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Religion News Report

June 23, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 217)

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=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. FBI Agent Recalls Tear Gas in Waco
2. Agent says vehicle he occupied at Waco probably contained exploding rounds
3. Branch Davidian Trial Continues
4. Ex-FBI official testifies
5. Top FBI officials were stunned to see tanks ram Waco complex, they testify
6. Sect could have been coaxed out, FBI figure told officials
7. Agreement could shorten Davidian trial
8. Ex-FBI officials testify on destruction of Davidian compound

=== Aum Shinrikyo
9. Cultist hints Asahara ordered attack

=== Scientology
10. Despite warnings in Lausanne, Scientologists still causing a nuisance

=== Mormonism
11. Ricks to become BYU-Idaho

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
12. Jehovah's Witnesses' blood transfusion policy restated

=== Attleboro Cult
13. Two more Attleboro cult members jailed
14. Sect arrests yield few clues in case

=== Nuwaubians
15. Purge of Nuwaubians from voter rolls continues
16. Nuwaubians may try to have elections halted

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
17. Paying homage to Mother Earth as summer starts
18. Druids fail to see the light at Stonehenge

=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes
19. Hate crimes: Should they receive special attention?

=== Cults - France
20. Church attacks new French anti-cult law
21. French assembly approves controversial anti-sect bill
22. French Assembly OKs Legislation to Control Sects
23. France moves to outlaw cults

=== Cult Apologists
24. Religion Today

=== Other News
25. Greek Clergy Warn on ID Cards
26. Greeks debate privacy rights vs. religious identity
27. India bans expeditions to world's third highest peak
28. Christian exodus from the Holy Land
29. Pact Leaves Meteorite With Museum

=== Prayer in the USA
30. ACLU Challenges Virginia's Minute of Silence
31. [Reactions to Supreme Court ruling on student-led prayer]
32. Cruel and unusual punishment

=== Noted
33. People: Breathing for the best in life

=== Death Penalty / US Human Rights Violations
34. Graham executed amid protest
35. Music: Cops call Springsteen names

=== The Censors Around The Corner
36. ''God and angel'' banned from Wilde play at New Zealand kids' hospital


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. FBI Agent Recalls Tear Gas in Waco
AOL/AP, June 23, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006230153377580
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas (AP) - A tank-riding FBI agent testified Friday he launched as many as 80 canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian complex but could not recall shooting any potentially flammable devices on the final day of the Waco siege.

Tom Rowan said so-called ''ferret rounds'' - plastic canisters containing tear gas - were launched from tanks into the complex on April 19, 1993, to try to force David Koresh and his Davidian followers from their rickety wooden complex. Experts say ferret rounds are not considered incendiary devices.

But the lead attorney for the sects' survivors and family members suing the government attempted to get the agent to talk about more incendiary munitions, asking if the FBI used ``military rounds,'' metallic canisters that potentially could be flammable devices.

''I don't recall if we had military rounds in our (tank) or not,'' Rowan said. ''I don't believe I've ever fired a military round.''
(...)

On Thursday, Servel, a tank commander, showed other FBI agents also noticed smoke coming from the structure. ``We saw smoke within seconds. We saw flames and then the smoke started getting really thick,'' Servel said.

Under cross-examination by government attorneys, Servel and Rowan said they observed what appeared to be muzzle flashes from gunfire in several windows before the fire started.

''I saw muzzle flashes, curtains moving, and glass breaking,'' said Rowan.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Agent says vehicle he occupied at Waco probably contained exploding rounds
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2000
http://www.stlnet.com/postnet/stories.nsf/ByDocID/
80CDD4E809D2850386256907005BF3EE?OpenDocument
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas - An FBI agent who fired tear gas at the Branch Davidian complex in 1993 testified Friday that his armored vehicle was probably equipped with fire-causing military tear gas rounds.

But the agent, Tom Rowan, said he was sure that the only rounds he fired were plastic ''ferret'' rounds which would not start a fire. Rowan's testimony was brought by the Davidians' lawyers during the trial of sect's wrongful death lawsuit against the government. It was designed to show that tear gas fired by the agents could have contributed to the start of the fire that destroyed the complex.
(...)

Under questioning from Davidians' lead lawyer Mike Caddell, Rowan admitted that his story containing details about what happened during that period had changed twice since then.

In an interview the day after the siege ended, Rowan told an FBI investigator that he fired rounds at all the windows at the back of the Davidians' complex. During Friday's testimony, he said he did not fire at a row of windows at the rear of the gymnasium.

During a deposition in January, Rowan said he could not recall whether his tank had military rounds or not. On Wednesday he changed his deposition to say that since other FBI tanks were equipped with them, his probably did, too.
(...)

Earlier Friday, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr. blocked an attempt by the Davidians to use an expert witness who would have testified that damage the tanks did to the complex may have prevented the Davidians from escaping. Judge Smith responded to a motion filed by government defense lawyers who challenged the expert's methodology.

''His opinions would more likely confuse the jury than clarify issues,'' Judge Smith wrote.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Branch Davidian Trial Continues
AOL/AP, June 23, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006230413166465
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) FBI agents, including tank commander Joseph Servel, have said a fire erupted in the kitchen less than 30 seconds after they saw a tank insert tear gas into the room to force out the Branch Davidians.
(...)

Under cross-examination by government attorneys, Servel said he also observed what appeared to be muzzle flashes from gunfire in several windows before the fire started.
(...)

Earlier Thursday, former FBI officials testified that the agents who tear gassed the complex strayed from the plan approved by Attorney General Janet Reno when they used tanks to smash gaping holes in the building.

Retired deputy assistant FBI director Danny Coulson said in videotaped testimony he was surprised when he saw a tank penetrating the cult's building on April 19, 1993, the final day of the siege.

''I don't recall that the plan contemplated this activity,'' Coulson said. ''It would appear to be inconsistent.''

Coulson said he watched the events unfold on a monitor in Washington, D.C., and remembered saying, ''I hope that's a bad camera angle.''

In a videotaped deposition, FBI Director William Sessions was asked by plaintiffs' lead attorney Michael Caddell if the destruction of a part of the building known as the gymnasium was approved.

''That was not the plan, the plan was for the insertion of the gas,'' Sessions said.

Reno's videotaped deposition on the tear-gassing plans was expected to be shown Friday.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Ex-FBI official testifies
Dallas Morning News, June 23, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/
100281_webwaco_23tex.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - FBI commanders went beyond a Washington-approved plan for tear-gassing the Branch Davidian compound when they ordered tanks to drive deep into the building on April 19, 1993, at Mount Carmel, a former senior FBI official testified Thursday.

''I don't recall that the plan contemplated this activity,'' former FBI deputy assistant director Danny O. Coulson testified when shown photographs of damage wreaked by FBI tanks. ''You could use the term deviation. You could use the term inconsistent with what I understood the plan to be.''

But other FBI officials insisted in video depositions played for jurors Thursday that FBI commanders in Waco had broad authority in their execution of the Waco tear-gas assault.

The testimony was presented only after a protracted legal skirmish in which U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith initially told lawyers that he wasn't going to allow any evidence about how the FBI drafted its gassing plan and finally excluded early proposals to begin dismantling the building within an hour to force sect members out.

