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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - Mar. 28, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 185) - 1/2

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=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
1. 73 Bodies Found in Uganda Mass Grave
2. 160 More Bodies Found At Kanungu
3. Probe into cult deaths in Uganda hampered by logistics
4. Uganda Says Cult Leaders Killed Systematically
5. Uganda Fears Finding More Bodies
6. Police Watch Cult Church
7. Police Quiz Soldier Over Kibwetere Links
8. Rights Body Condemns Kanungu Cult Suicide
9. 'Balokole' Denounce Kanungu Cult
10. List of 810 members of Ugandan doomsday cult
11. Fateful Meeting Led to Founding of the Cult in Uganda
12. Death cult wife prays for protection
13. Kibwetere's Wife Blames Cult For Family Break-Up
14. Apocalypse in Uganda
15. Evidence Indicates Uganda Cult Held an Eerie Prelude to Fire
16. Don't Feel Guilty Over Cult Horror- Bishop
17. Why Are Ugandans Drawn To Cults?
18. A Crazy Way To Die!

=== Scientology
19. Records outline Scientology case

=== Mormonism
20. Was There a Secret Order to Wipe Out Mormon Church?
21. 3 bishops can't be charged
22. RLDS Seek to End Mormon Confusion

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
23. Own blood saves Jehovah witness

=== Witchcraft
24. Gender and Witchcraft Killings In Tanzania

» Part 2

=== Islam
25. Members of heretical Muslim sect appear in Egyptian court
26. First Nigerian has hand amputated under sharia
27. Muslim Teacher's Lawsuit Rejected

=== Other News
28. Top theologian revises Biblical prohibitions
29. Jewish Groups Angered Over Film (Morris Cerullo)
30. Doomsday alert over robots
31. New Age takes up residence on coast (Living Love Fellowship)
32. Mary 'appears' near Elian

=== Noted
33. 'Trust in God and everything will be alright' (ICOC)
34. Faith dealers (Alternative religions and cults in Ireland)
35. Sodom and Gomorrah are 'found at bottom of Dead Sea'
36. How it started (Santeria)
37. Ex-inmates urge end to executions

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

1. 73 Bodies Found in Uganda Mass Grave
AOL/AP, Mar. 28, 2000
(...) The laborers unearthed 73 bodies, including two dozen children and
babies, from the field belonging to a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who was
one of the sect leaders. The grim discovery brings the number of cult-related
deaths that police have confirmed to 562 since a March 17 fire in a makeshift

Two other compounds in southwestern Uganda belonging to the sect remained to
be examined. James Bangirana, a local police official, said late Monday that
wasn't certain that all the bodies of sect victims had been found.

Some of the bodies recovered Monday bore stab wounds and others had pieces of
cloth wrapped tightly around their throats. They appeared to have been dead
at least a month, said Dr. Ben Twetegire.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. 160 More Bodies Found At Kanungu
The Monitor/Africa News Online (Uganda), Mar. 25, 2000
Kampala - Tragic drama continued to unfold in Rukungiri yesterday when police
exhumed 163 bodies from the compound of a branch of the Kanungu doomsday
cult. The bodies were exhumed by police and inmates from Rukungiri Prison
from three separate graves at Buhunga village, 10 km on Rukungiri- Kitagata

Sources from Buhunga told The Monitor that the exhumed bodies included those
of 59 children and 94 adults. Also Friday, police announced that they were
now treating the March 17 deaths of at least 530 members of the Movement for
the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
Sect in Kanungu, Rukungiri, as
murder not suicide.

Dr. Sebudi told The Monitor in Mbarara that some of the bodies had ropes tied
around their necks and that they could have been buried two weeks ago.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Probe into cult deaths in Uganda hampered by logistics
Boston.com/AP, Mar. 26, 2000
RUGAZI, Uganda (AP) The investigation into the suspicious deaths of at least
490 members of a Christian doomsday sect was tangled in logistical confusion
Sunday as a leading legislator speculated that sect leaders were behind the

Jim Muhezi, a leading member of parliament and a onetime head of Uganda's
internal security agency, theorized Saturday that sect leaders cracked down
viciously on the defiant, poisoning some, and urging the mass suicide to curb
further defections.

