For the doomsday cult specialist Damian Thompson, the passing of the January
1, 2000 date will have no effect on the mindset of the many Christian
fundamentalists who are living in wait for the second coming. "They were
never really focused on January 1 anyway," says Thompson, author of "The End
of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium".

Survivalist groups too will not be closing down their bunkers just yet.
Members of US militia networks such as Christian Identity and their kin in
Britain and other countries have stocked up on tinned food, bottled water and
fuel in readiness for the disaster they believe is about to strike.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. FBI moves to thwart up to 20 Y2K threats
CNET/Reuters, Jan. 7, 2000
The FBI yesterday said it had moved to thwart up to 20 or so possible threats
against targets such as power plants and computer networks during a
heightened security watch that started before 2000 dawned.

"On neither side did we think that this level of activity was particularly
unusual," added Vatis, who oversaw a 24-hour headquarters command post tied
to special year-end watches at all 56 FBI field offices.

Attorney General Janet Reno did not answer directly when asked why she
thought the fears reflected in the Megiddo report had not yet led to any big
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. So, predictions of Y2K global ruin didn't pan out. The good news for
doomsayers is they have even more time to theorize about the real end of the
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 10, 2000
[Doomsday calendar]
(...) For centuries, prophets and doomsayers have embarrassed themselves
with erroneous end-of-time predictions. Still, for those looking forward to
the end of the world, the temptation to name a specific date is hard to
resist. Here is a sampling of apocalyptic theory, followed by comments from
scientists about their validity.

Ice Demise: Richard W. Noone, author of "5/5/2000: Ice: The Ultimate
Disaster" (Crown, 1997), claims that May 5 of this year is when Mercury,
Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be aligned with the Earth for the first
time in 6,000 years. On that day, he predicts, an ice buildup at the South
Pole will upset Earth's axis and send "trillions of tons" of the stuff
toppling into our oceans, which will flood the planet and destroy all known
forms of life.

Handshake of Death: According to the House of Yahweh, a Christian sect,
when Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands at the White House on Sept.
13, 1993, they began a seven-year tribulation that will end this Sept. 13 and
bring about the end of the world.

Spaced Out: The Unarius Academy of Science, a UFO-oriented group based in El
Cajon, believes that at some point in 2001 (the society doesn't specify a
date), a "Pleiadean star ship will land on a rising portion of Atlantis in
the area of the Bermuda Triangle." Earth, the Unarians predict, will become
"the final world to join an alignment of 33 planets forming an interplanetary
confederation for the spiritual renaissance of humankind on Earth."

The Time is Nigh: Many in the New Age community believe Dec. 21, 2012, will
usher in a new era--one that will cause earthly materialism to end and prompt
the planet's inhabitants to return to a more natural, spiritual state. The
year 2012 marks the end of the 5,128-year Mayan calendar, and, many New
Ageists believe, the end of time. Why the Mayan calendar? The Gregorian
calendar, now used in most countries of the world, is inaccurate, they say.
Based on cycles of the moon, the Mayan calendar is felt to be more in sync
with nature.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== "Attleboro Cult"

21. Former cult member afraid of retaliation against his family
Boston Herald, Jan. 7, 2000
A Seekonk man who fled an Attleboro cult suspected of burying two young boys
says he fears for his family's safety and is wary of the group's spying ways.

"I've known these people a long time. I know how they think," Dennis Mingo
said minutes after a judge issued a restraining order barring 13 of the
cult's members - including his wife - from contacting him or his children.

The only cult member to appear in court yesterday was leader Jacques
Robidoux, 26, who has been jailed since November for refusing to tell police
what happened to his 10-month-old son, Samuel Robidoux. His wife, 24-year-old
Karen Robidoux, was freed after invoking her Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination when asked what happened to their child.

