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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - May 11, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 201)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog

=== Ho no ha na Sanpogyo
1. Ho-no-Hana offered 5 mil. yen to assemblyman, police say
2. Culture agency eyes court foot cult ban
3. Ho-no-Hana leaders show their clay feet
4. Duped family tells of contempt for cult
5. Honohana leader, 11 cohorts arrested for bilking believers
6. Foot cult guru busted

=== Aum Shinrikyo
7. Aum site searched

=== Falun Gong
8. Protests As China Hails Victory Over Falun Gong
9. Falun Gong followers held
10. Victory Achieved in Fight Against Falun Gong Cult (1)
11. Victory Achieved in Fight Against Falun Gong Cult (2)
12. Victory Achieved in Fight Against Falun Gong Cult (3)
13. People's Daily Warns Not to Underestimate Cults

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
14. Buziga Cult Death Still Under Inquiry

=== Itambiro lya Mukama
15. Police Search For Grave In Nansana Cult Base

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
16. Waco video analyzed
17. Final report says no gunfire is on Waco tape

=== Scientology
18. Zurich attorney takes on Scientologists
19. Microsoft: Now a "security risk" in Berlin
20. Technical standards needed for Scientology
21. 'Battlefield Earth': Film Dogged by Links to Scientology Founder
22. Cult Apologists FAQ Entry on James Richardson
23. Psychlo Babble

=== Hate Groups
24. Group critical of clergy counseling at school
25. Some have a passion for opposing religion
26. Farrakhan Regrets Any Role in Murder

=== Islam
27. Saudi justice minister says Islamic-law critics are 'enemies of God'
28. Flirting with the Islamists
29. Muslims to meet Mungiki

=== Buddhism
30. Hull declares statewide Buddha day
31. Boom in Buddhist websites

=== Mormonism
32. Mormon faces court

=== Breatharians
33. Breatharians appeal against manslaughter convictions

=== Other News
34. 'Heretic'wins top religious award

=== Other News
35. Oceanside bans sectarian invocations
36. Ministry student challenges course content
37. Study finds genetic links between Jews and Arabs
38. Church Rebuilding Role in Mexico

=== Interfaith / Religious Pluralism
39. Diversity forces interfaith group into tough decisions

=== Environment
40. Ecologists, religious leaders getting together
41. Meacher comes out as guru of Mother Earth

=== Noted
42. Cult Exit (Wellspring)
43. Baptized Karate Helps Reinforce Christianity
44. Museum brings biblical vision of creation to life

=== Ho no ha na Sanpogyo

1. Ho-no-Hana offered 5 mil. yen to assemblyman, police say
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), May 11, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0511cr09.htmOff-site Link
Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo, a religious organization under police investigation on
suspicion of fraud, offered about 5 million yen to an influential member of the
municipal assembly of Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, around 1987, police said

Police are investigating whether the donation was linked to Ho-no-Hana's
successful application for registration as a religious organization in the
prefecture, as similar applications were rejected in Tokyo, as well as in Chiba
and Oita prefectures, at about the same time.

Hogen Fukunaga, founder of the religious organization, and 11 other leading
members were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of cheating a large number of people
out of a huge amount of money.

Meanwhile, a joint investigation squad from the Metropolitan Police Department
and Shizuoka prefectural police sent Hogen Fukunaga, whose real first name is
Teruyoshi, and the 11 leading members of Ho-no-Hana who were also arrested
Tuesday to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on Wednesday.
Police also sent papers on Fusako Imoto, 79, Fukunaga's mother and a former
chief director of the religious organization, to prosecutors on suspicion of
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Culture agency eyes court foot cult ban
Asahi News (Japan), May 10, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/asahi/0510/asahi051003.htmlOff-site Link
Officials of the Agency of Cultural Affairs say they are considering asking for
court-ordered dissolution of the Ho no Hana Sanpogyo foot cult, whose founder
Hogen Fukunaga, 55, and 11 senior members were arrested Tuesday, accused of
bilking followers.

The culture agency is considering the ban on the cult because it has become
clear that its leaders used the Ho no Hana chain of command to conduct
systematic fraud.

The cult has claimed to be capable of diagnosing illnesses by examining the
soles of people's feet. It was established around 1980 by Fukunaga and was
registered as a religious organization by the Shizuoka prefectural government in
1987. The Cultural Affairs Agency became responsible for religious organizations
through a 1996 amendment of the law governing them.

The revised law stipulates that a religious group may be ordered to disband when
it is found to have engaged in illegal acts that endangered public welfare, or
in acts that departed drastically from the objectives of a religious

Religious organizations ordered to disband are ineligible for tax breaks and
their property can be disposed of. Propagation would not be banned, however.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Ho-no-Hana leaders show their clay feet
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), May 10, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0510ed17.htmOff-site Link
(...) All this was nothing but a carefully wrought ploy to collect money from
people. The suspects harmed a large number of followers and others physically
and mentally when the victims fell into their trap. Their activities had nothing
to do with the salvation of people's souls.

Investigative authorities appear to have been confident when they chose to seek
fraud indictments for Fukunaga and the others. Police have insisted that the
suspects pretended to be capable of conducting diagnoses and treatments,
although they actually had no such skills. This means that investigators are
determined to establish the illegality of Ho-no-Hana's activities solely on the
grounds of external features of the conduct of the group--including its motive,
means and result--rather than by examining internal features of these
activities, which the suspects claimed were religious services.

Such an approach is becoming established in judicial circles today. In late
April, for example, the Fukuoka District Court expressed a similar opinion when
it ruled on a lawsuit filed by a Ho-no-Hana follower against the religious group
for damages.

In February, The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a survey concerning the image of
Ho-no-Hana and many other new religious organizations. Most respondents said the
new religious groups appeared to be ''hungry for money,'' ''frightening'' and

Although they remain somewhat wary about religion, meanwhile, an increasing
number of people feel that they need moral support from religions, largely due
to concerns about their future. All members of society should take a resolute
attitude toward any group that seeks to rip people off in the name of religious
activities and to involve people in antisocial conduct.

According to the Cultural Affairs Agency, more than 180,000 groups across the
country are licensed as religious corporations by the agency and prefectural

Generally speaking, there is every reason to minimize the involvement of the
Cultural Affairs Agency and other government bodies in the affairs of religious
corporations. This is essential to ensure and respect the freedom of religion.
However, administrative organizations responsible for supervising licensed
religious groups must fulfill their duties in a manner commensurate with their
decisions to grant them the status of a religious corporation.

These government bodies should not turn a blind eye to any antisocial acts of
religious groups. They should not hesitate to take resolute measures if
necessary--for instance, requesting an order for any religious organization to
disband under the Religious Corporations Law.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Duped family tells of contempt for cult
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), May 10, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0510cr09.htmOff-site Link
Even as police arrested the founder and senior officials of the Ho-no-Hana
religious group on suspicion of swindling former followers out of a
huge sum of money, one former follower said he hoped the police investigation
would fully expose the organization's ''malicious nature'' to the public.

Ho-no-Hana is thought to have coerced more than 30,000 people into undergoing
its dubious training sessions by subjecting them to ''sole-of-the-foot diagnoses''
and telling them the sessions would prevent them from becoming cancer victims.
''I cannot forgive Ho-no-Hana, a group that always tries to take advantage of
people's weakness,'' said a 65-year-old self-employed Ishikawa Prefecture man as
he sat upright in front of the portrait of his son who died at the age of 30.

