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Religion News Report

June 20, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 215)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

* RNR policy is to alert readers to representative articles, rather than to
list every occurence of the same - or re-written - wire services item.
For the latest Branch Davidian trial news, see:

http://www.apologeticsindex.org/b10a01.html

=== Waco / Branch
1. Davidian witness says raid was surprise
2. Branch Davidians' case may hinge on judge's ruling
3. Jury to hear start of Waco case today
4. Govt. in spotlight at Waco Trial
5. The enduring battlefield
6. Branch Davidian Trial to Begin Tuesday
7. Finally Taken Seriously, Waco Suit Goes to Trial
8. Fair trial predicted in Waco
9. Davidian wrongful death lawsuit consists of 4 parts
10. Stakes high for plaintiffs, government in Davidian wrongful death trial
11. Why does the left ignore Waco?

=== Ho No Hana Sanpogyo
12. Japan Police Arrest Cult Members
13. Foot cultists ranked, paid for recruiting effort

=== Falun Gong
14. Sect Member Said Injected With Drug
15. Banned China 'cult' alive and well here

=== Islam
16. Muslims Deny Mosque Report
17. Polygamy law set for challenge

=== Catholicism
18. Vatican to publish Fatima secret details next week

== Hate Groups
19. Anti-gay preacher to picket at P&G (Phelps)

=== Paganism
20. Public permitted to mark solstice within Stonehenge
21. Open access is Stonehenge's new dawn
22. Pagan Newfoundlanders promiscuous on first day of spring, says magazine

=== Other News
23. Trip Home to Stand Up For Their Community (Twelve Tribes)
24. Ramtha eyes 1,300-acre ed center
25. Revolt of Krishna's children
26. Born-again Christians complain
27. Wounded Mungiki 2 moved
28. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal on Evolution Disclaimer
29. Disgraced preacher returns with dignity (Garner Ted Armstrong)
30. Sex change vicar to keep his job

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance in the USA
31. Student Prayers Must Be Private, Court Reaffirms
32. Ruling hardly ends debate on school prayer
33. Texas town disappointed, defiant after prayer ban
34. Town May Rethink School Prayer
35. Supreme Court Rulings on Prayer
36. High Court Rejects Prayers at School Football Games

=== Noted
37. The Dutch Seek to Legalize Long-Tolerated Euthanasia
38. Is He a -Public Health Prophet

=== Death Penalty
39. Some Graham jurors unsure of his guilt

=== Waco / Branch

1. Davidian witness says raid was surprise
Dallas Morning News, June 20, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/latestnews/99081_waco.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - The first witness in the wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Branch Davidian survivors and family members testified today that she was unaware of any plans by sect members to ambush federal agents as they tried to serve a search warrant Feb. 28, 1993.

Rita Riddle, who was in the compound during the raid but left before the ensuing 51-day siege, said she did not know that federal agents would be arriving or armed when they pulled up in front of the Mt. Carmel compound.

When gunfire broke out, she said, she and others crouched on the floor in a hallway of the building to avoid being shot. Riddle testified she did know there were guns at the complex.

Four federal lawmen and six Davidians were killed during the initial raid. The siege ended in a deadly fire April 19, 1993, after FBI agents began a tear-gassing operation designed to end the standoff.

Opening statements began this morning with grim descriptions of the government's 1993 raid and siege on their compound.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Branch Davidians' case may hinge on judge's ruling
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 20, 2000
http://www.stlnet.com/postnet/stories.nsf/
ByDocID/AE1193DBF453B3C1862569040038E334?OpenDocument
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas - A federal judge will make a key ruling today that could make or break the Branch Davidians' wrongful death case against the government for its handling of the siege at Waco in 1993.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr. must decide whether the seven jurors who were selected Monday can hear about warnings by FBI negotiators that the use of tanks could bring on trouble from the Davidians.

''That's the best evidence we have from the government witnesses in the whole case,'' said Jim Brannon, one of the lawyers for the Branch Davidians.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Jury to hear start of Waco case today
Dallas Morning News, June 20, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/99049_waco20.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - A jury of four women and three men will begin hearing the Branch Davidian wrongful-death case Tuesday, a day after fierce clashes over the admissibility of key evidence detailing the actions of FBI commanders and sect members during the 1993 siege.

The jury was chosen during the opening day of the trial Monday, and their identities were kept anonymous.

Lead plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Caddell of Houston complained Monday that government lawyers had repeatedly ignored court discovery deadlines, ambushing lawyers for the plaintiffs as recently as last weekend with previously undisclosed documents and government witnesses that should have been turned over months ago.

Judge Walter S. Smith said, ''The government has been extremely less than diligent.''

But he refused Mr. Caddell's bid to keep out detailed transcripts of Branch Davidian conversations intercepted by FBI listening devices during the siege.

The transcripts could prove damaging to the sect's arguments that government agents used excessive force in their initial 1993 raid on the Branch Davidians' rural compound and acted improperly in their efforts to end an ensuing 51-day standoff.
(...)

In a morning of last-minute skirmishes over the amount and scope of evidence to be allowed in the case, the judge also ruled that the plaintiffs may introduce internal FBI documents that could prove damaging to the government's defense.
(...)

The federal tort claims act includes a blanket protection - the discretionary-function exemption - that prohibits private legal challenges to most decisions and policies of federal employees and agencies.

Citing that exemption, Judge Smith has thrown out parts of the plaintiffs' case revolving around the government's decision to gas the compound, its decision to use tanks to spray gas in and efforts to negotiate a surrender before the April 19 assault.

Government lawyers used that argument Monday to try to block the introduction of internal documents, memos and interview notes detailing FBI negotiators' fears that Mr. Rogers and Mr. Jamar sent tanks in prematurely April 19 because they were frustrated and angry.
(...)

But Mr. Caddell countered that the documents would help a jury understand the mindsets of Branch Davidians on April 19 and why they did not trust the FBI.

He added that the documents would show the motivation of the two Waco FBI commanders as well as the warning given Mr. Jamar of the tragedy that might result from sending in tanks.

''The FBI has said for seven years, 'Nothing we could've done would've made a difference,''' Mr. Caddell said. ''That's not true. Their own people say we would have ... gotten more people out.'' Judge Smith delayed a ruling on the matter but is expected to decide before the start of opening arguments.
(...)

More than a dozen surviving sect members and relatives of the dead came to the federal courthouse at the edge of downtown Waco on Monday for the proceedings.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Govt. in spotlight at Waco Trial
AOL/AP, June 20, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006200327297398
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas (AP) - Seven years ago, during the long government standoff with the Branch Davidians, an FBI criminal profiler warned the on-scene commander about using force to end the siege.

If the FBI took ''physical action'' to end the confrontation and children died, Peter Smerick said in his March 7, 1993 memorandum to Jeffery Jamar, agents would be blamed even if they were not responsible.

Jamar ordered the use of tanks to fire tear gas into the compound on April 19, 1993, to force out the Branch Davidians. A fire broke out six hours into the operation, destroying the compound and killing about 80 people.