Police believe the group's strict religious beliefs led them to allow Samuel
to starve to death after he stopped breast-feeding.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

22. "Queen Shamhia" finds new home
MSNBC, Jan. 9, 2000
It looks like the self-proclaimed Nigerian tribal queen is making another
move. Earlier this week, Richelle Bradshaw and her husband was staying at the
Bread of Life Mission in Punta Gorda. Now, NBC2 has learned they're now
moving into a donated house. Bradshaw won't say where the house is, only that
they plan on staying in Southwest Florida until they get back the eight
children taken from their custody.

The father of one of the queen's 'manservants' speaks out about his son's
involvement with the self-proclaimed Royal Highness. Joseph Ansaroff says
his 19-year-old son, Lawrence, was a model student and athlete at the
University of Central Florida. That's before he became involved with
Bradshaw a few months ago. Since then, Lawrence allegedly grew distant and
started giving thousands of dollars to Bradshaw.

His father says there's no doubt in his mind the "queen's leading some type
of cult." "Even from the first moment, I suspected these people. There's a
bad situation here."

Lawrence Ansaroff and two other Bradshaw followers were arrested earlier this
week for robbing several area businesses. The elder Ansaroff doesn't plan to
bail his son out of jail. He's afraid his son will only return to Bradshaw.

A rash of violent robberies over the weekend at several restaurants and
stores sent police on the cult's trail.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. S.Korean cult infighting leaves 170 injured over two days
Yahoo!/AFP, Jan. 7, 2000
Some 70 people were injured Friday as rival factions of a South Korean
religious cult battled each other with petrol bombs and metal pipes here,
witnesses said.

About 500 followers of the Daesoon Jinri Hoe cult clashed with a equal number
of rival members for the second straight day despite a massive police
presence at their provincial headquarters on the southern outskirts of Seoul.

The fight occurred as about 4,000 members of one faction tried to fend off
3,000 followers of a rival clique who attempted to storm the headquarters
building as an internal feud turned violent.

The battle is over which of the factions within the cult gets to control its
finances and administration. A similar clash here last July left 20 people

The cult, which claims 600,000 followers, 200 places of worship, schools
including a university, as well as two large hospitals, has been dogged by
factional infighting since its founder, Park Han-Kyung, died in 1969.

Its members follow 19th century figure Kang Jung-San as a messiah and have
adopted elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism and nationalism to
form a unique religion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Man held in assault during ritual
St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 7, 2000
John Wener Bresil made his instructions very clear. If his friend wanted to
win Saturday's Lotto drawing, Bresil said he would have to help him in a
voodoo ritual that would enable him to commune with the spirits and pick the
winning numbers, authorities said.

Bresil said he would need a hatchet, gloves and two ski masks, according to
Hernando County sheriff's deputies, who accused the Orlando man of aggravated
battery. Authorities said Bresil used the hatchet to bash his friend's head
when the ritual, which they say took place in a field near Ridge Manor, did
not go as planned.

Hernando authorities say they charged Bresil with aggravated battery instead
of attempted murder because the motive behind the attack is unclear.
Furthermore, Bresil maintains that he hit Gilles with the hatchet in

In an interview from the Hernando County jail, where he was held in lieu of
$10,000 bail Thursday, Bresil said the ritual was his friend's idea. Bresil
said Gilles had asked for his help because Bresil's father had practiced
voodoo. Bresil said he attacked Gilles only when he thought Gilles was going
to call evil spirits to kill him. "He lies," Bresil said of Gilles' story.
Bresil said he was trying to save himself.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Polygamist Says He Didn't Get Fair Trial
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 7, 2000
Sent to prison in July for "marrying" and having sex with a 16-year-old
niece, David Ortell Kingston was back in court Thursday, claiming his June
trial had been tainted by damaging references to his polygamous lifestyle.

But after half a day of testimony from Kingston and his former attorneys, 3rd
District Judge David Young on Thursday refused to grant Kingston's request
for a new trial.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. About 6,000 rally round the Confederate flag in S.C.
CNN/AP, Jan. 8, 2000
An army of 6,000 people gathered Saturday under a sea of red Confederate
flags to defend the banner that has flown from the Statehouse dome for 38
years and thrust the state into the national spotlight.