Ho-no-Hana has continued to tell the public that its sole-of-the-foot diagnoses
reveal the state of a person's health and fortune through the color and
condition of the sole, and even the length of the toes. In many cases following
a diagnosis, potential followers would be told things like their soles were so
dirty they would suffer from cancer, or that they would commit suicide within a
certain period of time.

Then they would be persuaded to take part in five-day training sessions after
being told that things would be all right after the training. The group is said
to have usually received 1.25 million yen to 2.25 million yen per person in
training fees.

The training itself, conducted in the group's Vox Dei headquarters, required
participants to recite the Ho-no-Hana's ''Nanakangyo'' behavior guides for hours
on end. They were instructed to hand-copy a sutra titled Hannyatengyo, which
the religious group invented by changing five parts of the well-known
Hannyashingyo sutra.

Participants were allowed to sleep a total of only about 10 hours and eat four
or five meals in five days of training.

On the final day of the session, when participants were in an extreme state
of mind, Fukunaga and other senior officials would hold a ''judgment

During the meeting, followers were required to intently recite from the
''Nanakangyo'' guides while the group officials allegedly hurled verbal abuse
at them, egging them on to chant with desperation. After pronouncing the
group a ''failure'' twice, officials then announced that the followers passed
the test.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Honohana leader, 11 cohorts arrested for bilking believers
Japan Times (Japan), May 10, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/nn05-2000/nn20000510a1.htmOff-site Link
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Hogen Fukunaga, the founder of the
foot-reading cult Honohana Sanpogyo, and 11 other senior cult members Tuesday on
suspicion of fraud.

The action culminates nearly four years of police investigations into the Fuji,
Shizuoka Prefecture-based cult, which is believed to have defrauded at least
30,000 people out of more than 87 billion yen since it was officially recognized
as a religious group by the Shizuoka Prefectural Government in March 1987.

Fukunaga, 55, born Teruyoshi Fukunaga, started preaching religion in 1980,
claiming he is the world's final savior after Jesus Christ and the Buddha. He
based his claim on what he called the ''voice of heaven.''

However, this ''voice of heaven'' -- often directives to followers to purchase
expensive goods from the cult or recruit members -- resulted from meetings of
senior cult members, and the cult was basically swindling people, police sources

The cult claims to have 30,000 followers. The number of loyal followers,
however, is believed to be between 1,000 and 2,000.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Foot cult guru busted
Mainichi Daily News, May 10, 2000
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news02.htmlOff-site Link
Twelve top members of a ''sole searching'' cult with a penchant for podiatry
predictions and a founder boasting a self-professed ability to hear ''The Voice
of Heaven,'' were arrested for fraud in Tokyo on Tuesday, police said.
Police decreed as fraudulent claims by Hogen Fukunaga, founder and guru of the
controversial cult Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo, that he alone was capable of hearing
''The Voice of Heaven'' - and should be paid for the privilege of passing the
messages on.

Fukunaga admits to having given the ''Voice of Heaven'' to the five people he is
accused of defrauding, but denies the charges facing him.

''I admit I passed on 'The Voice of Heaven' to the five people, but I can't
recollect the details of 'The Voice of Heaven,' '' Fukunaga said.

A book supposedly written by Fukunaga and often used to lure new members was
actually penned by a ghostwriter, investigators said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aum Shinrikyo

7. Aum site searched
Japan Times (Japan), May 10, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/nn05-2000/nn20000510a1.htmOff-site Link
NAGOYA (Kyodo) Aichi Prefectural Police searched an Aum Shinrikyo facility in
Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture, Tuesday in connection with a suspected attempt on
the part of the cult to hide its assets.

Police said the cult, which has changed its name to Aleph, allegedly tried to
transfer the ownership of one of its cars to a male follower.

Inako Eto, the head of Aum's Nagoya branch, was arrested on suspicion of
falsifying public documents in connection with the case, Aichi police said.

During their investigation, police said they found that the Koshigaya facility
was probably in charge of keeping tabs on all Aum vehicles used nationwide, thus
prompting Tuesday's search.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

8. Protests As China Hails Victory Over Falun Gong
Northern Light/Reuters, May 11, 2000
Off-site Link
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police detained scores of Falun Gong adherents in
Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Thursday, kicking and beating some as they staged
peaceful protests to mark the birthday of the movement's founder.

Thursday's protests marked the 48th birthday of Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi,
who lives in exile in the United States and has not been seen in public since
last July, when China banned the movement and put him atop its most wanted list.

China's state media marked the day with a lengthy commentary declaring a
''decisive victory'' over Falun Gong, which shocked the government with a
10,000-member sit-in at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese seat of power, on April 25,
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Falun Gong followers held
BBC, May 11, 2000
Off-site Link
Dozens of followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement are reported to have
been detained by Chinese police in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The Falun Gong practitioners were thought to have been marking the birthday of
their founder Li Hongzhi, who is living in exile in the United States.

Falun Gong practitioners in Hong Kong have pledged to hold a parade through the
centre of the city on Thursday to celebrate Li Hongzhi's birthday.

The Falun Gong movement in New York said the organisation was planning events in
120 cities in 30 countries to mark World Falun Dafa Day on Saturday.

The spiritual movement has this week been the subject of much vilification in
China's official press, which has claimed victory in its year-long campaign
against the movement.

At the same time, however, the press has also warned that it remains a threat to
Chinese society.

The official Xinhua news agency carried an editorial on Wednesday under the
headline ''Never Underestimate,'' which said that the movement was still
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Victory Achieved in Fight Against Falun Gong Cult (1)
Northern Light/Xinhua (China), May 10, 2000
http://library.northernlight.com/FA20000510980000079.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#docOff-site Link
[*** Note: Xinhua is China's state-run news agency - awh]

BEIJING (May 10) XINHUA - China's official news agency Xinhua released an
article today reviewing the country's year-long campaign against the Falun Gong

The article said that under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC)
Central Committee, the Chinese people have achieved a decisive victory in the
fight against the Falun Gong cult headed by Li Hongzhi.

The victory has greatly raised the political vigilance of the nation, saved and
protected a large number of the cheated, punished the evil, and maintained the
social stability of the country.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Victory Achieved in Fight Against Falun Gong Cult (2)
Northern Light/Xinhua (China), May 10, 2000
Off-site Link
The decision of the CPC and the government received the support of all ethnic
groups in the country, and a nationwide campaign against Falun Gong was waged in
all parts of China.

After reeducation, over 98 percent of all Falun Gong practitioners saw through
the reactionary nature of Falun Gong and severed their links with the

This victory broke up the Falun Gong cult and isolated the die- hards headed by
Li Hongzhi, the article said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Victory Achieved in Fight Against Falun Gong Cult (3)
Northern Light/Xinhua (China), May 10, 2000
http://library.northernlight.com/FA20000510980000111.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#docOff-site Link
The article notes that cults have been a major social problem facing all
countries, and China's fight against Falun Gong is a part of the international
community's struggle.

According to incomplete statistics, there are over 3,000 cults in the world with
many million practitioners. Anti-human, anti- society and anti-science has been
the essential feature of the cults.

The article said that in the fight against the Falun Gong cult, the CPC Central
Committee has been wise in calling for the promotion of science and technology
and the strengthening of ideological work.

The reason so many people were cheated by Li Hongzhi and his followers is that
the practitioners lacked scientific knowledge and a correct world outlook to see
through the fallacies spread by Li Hongzhi.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. People's Daily Warns Not to Underestimate Cults
Northern Light/Xinhua (China), May 9, 2000
Off-site Link
BEIJING (May 9) XINHUA - People's Daily, the leading newspaper in China, today
published a story about how Falun Gong members organized subversive activities
in the national capital on the eve of the Spring Festival, along with a
commentary warning not to treat Falun Gong lightly.