The judge stopped the hearing and went back to his chambers. He was pursued by attorneys on both sides, who emerged to tell colleagues that the judge had recessed the court proceeding to prepare an order dismissing the entire demolition issue but was persuaded by plaintiffs' arguments that the jury should be allowed to hear it.
(...)

In another deposition excerpt, former assistant FBI director Larry Potts was shown a memo prepared with the initials of Mr. Jamar and Mr. Rogers after the incident in which they described some of their agents being assigned to begin ''systematic demolition'' of the gymnasium.

''I believe that an intentional dismantling of the building at that stage would've required an exigent circumstance [or emergency],'' Mr. Potts said, adding that he never heard of Mr. Jamar or Mr. Rogers seeking permission to take such action. Asked if he were aware of any emergency on April 19 that would've required early demolition, he said, ''I'm not aware of any.''

But government lawyers responded with deposition testimony in which former FBI deputy director Floyd Clark said that the agent in charge in Waco, Mr. Jamar, ''had a tremendous amount of autonomy and authority. Asked if Mr. Jamar should have told Washington before sending tanks into the building, Mr. Clark said he would have expected such notification. ''But would it require it? No. I don't think it would.''

The lone witness to testify Thursday, an FBI agent who fired tear gas rounds into the back of the compound on April 19, sparred repeatedly with Mr. Caddell over whether the actions of FBI tanks in the rear of the compound amounted to demolishing or even dismantling the sect's building.

''I would characterize it as inserting gas. ...We called it penetrating,'' said the agent, FBI hostage rescue team member Joseph Servel Jr.

Reminded that a 1993 report of his FBI interview after the siege indicated he had described what he saw as a dismantling operation, he said, ''I could've used the word dismantle, the word penetrate. I could've said a lot of things.''
(...)

Plaintiffs' lawyers ended the day by airing part of an FBI briefing on April 7, 1993, given to FBI agents assigned to help carry out the final tear gas assault. In the video, the head of a bureau SWAT team told other agents that FBI leaders in Washington had decided against trying to use tanks to bash holes into the compound.

''It would be conceived by the Davidians, the people inside as an act of aggression, an attack ...and they will retaliate, so headquarters rejected that,'' the agent said in the briefing.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Top FBI officials were stunned to see tanks ram Waco complex, they testify
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 22, 2000
http://www.postnet.com/postnet/stories.nsf/ByDocID/
2AA68FB46AE5C9188625690700030D67?OpenDocument
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Although the officials agreed that the Reno-approved plan put off destruction of the complex for 48 hours, they also circled the wagons around the two FBI commanders who were on the scene at Waco. The officials would not concede that the tanks' maneuvers were designed to destroy the building. They said the tanks were penetrating the building to get tear gas deeper into the structure where the Davidians were hiding and that the destruction of the building was a by-product of those maneuvers. They also said the on-scene commanders had discretion in carrying out the plan.
(...)

Later, an FBI agent testified that he did not launch any fire-causing military-type tear gas rounds into the sect's complex before it burned to the ground.
(...)

One theory of the plaintiffs' claim is that the tear gas rounds could have started a fire. Although Reno had prohibited the use of military-style pyrotechnic rounds, it has been disclosed that the FBI fired two such rounds early on the day of the tear gas attack. Those rounds were fired at an underground bunker, several hours before the fire began.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Sect could have been coaxed out, FBI figure told officials
Dallas Morning News, June 23, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/
100529_siege.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - FBI tactical commander Richard Rogers told investigators soon after the 1993 Branch Davidian siege that negotiators could have coaxed sect members from their barricaded compound if given enough time, according to documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

''I have never commented to any investigators concerning negotiations because I don't view it as having a lot to do with [the] outcome at Waco,'' Mr. Rogers, former head of the FBI's Hostage Rescue team, told Justice Department interviewers in a confidential September 1993 interview. ''I think given enough time, any negotiator could get them out if [there was] no suicide, but what is enough time?''

Attorney General Janet Reno told the same investigators preparing the Justice Department's 1993 review of the Waco tragedy that senior FBI leaders told her to ''butt out'' after she agreed to let them tear-gas the compound.

The records of those interviews had never been made public, and Mr. Rogers' statement represents his first known acknowledgment that more Branch Davidians might have eventually been talked into surrendering.

Congressional investigators were only told early this year that the documents existed, despite exhaustive requests for internal government records from the 1993 tragedy. Government lawyers also did not disclose the records to attorneys for the Branch Davidians until this month - less than two weeks before the start of the trial in their wrongful-death lawsuit against the federal government.
(...)

Lawyers for the sect say they are particularly angry that they were not told that the detailed statements by Ms. Reno and Mr. Rogers existed before they questioned the two officials in separate March depositions. The lawyers noted that the documents came to them not only on the eve of trial but also more than three months after the court's deadline for producing documents in the case.

Michael Caddell, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he will introduce the records to jurors Friday. He said he believes that the account of Ms. Reno's 1993 interview statements will damage her recent deposition testimony, which he also plans to present Friday.

Ms. Reno said in her March 23 deposition that she believed Mr. Rogers and the FBI's Waco supervisors acted properly on April 19, 1993.

''The contents are amazing. ... There are direct contradictions to the FBI's version of events that they have been spouting for seven years,'' Mr. Caddell said. ''These interviews were conducted in August and September of 1993 - seven years ago. It's inexcusable that we didn't have them.''

He added that the 1993 statements show that FBI leaders, not Ms. Reno, were making the key decisions on the final day of the siege.

''Janet Reno has nothing to do with what actually happened on April 19,'' he said. ''The truth is, she was out of the loop.''

But lawyers for the government say they acted properly in turning over all relevant government documents to their opponents. They add that the government has made ''a good faith effort'' to produce all documents required by court discovery rules while struggling to keep track of the millions of government records relating to Waco as they prepared their defense.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Agreement could shorten Davidian trial
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 22, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/local/
2000/06/22/961724890.23334.5295.0256.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
An agreement to drop a government claim that 76 Branch Davidians contributed to their own deaths by staying inside a burning Mount Carmel will shorten the civil trial, both sides said Thursday.

''I think their decision will shorten the case significantly,'' said Houston attorney Mike Caddell, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. ''I think we'll be able to finish our case sometime next week.''

The government would then present its defense.
(...)

The agreement won't hurt the government's defense in the case, Bradford said. The lawsuit deals with four issues: whether agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms fired randomly during their raid on Mount Carmel; whether the FBI demolished Mount Carmel prematurely and not in accordance with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno's directive; whether the government should have had a plan to fight a fire; and whether the government contributed to the cause and spread of the fire.

''It would have been something of a sideshow on issues already dismissed from the case and would have prolonged the trial,'' Bradford said. ''We don't need the contributory negligence argument. That's why we abandoned it.''

Legally, contributory negligence is when the actions of a plaintiff in a lawsuit contributed to his injury. According to the law, the government couldn't have argued that anyone less than 5 years old was guilty of contributory negligence.

