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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - Apr. 22, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 191) - 2/3

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21. Judge not hurrying church decision
22. Liberty, Equality, Intolerance
23. Church and politicians issue warning on sects
24. Few guests at exhibition

=== Unification Church
25. Controversial church regains rights at UNLV

=== Landmark Education
26. In the grip of the therapy tough-guys

=== Islam
27. Muslim group notes discrimination in U.S.

=== Witchcraft / Paganism
28. Students take Elwood school system to court

=== Other News
29. Police Probe Iganga 'Cult' (Isa Masiya)
30. Chaos After ''Rastafarians'' Resist Arrest
31. Israeli police suspect attempted murder in hit and run on rabbi
from messianic sect (Lubavitcher movement)
32. Wanted: the devilís disciple
33. Greece has own 'Elian' battle - over religious beliefs
34. Trial near in O'Hair mystery
35. Teens Shot on Good Friday Pilgrimage
36. Spiritual healer held on sex-assault charges
37. Faith healer faces sex charges
38. Occult sites 'lure' teenagers
39. Exiled leader fears Panchen Lama is being brainwashed
40. World View: Christians in Zimbabwe Say No to Talks
41. Catholic group gives Harry Potter approval
42. Vatican catches Pokemon fever

=== Scientology

21. Judge not hurrying church decision
St. Petersburg Times, Apr. 20, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/News/042000/news_pf/
TampaBay/Judge_not_hurrying_ch.shtml
      TAMPA -- A judge said Wednesday he will take some time to decide whether
      Scientology leader David Miscavige should remain a defendant in a wrongful
      death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology in Clearwater.
      (...)

      The lawsuit was filed in early 1997 against the Church of Scientology's
      Clearwater entity and several Scientologists, all of whom are accused of
      causing the 1995 death of church member Lisa McPherson while in the care of
      church staffers. Miscavige was added as a defendant in December 1999. His New
      York attorney, Samuel D. Rosen, argued Wednesday that leaves little time for
      him and his client to prepare for the June trial.

      Rosen also criticized Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar, saying he has accused
      Miscavige in McPherson's death without any evidence to back it up. Dandar
      represents McPherson's estate, which brought the lawsuit. Rosen urged Moody
      to remove Dandar from the case.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Liberty, Equality, Intolerance
Los Angeles Times, Apr. 21, 2000 (Opinion)
http://www.latimes.com/print/editorials/20000421/t000037673.html
      (...) France is unique among European countries in establishing a government
      panel specifically to foster intolerance of religious groups, unabashedly
      calling it the Interministerial Mission to Combat Sects.
      (...)

      On the international stage, the French government is certainly paying the
      price of setting up a ''new inquisition'' in a government office that turns
      the Constitution on its head. The International Helsinki Federation, based in
      Vienna, has bluntly criticized the ''manifold pattern of virtual
      persecution'' of religions in France. The IHF particularly condemned a
      parliamentary report that effectively blacklisted more than 170 religious
      movements, including the Baptists--the religion of the U.S. president and
      vice president. Expert scholars, organized by the Catholic Church, also
      denounced the parliamentary report as unscientific and discriminatory.
      (...)

      Scientology's religious bona fides have been established through scores of
      judicial and government rulings, and its future in Europe is assured. But
      what of the current French government's increasingly negative attitude toward
      democratic values and human rights? We believe the U.S. State Department is
      taking the right approach. U.S. diplomats have continued to document the
      abuses in their annual human rights reports while they are seeking to
      persuade French officials to open a dialogue with the targeted faiths.
      It is time for France, which gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States,
      to return the ideal and reality of religious freedom to its native soil.

      - - -
      The Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch Is President of the Church of Scientology
      International, Based in Los Angeles
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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      *      This is simply the same old Church of Scientology rhetoric. Whenever
            and where ever the organization is investigated or challenged, it resorts
            to accusations of "human rights abuses," claiming that its opponents
            are "anti-religious." France, of course, enjoys complete freedom of
            religion. But unlike in the USA, France recognizes that freedom comes
            with certain responsibilities. Like many other countries, it does not
            allow crimes to be committed under the guise of "religion." France is
            to be commended for its efforts at providing what amounts to consumer
            protection against such cults as the Church of Scientology.