Now, with the wrongful death lawsuit filed by surviving Branch Davidian members set to begin, lawyers for the plaintiffs are hoping to use the information against the government.

''That's the best evidence we have from the government, period,'' plaintiffs' lawyer Jim Brannon said on the eve of Tuesday's opening statements.

The $675 million lawsuit consolidates nine civil cases filed in 1994 after the federal raid and deadly fire that burned through the compound near Waco. The trial is expected to last about a month.

Government lawyers say the memo falls under the ``discretionary function'' privilege, which shields the federal government - even if its agents' actions proved negligent - from liability in its decisions. The law is designed to give federal officials the ability to act without the fear of being sued.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. The enduring battlefield
National Post (Canada), June 19, 2000
http://www.nationalpost.com/news.asp?
f=000619/321732&s2=world
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK - There is an anthem for the United States' gun-toting right wing, with a plunking country guitar and words that go like this:

''Just in case you don't remember
Let me jog your memory.
In the church they called the Waco compound
Back in April '93
Seventeen little children
All so helpless and small
Died a senseless death of gas and flames.
How many names can you recall?''

The song, called Seventeen Little Children, was written by a singer unlikely to feature in the top-10 charts. Carl Klang sells his works mostly over the underground circuits of the Internet, and performs in the log cabins of the disaffected scattered through the deserts, mountains and forests of the West.

He sings of a memory of the disastrous raid by federal agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigations on the compound of the Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Tex., that left an astonishing 76 men, women and children dead in the ashes of an inferno.
(...)

But just what sparked the inferno that consumed the sect in one of the United States' worst peacetime massacres remains a bitterly contested question.
(...)

But the jury will be asked only to consider the broad question of government responsibility: Did the agents overreact? Were the rules of engagement flouted? Were military forces illegally present?

These questions approach the heart of the Waco issue, but they will never settle it. For the tragedy of the Branch Davidians has endured as a battlefield for the hearts and minds of modern Americans on the old and fundamental question of how the individual relates to his government, and vice-versa. It is an issue still fraught with peril.

''There are those to whom Waco is the battle between the righteous, individualistic, God-fearing American and not only the government and the Clinton presidency, but the forces of evil,'' says John Mason, professor of political science at Patterson College in New Jersey.

Mr. Mason, who has watched the extremes of U.S. politics since his days as an anti-Vietnam protest organizer in the 1960s, believes the main thrust of the forces that created Waco have abated, although they have not expired. The rebellion of the right reached its most dangerous recent peak with the Militia movement and, within it, the scarcely organized network of armed extremists, running from racists and neo-Nazi enclaves in Idaho to tax rebels in Montana and religious rebels in Waco.

The movement, says Mr. Mason, essentially blew its own credibility with the terrorist bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma in stated revenge for Waco.
(...)

Reverend Pat Robertson, the television evangelist and former presidential candidate who wrote the militia manifesto with his book New World Order, has lost credibility. The volume of the ''right to life'' anti-abortion credo has been turned down and the National Rifle Association, a funnel between the extremes to the mainstream, has been defanged.

''But this does not mean that the Waco battle flag will not rise again,'' says Mr. Mason. ''The Branch Davidians were particularly significant because rebellion in religious dissent has been an American phenomenon for 300 years, and Waco is now part of the theology of the right-wing movement. And there are reasons for complaint: The government overreacted, and there were coverups.''
(...)

The key question after years of investigation is now this: If federal agents bear no responsibility for the deaths at Waco, why has so much evidence been covered up for so long?

''Waco did not come about either as a result of conspiracy or a fluke,'' Mr. Kopel says.

''Waco represents the worst case scenario of problems that are now pervasive in federal law enforcement, including militarization, judicial rubber-stamping of search warrants, aggressive and unnecessarily violent arrest procedures and indifference to religious beliefs.

''There is a solution, and that is to put federal law enforcement back under the rule of law.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Branch Davidian Trial to Begin Tuesday
AOL/Reuters, June 20, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006200507300657
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...)
The judge ordered that the names of the jurors in the high profile case be kept confidential and set opening statements in the case for Tuesday. The jurors were picked from a pool of 60 and include a social worker, a homemaker and an elementary school teacher.

No juror was asked to state opinions about either the government or the Branch Davidians but all were asked if they could be impartial and vowed that they could.

At issue in the trial is the question, still hotly debated in America, of whether the FBI or the Branch Davidians are responsible for the deaths of cult leader Koresh and his followers.

The plaintiffs, numbering around 100, are Branch Davidians who survived the siege and relatives of those who died on April 19, 1993, when the rural compound went up in flames as FBI agents using armored vehicles and tear gas tried to end a 51-day standoff.

U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford told reporters outside of court, ``When the jury sees what really happened, it will come to the conclusion that Mr. Koresh and the Branch Davidians were responsible for what happened on April 19.''

But plaintiffs attorney Michael Caddell disagreed, telling reporters after the hearing that if the judge allows evidence in from FBI negotiators at the scene, the jury will side with his clients.

''I believe that tomorrow the judge will rule that the jury can see documents from the negotiators so that the jury can understand that the very thing that happened on April 19 was the very thing the FBI's own people warned about.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Finally Taken Seriously, Waco Suit Goes to Trial
New York Times, June 19, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/
national/061900waco-case.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HOUSTON, June 18 -- For years, the Branch Davidian wrongful-death lawsuit seemed unlikely to amount to anything more than paper. The case file is about as thick as 25 metropolitan phone books, a tower of motions and countermotions once regarded as a monument to futility by those who doubted that the case would ever reach trial.

But six years after the lawsuit was filed, the trial is scheduled to open on Monday in Federal District Court in Waco, Tex. Once criticized as a bundle of anti-government conspiracies, the lawsuit is now being taken very seriously. At its core lies the fundamental question of whether the government was negligent in the deaths of more than 80 Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993, when the sect's Mount Carmel compound near Waco burned to the ground.

''This case is going to prove that our government can be held accountable for its abuse of power,'' said Michael Caddell, the lead lawyer for the Branch Davidian survivors and many of the relatives of those who died.

''And that's what happened on April 19. It was an abuse of power.''

The format of the trial will be unusual, because there will essentially be two trials. Judge Walter S. Smith announced that he would impanel an ''advisory'' seven-person jury to help him decide the case. The judge could overrule the jury.

Last week Judge Smith said he would separate the most contentious issue -- whether F.B.I. agents fired gunshots into the compound on April 19 -- into a separate hearing to be decided later by him alone.

The prospect of a jury trial apparently unnerved the Justice Department, which filed a motion asking the judge not impanel a jury.

But Judge Smith said he had decided on a jury in response to national attention.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Fair trial predicted in Waco
Dallas Morning News, June 19, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/
98445_waco_19tex.ART.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Jury selection starts Monday in the wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the government by families and survivors of the 1993 siege near Waco. Many residents say an impartial jury can easily be impaneled because most of them lost interest in the case long ago.

