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Religion News Report

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

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» Part 1

=== 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


=== Islam

25. Members of heretical Muslim sect appear in Egyptian court
Arabia Online/AFP, Mar. 27, 2000
http://www.akhbar.com/article/1,1690,ArabiaLife-16695,00.html
Sixteen members of a Muslim sect led by a woman claiming powers as a medium
appeared before Cairo's state security court Monday accused of heresy, said
the court's chief prosecutor Hisham Saraya.

Their leader, Manal Wahid Mane'a, a 41-year-old political science graduate
from Cairo University, claimed to be in spiritual contact with the dead
leader of a Sufi sect, Omar Hassanein Bayumi, Saraya told reporters.
(...)

Claiming to be following the dead guru's instructions, she allegedly exempted
some of her followers from daily prayers, one of the five religious duties of
Muslims.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. First Nigerian has hand amputated under sharia
AOL/Reuters, Mar. 23, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=0003230139113802
The first Nigerian convicted of theft under Islamic sharia law had his hand
amputated in front of a cheering crowd in the northern state of Zanfara, the
state government said Thursday.

Zanfara's introduction of sharia has plunged Nigeria into tension and
provoked bloody Muslim-Christian clashes. Many Nigerians say sharia threatens
the unity of the multi-ethnic country of more than 103 million people.
(...)

While the adoption of sharia was greeted with jubilation in Zamfara, whose
population is almost entirely Muslim, plans by more cosmopolitan states in
the largely Islamic north to follow have set Muslims and Christians against
each other.

Hundreds of people died in sectarian clashes in the northern city of Kaduna
between Feb. 21 and 23. Northern Muslims were killed in reprisal attacks in
the largely Christian southeast.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Muslim Teacher's Lawsuit Rejected
AOL/AP, Mar. 24, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=0003240208166012
A state court rejected a suit Friday by a Muslim teacher against school
officials who declined to hire her because she insisted on wearing a
headscarf in class.

State officials decided last year not to approve the 27-year-old woman's
application to teach, citing their responsibility to provide a neutral
atmosphere for students to study.

But Ferestha Ludin, a German citizen of Afghan descent, argued that the
German constitution guarantees freedom of religion and thought.

At the same time she said she was not trying to force her political views or
make a show of fundamentalism by wearing the scarf. She said it was a part of
her personality, and not wearing it was for her a form of nakedness.
(...)

She now teaches at a private school in Berlin, but has said she intends to
pursue her case to a higher court if necessary.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

28. Top theologian revises Biblical prohibitions
The Times (England), Mar. 27, 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/03/27/x-timnwsnws01013.html
A leading Church of England theologian has called for a revision of the
Christian stance against homosexuality, prostitution and drugs.

John Elford, Canon Theologian of Liverpool Cathedral, argues that the
widespread belief that the Bible prohibits active homosexual relationships is
a false combination of prejudice and ignorance. In a book to be published
next month, he calls for the decriminalisation of prostitution and drugs, and
mounts an attack on the Pope and other conservatives who defend traditional
moral certainties.

The book, The Ethics of Uncertainty, will add to the controversy over
homosexuality in the Anglican Communion. Dr Elford, Pro-Rector Emeritus of
Liverpool's Hope University, argues that the Bible does not take a view on
homosexuality and notes that Jesus, who lived a celibate lifestyle with 12
male Apostles, never mentions the subject.
(...)

Dr Elford urges the decriminalisation of prostitution, which he says was part
of some ancient religious cultic practices. Prostitution can help to mitigate
offences such as child abuse and rape, he argues, adding that prostitutes are
vulnerable people who suffer from economic exploitation.

On drugs, he questions whether all hard and soft drugs should not be
legalised to bring addicts out of their ''shadowy underworld'' so that they
could be cared for. ''We must put that righteousness aside and begin
afresh,'' Dr Elford says.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Jewish Groups Angered Over Film
AOL/AP, Mar. 24, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=02&id=0003240639176204
A Jewish organization is angry about what it calls deceptive advertising
about a television film, ''The Rabbi,'' that reportedly ends with the lead
character converting to Christianity.

The film is scheduled to be broadcast on the 43 Pax-TV affiliates across the
country at midnight on Saturday. It was advertised this week in several
Jewish publications, including The Jewish Press and The Jewish Week.
(...)

