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Religion News Report

June 18, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 214)

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Rainbow


=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Davidians, Govt to Meet in Court 7 Years After Waco
2. New deadline is set for Davidian evidence
3. Judge limits number of weapons allowed as evidence during Davidian trial
4. Claimants to Davidian land back in court arguing ownership

=== Aum Shinrikyo
5. Prosecutors seek death for cultist
6. Surveillance is unnecessary as cult poses no danger, Aum leader claims
7. PC outlet staffed by Aum delayed

=== Falun Gong
8. China Falun Gong Man Dies After Abuse - HK Group
9. Report: Members of Banned Sect Die
10. Falun Gong and the Internet

=== Scientology
11. Photos of McPherson autopsy stir new conflict
12. Wood says she should keep her job
13. Human rights group denies it has been infiltrated by Scientologists
14. Movies: Top contender for the Golden Razzies
15. Scientology Debate: The American trade authorities criticize Germany
for ''sect filter''
16. Scientology Debate: Does Hollywood pay critics of Germany?
17. Scientology Debate: Windows 2000 components Not to be in Hamburg
government computers
18. Scientology Debate: Well meant, poorly done

=== Mormonism
19. Mormons to restore Ohio sites

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
20. Transfusion row rocks Jehovah's Witnesses

=== Islam
21. Christians and Muslims in harmony
22. 33 given death sentences in arson attack
23. Bardot fined for racist remarks
24. Islamic council to open center for Muslim activists

=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes
25. Agent immune in Ruby Ridge killing
26. Aryan Nations may forgo march this summer
27. Czechs try to ban Hitler's book
28. Hundreds of rightist radicals demonstrate in Germany
29. Nail bomber 'was sent by God to start race wars'

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
30. Applicants Granted Amnesty For Witchcraft Murders

=== Other News
31. Word of Faith leaders take back guilty pleas
32. Cultist rejects female attorney (The Gatekeepers)
33. Autopsy on Herbalife founder finds death caused by accidental overdose

=== Religious Freedom / Religous Intolerance
34. US Hearing on Religion: Criticism for Austria because of Sect Booklet
35. Graduation Restriction Draws Suit
36. Christian Group, Labs Reach Deal
37. Man Fired For Religion Complaints
38. Judge Strikes La. School Prayer Law
39. The Sounds of Silencing
40. Why are we surprised when the Baptists do their annual thing?

=== Noted
41. 'What's Your Astrological Sign?' Not What You Think
42. Physicists seek to replicate creation of universe
43. Faith finds home, but no welcome (Cao Dai)
44. Evangelicals reach out to prison population

=== Death Penalty / Human Rights
45. On Native Ground: Jamming The Texas Death Machine
46. Baptists say yes to death penalty, no to women pastors

=== Books
47. Harry Potter fever grips children around world


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Davidians, Govt to Meet in Court 7 Years After Waco
AOL/Reuters, June 17, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006160237214446
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas (Reuters) - Seven years after the fiery end of a siege outside Waco, Branch Davidians and the U.S government will face off in court next week over Davidian claims that federal agents caused the deaths of around 80 cult members.

At stake is the question, still hotly debated in America, of whether the FBI or Branch Davidians are responsible for the deaths of cult leader David Koresh and many of his followers.
(...)

Whatever the verdict, many believe it will not be enough to settle the continuing angry dispute between those who accuse the government of abuse of power and others who say the Davidians set the fire themselves in a suicidal act of defiance.

''People have staked out their sides of the controversy for so long, it's hard to imagine it will end,'' said Bill Pitts, a professor of religion at Baylor University in Waco who has studied the Branch Davidian faith.
(...)

Acknowledging the sensitive nature of the case, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith has decided to call a six-member advisory jury, an unusual move because lawsuits against the U.S. government are generally tried by the bench, or the presiding judge.

Jury selection in the Waco federal courtroom will start on Monday and opening arguments could be heard as soon as Tuesday, the judge has said. Attorneys familiar with the case believe the trial will last about four weeks.

The plaintiffs are expected to call a string of FBI witnesses and outside experts to back up their claims that the government caused the deaths in three ways:

- by using excessive force in a Feb. 28 raid on the compound that sparked the standoff. A gunfight broke out when agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to arrest Koresh on firearms charges and four agents and six Davidians were killed;

- by causing the fires that roared through the compound on April 19, possibly by using explosive tear gas canisters. The fires started six hours after the FBI began pouring tear gas into the buildings with armored vehicles that punched in walls;

- by holding firefighters back from the scene.

The judge has postponed ruling on another allegation, that FBI agents shot at the compound during the fires and therefore killed Davidians by gunfire or by keeping them from fleeing the burning building. That point will be decided in August because a court-appointed expert was ill and unable to attend the trial.

Government lawyers are contesting all the charges.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. New deadline is set for Davidian evidence
Dallas Morning News, June 16, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/
96959_waco_16tex.ART.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A federal judge in Waco has told both sides in the Branch Davidian wrongful-death case that he is considering throwing out the sect's allegations that government gunfire contributed to the massive loss of life at the end of the 1993 siege.

U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith gave lawyers for the sect until next Friday to offer ''any additional evidence'' to support their claim that repeated flashes on an FBI infrared videotape recorded on April 19, 1993, came from government gunfire.

Citing the May report of a court-appointed expert that the flashes came only from sunlight and heat reflections, Judge Smith wrote that ''the court is persuaded that the issue ... may best be resolved through summary judgment.''

The order came on the heels of the judge's Monday announcement that the April 19 gunfire issue would be severed from the jury trial of the wrongful-death case set to begin next week in Waco.

Judge Smith said Monday that he planned to hear evidence and decide that issue at a later date because the chief analyst for the British firm appointed by the court to study the issue, David Oxlee of Vector Data Systems, was ill and unavailable to testify until late summer.
(...)

Lawyers for the government said Thursday that they are now hopeful that the judge will dismiss outright what they have long maintained is an outrageous and baseless allegation.

''We think that the evidence is overwhelming that there is no gunfire, that the court-appointed experts confirm what was already very clear, and that a summary judgment order should be granted,'' said U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford of Beaumont, one of the government's lead defense lawyers.

But lawyers for the plaintiffs complained that the ruling unfairly burdens them on the eve of trial and comes before they are allowed to fully question the court's experts. They have argued that the findings were flawed, noting that two Vector Data Systems analysts who have been deposed have contradicted many aspects of the firm's report and that one admitted that neither was qualified to evaluate whether infrared recordings captured gunfire.

''We offered to go to London and take Mr. Oxlee's deposition so we could present this issue to the jury. The court rejected that proposal, saying the court wanted to see Mr. Oxlee testify personally,'' said Michael Caddell of Houston. ''I find this order surprising and very strange, to suggest that this issue could be decided on before we ever get to question him.''

Judge Smith had previously denied government motions to dismiss the April 19 gunfire allegation from the wrongful-death lawsuit, citing a report by a former defense department expert that the flashes on the infrared video could only have come from government gunfire.
(...)

''It's wholly unreasonable to expect lawyers who are picking a jury and putting on evidence to be writing briefs or coming up with new evidence on this matter, especially when the accuracy of the Vector Data report has not been sworn to by anyone,'' Mr. Brannon said. ''We'll have to do the best we can, but the court seems determined to keep the issue of government gunfire from the public and an unbiased jury.''

''I also have to say that I see the hand of Waco special counsel John Danforth in this, as he selected Vector Data Systems and drew up the plans for their junk science demonstration,'' Mr. Brannon said. ''His so-called investigation has lost any credibility to this lawyer and appears to be a continuation of previous non-investigations of Waco.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Judge limits number of weapons allowed as evidence during Davidian trial
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 14, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/
local/2000/06/14/961025678.06933.3687.0031.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A limited number of weapons recovered from Mount Carmel seven years ago will be allowed into Waco's federal courtroom next week, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. ruled Wednesday.

Smith ruled that one example of each type of weapon owned by the Branch Davidians can be introduced during their wrongful-death lawsuit against the government, set to start Monday in Waco. The government may offer photographs of all the weapons recovered, Smith said.

Houston attorney Mike Caddell, the lead plaintiffs attorney, sought to limit the number of weapons actually brought into the courtroom. He argued that the government was attempting to inflame the jury.
(...)

Smith also partially granted the government's motion to exclude the testimony of Jack Zimmerman, the Houston attorney who represented Steve Schneider, Koresh's chief lieutenant, during the siege.

Zimmerman, an ex-Marine, told reporters in 1993 that he saw bullet holes in the roof and front door of Mount Carmel that he believed proved that the government was the aggressor during the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' raid on the Branch Davidians.

However, Smith ruled that Zimmerman did not have the background or training to qualify him as a firearms expert in the analysis of bullet trajectory.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Claimants to Davidian land back in court arguing ownership
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 15, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/
local/2000/06/15/961118183.22512.7347.0011.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A month after a McLennan County jury failed to determine who owns Mount Carmel, those seeking title to it were back in a Waco court.