Muhezi had also criticized the investigation into the deaths of hundreds of
members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments.

Asked by reporters why 153 bodies in a sect compound in nearby Buhunga were
exhumed and hastily reburied Friday without being identified, Muhezi replied:
''You're guess is as good as mine. It's a poor investigative job.''

Authorities in this East African nation say their probe has been hampered by
lack of equipment, vehicles and staff.

The sect had up to 1,000 members, and authorities here fear most may have
become victims. Government officials are treating movement leader Kibwetere
as a fugitive and the all the deaths as murder.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Uganda Says Cult Leaders Killed Systematically
AOL/Reuters, Mar. 25, 2000
BUHUNGA, Uganda (Reuters) - Ugandan authorities said on Saturday leaders of a
doomsday cult appeared to have systematically killed cult members for months,
and feared finding more mass graves around the country.

On Friday, police found 153 bodies under a building used by the cult in
Buhunga in southwest Uganda. Many of the victims were apparently clubbed,
strangled or hacked to death in recent weeks. Some may also have been

Authorities said more bodies could be found at that site, as well as at three
other locations used by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten
Commandments of God
in the region.

Some of the victims in Buhunga were thought to have died up to four months
ago, but the vast majority appeared to have been killed this year, some just
two weeks ago.

Muhwezi said some cult members -- who had been asked to sell their
possessions and give the proceeds to the church -- had apparently demanded
their money back when a prediction the world would end on December 31, 1999
failed to come true.

''When nothing happened on the 31st it appeared they (the cult's leaders) had
a problem,'' he said.

The solution appeared to have been to kill unruly cult members. There were 59
children in the three graves in Buhunga, including the body of a
two-year-old. ''When they killed the mothers it goes without saying that
they had to kill the children as well,'' Muhwezi said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Uganda Fears Finding More Bodies
AOL/AP, Mar. 25, 2000
BUHUNGA, Uganda (AP) - Police mobilized across this East African nation on
Saturday to search buildings and land belonging to a doomsday Christian sect,
fearing they could find many more murdered cult members after the discovery
of mass graves containing strangled and hacked bodies.

Authorities were planning to examine six properties known to be owned by the
Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments. ''We think wherever
there was a sect branch, there could be more graves,'' said Jim Muhwezi, a
parliament member.

Henry Ndyambahika, a local council member, said the bodies had been buried
over several months - some four months ago, some six weeks ago and some much
more recently. Many had been horribly killed, he said.

Various reports put sect membership anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 in nine
districts in Uganda, a country of 21 million. It was legally registered as a
non-governmental organization.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Police Watch Cult Church
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), Mar. 25, 2000
Kampala - The Police have camped at Mbuye parish in Rakai where believers
suspected to be part of the Kanungu group have gathered to celebrate.

However, Irene Tibaaga, the District Police Commander, who had a meeting with
the church leaders, declined to use force to evict the worshippers. She said
this would give the impression that the Government was dictating issues and
had interfered with Church work.

District leaders had requested the church to evict the group since their
worship contravenes the Catholic doctrine.

The parish priest said the cult followers, whose founder is Speciosa
Mukantabana, among other teach against sex, eating pork, announce doomsday,
do not accept modern medicine, don't work hard during day, all contrary to
the Church.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Police Quiz Soldier Over Kibwetere Links
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), Mar. 27, 2000
Kampala - The Police in Namasuba on Entebbe road have quizzed a UPDF soldier,
Julius Barigye, over his connections with the doomsday prophet, Joseph

Barigye told The New Vision, that Kibwerete was at one time his tenant.

Barigye was reluctant to discuss matters concerning Kibwetere but reports in
the area said said Barigye was unsuccessfully used by the cult leader to woo
the residents to join the cult, the Ndejje LC2 secretary for defence, Mr.
Moses Lwere, said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Rights Body Condemns Kanungu Cult Suicide
The Monitor/Africa News Online (Uganda), Mar. 26, 2000
Kampala - Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has described the recent
deaths by the Kanungu cult as a ''senseless mass destruction of life'' and
expressed condolences to families, relatives and the community.