''Ninety percent of the people could care less,'' said Mr. Middleton, who lives nearby. ''They are indifferent. There's people in Waco that know less about this than people out-of-state.''
(...)

Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, who briefly represented sect leader David Koresh and met with him during the siege to try to persuade him to surrender, said he is ''bothered a lot'' that jurors will be drawn from the Waco area.

He noted that U.S. District Judge Walter Smith decided to move the criminal trial arising from the standoff to San Antonio because he feared that potential jurors in Waco might be too heavily influenced by publicity surrounding the incident that attracted worldwide attention.

''It really shouldn't be tried there,'' he said. ''The people of Waco and that area are subjected wherever they go to ridicule, humiliation. When you say the word 'Waco,' it means government overreaching. It means religious nuts. It means the terrible things that happened. I think the community is under tremendous pressure to redeem themselves by blaming the Davidians.''
(...)

He noted that a state court jury recently asked to decide ownership of the land where the standoff occurred refused to award title to the surviving Branch Davidians and their church.

''The property, rightly or wrongly, belongs to the Davidian church. A Waco jury said we're not going to give it to anybody,'' he said. ''The only thing that you can analyze out of that was that the jurors were anti-anything that seems to be in favor of Branch Davidians because of the ridicule that the Davidian incident has brought upon the whole community and the city.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Davidian wrongful death lawsuit consists of 4 parts
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 17, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed
/news/local/2000/06/17/961275167.09874.8653.0140.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The complex wrongful death lawsuit filed against the government by Branch Davidian survivors will play out in the courtroom like four mini-trials.

After U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. ruled last week that the trial, which is set to begin Monday, will not include allegations that government agents fired into David Koresh's Mount Carmel compound as the siege was coming to a deadly end, that left four issues to be decided.

Those issues will be presented one at a time to the jury, instead of the often-haphazard and more random order in which juries hear evidence in many civil cases. After the live testimony, videotaped depositions and cross-examinations are complete on one issue, the parties in the suit will move on to the next.
(...)

''The judge is going to let us present the issues one at a time,'' Caddell said. ''That lets us present deposition testimony and live witnesses all on a single topic, and I think this will present the evidence in a very clear and understandable and organized fashion for the jury. The government hates it because they want the jury not to understand what happened. They want to talk about what a bad person David Koresh was and that's their case in a nutshell.''
(...)

Caddell said he expects opening statements in the case to begin Tuesday morning. The trial is expected to last about four weeks.

The jury will be asked to decide:

* whether Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents fired indiscriminately and used other excessive force on Feb. 28, 1993, when they stormed Mount Carmel in an attempt to arrest Koresh on weapons charges.

* whether the FBI's tear-gas assault deviated from Attorney General Janet Reno's authorized plan and caused the premature demolition of the building.

* whether the government was negligent by not having a plan to fight the fire in which Koresh and 75 followers died.

* whether the government contributed to the cause and spread of the fire.

Smith, not the jury, will decide the amount of damages, if any, the government will pay if the government is found to be liable in any of the allegations.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Stakes high for plaintiffs, government in Davidian wrongful death trial
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 17, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/
local/2000/06/17/961273949.09631.9262.0144.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A lot is at stake in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit against the government that starts Monday in Waco.

It's not just about money, although the plaintiffs - surviving Davidians and the relatives of those who died at Mount Carmel - are asking for $675 million.

The government stands to lose the most of the two parties.

A verdict in favor of the Davidians would mean a federal judge, and not just critics, had found the government's actions at Mount Carmel to be negligent.

''This particular civil trial could have a much greater impact on government conduct in the future than a criminal case would,'' said Houston attorney Mike Caddell, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. ''A jury verdict against the government would be a dramatic reminder of whom they're supposed to work for. They had more tanks at Mount Carmel than the Marines had in Somalia. It's true. It doesn't matter what David Koresh did. The American people don't expect innocent women and children to be assaulted and tear-gassed.''

Michael Bradford, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas and government co-counsel for the civil trial, did not return phone calls requesting an interview.

A government win could lend credence to its version of events seven years ago. However, it won't end the speculation about what happened at Mount Carmel, according to Mark Swett, a Portland, Maine man whose extensive collection of Davidian siege documentsOff-site Link has made him a resource for researchers and programs such as ''Frontline.''

Swett, who works for an insurance company, is writing a book, David Koresh and the Untold Story of the Branch Davidians , based largely on the FBI ''bug'' tapes from Mount Carmel. The listening-device tapes changed Swett's mind on who's to blame for the fire that led to the deaths of Koresh and 75 followers. Swett thinks they show the Davidians purposely set the fires.

''Should the Davidians lose the civil trial, the controversy will still go on,'' Swett said. ''The only thing that can stop the endless speculation will be a complete investigation utilizing all the evidence. We missed that opportunity with the 1995 congressional hearings.''
(...)

Swett, who began collecting records related to the siege while it was happening, isn't predicting who will win.

He finds it hard to lay fault more at one doorstep than the other, seeing what happened at Mount Carmel as a clash between two sides deaf to the other.

''The Davidians could not get beyond their Biblical convictions even in the reality of serious charges including the deaths of federal agents,'' Swett said. ''The FBI was not able to overcome the theology of David Koresh. One side lived in the spiritual realm, and the other in the real world. In the end, those worlds collided with devastating effects.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Why does the left ignore Waco?
Salon, June 19, 2000
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/
2000/06/19/waco/print.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
June 19, 2000 | What does Mumia Abu-Jamal have that David Koresh doesn't? From Ed Asner to Alice Walker, liberals have flocked to defend Mumia -- convicted in 1982 of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner -- criticizing the way police and prosecutors handled his case and demanding a new trial. Luminaries of the left marched, chanted and purchased full-page ads in the New York Times to appeal to state and federal authorities to provide for Mumia, who has been on Pennsylvania's death row for 18 years.

Meanwhile, conservatives have taken up for David Koresh and the 80 Branch Davidians who died in Waco in 1993. Why haven't liberals shown the same concern for them? While there are some questions about the conduct of police and prosecutors in the Mumia case, there are many more lingering questions about the police actions taken against Koresh and his followers. For instance: Why did the Department of Justice use tanks against civilians? Why did the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continue with its raid against Koresh when it knew the element of surprise had been lost? Why didn't the ATF simply arrest Koresh when he was shopping in Waco or away from the Mount Carmel compound in the weeks before the February 28, 1993, raid?

There are dozens of other questions, all of which are of particular importance now that the Branch Davidians' civil lawsuit against the federal government is going forward. Jury selection in the trial begins Monday. The lawsuit, being tried in Waco before U.S. District Court Judge Walter Smith, Jr., accuses the government of negligence in its actions during the standoff. So why haven't more members of the left rallied to the Davidians' side?
(...)

A handful of liberals, including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who represents some of the Davidians and their survivors in the lawsuit, have weighed in on the matter. Another noted leftist, Howard Zinn, came out in defense of Koresh in an article he wrote for Z Magazine during the height of the Clinton impeachment debate. Zinn wrote that there were better reasons to impeach Clinton than having fellatio performed on him by Monica Lewinsky -- the foremost being the federal attack on Waco. The circumstances of the siege, he wrote, ''did not warrant losing patience with negotiations and choosing a military solution.''