The film was produced by a San Diego-based Christian organization, Morris
Cerullo World Evangelism, according to the Jewish Community Relations Council
of New York.

''It's nothing other than a proselytizing tool attempting to deceive Jews to
abandon their own religion,'' said Michael Miller, the council's executive
vice president.

He said the film ends with the lead character converting to Christianity.
(...)

''Cerullo has a long history of engaging in attempts to convert members of
our community,'' Miller said. ''With this latest manifestation of his
missionary tactics, he has stooped to a new low. If Rev. Cerullo believes his
message is so powerful, why does he resort to deceit.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Doomsday alert over robots
The Express (England), Mar. 26, 2000
http://www.lineone.net/express/00/03/26/news/n4220robots-d.html
Forget global warming, Frankenfoods and even nuclear war. Mankind is on the
brink of extinction in 50 years unless something is done very quickly. The
agents of our destruction will be the very machines and computers that are
the lifeblood of the 21st Century economy.

This grim prophesy has not been made by a fanatic or science fiction writer
but by Bill Joy, co-founder and chief programmer of Sun Microsystems, the
world's biggest software company after Microsoft.

In what many commentators are comparing to Einstein's 1939 letter to
President Roosevelt, when the world's greatest genius warned the US President
of the terrible consequences of deciding to build a nuclear bomb, Joy has
written a terrifying, 20,000-word warning to humanity in the US technology
magazine Wired.

Joy states that within 30 years computers will be so powerful, they could
decide to dispense with humanity.
(...)

If the computers don't get us first, we are in grave danger from another
technology - the nanomachines. Billions of dollars are being invested in
trying to build sub-microscopic machines and circuits - nanobots - atom by
atom. These will revolutionise manufacturing technology but also have the
potential to eliminate all life on Earth, out-evolving flesh, blood, leaves
and wood to cover the planet with what Joy calls ''grey goo''.

Computers are evolving so fast that a truly intelligent machine - whether
conscious or not is irrelevant, Joy says - is only about 30 years away. By
then, computers will be a million times faster than they are today, easily
able to outperform the human brain. Once that happens, Joy says, we have had
it.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. New Age takes up residence on coast
The Oregonian, Mar. 25, 2000
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?
/news/oregonian/00/03/nw_71love25.frame
GARDINER -- The former headquarters of a forest-industry giant soon will be
home to a New Age religious group from California that espouses love,
spiritual power and communal living, while selling liquor-license consulting
services.
(...)

Living Love Fellowship, a nonprofit religious corporation, and its for-profit
sister Compliance Service of America, a consulting firm, are moving in April
into one of the finest office spaces on the Southern Oregon coast: the former
International Paper mill office.

The owners of the former Santa Rosa, Calif., companies, who are renting a
ranch in Roseburg, call themselves Amadonians and spread their message via
the Internet. Amadon is a figure in ''The Urantia Book,'' purported to be a
bible authored by extraterrestrials who refer to Earth as Urantia, according
to religion scholars. Amadon is a heroic character who keeps his faith when
those around him give up and follow Lucifer.
(...)

Compliance employees run Living Love Fellowship in their spare time,
answering spiritual and relationship questions online at
www.livinglovefellowship.org. Their leader, Steve Arden, also known as Amadon
Amadon, will publish his spiritual works online.

The blend of New Age religion and entrepreneurship didn't work for two former
employees in Santa Rosa who filed a sexual harassment and religious
discrimination lawsuit in 1996 against the companies, known then as
Compliance Specialists and Havona.

Karen Rothaermel and Lisa Hertel said in the suit that employees were
encouraged to touch one another and to allow themselves to be touched. They
also said they were urged not to repress their sexuality at work.

Schorske said the lawsuit forced the companies to file bankruptcy and settle
out of court for an undisclosed sum in 1996. The partners re-incorporated as
Compliance Service of America and Living Love Fellowship and moved to Oregon
last year.
(...)

The lawsuit portrayed Arden as a foul-mouthed zealot who psychologically
controlled his workers. The two women said he walked through the office daily
to evaluate the spiritual and psychological state of employees' minds,
frequently touching them and asking about their personal lives.

Rothaermel, a receptionist, and Hertel, a saleswoman, said Arden went too far
several times, asking Hertel about her sex life and telling her she needed to
show more cleavage. Rothaermel said Arden kissed her on the lips during a
weekly spiritual meeting that the employees were pressured to attend.
(...)