''The Commission calls on all Ugandans to desist from abusing the freedom of
religion and to jealously guard the fundamental rights of life, property and
all other rights including the country's rule of law,'' said Waliggo, March

He said that following the Kanungu incident, the state organs, civil society,
local councils and citizens should critically watch all groups and actions
likely to lead to violations of rights and that they should take necessary
legal action.

He said that UHRC supported government's decision to institute a commission
of inquiry into the cult, which will help prevent the reoccurrence of such a
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. 'Balokole' Denounce Kanungu Cult
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), mar. 25, 2000
Kampala - The National Fellowship of Born-Again Churches of Uganda yesterday
denounced the Kanungu doomsday cult, saying it was not part of them. The
organisation which held a press conference at the Namirembe Christian
Fellowship (NCF) church, also condemned the massacre of hundreds of Ugandans
by the cult, headed by self-styled prophet Joseph Kibwetere.

The press conference was attended by over 80 church leaders. The leaders,
visibly disturbed by links to the cult, backed a call by President Yoweri
Museveni for a commission of inquiry into the deaths. They said they were
willing to be part of the commission.

Simeon Kayiwa, the chairman and principal pastor of NCF, said they wanted to
correct the impression that the cult ''is a born-again one.''

Kayiwa, who defined a cult as ''teaching of extra visions other than the
biblical doctrine,'' said they were disturbed by increasing public ridicule,
linking born-again Christians to the Kibwetere cult.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* See the Theological definition of a cult of Christianity

10. List of 810 members of Ugandan doomsday cult
News24/AFP (South Africa), Mar. 26, 2000
Kampala - Some 810 followers of the Ugandan cult believed responsible for
hundreds of deaths had registered at its headquarters three days before the
church fire which claimed at least 330 lives, according to a list published

The handwritten register or Ab'enshonga (fraternity) of members of the
Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God sect was reproduced in the
state-owned Sunday Vision newspaper.

The register was salvaged from the church by a bystander, who had gone to the
church out of curiosity and watched as local people looted soft drinks and
holy communion bread from other buildings in the sect's compound.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Fateful Meeting Led to Founding of the Cult in Uganda
New York Times, Mar. 27, 2000
Meeting Joseph Kibwetere for the first time, the three women told him that he
had been anointed to help them spread the word of God, that the Virgin Mary
had led them to him, a Roman Catholic known among many Ugandans for his
piety, prayer and good works.

To hear Mr. Kibwetere's relatives tell the tale, that meeting in 1989 was the
start of a fateful chain of events that led to estrangement from their father
and husband, his clash with the Roman Catholic Church, eventual
excommunication and, on March 17, the death of at least 330 followers of his
cult in a conflagration that engulfed their secluded mountain church at

Whatever the truth behind these grisly spectacles, this impoverished, mostly
Christian nation of 11 million faces many questions: about the importance of
religious freedom in a country where many cults have flourished, about the
competence of the government's security and intelligence network, about Mr.
Kibwetere's mysterious Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments
of God and, of course, about the man at its center.

Mr. Rugambwa and his mother, Theresa, who bore Mr. Kibwetere 16 children
during 40 years of marriage, said the man they had known for decades as a
pious Catholic devoted to good works started to change drastically after
three women approached him at a service one day in 1989.

The three women -- Credonia Mwerinde, Ursula Komuhangi and Angela Mugisha --
were already leaders of a Christian cult devoted to the Virgin Mary, who,
they said, had instructed him to take them in.

When the three strange women first appeared, Mrs. Kibwetere at first joined
in their activities. But as more and more followers came to live on the
family's farm, tensions grew between the 200 or so followers and the family.

''When the people came here they started mistreating us, the family members,
the children and the mother, saying the Virgin Mary had told them to do
things, to keep us without food and to punish us,'' Mr. Rugambwa recalled.