            About Scientology
            http://www.apologeticsindex.org/s04.html


23. Church and politicians issue warning on sects
Berliner Kurier (Germany), Apr. 19, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000419d.htm
      (...) At the moment it is the ''Scientology Organization'' (SO) which is
      trying to gain a foothold in Berlin. ''Scientology is under great pressure
      because it has money problems,'' presumes state church sect commissioner
      Thomas Gandow. In his opinion, the controversial organization is mainly on
      the look-out for people who are new to the city and who do not yet have
      social connections. Those would include the approximately 8,000 first
      semester college students, many of whom have just recently arrived in Berlin.

      The Youth Union (JU) mobilized resistance on short notice and protested
      against the SO exhibition, which opened yesterday. ''This sect manipulates
      people and wants to exploit them and leave them without a will of their
      own,'' warned Nadine Wichatzek (25), one of the organizers. CDU General
      Secretary Ingo Schmitt also condemned Scientology, ''Scientology is one of
      the most dangerous international sects.''
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Few guests at exhibition
Berliner Zeitung (Germany), Apr. 20, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000420b.htm
      According to statements by Anne Ruehle, sect commissioner of the Senate, the
      Scientology Organization had sent out a half million invitations in advance.
      On Tuesday, however, when the ''What is Scientology?'' exhibition opened on
      the fourth floor of a building in Steglitz, there was practically nobody
      there but its own members.
      (...)

      Despite the scanty response, the arrangers looked like they were thrilled.
      They said they had already counted about 100 visitors. ''Based on the great
      demand, we will extend the exhibition for a couple of days,'' said the sect
      spokesman, Georg Stoffel. He also expressed himself optimistically as far as
      the number of Scientologists in Berlin. He mentioned up to 2,000; Anne
      Ruehle, in contrast, assumes there are a few hundred members in the city.
      (...)

      The sect, which has been under surveillance by Constitutional Security since
      1997 because it positions itself against the basic system of a liberal
      democracy, presents itself as a religious community. The exhibition, said
      Ruehle, only shows a facade and conceals the true goals of the sect:
      coordinating and establishing a totalitarian society. ''There is no reason to
      call off the alarm.''
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Unification Church

25. Controversial church regains rights at UNLV
Las Vegas Sun, Apr. 20, 2000
http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/text/2000/
apr/20/510156957.html
      Members of the Unification Church stood on the UNLV mall pushing fliers and
      talking about God -- and recruiting people to participate in a mass marriage
      in California.

      But as they exercised what they called their right to free speech last
      winter, the group known as Moonies forced campus officials to examine
      policies regarding treatment of controversial religious groups.

      In December half a dozen students complained that the Moonies' tactics were
      too aggressive. Campus police said the group was luring students off campus
      to a nearby apartment to watch church videos, as well as roaming dormitory
      halls and making repeated telephone calls to students.

      The Moonies were banned from campus recruiting.

      Church members alleged that the UNLV Police Department, which has drawn
      criticism recently for using intimidating tactics, violated their
      constitutional rights.
      (...)

      In March the two sides met with ACLU representatives and negotiated an
      agreement under which the members of the church -- now renamed the Family
      Federation for World Peace and Unification -- can again hand out leaflets on
      campus.

      The group recently has started a campus-approved student club called Pure
      Love Alliance, which promotes sexual abstinence before marriage.
      (...)

      The club is, he said, open to people of all faiths.
      
      ''But if you tell people abstinence only, you have to give them an
      alternative -- and that's matching (mass marriage.) It all fits together,''
      Starr said.

      Church founder the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, 79, -- a wealthy, controversial,
      convicted felon -- is renowned for conducting mass marriages in which
      strangers are matched up with one another according to church doctrine. More
      than 10,000 were married at a ceremony in Pasadena, Calif., in February.

      Critics of the faith say that the marriages are a method in which vulnerable
      young adults are swept into the faith and pressured to stay.
      (...)