There were 13 children less than 5 years old who died at Mount Carmel.

Caddell had been prepared to argue that the government's actions during the Feb. 28, 1993 raid on Mount Carmel and the resulting 51-day siege led the Davidians to remain inside while their building burned to the ground almost two months later.

To Caddell, the agreement with the government is telling.

''What that tells you is that the government is terrified of having the American people judge their conduct from Feb. 28, 1993 to April 19, 1993,'' Caddell said.

Bradford, however, denied that accusation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Ex-FBI officials testify on destruction of Davidian compound
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 22, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/local/
2000/06/22/961723064.23334.2659.0255.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) The fourth day of the multimillion dollar wrongful death trial against the government focused on the morning of April 19, 1993, and the FBI's plan to use tear gas on David Koresh and his followers and drive them from their sprawling home.

Danny O. Coulson, former deputy assistant FBI director, testifying by videotape, said he and his Justice Department colleagues in Washington were surprised as they watched on television as a tank plunged through a wall of the compound.
(...)

Before playing the videotaped depositions of Coulson and former assistant FBI director Larry A. Potts, lead plaintiffs' attorney Mike Caddell of Houston distributed copies of the FBI's proposed operational plans to end the siege and Attorney General Janet Reno's briefing book to the seven-member advisory jury. Caddell told jurors the plan underwent at least five revisions before Reno approved it.

Coulson said the FBI's dismantling of the gym on the back side of the compound with modified tanks known as combat engineering vehicles was ''inconsistent with what I understood the plan to be.''
(...)

Potts said he, too, was surprised to see the tanks taking out huge chunks of the building.
(...)

Caddell showed Potts a letter from the FBI on-site commanders in Waco that recommended a tank crew for the FBI Shield of Bravery. The letter says that the crew ''slowly and methodically began dismantling the gymnasium in a very deliberate and surgical manner'' at great personal risk to themselves.

Potts said he was surprised by the language in the letter of commendation, saying that the destruction of the gym was inconsistent with the approved plan of operation as he understood it ''unless there were exigent circumstances.''
(...)

In other videotaped testimony, former FBI director William Sessions and former deputy director Floyd I. Clarke both testified that FBI agents in charge at scenes are given wide latitude to use discretion when emergency situations arise.
(...)

However, Clarke acknowledged that in 30 years with the FBI, he never told an on-site commander that he could deviate from an approved plan without permission from Washington.
(...)

Caddell asked several of the former FBI officials, including Sessions, if they couldn't see a conflict in announcing that the tear-gas operation was not an assault as a tank ''is driving into your living room.''

Sessions conceded that under those circumstances, ''I would assume it was an assault.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aum Shinrikyo

9. Cultist hints Asahara ordered attack
Japan Times (Japan), June 24, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/
getarticle.pl5?nn20000624b6.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
An Aum Shinrikyo doctor testified in court Friday that he believes cult leader Shoko Asahara meant for him to use sarin when he ordered him to attack a Yokohama lawyer in 1994.

Appearing before the Tokyo District Court, Tomomasa Nakagawa, who is accused of helping the cult produce the nerve agent, said that Asahara told him and four other followers that they should use ''wizard'' on the lawyer, Taro Takimoto.

Nakagawa said that he believes Asahara was aware that the term ''wizard'' was a term adopted by the cult for sarin. The word was commonly used by cult members involved in the production of sarin, and Asahara understood the meaning of similar cult terminology when it was used in front of him.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

10. Despite warnings in Lausanne, Scientologists still causing a nuisance
sda (Switzerland), June 16, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000616g.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Lausanne - Scientologists in Lausanne have been making a nuisance: the city is demanding that members of the controversial organization no longer bother pedestrians in the city's center. The organization arranged unlicensed concerts for three days and accosted people on the much frequented steps of Riponne Place. Police management finally got fed up: on Friday morning they ordered the organization to shut down their operation. If they resist, they face charges. Nevertheless, the nuisances are continuing, as the city has stated.
[...entire item...]


=== Mormonism

11. Ricks to become BYU-Idaho
Spokane.net/AP, June 22, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/news-story.asp?
date=062200&ID=s817474&cat=section.religion
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SALT LAKE CITY _ Ricks College, a two-year junior college in Rexburg, Idaho, owned by the Mormon Church, will become a four-year institution and change its name to Brigham Young University-Idaho, church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced Wednesday.

The change gives BYU, best known for its 30,000-student campus in Provo, a third campus along with BYU-Hawaii, which has 2,281 students in Laie, Hawaii. Ricks has 8,628 students.
(...)

Hinckley made the announcement while speaking to journalists about his tenure as president of the 11 million-member church two days before his 90th birthday. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen astounding growth during his five-year term, with the construction of dozens of new temples and a massive conference center in Salt Lake City. As another facet of that expansion, the new BYU campus will make a four-year Mormon education more readily available outside of Utah.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Jehovah's Witnesses

12. Jehovah's Witnesses' blood transfusion policy restated
''Religion News in Brief'' item
New York Times, June 22, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/a/
AP-Religion-Briefs.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Jehovah's Witnesses will continue to reject members who defy the group's prohibition of most blood transfusions, an official of the denomination said.

Spokesman James Pellechia dismissed as misleading news reports that the longstanding policy had been reversed.

The group acknowledges that it has ended its practice of ''disfellowshipping'' -- or excommunicating -- members who receive blood transfusions. But Pellechia said that a Jehovah's Witness who has a transfusion automatically ''revokes his membership.''

''It has the same effect,'' said Pellechia.

Why the semantic change? Pellechia said the group is simply stating more accurately that a person who rejects its tenets chooses to leave.

But Raymond Franz, a former Jehovah's Witness who once served on the group's Governing Body, believes the Jehovah's Witness leadership hopes that publicly ending the practice of disfellowshipping will lessen negative perceptions of the group in Europe.

Pellechia notes that for two decades some Jehovah's Witnesses have believed that the transfusion of fractions derived from major blood components is allowable.
[...entire item...]


=== Attleboro Cult

13. Two more Attleboro cult members jailed
Boston Herald, June 22, 2000
http://www.bostonherald.com/news/
local_regional/attl06222000.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
An Attleboro cult was further fractured yesterday when two more members were locked up for refusing to tell investigators what happened to a boy believed to have been starved to death.

''If they think this case is going away, they're wrong,'' one frustrated investigator said of the Christian fundamentalist sect.

Georgette Robidoux, 63, and David Courneau, 32, were both jailed for stonewalling investigators looking into the deaths of 10-month-old Samuel Robidoux and his infant cousin, Jeremiah Courneau. Samuel, Georgette Robidoux' grandson, is believed to have died of malnutrition after he stopped nursing last summer, while David Courneau's son, Jeremiah, was stillborn around the same time.
(...)

A grand jury has been probing the boys' deaths for the past two months and is reportedly focusing on Samuel's parents, Jacques and Karen Robidoux. Possible charges range from improper disposal of a body to murder.

''Samuel's death was intentional and it could have been stopped at any time,'' a source close to the investigation said.
(...)