The commentary, titled ''Never Underestimate,'' tells people that Falun Gong has
not diminished despite months of a nationwide campaign against the cult.

The fight against the Galun Gong cult is a long-term, complicated, and arduous
one, the commentary said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Xinhua is China's state-run news agency.

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

14. Buziga Cult Death Still Under Inquiry
New Vision/Africa News Online, (Uganda) May 10, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000510/20000510_feat11.htmlOff-site Link
Kampala - Police pathologists at the weekend said they had not confirmed the
cause of death of the people exhumed from the Buziga house in Kampala Dr. Tadeo
Barungi said, ''We have examined the samples and forwarded them to the Government
Chemist for further investigations.''

Bukedde, a Luganda daily on Friday said the followers of the cult had been
poisoned through groundnut soup with odourless and quick-reacting poison. The
paper also said the 55 people had a meal together and died instantly before they
were buried at the home of Dominic Kataribaabo, one of the cult leaders.

But Barungi said it was premature to state the real cause of the death.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Itambiro lya Mukama

15. Police Search For Grave In Nansana Cult Base
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), May 10, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000510/20000510_feat6.htmlOff-site Link
Kampala - Police yesterday continued the search for a mass grave at the Kampala
headquarters of the followers of Itambiro lya Mukama at Nansana.

The search, which began on Monday, revealed seven graves of children of cult
members. They were buried between 1997 and 2000. The last was buried in March
this year.

Itambiro lya Mukama is led by Owobushobozi Bisaka and is based in Kibale
district. The church has over 100,000 followers in Kampala.

The area chairman, Mr. Bernard Serwadda, said the cult has been in the area for
some years and have been reporting their activities to the local council.
[...entire item...]

=== Waco / Branch Davidians

16. Waco video analyzed
Dallas Morning News, May 11, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/77897_waco11.htmlOff-site Link
Flashes recorded on an FBI infrared video at the end of the Branch Davidian
siege came not from government or Davidian gunfire, but from sunlight reflecting
off glass, metal and water, and the movement of tanks and windblown debris,
court-appointed infrared experts state.

The detailed, 65-page final report by Vector Data Research was released
Wednesday to both sides in a federal wrongful death lawsuit arising from the
1993 standoff. The report mirrored an oral briefing made public late last month
by U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, the Waco federal judge who appointed the
British firm at the recommendation of Waco special counsel John C. Danforth to
try to help resolve the gunfire issue.

The report indicated that Vector's analysts employed frame-by-frame analysis and
computer imagery enhancement programs as well as detailed comparisons of known
thermal signatures of gunfire and sunlight-generated flashes to identify the
causes of 57 separate flashes on the infrared recording made by the FBI at Waco
on April 19, 1993.

Vector's four-month inquiry also employed detailed comparative studies of still
photos and other imagery taken by both the FBI and outsiders on April 19 to
support the conclusion that none of the flashes came from gunfire, the report

''From the information available to VDS (UK), we have concluded that the 57
thermal events, including the alleged sighting of a person, are all caused by
passive specular solar reflection, active thermal reflection or movement of
debris,'' the report stated. The study also concluded that no people were visible
anywhere on the infrared recording until several minutes after the Davidian
compound caught fire.

One federal official predicted that Vector's report ''should drive a stake
through the heart of the nuttier theories surrounding this case. This report
shows that we might have shot our reputations, but we damn sure didn't shoot any

But the lead plaintiff's lawyer in the wrongful death suit said the report
appears flawed and contradictory.

''I can pick the thing apart in 30 minutes,'' said Mike Caddell, a Houston lawyer
representing the families of sect members who died in the April 19 fire. ''It is
impressive in its presentation. They clearly spent a lot of time on it. But
having said that, there are some clear disconnects in what they've done -
obvious instances in their own report where their conclusions are not supported
by their own data, their own analysis.''

In some instances, Mr. Caddell said, the Vector report lists only about half of
the flashes that appear within rapid sequence on the infrared. And throughout
the report, the experts fail to detail the maximum duration of known gunfire
recorded in the infrared test, he said.

One infrared expert spotted several ''clear'' instances of people being visible,
and those are not addressed in the Vector report, he said.

Mr. Caddell and other lawyers for the plaintiffs will grill two of Vector's
analysts in two days of depositions scheduled for later this month and will
question a third in early June. He said a major area of inquiry will be his
concern that Vector ''had already made their minds up'' about the cause of the
infrared flashes before they supervised a court-ordered infrared field test at
Fort Hood in mid-March.

Judge Smith told both sides last month during a pretrial hearing that he would
not consider Vector's report ''conclusive evidence,'' adding that their opinion
''may be controverted, and you have the right to do that.''

U.S. Attorney Bradford said he expects that Vector's exhaustive analysis will
offer strong evidence for the government's defense in the upcoming wrongful
death trial, now scheduled to begin June 19.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Final report says no gunfire is on Waco tape
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 10, 2000
Off-site Link
An independent expert hired by Special Counsel John C. Danforth has concluded
that government agents did not fire on the Branch Davidian complex near Waco in
the hours before the federal siege ended April 19, 1993.

Vector Data Systems, a British-based but American-owned company, reported that
its study of infrared surveillance tapes and still photographs did not detect
gunfire from either federal agents or Branch Davidians.

The Justice Department called the results a ''vindication'' for wrongfully accused
federal agents. But Mike Caddell, the main lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said
''glaring inconsistencies'' in the report ''raise questions about Vector's
competence and integrity.''

Caddell accused Vector of having come to the March 19 simulation that it
conducted at Fort Hood, Texas, with ''preconceived ideas and conclusions. They
did not approach the test with an open mind,'' he said.

Vector's final report undermined several other Branch Davidian claims. One of
the Branch Davidians' experts maintained that agents fired from a helicopter
above the complex. Vector reported that its study of a video indicated the flash
is a ''visible light energy reflection from the helicopter cockpit canopy.''

Vector also reported that no people are visible on the infrared recordings and
that the fire that destroyed the complex began almost simultaneously in two
different locations: at 12:07 on a second floor corner of the building and at
12:08 in the cafeteria-kitchen area on the first floor. Mike Bradford, the U.S.
Attorney in Beaumont, Texas, said that those findings support the government
positions that there were no shooters on the ground and that the Branch
Davidians started the fire.

Vector also concluded that none of the flashes had the shape or duration of
gunfire. The flashes on the 1993 tape were longer in duration than flashes from
gunfire recorded during the March simulation.

But Caddell accused Vector of inaccuracy on this point. He noted that a
preliminary report filed with the judge last month had said the duration of
gunfire was ''.02 seconds or less'' while the final report said it was ''as little
as .02 seconds.''

This discrepancy is important to the categorization of flashes that occured
about 11:30 a.m. - 37 minutes before the fire. The Vector report says mulitiple
flashes at that moment lasted .03 seconds, which is is very close to the
duration of gunfire, Caddell said.

Caddell said Vector only identified one or two flashes at times where five or
six appeared on the tape.

Thomas Wack, general counsel for Danforth's office, said Vector was chosen
because it had ''special and unique expertise in the field of imagery
exploitation and enhancement.''