      The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification -- still listed in the
      Yellow Pages as the Unification Church -- has about 70 members in the Las
      Vegas Valley and has been in the area more than 25 years, Starr said. The
      church claims more than 45,000 nationwide and more than 500,000 around the
      world.
      (...)

      Many religious groups look to college campuses as a pool of potential
      members.

      ''We get all kinds of groups out there,'' said Flagg, who registers each
      group before they begin spreading their message among students in the campus
      ''free speech zone'' on the mall between buildings.

      ''It's not my role to censor people in any way. I know the Moonies are a
      controversial organization, but that's no problem. They can still do their
      thing as long as it's within the rules, not pestering students, and not in
      the dorms, and not taking anyone off campus,'' Flagg said.

      Last fall a group supported by the Unification Church sued the state of
      Maryland, charging that a legislative investigation into campus cult activity
      was an unconstitutional interference with religion.

      ''We feel it's inappropriate to be designating groups with a derogatory term
      such as cults,'' Executive Director Dan Fefferman of the church-backed
      International Coalition For Religious Freedom told the Chronicle of Higher
      Education in September.

      The lawsuit called the investigation a ''religious inquisition'' and sought
      to stop the legislative investigation from reporting their findings to the
      full Legislature. The legislative committee had been formed after parents
      complained that religious groups were harassing students at the University of
      Maryland at College Park.

      Despite the coalition's efforts, the report was released and recommended only
      that students learn to ''sort through their decisions'' more carefully.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Landmark Education

26. In the grip of the therapy tough-guys
NOW (Toronto, Canada), Apr. 20-26, 2000
http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/current/News/feature.html
      (...) It's here that 150 of us will be ensconced to take part in the the
      Landmark Forum, a marathon self-help seminar that promises everything from
      better health to ''breakthroughs'' that will transform our lives.

      That it has its seeds in EST the controversial 70s-era seminars developed by
      self-help guru Werner Erhard, has made it the subject of much controversy in
      the U.S. and abroad, where its critics have called the Forum everything from
      a money-making scheme to an exercise in mind control.
      (...)

      We must stay in this room at all times during the Forum, virtually locked up
      from 9 am to midnight over the next three days, in order to attain the
      coveted and ever-elusive ''result.''

      It's a roller-coaster ride. More than a few will want to jump off. When I
      try, I discover it's not so easy to walk away.
      (...)

      Landmark's Toronto offices opened in 94. There are also locations in
      Vancouver and Montreal. In the U.S., where Landmark has 33 locations, the
      Forum has played to very mixed reviews.

      ''Soul training'' is the way one daily described the Forum. Other self-help
      experts, psychologists and psychiatrists among them, are less flattering.

      Kevin Garvey, a former EST disciple and counsellor who's been studying groups
      like the Forum for 25 years, says the techniques at the ''conceptual core''
      of the Forum are similar to the thought reform techniques employed by North
      Koreans in the 1950s on U.S. prisoners of war. It's a charge rejected as
      ''ridiculous'' by a Landmark spokesperson.

      But, says Garvey, ''there are (similar) patterns of information control,
      language control, disorientation through altering food and sleep patterns,
      (and) the manipulation of the environment through praise and discouragement.
      The outcome for some people is very extreme.''
      (...)

      There'll be no notetaking. Landmark, though, does reserve the right to record
      the proceedings for use in training Forum leaders. When you sign up, you also
      waive the right to sue.

      You can leave the room. But if you do, the promised ''result'' cannot be
      guaranteed.

      There will be three half-hour breaks a day and a one-and-a-half-hour break
      for dinner, but with all the ''assignments'' and ''exercises'' we're told to
      do, there's hardly time to go to the washroom, let alone eat. Don't be late
      getting back from the breaks. You may find the door locked and have to
      explain yourself. There's no clock on the wall, but time -- tick, tick, tick
      -- is of the essence.
      (...)

      The Forum, we will learn, is not about what we know, but about letting go of
      what we know. The confusion is hypnotic. Slowly, the psychological springs
      that keep you grounded begin to loosen. Ping.
      (...)