Other theories that may explain why the left has ignored Waco revolve around the same broad issues that tend to galvanize Americans in general: guns, race, religion, class and the Clinton presidency.

Mumia Abu-Jamal has his own theory about the left's silence: Bill Clinton. In a recent exchange of letters from his death row cell in Waynesburg, Penn., Mumia opined that the main reason liberals haven't admonished the ATF and FBI is that they were ''so hungry for a win in Washington after years of Reagan/Bush.'' Liberals ''were certainly reluctant to pin Reno/Clinton to the wall after Waco,'' Mumia wrote, ''and then proceeded to ignore and forget the carnage at Mount Carmel.''
(...)

The great irony about Waco is this: If he is ever executed, Mumia will become a martyr figure for the left. Meanwhile, Koresh will likely continue to be ignored, even though he and about 80 others died due to the consequences of actions taken by federal police. It's those police actions, not political persuasion, that are the common denominator among the most outspoken critics of the government on Waco.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Ho No Hana Sanpogyo

12. Japan Police Arrest Cult Members
AOL/AP, June 20, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006201136316410

TOKYO (AP) - Nine members of a religious cult that claimed to cure diseases by inspecting the soles of people's feet were arrested Tuesday for allegedly defrauding believers and their families out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, police said.

Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo senior cult member Atsushi Yamaguchi, 36, and the eight other members are believed to have tricked 14 believers out of $538,000 in 1995 and 1996, according to Tokyo police.
(...)

A total of 24 cult members have been arrested on charges of fraud, the spokesman said. He said it was too early to speculate on what penalties they may face.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Foot cultists ranked, paid for recruiting effort
Asahi News (Japan), June 20, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/asahi/0620/asahi062003.html
The Ho no Hana Sanpogyo foot cult, accused of bilking members out of millions of yen, paid top staff members salaries according to the number of new followers they recruited, police sources said Monday.

Some of the cult's top leadership now under arrest told police they wanted to acquire new followers because it was their major source of income, according to the sources.

The foot-cult founder, Hogen Fukunaga, 55, and 11 other senior cult members were arrested May 9 on suspicion of swindling enormous amounts of money from a number of followers as payment for cult-related seminars and the purchase of religious items. Fresh charges of fraud were issued against them Monday.

In addition, nine more members were arrested today on suspicion of cheating 14 people in a similar manner.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

14. Sect Member Said Injected With Drug
AOL/AP, June 18, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006180656236136
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (AP) - A follower of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement died after his release from detention in a psychiatric hospital, where he was injected with nerve-destroying drugs, a human rights group said Sunday.

Su Gang, a 32-year-old computer engineer, was in fine health before he was sent to the hospital on May 23 but was weak, slow, stiff-limbed and unable to eat when he was released eight days later, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said, quoting Su's father, Su De'an.

Su died of heart failure on June 10, less than two weeks after his release, the Hong Kong-based Information Center said. While detained in the hospital, Su was forcibly given daily injections of nerve-damaging medicines, it said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. Banned China 'cult' alive and well here
Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2000
http://chicagotribune.com/news/metro/chicago
/article/0,2669,ART-45340,FF.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Nearly a year after the Chinese government turned the full weight of authoritarianism on their obscure spiritual movement, the followers of Falun Gong had spread word on the Internet to convene in Chicago.
(...)

By 9 a.m. Saturday, their devotion was spread all over the sidewalk near the hotel on South Michigan Avenue-some 600 followers from Arkansas and Minnesota, Canada and Sweden, most performing their tai-chi-like exercises beside honking traffic.

It was a potent image not lost on the members of a movement that has grown increasingly bold and media-savvy over its first year in the international spotlight.
(...)

Although some practitioners continue to flout the ban in China, followers here suggest the publicity may have won them new supporters.

But Thomas Raffill, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based researcher and co-author of a forthcoming book on Falun Gong, is less optimistic.

''Certainly Falun Gong is worse off today than it was a year ago because the crackdown in China has hurt the main source of support,'' Raffill said. ''My sense is that people have not taken it very seriously.''
(...)

Caught between a Chinese state that has pledged to extinguish them and an American mainstream that may not be prepared to embrace them, the Falun Gong can seem overwhelmed by obstacles.

But those will break down with time, Tai said, through steady and friendly promotion efforts.
(...)

Yet, even as Tai touted Falun Gong's transparency, there were secrets to be kept.

Asked how he obtained a new statement from their reclusive master that was read before the group this weekend, conference organizer Sen Yang of Schaumburg shook his head.

''I can't tell you that,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

16. Muslims Deny Mosque Report
AOL/AP, June 18, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006180419239499
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
JERUSALEM (AP) - An Islamic authority on Sunday denied Israeli newspaper reports that it was planning to build another mosque at one of the most sensitive spots in Jerusalem's walled Old City.

The Haaretz daily said Waqf was considering constructing a mosque on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, where some of the holiest sites for both Muslims and Jews converge. Haaretz quoted unnamed Israeli security officials who monitor the site.
(...)

Hard-line Israelis have challenged Muslim control of the mount, saying Jews should be allowed access to it for prayer. They have been joined recently by mainstream Jews, concerned by reports from nonpartisan archaeologists that Muslim authorities have systematically junked antiquities on the site in order to expand prayer facilities.

The Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount has set up a Web site with photos allegedly chronicling the destruction.
(...)

The Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount: http://www.miac.com/baitOff-site Link

Jerusalem Temple Mount: http://www.templemount.org/Off-site Link
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Polygamy law set for challenge
BBC, June 18, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/
uk/newsid_791000/791263.stm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Muslims in Britain are to challenge UK law which forbids husbands from having more than one wife.

They say they will refer Britain's ban on polygamous marriage to the European Court of Human Rights this autumn.

Under Islamic law a man is allowed to have up to four wives, but the Muslim Parliament of Britain says that many families are being forced to live outside the law because their polygamous marriages are not recognised here.

There are no official figures on the number of people practising polygamy in Britain, but it's estimated that there may be hundreds.

One British Muslim wife suffering as a result of polygamy is Sameera, whose 55-year-old husband took up a second wife after 30 years of marriage.

He married a 26-year-old cousin in January, whilst on holiday in Pakistan, without Sameera's knowledge or consent.

Told by her in-laws she says she was devastated, but feels she has no choice but to accept the situation.

''I just fainted when I first heard,'' says Sameera. ''The fact that he's married such a young girl, a girl old enough to be his daughter. I cried and cried and felt like my mind was exploding. It felt like the ground had just fallen from under me, why did he do it? It shouldn't happen.''

Although Islam allows a man to marry up to four wives, he can only do so if his first wife is infertile, or if he marries women who are considered social outcasts. It is not, as many believe, meant to be for the sexual gratification of men.
(...)

