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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - Feb. 26, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 171) - 2/2

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=== International Churches of Christ
21. Controversial group to hold a conference

=== Mormonism
22. Construction under way on new Mormon temple
23. Thousands Take Temple Tour

=== Unification Church
24. Brazil Green lawmaker campaigns against Rev. Moon

=== Witchcraft
25. Truth Commission plans public hearings into witchcraft

=== Other News
26. Chopra, Weaver dispute in trial again
27. Pala cult leader's trial begins (Gatekeepers)
28. Passage urged for 'vampire' legislation
29. Logging coalition votes to appeal dismissal of lawsuit
30. High Court bans nun from acting as midwife (Church of God In Trinity
31. Venerable Voodoo
32. Apologetics Journal Criticizes T.D. Jakes
33. Dalai Lama makes online debut
34. With posters and campaigns against the doomsday sects
35. Church sets trend for ''Do-it-yourself Religion''
36. Decision by appellate court points to new Wenatchee trial

=== Apparitions
37. 'Face of Jesus' discovered on church wall
38. Wheeler family ropes off yard

=== UFOs
39. N.J. group awaits E.T.'s call
40. Do you believe?

=== Religious Freedom
41. Baptists to blitz Chicago in conversion convention
42. Measure lifts curbs on home religious meetings

=== Death Penalty / Human Rights
43. Book review: Jailhouses rocked

=== The Believers Around The Corner
44. Lawyer appeals Christmas decision
45. Canadian tries to sell his soul; gets bid of $20.50

=== International Churches of Christ

21. Controversial group to hold a conference
Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 26, 2000
The Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ, an insular ''Bible-focused'' group
based in Wayne, will hold a women's conference tomorrow at the Convention
Center and says more 2,000 people will attend.

The Philadelphia group is an affiliate of the International Churches of
Christ (ICC)
, also known as the Boston Movement. The local group recruits
largely on area campuses and says its membership has grown to 950 here in a

Complaints have dogged the ICC network throughout its 15-year history.
Cult-watchers say the group has a long record of ''thought reform'' of members.

The American Family Foundation, the Cult Information Service and other
watchdog groups have received thousands of complaints about people being
enticed to join ICC and then pressured by ''disciplers'' to turn over their
time and money to the group, said AFF staff member Carol Giambalvo, who has
written a book about the movement.

Tom Recchuiti, administrator of ICC's Philadelphia church, said that he was
familiar with the complaints, but that the problems have been isolated and

Steve Dubrow-Eichel, a Northeast Philadelphia psychologist, said he has
counseled about a half-dozen ICC defectors in his group practice, known as
Retirn (Re-Entry Therapy, Info and Referral Network), which works with
affected families. He also said he has read ICC material.

The disciplers ''get tremendous control over your life,'' Dubrow-Eichel said.
They will tell people whom to date, whether to take a certain job, and where
to put their money, he said. ''Every person I've worked with who's come out of
ICC has come out broke or close to broke.''

He said people were also taught that ''ICC is the only legitimate mechanism by
which you can be saved, so Jesus equals ICC.''

The Rev. William Gipson, a Baptist minister who heads Penn's chaplaincy
office, said he has received reports of ICC recruits being coerced to cut off
ties with family and friends and to neglect studies in favor of evangelizing.
He said he would give a talk to a student group next week about the women's
event and about ICC's methods.

Former ICC members have created a Web site (www.reveal.org) to provide
support and publicize the criticisms.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Mormonism

22. Construction under way on new Mormon temple
The Birmingham News, Feb. 23, 2000
(...) Gardendale's temple represents a departure for the Mormon Church. In
the past, there were only a few large temples located in major cities. But in
recent years the church has started making temple services more accessible by
building smaller temples in more areas.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Thousands Take Temple Tour
Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 25, 2000
More than 47,000 people so far have donned booties and toured the inside of
the new Mormon temple in Albuquerque.

The $14 million temple at Eubank and San Francisco is the 73rd Mormon temple
to open worldwide. It is New Mexico's first. The temple will serve about
51,000 members living in New Mexico as well as about 10,000 people from
eastern Arizona and southern Colorado.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Unification Church

24. Brazil Green lawmaker campaigns against Rev. Moon
AOL/Reuters, Feb. 23, 2000
A high-profile Brazilian lawmaker, known for his campaign against destruction
of the Amazon rain forest, said Wednesday he has asked the government to
investigate controversial religious leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon's large
purchases of land in another natural wonder.