The family won. In 1992 the cult and its leader packed up and left for
Kanungu. Mr. Kibwetere never moved back, despite his family's invitation to
do so.

Settled on a magnificent plot of fertile hillside land, the cult set about
spreading its message, chiefly through a 163-page manifesto, ''A Timely
Message From Heaven: The End of the Present Times.''

Much of the book is devoted to the revelations that Mr. Kibwetere and other
cult leaders said they had received. The volume contains dark prophecies of
famines and wars, of rivers turning to blood and of food turning to poison.
It enumerates the problems that will be visited on particular countries:

The church's anger grew when he recruited two priests to his cause, and
eventually Mr. Kibwetere was excommunicated.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Death cult wife prays for protection
The Sunday Times (England), Mar. 26, 2000
(...) Theresa Kibwetere, the old woman who pokes open the door, is frail and
stooped, a pendant of the Pope strung around her neck. She is the wife of
Joseph Kibwetere, Uganda's most wanted man and the leader of a millennial
that has taken the lives of as many as 700 followers.

Theresa, a devout Roman Catholic, is coming to terms with the fact that her
estranged and demented husband could be a mass murderer.

The Kibweteres had been relatively untroubled by the chaos of Idi Amin's
rule, but they did not fare so well under Milton Obote, his successor. The
new president cracked down on tribes in the south.

Kibwetere, already embittered by his party's defeat in 1980 elections, lost
his job and many of his cattle were killed or stolen. Always a deeply
religious man, his fervour intensified, and in 1984 he told startled
colleagues that the Virgin Mary had appeared before him.

Five years later, in financial turmoil but religious ecstasy, Kibwetere
became convinced he was on the right path when a former prostitute called
Credonia Mwerinde claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in a cave in the
Nyakishenyi mountains near his home.

''The next thing we knew she was in our house and they had decided to start
their cult here,'' recalled Rugambwe. ''Soon she was beating us all. My
father was in awe of her and would do anything she said.''

Kibwetere initially chose 12 disciples to help him build hisso-called
Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. They included
his wife Theresa, Mwerinde and her two sisters. Soon there were more than 200
followers in the house.

The increasingly volatile Mwerinde was receiving ''messages'' from the Virgin
Mary almost constantly. She claimed they were coming through a hidden
telephone system that found a mouthpiece in objects such as cups and plates.

Richard Tumobwinje, now 24, who joined the cult with his mother and 10
siblings in 1995, is one of the few survivors. ''There were people dying from
malnutrition,'' he said.

''We woke at 3am and prayed for three hours, and then were forced to work in
the fields. We were told angels were protecting us but all this stuff about
talking to Jesus and Mary never happened.''

In early 1998 Mwerinde, Kibwetere and Kataribabo went on a trip, but most
followers were too ill to escape. When Mwerinde returned, Tumobwinje said,
she ''went crazy because we'd done no work''. ''She started using language
you wouldn't expect in heaven, and began throwing stones at us. I'd had

The previous year, however, the cult had been officially given permission to
teach its version of the commandments. John Ntegyereize, the local Anglican
bishop, was mystified. Last September, he had tried to inject some sense into
life at Kanungu, just half a mile from his own church.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Kibwetere's Wife Blames Cult For Family Break-Up
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), Mar. 27, 2000
Kampala - Doomsday cult leaders brought disharmony to the family of Joseph
Kibwetere, his wife Theresa has said, reports Innocent Nahabwe. Theresa, 64,
told The New Vision in an exclusive interview on Friday that her family had
been happy and peaceful until Kibwetere's fanatical commitment to the cult
brought in confusion and division.

She said she was a devout member of the cult but deserted it after its
leaders started using their visions to harass her and her children. ''We
fought them off the home,'' she said ''These women (Mwerinde and Ursula)
would say they had a vision that we wanted to put poison in their food and
that we should be beaten for it.

''My husband, who had never beaten any one of us, would then beat them
(children) heavily. This was unbelievable; we lost confidence in the cult.