The issue of polygamy encapsulates the debate over whether minorities have the right to follow their own customs or conform to established Judaeo Christian values. The bishop of Rochester, Dr Nazir Ali, believes the government should not succumb to such pressures.

''I don't think that polygamy should be enshrined in law because it will affect the mutual love and companionship that a marriage needs and it will also affect the stability of the family,'' says Dr Ali.

But Noshaba Hussein warns that if the government continues to overlook their demands they could end up losing ethnic minority votes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* It will be interesting to see whether or not the U.S. government, which is
trying to police the world by imposing its views regarding religous freedom
will go to bat for polygamy in the name of ''religious liberty.''


=== Catholicism

18. Vatican to publish Fatima secret details next week
AOL/Reuters, June 19, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006190918263273
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said Monday that it will publish the details of the Third Secret of Fatima, described as a vision that predicted the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul.

A copy of the text of the secret and a commentary by the Vatican's most senior doctrinal official, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, will be published on June 26 and explained at a news conference.

During a visit to the Portuguese town of Fatima last month, the Vatican said the text contained predictions of the attempt to kill the Pope on May 13, 1981, and the persecution of Christianity under communism in the 20th century.
(...)

A Vatican source said that in order to avoid possible accusations that it was not revealing everything, it would publish a photocopy of what Sister Lucia wrote by hand in Portuguese about her vision.

The text and translation would be accompanied by a commentary to help the faithful understand its significance.
(...)

This vision is known as the third and previously unknown part of the secret. The first and second parts were well known.

The first part of the Madonna's message was a vision of hell shown to the children. In the second part, Mary is said to have predicted the outbreak of World War Two some 22 years before it started, asked for devotion to her Immaculate Heart and asked that Russia, which was about to undergo the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, be consecrated to her.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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== Hate Groups

19. Anti-gay preacher to picket at P&G
CIncinnati Post, June 17, 2000
http://www.cincypost.com/news/gay061700.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Anti-homosexual crusader Fred Phelps said he is bringing his ''picketing ministry'' to Cincinnati Monday to protest the Procter & Gamble Co.'s recent decision not to advertise on Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio and TV shows.

Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., is expected to demonstrate in the vicinity of P&G's downtown headquarters Monday afternoon.

A news release on his church's official Web site - www.godhatesfags.comOff-site Link - did not specify a time or place for the protest.
(...)

Phelps, 70, gained national attention in 1998 for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student from Wyoming who was beaten to death.

Phelps has become known for pickets in which he holds signs with slogans such as ''God Hates Fags'' and ''Got AIDS Yet?''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Paganism

20. Public permitted to mark solstice within Stonehenge
The Telegraph (England), June 19, 2000
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=000140326706927
&rtmo=V6SfwkrK&atmo=V6SfwkrK&pg=/et/00/6/19/nstone19.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
STONEHENGE will be open to the public to celebrate the summer solstice this week for the first time in 16 years.

Official ceremonies were cancelled last year after gatecrashers held their own unofficial celebrations at the site

Up to 10,000 people, including members of countless Druid and pagan groups, are expected to arrive at the monument overnight tomorrow to await sunrise at about 4.45am on Wednesday.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. Open access is Stonehenge's new dawn
The Times (England), June 19, 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/
tim/2000/06/19/timnwsnws01012.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BED sheets are being ironed, druidical headdresses polished and oak leaves gathered for the first public summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge since 1984.

However the Druids, pagans and white witches are expected to be out-numbered by New Age Travellers, born-again hippies and the simply curious when the sun rises over the Heel Stone at 4.44am on Wednesday morning.

The decision to allowed ''managed access'' to Britain's most famous prehistoric monument is a complete reversal of policy for English Heritage which manages the site. Stonehenge has been off limits to the public during times of traditional celebration since New Age Travellers trying to stage a free festival fought with riot police.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Pagan Newfoundlanders promiscuous on first day of spring, says magazine
Calgary Herald (Canada), June 20, 2000
http://www.southam.com/calgaryherald/newsnow/cpfs
/national/000620/n062019.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - Newfoundlanders are scratching their heads over a report that says married people in the province practise a pagan custom allowing them to have sex with anyone they want on the first day of spring.

So says an article in the August issue of Men's Health magazine. ''It's considered to be a liberating and rejuvenating annual ritual,'' according to Michael Perry, a sex therapist based in Encino, Calif., who was quoted in the article.
(...)

Perry's revelation comes as news to people in the province, including Memorial University folklore professor Philip Hiscock.

''The pagan reference makes me suspicious,'' he said. ''I'd really like to know who his source is.''

Hiscock said he has never encountered any such ritual in his years of studying folklore, nor has he encountered anyone in the province calling themselves pagan.

Hiscock adds that local folklore seems to be a bit out of Perry's field of expertise. Along with his medical practice, Perry produces educational videos on sex with titles such as New Lover's Massage, What Women Want, and More of What Women Want.
(...)

Perry said he heard the Newfoundland story from a Canadian journalist, who he is now trying to contact to straighten out the story. Until then, he won't name names.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

23. Trip Home to Stand Up For Their Community
New York Times, June 19, 2000
http://search3.nytimes.com/search/daily/bin/fastweb?
getdoc+site+site+62500+2+wAAA+%22twelve%7Etribes%22
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ISLAND POND, Vt., June 18 -- Sixteen years after a swarm of Vermont troopers rousted 112 children from their beds in an effort to examine them for signs of abuse, some of those same children, now adults, returned today to this tiny community to swear publicly that they had felt happy and loved, not abused.
The event fell near the 16th anniversary of the 1984 raid on a religious group then known as the Northeast Kingdom Community Church. The group has changed its name to the Twelve Tribes Community and has established 25 communities around the world.

At the time of the raid, the State of Vermont, frustrated in its effort to verify reports that church members were beating their children in the name of religion, sent 90 state troopers and 50 social workers into the compound in the early hours of June 22 to round up the children, who ranged in age from 9 days to 17 years old, and put them on a Greyhound bus for the courthouse in the nearby town of Newport.

Today, about 80 of the children rode a Greyhound bus back to Island Pond. To a standing ovation from their friends and parents, they got off the bus and gathered behind a lectern beside Island Pond, for which the town was named.
(...)

Church members did not dispute that they were using corporal punishment, but said they disciplined their children, usually with thin rods, in the spirit of love.

Ed Wiseman, one of the founding members of the community, said, ''Freedom of speech and freedom of religion were both at risk.'' Children of the community performed a dance as part of Sunday's event marking the anniversary of the raid, and of a judge's decision that same day to free the children seized by the state.

Mr. Wiseman said: ''The issue of religious persecution and discrimination against new religions is an issue all over the world today. We see a great need for government leaders to make sure that the information they're receiving about these new minority groups is reliable. Not doing that was what created the atmosphere of moral panic in the state of Vermont in 1984.''
(...)

The group tries to follow the Bible closely and create a ''Kingdom of God.'' Mr. Wiseman and others said that discipline was essential to a developing a sense of self-worth and that a lack of it was destroying the nation at large.
(...)