''I have nothing against Moon's Unification Church ... but it is the way he
came into Brazil and started buying up land without anyone controlling it,''
Gabeira told Reuters in a telephone interview. ''A huge ecological reserve is
at risk.''

''We have reports that the community has been dumping untreated sewage into
River Prata,'' said Gabeira, who is now leading a group of lawmakers
protesting against Moon's expansion. ''The Reverend is also constructing an
airport and a runway of four kilometers (2.5 miles) in virgin territory.''

The spokesman for the Unification Church in Brazil, Cesar Zaduski, denied
reports of polluting the River Prata, though he said Moon had future plans to
build an airport as well as a giant soccer stadium for the group's famous
mass weddings.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Witchcraft

25. Truth Commission plans public hearings into witchcraft
African Eye News Service, Feb. 24, 2000
People accused of witchcraft and their victims will face each other at a
series of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings in the Northern
Province starting on April 3, African Eye News Service (South Africa)

Police said more than 500 people accused of being witches had been murdered
since 1997. Provincial police researcher Captain Prince Makgoshing said the
deaths were tapering off, although the number of illegal witch hunts was on
the rise.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

26. Chopra, Weaver dispute in trial again
San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 24, 2000
A woman who worked with New Age healer Deepak Chopra lost her job because she
accused Chopra and one of his colleagues of sexually harassing her, the
woman's lawyer told a jury yesterday.

Attorney Peter Friesen said Joyce Weaver, who worked at the Sharp Center for
Mind-Body Medicine with Chopra, began encountering difficulties at work after
she rejected Chopra's romantic overtures.

Chopra's attorney, Carla DiMare, gave a sharply different version of events
to jurors. She said that, far from being attracted to Weaver, Chopra was wary
of her and considered her emotionally unstable.

Weaver is seeking unspecified monetary damages for claims of retaliation and
wrongful termination against Chopra and his corporation. A claim of sexual
harassment was dismissed.

The trial that started yesterday in San Diego Superior Court is the latest
chapter in a long-running legal battle between Chopra and Weaver that is now
being played out before the fourth judge to hear the dispute.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Pala cult leader's trial begins
San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 25, 2000
A leader of a small religious group in Pala wrote notes in jail in which he
described robberies and the shooting of a police officer for which he is now
on trial, a prosecutor told jurors in his opening statement.

Prosecutor David Berry said Christopher Turgeon, 36, stole motorcycles and a
truck and robbed an adult bookstore and a lingerie modeling store to support
the religious group known as the Gatekeepers.

Turgeon faces 17 felony charges in connection with a two-month crime spree
that prosecutors say he committed along with 29-year-old Blaine Applin. A
different Superior Court jury rejected Applin's defense of not guilty by
reason of insanity and convicted him of all 17 charges. Applin was sentenced
last month to 101 years to life in prison.

Both men also face a murder charge in Washington in the shooting death of a
former member of the religious group, who was killed in March 1998 outside
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Passage urged for 'vampire' legislation
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 22, 2000
A prosecutor urged state lawmakers Tuesday to pass a bill aimed at people
like Phillip K. Buck, the so-called Sheboygan County vampire who invited
teenagers to parties at his home, encouraged them to slash themselves and
then sucked their blood.

''This case was called the 'vampire case,' '' Sheboygan County District
Attorney Bob Wells told the Senate Judiciary and Consumer Affairs Committee.
''He wasn't a vampire. He was a pervert.''

Sen. Jim Baumgart (D-Sheboygan) said that under current law, authorities
couldn't arrest and prosecute someone, such as Buck, who encourages children
to harm themselves.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Logging coalition votes to appeal dismissal of lawsuit
Minneapolis Star-Tribune/AP, Feb. 23, 2000
A logging coalition decided on a unanimous vote to appeal a federal judge' s
dismissal of their lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and two
environmental groups.

Tower-based Associated Contract Loggers, a coalition of individual loggers
and logging companies, contended in their lawsuit that the Forest Service was
being influenced by a nature-based religion and was in violation of the
Constitution's ban on government favoritism of one religion over another.

U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum ruled Feb. 9 that the case was
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. High Court bans nun from acting as midwife
Yahoo/This is London, Feb. 22, 2000
A nun from a bizarre Christian sect who passes herself off as a midwife to
deliver her followers' babies has been banned from attending any more births.

The Attorney General has taken out a High Court injunction against the woman,
who calls herself ''the prophet Eleada'', to stop her illegally delivering
more of her north London congregation's babies.