Nontraditional religious and spiritual communities historically have found
room to settle in rural Oregon, but the state's experience with the
Rajneeshees in the 1980s left many suspicious of such groups. The Rajneeshees
turned a ranch in Central Oregon into a small city in defiance of state
land-use planning laws. Two former leaders were sentenced to prison for
plotting to kill the U.S. attorney. Others pleaded guilty or were convicted
of crimes including immigration fraud, attempted murder, burglary, arson,
illegal wiretapping and poisoning 700 people with salmonella in The Dalles.

Founders of Heaven's Gate, whose members committed mass suicide in California
in 1997, believing they would be taken aboard a UFO, recruited members in
Waldport, Newport and Eugene.

Scholars who study U.S. religions had not heard of the Amadonians but were
familiar with Urantia, which one professor described as a ''quiet, tame
little group.''

''Within the movement, you get a whole range from bored housewives to fringe
hippie types, all of whom have found some inspiration in the book,'' said J.
Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion
in Santa Barbara, Calif.

''It's not a classic religious cult. It's more like somebody trying to build
an extended family . . . an artificial family,'' Melton said.

The Amadonians refer to their group as ''the family'' or ''the community.''
Susan Ingalls spent five years with the Amadonians in Santa Rosa before
leaving to pursue a different career. She lived communally with them for a
month.
(...)

Unlike Amadonians, Urantia followers usually don't live communally. Instead,
they meet in study groups to discuss ''The Urantia Book,'' according to
Melton.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Mary 'appears' near Elian
Miami Herald, Mar. 26, 2000
http://www.herald.com/content/sun/docs/025573.htm
A cloud-like image believed by some to be an apparition of the Virgin Mary
graced the window pane of a Miami bank located just blocks from the home of
Elian Gonzalez Saturday -- stopping traffic and offering hope to hundreds of
supporters who want to keep the Cuban boy here.
(...)

Some people rubbed their babies against the window pane for good luck. Others
scrubbed the surface with paper towels to see if they could make the image go
away.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

33. 'Trust in God and everything will be alright'
The Irish Times (Ireland), Mar. 22, 2000
http://scripts.ireland.com/search/highlight.plx?
TextRes=cult&Path=/newspaper/features/2000/0322/fea2.htm
In the second part of an investigation into cults in Ireland Kellie Russell
looks at the case of student Mairead Furlong with the Dublin International
Church of Christ

(...)

DIT communications student Mairead Furlong joined the Dublin International
Church of Christ, also known as the Boston Movement, after she was approached
on the street.
(...)

Soon she was locked into what she describes as the church's fear-driven
autocratic regime of street evangelising, bible study and analysed
confessions. ''They paired you up with members who'd been turned into amateur
psychoanalysts, but they didn't have a clue,'' she says.

''They blamed problems or temptations on my relationship with family.
Basically they said all my friends and family were going straight to hell.
They didn't even want me to go home to Wexford for Christmas.''

Each member was forced to knock on doors for donations to ''overseas
missions'' and to contribute at least 10 per cent of their gross weekly
income to the church - for Mairead that meant a large portion of her meagre
student grant. She also had to make ''special contributions'' amounting to at
least 16 times that sum. She still has no idea where the money went.
(...)

She herself has rejected the mainline churches, so is reluctant to endorse
Dialogue Ireland. But she says there's a real need for independent study of
new religious movements in Ireland.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* About the International Churches of Christ (a cult both sociologically and
theologically)


34. Faith dealers
The Sunday Times (UK), Mar. 26, 2000
http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/2000/03/26/stiireifc01002.html
(...) Thousands in Ireland are on similar quests. Catholics still believe in
God (96%), a soul (85%), heaven (85%) and sin (84%), but increasingly like to
plot their path to salvation without interference from priests.

From a high-water mark of moral authority in the 1950s, the Catholic church's
influence has declined. Since 1992, its popularity has been further
diminished by a string of scandals involving clerics, some as senior and
popular as Bishop Eamon Casey.
(...)

In Dublin last weekend, 6,000 people paid 5 each to enter the Mind Body
Spirit festival, where Scientiologists and shamanic drummers, the Alpha and
Omega Order of Melchizedec and the Complete Crystal Control progamme vied for
their attention.