Judge Alan Mayfield of the 74th State District Court heard opposing ownership arguments Thursday.

Douglas Mitchell - a follower of the late Lois Roden, from whom the late David Koresh gained control of the Branch Davidians - asked Mayfield to sustain the jury's May 5 verdict that neither Koresh's surviving followers such as Clive Doyle nor the widow of the late Branch Davidian leader George Roden, Amo Roden, are legitimate church trustees.

Amo Roden asked Mayfield to overturn the portion of the jury's verdict that pertained to her.
(...)

None of the parties disputes that Mount Carmel, on which Koresh and 75 followers died seven years ago, belongs to the Branch Davidian church. However, all sides believe themselves to have the strongest ties to the original church.
(...)

Roden opened the hearing by arguing that she had in effect done the job of a church trustee for the past 12 years.

''It should be pretty clear here that I'm angling for a court appointment as trustee,'' Roden told Mayfield.

Mitchell argued that the Davidians who had followed Ben and Lois Roden and chose not to follow Koresh were the rightful heirs of Mount Carmel, located on 77 acres about 10 miles outside Waco. The jury by its verdict seemed to recognize there had been a schism in the group, Mitchell said.

He also complained about Koresh's followers calling themselves Branch Davidians.

''The court should issue an injunction barring the plaintiffs from using any names, words or designation of the original church,'' Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the jury made it clear that the plaintiffs had no right to Mount Carmel.
(...)

In rebuttal, Roden argued that Koresh's followers weren't fit to be trustees. She claimed they seized Mount Carmel, turning it from a community of families into a commune, tearing down the single-family homes and building a rambling structure that featured dormitories for men and women.

''It supported a lifestyle quite different from when the church had single-family housing,'' Roden said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aum Shinrikyo

5. Prosecutors seek death for cultist
Japan Times (Japan), June 17, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/
getarticle.pl5?nn20000617b2.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office filed an appeal Friday with the Tokyo High Court to change the life prison term handed to senior Aum Shinrikyo figure Yoshihiro Inoue to capital punishment.

The Tokyo District Court on June 6 sentenced Inoue to life for his role in 10 crimes, including the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Surveillance is unnecessary as cult poses no danger, Aum leader claims
Japan Times (Japan), June 16, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20000616b4.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Aum Shinrikyo chief Tatsuko Muraoka testified during the first hearing of a lawsuit filed against the Public Security Examination Commission that ongoing surveillance of the cult under the anti-Aum law is unnecessary as it no longer poses a threat to society.

Muraoka said before the Tokyo District Court that Aum, which has changed its named to Aleph, is a completely different organization from the one that committed the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

''I realize that what is behind the surveillance is public anxiety over our activities, but it has already been proven by past inspections that we are harmless,'' she said.

The cult was placed under surveillance by the commission on Feb. 1, following the enactment of a law in December that allows authorities to monitor groups responsible for mass murder.
(...)

During Thursday's hearing, Yuji Maeda, a lawyer representing the cult, said the law runs counter to the freedom of religion and equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

Muraoka said the law has triggered disregard for members' human rights by the media and local-level authorities, as is seen in the rejection of their applications for residency with local governments.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. PC outlet staffed by Aum delayed
Japan Times (Japan), June 18, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20000618a5.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The scheduled opening Saturday of a personal computer sales outlet in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, to be staffed by followers of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, has been postponed due to a request from the landlords, sources close to the store said.
The outlet, run by human rights activists Eizo Yamagiwa and Yukio Yamanaka, hired Aum Shinrikyo followers as part of a program to support Aum members.

According to the sources, preparations for the launch of the outlet, located in Akihabara, have been completed, but the landlords requested that it be postponed because they feared it might cause trouble.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

8. China Falun Gong Man Dies After Abuse - HK Group
AOL/Reuters, June 18, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006180345235803
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HONG KONG (Reuters) - A follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement died after being repeatedly injected with drugs at a mental hospital in China, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Sunday.

The incident brought to at least 22 the number of Falun Gong adherents who have died as a result of abuse by Chinese authorities since a crackdown began last July, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
(...)

China has acknowledged several deaths among the Falun Gong adherents while in police custody but said they were caused by suicide or natural causes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Report: Members of Banned Sect Die
AOL/AP, June 16, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006161046205553
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (AP) - Two members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement have died in police custody in China's capital, possibly due to ill-treatment, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said Friday.

The two were from different parts of China and, like thousands of Falun Gong followers, were detained in Beijing for protesting the communist government's ban on their group.

Wang Xiuying, from the northeastern city of Harbin, was in the ninth day of a hunger strike when detention center medics forcibly administered an intravenous drip on May 22, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democracy reported.

A day later, Wang lost consciousness and was sent to a nearby hospital, where she died, the Information Center said, citing sources at the detention center.

The second Falun Gong member, Tian Shiqiang, of Suining city in southwestern Sichuan province, died suddenly after he was detained by police on June 6, the Information Center said. It added that family members suspected he had been beaten because his body was cremated before they could see it.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Falun Gong and the Internet
Online Journalism Review, June 15, 2000
http://ojr.usc.edu/content/print.cfm?print=390Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
In 1999, the Chinese government launched a campaign against superstitions and unauthorized spiritual groups. One group targeted was Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, which practices a form of Qi Gong, a slow-motion meditative exercise related to martial arts such as Tai Chi.
(...)

A little Web surfing reveals that there's more to this story than meets the eye. Falun Gong's Internet savvy was a crucial factor in its ability to organize the unauthorized demonstration under the noses of Chinese intelligence. The group's secretive leader, Li Hongzhi, lives in New York and directs his movement from abroad with Internet, fax, and telephone. The group is thoroughly wired, with Falun Gong Web sites all over the world, including Asia, the USA, UK, Canada, Israel, and Australia.

In response, the Chinese government has set up an anti-Falun Gong Web site to discredit the group, and, according to an ABC News report, has also hacked into Falun Gong Web sites worldwide, spamming and causing their servers to crash.

Others have also joined in the fray of the Internet propaganda war between the Chinese government and the Falun Gong, with Web sites such as CESNUR and AsiaSource following the developments of Chinese persecution of the group closely, and offering overviews, commentaries, and site links.

The Falun Gong story appears to be as much about technology as it is about religion; it offers a fascinating glimpse of an ancient religious tradition that is mutating rapidly as it makes the leap into cyberspace.
(...)

The official Web site of the China Internet Information Center, the center of the government's Internet campaign to discredit the group, contains numerous articles detailing the ''cult's'' alleged crimes.
(...)

What is perhaps most interesting about the Falun Gong Web pages-on both sides of this battle is that they are quite extensively available in both English and Chinese. This suggests two things: first, that persuading external, Western audiences to either condemn or tolerate this group is an important objective for both sides; second, that some substantial portion of the followers themselves are English-speaking, non-Asian Westerners.
(...)

Most interesting of all to those who follow news about fringe religions around the world is the fact that the Chinese government's campaign against this organization has drawn its justifications directly from the findings of anti-cult authors in the West.

The extensive article ''Why We Judge 'Falun Gong' to Be a Cultist Organization'' is hauntingly familiar to those who remember the press accounts of cult violence from Jonestown to Waco to Heaven's Gate and Aum Shinrikyo.

The article pulls out all the stops in its comparison of Li Hongzhi to Jim Jones and other planners of religious violence, and in its demonization of alternative religious groups as ''cultist organizations corroding human society like malignant tumors.'' It lists a number of symptoms of destructive cultism, as distinguished from legitimate religion: ''cult founder worship'' and claims of supernatural powers, ''hawking the theory of doomsday,'' ''amassing illegal funds by manipulating followers,'' and ''brainwashing.''

As the article puts it, ''The followers of a cult are re-educated, have their brains washed and start with a clean slate -- 'Brain washing' means that the founder of a cult, or his organization, instills his ideas into the followers' minds and demands that they accept them.''

The scholarly debate over the brainwashing thesis is conflicted. Academics are divided over whether many standard religious practices of indoctrination are distinguishable from this kind of acute psychological coercion.

The fact that the charge of brainwashing is being raised by the Chinese government is particularly ironic, for the term was introduced to our lexicon as a way to describe the coercive pressure applied to American prisoners of war by the Chinese during the Korean War. (The image of evil Chinese Communists brainwashing American soldiers was memorably fixed in public consciousness by the film ''Manchurian Candidate.'')

Any scholarly validity that attaches to the brainwashing theory today is largely due to Robert Jay Lifton's pioneering study, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China, which certainly does not reflect well on the Chinese government's own persuasive practices. But the irony seems invisible to Falun Gong's official enemies, who are content to paint a picture of Li Hongzhi and his group that depicts them with the standard charges in the anti-cult arsenal.
(...)

These allusions to the Western ideas of a doomsday cult figure are clearly an attempt by the Chinese government to seek sympathy and empathy from Western countries, particularly from America, where Li now resides.
(...)