Wayne Dyer, now a retired Vermont state trooper, was a participant in the raid and in today's event. In a statement that he wrote for the gathering, Mr. Dyer called the raid ''a terrible thing.''

''Individuals who were responsible for the raid were not brought to justice, and the state got off the hook with a small lawsuit from the family of a child who happened to be visiting that day and was scooped up,'' Mr. Dyer wrote.

Some other social service and law enforcement officials were invited, but did not attend.

One of them, Philip White, who was the state prosecutor on the case, told The Burlington Free Press, ''The first lesson is that it is still O.K. to beat their children, especially if they have a religious justification for it.''

''The second lesson,'' Mr. White, said, ''is that we still have not found a satisfactory approach to preventing and addressing child abuse issues when they occur in closed religious communities.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Ramtha eyes 1,300-acre ed center
The Olympian, June 17, 2000
http://news.theolympian.com/stories/
20000617/HomePageStories/82814.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
THURSTON COUNTY -- Four students at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment have presented preliminary plans to the county for a 1,300-acre education center that would teach ''cutting-edge'' environmentalism, such as using water in a way that enhances its life-giving properties.

The proposal is in an embryonic stage, as no land has been bought and no funding has been obtained to build what one partner said would be a $100 million-plus complex.
(...)

The four students are spearheading the project under the name Science for Life International.

Although they attend the Ramtha School near Yelm, neither the school nor the school's founder, J.Z. Knight, are involved in the project, said Carol Lawson, a partner in the venture.

However, Lawson said Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old Atlantean warrior whom Knight claims to channel, supports their goals.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Revolt of Krishna's children
The Independent (England), June 19, 2000
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/World/Asia_China/
2000-06/revolt180600.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) In Dallas, Texas, on Monday, 44 former students in schools run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) across the United States and India filed a $400m (£274m) case against the movement, accusing senior Hare Krishna leaders of sexual, physical and emotional torture.

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Windle Turley, said, ''This lawsuit describes the most unthinkable abuse and maltreatment of little children we have seen. It includes rape, sexual abuse, physical torture and emotional terrorising of children as young as three years of age.''

In Vrindavan, 130km south of Delhi, the seat of Krishna worship and home of one of the ISKCON boys' boarding schools described in the writ as ''profoundly abusive'', local citizens showed no surprise at the charges. Talk of the terrible conditions at the Vrindavan school has been commonplace in the town for years.

''Physically and mentally the boys are tortured by the staff,'' said Vivekananda Ghose, a teacher in a junior high school a couple of hundred yards from the ISKCON school.
(...)

Krishna, the blue-skinned, flute-playing cowherd god is the most popular divinity in Hinduism. The fertile flood plain of the river Yamuna at Vrindavan is where, according to tradition, Krishna and his clan moved when he was a child of eight.
(...)

ISKCON, of course, is here: it has a huge white marble temple in the middle of town. The school, a modern four-storey building faced with granite tiles and in need of maintenance, is situated next door.

But Vrindavan has changed since the arrival of ISKCON, locals charge.

''They are thinking of money, not service,'' says Dr Kamla Ghose, principal of the nearby junior high school (and Vivekanda Ghose's mother). ''They talk about social work but don't perform it. The façade is beautiful, but the rear is very bad.'' Dr Ghose and others in the town say that ISKCON's wealth has driven up the value of property, making it impossible for the poor widows who survive on niggardly temple charity to pay the rent.
(...)

Some victims of abuse at ISKCON schools have recorded their experiences on a website (http://ccrgroup.com/voice/abuse.htmOff-site Link).
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Born-again Christians complain
New Vision (Uganda), June 20, 2000
http://www.newvision.co.ug/06_20_st17.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
THE National Fellowship of Born Again Churches of Uganda (NFBC) has protested against the new NGO registration law requiring The Balokole (born-again) sects to register for a given period and keep on renewing their registration.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Wounded Mungiki 2 moved
Daily Nation (Kenya), June 19, 2000
http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/19062000/News/News35.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Two members of the Mungiki sect charged with raiding a police station were removed from hospital immediately after being admitted with gunshot wounds.

Doctors and nurses at the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital were greatly shocked when the outgoing officer in charge of the King'ong'o's Prison, Mr J.K Matheri, accompanied by a host of lieutenants, stormed Ward Seven and forcibly removed Mr Peter Nyamu and Mr Wanjama Mwangi on Wednesday night ''for security reasons''.

The two remand prisoners had just been taken to the prison after being charged on Tuesday in a Nanyuki court alongside 16 other suspects.

They were among eight sect members shot by police when they attacked the Nyahururu Police Station in a bid to free friends who had been held there.

Yesterday, a hospital source said the medical staff had protested the removal of the two prisoners as they had not been attended to.
(...)

Meanwhile, former freedom fighters want the Mungiki sect disbanded, saying its agenda is suspicious.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal on Evolution Disclaimer
AOL/Reuters, June 19, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl
?table=n&cat=01&id=0006191204270949
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Monday a ruling that struck down a policy that required elementary and high school teachers to read a disclaimer before teaching evolution to their students.

Over the dissent of three justices, the nine-member high court rejected an appeal by a Louisiana school board that made public school teachers tell their students the lesson on the ''scientific theory of evolution ... was not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of creation.''
(...)

In its last ruling on evolution, the Supreme Court in 1987 struck down a Louisiana law requiring public schools to give equal treatment to evolution and the creation theory about the origins of life.

The appeal was rejected without any comment. But the court's three most conservative members, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented.

''At the outset, it is worth noting that the theory of evolution is the only theory actually taught in the Tangipahoa Parish schools,'' Scalia said in the dissent.

He referred to the famous ''Monkey Trial'' in Tennessee in 1925 that involved the prosecution and conviction of a biology teacher, John Scopes, for teaching evolution.

''Today we permit a court of appeals to push the much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial one step further,'' Scalia said.

''We stand by in silence while a deeply divided (appeals court) bars a school district from even suggesting to students that other theories besides evolution -- including, but not limited to, the Biblical theory of creation, are worthy of their consideration,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Disgraced preacher returns with dignity
Cincinnati Post, June 17, 2000
http://www.cincypost.com/news/arm061700.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
He was known to millions in the 1970s as the smooth voice of ''The World Tomorrow'' radio and TV program.

He attracted 6,000 people a night to the Cincinnati Gardens for his ''America Listen'' crusades.

Twenty-five years later, Garner Ted Armstrong is returning to Cincinnati under radically different - some would say humbling - circumstances, but with his dignity intact.

Armstrong said he's not trying to continue the legacy of his late father, religious broadcasting pioneer Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena, Calif.

''I've been doing this since 1955. I'd like to think I have a legacy of my own,'' Armstrong said in a recent interview.

Armstrong, 70, will be in Cincinnati next Saturday for what he calls a ''modest meeting,'' a lecture on Bible prophecy and how it relates to today's news events.
(...)

Armstrong founded the Intercontinental Church of God two years ago after being ousted from the Church of God International, an organization he founded in 1978 after being ousted from his father's church for alleged moral lapses.