      Its critics aside, Landmark has some influential people in its corner,
      including Raymond D. Fowler, executive vice-president and CEO of the American
      Psychological Association.
      (...)

      But a letter he wrote for Landmark after sitting in on a Forum last May
      concludes that ''there was nothing in the Forum, either in its content or the
      way it was conducted, that could be considered harmful. It was not much
      different in depth, intensity and self-disclosure than the conversations
      among close friends or family might be.''

      Daniel Yankelovich, a Connecticut-based researcher, conducted a survey of
      1,300 Forum participants. Seven out of 10 he surveyed found the Forum to be
      ''one of their life's most rewarding experiences.''

      Others used by Landmark to pump its credentials don't want to be drawn into
      the controversy.

      Harvard University had Landmark sign an agreement to stop distributing
      publicly a glowing marketing study of the Forum by two of its business school
      professors.

      Some in the mental health field say the idea pushed by marathon self-help
      groups like the Forum -- that you can purchase a ''peak,'' or psycho-shop for
      prepackaged life experiences -- is more about making money than human growth.

      And for some, they say, the psychological fallout can be harmful.

      Carol Giambalvo, director of the American Family Foundation recovery program
      based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was in EST for five years. She says people
      who sign up for the Forum are not making an informed choice.

      ''They don't tell you they're going to be using confrontational methods to
      break down the way you're relating to reality. What they're trying to do is
      attack the way you think.''

      Rick Ross, an intervention specialist from Phoenix, Arizona, says once people
      are in the Forum circle, it's very difficult to get out.

      ''They say you can leave when you want, but there's so much peer pressure and
      bombardment that it's very difficult to walk out.''

      Kay, a former Forum participant in Toronto, knows this all too well. She says
      Forum staffers pressured her every day with phone calls, trying to get her to
      sign up for the advanced course.

      ''What they were really pushing was for you to get your friends to sign up,''
      she says.
      (...)

      Landmark has been quick to sue its critics -- sometimes too quick.

      A $10-million libel suit filed against Elle Magazine with some fanfare in 98
      was ultimately dropped without the apology Landmark was looking for.

      It takes the company's lawyer, Art Schreiber, no time to fax a letter to NOW
      threatening legal action.

      Mark Kamin, Landmark's fast-talking PR head, has as many questions as I do
      when he calls from Houston. He's tape-recording our conversation.
      (...)

      Kamin does get defensive at times, but makes no apologies for the
      ''high-pressure'' sales pitch some past Forum participants have reported. He
      says Landmark is a for-profit company that's in business to stay in business
      and has something valuable to sell.
      (...)

I      'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm feeling like someone has taken a trowel and scraped
      the top off my head. It's Friday night, some 12 hours into this odyssey, and
      I've got a major case of the heebie-jeebies.

      My plan was to check out on Sunday for my uncle's 50th-wedding- anniversary
      bash. Larry Pearson, Armstrong's second-in-command, has already told me to
      send flowers or a gift instead, and to make plans to be here. He says this
      standing 2 inches away from my face.

      But the control is proving too much for me.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

      *      Sidebar

            Number of offices worldwide: 59
            (...)

            Number who take the Forum annually: up to 80,000

            Number who've taken the Forum since 1985: almost 500,000

            Gross annual revenue in 1998: $54 million (U.S.)
            (...)

            Cost of Landmark courses: between $425 and $2,000 (Cdn)
            [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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      *      About Landmark:
            http://www.apologeticsindex.org/l30.html


=== Islam

27. Muslim group notes discrimination in U.S.
PioneerPlanet/Religion News Service, Apr. 22, 2000
http://www.pioneerplanet.com/seven-days/1/living/docs/022110.htm
      On the fifth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a Muslim watchdog
      group has released a report documenting anti-Arab discrimination, noting that
      religious attire or appearance was the largest motivating factor in
      discrimination cases.

      The Council on American Islamic Relations released its annual review of
      Muslim civil rights to coincide with the anniversary of the April 19, 1995,
      bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, which killed 168 people.
      (...)