Wack also said that since it was staffed by people from another company that
''added a level of independence not available from U.S. based experts.'' Vector is
owned by Anteon, a Virginia company that does contract work for the Justice
Department. The contract between Vector and Danforth's office says it can have
no conflicts of interest and that it must provide a fully impartial analysis.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

18. Zurich attorney takes on Scientologists
Blick (Switzerland), May 9, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000509a.htmOff-site Link
Zurich - The Scientologists are violating copyrights in the worst way: this is
the view taken by renowned Zurich attorney and university docent Wolfgang
Larese. Therefore the company which he represents, Prosys AG, will sue the

The bone of contention is the personality test which consists of 200 questions,
the so-called Oxford Capacity Analysis. Based on this test, thousands of people
have found their way into the controversial organization. Sect expert Georg Otto
Schmid said, ''The test is not bad. But the Scientologists grade it so that many
people fail and gratefully accept the organization's support.''

In 1990, Swiss ex-Scientologist Tom Voltz bought the copyright to the test. The
Scientologists had wanted to salvage the copyright from Voltz. He, however,
would not let himself be intimidated, and turned for help to Zurich media lawyer
Wolfgang Larese.

Voltz finally sold the copyrights to the PP Prosys Perception AG. And Larese is
the sole executive board member of PP.

Prosys had already tried to validate its claim six years ago. ''But the
proceedings were suspended,'' commented Zurich Scientology chief Juerg Stettler.
As far as Stettler is concerned, there is no doubt that the copyright to the
test is held by the Scientologists.

At the time, Prosys did not pursue the process any further on financial grounds.
Now it still wants to find out with a civil suit. Larese said, ''In this, only
the violation of the copyright must be proven, and not criminal conduct. This is

For more info (as of May 10, 2000):
http://members.tripod.com/German_Scn_News/ocatest.htmOff-site Link
[...entire item...]

19. Microsoft: Now a ''security risk'' in Berlin
Hamburger Morgenpost (Germany), May 6, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000506a.htmOff-site Link
Berlin - Virus alarms in Berlin, too! E-mail ''Spyders'' there have brought down
important areas of the federal government. An Interior Ministry task force
feverishly seeks out network damage. And there's more: there is serious talk
about getting rid of all of Microsoft's software.

On inquiry from MoPo [this newspaper], administration spokesman Uwe Heye
confirmed that consideration was being given to replacing the e-mail program, or
even the whole operating system. Windows with ''Outlook'' or ''Outlook Express'' is
in use almost everywhere. That is where the real weak point is, from the view of
the Federal Office for Security in Information Technology (BSI), which reports
to the Interior Ministry.

That was found out yesterday. Otto Schily's experts are already busy looking
into recommendations for the use of so-called ''Open Source'' software like the
free Linux operating system. The new ''Windows 2000'' is also off-limits for
agencies because it comes with a built-in defragmentation program called
''Diskeeper'' from a Scientology WISE company, and there are fears that the
militant sect could secretly pass on network data by means of a Trojan Horse.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. Technical standards needed for Scientology
Main-Echo (Germany), May 6, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000506b.htmOff-site Link
''With a TUeV for continuing education, one can put Scientology in its place''
[TUeV: Technischer Überwachungsverein: Technical Supervisory Association]

Wuerzburg. Juergen Keltsch complains of inadequate legal regulation in the
commercial psycho- and continuing education markets. There has to be a sort of
TUeV for continuing education, said the ministerial council member in the
Bavarian Interior Ministry at a gathering of the Association of the Bavarian
Metal- and Electro-Industry (VBM) in Wuerzburg. With such a law, in his opinion,
one could put a stop to the practices of the Scientology Organization.

Keltsch urgently warned the attending managers from the region about the dangers
to business which emanate from the organization. The list of dangers ranged from
commercial espionage and ties to the Scientology commercial WISE cartel to
employee untrustworthiness, because, as a rule, they were highly in debt. In
this connection, however, Keltsch made it clear that there are also completely
inconspicuous Scientologist staff who pose no danger to an organization.

He said the Scientology Organization described itself as a ''church,'' but sold
its wares under false labels. ''Trying to categorize it in the area of religion
is absolute nonsense.'' He said that while a biological superhuman of perfect
functionality was not in the area of religion in the Occidental meaning of the
world, neither was it, as the organization pretended, a part of Buddhism. It was
much more a fantastic superstructure in the area of biological nature teachings.

He said an extraordinarily high pressure to perform was brought to bear upon
staff members by management through inhumanly harsh measures to control

He said the shocking thing was that the human sciences have not gotten involved
with the phenomenon of Scientology. A brutal and totalitarian system of this
sort would leave a lasting mark upon society if people chose to doze off,

Raimund Mahlberg also spoke of a not inconsiderable risk concealed in
Scientology's possible entanglements in business. In saying this, the Chairman
of the Association of Bavarian Commerce, Wuerzburg-Schweinfurt district group,
made mention of things including the diplomatic discord between the USA and
Germany because of the treatment of the Scientology Organization.

Did that sort of Scientology-friendly attitude on the part of the USA
demonstrate that infiltration there has already successfully born fruit, asked
the academically degreed lawyer.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. 'Battlefield Earth': Film Dogged by Links to Scientology Founder
New York Times, May 11, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/film/051100battlefield-travolta-film.htmlOff-site Link
HOLLYWOOD, May 10 -- The anticult networks are kicking up a fuss. Discussion on
Internet movie sites is picking over the potentially sinister implications.

Anonymous e-mails are whizzing around the country charging that, among other
things, subliminal messages are being used to recruit unsuspecting moviegoers.

Controversy has swirled around the film because it is based on the 1982 novel by
L. Ron Hubbard, who founded the Church of Scientology, and because the film was
the pet project of Mr. Travolta, who has made no secret of his dedication to
Scientology. Could this be a sneaky attempt to lure unsuspecting moviegoers into

The makers of the film and its distributors maintain that ''Battlefield Earth''
has nothing whatever to do with the Church of Scientology and that it is
intended to be nothing more than a big summer adventure, devoid of subterfuge.

But several anticult Web sites have posted warnings about the film in recent
months that contain numerous charges. For example Cultwatch and Factnet say that
the film carries subliminal messages meant to lure people into Scientology, that
the film was secretly financed by Scientology, and that Scientology plans
recruiting efforts to coincide with the movie's release.

Scientology has been a flashpoint for controversy almost since its founding in
1954, but particularly in the last quarter-century as some former members
charged that they had been bilked and sometimes mistreated by officials of what
many refer to as a moneymaking cult. Scientology, which says it is a
nondenominational religious organization that helps its members reach a state of
mental and spiritual clarity, has vigorously denied all such charges.

Scientology officials maintain that they have nothing to do with the making of
the film.

''Battlefield Earth'' is not a Scientology text, the filmmakers say, but an
adventure that just happened to be written by the man who founded Scientology.

Though some of Scientology's teachings revolve around space aliens, they bear no
resemblance to the story of the evil Psychlos.

James Richardson, a professor of sociology and law at the University of Nevada
at Reno who studies new religions, said Hubbard's novel had little bearing on
the organization's teachings. ''I read it and thought it was a pretty good yarn,''
he said.

''I imagine the movie will rise or fall based on how good a yarn it is,'' said Mr.
Richardson, the professor. ''I seriously doubt that someone is going to go out
and join Scientology just because they see this movie.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Cult Apologists FAQ Entry on James Richardson
http://www.snafu.de/~tilman/faq-you/cult.apologists.txtOff-site Link

James Richardson <jtr@unr.edu>
http://www.unr.edu/arts-n-science/soc/jtr.htmOff-site Link

Minor cult apologist who is Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies
at the University of Nevada in Reno (!). He is the President of the
American Association of University Professors.