Nun Dorothy Stewart's sect, the Church of God In Trinity Orthodox, based in
Edmonton, bans members from attending hospitals or seeing midwives when they
give birth.

When the Camden and Islington Health Authority confronted her, Ms Stewart was
defiant. She said: ''We have nothing to do with hospitals, the institute
which dabbles in blood. You cannot stop this church from having children.
This church is not under the health service but the God of Heaven.''

Health service officials are concerned that other members of her sect may
also be delivering babies illegally. Last night Ms Stewart refused to comment
from her house in Amersham Avenue, Edmonton. She said: ''I do not want to
talk about what has happened, or what our beliefs are.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Venerable Voodoo
Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2000
(...) It was, in short, a fairly typical National Voodoo Day in Benin, which
has celebrated the holiday on Jan. 10 since 1996. A slender, vertical West
African country tucked between Nigeria and Togo, Benin is the birthplace of
voodoo. Perhaps two-thirds of its 6 million inhabitants practice the faith,
which is an official religion here along with Christianity and Islam.

In the five centuries voodoo has been practiced in Benin--often by people who
also count themselves as Christians--it has thrived as just one more
polytheistic African faith, bound up with everyday life in countless ways,
even gassing up one's car.

The religion has much in common with the faith of the Yoruba tribe in
neighboring Nigeria, whose beliefs form the core of Santeria, a religion
widely practiced among Latino immigrants in U.S. cities. Santeria and voodoo
both feature many gods.

And there are numerous other gods, any of which may from time to time take
temporary possession of a believer's body, especially during ceremonies. This
is usually a welcome event, an opportunity for real communion with divinity.
Given the Western associations of possession with exorcism, it can make for
an unsettling spectacle; however, Hounon, the high priest, dismisses such
fears. ''Everybody knows what voodoo really is,'' he said. ''Voodoo is the
good-doer. It exists for doing good.''

On the wall above him hung a Certification of Appreciation from the New
Orleans City Council, a token of the reach of his faith, sometimes known in
the American South as hoodoo.

Voodoo was carried from Benin to the New World by West Africans who boarded
slave ships off this very beach. Forbidden by Christian masters, voodoo
became an underground phenomenon in Haiti, wrapped in a secrecy and fear that
made it a tool of repression for hundreds of years.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Apologetics Journal Criticizes T.D. Jakes
Christianity Today, Feb. 21, 2000
Christian Research Journal strongly questions the theology of T.D. Jakes in
its latest issue, published in January.

The quarterly journal of the southern California-based Christian Research
Institute (www.equip.org) quotes from public remarks by Jakes to argue that,
whatever baptismal formulas he uses in different venues, his primary
theological language for the Godhead remains Oneness Pentecostal.

The Journal also quotes statements from the T. D. Jakes Ministry Web site
(www.tdjakes.net) about God existing in three ''manifestations,'' rather than
as three persons. This, says Journal editor Elliot Miller, is ''classic
modalist language.'' (Modalism describes God as only one person taking on the
different roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Trinitarianism describes one
God existing eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

''Given his and his ministry's insistence on modalist language in describing
the Trinity, the assertions of his colleague [associate minister Lawrence
Robinson] that he is a modalist, and his affiliation with a Oneness group, we
have every reason to doubt that by 'Trinity' his ministry means three
eternally distinct Persons,'' Miller told CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Dalai Lama makes online debut
BBC, Feb. 23, 2000
The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has said he envisages a return
to his homeland in his lifetime, in his first live, online interview. The
Dalai Lama
answered questions e-mailed to BBC News Online from users around the world,
via a video-phone link from the Indian hill town of Dharamsala.

In his first interactive, online interview, the Dalai Lama told the BBC that
the internet was ''very useful'' tool for disseminating clear and accurate
information around the world. ''It will make clear what is truth, what is
reality and what is false propaganda,'' he said. ''I think that each
individual should use their own intelligence or mind to investigate
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Video and transcript:

Andrew Casey, Australia: Do you believe in people 'converting' to
Buddhism or seeking to find spiritual values in their own traditions?

Dalai Lama: My fundamental belief, it is much safer and better to keep
ones own religion. Changing religion or converting is not better. It is
far better to learn from other traditions, and then we can sometimes
enrich our own traditions.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. With posters and campaigns against the doomsday sects
Schelswig-Hostein, (Germany), Feb. 14, 2000
The sect commissioner of the state administration has started a new campaign
against so-called doomsday sects. A leaflet contains information on groups
with apocalyptic prophesies, their characteristics and places to turn for
counselling and help.