Saturday's event was the second day of a three-day rally being staged by
supporters of the flag, who say it stands for defiant defense of freedom and
Southern heritage.

The NAACP says the banner is a symbol of slavery.

At the pro-flag rally, a group of ministers carrying a banner that read "No
King but Jesus," followed three bagpipers to lead the procession.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Dealing with the end of the world time after time:
Eileen Barker: Professor whose faith in people wins trust of the cults
The Guardian, Jan. 8, 2000
No one has seen the end of the world come round more times than Eileen
Barker. 'The last date the Jehovah's Witnesses set was 1975.

Since then she has talked to more disappointed end-time believers than
anyone except St Peter: as the professor of the sociology of religion at
London School of Economics, she has an unrivalled reputation for being
trusted by journalists as well as the people she writes about. The only
people who really dislike her are the anti-cult zealots, who have never
forgiven her research on the Moonies, which showed that most members,
far from being brainwashed, simply grow up and grow out of it. The
Moonies didn't much like it either.

The truly extraordinary thing about Eileen Barker is how she manages to
remain sympathetic to people whose beliefs she finds completely absurd.
'I'm driven by a vulgar curiosity about how people can believe and do
things that seem really weird to me. It gives me the opportunity to ask
impertinent questions and pry into people's lives.'

Though she is now officially an OAP, nothing seems to slow her down.
Last year she managed four continents in one five-week trip, among
groups who all expected the end of the world for entirely different
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. "Get off the horse"
Der Spiegel (Germany), Jan. 1, 2000
Translation: CISAR
(...) "Coaching," a term originating in sports, has adapted itself to social
life. There are tennis, financial and social coaches, advisors for beauty,
trainers for success, self-awareness, proper body language, mood modulations
and - above all - for professional appearances on television.

The market for "mental fitness," as the general concept is called, has
expanded enormously in the last few years; the Germans spend about ten
billion marks annually for motivation courses, personality seminars, career
counseling and books.

The prices are extravagant: many pay the prominent pantomime, Samy Molcho,
2,500 marks without a whimper for his two-day demonstration by the name of
"Successful with Body Language - the intensive seminar for dealing, sales and
management." Juergen Hoeller, who describes himself as Germany's number one
motivational trainer," brings in up to 30,000 marks a day for a couple of
precarious stamina slogans and sayings like "Get off the horse when it's

Some success trainers, such as the American Anthony Robbins (seminar price:
1,900 marks) fill up halls with 5,000 or even 15,000 people. Robbins puts on
a collective lesson in happiness for his audience. American doctor and author
Deepak Chopra, whose adherents are said to include Madonna, Demi Moore and
Donna Karan, brings in about $15 million a year and assures his clients,
"Anything is possible."

There are extremely curious and simple methods: Vera Birkenbihl, who drives
around in a mobile home and regularly appears on television, recommends going
into the bathroom and smiling for 60 seconds, even if nothing funny at all
comes to mind. And her favorite tip to the forces of management: "Once a day
say: I don't know that. I have made a mess of that." Dutch motivation guru
Emile Ratelband, who once posed with a snake on stage, has his people yell
"Tsjakkaa!" Thousands joyfully join in the battle cry.

The crowd of trainers grows yearly at an estimate rate of ten percent.
"Manager" magazine has determined that the offers are gigantic, that the
numbers are confusing and has asked the critical question, "Which of these
are charlatanry? Money-skimming? Professional continuing education?"
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Motivating Investors; Anthony Robbins Makes An Internet Play
New York Times, Jan. 8, 2000
At first glance, Dreamlife appears to be just another Internet company with
high hopes and hazy prospects. But it is majority-owned by Anthony Robbins,
the motivational speaker and star of TV infomericals.

This week, those minority investors filed with regulators for the flexibility
to sell their shares -- even before Dreamlife's Web site gets going. A
close look at the company's own filings shows some reason for caution beyond
the usual Internet uncertainties.