Says that Leo Ryan is ''not a hero'', but a ''tragic figure like Jim
Jones'', and that he was co-responsible for what happened, and that he
was ''as mad as Jones''. http://bernie.cncfamily.com/ryan1.htmOff-site Link

In the article ''Print Media Coverage of New Religious Movements: A
Longitudinal Study'' (Journal of Communication 38(3), 1998, pp. 37-61) he
says on p.45:

The People's temple was not included in our sample because it is
an atypical NRM in term of its origins, the characteristics of
its members, its organisational structure, the amount of social
contact between the group and the ''outside world,'' the
recruitment and resocialization techniques it uses, and its
theology and ideology.

As evidence for amazing allegation (Jonestown is a very typical example
of a destructive cult!), he quotes himself: ''People's Temple and
Jonestown: A Corrective Comparison and Critique'', Journal for the
Scientific Study of Religion 19(3), 1980, pp. 239-255.

This is not the only scurrilous allegation. He also starts the same
article by claiming that the media functions as an institution of social
control that marginalizes and discredits oppositional movements. (Funny,
my experience with media is that they primarly *report* on them)

He participated in the filing of an amicus brief in the Molko case ''for''
the APA/ASA (American Psychological Association / American Sociological
Association). Both the APA and the ASA later withdrew their names.

Testified against legislation in Nevada that would have brought
''consumer protection'' for potential cult members. (Review of Religious
Research, 28(2), December 1986)

Claimed under oath in the Moscow trial against Prof. Alexander Dvorkin
that a person can belong simultaneously to scientology, the Moon
organisation, Krishna, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, CoG, the Local
church (Witness Lee), Mother of God center, and the Vissarionites.
(Dvorkin had made a booklet partly based on Steve Hassan's ''Questions
for the Educated Consumer'', and was sued by an inter-cult group. Dvorkin
won the lawsuit and it was upheld on appeal).

James Richardson is on the referral list of the scientology-run Cult
Awareness Network
http://www.cultawarenessnetwork.org/referral/Off-site Link

and of ''The Family''
http://www.thefamily.org/dossier/referrals/experts.htmOff-site Link
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The Cult Apologist FAQ, produced by Tilman Hausherr, includes
additional material on James Richardson's views.

23. Psychlo Babble
New Times LA, May 11, 2000
http://www.newtimesla.com/issues/2000-05-11/film4_p.htmlOff-site Link
Say what you will about L. Ron Hubbard and his 1050-page magnum opus Battlefield
Earth (i.e., it's overlong, not very well-written, and displays a lack of
editing that even the author himself admits to in the introduction), but don't
blame him for the messy exposition and ludicrous plot holes in the new film
version. Sure, Hubbard had his share of ridiculous conceits, such as the notion
that an alien race could wipe out the Earth's population using a lethal gas that
can be neutralized with simple table salt (leave it to cavemen to figure that
out 1000 years later, naturally), but it doesn't help matters that, in the quest
to hack the first half of the novel down to about 120 pages, screenwriter Corey
Mandell has condensed, shortened, and amalgamated to the point of incoherence
and illogic. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. After all, the end product
is a good deal more entertaining than the original novel.

It's been a while since we've seen dumb entertainment this unpretentious, so
why worry that it doesn't make a lick of sense?
[...more...] === Hate Groups

24. Group critical of clergy counseling at school
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 9, 2000
http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/may00/neill10050900a.aspOff-site Link
On the day that Neillsville buried one of the students killed in a horrific
crash following the school prom, the Freedom From Religion Foundation criticized
the school district for bringing in clergy to counsel students.

The Madison-based group sent a letter Tuesday to Neillsville School District
Administrator John Gaier complaining that pastors and ministers should not have
been asked to come to the high school during school hours to talk to students
coping with the loss of four classmates.

The letter, written by the group's spokeswoman, Annie Laurie Gaylor, concluded,
''It is our steadfast hope that the Neillsville Public Schools will never again
have to face such a tragedy and that its officials in the future will not
confuse compassion with religious endorsement.''

Neillsville officials were outraged by the foundation's criticism.

''I think it's ridiculous. I think they're going mad,'' said Father Joseph
Henseler, priest at St. Mary's Catholic Congregation in Neillsville.

''I think those people are way off base. I don't think they have a heart at all,''
said Mayor Bill Meier.

Four students died early Sunday, just hours after they danced at the Neillsville
High School prom. Killed in the fiery head-on collision were Blackdeer, Daniel
Riddle, 15, brothers Dylan Glebke, 17, and Cole Glebke, 16, and the driver of
the other vehicle, David Breu, 34, of Marshfield.

State Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) was appalled when he learned of the
Freedom From Religion's stance during a town hall meeting in Neillsville.

''This is a serious tragedy, and I think their letter says more about the
organization than I could. I personally think they should rename their
organization to Freedom From Compassion or Freedom From Common Sense,'' said

''This is about grieving and compassion and helping kids cope with tragedy. To
make it a political issue is absolutely disgusting,'' Suder said.

Gaylor said foundation members were saddened to hear of the deaths, but she said
the public school system should not be used to proselytize to students. She said
the foundation does not object to people seeking out their pastors or ministers
but it shouldn't be done in public schools during the school day.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Some have a passion for opposing religion
Denver Rocky Mountain News, May 8, 2000
http://www.insidedenver.com/news/0508churc.shtmlOff-site Link
The image may make members wince, but when the Freedom from Religion Foundation
wins a round - like shutting down the Lord's Prayer at a senior citizen center -
you can almost hear the Sunday morning alleluias.

''I won!'' chortles Everett Wilson, punching his fist in the air.

Welcome to the monthly meeting of FFRF, where Wilson, a guest from Nebraska, and
a dozen Denver members are reviewing their latest attempts to squelch public
displays of religion.

Amazing what a little legal leverage can do. This chapter has 12 to 20 members,
virtually all past middle age. Bob and Edith Fenn, in their 70s, spun off the
group in 1989 from an American Atheists group. A question makes them bristle:
Legal theories aside, does a truly free country stop friends whose taxes,
after all, helped build the senior center from sharing a 20-second prayer?

That's not the issue, says Bernard Nielsen, who, like Wilson, is a retired gay
man. His core issue is Christian opposition to homosexuality: ''I hate them,''
he says. ''They are my enemy and I'm fighting them at every opportunity.''

Mayo McNeil feels so intensely he pulls his chair right up to the questioner's
face to say: ''We don't want to sit and listen to their (nonsense).''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Farrakhan Regrets Any Role in Murder
Washington Post, May 10, 2000
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41736-2000May10.htmlOff-site Link
NEW YORK Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan admits his complicity in the
1965 murder of Malcolm X while seated across the table from the civil rights
leader's oldest daughter in a ''60 Minutes'' interview to be broadcast Sunday.

Attallah Shabazz later issued a statement thanking Farrakhan for acknowledging
his role and said: ''I wish him peace.''

Shabazz, then 6, saw her father gunned down in the Audobon Ballroom in Harlem on
Feb. 21, 1965. Three men with ties to the Nation of Islam were convicted in the

A year earlier, Malcolm X's criticism of Nation of Islam spiritual leader Elijah
Muhammad had caused a bitter split with church leaders, including Farrakhan.
Farrakhan called Malcolm X a traitor and wrote, two months before the killing,
that ''such a man is worthy of death.''

Farrakhan has denied ordering the assassination but later admitted to having
''helped create the atmosphere'' that led to it.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

27. Saudi justice minister says Islamic-law critics are 'enemies of God'
CNN/AP, May 10, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/05/10/bc.saudi.humanrights.ap/index.htmlOff-site Link
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia defended its Islamic penal code
Wednesday as the human rights group Amnesty International denounced what it
described as ongoing rights violations in the kingdom.