All of the jailed sect members are being held in separate facilities around the state in an apparent attempt by investigators to smash the group's code of silence. They can be held in contempt of court without bail for as long as a grand jury is probing the case.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Sect arrests yield few clues in case
Boston Globe, June 23, 2000
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/175/metro/
Sect_arrests_yield_few_clues_in_caseP.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
With the imprisonment of two more members of an Attleboro religious sect on Wednesday for refusing to testify about the deaths and whereabouts of two children, serious questions about the case are emerging.

Eight members are now behind bars for their silence before a special grand jury, and 13 children have been taken away by the state, leaving just five adult members free.

But will the imprisonment of the entire group aid in finding Samuel Robidoux, who is believed to have died of malnutrition at 18 months old, and Jeremiah Corneau, who is believed to have been stillborn?

And will Roland Robidoux, the alleged leader of the group, lose control of his flock once all are imprisoned, allowing investigators to crack the group?

The cooperation of the sect's adults would greatly strengthen the state's case, Assistant Bristol County District Attorney Gerald FitzGerald said yesterday.

But, even in the worst case scenario - which would entail all adult members of the group ending up in prison or pleading the Fifth - prosecutors say they are confident the case will continue to move forward.
(...)

One source close to the case said yesterday that ''at least one indictment and possibly more'' would certainly result from the recent grand jury proceedings, in part because of strong evidence from child members of the group, as well as writings obtained during searches.

But Steve Hassan, a mental health counselor and cult specialist who has interviewed four former members of the Attleboro group, says their cohesiveness and the power of their leader are still intact, throwing into doubt how effective the divide-and-conquer strategy has worked thus far.

''They are incredibly reslient, especially because they have contact with him [Roland Robidoux],'' Hassan said yesterday. ''He wants to see specific people in the group and wants to give them instructions. He's totally in control still.''

Hassan said the former members have also said that Robidoux has gained strength from his imprisonment, viewing himself as a martyr for his beliefs.

''He believes the world view of him is that he is being crucified, that he's being persecuted,'' Hassan said. ''He thinks it proves he's doing God's will.''

Frank K. Flinn, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis and a specialist in cult activities, said he is not certain that jailing each of the group's adult members will accomplish much.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Nuwaubians

15. Purge of Nuwaubians from voter rolls continues
The Macon Telegraph, June 22, 2000
http://www.macontelegraph.com/local/putnam0622.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
EATONTON - The Putnam County Board of Registrars began disqualifying members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors from voter rolls despite testimony and evidence presented by some of those people during a hearing Wednesday.

The hearing continued into the night, but at The Macon Telegraph's deadline Wednesday, six of the 91 people subpoenaed to prove their residency had been removed from the voter list.

Three of those six did not attend the hearing. The other three attended, swore an oath that their testimony would be true, and presented at least some documentation that they lived at the address they claimed on voter registration applications.

An attorney representing several of the Nuwaubians, Merrick Bernstein of Atlanta, raised questions and objected when the board voted to purge some of his clients without stating a reason.

Trenton Brown III, a board of registrars member who was conducting the hearing, threatened to have Bernstein removed from the courtroom if he continued to ask questions.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. Nuwaubians may try to have elections halted
The Macon Telegraph, June 23, 2000
http://www.macontelegraph.com/local/putnam0623.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
EATONTON - An attorney representing members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors may go to court to try to stop Putnam County elections until his clients are returned to the county's voter rolls.

The Putnam County Board of Registrars voted during a hearing Wednesday to remove another 13 individuals from county voter rolls; 23 people were removed during a similar hearing last week. Most, if not all, of the 36 are affiliated with the Nuwaubian group.

Merrick Bernstein, an Atlanta attorney representing at least some of the Nuwaubians, said he will appeal the board's rulings on behalf of his clients who were purged from the voter list.
(...)

For the most part, the challenges were based on the number of individuals living at one address. At 173 Shady Dale Road, for instance, there were 35 people registered to vote at that address, where there are three singlewide trailers and a house.

Brown said Bernstein was telling witnesses what to say while they were being questioned by the board, and when questions arose about other people living in the same household, witnesses sometimes read their names from a list.
(...)

Though he admitted that at some of the addresses being questioned there are an unusual number of adults living in small houses, Bernstein said that is the way his clients have chosen to live.

''Some of us live different lifestyles than others,'' Bernstein said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Paganism / Witchcraft

17. Paying homage to Mother Earth as summer starts
St. Petersburg Times, June 22, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/News/062200/news_pf/
NorthPinellas/Paying_homage_to_Moth.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Eight other people form a circle with Eckert, all of them softly beating percussion instruments and singing.

They gathered outside Oak Trail Books in Palm Harbor on Tuesday evening to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer. They came, they said, to honor and thank the Earth for its harvest.
(...)

Lesley Klein, the owner of Oak Trail Books, organized the ceremony.

''The Earth religions all have an idea to honor the Earth and all its elements -- the sky, moon, the plants,'' Klein said. ''The cycle of the solstice is like a full moon of the sun. It's a time to celebrate an eclectic cycle.''

Oak Trail Books is a New Age store that sells books, incense, jewelry and other metaphysical items.

''Our mission is to provide the tools and resources and teaching that people need for spiritual growth, to help people become spiritually independent. There are many paths that lead to the same place,'' Klein said. ''We explore all areas to connect with the core self. There is not a right or wrong way.''

Eckert, 51, of Palm Harbor, an ordained minister of alternative spirituality, was the facilitator of the ceremony.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Druids fail to see the light at Stonehenge
The Telegraph (England), June 22, 2000
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?
ac=001941282744302&rtmo=gwVrGYbu&atmo=KKKKKKYM&pg
=/et/00/6/22/nsol22.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Stonehenge was opened yesterday morning for more than 6,000 people to celebrate the first summer solstice of the new Millennium.

Druids, pagans, black and white witches, New Age travellers, astrologers, anarchists, American tourists and curious locals wandered freely among the stones for the first time since the festival on the site was banned in 1985.

This was a particularly English summer solstice and the most important guest of all, the sun, failed to put in an appearance. Instead a blanket of rain swept across Salisbury Plain, saturating everything and everyone in its path.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes

19. Hate crimes: Should they receive special attention?
Christian Science Monitor, June 23, 2000
http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/
2000/06/23/fp2s2-csm.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
If someone uses a racial epithet during a simple assault, does that make it a federal case? Or if someone else disparages another's gender or sexual orientation in a threatening e-mail, should Uncle Sam get involved?

That is the essence of the debate over whether ''hate crimes'' should receive special attention by police and prosecutors.

The US Senate this week passed legislation that would expand the list of hate crimes beyond those tied to race, religion, and national origin to include those based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability. It also broadens the kinds of offenses to include more than just ''federally protected activities'' such as voting, jury duty, or school registration.

The FBI says nearly 8,000 such attacks - physical and verbal - occur each year, and other observers warn that the figure is increasing. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., recently analyzed law enforcement statistics and reported incidents at 140 schools of higher learning and concluded that ''the level of campus hatred is far higher than is reflected in official FBI statistics.''
(...)

Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, calls the Senate measure ''a critical step to protecting millions of Americans from the hate and racial violence that is escalating in our society.''