The ''sect market'' in the state is multi-faceted, commissioner Matthias
Knothe described the scene in Schleswig-Holstein. There is a hodgepodge of
sects, psychogroups and religious denominations. There are diverse
categories, like Brahma Kumaris, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Metharia, who
promise a better and perfect world after a transitional period full of
catastrophes and tests, but predict the saving of the chosen few by space
ships, said Knothe. ''At public events we have noticed that there is still a
further need for information.'' Leaflets and posters are especially directed
at young people; many of them have been sent to schools.

The sect commissioner currently assesses the activities of the classic sects
(Scientology, Universal Life, Moon) in Schleswig-Holstein as being on the
decline. The importance of Scientology, in his opinion, has especially
declined in the North. Matthias Knothe attributed this to the good
cooperation with the media and to the rising awareness and sensitivities of
the people. But at the same time, the appearance of sales and marketing
businesses with strong hierarchical structures should be watched. The sect
commissioner will hold an informational meeting on this topic on February 17
in Kiel with the commissioner for issues of worldview of the
Evangelical-Lutheran state church of Hannover, Ingolf Christiansen.
[...entire item...]

35. Church sets trend for ''Do-it-yourself Religion''
AP, Germany, Feb. 17, 2000
http://seite1.web.de (Germany)
Translation: CISAR
More and more Germans would rather put together a home-made religion, while
sects are losing momentum. The trend is going noticeably toward ''esoteric
do-it-yourself religiosity,'' reported the Catholic sect commissioner of
Mainz Diocese, Eckhard Tuerk, on Thursday. ''Anybody who wants to and has the
small amount of extra money needed has one's pick on the esoterica market
from astral travel to Zen Buddhism, from awareness expansion to Yin and Yang
for the basic elements of a home-made religion.''

According to Tuerk's investigations, the turn of the millennium did not
provide doomsday groups with a starting point. In Rheinland-Pfalz, as in the
entire Republic, the membership of the most well-known doomsday group, the
Jehovah's Witnesses, has even been declining.

The number of adherents of Scientology and sectarian groups like the Moon
and Hare Krishna has also stagnated. The German branches of Scientology
have been considerably weakened by people leaving and a decline in course
participation and sale of materials.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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36. Decision by appellate court points to new Wenatchee trial
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Feb. 23, 2000
A jury that in 1998 rejected claims of negligence in the now-discredited
child sex-abuse investigations in Wenatchee was improperly barred from
hearing key evidence in the case, an appellate court ruled yesterday.

In a hard-hitting decision that paves the way for a new trial, an appellate
court in Seattle said the trial judge erred in dismissing claims of negligent
investigation against police before the trial went to a jury.

Wenatchee made world news in 1994 and 1995 when police and state social
workers undertook what was then called the nation's most extensive child
sex-abuse investigation. At least 60 adults were arrested on 29,726 charges
of child sex-abuse involving 43 children. Many of those accused were poor or

In 1998 the Post-Intelligencer published ''The Power to Harm,'' a series that
documented overzealous -- even abusive -- actions by Perez and social workers
as well as civil rights violations by judges, prosecutors and public
defenders. Since then, many of those imprisoned have been freed by higher

In 1998, East Wenatchee Pentacostal pastor Roby Roberson and his wife,
Connie, Sunday school teacher Honnah Sims and Donna Rodriguez sought $30
million to $60 million in damages but were awarded nothing.

The Robersons and Sims were acquitted of child-rape and molestation charges
in 1995. Charges against Rodriguez were dismissed in 1996 when four of her
five accusers recanted. All of them argued that police violated their civil
rights by encouraging children to make accusations against them. Two children
who made most of the accusations were foster children in Perez's home.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Article series

The Power To Harm

=== Apparitions

37. 'Face of Jesus' discovered on church wall
The Times (England), Feb. 25, 2000
Dozens of pilgrims are turning out to see a Turin Shroud-style image of
Christ, which has appeared on a wall of a Norman parish church.

While such phenomena are reported regularly in other religious communities,
it is thought to be the first holy apparition to appear in the Church of
England in modern times.

Recently, images or the name of God have appeared in vegetables such as
tomatoes and aubergines. In the Roman Catholic Church, there is a long
tradition of weeping statues of the Virgin Mary.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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38. Wheeler family ropes off yard
Macon Telegraph, Feb. 19, 2000
A Wheeler County husband and wife roped off their yard this week and are
turning away visitors who come nightly to see an image some believe is the
face of Christ.