To American Christians who may be concerned about the implications of the government's campaign for followers of their own religion, the Chinese can also point to statements of support from Christians leaders who support the ban on Falun Gong.

The propagandistic tone of the attacks on Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong seems over the top, recalling the worst excesses of the ideological campaigns of the Cultural Revolution. Li's political ambitions are described as ''wicked'' and ''viperous'' while his ideas are ''malicious fallacies'; his followers are said to be ''an evil group that is fighting against science, the human kind, [and] society.''

The official Chinese anti-Falun Gong site on which these attacks appear is entirely self-referential, with not a single link to outside resources that might provide other viewpoints or correct distortions. So, perhaps it's time to turn to the group's own Web sites, to see if there is any evidence to support the official condemnations that are so strangely aligned with the rhetoric of the American anti-cult movement.
(...)

The Internet is clearly being used as a means to keep contact and mobilize members. One comes away from the various Falun Gong Web sites groups with a distinct impression of an effective global network that is indeed organized and connected by virtue of the Internet. Is this organization as altruistic and benevolent as it claims to be? Or can any of the charges against Falun Gong and Master Li be substantiated?

It may be that, like some religious groups in the past that have appeared harmless but ultimately turned toward violence, Master Li's deeper designs will be unveiled and found to be malevolent. On one count, however, it seems that the Chinese government has misrepresented his teachings. Oddly, neither the official Falun Dafa Web sites nor any of the other Falun Gong Web sites show any reference to doomsday predictions or the end of the world.
(...)

If we speculate as to why their attacks focused on doomsday beliefs, it may help to recall that at the time the story broke in the United States, law enforcement agencies and media pundits were embroiled in fearful premillennial speculations about the potential for religious terrorism associated with the apocalyptic year 2000. The Chinese government thus seems to have tried to justify its own repression with the same type of analysis that the FBI was promoting in its now-forgotten ''Project Megiddo'' report.

A recent survey of the opinions of overseas Chinese regarding Falun Gong and the government's repression yields some rather interesting and equivocal data: while many respondents have unfavorable opinions of Li Hongzhi, many more agreed that both Western and Chinese media have handled the whole case poorly. Those seeking to rectify media bias may find a non-partisan perspective at the online archives of CESNUR, the Italian-based Center for Studies on New Religions, where news items on Falun Gong are regularly collected and updated and some balanced articles may be found.

Similarly, the AsiaSource Web page attempts to give a balanced and objective viewpoint of Falun Gong and its practitioners, providing links to interviews with Li, along with other opinions and commentary.

In conclusion, the Falun Gong has used modern technology to its advantage, exploiting the Internet as a tool for teaching, organizing, and mobilizing its global membership, as well as for counteracting the propaganda with which the Chinese government has inundated the world. The examination of Web sites on the Internet indicates that the Chinese government is clearly on the losing side of this war. Although some articles on the Web depict the Falun Gong as a crackpot group with strange spiritual beliefs, most do not swallow their depiction as a nefarious doomsday cult.

Criticism from human rights activists and the US government over the religious persecution of Falun Gong members has clearly forced the Chinese government to proceed with caution. Thus, the power of the Internet can be used to challenge communist leadership and give religious and spiritual groups a significant voice.
(...)

Stephen D. O'Leary is an associate professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The article includes many URLs.
* Consumer Alert: CESNUR is not, as Mr. O'Leary claims, "non-partisan." It is known to many as a cult defenders organization.
=== Scientology

11. Photos of McPherson autopsy stir new conflict
St. Petersburg Times, June 16, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/News/061600/
TampaBay/Photos_of_McPherson_a.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ST. PETERSBURG -- Now that the criminal case against the Church of Scientology is over, a judge must decide whether the public should have access to a key piece of evidence: the autopsy photos of Scientologist Lisa McPherson.

The church and McPherson's estate, normally at odds, joined forces Thursday to ask Pinellas-Pasco Chief Circuit Judge Susan F. Schaeffer to keep the photos under seal.

The church argued the photos could jeopardize its right to a fair trial in Tampa, where the estate has filed a wrongful death lawsuit contending Scientology is responsible for McPherson's 1995 death.

The two sides have been tangled in litigation for more than three years.

Ken Dandar, the estate's attorney, told Schaeffer the privacy rights of McPherson's family could be compromised if the public were to see the photos. He added he did not want to give the church any grounds for appeal.

Schaeffer denied both requests, saying she had no jurisdiction in the matter.
(...)

Schaeffer on Thursday agreed with lawyers for news organizations that the criminal case is defunct and the matter of the autopsy photos was improperly before her.

But she kept the photos under seal until the church and the estate could file lawsuits in Pinellas.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Lisa McPherson Memorial Page
http://www.lisamcpherson.orgOff-site Link


12. Wood says she should keep her job
St. Petersburg Times, June 17, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/News/061700/
TampaBay/Wood_says_she_should_.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
LARGO -- Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood acknowledges she is nervous. Within two weeks, Gov. Jeb Bush will decide if she should be reappointed. For Wood, the timing could not be worse.

Pinellas prosecutors say her ''serious forensic error'' ruined their criminal case against the Church of Scientology. On Monday, they dropped their case against Scientology and bluntly laid the blame on the veteran pathologist.

Now Wood waits at her Ulmerton Road office, anxious to win support and blocking any talk about stepping down from her job. In an interview Friday, she said, ''I just hope to keep my job at this point.

''I think anybody in this position would be concerned. Normally, it's a pretty smooth road to reappointment. And now we have this glitch. Of course, that concerns me. I'll just have to wait to see how things turn out.''
(...)

Wood defended her work on Scientology. ''In 20-20 hindsight,'' she said, ''anyone can make a lot of criticisms.''
(...)

Wood changed her autopsy finding in the 1995 death of Scientology member Lisa McPherson, ruling her death accidental, leading McCabe's office to drop charges against Scientology of neglecting a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Human rights group denies it has been infiltrated by Scientologists
Yahoo/AFP, June 15, 2000
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/world/
afp/article.html?s=asia/headlines/000616/
world/afp/Human_rights_group_denies_it_has_been_
infiltrated_by_Scientologists.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights hit back Thursday at accusations by a French anti-cult official that it had been infiltrated by the Church of Scientology.

The IHFHR denounced the charge, and repeated criticism of moves in France to introduce a law against cults.

Wednesday's edition of France's Le Figaro newspaper carried an interview with the government's leading anti-cult official Alain Vivien, in which he suggested the IHFHR had been compromised.

The IHFHR ''seems today to have passed into the hands of Scientologists and perhaps other transnational organisations,'' said Vivien, who heads up France's Interministerial Committee for the Struggle against Cults (MILS).

''That explains the virulent criticism of France, (which is) accused of religious discrimination,'' he added.

In a letter to Vivien on Thursday, IHFHR executive director Aaron Rhodes declared his ''astonishment'' at the charge.
(...)

In his letter, Rhodes acknowledged that its Moscow office had received funding from Scientology to print a leaflet on religious freedom, but said the group had never sought to hide the source of the funding.

The Moscow office would have been better advised to have refused the funding, ''to avoid abusive and insinuating responses such as your own,'' he added.
(...)

The text of the proposed law, which was passed by a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, will go before the full National Assembly next week.

The proposed law would give the courts -- and not just the government -- the power to break up cults that have been convicted at least twice in the courts.

Scientologists have been convicted in two separate trials in France in recent years: at a trial in 1996 in Lyon and another in Marseille in 1999.

In the letter, Rhodes described the proposals as repressive. ''It goes to the heart of the right of freedom of association, expression, of religion and of was conscience.''
(...)

The IHFHR is a non-governmental organisation uniting 39 Helsinki Committees.

Its mandate is to monitor compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act on human rights, out which was formed the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

In the United States Wednesday, members of the Church of Scientology called on the US Congress to denounce what they claimed was religious discrimination targeting their church in several European countries.

Earlier this month, the president of the Church of Scientology International Heber Jetzsch condemned a raid by french police on the group's Paris headquarters as ''flagrant retaliation'' against its ''pro-religious'' activities.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The Church of Scientology has a history of infiltrating government offices
and other organizations:

http://www.apologeticsindex.org/o00.html#osa.

(...)
On July 8, 1977, a search and seizure by 134 FBI agents started in the GO
offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. Over 23,000 documents - many of
them stolen from government offices - as well as burglary tools and
electronic surveillance devices, were confiscated. In the investigation, it
was determined that a GO agent had been inserted into the Justice Department
which housed highly confidential CIA documents. GO agents had also broken
into the office of the Attorney General. In a parallel action, in Canada it
was discovered that the GO had infiltrated various police positions at the
state and federal level as well as the Office of the State Attorney General.
Charges filed against Scientology agents included infiltration and theft of
documents from an assortment of government, as well as private,
establishments. Especially affected by these operations were Interpol, world
organizations (e.g., WFMH), law firms and newspapers.