At the height of his popularity with the Worldwide Church of God, he was on 165 TV stations and 360 radio stations.

The Worldwide Church of God, before instituting a series of doctrinal reforms in the mid-1990s, taught that Christians should worship on Saturday, keep the Old Testament Jewish feasts and observe the Old Testament dietary laws.
(...)

At one time the heir-apparent of Herbert W. Armstrong's religious empire, the younger Armstrong was dogged by allegations of sexual and financial impropriety in the 1970s. He was excommunicated by his father in 1978.

He continued with the Church of God International until 1995, when a lawsuit charging him with sexual harassment forced him to take a leave of absence.

The church's board of directors revoked his ministerial credentials in 1997.

Armstrong then founded the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, also based in Tyler, Texas. He still hosts his own TV show, which airs in Cincinnati at 6 a.m. Mondays on Chicago superstation WGN.
(...)

Armstrong's is one of dozens of groups that split from the Worldwide Church of God after the Worldwide Church repudiated the teachings of its founder.

One of those offshoots, the United Church of God, has its international headquarters in Cincinnati.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Sex change vicar to keep his job
Ananova (England), June 19, 2000
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/
religion_uk-sex-change_84233.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A transsexual vicar from Swindon is to become the first serving Church of England minister to have a sex change.

The Rev Peter Stone will have the operation later this year and resume his position as the Rev Carol Stone at St Philip's Church, Upper Stratton.
(...)

The Bishop of Bristol has backed the move.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance in the USA

31. Student Prayers Must Be Private, Court Reaffirms
New York Times, June 20, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/politics/
scotus/articles/062000scotus-prayer.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON, June 19 -- Strongly reaffirming its earlier decisions against officially sponsored prayer in public schools, the Supreme Court ruled today that prayers led by students at high school football games are no exception: as officially sanctioned acts at events that students feel great social pressure to attend, they are unconstitutional.

The 6-to-3 majority opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens said that even when attendance was voluntary and when the decision to pray was made by students, ''the delivery of a pregame prayer has the improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship.''

The case came from a small school district in South Texas, typical of communities across the South where the practice of prayer at graduations, assemblies and athletic contests has persisted as officials have tried to navigate the obstacle course created by Supreme Court and lower court decisions.

In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, had ruled that students could offer prayers at graduations -- where members of the clergy cannot, under a 1992 Supreme Court decision -- but not in the ''far less solemn and extraordinary'' setting of a football game.

The decision today did not explicitly address graduation ceremonies, but the majority's analysis cast serious doubt on the increasingly popular practice of student-led graduation prayers.
(...)

In an acerbic dissenting opinion, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said the majority opinion ''bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life.''

Chief Justice Rehnquist said that ''neither the holding nor the tone of the opinion is faithful to the meaning of the Establishment Clause,'' at least as understood by George Washington, who proclaimed a day of ''public thanksgiving and prayer'' at the request of ''the very Congress which passed the Bill of Rights.''

The chief justice said the majority was adopting so rigid a view of church-state separation that ''under the Court's logic, a public school that sponsors the singing of the national anthem before football games violates the Establishment Clause'' because the concluding verse contains the phrase ''And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.' ''

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined the chief justice's dissenting opinion. The majority opinion was joined by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
(...)

The case, Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, No. 99-62, began in 1995 when two families, one Mormon and the other Catholic, sued to stop a variety of religious practices in the 4,000-student district near Galveston, Tex. Permitted by the Federal District Court to proceed anonymously because of the possibility of harassment, the plaintiffs won an initial ruling that prompted several changes in the school district's policy as the litigation continued.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Ruling hardly ends debate on school prayer
Dallas Morning News, June 20, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/
99055_prayerfolo_20me.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The girl who took the microphone at a small-town Texas football field for a pre-game prayer set off a broad national debate. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruling that declared her prayer unconstitutional was very specific.

The court rejected the invocation delivered in Santa Fe - sanctioned by a public school administration, selected by a majority of students and delivered in front of a crowd that included students who have to be there. But the relative narrowness of the ruling leaves plenty of room for many other kinds of student-initiated, student-led religious expression on public school campuses, said those on both sides of the issue.

Even in Santa Fe, Monday's decision doesn't necessarily end the debate.

''All I can tell you is they won't have a prayer before the football game in Santa Fe set up with a student vote,'' said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center of Law and Justice and one of the lawyers who represented the school district. ''Other than that, we're still analyzing all of it.''

Other districts with a history of prayer before games, such as Celina in the Dallas area, agreed to abide by the ruling.

But other religious activities developed in accord with previous high court rulings should be unaffected, said David Overstreet, assistant director of field ministries for the National Network of Youth Ministries.

His group promotes See You at the Pole, an annual morning prayer held at many public schools. Since the prayer happens before school starts and each observance is student-led, Monday's ruling will have no effect, he said.

Mark Briskman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, applauded the ruling but said some religious groups are confused about the effect.

''Some people think prayer and God have been removed from the public schools, and that's simply not true,'' he said. ''Any student has the absolute right to pray privately. The problem arises when it becomes organized and school-sanctioned.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Texas town disappointed, defiant after prayer ban
AOL/Reuters, June 19, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=0106&id=0006190810288004
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SANTA FE, Texas(Reuters) - Disappointment, disbelief and defiance reigned in the small Texas town at the heart of a dispute over prayers at public school football games, after the Supreme Court struck down the practice Monday.

As news of the decision spread among the 10,000 residents of

Santa Fe -- which means ``Holy Faith'' in Spanish, a sampling of local opinion revealed little sympathy for the ruling announced earlier in the day some 1,500 miles away in Washington D.C.
(...)

John Couch, who recently completed a term as president of the Santa Fe school board said he was disturbed by the ruling.

``Is the Supreme Court telling us if you're on public property you're not allowed to express religious speech? If so I think our first amendment rights are being trampled on,'' Couch said.

Denise Cowart, who succeeded Couch as president of the school board said school authorities might not be able to prevent students from taking part in organized pre-match prayer.

``These kids are very opinionated and strong-willed,'' she said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Town May Rethink School Prayer
AOL/AP, June 20, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006200350297794
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SANTA FE, Texas (AP) - In a state where football and religion are all-consuming, Santa Fe's school district can no longer allow the two to mix under a landmark ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both sides of the debate will be watching this fall to see what, if anything, the Santa Fe Independent School District does to replace the school-prayer policy struck down Monday by the nation's highest court.
(...)

``This is a complete and total victory for the freedom of religion in this country,'' said William Harrell, executive director of the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ``While some will see it as religion being prohibited in schools, students can voluntarily pray any time they want.''

School-prayer advocates say they're alarmed.
(...)

The decision in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe: http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-62.ZS.htmlOff-site Link
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. Supreme Court Rulings on Prayer
New York Times/AP Stream, June 19, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/w/
AP-Scotus-Prayer-Rulings.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Previous major Supreme Court decisions on school prayer and religious observances:

--In 1962 the court said officially sponsored prayers or religious statements in public schools violate the First Amendment's ban on any ''establishment of religion.''