''Ireland is mission territory,'' said Fr Martin Tierney, the leading
Catholic authority on new religious groups. It is a richly ironic statement.
For centuries this small country sent missionaries around the world to
convert pagans. Now preachers from Britain, America and the East are flocking
here to convert lapsed Catholics to their codes.

Tierney says the Catholic church itself is partly responsible. ''The weakness
of the church is helping these new movements,'' he said. ''It may be the
mainstream churches are not preaching the real message of Christ. As priests,
we were never taught to go out and preach the gospel.''

The Bible-based religious movements are indeed a success in Ireland,
particularly Jehovah's Witnesses. But the biggest growth, Tierney says, is in
new age and alternative philosophies of life.
(...)

MIKE GARDE is a cult buster. Officially he is a field worker who reports to
Dialogue Ireland, a group of clerics from the four main churches who keep an
eye on cults and sects. Garde, a Mennonite, gathers information about fringe
religious groups and uses it to stall their advances by delivering lectures
to students in Irish schools. He also helps to ''deprogram'' (provide exit
counselling for) people who leave cults, a process not unlike an exorcism.
(...)

The Church of Scientology is also a spent force, Garde believes. It may claim
up to 200 members, but he reckons it has no more than 40 and notes, with
satisfaction, that the church has abandoned two floors in its premises in
Middle Abbey Street, Dublin.

But if they are on the retreat, the Scientologists are not leaving quietly.
Gerard Ryan, a Dublin architect and their spokesman, questions Garde's
credentials. ''He is paid to oppose these religious minorities,'' Ryan says.
''Thus it could be argued that he has a financial interest in the perception
of danger [from cults]. If there was no perception of danger, would he have a
job?''

Garde counters that his earnings before tax last year were 12,250. He gets
7,000 a year from the churches and makes approximately 35 for each school
visit. ''This is a vocation for me, not a money-spinner,'' he said. ''I get a
lot of financial support from my family.''

There is no official definition of a cult, however. Experts agree that they
are led by a charismatic figure who wields a high degree of control over
members, who eventually suffer obvious psychological damage.

One person's cult is another's religion, of course, and the mainstream
churches avoid the term, preferring to talk about ''new religious
movements''.
(...)

The most successful are not new to the world, just to Ireland. They include
the Mormons, with about 6,000 members, and Jehovah's Witnesses, with 5,000,
including 788 paid missionaries operating from 100 premises. ''We find people
are more disposed to listen, more tolerant,'' said Aidan Matthews, a
presiding minister. ''The atmosphere in the country is more open. There are a
lot more people searching for a spiritual dimension in their lives.''
(...)

The new pariah, as far as Garde is concerned, is the International Churches
of Christ
. Also known as the Boston Movement, the group is under intense
British media scrutiny because it specialises in recruiting rural students,
who must pay one-tenth of their income into church coffers and are sent out
to win a target number of converts.
(...)

Frances Egan, from Galway, was initially relaxed when her daughter,
Katherine, joined the International Churches of Christ in December 1996, aged
19. ''I thought it was a phase she was going through,'' she said.

By the following summer she was worried. When her daughter came home, church
members kept ringing her. ''They seemed concerned that she was out of their
grasp.'' Apart from the tithe, twice a year Katherine had to pay 16 times the
regular donation into church coffers. She started to bring recruiting
material home, spending every minute of the day on church business. Finally
Egan had enough and brought her daughter to London for ''exit counselling''.
Katherine went willingly.

Tim, a Protestant from Waterford, was 17 and a student in Belfast when, in
1994, he was recruited off the street by the International Churches of
Christ. Soon he, too, was evangelising.

''In Dublin, it was enforced. Church members were supposed to go out every
day,'' Tim said. ''You were expected to stay out until you got someone's
phone number. Then there were target months, when you had to get a certain
number of recruits. I found it difficult. I once got 23 out of a target of 25
and was very pleased, but when I got home I was admonished.''

It was little things that turned him off the group. The leaders were
manipulative; they treated people as numbers, even referred to recruits as
''stats''. ''Whenever I would not agree with our leader on a point, we never
sat down and discussed it,'' Tim said. ''It was a moral fault of mine that
was to blame. I got a series of unsatisfactory answers to legitimate
questions.''

He left after two years.
(...)