But opponents see the bill, and a companion measure in the House, as infringing on state and local powers.
(...)

Beyond the question of jurisdiction, many social conservatives also worry that the bill in effect grants ''special rights'' for homosexuals. Tom Minnery, vice president of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colo., dubs the Senate-passed bill ''a political ploy to legislate against thoughts rather than actions.''

In particular, those who consider homosexuality to be a ''lifestyle'' that is sinful are concerned that they could be prosecuted for expressing their beliefs.

''If an individual's sexual behavior is a federally protected civil right, the logical conclusion is that those who object to certain behaviors based on moral, religious, or personal beliefs could be prevented from freely exercising their faith and beliefs,'' says Janet Parshall of the Family Research Council, a Washington-based lobbying group.

But not all religious conservatives see it this way. Sen. Gordon Smith (R) of Oregon, a devout Mormon who once opposed expanding the federal hate-crimes law (and who still thinks homosexuality is wrong), cosponsored the bill with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts. Using the biblical example of the woman taken in adultery, Senator Smith argues that ''there is a present duty to protect anyone in the public square who would be stoned by the sanctimonious or the politically powerful.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Cults - France

20. Church attacks new French anti-cult law
The Guardian (England), June 23, 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/
Article/0,4273,4032666,00.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The French parliament yesterday adopted Europe's toughest anti-sect legislation yet, creating a controversial new crime of ''mental manipulation'' punishable by a maximum fine of £50,000 and five years imprisonment.

The move was applauded by Alain Vivien, head of a government committee that has identified 173 dangerous quasi-religious groups in France, but was denounced by both the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church as fascist, anti-democratic and in breach of basic human rights laws.

Current French law, described as ''inadequate to deal with increasingly sophisticated and manipulative groups'' by Catherine Picard, one of the MPs who proposed the bill, allows sect activities to be caught by prosecutions for traditional crimes such as incitement to murder, sexual assault, fraud and the abuse of a vulnerable individuals.

The new law allows judges to order the dissolution of any sect whose members are convicted of a criminal offence. It also bans sects from advertising, and prohibits them from opening missions or touting for new members near schools, hospitals or retirement homes.

But the law's key weapon is the new crime of mental manipulation, defined as ''exercising, within a group whose activities are aimed at creating or exploiting psychological dependence, heavy and repeated pressure on a person, or using techniques likely to alter his judgment, so as to induce him to behave in a way prejudicial to his interests''.

A justice ministry spokeswoman said the legal definition had been prepared carefully to ensure that it could not be applied to legitimate churches. But some Catholic leaders have expressed reservations about the law, saying that may lead to ''over-zealousness and judicial excess'', as well as discrimination against genuine religions.

''This is a steep and slippery slope for democracy,'' said Danièle Gounord, a spokeswoman for the Scientologists, which is not recognised as a religion in France. ''In western Europe, the only regime so far to pass a law on mental manipulation was the fascist government of Mussolini, in an attempt to get rid of the communists.'' [...entire item...]
* Note: Check this information on the logical fallacy known as the slippery slopeOff-site Link

21. French assembly approves controversial anti-sect bill
Yahoo/AFP, June 22, 2000
http://english.hk.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/
world/afp/article.html?s=hke/headlines/000622/world/afp/
French_assembly_approves_controversial_anti-sect_bill.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A controversial law to combat sects that would make ''mental manipulation'' a crime was passed unanimously in the French National Assembly Thursday, amid outrage from minority religions and civil rights groups.

The law would punish by up to three years in jail acts of ''serious and repeated pressure, or the use of techniques to alter the mind of a person, leading him or her to commit a harmful act.''

Another clause would allow judges to dissolve associations that have twice been convicted on charges such as endangering lives, illegal use of medicine or duplicitous advertising.

''We need to give judges repressive tools,'' said deputy Catherine Picard, who steered the bill through the committee stage in parliament. ''The law is a response to the evolution of society and the growing importance that sects have in it.''

Pressure to outlaw sects has grown in France after the mass suicides of members of the Order of the Solar Temple in the mid-1990s, and allegations of extortion and brain-washing levelled at a number of other cults.

But the proposed law, which has the backing of the ruling Socialist party, has been condemned as an assault on free speech, and an infringement of the Declaration of Human Rights, which is incorporated in France's constitution.

Last week representatives of mainly American religious groups took out a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune newspaper calling on Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to withdraw the bill, or see France ''compared to China'' in its disrespect for human rights.

The Church of Scientology, which believes it is a principal target of the planned legislation, said the bill was a ''fascist exercise worthy of a totalitarian state.''

''This is how fascism begins. You have a law introduced by one government aimed at a certain group of people. Before you know it new governments come in and turn it on to different victims,'' said Scientology spokesman Jean Dupuis.

He said legal experts had told the church that elements of the bill were almost certainly in contravention of the French constitution, and it would therefore be stopped by the country's constitutional court.

Opponents of the bill were encouraged by a statement from the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights earlier this month which said it would ''eliminate all liberty of association in France.''

However the statement drew a caustic response from the head of the government's Mission to Combat Sects Alain Vivien, who said that the federation ''seemed to have fallen into the hands of scientologists and perhaps other transnational sects.''

According to a recent poll, 73 percent of French people believe sects are a danger to democracy, and 86 percent are in favour of banning certain of them such as the Church of Scientology or the Order of the Solar Temple.

The bill originated in the upper house the Senate and was considerably toughened by a series of amendments proposed by deputies in the Assembly. It now goes back to the Senate for a second reading.

The only caveat Thursday was raised by Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou who recommended a period of ''reflection'' to consider the law's impact and possibly to ''tighten up its wording.''
[...entire item...]


22. French Assembly OKs Legislation to Control Sects
AOL/Reuters, June 22, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006221154919192
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou hailed the bill as ''a significant advance giving a democratic state the legal tools to efficiently fight groups abusing its core values.''
(...)

Danielle Gounod, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology which is under close scrutiny by the French authorities, said the bill would ''sound the death knell for French democracy.''

''I say: Watch out. Watch out for individual liberties. Such a law is extremely serious for individual freedom,'' she told a news conference.

Unlike in the United States, Scientology is not regarded in France as a religion and members complain of harassment and persecution. Guigou has raised the prospect of banning it.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church said France's attitude had caused protests across the world.

The French bill, which still has to go through the Senate, had been proposed by an Interministerial Mission for the Fight Against Sects.

The mission, in a report published last February, said there were some 200 sects in France, most of them well organized.

It said those that rejected democracy and spread racist ideas had to be banned, called for states in Europe and elsewhere to prevent the development of sects and urged new legislation to fight attacks on national security such as the use of computer viruses.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. France moves to outlaw cults
BBC, June 22, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/newsid_802000/802070.stmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The French National Assembly has unanimously passed a bill banning cults, in the face of international criticism.
(...)

Religious minorities have condemned the proposed law as anti-democratic, while academics have branded it draconian.

However, the Justice Minister, Elisabeth Guigou, hailed it as ''a significant advance giving a democratic state the legal tools efficiently to fight groups abusing its core values''.

For the first time in France, the bill aims to define a cult in legal terms.
(...)