[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top
http://cisar.org/trn1053.htm#4Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]

* Mr. Jentzsch (correct spelling), may want to check with Scientology spokesman
Jean Dupuis before going over the top. Compare the attitudes:

French police raid Scientology's Paris offices: report
Yahoo/AFP, June 1, 2000

http://www.apologeticsindex.org/news/an200606.html#9Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...)
The raid sprang from a complaint lodged by a former Scientologist who was
still receiving mail shots from the organisation despite having asked to be
taken off their mailing list. The complaint was for "invasion of privacy"
over computers files kept by the organisation.

Scientology spokesman Jean Dupuis played down the significance of the
incident.

"This is a completely banal matter of common law ... a classic procedure used
every time a complaint is made to an investigating magistrate," he said.

Police had returned the material they seized -- two computers, two servers
and three disquettes -- three days after the raid, he added.

"The matter is settled and it stops there. The police noted that the people
who had complained had indeed been struck off the lists. That's the reason
they gave us back all our equipment."
[...more...]



14. Movies: Top contender for the Golden Razzies
Yahoo/E-Media, June 17, 2000
http://english.hk.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/
newspapers/malaymail/article.html?s=hke/headlines/000617/
newspapers/malaymail/Top_contender_for_the_Golden_Razzies.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BATTLEFIELD EARTH (sci-fi thriller) (U) GSC and TGV circuits Time: 116 mins Rating: * IT is way too early but many international critics have nominated Battlefield Earth for the Worst Movie of the 21st Century.

Based on the 819-page novel by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, this effort takes movie-scripting back a few centuries indeed.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


15. Scientology Debate: The American trade authorities criticize Germany for ''sect filter''
Der Tagesspiegel (Germany), June 16, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000616a.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The latest U.S. Congressional hearings on the theme of ''Treatment of religious minorities in western Europe'' took place on Wednesday. Once again, Germany was put on trial for its dealings with Scientology. But the old feud took a surprising turn. Has the Federal Republic of Germany been maneuvered into a situation in which it must boycott the Windows software from Microsoft?

Enter Craig Jensen. He is the founder and chairman of ''Executive Software'' and professed Scientologist. He started his corporation in 1981. He sold much to Germany for a decade. He wrote the ''disk defragmenter'' for Windows 2000, a tool to improve the access to data. Executive Software components have been integrated in Windows for six years.

The actual dispute began with an article in a computer magazine in December 1999. ''Windows 2000 at risk of being banned'' ran the headlines. A Hamburg Interior Ministry spokesman stated that the city government would only use Windows 2000 after the Executive Software components had been taken out. Bavaria and Hamburg refuse public contracts to Scientology companies. Federal agencies have communicated to Microsoft that Windows 2000 will not be generally released because of the Scientology connection. This is apparently the first case of a provider being caught in the ''sect filter'' of the public procurers.

''The federal government at first did not even try to palliate that their embargo being based on religious discrimination,'' said Jensen on Wednesday before the foreign politics committee. ''I am not appearing here today to complain about a trade boycott or religious discrimination, but to direct your attention to the interplay of the two of them, an embargo that is justified with official government religious discrimination.'' He called for the U.S. Congress to pass a resolution critical of Germany.

An old story? It depends. It is recognized that one or the other government official in Washington will bow to the adeptly mounted pressure from Scientology and get excited about Germany's dealings with the alleged church. What's new is that the scandal pulls in one crisis after the next.

Up to now, it was a couple of congressional representatives who pressed for resolutions critical of Germany and saw to it that the theme appeared in the State Department's Human Rights Report. But now the friends of Scientology have managed, for the first time, to rope in a second U.S. department. The USTR trade agency, directly subordinate to the White House, announced in the beginning of May that the disadvantages of Scientologists in announcements in Germany presented a serious obstacle to free world trade. It was about the exact same ''sect filter'' that Craig Jensen complained about so emphatically.
(...)

Juergen Chrobog, the German Ambassador in Washington, reacted on Wednesday to the Congressional hearing on the Microsoft boycott with a statement typical of how German government officials answer U.S. accusations. While victims told their stories in the U.S. House of Representatives, Chrobog was pointing out paragraphs in the Constitution. On the role of the ''sect filter'' imposed by the government, Chrobog said only, ''The latest assertions concern only a fraction of the contract announcements, in particular the educational measures in government contracts. These are not directed at Scientology, but are meant to ensure that techniques which attempt to suppress or psychologically manipulate are not implemented for purposes of consultation or education.'' More on that at www.meinberlin.de/microsoftOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. Scientology Debate: Does Hollywood pay critics of Germany?
Der Tagesspiegel (Germany), June 16, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000616c.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Republican U.S. Representative Mark Foley from Florida threatens to make freedom of belief in Germany a theme at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The congressional hearing on Wednesday discussing the Microsoft boycott was led by Ben Gilman from New York. Gilman, Foley, Republic Matt Salmon (Arizona) and the Senator from Wyoming, Mike Enzi, are all part of a regular gang of Germany critics.

On the other side are always the same celebrities from Hollywood who give their names to matters of Scientology. Husband and wife actors Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, John Travolta, jazz musician Chick Corea, TV lawyer Gretta Van Susteren, as well as actresses Anne Archer and Catherine Bell are among them. Using files from the Federal Election Commission, which records political party donations, the ''Tagesspiegel'' has looked into whether cross-connections could be found: do the Scientology adherents from Hollywood donate money to the Scientology advocates in the U.S. Congress? Do they receive noteworthy sums from the alleged church?

The answer is no on both accounts. John Travolta and Chick Corea, whose names are always appearing in the issue of whether Germany boycotts Scientology artists, do not have a single donation recorded to politicians since 1993. Only Cruise and Kidman donate regularly. Since 1998, Tom Cruise has written 11 checks, his wife Nicole seven in the same time frame. Main benefactors of the money, a total of $58,000, are not pro-Scientology congressional representatives, but Hillary Clinton ($14,000), the Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle ($2,000) and Vice President Al Gore ($5,000).

Just to even out the picture, the main sources of income for the Scientology defenders in Congress were investigated. Gilman received donations from representatives for pilots, Albanians, attorneys, engineers and Boeing businesses, but nobody among the many hundreds of donors are from a church environment. Enzi takes money from sugarcane planters, retailers, beef raisers and from the companies of Coors, JP Morgan and GE, but not from Scientology. The support for the ''church'' is apparently not financially motivated - at least not directly.
[...entire item...]


17. Scientology Debate: Windows 2000 components Not to be in Hamburg government computers
Der Tagesspiegel (Germany), June 16, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000616b.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The city-state of Hamburg will not use certain components of the new Windows 2000 computer operating system in its agencies because the components were produced by a U.S. company whose owner is one of the most influential Scientologists. That was verified on Thursday by a spokeswoman of the Hamburg Revenue Agency, which is also responsible for this issue in other agencies.

This is in regard to a so-called defragmentation program with the name of Diskeeper, which serves to organize the data on a hard disk so that it can be more quickly accessed by the computer. The producer is the U.S. company Executive Software, Inc., which belongs to Scientologist Craig Jensen, who, according to the information in Hamburg, is counted as one of the managing forces of Scientology at ''Class VIII Operating Thetan.'' Executive Software, in turn, belongs to the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE). That corporation was mentioned in a report from the Hamburg Work Group on Scientology to the public in a warning. It, as were the other Scientology organizations, was obligated to spread Scientology ideology. For that reason, Ursula Caberta, the Director of the Work Group, was against the installation of Diskeeper.
(...)

On the part of the Federal Office for Security and Information Technology, nobody wanted to address the matter. ''Diskeeper is a matter in process,'' said the representative spokesman of the Bonn office, Joachim Weber. For two months BSI, on commission of the Interior Ministry, has been negotiating with Microsoft in order to clear up any sort of threat from the operating system.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* The concern is that Scientologists, many of whom have demonstrated a penchant
for spying and a disregard for personal privacy of their targets, could
conceivable program (or have programmed) a so-called "Trojan Horse" into the
software. A Trojan Horse is a malicious, hidden program that installs and
operates on a computer without the knowledge of the computer's owner. Many
Trojan Horses are capable of sending information about or from the computer
over the Internet, again without the knowledge of the computer's owner. This
way private documents, passwords, etcetera can be compromised.


18. Scientology Debate: Well meant, poorly done
Der Tagesspiegel (Germany), June 16, 2000 (Commentary)
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000616d.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Hamburg's government agencies are walking on thin ice. Stopping the installation of a computer program because it comes from the company of a high-ranking Scientologist is objectionable. This is not a matter of free selection of a product by a private operation. What is going on in Hamburg is happening officially. Therein lies the problem. The pious intention is that Hamburg avoid anything which could be of use to Scientology. But a ban on products will affect any business which accuses Germany of discriminating against a religious denomination. The Scientology lobby in the USA will vigorously exploit this case. And Hamburg does not have the best argument in the world. Scientology as an object of justified suspicion is not sufficient enough for an official refusal. It has to be stated in a legally binding way that this is a matter of a psycho-concern with anti-Constitutional goals. That is exactly what has not yet happened. Furthermore, any objection to the computer program in question has to be proven before a committee. But only assumptions have been given play here - which are fed by Scientology's incontestable urge for expansion and by growing discomfort of people who do business with the Microsoft company. The fact that not even computer experts can agree about the importance of the program does not help the situation. Of course the state should not play into the hands of sects. But it must place its obstacles to them more wisely.
[...entire item...]