      The report said religious attire or appearance -- mostly in the form of
      traditional head scarfs -- accounted for 34 percent of the incidents. Close
      behind, at 30 percent, were cases based on perceived national origin or
      ethnic identity.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Witchcraft / Paganism

28. Students take Elwood school system to court
MSNBC.com, Apr. 22, 2000
http://www.msnbc.com/local/WTHR/67451.asp
      Two Elwood students spent Good Friday in court fighting for what they call
      their religious right. They sued the school district for the right to wear
      pentagrams and practice a religion they call Wicca.
      (...)

      ''These girls cannot be punished for exercising their 1st amendment rights,''
      says Jacquelyn Bowie of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.

      Elwood school officials are trying to convince a federal judge, that the
      girls' religious beliefs are irrelevant.

      Elwood school attorney Thomas Wheeler says, ''The girls admitted using the
      copy machine for personal use, and leaving school early, they just cut out of
      school.''

      Brandi and Shauntee, both high school seniors, received vocational training
      credit for assisting teachers at Edgewood Elementary School. The pair admits
      frequently leaving school early and using the school's copy machine to make a
      handful of copies of Wicca religious materials. When the principal found the
      copies, she asked the girls to put their necklaces away.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Other News

29. Police Probe Iganga 'Cult'
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), Apr. 21, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000421/20000421_feat12.html
      Kampala - Police are investigating activities of a suspected 'cult' group in
      Iganga whose members include Eriya Lisi Kaguta, an uncle to President Yoweri
      Museveni, reports Abubaker Mukose.

      A team from the Criminal Investigation Department, assisted by the office of
      the Iganga District Internal Security Organisation, have been on a two-week
      probe on the 'Isa Masiya' sect led by 'Apostle' Christopher Besweri
      Kaswabuli.

      The sect has over 100,000 followers with several branches in Mbarara,
      Ntungamo, Bushenyi, Mukono, Iganga, Pallisa and Tororo. Other believers
      include Kenyans and Rwandese some of whom stay at the camp.

      'Apostle' Kaswabuli, who claims he had a vision instructing him to lead the
      people of God through evangelism, said his sect only believes in what is
      written in the 1877 Luganda version Bible of Isa Masiya. The sect also
      restricts believers to marry within the Church and encourages them to be hard
      working people.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


30. Chaos After ''Rastafarians'' Resist Arrest
PANA/Africa News Online, Apr. 21, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/PANA/news/20000421/feat13.html
      CAPE TOWN, South Africa (PANA) - There was chaos in the Pietermaritzburg
      District Court Thursday when police attempted to subdue a group of
      ''Rastafarians'' during court proceedings.

      Peter Tosh, who claims he is the reincarnation of the slain Jamaican reggae
      singer, his wife Mystic Tosh, and their children, Jeffrey Tosh, Herbalist
      Tosh and Prince Tosh have been charged for possessing muarijuana which is a
      criminal offence in South Africa.

      The group earlier in the year informed the magistrate that they rejected the
      notion that marijuana was an illegal substance and demanded their release.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Israeli police suspect attempted murder in hit and run on rabbi from
messianic sect
CBC/Canadian Press (Canada)/AP, Apr. 22, 2000
http://cbc.ca/cp/world/000422/w042284.html
      The chief rabbi of the northern Israeli town Safed, a leading figure in the
      Lubavitcher branch of Judaism, was run over Saturday in what police suspect
      was attempted murder.

      The police were investigating Meir Baranes as a suspect in the hit-and-run
      attack on Rabbi Levy Bistritzky, whose condition was described by doctors at
      Safed's hospital as between moderate and serious.
      (...)

      Baranes was arrested three months ago after punching Bistritzky. At the time,
      he said he wanted to hurt Bistritzky because the rabbi had excommunicated
      Baranes for claiming the late leader of the Lubavitcher movement, Rabbi
      Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was the Messiah.

      Almost six years since Schneerson's death, many in the movement still cling
      to the belief he will return - despite official Chabad teaching to the
      contrary.

      The prophecy has split a closely knit movement that prefers to be known for
      bringing thousands closer to Jewish tradition, not for naming a Messiah.
      (...)