Saudi Justice Minister Abdullah al-Sheik condemned critics of his country's
practice of Islamic law, or sharia, which is based on the Koran, the Muslim holy

''Those who raise doubts that sharia law does not guarantee human rights are the
enemies of God, religion and humanity and their hearts are full of hatred,'' the
official Saudi Press Agency quoted al-Sheik as saying.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International, which is based in London, said that Saudi
Arabia continues to abuse human rights and has carried out 13 executions and
four amputations since the March campaign. The group has denounced what it says
are systematic human rights violations, including torture in police stations and
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Amnesty International report on Saudi Arabia:
http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/intcam/saudi/index.htmlOff-site Link

* The publisher of RNR is a member of Amnesty International.

28. Flirting with the Islamists
TAZ (Germany), May 5, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000505e.htmOff-site Link
The professor bowed deeply to his former opponents. Three years ago, Udo
Steinbach, Director of the German Oriental Institute in Hamburg was warning of
the dangers emanating from the Islamist groups in Germany. Now his motto is,
''There is a new openness in dialogue. And the anti-Semitic duct in many
publications has been deactivated.

It was a conciliatory start to the meeting of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation
entitled, ''Fellow citizens of the Moslem Faith: the neglected minority,'' which
took place on Thursday in Berlin. Steinbach even made a good witness for the
Milli Goerues, the most influential organization of political Islam in Germany.
He appears to have forgotten that the Milli Goerues systematically lied to the
German public for years - about their organizational structure, their ideology,
their sources of finance, their connections to Scientology and their dependency
upon Turkish Islamic leader Necmettin Erbakan.

''What is wrong with Steinbach?'' puzzled Hasan Oezdogan during the coffee
break. The Chairman of the Islamic Council of Germany, which is an umbrella
organization dominated by the Milli Goerues, was not expecting an answer. He
knows that it is no longer the Milli Goerues, but their critics, who are running
against the wind.

Where does the sudden favoritism for Milli Goerues come from? The answer is
clear to Ahmet Senyurt, ''the Milli Guerues have influence in the ghetto. And
whoever has this influence can win the politicians over.'' Many politicians are
aware of the explosive situation which lies in portions of the city like
Berlin-Kreuzberg, where more than thirty percent of the immigrants are
unemployed. Milli Goerues offer help. ''We bring the young people away from
drugs and violence,'' goes their offer. ''If it weren't for us, it would be much
less peaceful in Berlin-Kreuzberg and Cologne-Nippes,'' Mehmet Sabri Erbakan,
Germany's chief of the Milli Goerues, gives food for thought.

But things do not have to stay that way. Hasan Oezdogan ominously added on
Thursday that if the German public were to force the Milli Goerues into a
corner, that there would not be any integration.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Muslims to meet Mungiki
The Daily Nation (Kenya), May 11, 2000
http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/Today/News/News36.htmlOff-site Link
Muslim leaders will arrange a meeting with the controversial Mungiki sect
following claims that the group is 95 per cent Muslim.

Commenting on an incident in which members of the Mungiki sect carrying
placards reading ''Mungiki is 95 per cent Islam'' raided a police station two
weeks ago to free some of their colleagues from custody, Sheikh Kassim said the
possibility of the sect practising Islamic principles could not be ruled out.

He urged Muslim leaders to stop reacting negatively to the Mungiki claim but try
to establish the truth.

''There is nothing like 95 per cent Islam,'' he said. ''If they are willing to
embrace Islam, they should embrace it fully.''

The Kadhi, however, distanced the Muslims from what he called criminal
activities of the sect.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Buddhism

30. Hull declares statewide Buddha day
The Arizona Republic, May 10, 2000
http://www.arizonarepublic.com/arizona/articles/0510govbuddha10.htmlOff-site Link
The Bible is out and Buddha is in when it comes to Gov. Jane Hull's proclamation

Hull, who last year vowed never to proclaim another statewide ''Bible Week''
because she didn't want to offend any religious group, signed a proclamation May
3 ''to commemorate the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha.''

The governor was unavailable Tuesday, but spokeswoman Francie Noyes said the
Buddha birthday proclamation differs from Bible Week.

''This proclamation endorses the ideas of tolerance and liberty,'' she said.
''The idea it promotes is one of religious freedom.''

Hull and Gilbert Mayor Cynthia Dunham are the only state political leaders to
honor the founder of Buddhism, who was born in Nepal 2,540 years ago.

In 1998, the Arizona branch of the American Civil Liberties Union sued Hull and
Dunham for their Bible Week proclamations.

Hull rescinded her Bible Week because of the suit. Dunham, backed by lawyers
from Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, fought for hers.

In September, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver dismissed the ACLU's suit on
grounds the Gilbert residents named as plaintiffs didn't prove they were

She did not rule on the proclamation's constitutionality, and the ACLU has asked
her to reconsider the dismissal. Silver has not yet ruled, and Dunham proclaimed
Bible Week last year.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Boom in Buddhist websites
BBC News, May 9, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/world/asia-pacific/newsid_742000/742269.stmOff-site Link
Young Thai Buddhists are increasingly taking to the internet for spiritual
guidance. In the past year, Buddhist websites have tripled on the internet,
with about 2,000 websites now online in Thailand.

Internet experts say page hits on Buddhist websites have more than doubled in
the past year.

The websites - mostly targeted at the young - explain the religion and the
teachings of Buddha. Meditation masters are online to instruct followers about
the power of prayer. There are also chat rooms for people to share views and
experiences with other Buddhists around the world.

Sulak Sivaraska says technology is a vital resource for those disillusioned by
the excesses of today's Buddhism. ''In this country, temples on the whole have
become fairly awful - a source of commercialism, uncleanliness, exploitation.
''Now we are separated from temples. Temples are here in your mind, but if the
website can help you to purify your mind, that is okay.

But some question whether the internet is a suitable spiritual medium.

Nantasarn Seesalab, head of the Bangkok-based World Fellowship of Buddhists,
believes websites give an oversimplified version of a complex religion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Mormonism

32. Mormon faces court
The Press/NZPA (New Zealand), May 11. 2000
http://www.press.co.nz/2000/19/000511n05.htmOff-site Link
WELLINGTON -- A Mormon missionary will appear in the Levin District Court
tomorrow charged with assault after a man claimed he had been beaten up on his
back doorstep.

Peter Munro claimed he was knocked down and kicked in the face by the man on
Saturday. He needed stitches to a wound near his eye.

Mr Munro said he had earlier turned away two missionaries, and then went out in
his car. Soon after he returned home, about 12.30pm, the missionaries knocked on
his door again.

''They accused me of trying to knock them down in my car. I never got a chance to
explain, the big one grabbed me. Next thing I knew I was on the floor getting my
head kicked in. I woke up in a pool of blood and they were gone,'' he said.

He said a member of Levin's Mormon Church, Peter Williams, had since apologised.

Mr Munro said the incident was bizarre. ''I didn't see it coming. It's a bit of a
blow to the ego, getting beaten up by the God-botherers,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Breatharians

33. Breatharians appeal against manslaughter convictions
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Australia), May 9, 2000
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newslink/weekly/newsnat-9may2000-56.htmOff-site Link
A husband and wife who were jailed for the death of a Melbourne woman after she
took part in a 21-day fasting program are appealing against their sentences in

Jim and Eugenia Pesnak, both aged in their sixties, were convicted of
manslaughter last year, after failing to seek adequate medical attention for the
woman, whose health declined during the fast.