The BBC Religious Affairs correspondent, Jane Little, says that France, which has blacklisted nearly 200 organisations as dangerous sects, has been at the forefront of a debate in Europe about how to deal with cults.
(...)

However, a US Government report last year raised questions about freedom of expression for new religious groups in France and several other European countries, including Germany.

And last week, representatives of mainly American religious groups took out a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune newspaper urging the government to withdraw the bill, or see France ''compared to China'' in its disrespect for human rights.

The Church of Scientology, which believes it is one of the bill's targets, described the bill as a ''fascist exercise worthy of a totalitarian state''.
(...)

In February, a government committee recommended dissolving the church in France, on the grounds that its activities threatened public order.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Cult Apologists

24. Religion Today
New York Times, June 22, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/a/AP-Religion-Today.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[See: Cult apologists]
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- When Massimo Introvigne of Italy wants up-to-date information on an obscure religious sect or cult, he logs on to www.religiousmovements.org

''It's the best out there in terms of being like an online encyclopedia,'' said Introvigne, managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions based in Torino, Italy. ''Other Web sites just have piecemeal information on nontraditional religions.''

The detailed, alphabetical profiles of more than 250 religious groups and movements aren't put together by some large, well-paid Web design company. They're churned out by University of Virginia students in a high-tech classroom half a world away. The religious movements site has developed a faithful following worldwide, attracting more than a million hits per month.

''The goal of the site is to promote tolerance and appreciation of religions without preference to a particular faith,'' said sociology professor Jeffrey Hadden, who developed the Web site with students in 1996.
(...)

Bruce Robinson, head of Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, said the students do a good job researching and describing religions objectively.

''There's a serious problem in the United States, Canada and Europe with anti-cult movements. There are thousands of small, obscure religions and every now and then they go terribly wrong and many people die,'' Robinson said. ''But sometimes people falsely label groups as cults. The students' essays are written without bias. That's rare to find on the Internet these days.''

Introvigne, whose association of scholars operates the largest European Web site on new religious movements, said his group looks to Hadden's site as a model.

''It is really an inspiration for us,'' he said.
(...)

Hadden spends several hours a day, checking information on the Web site for accuracy and responding to hundreds of e-mails. While most of the comments about the site are positive, Hadden gets his share of hate mail.

''There are a lot of anti-cultists out there and they mistake the Web site as being a source to advocate these groups,'' said Hadden. ''I try to make it clear that I'm simply a defender of religious freedoms.''

[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Cult apologists usually defend cults under the guise of ''religious freedom.''

Regarding Massimo Introvigne and CESNUR (Center for Studies on New
Religions), see:
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c10.htmlOff-site Link

Note that J. Gordon Melton, considered the ''father of cult apologists,'' runs
CESNUR USA. On Melton, see:
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/m06.htmlOff-site Link

Regarding Jeffrey K. Hadden and his Religious Movements site, see:
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/h14.htmlOff-site Link
Pay specific attention to Hadden's stated plans to ''neutralize'' anticult
organizations.

Regarding the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (the primary site
promoted by members, staff and supporters of Scientology's hate-group, the
''Cult Awareness Network'') see:
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/o00.html#ocrtOff-site Link

Regarding cult apologists in general, see:
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c11.htmlOff-site Link


=== Other News

25. Greek Clergy Warn on ID Cards
New York Times/AP, June 21, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/i/
AP-Greece-Identity-Crisis.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- More than 130,000 Greek Orthodox clergymen and followers packed central Athens on Wednesday to oppose changes in national identity cards and assert their power as lines between religion and politics continue to blur.

''A deep social rift is beginning,'' declared the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, in the second mass rally to resist plans to remove religious affiliation from state IDs. On June 14, up to 120,000 people gathered in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

But Premier Costas Simitis insists the measure, which is part of 1997 privacy protection reforms, will not be repealed.

Christodoulos and his supporters also refuse to back down, setting up a momentous struggle between Greece's two most powerful institutions: the Orthodox church and the long-governing Socialists.
(...)

Christodoulos repeatedly stated he has no political ambitions, but called the church ''a great popular force'' that will ''not be a slave'' to any government.

He also hinted that it is sometimes justified to disobey laws.

''When a citizen wants to write his religion on his ID, no one can forbid this,'' he said.
(...)

Simitis' government has worked hard to push Greece into the mainstream of the European Union. An important milestone was reached Tuesday: confirmation that Greece will become the newest member of the EU's single currency group.

Many church leaders are deeply suspicious of the modernization drive. They see it as a threat to the Christian Orthodox character of the nation and possibly the stirrings of an eventual separation of church and state in Greece.

''Theocracy or Democracy?'' asked a banner headline in the left-leaning Eleftherotypia newspaper.
(...)

''This is the supreme demonstration of protest against the removal of religion from identity cards and the transformation of Greece into an atheist state,'' the church said in a memorandum sent to parish priests.

About 97 percent of Greece's native-born population of 10.5 million is baptized into the Orthodox Church, which sees itself as the true guardian of Greek identity and traditions. The church strongly promotes the belief that it safeguarded the Greek language and customs during four centuries of Ottoman rule.

But religious minorities such as the Muslims and Jews say the current ID cards make them targets for discrimination.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Greeks debate privacy rights vs. religious identity
Christian Science Monitor, June 22, 2000
http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/
2000/06/22/fp7s1-csm.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Greece is experiencing a profound identity crisis as it wrestles with what it means to be Greek, fundamental ties between church and state, and how Greek traditions fit in with the rest of Europe.

The debate reached a higher pitch yesterday, when the Greek Orthodox Church said as many as a half-million demonstrators were expected to turn out in the capital, Athens, for an evening protest.
(...)

The church has long taken a dim view of European integration. ''Better poor with Christ than rich with Satan'' declared a church statement in 1980 when Greece joined the precursor to the European Union.

The current debate erupted last month, when Mr. Simitis enacted a 1997 privacy law on personal data. Under the reform, which is in line with EU practices, citizens would no longer be required to reveal their religion, occupation, family status, nationality, and thumbprint for new state identity cards.
(...)

Greek Orthodox leaders see the removal of the ''religious affiliation'' line as an assault on their authority, and Greek national identity, in a country where 97 percent of the 11 million population belongs to the orthodox faith.

Taken by surprise, the archbishop, who is head of the Greek Church, called the prime minister a ''dictator,'' arguing that the 10,000-strong clergy had backed Mr. Simitis's reelection in April on the condition that he would consult them before pressing ahead with the controversial reform.
(...)

Orthodoxy's ties to the country are strong. The preamble to the Constitution declares it the dominant faith; the Greek flag bears a white cross in its top left corner, where stars appear on the US banner. Orthodox priests played a vital role in maintaining the Greek identity and language during 400 years of Ottoman Turkish rule, and were instrumental in the 1821 independence movement.
(...)

Orthodox clerics argue that declaration of faith on state identity cards should be optional, allowing citizens to exercise their constitutional right ''to express their religious freedoms upon personal consent.'' Opponents, however, say the case is one of human rights, and as such, the need to safeguard the minority outweighs the will of the majority.