Mr. Robbins, who created Dreamlife last spring and whose stake is now worth
$370 million, specializes in helping the successful become more successful.
At his daylong seminars, which regularly draw audiences of 10,000 or more,
he encourages people to take control of their lives and make more money by
overcoming fear and unleashing the passions that drive them. In addition to
the seminars, he is the host of smaller, more expensive retreats, including
a weeklong ''Date with Destiny'' at his private island in Fiji for $12,000.
He has sold millions of tapes and books.

Though Mr. Robbins did not return calls last week, Beth Polish, Dreamlife's
president, said her company would become the online side of Mr. Robbins's
growing empire.

So what exactly is Dreamlife? It is described as a network of Internet sites
focused on personal and professional improvement.

Mr. Robbins has counseled everyone from the New Jersey Nets to President
Clinton. But skeptics say Mr. Robbins's true genius is self-promotion. In
1995, Mr. Robbins agreed to pay more than $220,000 to settle a complaint by
the Federal Trade Commission that he and his company, Robbins Research
International Inc., had overstated the earnings potential of his franchisees,
who sold his tapes and organized seminars. Mr. Robbins did not admit or deny
any wrongdoing.

Even by the standards of Internet companies, Dreamlife is unusual. The
company has no sales, much less profits. In the three months ended Sept. 30,
Dreamlife lost $3.2 million on revenue of $155,000, all from interest on its
bank accounts.

Then there's the small matter of Dreamlife's Web site. While Mr. Robbins has
his own well-developed Web site, which will eventually be linked closely
with Dreamlife, Dreamlife's site consists of nothing more than one page for
people to submit e-mail and a notice that ''We'll be launching soon.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Psychic Uri Geller Redeems His 'Mind Power'
Excite/Reuters, Jan. 6, 2000
Jay Leno may be a more sympathetic "Tonight Show" host than predecessor
Johnny Carson, but his mind is still difficult to penetrate. So says
one-time spoon-bending psychic superstar Uri Geller, who made a comeback
Wednesday on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" nearly 27 years after flopping
on his first guest spot on the show, sending his career into a tailspin.

Admittedly still shaken by the humiliating 1973 "Tonight Show" visit with the
disbelieving Carson, Geller appeared Wednesday to have retained his professed
abilities to read minds and fix broken watches -- but not at the same time.

For the Israeli-born Geller, 53, who was invited on the Leno show to promote
his new book, "Mind Medicine," it was the ultimate test of his celebrated
telekinetic powers.

During the show Geller succeeded in very closely duplicating a sketch that
another guest, actor Tim Robbins, had drawn backstage. Leno and Robbins
insisted Geller had no prior knowledge of the actor's drawing of a snail.

After the taping the show's publicist, Carrie Simons, said Geller had
succeeded in fixing some of the watches in the studio. Geller said he had "no
doubt" that many viewers will find their watches ticking again after seeing
the broadcast.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. A series of events for issues of worldview
Koelnische Rundschau (Germany), Jan. 6, 2000
Translation: CISAR
Cologne, in the west of the Federal Republic [of Germany], is the center for
sects and worldview groups. This is the the assessment propounded by Werner
Huebsch, expert for issues of worldview in Cologne archdiocese. The
phenomenon of an ever-increasing variety of life styles, worldviews and
weltanschauungs can be observed in all large German cities, according to
Huebsch, "and this pluralism will continue to progress."

Meanwhile, said Huebsch, people are "not more or less religious than they
were ten or fifteen years ago," "but ecclesiasticism is on the decline."
People were said to no longer seek orientation solely from the churches
during times of crisis, but also from various "providers of meaning" who who
attract people with promises of healing on the "market" of worldviews. In
that regard new religious movements, which were generally negatively rated
under the broad term of "youth sects" in the late 1970s, have today been
widely accepted in society. "Nobody gets excited anymore today when the
"Osho" movement opens a discotheque."