--In 1963 the court banned state-sponsored reciting of the Lord's Prayer and reading of the Bible as part of devotional exercises in public schools.

--In 1980 the court outlawed the posting of the Ten Commandments on classroom walls in public schools.

--In 1985 the court outlawed daily moments of silence if public school students are encouraged, as they were in an Alabama law, to pray during that time.

--In 1990 the court ruled that public schools generally must allow student prayer groups to meet and worship if other student clubs are permitted at school.

--In 1992 the court prohibited clergy-led prayers at public school graduation ceremonies.
[...entire item...]


36. High Court Rejects Prayers at School Football Games
AOL/Reuters, June 19, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006191205270953
Off-site Link
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that students may not lead a stadium crowd at a public high school football game in prayer, rejecting the views of Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush.

The high court, by a 6-3 vote, declared that allowing a student to deliver a Christian prayer over the loudspeaker before kickoff violates the constitutional requirement on separation of church and state.
(...)

Bush and Christian conservatives argued that prohibiting prayers unconstitutionally discriminates against religious speech. The Texas school district said it should not have to ''censor the religious content from student speech.''
(...)

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority: ''The policy is invalid on its face because it establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion and unquestionably has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events.''
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Advocates who support a high wall of separation between church and state worried that if prayer had been permitted at football games, then it would be allowed at a wide range of other school events.
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Stevens rejected the school district's argument that there was no coercion involved because attendance at the extracurricular event was voluntary. He noted cheerleaders, band members and football players have to attend.
(...)

The court's most conservative members -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- dissented.

Rehnquist wrote in dissent: ''Even more disturbing than its holding is the tone of the court's opinion; it bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life.''
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=== Noted

37. The Dutch Seek to Legalize Long-Tolerated Euthanasia
New York Times, June 20, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/europe/
062000holland-mercy.html
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(...) In the last two decades, mercy killings and assisted suicide of terminally ill patients have been widely tolerated here, with prosecution for such acts becoming less and less likely.

But soon the Netherlands is expected to take a further step with a new bill that would decriminalize such acts if certain criteria are met, giving this country the least restrictive laws on mercy killing and assisted suicide in the world. Dr. Laane's actions last April 15, for which he was not prosecuted, would become fully legalized. The new law, which almost everyone here expects will be passed in the fall, could allow help to die for people ranging from Alzheimer's disease sufferers to perhaps even terminally ill children as young as 12.

The Dutch are not alone in Europe in moving toward legalization of mercy killing and assisted suicide. Belgium too has been debating legalizing euthanasia for months now, with more than 40 witnesses appearing before its Parliament to tell their stories. Switzerland already allows assisted suicide under some conditions.

Many other European countries have high-powered committees reviewing the issue, including one in France that recently recommended that euthanasia be considered in certain cases. And, in general, euthanasia activists say their ranks are growing. For less than a year, euthanasia was legal in part of Australia, but that law has since been repealed. In the United States, Oregon allows assisted suicide in some cases.

Still, the Netherlands remains the only country that has tolerated it for years, and now lawmakers and health officials here say the aim of the new legislation is to make sure that what happens during a patient's final hours happens in the open, where it can be scrutinized and regulated.
(...)

The advance directive has caused an uproar in some circles and may end up being deleted from the bill. For the Christian Right Association, which has supported some euthanasia bills, the new bill goes too far. The opposition party objects to both the advance directive and the cessation of the review process by the prosecutor's office.

''For us, this is going down the slippery slope,'' said Clémence Roos, a spokeswoman for the Christian Right. ''Eight years ago, we were hearing 'never' for dementia. 'How dare you suggest that we will go that far?' And now, it's being treated like it's just a fact of life.''
(...)

In contrast, some euthanasia activists feel that some of the language in the proposed new law may actually make it more difficult for patients to control at what point they want to die. The law seems to tighten some of the criteria used in the past to regulate the decision. For instance, it says the patient's decision must be ''durable.''

''This may imply some sort of time element that wasn't there before,'' said Dr. Rob Jonquière, the managing director of the Dutch Voluntary Euthanasia Society. ''There are a couple of things like that which actually may be a step backward.''
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Some aspects of the Dutch model make it difficult to compare it to what is going on or what might go on in other countries. For one thing, medical care is virtually free in the Netherlands, so concern over the cost of care would presumably not influence a decision here, as it might in America.

Moreover, the medical system here revolves around the general practitioner, who usually has known his or her patient for years. Such a relationship can make it much easier for a doctor to be comfortable with a patient's decision.

While the new law would legalize euthanasia if the rules are followed, it does not give a patient the right to euthanasia. The doctor always has the final say on whether to help. Surveys indicate that about 10 percent of doctors in the Netherlands are opposed to euthanasia in principle. No one knows how many have balked at the last minute for emotional reasons, but it does happen.
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38. Is He A Public Health Prophet
AOL/AP, June 19, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006191240247259
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MOOSIC, Pa. (AP) - It's a humble appliance, the kitchen spigot. It fills drinking glasses and watering cans. It rinses dirty dishes. The only time people give it a second thought is when it's leaking.

Not Bob Butts. He looks at the spigot and sees something entirely different: the cure to most diseases.

The auto-parts dealer believes so fervently in the healing power of simple tap water that he has spent hundreds of thousands of his company's dollars to convince you to drink more of it.
(...)

Butts, 65, is a devotee of what proponents call the ''water cure'' - outlined in a 1992 book, ''Your Body's Many Cries for Water.'' The author, Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, claims that degenerative diseases and other illnesses are simply the result of dehydration.

The remedy? Divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water a day. Abstain from caffeine. Add a half-teaspoon of sea salt to the diet.
(...)

Butts relishes the testimonials, but doctors are skeptical.

''I think his motivation is good,'' says Dr. Robert Czwalina, a family practitioner in nearby Wilkes-Barre. ''But I don't understand the connection between him and this Iranian physician who is bordering on junk science.''
(...)

On the Net: Butts' site: http://www.watercure2.comOff-site Link

Batmanghelidj's site: http://www.watercure.comOff-site Link

American Medical Association site: http://www.ama-assn.org/consumer.htmOff-site Link
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=== Death Penalty

39. Some Graham jurors unsure of his guilt
Dallas Morning News/AP, June 20, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/
99076_grahamside.html
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HOUSTON - Some of the jurors who convicted and condemned a man facing execution this week say they might have found him innocent had they heard evidence offered up by the inmate's attorney.

Dennis Graham and Bobby Pryor told ABC News' ''Nightline'' program Monday that they are no longer sure Gary Graham is guilty.

''I always had a bad feeling about it. My gut feeling was he wasn't guilty,'' Pryor said in Ttoday's Houston Chronicle. ''I just believe he might be innocent.''

Gary Graham's attorney, Jack Zimmermann, said he has also talked to another juror who now says wouldn't have voted to find Graham guilty.
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