      Baranes is currently facing charges for his alleged participation in a
      ceremony which put a death curse on Pope John Paul just days before the
      pontiff made his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in March.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Wanted: the devil's disciple
Arizona Daily Star, Apr. 22, 2000
http://www.azstarnet.com/public/dnews/000422dotykill.html
      A self-proclaimed Satanist and ex-con is wanted in the ambush killing of
      security guard Grady Mitchell Towers at Tohono Chul Park March 20.

      Jason Paul Doty is probably armed and definitely dangerous, investigators
      said last night.
      (...)

      Doty, who has an extensive criminal history and record of substance abuse,
      spent eight years in prison on burglary and theft charges out of Pima and
      Cochise counties.
      (...)

      While incarcerated, Doty appeared in federal court to proclaim he had a
      constitutional right to worship Satan and to use certain items to elicit the
      powers of underworld demons and gods.

      The disputed items included black and white candles, incense, a tapestry rug
      depicting a goat's head and spell-casting books like the satanic bible and
      the Necronomicon - books that glorify selfishness, brutality and human
      sacrifice, The Associated Press reported in September 1997.

      Prison officials argued against supplying the items, saying they would make
      Doty even meaner. They argued the spell-casting would allow him to manipulate
      other inmates.

      Court records show detectives seized satanic items and an astrology book, as
      well as numerous weapons, rubber gloves, pornographic magazines and computer
      equipment from Doty's overturned Sentra after the April 9 crash.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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      *      Companion article:

            Suspect has a long, long rap sheet
            Arizona Daily Star, Apr. 22, 2000
            http://www.azstarnet.com/public/dnews/000422dotyback.html
      

33. Greece has own 'Elian' battle - over religious beliefs
Miami Herald/AP, Apr. 20, 2000
http://www.herald.com/content/thu/news/brknews/docs/095292.htm
      ATHENS, Greece -- (AP) -- A toddler being called the Greek ''Elian'' is at
      the center of an international custody battle -- only this feud is over
      religion, not politics.

      Foreign Minister George Papandreou met today with the boy's parents, who are
      fighting to retrieve him from his Egyptian grandfather. The grandfather
      insists the boy should be raised fully Muslim and not influenced by his
      father's Christian Orthodox faith.
      (...)

      The parents of the boy claim the grandfather refuses to return him to a
      ''Christian environment'' in Greece and insists he take a Muslim name and be
      raised in that faith. The grandfather, Mohamed Ali Ahmed, admits he wants a
      strict Muslim upbringing for the boy, but also claims the boy's father
      threatened him when the issue was raised.

      For nearly all Greeks, there is no debate. Newspaper commentaries and opinion
      polls call for the boy to be returned.
      (...)

      The tussle touches something deeper than a custody quarrel. Widespread
      anti-Muslim feelings -- with roots dating back to 400 years of Ottoman
      occupation -- are being stoked.

      Archbishop Christodoulos, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, suggested
      Monday that Islamic fervor ''is at fault for inspiring this behavior.''

      In Egypt, the case has received no media attention and the family has avoided
      speaking to reporters -- a distinct contrast to the publicity barrage
      launched by the boy's Greek father, Yiannis Diamandis, 31, and the boy's
      mother.

      There has been no official Egyptian government response on the issue, but
      police in the Mediterranean port of Alexandria say the case is under
      investigation.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Trial near in O'Hair mystery
Dallas Morning News, Apr. 21, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/67508_OHAIR21.html
      When Gary Paul Karr goes on trial next month in the mysterious disappearance
      of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the defense's most important step will be
      to show that the government has the wrong man on trial, defense attorney Tom
      Mills Jr. said Thursday.

      U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has set May 15 as the start of what is
      expected to be a three-week federal trial in Austin on charges that Mr. Karr
      participated in the 1995 kidnapping, extortion and robbery that resulted in
      the deaths of Mrs. O'Hair, 77, her son Jon Garth Murray, 40, and her
      granddaughter Robin Murray O'Hair, 30.