The church, according to Huebsch, will have to maintain a presence on this
market, and must be fair and factual with the groups in discussing their
teachings and convictions.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Acupuncture 'fails smokers'
The Times (England), Jan. 7 ,2000
Acupuncture does not help people to give up smoking, doctors claimed
yesterday (Ian Murray writes).

A review of all published trials on the subject over the past 20 years found
that even the most rigorous studies could not find any benefit from using
acupuncture to kick the habit.

"Acupuncture was not superior to sham acupuncture for smoking cessation and
there is no evidence that one acupuncture technique is superior to another,"
the report said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Churches Curse Broadcast Ruling
WIRED, Jan. 7, 2000
Religious radio stations are condemning new government restrictions on
broadcasting as unwise, unfair, and quite possibly unconstitutional. The
Federal Communications Commission has ruled that such radio stations might
have to nix shows devoted to religious "proselytizing."

The agency's little-noticed decision published on 30 December said some types
of religious stations will have to spend at least half their broadcast time
on "general educational" programming, and talking about personal religious
views and beliefs doesn't count. Church services? Not a chance.

Translation: Effective immediately, radio stations that don't meet the new
FCC standards could have their licenses yanked.

"What the government is doing here is restricting certain types of religious
expression, which we feel is unconstitutional," said Karl Stoll, spokesman
for National Religious Broadcasters. "It's a problem when the government gets
involved in determining what is educational and cultural and what is not.
Good grief!"

"Simply put, the FCC is trying to make religious broadcasting less
religious," Representative Michael Oxley (R-Ohio), said in a statement on
Thursday. "The action specifically targets religious broadcasters and seeks
to manipulate their programming content so it will be more to the liking of
the FCC, all in the name of education. This suppression of speech cannot
stand in a free society."

Two of the FCC's five commissioners felt the same way.

This isn't the first time the FCC has earned the ire of religious
broadcasters. In the 1970s, the agency weighed a petition to impose a freeze
on new FM educational broadcasting stations run by religious groups.

"This became known incorrectly on the sawdust circuit as a petition filed by
[prominent atheist] Madalyn Murray O'Hair," says Robert Corn-Revere, a
partner at Hogan and Hartson and former chief counsel of the FCC.

Corn-Revere said the FCC was buried by the deluge of protest letters. "They
denied the request. But the problem was they couldn't get the word out that
the petition was dead. They got millions of letters -- they had to simply
landfill them."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Islam in Utah
Deseret News, Jan. 8, 2000
(...) He has found the state a haven and is working hard to make it home,
along with some 20,000 other Muslims. While precise numbers are hard to come
by, it is safe to say their numbers have tripled or quadrupled here during
the past decade, according to Iqbal Hossain, president of the Islamic Society
of Salt Lake City.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. Rabbis forbid Internet use
News Wire (England), Jan. 9, 2000
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbis have banned their followers from using the
Internet out of concern that Web links may lead them into the profane. The
ban was initiated by leaders of the influential Belz Hasidic sect and in
recent weeks has been endorsed by the leader of virtually every
ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect.

Among the ultra-Orthodox, the word of a rabbinical leader is final.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance

36. Muslim students file complaints against colleges
Detroit News, Jan. 4, 2000
Clarification: John Burke, an Oakland Community College professor, denies
making disparaging comments in class about the Prophet Muhammad, as he is
accused of by a student. A college official confirmed for a Tuesday report in
the Metro section that a fact-finding inquiry is under way, but a reporter
was unable to reach Burke.

Two Muslim students in Metro Detroit have filed complaints against their
colleges because of how professors treated them and their religion.
Saousan Kiwan, a student at Washtenaw Community College, alleges that a
professor prevented her from saying an everyday Islamic phrase before a class
presentation. A student at Oakland Community College filed a complaint
contending that her world religion professor degraded Islam during lectures
last semester.

Kiwan, who moved to the United States from Syria eight years ago, uttered the
common Islamic phrase bismallah alrahman alraheem -- translated in English to
"in the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful" -- before an oral
presentation to her English as a Second Language class.