=== Mormonism

19. Mormons to restore Ohio sites
Spokane.net/AP, June 17, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/news-story.asp?
date=061700&ID=s815702&cat=section.religion
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
KIRTLAND, Ohio _ As the first members of the Mormon Church journeyed across America in the 19th century, looking for a place to settle, this city just east of Cleveland was an important stop.

Now the church plans to expand, restore and renovate its historical sites in Kirtland. The aim is to explain Mormonism's early days to outsiders and give church members a chance to see what life was like for their ancestors.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Jehovah's Witnesses

20. Transfusion row rocks Jehovah's Witnesses
The Guardian (England), June 15, 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/
Print/0,3858,4029578,00.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Jehovah's Witnesses are braced for a flood of litigation following a vote by church elders in New York which may allow members to accept blood transfusions in critical medical circumstances providing they repent afterwards.

The revelation that transfusions might now be acceptable, apparently decided by the church's world governing body by a vote of eight to four at a secret meeting last month, caused anguish and astonishment to adherents that one of the central tenets of the faith - and the cause of death for thousands of members over the years - was being abandoned.

The decision means that members who accept transfusions may not be automatically expelled and shunned, so long as they repent and seek spiritual guidance.

The church fears that disaffected members whose relatives have died after refusing blood may now seek damages.

The witnesses' British headquarters at Watch Tower House in north London described the decision, which will be conveyed to members at Kingdom halls across the country by letter as ''a minor procedural change''.

Geoffrey Unwin, an author and former Jehovah's Witness specialising in writing about cults, who broke the story in Britain, said: ''Witnesses are in a state of self denial at the moment. They will be shocked that the elders who are supposed to get their messages direct from God should have voted for a change like this.

''Countless thousands whose relatives have been allowed to die needlessly will be angered that this could now be changed by a bunch of old men hiding in a room in New York after supposedly talking to God. They must be terrified of litigation.''
(...)

The church insisted yesterday that the New York decision was clarification of existing rules and a simplification of the process of excommunication, though that came as a surprise to some witnesses.

Paul Gillies, the church's spokesman said: ''If someone accepts a transfusion in a moment of weakness and then regrets it afterwards we can offer assistance, just as if they had committed adultery. But if they are no longer living by the rules they have excluded themselves.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* Theologically, Jehovah's Witnesses is a cult of Christianity. Due to its
heavy-handed control over people, it can also be considered a cult
sociologically


=== Islam

21. Christians and Muslims in harmony
BBC, June 15, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/
world/africa/newsid_792000/792379.stm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The thought of Christians and Muslims worshipping together under one roof in West Africa would be out of the question one might think after the recent bloody clashes in Nigeria

But there is a religious sect in Accra, Ghana, which combines both Islam and Christianity. It is called Zetaheal.

According to the faith's elders, Zetaheal is Hebrew for ''Lean on me for your salvation''. It was established 25 years ago by Comfort Narh, then a dressmaker.

She says Angels spoke directly to her and asked her to bring Christians and Muslims together, because the founders of the two religions, Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad, have a common ancestry.
(...)

Membership of Zetaheal has been growing and now boasts at least 5,000 adherents - men and women, artists and artisans, teachers and students -- who originally were either just Muslims or Christians, but have now found common ground.

''I joined as a Muslim,'' says Muhammad Musah, a 25-year-old student.

''But I've learnt so much about Christianity and understood it that I don't consider myself as a Muslim anymore, I belong to both; I belong to Zetaheal.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


22. 33 given death sentences in arson attack
Chicago Tribune, June 17, 2000
http://chicagotribune.com/news/
nationworld/article/0,2669,SAV-0006170109,FF.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ANKARA, TURKEY -- A Turkish court on Friday handed death sentences to 33 people convicted of seeking to impose Islamic rule in the country.

The charges stem from a 1993 arson attack that killed 37 left-wing intellectuals at a hotel in the central city of Sivas. The group had gathered to commemorate a 16th Century poet hanged for opposing religious oppression.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


23. Bardot fined for racist remarks
BBC, June 16, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/
entertainment/newsid_793000/793390.stm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Brigitte Bardot has been fined 30,000 francs (£3,000) after being convicted of inciting racial hatred - for the third time.

The former movie star and sex symbol was found guilty in a Paris court over comments about the number of Muslim immigrants in her native France.

The latest outburst came in a book she wrote last year called Le Carre de Pluton (Pluto's Square).

In it, she criticises a Muslim festival, in which sheep are ritually slaughtered.

The book's offending passage is entitled 'Open Letter to my Lost France'.

Bardot laments: ''...my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims.''

She also hits out at the practice of killing sheep for Aid-el-Kebir, a Muslim festival marking the end of Holy month, in which the animals have their throats slit.
(...)

She established the Foundation for the Protection of Distressed Animals in 1976 and has made it her life's work, raising $500,000 (£330,000) for the charity in 1987 by selling off her jewellery.

Her previous convictions for the incitement of racial hatred came in 1997 and 1998, when she was again fined for making similar inflammatory comments.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Islamic council to open center for Muslim activists
San Jose Mercury News, June 17, 2000
http://www7.mercurycenter.com/premium/
svlife/docs/godbriefs17.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a public-affairs organization in Washington, has announced the opening of a Muslim training center for political lobbying, grass-roots activism, public relations and community leadership.

The council said its Leadership Training Center for American Muslims, believed to be the first of its kind, ''is a reflection of the growing influence of Muslims and Islam in American society.''

The announcement came as the Muslim council opened new headquarters near Capitol Hill.
[...entire item...]


=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes

25. Agent immune in Ruby Ridge killing
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 15, 2000
http://www.seattlep-i.com/local/ruby15.shtmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SAN FRANCISCO -- The FBI agent who killed the wife of white separatist Randy Weaver during the Ruby Ridge standoff is immune from prosecution by the state of Idaho, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi shot Vicki Weaver on Aug. 22, 1992, as she was holding her baby. At the time, federal agents were converging on the family's remote Idaho cabin to arrest Randy Weaver on a weapons trafficking charge.
(...)

Prosecutors in Idaho pursued a manslaughter charge against Horiuchi, but the charge was dismissed by a federal judge. A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, ruling 2-1 that the U.S. Constitution gives supremacy to federal laws, making Horiuchi exempt from criminal prosecution by the state.
(...)

''Horiuchi does not have to 'show that his action was in fact necessary or in retrospect justifiable, only that he reasonably thought it to be,''' said U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb in the majority decision, as he quoted from a previous appellate decision.

In a dissent, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski said he sided with others who considered the shooting ''patently unconstitutional,'' including, he said, a Senate committee, the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility and a prior panel of the 9th Circuit Court.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* FBI Statement regarding the dismissal of chargesOff-site Link


26. Aryan Nations may forgo march this summer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer/AP, June 15, 2000
http://www.seattlep-i.com/local/marc15.shtmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- What if summer rolled around in this picturesque lakeside resort and the white supremacist Aryan Nations didn't march through town?

The group has marched for the past two years at the height of the tourist season, upsetting community leaders who have long sought to counter the notoriety of having the Aryan Nations nearby.

The Aryans gave city officials five months advance notice of their 1998 march and 10 months' notice before last year's parade.

But the group has not filed for a parade permit this year, City Clerk Susan Weathers said yesterday. A city ordinance requires applications be filed 20 days before parades.

The group's Internet Web page makes no mention of any parade plans.

''We're still up in the air,'' Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler said yesterday. He declined to elaborate.

Butler said the group still plans its annual Aryan World Congress on July 14-16. For a few days each year, that insular gathering of extremists swells the population at the group's Hayden Lake compound a few miles north of Coeur d'Alene and about 35 miles northeast of Spokane.

The Aryan Nations is the political arm of Butler's Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, a ''Christian Identity'' sect that promotes anti-Semitism and racial separation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Czechs try to ban Hitler's book
The Guardian (England), June 16, 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/
Article/0,4273,4030151,00.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Bookshops throughout the Czech Republic have been raided by police confiscating copies of a new edition of Mein Kampf that has become one of the best-selling books in the country in a decade.

Michal Zitko, whose Prague-based publishing firm Ottaker II re-released Hitler's manifesto for the first time in the Czech Republic in over half a century has been charged with disseminating Nazi propaganda and faces eight years in prison if he is found guilty at a court hearing next week.

Police have indicated that they might even pull the book from library shelves.

Mr Zitko, 28, argues that he is the victim of confusion and lack of legislation to distinguish between freedom of speech and censorship. ''Just like under communism an index of forbidden books is being created,'' he said.