      In documents filed with the court, prosecutors have named former O'Hair
      employee David Waters as the prime suspect in the O'Hair disappearances and
      murders. Mr. Waters, however, has not been charged in the disappearances.
      (...)

      The federal case against Mr. Karr is weakened by another detail, Mr. Mills
      said. Despite FBI allegations that the O'Hair family members were killed,
      then dismembered and buried somewhere in the Central Texas ranchlands, their
      bodies have never been found.

      ''One of the issues we will certainly be contesting is whether the O'Hairs
      were actually murdered or simply disappeared for their own reasons,'' Mr.
      Mills said. ''There is some belief, backed by eyewitness reports, that
      Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her children were seen in New Zealand after their
      disappearances.''
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. Teens Shot on Good Friday Pilgrimage
AOL/AP, Apr. 22, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0004210843753745
      (...) Police say the two were shot to death as they made a Good Friday
      pilgrimage to a church believed to contain healing dirt in this small
      northern New Mexico village.
      (...)

      Tens of thousands of people each year journey to El Santuario de Chimayo, a
      tradition that dates back almost two centuries. Good Friday is the most
      popular day for the pilgrimage. Last year, an estimated 65,000 visited the
      village's Roman Catholic church during Holy Week.

      Pilgrims had packed the small adobe church by midday Friday. Many arrived
      carrying wooden crosses or lilies. Some had walked only a mile or two; others
      had been on the road for two or three days.

      The draw is a room with a small hole whose dirt is thought to possess healing
      power. The room is filled with crutches and canes left behind by visitors.

      Diane Gonzales of Santa Fe said she has been coming to the church since she
      was a child with eczema on her knees and elbows.

      ''My parents brought me the holy dirt for the bleeding and itching. I rubbed
      the dirt on my skin, and it made the itching stop,'' she said. ''It's not
      about the dirt making miracles, but the faith you must have to make it come
      true.''
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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36. Spiritual healer held on sex-assault charges
Denver Rocky Mountain News, Apr. 21, 2000
http://www.insidedenver.com/news/0421tell8.shtml
      A spiritual healer who police said raped a client and fondled another was
      held Thursday on $1 million bail. Detectives plan to ask for another $1
      million bond against Oscar Paniagua, 34, on a third sexual-assault case they
      expect to file.
      (...)

      Detectives arrested Paniagua, known in Spanish through his business as the
      Messenger of Truth, at his office at 655 Broadway on Wednesday.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Faith healer faces sex charges
Denver Post, Apr. 21, 2000
http://www.denverpost.com/news/news0421i.htm
      (...) A 34-year-old Venezuelan who bills himself as Oscar El Mensajero de
      Laerdad, which translates as ''the messenger of truth,'' and a self-described
      spiritual healer, is being held on $1 million bond for allegedly sexually
      assaulting three of his clients, Denver police say.

      His real name is Oscar Paniagua and his office, which looks like a doctor's
      office, is at 655 Broadway, said Lt. Gary Lauricella, commander of the sex
      crimes unit.

      ''I personally think he's part counselor, part psychic, part witch doctor. He
      does have a certain amount of laying on of hands as part of his therapy,''
      Lauricella said.

      Paniagua, who advertises on Spanish-language television and caters mainly to
      women from Mexico and Central America who don't speak English, was arrested
      Wednesday on suspicion of one count of first-degree sexual assault and two
      counts of third-degree sexual assault.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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38. Occult sites 'lure' teenagers
BBC, Apr. 22, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/in_depth/education/
2000/unions_2000/newsid_722000/722283.stm
      Teachers say they are worried about teenagers using websites about the
      occult, a subject which a survey says a quarter of secondary school pupils
      are ''very interested'' in.

      The survey of pupils in 115 middle and secondary schools in England and Wales
      found 54% of the 2,600 who responded were ''interested'' in the occult and
      the supernatural and 26% were ''very interested''.
      (...)

      The findings are part of a larger survey of schoolchildren's attitudes
      carried out by market researchers Mori for the Association of Teachers and
      Lecturers (ATL).
      (...)