''If I had stayed longer, I would have been much more damaged. I found it
difficult to readjust afterwards. For example, I found it difficult to make
decisions about my free time.''
(...)

The Magnificat Meal Movement arrives in Ireland on Friday. The breakaway
Catholic cult, with its leader, Debra Geilesky, is likely to attract sizeable
crowds on a nationwide tour, even though it preaches that mass is invalid and
Catholics risk their salvation by participation in it.

The group is based in Australia and was at the centre of a suicide scare last
September, when some followers said Geilesky was having visions that she
would die on 9/9/99. She claims to receive messages directly from God.

Catholic priests in Australia say the ingredients for tragedy exist because
of her dominant personality, and the hierarchial nature of the group,
including the existence of ''slaves''. Queensland bishops have urged
Catholics to leave. Bishop John Ryan said: ''I think lots of good people are
trapped in there and deluded.''
[....more...]


35. Sodom and Gomorrah are 'found at bottom of Dead Sea'
The Telegraph, Mar. 26 ,2000
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?rtmo=quJbqtp9&atmo=lllllljx&pg=/et/00/3/26/wsod26.html
A Bible scholar believes that he has found the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah,
the evil cities destroyed by God with fire and brimstone, after leading the
first expedition to explore the bottom of the Dead Sea.

Michael Sanders and an international team of researchers discovered what
appear to be the salt-encrusted remains of ancient settlements on the seabed
after several fraught weeks diving in a mini submarine. Mr Sanders, a Briton
who is now based in the United States, said yesterday that he was ''immensely
excited'' about the find, and he is already planning a follow-up expedition.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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36. How it started
The Orlando Sentinel, Mar. 26, 2000
http://orlandosentinel.com/automagic/news/2000-03-26/
NWSVSAN26032600.html
(...) Originating in west Africa, Santeria arrived in the Caribbean aboard
slave ships and has evolved for centuries.
(...)

The Catholic Church frowns on Santeria, but even some faithful Catholics
mingle the two religions.

Like many Hispanics who don't agree with the church's stance, Gomez said
spirituality should be like sex -- it's nobody else's business. Still, he's
not ashamed to admit what he believes: God is real. Demons exist in the
world. And there are people with inexplicable powers who can use them to do
good or evil.
(...)

It's an eclectic tradition that, for many Latin Americans, is a comfortable
blend of Christian doctrines and ancient African beliefs that came with
slaves to Cuba and other islands.
(...)

Maldonado's own beliefs show how Santeria has changed since its arrival in
the Western Hemisphere. The Puerto Rico native doesn't consider herself a
santera at all, but rather a ''spiritualist.'' Although her faith
incorporates Santeria's saints, Maldonado doesn't follow many of the
religion's customs.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Ex-inmates urge end to executions
Dallas Morning News, Mar. 26, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/54948_EXECUTE26.html
Decrying the fact that innocent people can be sentenced to die, two former
death row inmates urged the state Saturday to halt Texas executions and iron
out a flawed legal system.

In a brief, emotional meeting with Texas defense lawyers, Randall Dale Adams
and Clarence Brandley described their convictions, years on death row and
eventual freedom.
(...)

Mr. Adams spent 12 years in prison for killing a Dallas police officer. Three
days before his execution date, the Texas Supreme Court spared his life. He
was freed in 1989 after his accuser recanted.

Mr. Brandley was freed five days before his death chamber date after 10 years
on death row.
(...)

The former high school janitor implored Texas Gov. George W. Bush to ''just
sign the papers'' to put a stop to capital punishment.

''I don't know how anybody can get up Sunday morning and go to church and
call themselves Christians,'' Mr. Brandley said.

Mr. Bush, who rarely discusses the death penalty, has said that Texas has
never executed an innocent person. The governor's office maintains that Mr.
Bush does not have the legal authority to declare a moratorium.

The death row survivors were joined by Joyce Ann Brown, who spent nine years
in prison for allegedly fatally shooting a Dallas fur store owner during a
robbery. Ms. Brown was later cleared and has since written a book, Justice
Denied .

''We were not the only innocent people in prison,'' Ms. Brown said. ''We were
the blessed ones, because somebody came to see about us.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The publisher of Apologetics Index is a member of Amnesty International,
and supports that organization in calls to abolish the death penalty, as
well as for the USA to put an end to human rights abuses in and by the
USA.