Counsel for the Pesnaks has told the Court of Appeal that they had no intention
to harm the woman, and that the offences occurred in the background of shared
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

34. 'Heretic'wins top religious award
Sunday Times (England), May 9, 2000
http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/2000/05/09/timnwsnws03009.htmlOff-site Link
A physicist who has no time for the doctrine of the Trinity and doubts the
historical truth of the Gospels has won one of the world's largest monetary
awards, the 600,000 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

Freeman Dyson, 76, said yesterday that he had no idea why he had won the prize,
whose previous recipients have included the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta and
the evangelist Billy Graham.

''I was astonished when I heard I was even being considered for this because I
have never really contributed much to progress in religion as far as I can see,''
he said.

However, he said he believed in God. And he has dedicated his life to using his
expertise at the highest levels of quantum physics to promoting technologies
that can ''equalise'' the gaps in society between the haves and the have-nots.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

35. Oceanside bans sectarian invocations
San Diego Union-Tribune, May 5, 2000
http://www.uniontrib.com/news/northcounty/20000505-0010_3m5oside.htmlOff-site Link
OCEANSIDE -- Local clergy can still call upon God to guide the City Council
during its meetings.

But they can't invoke Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or Krishna.

Nor can they read from the Bible or any other sectarian scripture during the
invocations that open each council meeting.

The council will adopt a policy virtually identical to Carlsbad's telling
pastors to be nonsectarian in their prayers. A pamphlet published by the
National Conference, formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews,
will be used as a guideline.

The San Diego and Imperial Counties chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union had threatened to sue the city if it continued the sectarian invocations
it has allowed in the past.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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36. Ministry student challenges course content
Toledo Blade, May 6, 2000
http://www.toledoblade.com/editorial/religion/0e06cont.htmOff-site Link
A student in the Toledo Catholic Diocese's lay-ministry program claims his
efforts to question what was being taught have resulted in an attempt to remove
him from the course.

In a unanimous ruling late last week, the court declined to address Mr.
Fernandes's allegations that he was the subject of an effort to remove him and
simply said he was not denied due process and was given the opportunity to
comply with the program regulations. Mr. Fernandes said he plans an appeal.

Mr. Wasserman claims Mr. Fernandes was told he could not continue in the program
because he did not complete the work required to progress from the fourth to the
fifth year of the program, which prepares lay people to serve in their parishes
and also can lead to ordination as a permanent deacon.

However, Mr. Fernandes said the work in question was completed in time and that
the real issue is his open challenges to the program's content and materials,
which he says often conflict with official church teaching.

His challenge to the program comes at a time when the Vatican increasingly has
tightened its hold on the content of theology classes at Catholic colleges and

Among the concerns Mr. Fernandes has raised are one priest's contention that
Jesus never knew he was God, the same priest's acknowledgement that he had
problems with Catholic teaching on communion, a teacher's ''unofficial''
encouragement that students use a text prohibited by the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops, a teacher expressing support for theologians who openly
dissent from church teaching, a priest who said he didn't agree with everything
the church teaches, and the use of materials from Zero Population Growth, a
group that supports abortion and sterilization, both of which the church

The Rev. Steve Stanbery, a priest who previously taught in the program and
appeared at Mr. Fernandes's Court of Equity hearing as his advocate, said Mr.
Fernandes is not alone in questioning the program content. He said he has had
complaints from both priests and lay people about the ministry program's
teachings in such areas as the authority of the Pope, the authority of the
church, the Eucharist, the providence of God, and such moral issues as

Deacon Michael Learned of Toledo, who was ordained in 1996, said he also had
concerns about some of the things taught in the program. He remembers in
particular a presentation on AIDS in which the facilitator criticized church
teaching on homosexuality and said the church should support homosexual
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Study finds genetic links between Jews and Arabs
Star-Telegram.AP, May 9, 2000
Off-site Link
JERUSALEM -- Tradition says the biblical patriarch Abraham fathered both the
Jewish and Arab nations.

Now, new DNA-based research reveals a genetic link between Jews and
Palestinians, suggesting the two peoples, locked in a bitter struggle for more
than a century, indeed share a common ancestry dating back 4,000 years.

The study, published Tuesday in ''The Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences'' in Washington, D.C., says the Y chromosome found in Jewish men may go
back to a common pool of Middle Eastern ancestors.

The genetic link between Jews and Arabs suggested by the study is reflected in
the biblical account in Genesis of how Abraham fathered two sons: Ishmael by his
wife's maid Hagar, and then, when Sarah was able to conceive, Isaac. Although
Muslims give a different version of the story, they revere Abraham and Ishmael
-- or Ibrahim and Ismail, -- just as Jews do Abraham and Isaac.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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38. Church Rebuilding Role in Mexico
StarTribune.com/AP, May 6, 2000
Off-site Link
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- It is a sight not seen in perhaps 140 years: an open-air
Mass by the Roman Catholic Church attended by tens of thousands in the heart of
Mexico, the sprawling plaza known as the Zocalo.

The celebration Saturday is yet another sign that the long and sometimes bloody
hostility between the government and church in Mexico has broken down, and that
the church is playing a more public role.

'' The new church cannot be the church of silence, '' Cardinal Norberto Rivera
said as he opened Saturday' s Mass, referring to more than a century of state
restrictions on religion.

The Church' s role has also affected Mexico' s tightly contested presidential
race. The Clergy has become increasingly vocal in calling for democratic reform,
and politicians from all sides have openly courted church supporters.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Interfaith / Religious Pluralism

39. Diversity forces interfaith group into tough decisions
Houston Chronicle, May 7, 2000
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/metropolitan/545583Off-site Link
THE WOODLANDS -- An uneasy decision by the board of a local interfaith religious
group over whether to reject a Planned Parenthood ad is an example of how the
increasingly diversity of The Woodlands community has strained the coalition.

The executive board of Interfaith of The Woodlands was still recovering from a
controversy from last year over whether to admit congregations from other than
Judeo-Christian faiths when the request by Planned Parenthood raised the thorny
issue of abortion, board chairman Pete Freeman said.

The request by Planned Parenthood, which offers abortion as one of many
services, to place an advertisement in the new edition of the Interfaith
Directory of The Woodlands raised the concern of executive board members
representing churches who oppose abortion as a matter of faith, he said.

Such potentially divisive issues have brought to the fore the difficulty of
holding together an organization composed of congregations with often strongly
divergent views.

=== Environment

40. Ecologists, religious leaders getting together
StarTelegram.com/Scripps Howard, Apr. 29, 2000
Off-site Link
Mother Nature and the Heavenly Father aren't at odds with one another even if
some environmentalists and some Christians are, according to leaders of a
movement to unite the two adversaries.

Until recently environmentalists and some conservative Christians tended to view
each other suspiciously, each group thinking the other was misguided in its
views of the relationship between heaven and earth. But thanks to a movement
known as ''creation stewardship'' old attitudes are changing on both sides, the
movement's leaders believe.

Creation stewardship emphasizes the belief that all of creation is good and that
it is the responsibility of human beings to care for it, rather than exerting
domination. It puts a religious spin on caring for the environment with the
expectation that conservation will have a deeper meaning.

''To me something means more when you're doing it as an act of service to God,''
said Dr. David Mahan, associate director of Au Sable Institute for environmental
studies, an institute in northern Michigan that took its French name from its
sandy location. ''It means a lot more than if I'm just doing it for a frog.''