      Commenting on the findings, the ATL's general secretary, Peter Smith, said:
      ''Youngsters can very easily visit a choice of hundreds of websites on
      witchcraft, Wicca magic, casting hexes and bloodletting techniques, without
      adults having any control as to what they read.

      ''This goes far beyond a case of reading a Harry Potter story. This
      represents an extremely worrying trend among young people.

      ''Parents and teachers will want to educate children and young people about
      the dangers of dabbling in the occult before they become too deeply
      involved.''
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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39. Exiled leader fears Panchen Lama is being brainwashed
The Times (England), Apr. 21, 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/
04/21/x-timfgnfar01001.html
      THE Dalai Lama voiced fears yesterday that China may have tried to turn the
      Panchen Lama, the second highest Tibetan Buddhist figure, against the faith.
      The Dalai Lama said that he no longer knew the whereabouts of the
      ten-year-old boy - whom he identified five years ago as the 11th
      reincarnation of the Panchen - but had been told that the child's education
      in China was inclined towards science.

      This, he said, made him fear that the boy could be encouraged to question his
      religious background. But he was alive and well and attending primary school.

      The Dalai Lama, completing a visit to Japan, also spoke for the first time in
      detail about the flight from Tibet of another leading Buddhist reincarnation,
      the 14-year-old Karmapa, who escaped last winter across the Himalayas to the
      Dalai Lama's base in Dharmsala, northern India.

      He confirmed that the 17th Karmapa chose to flee because he could no longer
      tolerate the arrests, torture and crackdowns on his people.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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40. World View: Christians in Zimbabwe Say No to Talks
Salt Lake Tribune/Religion News Service/Ecumenical News Service, Apr. 22, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/04222000/religion/43300.htm
      Evangelical Christian churches in Zimbabwe, with about 3 million members,
      have declared that they are not willing to engage in interfaith dialogue with
      Muslims, Hindus and followers of traditional African religions. Their refusal
      presents a major obstacle to the Zimbabwe National Forum for Inter-Faith
      Dialogue expected to be launched in June to promote the peaceful coexistence
      of all religions in the country. ''We don't believe in interfaith dialogue,''
      Useni Sibanda, communications coordinator of the Evangelical Fellowship of
      Zimbabwe. ''We believe the only way to God is through Jesus. Any other
      religion which does not subscribe to our thinking, we view it as a cult.''
      [...entire item...]


41. Catholic group gives Harry Potter approval
PioneerPlanet/Religion News Service, Apr. 22, 2000
http://www.pioneerplanet.com/seven-days/1/living/docs/022110.htm
      Harry Potter, the young wizard-in-training whose adventures top best-seller
      lists but have been denounced by conservative religious groups, has won a
      vote of approval from the Roman Catholic Opus Dei association.

      The magazine Studi Cattolici (Catholic Studies), closely associated with Opus
      Dei, praised the three Harry Potter books by English writer Joanne Rowling
      for teaching children that good can prevail over evil.
      (...)

      Opus Dei is an association mainly of Catholic laity who take strict vows to
      promote holiness and exercise a personal apostolate in their daily lives.
      Pope John Paul II beatified its Spanish founder, Josemaria Escriva de
      Balaguer in 1992.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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42. Vatican catches Pokemon fever
The Times (England), Apr. 20, 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/04/20/x-timfgneur03001.html
      THE Vatican has given its blessing to the children's craze Pokémon, saying
      that the irritating but addictive ''pocket monsters'' are morally improving.
      
      The trading card and computer game phenomenon may be banned in many British
      school playgrounds and give parents nightmares, but Sat2000, the satellite
      television station run by the Italian Bishops' Conference, concluded
      yesterday that it did not have ''any harmful moral side effects''.

      Sat2000, an arm of the Vatican, said that Pokémon was ''full of inventive
      imagination''. At the heart of the game lay ''ties of intense friendship''
      between the ''trainer'' and his monsters.
      (...)

      The bishops' benevolent view is not universally shared. There are fears that
      the Mafia will muscle in on Pokémon by counterfeiting cards and stickers,
      just as it fakes CDs and videos for sale at illicit street corner stalls.
      [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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» Part 3