He has also published in translation the US constitution and declaration of independence and has plans to reintroduce Karl Marx's Das Kapital to Czech bookshops. He declared himself stunned at the Mein Kampf crackdown.
(...)

The raids were ordered by the government after protests by Jewish and German groups. ''Freedom of speech has its limits,'' said Tomas Kraus or the Czech Federation of Jewish communities. ''A jail sentence would allow society to show its defensive reflexes.''

But defenders of free speech see the moves as a sign that strict censorship - as experienced during the four decades of communism that ended in 1990 - is on its way back.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


28. Hundreds of rightist radicals demonstrate in GermanyOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CNN/AP, June 17, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/06/17/germany.far.right.ap/index.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BERLIN (AP) -- Hundreds of extreme rightists marched in several eastern German cities Saturday, including about 80 who rallied at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate.

Left-leaning political parties drew several hundred people to a counter-protest in front of the Brandenburg Gate, near where supporters of the far-right Republikaner party staged their rally. Police said both demonstrations went off peacefully.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


29. Nail bomber 'was sent by God to start race wars'
The Guardian (England), June 15, 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Print/
0,3858,4029603,00.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Nail bomber David Copeland is a paranoid schizophrenic who believed that he would be rescued from his trial by God and thought he was being punished like Jesus before his death, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Even if this did not happen, he was confident that he would be free within five years when Tony Blair was replaced by an extreme rightwing government whose first act would be to release him from prison, the jury was told.

Opening his defence yesterday, his counsel Michael Wolkind QC said that psychiatrists would give evidence that Copeland was suffering from ''religious, grandiose, persecutory delusions'' which contributed to the reasons for his behaviour.
(...)

The 24-year-old engineering assistant from Cove, Hampshire, has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Andrea Dykes, John Light and Nik Moore in the Soho pub explosion which was the culmination of his bombing campaign in April last year.

The crown is rejecting these pleas, made on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and is seeking convictions for murder.
(...)

Dr Gilluley said that Copeland was suffering from a ''delusional belief system with grandiose and messianic elements''.

This included the belief that he was a prophet chosen by God for a special mission, which was to be the spark for racial wars in Britain.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Paganism / Witchcraft

30. Applicants Granted Amnesty For Witchcraft Murders
Panafrican News Agency, June 15, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/south/southafrica/stories/20000615/20000615_feat33.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) - The Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Wednesday granted amnesty to 33 applicants for killing people suspected of practising witchcraft in the former Bantustan of Venda in the Northern Province between 1989 and 1990.

Ten other applicants have been refused amnesty for acts ranging from murder and arson and for failing to satisfy the requirements of the TRC regulations.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

31. Word of Faith leaders take back guilty pleas
San Jose Mercury News, June 17, 2000
http://www7.mercurycenter.com/premium/
svlife/docs/godbriefs17.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Three leaders of a missionary group may stand trial, despite their guilty pleas to charges that they smuggled youngsters into the United States to work at a church-run business.

A federal judge in Baltimore ruled that the leaders of the Word of Faith World Outreach Church, based in Woodbine, Md., could withdraw their pleas.

Joyce E. Perdue, Robert C. Hendricks and Elizabeth Brown were sentenced to prison last year. They appealed, saying they pleaded guilty only because they were not permitted to present their defense that church work is not subject to U.S. immigration law.

Prosecutors say the church brought youths from Estonia to use them to clean homes and install office furniture. They contend the Estonians made $10 to $100 per week while church-run businesses netted thousands in profits.
[...entire item...]


32. Cultist rejects female attorney
Daily Herald, June 15, 2000
http://www.heraldnet.com/Stories/00/6/15/12695897.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A member of a small religious cult that moved from Snohomish County to California and then embarked on a crime spree that was supposed to trigger the apocalypse convinced a Snohomish County judge Wednesday that he shouldn't have to be represented by a female attorney.

Blaine Alan Applin, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the March 29, 1998, death of Daniel Jess, 40, of Mountlake Terrace. Jess, a former member of the Gatekeepers cult, was shot to death by Applin on orders from its leader, Christopher Turgeon, 36, prosecutors allege.

Applin told Superior Court Judge Kenneth Cowsert that his religious beliefs preclude him from allowing a woman to be in authority over him. He asked the judge to replace his court-appointed lawyer, public defender Caroline Mann, with a male lawyer.
(...)

Applin's case has other unusual twists.

Applin and Turgeon, who claims to be the prophet Elijah, were convicted in California of 17 felonies, including conspiracy to murder a police officer. The crimes in 1998 were supposed to hasten the apocalyptic downfall of the United States. Applin fired a high-powered rifle into an officer's car after robbing a lingerie-modeling business. He received a sentence of 101 years to life in prison.

At his California trial, Applin had flashed a sign toward the jury that read ''Repent'' and called the judge ''the son of the devil.''

Prosecutors allege that Turgeon ordered Jess killed because he feared the man was going to betray the Gatekeepers, a group that he had previously called Ahabah Asah Prophetic Ministries.

Turgeon preached that under God's law, women were inferior to men, and that a man must not submit to the authority of a woman. He took the idea so far that he once refused to give a female 911 emergency operator his name, informing her he was ''not at peace'' to do so, according to court documents.

The Gatekeepers had been based in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Everett and Lake Stevens before moving to Southern California in 1997. Jess did not go.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


33. Autopsy on Herbalife founder finds death caused by accidental overdose
CNN, June 17, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/06/17/hughes.death/index.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Mark Hughes, the founder of Herbalife International, one of the world's leading distributors of herbal products, died of an accidental overdose after mixing alcohol with a ''toxic level'' of antidepressants, authorities said Friday.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom / Religous Intolerance

34. US Hearing on Religion: Criticism for Austria because of Sect Booklet
Die Presse (Austria), June 16, 2000
Translation: CISAR
[See: Apologetics Index Statement on US meddling in the affairs of foreign countries]
http://cisar.org/000616e.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
''The dealings with religious minorities in West Europe fills many Americans with concern. Several west European countries, who doubtlessly are friends of the USA and where freedom in general is cherished, have a weak point in their attitude towards religious minorities.'' Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the foreign political committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, emphasized at the hearing on Wednesday that members of minority religions in west Europe are often discriminated against. He said that they were frequently refused financial help and the right to religious visits in prisons. He said that also Americans were subjected to discrimination in these countries when they wanted to exercise their religion or pursue their career. Mentioned specifically were the countries of France, Germany, Belgium and Austria.

Robert Seiple, special ambassador of the State Department for International Religious Freedom, described the situation in Austria as not dissimilar from that of France. He said the government had long been carrying out an information campaign against any religious group which, in its opinion, harmed the interests of the individual or of society. The choice of words in a booklet on sects from the Families Ministry last fall, according to Seiple, was perceived by many religious groups as ''clearly negative and insulting.'' Besides that, he said, after a new minister had been named by the FPOe, there were ''fears that the government would heighten its campaign against religions which were not officially acknowledged.'' In a live broadcast, the committee was later hooked up with Pastor Robert Hunt in Vienna, a representative of the English-speaking Methodist Church. He reported that his church, although officially recognized, sometimes had problems with prison visits or when it came to booking conventions at hotels. There was said to very likely reign in Austria a certain prejudice, and one could allegedly not keep his religion to himself, since it was noted down on the registration form. Furthermore, the pastor perceived a connection between religious discrimination and ethnic prejudice. But Hunt stressed that he did not want to generalize. Besides him, many representatives from Scientology and Jehovahs Witnesses testified.

Threatening a Resolution
In view of the ''widespread religious intolerance in Europe,'' the committee, among other things, decided upon a resolution against France, Austria and Belgium according to the same model Congress had already used on Germany. Representative Samuel Gejdenson (Dem.) thought that Europe would be making it easier on itself if it oriented itself towards the the USA's model regarding the separation of Church and State. Matt Salmon (Rep.) stated that Europeans would have to respect religious freedom if they wanted to maintain good relations with the USA. The ambassadors of the countries addressed did not accept their invitations; Germany and Austria presented statements in which they explained their legal situations and in which they boasted about the religious freedom in their countries.
[...entire item...]

* CISAR included the following link:

Austrian sect booklet:
http://cisar.org/990913b.htm (127k)


35. Graduation Restriction Draws Suit
San Francisco Chronicle, June 14, 2000
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
file=/chronicle/archive/2000/06/17/MN69222.DTL
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PLEASANTON -- A former Pleasanton student filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that school officials violated his free speech and religious freedom rights by forcing him to cut Biblical quotations and remarks about Jesus Christ from his graduation speech.

As a salutatorian for the class of 1999 at Amador Valley High School, Nicholas Lassonde, 18, planned to make a speech with comments urging his fellow students to ''seek out the Lord'' and quoting part of Psalm 146 and the book of Romans, chapter 6, in the Bible.

While reviewing Lassonde's speech before graduation, his principal flagged the religious sections of his speech and, after talking with attorneys, asked that they be removed.