The professor, Margo Winnard Czinski, disciplined Kiwan for saying a phrase
that is "inappropriate and unacceptable in an American classroom" because of
the legal separation of church and state. She told Kiwan to make the
invocation silently or face being asked to sit down during future

Kiwan said the phrase is not a prayer, but a religious expression that
Muslims say many times a day before beginning any endeavor.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also has taken on the case of a
student at Oakland Community College, Hina Naveed, who charged that a world
religions professor made inappropriate comments about Muslims and Islam. She
also said he furthered negative stereotypes about Islam.

Naveed, 22 of Troy, said that her professor, John Burke, made comments
disparaging Prophet Muhammad, including a statement that he committed incest.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Apology offered to Islamic student
Detroit News, Jan. 5, 2000
A Washtenaw Community College instructor should not have reprimanded a
student who uttered a short Islamic phrase before making an oral presentation
last semester, the college president said Tuesday.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group in Washington,
D.C., claimed that the phrase was a constitutionally protected religious
expression and sent a letter to the college on Kiwan's behalf. The group
requested that the college investigate the incident, offer an apology to
Kiwan and reprimand the instructor, Margo Winnard Czinski.

Female Muslim students in south Florida, the Los Angeles area and France have
complained of being forced to take off their hijabs -- a head covering women
wear to meet the Islamic requirement of modest dress -- because teachers and
administrators objected to them. The students insist that going to school
without wearing the head covering would force them to violate the tenets of
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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38. Government's two-faced view of religion put teacher in spot
Detroit News, Jan. 7, 2000 (Opinion)
Don't blame Margo Winnard Czinski in this week's flap over invoking God in a
public school. Tracking the country's schizo attitude on church-state
relations is getting downright impossible.

How's a professor to know? Precedent lurks on both sides:

It goes back to screwy interpretations of the First Amendment, which says, in
part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
We now interpret the passage to mean: Government shall prevent people from
expressing their faith in a government building. Professor Czinski didn't
dream up the notion. It's an ingrained tradition.

What happens in such matters often depends on who's ox is gored. At Ft. Hood,
Texas, Christians complained when the Army welcomed Wiccan ceremonies. Those
same Christians would go bonkers if they were banned from post because, say,
they believe in transubstantiation.

But at Oakland Community College, another Muslim hangs a separate complaint
on thinner reeds. Hina Naveed of Troy says a professor disparaged Islam.
Whatever was said, commentary likely falls under free speech, not to mention
academic freedom.

So when it comes to getting slammed in public, Islam finds itself in line
with Judaism, Christianity and other religions.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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39. Food Fight: Inmates want the right to eat religiously
Court TV, Jan. 7, 2000
[Religious freedom]
When the man suspected to be the infamous railway killer appeared in court
Wednesday, he not only demanded a change of venue, but also told the judge
his religious needs were not being met in prison.

The Mexican national says he is Jewish and, therefore, needs kosher meals.
And he isn't the only inmate who wants his food to pass the muster of his

Robert P. DeHart, a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder, made a
federal case out of his food fight. And on Monday a Pennsylvania federal
appeals court served him a victory.

DeHart argued that his interpretation of Buddhist religious tenets required
access to a vegetarian diet. In this case, the key word is his
interpretation. According to the City of 10,000 Buddhas, the California
religious center whose teachings DeHart says he follows, a strictly
vegetarian diet is not a commandment of Buddhism.

Interestingly, The 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals decided that neither
judges nor prison officials should be able to challenge the validity of a
inmates' beliefs only his adherence to them.

"Even unorthodox beliefs are afforded protection under the Free Exercise
Clause of the First Amendment," Judge Stapleton wrote for the majority, "so
long as they are sincerely held and religious in nature."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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40. Outreach a sore point in Israel
San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 9, 2000
At the turn of the millennium, when many Christians around the world are
looking to the Holy Land for inspiration, a small group of ultra-Orthodox
Jews has published a virulent booklet calling on Jews to stop "enemy"
Christians from bringing their "great Crusade" to Jerusalem during the year

Most Israelis, as a recent Gallup poll showed, know little about Christianity
but hold positive attitudes toward Christians. But the 68-page booklet,
produced by an extreme fringe group, shows there are still tensions between
Christians and Jews in Israel, especially over the issue of proselytizing.