She said her husband was to blame for the Kanungu mass killings, saying the
converts including her had joined because he was influential and was seen as
a model Catholic.

She said she believed that Kibwetere died in Kanungu because she saw a body
that looked like his and whose finger had a golden ring. Only Kibwetere wore
such as ring as the cult's bishop.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Apocalypse in Uganda
The Halifax Herald (Canada), Mar. 27, 2000 (Editorial)
In launching an inquiry into this month's fiery cult suicide that claimed
hundreds of lives in southern Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni blamed the
rise of apocalyptic sects in his country on the people's desperation to
attain a better life.

It is certainly true that modern Uganda is a place with extreme problems that
breed extreme solutions.

AIDS has hit the country hard. An estimated two million of the country's 23
million people are infected. Public education has now dented the mortality
rate, but a society of orphans has been left in the wake of the epidemic.

Then there is war. Uganda is embroiled in a continental clash in the
neighbouring Congo and is trying to put down an armed rebellion in the north.
A frightening Christian fundamentalist group, the Lord's Resistance Army,
wants to overthrow the government and impose a society based on the Ten
Commandments. These guerrillas are Christian in name only: their campaign to
forcibly recruit an army has resulted in the kidnapping of more than 10,000
children and in their subsequent rape, torture, enslavement and abuse.

Add to this the grinding poverty and high unemployment in rural areas and it
is no wonder the common folk search for deliverance.

Yet it has been the West's experience that prosperity and education cannot
contain human spiritual hunger. The appetite for salvation will always be
there, along with false prophets to feed it.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. Evidence Indicates Uganda Cult Held an Eerie Prelude to Fire
New York Times, Mar. 26, 2000
At least some of the 153 people who were killed at a secluded cult compound
in southwestern Uganda died several weeks before hundreds of followers of the
doomsday cult died in a raging inferno in their church eight days ago, the
police said today.

The fire here, and the discovery of the bodies of people who were apparently
killed weeks or even months ago, have bolstered the growing sense among
investigators that what happened in the Kanungu church was, on some level, a
carefully orchestrated act by the cult's leader, Joseph Kibwetere, and some
of his lieutenants.

More than a week after the Kanungu fire, investigators were only beginning
today to search another of the cult's sites, in the neighboring village of
Bushenyi. And investigators will never have the type of forensic evidence
that could have been gleaned from examination in a laboratory. But removing
the bodies would have been an enormous logistical challenge, even for a
police force with far more manpower and resources.

''This is a big problem for us because our police force is not fully
equipped,'' Mr. Mugenyi said. ''If we could get some international
assistance, we would welcome it. We need some experts, especially on
homicide, to help reinforce our team.''

Between 20 and 30 investigators are assigned to the case, he said, and ''even
those resources are not enough for them to do thorough work.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. Don't Feel Guilty Over Cult Horror- Bishop
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), Mar. 27, 2000
Kampala - Archbishop Paul Bakyenga of Mabarara yesterday told Roman Catholics
not to feel guilty over the Kanungu doomsday cult murder in which hundreds of
people were killed last week.

Conducting mass for the Mbarara Archdiocese Development Association at Avemar
Shopping Centre in Kampala, Bakyenga said the cult leaders and members had
broken away from the Church.

''Feel guilty as a nation, but not as a Catholic. I don't feel guilty, I feel
sad,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Why Are Ugandans Drawn To Cults?
The Monitor (Uganda), Mar. 25, 2000 (Editorial)
(...) Such things were meant to happen in America and elsewhere, but not in
sub-Saharan Africa where people still had well-grounded social and spiritual

I will understand if people heap blame and ridicule on Joseph Kibwetere's
murder victims. I know they will be labelled weird, gullible, stupid, evil or
even deviant nincompoops.

But labelling these people stupid nut-heads will not do. Instead of passing
emotional moral judgement on the victims, we must ask ourselves a few

What is it about cults that robs ordinary humans of the natural desire for
self-preservation on earth?