Lassonde offered to begin with a disclaimer explaining the speech did not represent the district's views, but the district held fast. Lassonde relented and cut the speech, though he announced during graduation that he had been censored and handed out copies of the uncut speech in the parking lot.

He decided to sue Pleasanton Unified School District in U.S. District Court, with the financial backing of the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute, which advocates religious freedom. Lassonde believes the district's decision was illegal.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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36. Christian Group, Labs Reach Deal
Albuquerque Journal, June 15, 2000
http://www.abqjournal.com/news/1sandia06-15-00.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Sandia National Laboratories has agreed to give certain privileges to Christian employees, who had sued over the lab's refusal to give them the same rights and privileges as homosexual workers.

The American Family Association Center for Law and Policy filed the lawsuit May 1 in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on behalf of Sandia employees Michael F. Hall, William D. Morse and Mary A. Tang.

The suit alleged that Sandia violated their constitutional rights by extending official recognition to a homosexual employee group, but denying Christians the same privileges. The privileges included use of a special internal Web site, input into policies on diversity and funding for certain projects.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. Man Fired For Religion Complaints
New York Times/AP, June 16, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/a/
AP-School-Religion.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HAMILTON, Ala. (AP) -- Greg Thomas got along with his neighbors when they thought of him simply as the only Jew in town. They didn't understand his conversion to Judaism from Christianity a few years ago, but they tolerated it.

The Southern hospitality evaporated after Thomas complained about Christian prayers and an evangelism program conducted at Hamilton High School.

People stopped coming to plays staged by Thomas, who was artistic director for a community theater and a drama teacher at the local two-year college. Both positions were eliminated within weeks, moves prompted solely by economics, his former employers say.

Thomas is moving away, forced out by what he describes as small-town Christians who didn't appreciate his reminders about the constitutional separation of church and state.
(...)

Jay Kaiman, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Atlanta, said what happened to Thomas isn't unusual in the rural South, where entire counties sometimes have no Jewish residents.
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38. Judge Strikes La. School Prayer Law
Yahoo/AP, June 15, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20000615
/us/school_prayer_3.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
MONROE, La. (AP) - A federal judge has called a state law authorizing spoken prayer in public schools unconstitutional, saying it creates the appearance that Louisiana endorses religion.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert James on Wednesday was in response to a motion requesting dismissal without trial of a civil lawsuit against religious practices at West Monroe High School, about 30 miles south of the Arkansas line.

The mother of a ninth-grader sued the Ouachita Parish School Board because students had made fun of her son and another boy who didn't participate in prayer activities, taunting them and calling them ''atheist'' and ''devil worshipper.''

The lawsuit also seeks to remove a Monday morning prayer read over the intercom by high school students. The mother, identified only as ''Jane Doe,'' felt the actions violated her son's rights.

James declined to dismiss the case. He is scheduled to begin hearing it July 10.
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39. The Sounds of Silencing
New York Times, June 17, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/opinion/
rich/061700rich.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
If you wanted to pick the two people on the American cultural landscape least likely to share a headline, you couldn't do much better than Bruce Springsteen and Laura Schlessinger. Mr. Springsteen is The Boss, a pillar of humanity in rock. Ms. Schlessinger is merely bossy -- a mean-spirited ''doctor'' (in physiology, not psychology) who dispenses authoritarian advice to pathetic lonelyhearts desperate enough to seek family counseling from a call-in radio show.

But at this peculiar moment this odd couple have one thing in common, besides loud voices and huge audiences: powerful forces are campaigning to make them both shut up. Dr. Laura, who has labeled homosexuality as ''deviant'' and a ''biological error,'' has drawn months of protests from gay civil rights groups hoping to persuade sponsors and Paramount to dump the new syndicated TV show she is to start this fall. Mr. Springsteen, who is performing a song called ''American Skin'' about the shooting of Amadou Diallo, was labeled a ''dirtbag'' and ''floating fag'' by the head of the New York State chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and is also the target of a boycott. The New York Post went so far as to argue that the lyrics of ''American Skin'' might ''nurture a growing acceptance of violent crime.''

''There's a lot of anger out there about speech,'' says Floyd Abrams, the First Amendment lawyer who led the Brooklyn Museum's successful defense against Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's effort to squelch its ''Sensation'' exhibit. ''The sound of censorship is in the air, and it cuts across political lines.''

The sounds of silencing are in fact rapidly becoming a roar. Such is the censorious impulse, you'd think we were in the midst of a Red Scare or widespread social unrest -- not in an utterly bland peace-and-prosperity presidential campaign. There are movements in 17 states to keep Harry Potter books from kids because they contain witchcraft and violence, according to the American Library Association. Religious-right groups went ballistic over an innocuous and now-defunct NBC cartoon series titled ''God, the Devil and Bob.'' The Web site TomPaine.com has hectored journalists (myself among them) to boycott the sometimes racially and sexually profane Don Imus radio show, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is protesting the new Jim Carrey gross-out comedy, ''Me, Myself & Irene,'' for its insensitivity. Next up for outrage from every watchdog organization across the entire ideological spectrum: Eminem, a charismatic white rapper whose new No. 1 CD trades in violence, crude sex and invective roughing up heterosexual women, lesbians and gay men.
(...)

But if the loud calls for squelching Dr. Laura sound hypocritical coming from liberals who often deride the same tactics from ''family values'' censors, the sudden embrace of the First Amendment by her defenders has been even more ludicrous.
(...)

Political correctness is always in the eye of the beholder. Conservatives and liberals use the same arguments to defend the free speech of their un-p.c. ideological bedfellows: Dr. Laura's demeaning remarks about gay people are justified as arising out of her deep spiritual convictions, much as liberals cited Chris Ofili's Nigerian heritage in accounting for his ritualistic use of elephant dung in ''The Holy Virgin Mary.''
(...)

What remains mystifying to First Amendment advocates I've talked to is why there should be this much censorship in the air now. As Mr. Abrams asks: ''Why is it happening when through the Internet we're rapidly moving into an era when more is being said than ever before and more people will be saying it?''

Maybe that is the reason. At this time of anxiety-making technological change, this may be the last chance for any group to stand its ground before the ground shifts unrecognizably beneath it. In that sense, the effort to stop any legally protected form of speech is increasingly becoming an academic exercise.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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40. Why are we surprised when the Baptists do their annual thing?
Mobile Register, June 17, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.al.com/columnists/mobile/
fcoleman/06172000-a383652a.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Every summer, like clockwork, Southern Baptists take it on the chin, with no one to blame but themselves. The abuse is, after all, self-inflicted.
(...)

Then, their critics go ballistic, accusing the Southern Baptists of being backward, bigoted, provincial and intolerant.

Let me say three things.

First, I am not now and almost surely never will be a Southern Baptist.

Second, I disagree with many of the Southern Baptists' stances, beliefs and biblical interpretations.

Third, love'em or hate'em, people should get off the Southern Baptists' backs.

They are, after all, a religious group, exhorted by their creator and their messiah to boldly proclaim and adhere to difficult spiritual tenets - indeed, to live a lifestyle that will, if followed, always put them at odds with the popular culture.

This is not news. Don't most Americans profess religious beliefs that demand they make difficult choices in favor of morality?

Why, then, do so many of us seem so inexplicably surprised when the Southern Baptists do just that?
(...)

Perhaps you prefer a religion that embraces all and criticizes none. Maybe you believe in a form of Christianity that welcomes women in leadership roles, including serving as pastors. Or maybe you detest hypocrites and have determined that, because Southern Baptists appear to sin as much as anybody else, they are hypocrites.

Then say so. But why not, at the same time, acknowledge - even salute - the courage it takes to espouse unpopular beliefs?
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

41. 'What's Your Astrological Sign?' Not What You Think
Space.com, June 16, 2000
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/
astronomy/astrology_000616.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
It's well known that President Ronald Reagan used a color-coded calendar to keep track of his astrological predictions. But not everyone knows that these predictions were based on the wrong sign.

In fact, except for some slight overlap, almost no one's zodiacal sign is related to the actual position of the sun.

Modern astrologers classify an Aries as someone born between March 21 and April 19. The first date in the window marks the vernal equinox, the beginning of spring.

Another, older name for the vernal equinox is the ''first point of Aries.'' This spot in the sky is marked by a great ''X'' where the celestial equator (the imaginary projection of Earth's equator into space) crosses the ecliptic (the annual path of the sun). Spring in the Northern Hemisphere occurs when the sun moves north of the celestial equator after spending the winter months to its south.

Some 2,600 years ago, this important point in the sky was indeed in the constellation Aries. Today, however, it has shifted to the west and now resides in Pisces. The mechanism responsible for this shift is the slight wobble in Earth's axis due to the gravitational tugs of the moon and sun.

Over a period of 25,700 years, the wobble causes the vernal equinox to drift through the entire zodiac. After Pisces, the vernal equinox's next home constellation, around 2614 AD, is Aquarius. That's when the real ''Age of Aquarius'' begins.