Greece's small non-Orthodox community has fallen victim to abuse in the past. Until recent years, Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses were barred from senior government posts, including high ranks in the military.

Some clergy will even concede that the identity card, instituted by a Greek dictator 60 years ago, is ''no token of real faith.''

''What we are saying,'' argues Metropolitan Prokopios, a senior organizer of yesterday's protest, ''is that we have to sit down and talk with Mr. Simitis so as to avert any other surprises. We have to rebuild our faith.''

Meanwhile, Greece is also working at rebuilding other faiths. Yesterday, the parliament approved construction of the first mosque in Athens since the early 19th century. It's intended to serve muslim athletes at the 2004 Olympic Games.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. India bans expeditions to world's third highest peak
Yahoo/AFP, June 23, 2000
http://english.hk.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/
asia/afp/article.html?s=hke/headlines/000623/asia/afp/
India_bans_expeditions_to_world_s_third_highest_peak.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The local authorities in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim have banned expeditions to Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, for religious reasons, press reports said Friday.

Seven other sacred peaks in the state have also been placed off-limits as a mark of respect for the religious sentiments of local Buddhsists, said the reports in the national press.

The 8,598 meter (28,373-foot) Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain after Mount Everest and K-2, is revered by the Buddhists of Sikkim as a guardian deity.

The decision by the Sikkim state government does not completely cut off mountaineering access to Kanchenjunga, which straddles the border with Nepal. Expedtitions will still be able to climb the mountain from the Nepalese side.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Christian exodus from the Holy Land
London Observer/Scripps Howard News Service, Jun 23, 2000
http://shns.scripps.com/shns/story.cfm
?pk=EXODUS-06-23-00&cat=II
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
JERUSALEM - The religion founded by Jesus Christ is dying out in the land of his birth. Only the pope's recent politicized pilgrimage to Israel offers some hope to the beleaguered 150,000 Christians among a total population of 8 million.

That's why Pope John Paul went out of his way to meet Jewish and Islamic leaders, besides visiting the Holocaust memorial and a Palestinian refugee camp.

And the crisis explains the new Holy Land Committee (HLC), whose first full meeting in Jerusalem this month will unite 13 sects, churches and denominations - from Maronites to Lutherans.

The chairman is Rev. Peter Vasco, a Franciscan from New York. ''This is the first time the churches have got together here for 2,000 years,'' he says. ''The pope's impact cannot be overstated. He has encouraged Arab Christians to stay put.''

Since 1967, four Christians out of 10 have left their homes in the Holy Land to settle as far away as Canada and Australia. There are more Christians from Bethlehem in Chile than remain in the little city of David, where most scrape by selling religious souvenirs.

Things are worst in Jerusalem. When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, Jerusalem had 32,000 Christians and 36,000 Muslims out of a total population of 165,000. Today there are 429,000 Jews, 176,000 Muslims and 10,000 Christians.

Orthodox Jews have a stronghold on the Israeli Knesset (parliament), which also has a Muslim party but only one Christian member. In 1997, Catholic property was accorded some rights subject to taxation, but Israel protested when the Vatican did a similar deal with the Palestinian Authority.

The chief rabbinate even put pressure on the Israeli tourist office to deter pilgrims during the money-spinning millennium. That suited Israeli security, which expelled members of a Christian cult from Denver, fearing they might link up with Zionist zealots to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the sacred Muslim site overlooking the Jews' equally sacred Wailing Wall.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Pact Leaves Meteorite With Museum
New York Times, June 23, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/
science/062300sci-meteor-pact.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
In a compromise that seeks to balance scientific inquiry with cultural tradition, the American Museum of Natural History and an Indian group from Oregon have agreed that the 15.5-ton Willamette Meteorite will remain a centerpiece of the museum's new center for Earth and space.

The brownish iron meteorite, the largest ever discovered in the continental United States, will continue to rest on its steel pedestal in the Cullman Hall of the Universe. But in addition to a plaque describing the scientific background of the giant rock, which scientists believe plummeted to earth 10,000 years ago from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, there will be a second display describing its history and importance as a Native American religious object.
(...)

The fate of the meteorite, which has been on display at the museum for nearly a century, was called into question early this year when the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon asked the museum to surrender the meteorite under a law that calls for the return of Native American artifacts from organizations that receive federal money. The group said that the meteorite held great religious significance for its people.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Prayer in the USA

30. ACLU Challenges Virginia's Minute of Silence
Washington Post, June 22, 2000
[Religious Intolerance]
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/
A44734-2000Jun22.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in federal court yesterday seeking to overturn a new Virginia law that requires public schools to begin each day with a minute of silence, arguing that it violates the First Amendment separation of church and state.

Although proponents insist that the statute does not require any student to pray, ACLU attorneys believe that the intent of the law--which instructs students to ''meditate, pray or engage in other silent activity''--is to promote organized prayer in the public schools.

''From its beginnings, this law has had state-sanctioned prayer written all over it,'' said Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, which filed the lawsuit. ''A true minute-of-silence law that did not mention prayer and had no religious intent would be constitutional. Every student who has ever attended public schools knows that they can pray to themselves. That's not a secret.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. [Reactions to Supreme Court ruling on student-led prayer]
Religion News in Brief item
New York Times, June 22, 2000
[Religious Intolerance]
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/a/
AP-Religion-Briefs.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK (AP) -- A leading Islamic advocacy group joined Christian conservatives in objecting to this week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that student-led prayers at football games are unconstitutional. ''As demonstrated by the increase in violence, sexual promiscuity and drug use at schools throughout the country, there is clearly a need for more student-sponsored spiritual guidance, not less,'' said a statement by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes called the decision a ''bizarre and ironic intrusion in the religious life and expression of American student athletes.''

The National Council of Churches, on the other hand, said, ''The court wisely recognized that participation in these prayers might not be voluntary for all students.''

The American Jewish Congress called the decision ''an important victory because it firmly dispels any notion that schools can evade the constitutional mandate of religious neutrality in the schools.''
[...entire item...]


32. Cruel and unusual punishment
Salon, June 22, 2000 (Editorial by Fiona Morgan, an associate editor for
Salon News.)
[Religious Intolerance]
http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2000/
06/22/religion/print.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
June 22, 2000 | It is often said that football is the religion of the state of Texas. True. It is also a fact that religion is an integral part of football in the state of Texas. So what happens now that the Supreme Court has banned student-led prayer at football games? I'm not sure they'll really notice in California or Rhode Island. But in Texas, where the case originated, this amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

As an educated citizen I support the court in its struggle to refine our rights and freedoms, to protect us from each other with the Constitution as its guide. I know that in this case, the justices merely bolstered a set of previous decisions that ban public worship at school functions; they essentially reinforced the divide between God and government. I acknowledge that it is a logical move, viewed within the rarefied confines of the court.

But the problem is, the court doesn't get it. The justices may know the Constitution backward and forward, but what they don't appear to know much about are the lives and lifestyles of the people for whom they work. In trying to regulate school prayer, the court forces a very awkward division between the deeply enmeshed aspects of an entire way of life. In trying to preserve religious freedom, the court is attacking it at its core.
(...)