In the land where Christianity began 2,000 years ago, Christians find they
are discouraged from doing what the Bible says Jesus commanded: spreading the

In Israel, there is a deep fear of missionary activity among people who
remember Christian persecution, pogroms and inquisitions, as well as fascist
genocide, and who still feel their existence is threatened. In some cases,
old enmities have erupted in new violence: Ultra-Orthodox Jews have attacked
Jehovah's Witnesses and other sects in Israel -- whether or not they were
suspected of missionary activity.

The Knesset, Israel's parliament, has tried to enact legislation banning
missionary work, most recently in 1997, after proselytizing letters went to
an estimated 1.5 million Israeli homes. Israeli officials believe that the
mailing was the work of American missionaries. But the draconian effort to
bar the possession or dissemination of New Testament literature collided with
Israel's commitment to democracy and freedom of speech.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Interfaith

41. Games to have a spiritual side
Deseret News, Jan. 8, 2000
While area philanthropists are busy signing large checks destined to support
the 2002 Winter Olympics, a veritable melting pot of area religious leaders
is looking to give the Games a boost with something beyond material wealth.

Alan Barnes, manager of interfaith relations for SLOC, said the
International Olympic Committee requires that the host city provide chaplains
to serve the athletes, making spiritual care part of the mandate for local
Olympic organizers. "So we chose to form an Interfaith Relations Roundtable,
drawing on a good cross section of community religious leaders along the
Wasatch Front and throughout Utah."

The roundtable has also formed a subcommittee to conduct a search for some 40
chaplains who will volunteer their services during the Games.

"They have to have some recognized affiliation with an established
religious organization, demonstrate interfaith sensitivity and be able to
donate 40 hours a week for the 17 days the Games are on," Randle said.

Beyond selecting chaplains, Barnes and Randle are helping area religious
leaders prepare to cooperate in their efforts to help host the Olympics. An
interfaith event chaired by both men is scheduled Jan. 10 and 11 at the SLOC
offices. More than 75 lay leaders and clergy from along the Wasatch Front are
scheduled to participate in the United Religions Initiative seminar.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

42. Faith in religion renewed at school
The Australian (Australia), Jan. 7, 2000
Attendances at churches are falling dramatically but teenagers nationwide are
flooding into high school religion courses in record numbers. Enrolments are
as much as 60 times higher than 10 years ago, as many schools throw out their
Christian textbooks and introduce comparative religion courses.

The boom comes as census figures show a quarter of the population does not
belong to a religion 10 times more than at the turn of the last century.

43. Alpha Course Brings Comfort Level to Evangelism
Detroit News, Jan. 6, 2000
(...) When the Fritzes first offered the course in 1995, hardly anybody in
the United States knew what Alpha was. Now, at least one person is offering
the course in each state. Last year, 118,000 people took the Alpha Course in
the United States and Canada, up from less than 4,000 three years ago, Hanna
said. It also is offered in more than 100 countries around the world, he

Although designed for the unchurched, like Preuett, Alpha has found a wide
audience in mainstream congregations. Most Alpha participants are
Episcopalians, and in the past couple years the course has become
increasingly popular with Catholics.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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44. Beliefs: World's Religions Look as They Did a Millennium Ago
New York Times, Jan. 8, 2000
The big news, in religion, is often that there is no news. That is a dirty
little secret journalists writing about religion would prefer to keep from
their editors and the people who sign paychecks. To the extent that social
science can measure religious attitudes and conduct -- rates of belief and
membership, for instance, or frequency of worship and prayer -- what stands
out is how glacial the changes are over decades.

Any list of the world's major religions in the year 2000 looks very much like
the list of the world's major religions in the year 1000. There have been
some dropouts, to be sure.