Clearly space does not allow one to do justice to these questions, and I do
not have answers to all of them. But a good dose of humility will be
necessary, for the majority of us are more vulnerable to some cult's pitch
than we are willing to admit.

Indeed some have already succumbed to cult control though they seem to live
perfectly normal lives.

For example, the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, one of the most
virulent cults operating today has already hooked some of Uganda's top
leaders - some of whom are probably shocked by the actions of Joseph
Kibwetere in Kanungu.

Others have surrendered their minds to be used by politicians and established
religions, never questioning or challenging them, simply happy to sing songs
of praise to their leaders.

It is not far-fetched to suggest that given the right conditions, a good
manipulator could take over their minds and use them at will with tragic

''Not me,'' you say? How many times have you suspended your capacity for
disbelief and failed to question statements and actions by others?

When was the last time you questioned the teachings of your priest or mullah?

Indeed when was the last time you questioned the teachings of your religion's
Book, whether it is the Koran, the Bible or the Torah or the oral claims of
your ancestral faith?

A cult is any group which has a pyramid type authoritarian leadership
structure with all teaching and guidance coming from the person or persons at
the top.

The group claims to be the only way to God, heaven, the truth, happiness and
so on, and uses thought reform or mind control techniques to gain and keep
control of their members.

A cult, whether religious, political, military, psychological or commercial,
is centred on the leader who is venerated to the point of sainthood. The
leader cannot be wrong and his beliefs and pronouncements on all subjects,
whether philosophical or trivial, are blindly accepted by the followers.

Using persuasive techniques, the leader and his or her trusted aides use
coercive means to recruit into the ranks of the cult, making sure that they
keep the true nature of their beliefs and actions hidden from the recruits
and the public at large. The recruits are talked into surrendering their
money and worldly possessions to the cult, and the leader invariably demands
and obtains sexual favours from the followers.

Nearly all cults believe that their leader is the ultimate font of truth and
that everybody else is wrong. Part of the appeal of these cults is that they
fulfil a need that society cannot provide and they promise quick fixes for
life's complex problems and challenges.

The question of course is why people who appear to be normal readily offer
unquestioning obedience to a cult leader and have no trouble following the
cult's arbitrary rules and regulations.

In my view, our traditional authoritarian upbringing, where we are socialised
never to question or challenge authority - our parents and elders, teachers,
religious and political leaders - restricts independent and critical
thinking, and the exercise of a free will. Could this blind subservience to
authority be a central reason why otherwise normal people readily obey a cult
leader's command to commit suicide or to destroy the cult's enemies?

In a free society, it will be difficult to outlaw cults of this nature. After
all one person's cult is another person's religion.

However, I shared Minister of State Amama Mbabazi's frustration when he told
Sunday Vision that the Kanungu tragedy ''calls on the state to review the
issue of cults and see what measures to take to protect the ordinary people
from cult leaders.''

If the state is serious about this tragedy, then they will have to examine
all cults including the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, and not
just those which exist on the frayed edges of our society.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. A Crazy Way To Die!
The News/Africa News Online (Nigeria), Mar. 27, 2000(Printed edition: April 3,
2000) (Editorial)
(...) As the Ugandan tragedy again shows, the tribe of crazy religionists is
growing and they are spreading their tentacles far and wide. Research
indicates that some of the most vulnerable people are those who dismissively
think 'it can't happen to me' but do nothing to stop their drift into
cultism. The danger signs are flashing everywhere in Nigeria, today.
Extremist Muslims, puritanic christians, crazy mind explorationists of all
sorts, are everyday hijacking attention. And, for the love of your God and
humanity, also for being myopic, you may be the next to fall into the
cultists' trap. Be on your guard!
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

19. Records outline Scientology case
St. Petersburg Times, Mar. 26, 2000
(...) Wood refuses to say what finally tipped the scale, prompting her to
rule last month that McPherson's death was an accident. But records from her
office examined by the St. Petersburg Times show she reviewed a wide array of
materials seriously challenging her original conclusion that McPherson had
died from a blood clot in her lung caused by ''bed rest and severe

The volume and scope of the records also reveal the lengths to which
Scientology has gone to defend itself against criminal charges in McPherson's
death -- charges it contends are threatening its reputation and viability,
not only in Clearwater but throughout the world.