Traditional or ''tropical'' astrologers ignore this shift. They argue that where the vernal equinox is today is not as important as where it was. They claim that the areas of sky where the sun was over 2,000 years ago still possess the same power and virtues. Thus Leo continues to represent strength, Aries determination and so on.

Another group, the sidereal astrologers, does take the shift into account, but they are largely considered mavericks by traditionalists.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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42. Physicists seek to replicate creation of universe
Nando Times/Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2000
http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/
0,1080,500216300-500306779-501703253-0,00.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) This week, the underground ring of titanium wires and slender magnetic tubes on New York's Long Island began experiments to create conditions that existed at the time of the big bang.

In a subterranean racetrack the size of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hallman and colleagues will accelerate two packs of gold ions to 99.995 percent the speed of light and slam them into each other. They hope to rip the particles apart in a microcataclysm that generates temperatures 10,000 times hotter than the sun's core.

Specifically, the goal is to make the cosmic soup that scientists think existed only for a fraction of a second after the birth of the universe. But more broadly, this quest - and the new facility - represent a major step forward for American science. Stung by Congress's decision to stop building the Semiconducting Supercollider in Texas in 1993, U.S. physicists now have a new machine that will help put them on the leading edge of particle physics again.

Through it, scientists hope to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of matter and the forces that bind creation.

''Anyone who struggles to understand the world wants to know, 'What's out there?' and 'Where did we come from?''' says Joe Kapusta, a physicist at the University of Minnesota. ''Mankind now has the ability to figuratively go back 12 billion years to within that one microsecond of when it all began.''

Physicists believe they have an idea of what those first brief moments looked like.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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43. Faith finds home, but no welcome
Orange County Register, June 15, 2000
http://www.ocregister.com/community/caodai00615cci4.shtmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
GARDEN GROVE -- For years, Orange County followers of the Cao Dai religion prayed in their homes or worshiped in groups in offices. Next year, this Vietnamese religion -- which combines aspects of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism and Taoism -- will finally have a permanent home when the first Cao Dai church in California, and the second in the nation, opens in Garden Grove.

The last hurdle was cleared for the Cao Dai church at 8791 Orangewood Ave. on Tuesday night, when the City Council approved a conditional-use permit to construct a 2,150-square-foot religious facility on the property. A 2,100-square-foot caretaker's cottage also will be housed on the one-acre lot.

While the decision was a cause for jubilation among the 30 or so Orange County families who plan to worship there, neighbors greeted the news with dismay. Cao Dai followers said the church will be a symbol of their religion. Neighbors worry it will be an eyesore that brings traffic and noise.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Sidebar:
Cao Dai preaches 1 unifying religion
http://www.ocregister.com/community/caodai0s0615cci6.shtmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Cao Dai literally means ''high tower or palace,'' the place where God reigns
over the universe. The religion's official name is The Third Great Universal
Religious Amnesty. The fundamental objective of the Third Amnesty is unity of
all religions.

Founder: In 1921, Ngo Van Chieu, a district head of the French administration
in Vietnam, received a vision from the Divine Eye to organize a religion
consolidating Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism
and Hinduism.
(...)

Membership: There are about 5 million followers worldwide, most of them
concentrated at the headquarters in Tay Ninh, Vietnam. About 200 families
follow Cao Dai in Orange County.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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44. Evangelicals reach out to prison population
Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2000
http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/2000/06/15/p15s1.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) With the US incarceration rate the highest in the world (1 in every 150 residents), and the re-arrest rate for released prisoners also high, the coalition has created its own crime-reduction effort - Operation Starting Line - to encourage inmates to find faith and an ability to restart their lives successfully outside prison walls. They aim to reach ''every prisoner in every prison in America over the next five years.''

The initiative - spearheaded by groups such as Prison Fellowship, a Bible-study and counseling program led by Chuck Colson, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, led by Franklin Graham - comes at a time of growing recognition that the emphasis on punishment in US prison systems is not turning out ex-offenders ready to adjust to society. Justice Department statistics show that 62 percent of ex-offenders will be charged with new crimes and more than 40 percent return to prison within three years.

It also comes as faith-based programs are being touted as more effective in many social areas, although evidence to support those claims often remains thin.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty / Human Rights

45. On Native Ground: Jamming The Texas Death Machine
Vol. 6, No. 1355 - The American Reporter - June 16, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.american-reporter.com/1355/1.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- China. Iran. Saudi Arabia. Congo. What do these four countries have in common? According to Amnesty International, they are the only four countries in the world that execute more people than the United States.

The death penalty is currently banned in 108 nations. Only Japan and India join the United States as the only big democracies that continue the practice. Last year, there were 98 executions in the U.S., the most since 1951. This year's total will likely surpass it.

Most Americans know the death penalty in the U.S. is inconsistently applied. The extent of the inconsistency is shocking. There have been about 600,000 homicides since 1976, the year when the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty did not constitute cruel or unusual punishment. The death penalty has been sought in fewer than 5 percent of murder cases since then.

As of June 14, there have been 644 executions since 1976. The Southern states have accounted for more than 500 of those executions. Texas tops them all, sitting at No. 1 in the nation with 220.

Texas has been uniquely appalling in its use of the death penalty. The state has no public defender system, and is ranked 40th among states in the amount it spends on defense of indigents. Defense counsel is assigned by the judges, all of whom are elected. Lawyers frequently assigned to these cases are among the bottom of the legal barrel. Some have had lengthy records of professional misconduct, or have admitted to drug and alcohol abuse or have even slept through murder trials.
(...)

Over the past 30 years, 87 people on death row have been set free. This amounts to one reprieve for every seven killed. There have been several cases over the past 24 years where people have been executed despite doubts about their innocence. No one knows for certain where innocent people have been put to death, but the odds that it has happened are disturbingly great.
(...)

There are too many people now on Death Row whose cases are open to reasonable doubt. It is time to put the brakes on the death machine and rethink the fairness and justice of something that is manifestly unfair and unjust in its use. Doing anything less makes a mockery of our legal system.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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46. Baptists say yes to death penalty, no to women pastors
Worldwide Faith News, June 16, 2000
http://www.wfn.org/conferences/wfn.news/
entries/642752873.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Southern Baptists overwhelmingly passed a revised statement
of faith June 14 opposing women pastors and homosexuality and adopted a
groundbreaking resolution supporting capital punishment.
(...)

The capital punishment resolution says the convention's delegates, known as
messengers, ''support the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by
civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of
murder or treasonous acts that result in death.''

It cites biblical references forbidding ''taking of innocent human life'' and
affirming the death penalty as appropriate for capital crimes.

''We are saying that they may, not that they must,'' said Hayes Wicker,
chairman of the resolutions committee, of civil courts. He said Southern
Baptists did not wish to remain silent in the midst of the current debate,
in which a number of other religious bodies have called for moratoriums and
studies on capital punishment.

Wicker, a Naples, Fla., pastor, said the resolution's language notes
capital punishment should be used only when there is ''clear and overwhelming
evidence'' of guilt and should not be based on race or class of the guilty
person. It is the first time the 15.9 million-member denomination has
spoken on capital punishment.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The Old Testament laws, intended for the nation of Israel, also prescribes
the death penalty for children who do not heed their parents, but Baptists
have not (yet) adopted any resolutions encouraging that practice.

(Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NIV) If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who
does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they
discipline him, {19} his father and mother shall take hold of him and
bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. {20} They shall say to
the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey
us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." {21} Then all the men of his town
shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All
Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

* The publisher of RNR considers the death penalty to be barbaric, and a
violation of human rights. Internationally, there is a special concern
regarding its application in the United States, which often executes
people whose guilt has not been proven, and/or executes people in
violation of international laws and treaties (e.g. regarding the execution
of juvenile offenders, the mentally ill, or foreigners who have not been
allowed proper access to their countries' embassies).



=== Books

47. Harry Potter fever grips children around world
AOL/Reuters, Jun 15, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006150836150799
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
LONDON (Reuters) - Harry Potter fever gripped children young and old Thursday with the teenage wizard under tight security for his next big day.

The launch of the fourth ''Harry Potter'' bookOff-site Link by author JK Rowling on July 8 unleashed a torrent of orders. Amazon.Com said it is set to be the biggest online bestseller ever.
(...)

Security at the Amazon distribution center has been stepped up to ensure no details of the plot are leaked in advance.
(...)

Publishers Bloomsbury are even keeping the book's title secret before a grand launch for schoolchildren at a London railway station. One platform will be turned into Harry's fictitious platform nine-and-three-quarters.

The boy wizard created by Edinburgh-based Rowling has already weaved his magic for Bloomsbury. Its profits were driven 66 percent higher last year.
(...)

The books have already sold more than 18 million copies in the United States alone and Rowling has promised that Potter's rollicking adventures would stretch to seven books.
(...)

Hollywood director Chris Columbus is coming to Britain to film the first Potter saga later this year.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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