Religious conservatives, of course, already have expressed their fury at the court's ruling. ''The government's 'benign neutrality' toward religion in this country is now nothing short of malevolent hostility,'' announced Jan LaRue of the conservative Family Research Council to the press after the decision.

And I can see what she means. For all the court's attempts to keep schools and government neutral on the issue of religion, there is nothing neutral about this ruling. And the proposed compromise -- that individuals are free to pray any time they choose as long as they don't organize prayer at public school events -- effectively assaults the nature of their prayer.

Even as I revel in the decision's consistency with our country's unflagging commitment to secular government, I know that it is a slap in the face to the culture of Texas and places like it. To fervently religious Texans, prayer is a group activity that reaches out to everyone and everything around them. They believe that all of their work and leisure is supposed to belong to God. To separate religion from shared daily life is to compromise that religious conviction.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the verdict, ''Worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere.'' No, it's not, not in Texas: Worship is as public as it is private. Prayer is as constant as conversation. It is the backbone of social life.
(...)

There just isn't any way to extract religion from the daily lives or the culture of the people living in deeply religious communities. Not from their school assemblies, their graduation ceremonies, their kids' sporting events or even, sometimes, their jobs. When you're down in the thick of the scene, a rule of law set to regulate whether people pray or not feels much more intrusive and artificial than simply finding a quiet way to bow out. To the people who want like the devil to pray, legal intervention feels foreign, and hostile. And unnecessary.

I'm not saying the court shouldn't take a stand on the specific ways in which we chose to celebrate our religious freedom. But it's important to realize that the government's remedy is a drastic one. It is truly an affront to an entire culture, a way of life. It asks people to radically alter the way they live, to eliminate an important aspect of their lives -- presumably for the sake of those who live their lives differently.

It's rare that I find myself siding with religious conservatives on a social issue. I was happy to leave Texas as soon as I got the chance. But as someone who has lived in this culture, it's clear to me that for religious tolerance to work, we have to tolerate a certain amount of religion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

33. People: Breathing for the best in life
Yahoo/E-media, June 23, 2000
http://english.hk.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/malaymail/article.html?s=hke/headlines/000623/newspapers/malaymail/Breathing_for_the_best_in_life.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BREATHING comes naturally. Or so you think.

What if you were told that to have better physical, mental and spiritual health, all you need to do is breathe.

With the correct technique of course.

''Our breath is the link between our mind and our body,'' said Ravindra Prasad, a teacher of natural breathing technique founded by world-famous Indian guru Sri Sri Ravishankar.

In 1982, the guru went through 10 days of silence and meditation during which he discovered a rhythm in breathing he calls Sudarshan Kriya, which means true-vision-action.
(...)

Put simply, the technique trains our lungs to breath to full capacity and brings the mind to the present, away from the past and future.
(...)

As a disciple of Ravishankar, Ravindra is in charge of the Art of Living programme which offers a breathing method for the corporate sector.

Before coming to Kuala Lumpur, he conducted programmes for the Indian Administrative Service and Supreme Court.

''Some had reservations about coming to us, thinking it is a cult,'' he laughed.

''But we are not religion-based. People of all religions have attended our training and benefited from it.''

Ravindra said the technique has been tried and tested by so many people that Sudarshan Kriya has spread to over 93 countries and there are 2,000 centres around the world now.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty / US Human Rights Violations

34. Graham executed amid protest
Dallas Morning News, June 23, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/100748_garygraham_23t.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Gary Graham, who went from unknown Houston street criminal to vociferous icon against the death penalty, was put to death Thursday evening after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Gov. George W. Bush and the courts refused to stop his execution.
(...)

Mr. Graham became the 222nd person to be executed in Texas since the resumption of capital punishment in 1976, the 23rd this year, and the 135th during Mr. Bush's term as governor.

In a statement shortly before the execution was announced, Mr. Bush said Mr. Graham had had the benefit of ''extensive due process,'' including reviews numerous judicial reviews.

''After considering all of the facts, I am confident justice is being done,'' Mr. Bush said. ''May God bless the victims of these crimes, their families and Mr. Graham.''
(...)

The witnesses to the execution included prison officials, five reporters and five people invited by Mr. Graham: Mr. Jackson; death-penalty opponent Bianca Jagger; the Rev. Al Sharpton; U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee; and minister Robert Muhammad. All of those witnesses were listed as ''friends'' except for Mr. Muhammad, who was designated as a spiritual adviser.

Mr. Graham's mother, who visited him earlier in the day, declined to witness the execution.

''This way of solving a problem is barbaric ... and we deserve better,'' Mr. Jackson said after the execution, calling for an overhaul of the criminal justice system.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The publisher of RNR is a member of Amnesty InternationalOff-site Link, and considers
the death penalty to be barbaric act and a violation of human rights -
especially so in America's flawed justice system.

About the Death Penatly
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/d00.html#deathpenaltyOff-site Link

Human rights violations in the USA
http://www.amnestyusa.org/rightsforall/index.htmlOff-site Link


35. Music: Cops call Springsteen names
Yahoo.E-Media, June 21, 2000
http://english.hk.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/nst/article.html?s=hke/headlines/000621/newspapers/nst/Cops_call_Springsteen_names.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
More police organisations in the US have been joining the chorus of protest against Bruce Springsteen's American Skin, a new song about the senseless shooting of immigrant Amadou DialloOff-site Link by a team of New York cops.

The heads of two New York law enforcement bodies have branded him a ''dirtbag'', a term of endearment cops everywhere reserve for crime suspects.

Earlier, New York's mayor and police chief had come out with statements lambasting Springsteen for depicting cops as loose cannons.

But The Boss is unfazed by all this negative attention. He performed the song without an introduction at a recent show in New York's Madison Square Garden to wild cheers.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Amnesty International reports on the shooting of Amodou DialloOff-site Link

Race, Righs, and Policy Brutality in the United States of AmericaOff-site Link


=== The Censors Around The Corner

36. ''God and angel'' banned from Wilde play at New Zealand kids' hospital
Yahoo/AFP, June 22, 2000
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/
asia/article.html?s=asia/headlines/000622/asia/afp/
_God_and_angel__banned_from_Wilde_play_at_New_Zealand_kids__hospital.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[More offbeat news]
A New Zealand theatre troupe has been forced to remove the God and angel characters from a performance of Oscar Wilde's classic story ''The Happy Prince'' for sick children.

The Auckland Starship children's hospital said the ''God and angel'' were unwelcome unless posters warning patients of their presence were provided, the New Zealand Herald reported Thursday.

The hospital said that since its young patients were from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, it needed to ensure the performances were ''accessible to all patients.''

Mark Anthony, the actor who was to play God in Wilde's tale of unselfish love and generosity, has accused the country's only dedicated children's hospital of censorshop.

''I'm an Irish Catholic, so I'm offended that God has been sidelined, but I'm even more offended that Oscar Wilde has been censored.''
(...)

But the theatre group, The Aunties, who have entertained New Zealand children for 18 years, have agreed to replace the God and angel characters with symbols of monarchy and paganism -- a king and a fairy.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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