Au Sable offers courses in environmental sciences from a Christian standpoint.
Last year, the director of the institute, Dr. Calvin DeWitt, led a two-day
conference on creation stewardship at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene,
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41. Meacher comes out as guru of Mother Earth
The Sunday Times (England), May 7, 2000
http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/2000/05/07/stinwenws01024.htmlOff-site Link
Every little thing on the planet, including Michael Meacher MP, is a mere part
of a gigantic ''super organism'' hurtling through space. The Earth, you see, is
''alive''. That, at least, is one view of a theory gaining ground in government
circles, especially in the office of Meacher, minister for the environment.

The idea of the Earth being a living entity has inspired new age gurus and
radical scientists for years; now it has finally achieved political
respectability. Ministers and advisers are wholeheartedly embracing one of the
most visionary scientific concepts of the past 30 years: the Gaia hypothesis.

The Gaia hypothesis was developed in the early 1970s by James Lovelock, an
independent British scientist who met Meacher not long ago. Now 80, Lovelock
will publish his autobiography later this year. Although his hypothesis
originally sparked controversy, he has lived to see its core idea accepted in
mainstream science and now at government level.
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=== Noted

42. Cult Exit
The Dayton Daily News, May 7, 2000
Off-site Link
(...) Secluded on 160 hilly, wooded acres in Meigs County about 10 miles south
of Ohio University, Wellspring bills itself as the nation's only residential
treatment facility for victims of mind-control cults.

Wellspring officials say they've treated more than 500 former cult members from
the United States and nine foreign countries since the retreat opened in 1986;
last year was Wellspring's second-biggest year ever, with 51 clients.

Cults vary widely, Wellspring staffers say, but all use coercion and deception
to recruit and retain members, exploit their members psychologically or
financially, and use strong but subtle mind-control techniques to keep members
in bondage.

Psychologist Paul Martin, Wellspring's founder and director, said the center
uses intensive one-on-one counseling and educational workshops to help its
clients overcome the lingering effects of cult brainwashing and get on with
their lives.

Most senior staffers, including Martin, say they are themselves former members
of cults. The staff is made up of Christians, but staffers say they respect
clients' religious views and don't push Christianity on unwilling clients. They
point out that Wellspring is an accredited health-care facility, no one comes
there against his will and clients are always free to leave.

Still, Wellspring's underlying philosophy is controversial. Critics say the
whole notion of ''cults'' and ''brainwashing'' is a means of vilifying unorthodox
religious beliefs and explaining conversions that seem inexplicable. They say
brainwashing is a discredited psychological theory, and if people can't be
programmed there's no need for deprogramming.

Jeffrey Hadden, a sociology professor who specializes in the study of new
religious movements, said former Wellspring clients have told him the retreat
uses some of the very ''thought-reform'' techniques it attributes to cults. Hadden
wouldn't say who he talked to because he considers their statements to him

''What Wellspring offers is salvation based on leaving the (cultic) group. Your
salvation involves recanting what you've done,'' said Hadden of the University of
Virginia. ''It's questionable there are many people, if any, who need it, and the
kind of techniques they use there may be parallel to a lot of the religious
movements they call cults.''

Martin, 53, bristled at Hadden's remarks. ''The courts have typically accepted
brainwashing testimony,'' said Martin, who has given expert testimony in a number
of cult-related trials, including one in Alaska last month. ''To dismiss this as
poppycock is sort of a slap in the face to history: We have Jonestown, we have
Heaven's Gate, we have Aum Shinrikyo. We don't solicit - people call us because
they've been in pain.''

It's common, he said, for former cult members to suffer from anxiety, depression
and dissociation, a feeling of being out of touch with reality - sometimes for
years after leaving a cult.

''It's scary stuff,'' he said. ''It's stuff you only think happens in science
fiction. When parents say, 'My kid seems like a robot,' that's not National
Enquirer tabloid stuff. Their whole personality has been changed.''

Christian writers Bob and Gretchen Passantino say parents can't blame mind
control for such changes. They say mind-control theorists promote a victim
mentality that allows cult members to dodge responsibility for bad choices.

''The bogey man of cult mind control is nothing but a ghost story, good for
inducing an adrenaline high and maintaining a crusade, but irrelevant to
reality,'' they wrote in a 1994 article attacking mind control. ''If our first
parents (Adam and Eve) could be held morally responsible when confronted by the
Ultimate Tempter, how is it that we seek to excuse ourselves or our offspring
when confronted by human tempters of far less power, skill and charisma?''

Martin said only about 1 percent of Wellspring's clients go back to their cults
after treatment. The Passantinos say that's not surprising, since the vast
majority of people who join cults leave them and never return, with or without

Leaders of the anti-cult movement say there are thousands of cults in the United
States with membership totaling 2 million to 5 million or more, depending on
which groups are counted as cults. Martin subscribes to that view.

Other religious thinkers say that defining a ''cult'' is so problematic that they
choose not to use the word at all, or apply it only to a handful of doomsday
groups. The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance recommend sparing use of
the word. Some Christian fundamentalists, the OCRT says, ''might brand any
religious group which deviates from historical Protestant Christian beliefs as
a cult. This definition would include the Mormon Church, Wicca, mainline and
liberal Christian denominations, Islam, Hinduism and all of the other religions
of the world. More than percent of humanity would belong to cults, by this
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43. Baptized Karate Helps Reinforce Christianity
Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2000
Off-site Link
The Rev. David Baumann is no ordinary priest. On Sundays he stands before his
congregation at the Episcopal Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Placentia in
full-length vestments of gold and black to preach the word of God.

On certain other days, attired all in white, he throws punches and screams in

This is no ordinary class and they are no ordinary students. Three days a week,
Baumann and a group of more than 30 people--from young children to
adults--exercise the art of what they call ''Christian Karate.'' It's a class in
which Baumann blends his religious message with martial arts in the Korean tang
soo do style.

''We take very classical Korean and Japanese karate and baptize it, make it
Christian,'' said Baumann, a second-degree black belt with 10 years of teaching

Baumann acknowledges that the combination is not a natural one. ''It is quite
clear the religious origins of martial arts are not Christian,'' he said.

But Baumann believes the basic karate teachings of respect, self-confidence and
obedience to one's instructor reinforce the principles of Christianity.

Occasionally class members will pause to read and discuss Scripture. The class
also practices Zen meditation.

The two cultures are intertwined in other ways as well. Baumann gives students
special names in Korean that reflect their personalities and their relationship
with God. The school itself is called Ai-Ten Ryu, or Love of Heaven School.
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44. Museum brings biblical vision of creation to life
StarTribune.com/AP, May 7, 2000
Off-site Link
FLORENCE, KY. -- Fundamentalist theology drives Ken Ham's dream for a big museum
explaining creationism, but he's counting on dinosaurs to draw the crowds.

''We're going to have the largest collection of life-sized dinosaur models in
America,'' said Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis. ''Just think of movies like
'Lost World' and 'Jurassic Park.' Dinosaurs are incredibly popular. Kids are
fascinated by them. So are parents.

While most science texts say dinosaurs roamed the Earth 65 million to 225
million years ago, Ham says man and all animals, including dinosaurs, date only
to the generations named in the Bible, covering about 6,000 years.

Such information, along with teachings that all people are descended from Adam
and Eve and that the Bible is a literal account of creation, will be on display
at a 95,000-square-foot museum and headquarters that Answers in Genesis plans to
build on 47 acres near the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.

The group recently won regulatory approval for the facility, which Ham says will
cost up to $8 million to build.

The museum will be an alternative to ''evolution-dominated'' museums, Ham said.