The church's strategy is reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson murder case in 1995
when defense attorneys meticulously picked away at the handling of blood
samples and other forensic evidence, creating doubt among jurors.

In the McPherson case, however, the all-out attack on the state's medical
evidence is occurring well ahead of a trial. The church's Clearwater entity
was charged in 1998 with abuse of a disabled adult and practicing medicine
without a license, both felonies.

The stakes for Scientology apparently are high. In a recent court filing, the
church contends the prosecution puts an unconstitutional burden on a
religion, arguing in part that the case might even threaten its cherished and
hard-won tax-exempt status from the IRS.

The records reviewed by the Times suggest Wood, who has been medical examiner
since 1982, did not change her decision lightly.

She marked many of the church's materials with scribbled words and
underlines, often pointedly disagreeing with Scientology's arguments.

Eventually, however, she changed the manner of McPherson's death from
''undetermined'' to ''accident.'' She removed ''bed rest and severe
dehydration'' as a cause of death. Instead, she blamed a bruise on
McPherson's left knee, concluding it led to a fatal blood clot that
eventually lodged in the left lung.

Wood would not comment for this story. But, in response to a Times public
records request, her office produced the records she considered before
reaching her decision.

Public records also reveal she called on unnamed ''other experts'' not
connected to the church.

Wood's new ruling has forced prosecutors to review whether they still have a
case. The church, meanwhile, is using the ruling as its lead argument to have
the case dismissed. A hearing on that issue is scheduled April 5 before Chief
Circuit Judge Susan F. Schaeffer.

Marty Rathbun, a top Scientology official, said the church could have waited
until a trial to bring forth the evidence. But that would have harmed ''the
credibility of many persons in a fashion that would have made them appear
incompetent to the community,'' he said.

Instead, the church took a quieter, more ''responsible'' course, he said.
''Our view is if a mistake has been made, we'd want somebody to tell us so
that we could correct it. . . . Our goal was not to discredit the medical
examiner or show how unfounded the state's investigation was.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Mormonism

20. Was There a Secret Order to Wipe Out Mormon Church?
Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 26, 2000
Was there ever a ''secret order'' to wipe out the Mormon Church if its
leaders failed to raise a 500-man army during the Mexican War in 1846-47?

There is some indication to that effect. Leaders of the modern-day Mormon
Battalion cite as evidence talks that Brigham Young and his second counselor
in the First Presidency, Jedediah M. Grant, gave at a Mormon Battalion
Festival in the Social Hall in Salt Lake City on Feb. 6, 1855, eight years
after the battalion was discharged in California.

However, not all accept the ''secret order'' account.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. 3 bishops can't be charged
Deseret News/AP, Mar. 26 ,2000
The Cache County attorney says he won't be able to prosecute three LDS
bishops who may have failed to report allegations of child abuse.

Cache County Attorney Scott Wyatt has expressed concern that three clergy
members knew about the alleged abuse.

On Wednesday, Wyatt expanded those concerns to include ''at least a dozen''
people, including family members, a counselor and the bishops.

But Wyatt also said his office will be unable to prosecute any of the alleged
failure-to-report cases because the statute of limitations has expired.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. RLDS Seek to End Mormon Confusion
Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 25, 2000
The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will consider
changing its name during its upcoming World Conference, partly to end
confusion with the Mormon Church, its larger Utah-based theological cousin.

The proposal, to be considered by RLDS delegates at the faith's April 1
through 9 biennial meetings in Independence, Mo., asks that the church be
known as the Community of Christ. The RLDS name would be used in official

''There are two points to consider,'' RLDS President W. Grant McMurray
explained. ''One, does our current name adequately express who we are and
what our mission is in the world, and two, can we continue to live with the
confusion that exists that we are part of the Mormon Church.''