Lucy Tillman, whose husband, Benny Tillman Sr., first spotted the image Jan.
22 on the side of their rural home, said a legal adviser told them earlier
this week that they would be liable if someone were injured while on their

A neighbor's 5-year-old child walking down the road near the Tillmans' home
suffered a broken leg last weekend after she was struck by an Albany motorist
who was on her way to see the image.

The shadowy face has drawn crowds of more than 500 people on some nights.
After the child's injury, Tillman said, lawyers advised her and her husband
to turn people away.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== UFOs

39. N.J. group awaits E.T.'s call
Bergen Record, Feb. 22, 2000
(...) Next year, a worldwide group of radio astronomers based in Little Ferry
plans to set up 16 satellite-dish antennas on an ostrich farm in Warren
County to scan the skies for signals not of this Earth.

Members of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence League Inc. call
this formation of antennas ''Array2k.'' The name refers not to the year 2000,
but to the 2,000-square-foot surface formed by the dishes, combined into a
powerful radio telescope for collecting signal data from Out There.

Over the past few years, SETI members have occasionally detected strange
signals that appeared to be a message from another world. But these all
proved to be from more mundane sources, such as an orbiting satellite.

''We believe other civilizations will generate signals which we can detect,
but only if technology [on Earth] doesn't interfere with our own receivers.
Not only have we not scratched the surface -- we haven't even felt the
itching yet.''

After renewed public interest in UFOs and space-alien abductions in the 1980s
and 1990s, pop culture appears to have moved on, for now at least. The 50th
anniversary of the alleged 1947 crash of a flying saucer at Roswell, N.M.,
came and went, as did a flurry of TV shows about UFO sightings.

Scientists have failed to agree whether a meteorite found in 1996 actually
contained traces of Martian microbes. This month, authors of a new book,
''Rare Earth,'' argue persuasively that conditions for complex life forms
exist nowhere in the universe except here.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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40. Do you believe?
Duluth News, Feb. 23, 2000
(...) According to a new Life magazine poll, 49 percent of Americans believe
the government is withholding information from the public about the existence
of unidentified flying objects. The poll, conducted in January, reveals more
than half -- 54 percent -- think there is intelligent life in the universe
beyond Earth and 43 percent believe UFOs are real. Nearly a third of those
polled believed intelligent life from other planets has visited Earth.

The full report on the survey can be found in Life's March issue, now on
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom

41. Baptists to blitz Chicago in conversion convention
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Feb. 21, 2000
(...) A public fight between Southern Baptist and Jewish leaders over the
entire missionary campaign, first announced by the Southern Baptist
Convention last November, has prompted an unexpected development - the
beginnings of a working interfaith relationship between Chicago rabbis and
the chief Southern Baptist official there, who is now talking about joining
the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

Southern Baptist Convention officials promised in interviews that Jews would
not be targeted for the missionizing.

''We're not targeting Jewish neighborhoods. We're targeting the whole city of
Chicago,'' said Roberts from Southern Baptist Convention headquarters. ''If
we go to a door and someone says, 'We're Jewish and don't want to hear
anything,' then we're moving on,'' said Roberts.

Reaction to the overall Southern Baptist campaign has been deeply divided
among Jews.

Now that the initial contretemps has blown over, some are downplaying the
threat that the Southern Baptist campaign poses. ''Sixteen million people
aren't going to converge, take out their swords, and try and convert Jews,''
said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. ''The reaction on the part of some Jews is
creating an environment conducive to that interpretation.''

Eckstein is president of the Chicago-based International Fellowship of
Christians & Jews, which raises millions of dollars each year from
evangelical Christians for the resettlement of Jews from the former Soviet
Union in Israel and other Jewish causes. But after two decades of working
with Southern Baptist leadership, he officially broke from them when they
made public their plans for targeted missionizing.

Still, he said, in terms of being converted during the Chicago campaign,
''Jews don't have anything to worry about on the concrete side. But on the
principle side, it shows just how far there is to go in the relationship.''

Others, however, disagree with that perspective.

''If you go into a community and smother them with so many missionaries,
they're bound to seize on people who are very vulnerable and who will fall
into their hands,'' said Philip Abramowitz, director of the New York Jewish
Community Relations Council's Task Force on Missionaries and Cults.