Although there have been dropouts from the ranks of world religions, there
have been no new contenders. The major religious families of today were all
around a millennium ago: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism,
Christianity, Islam. So too, with the exception of Sikhism, were the more
regional faiths like Jainism and Shinto.

This is not to deny that homo religiosus has displayed an almost endless
capacity for religious creativity as well as conflict.

Is this persistence of the major religions not curious? In a world where not
only new technologies but entirely new fields of knowledge spring up almost
overnight, why not entirely new religions, and if not overnight then maybe
one or two per century?

In fact, they do. The world has never been short of charismatic leaders,
metaphysical speculators, masters of esoteric doctrines and seekers open to
new revelations. Religions are constantly being invented and reinvented:
Scientology, goddess worship, neopaganism, Gate of Heaven, the Church of
Elvis are only a few among thousands. A dozen new religions were probably
born on the Web this week.

Each of them finds a niche in the spiritual environment -- for a while. But
unless they are deeply implanted, or ultimately absorbed, in one of the great
religious traditions, they seem destined to wither and disappear. Logically,
there seems to be no reason why this must be so. But a pattern of more than
a thousand years standing cannot be ignored.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== The Believers Around The Corner

45. Accidental tourist returns 'cursed' stone
BBC News, Jan. 8, 2000
A Belgian tourist who took a stone from an ancient Scottish burial site has
returned it after complaining it had cursed his family. Surprised tourism
staff received a parcel containing the 2lb stone and an anonymous letter
which urged them to return it to its rightful place at Clava Cairns.

The man said that since taking the stone his daughter had broken her leg, his
wife had become very ill, and he had lost his job and broken his arm.

Bob Hunter-Dorans, visitor services assistant at Inverness tourist
information centre, said: "He thought he was cursed, definitely. "He said in
the letter 'I know you will probably be laughing at me, but while you are
laughing could you please take this stone back to Clava Cairns'."

That site, near Inverness, dates from the Neolithic period and was an
extensive burial ground comprising three circles of standing stones with
burial chambers in the middle. Mr Hunter-Dorans said many locals were
superstitious about the area and added: "It's not a place you would want to
go at night."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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46. New ways to pray are just a mouse-click away
Boston Globe, Jan. 9, 2000
Time was when those who wanted to communicate with a higher power clasped
their hands, perhaps kneeling in a hallowed sanctuary, and fervently appealed
for divine aid. Now they can sit at their computer screens, tap out keyboard
prayers, and, in at least some cases, genuinely feel they are reaching their
Maker on line.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing: God.com. Today, there is an e-mail
address for ''God,'' and many homepages. Also, several Web sites claim they
can link the computer user directly to God. Sometimes, this God even

But Bill Levin, a business consultant from Charlestown, found consolation on
Godspeaks.net, one of the most popular of the Web sites, after his brother
died of lymphoma. Godspeaks, which reproduces direct, provocative billboard
messages from an outdoor religious advertising campaign in Florida, captured
his interest.

Newprayer.com makes an even bolder claim - that it can send prayers via a
radio transmitter to God's last known location, a star cluster called M13
believed to be one of the oldest in the universe.

Crandall Stone, 50, a Cambridge engineer and freelance consultant, set up the
site last winter after a night of sipping brandy and philosophizing with
friends in Vermont. The conversation turned to Big Bang theories of creation,
and someone suggested that if everything was in one place at the time of the
explosion, then God must have been there, too. ''It's the one place where we
could be sure He was,'' Stone said. ''Then we thought that if we could find
that location and had a radio transmitter, we could send a message to God.''

After consulting with NASA scientists, the friends settled on M13 as the
likely location. They chipped in about $20,000, and built a
radio-wave-transmitting Web site. Initially, they charged $5 a prayer to
help recoup part of the costs. But when some critics cried scam, they
provided the service for free.

Both Godspeaks and newprayer are free-of-charge now, but some more-suspect
God-centered Web sites sell products like ''forgiveness'' for $50 or ''divine
protection certificates'' for $9.99.

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