The latter point appears the most pressing, McMurray indicated, noting RLDS
missionaries are often confused with Mormons. The similarity in names also
causes problems in trying to register the RLDS abroad, he said in a telephone

The 250,000-member RLDS, headquartered in Independence, Mo., separated from
what is now the 10 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
after a dispute over prophetic succession following the assassination of
founder Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844.

While the majority of Mormons accepted Brigham Young as Smith's successor and
followed him on the exodus to Salt Lake City, others recognized Smith's son,
Joseph Smith III, as the new prophet and president.

The RLDS and Mormon Church share common terminology. Both have a First
Presidency composed of church presidents and two counselors, a Council of
Twelve Apostles who help administer church programs, and organizational units
such as Seventies, Quorums and Stakes.

Both also include in their scriptural canons Smith's Book of Mormon and
versions of the Doctrine and Convenants, along with the Bible.

However, those areas are generally where similarities end, McMurray said.

''You have to understand that the RLDS Church and the Mormon Church share a
14-year slice of history, that's it. We separated in 1844 and have developed
on entirely different tracks in all the years since then,'' McMurray said.

If the possible name change is not enough to stir energetic debate, RLDS
delegates are sure to find cause for it on several other proposals being put
before the convention, which follows the April 1 and 2 LDS Church weekend
conference in Salt Lake City.

The Honduras region of the RLDS has recommended the church accept baptisms of
other Christian denominations when considering new members, rather than
requiring them to be re-baptized.

From Australian RLDS members comes another potential hot potato, ''a proposal
to encourage the faithful to renounce personal use of firearms as a personal
steward of peace.''

He also expects controversy over a suggested resolution opposing the death
penalty, though RLDS leaders have long favored ''restorative justice'' to
capital punishment, McMurray said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Jehovah's Witnesses

23. Own blood saves Jehovah witness
The Journal (England), Mar. 25, 2000
(...) He was told that without an operation, the artery would burst and he
would die but Albert, 69, from Low Fell, Gateshead, refused to go ahead with
the procedure if it meant a transfusion.

''I have been a Jehovah's Witness for 45 years and was not prepared to go
back on my principles,'' he said.

Using a technique known as ''cell saver'' or ''salvaging'', the surgical team
successfully carried out the operation without using any donor blood or
putting the patient's life at risk.

The method works by taking out the patients' own blood, cleaning it and
pumping it back in as quickly as it is being lost.

This is the first time an operation of this kind has been carried out in the
North-East and Jehovah's representatives in the region have welcomed the
surgical breakthrough.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Witchcraft

24. Gender and Witchcraft Killings In Tanzania
TOMRIC Agency/Africa News Online (Tanzania), Mar. 27, 2000
Dar Es Salaam - In few months ago the Catholic Church of Tanzania expressed
its intention to establish radio programs in areas mostly affected by
witchcraft-related killings. Through their broadcast programs the Church
members would appeal to the community to get out of their beliefs that woman
with red eyes, is a witch and therefore must be eliminated.

The radio would broadcast religious programs to predominantly pagan
population, especially Shinyanga region in northern Tanzania where more
witchcraft-related killings are being reported, says Reverend Norbert Kija
also coordinator of the project.

Last year in September the Shinyanga Regional Police Regional Commander, Mr.
Wolfgang Gumbu reported that 256 old women were murdered in connection with
witchcraft suspects.

Reports in another regions including its neighboring Tabora in the western
part of Tanzania, show that more than 500 people, most of them women, were
killed in various witchcraft incidents during the last four years.

Research under a sponsorship of the Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA)
reveal that in 1997, 399 people in Shinyanga region had been killed on
witchcraft beliefs system. Of these 90 percent were old women who were
suspected to be witches.

Countrywide REPOA says that 1233 people were killed for the same reason
during the same period. Shinyanga, the region whose residents are farmers and
animal keepers, accounts for 32 percent of all murders. According to them, 43
percent of the victims were killed due to witchcraft suspect.

Researchers say that the causes of women witches killing as being reported by
their respondents, is superstition followed by lack of education.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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» Part 2