According to Tcath of the Chicago JCRC, ''There is a tendency among some
activists in the community to belittle the threat, who say we shouldn't
overreact, but we know there are thousands of Jewish individuals who have
left the fold, who have gone into Christianity, and we can't let that pass
without an effort to prevent future loss of precious Jews.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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42. Measure lifts curbs on home religious meetings
Denver Post, Feb. 25, 2000
A measure prohibiting local authorities from regulating Bible study or other
religious meetings in people's homes won bipartisan approval in the House on
Thursday and now moves to the governor's desk.

Dean, a Colorado Springs Republican, said he decided to introduce the bill
after reading a news story last year about Denver authorities limiting a home
Bible meeting to once a month after neighbors complained cars were clogging
their street.

Dean said he'd heard of similar incidents in other cities.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty / Human Rights

43. Book review: Jailhouses rocked
Savannah Morning News, Feb. 20, 2000
(...) In ''Actual Innocence,'' crusaders Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld team
with journalist Jim Dwyer in a harrowing account from the underbelly of the
American criminal justice system. Scheck and Neufeld founded and direct ''The
Innocence Project,'' a pro-bono program that seeks the release of wrongly
convicted people through DNA testing; Dwyer is a columnist who writes for the
New York Daily News.

DNA testing, the authors remark, ''is to justice what the telescope is for
the stars ... a way to see things as they really are. It is a revelation
machine.'' The greatest revelation, they say, is the exposure of ''a system
of law that has been far too complacent about its fairness and accuracy.''

That complacency has rested on some shaky foundations. Psychologists have
long known, for example, that eyewitnesses aren't reliable. Human memory
isn't like a camera; it's more like a sculptor's clay, originally given only
a rough shape, later changed fundamentally before it hardens into history.
Witnesses initially unsure about what they saw often eventually achieve
adamant certainty -- sometimes with prompting by the police.

The legal system hasn't caught up with the new technology. Despite the DNA
revolution, almost all states still subject the guiltless to a tortuous
process before they can walk. ''Actual innocence,'' according to many trial
judges, is not grounds for release from prison (a sentence that should make
your skin crawl). Only Illinois and New York currently permit DNA tests after
conviction -- and, hardly coincidentally, have the highest rates of
exoneration. Most states still adhere to strict deadlines after convictions,
refusing to allow DNA tests no matter what circumstances arise in a case.

But can there be any moral justification for a system in which an innocent
person might be executed
? A few weeks back, the Republican governor of
Illinois, George Ryan, suspended executions indefinitely in his state. With
good reason: since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977, more death row
inmates in the state have been exonerated than executed (one inmate,
imprisoned for 15 years, came within two days of dying before his innocence
was established). Something was obviously terribly wrong.

The new technology, in short, has changed the justice system, even if the
system itself seems only marginally aware of the fact. We're bound to wonder,
indeed, about the numerous cases where the criminal didn't spit, bleed,
ejaculate or shed tissue. Are there other blameless people today behind bars,
waiting to die, with no magical new lab tests to save them?
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Actual Innocence. By Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer. Doubleday.

=== The Believers Around The Corner

44. Lawyer appeals Christmas decision
Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 23, 2000
As Richard Ganulin sees it, Christmas as a national, legal public holiday
unfairly stigmatizes non-Christians and unconstitutionally favors and
subsidizes Christians.

The Hyde Park lawyer says that sectarian preference is ''a badge of
inferiority placed by the government upon non-Christians'' and it continues to
energize his attack on the federal holiday.

It's a battle he lost last year when U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott cited
law and tradition and granted summary judgment to the government. Mr.
Ganulin's appellate brief says Judge Dlott's decision should be overturned
because she was wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.

Justice Department lawyers must respond to Mr. Ganulin's brief by March 23.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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45. Canadian tries to sell his soul; gets bid of $20.50
Detroit News/Reuters, Feb. 25, 2000
(...) This week the online auction house pulled the offer of a Canadian man
who put his soul up to the highest bidder. By then, the site had recorded
nine bids received over five days. The highest offer was $20.50.

Jones planned to send the successful bidder a paper saying that person now
owned his soul. But eBay officials took a dim view of his attempt. The
company sent Jones an e-mail reading: ''eBay does not allow the auctioning of
human souls for the following reasons: If the soul does not exist, eBay could
not allow the auctioning of the soul because there would be nothing to sell.
However, if the soul does exist then, in accordance with eBay's policy on
human parts and remains, we would not allow the auctioning of human souls.''

Kevin Pursglove, eBay's senior communications director, said the company's
policy is not meant to make a statement on the nature of the human soul.
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