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Religion News Report

June 25 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 218)

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=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Davidian lawyers challenge report
2. Waco judge imposes time limit
3. Emotions in check in Waco lawsuit
4. Reno says federal agents had discretion to use tear gas, remove Davidians
5. Reno says she ordered firefighting equipment to be present at Mount Carmel

=== Aum Shinrikyo
6. Aum-staffed PC shop opens after week delay

=== Buddhism
7. Buddhism and Basketball? It Works for Phil Jackson

=== Hinduism
8. Return to an abhorrent past

=== Satanism
9. Satan worship causes concern in northeast India
10. Civil War General's Skull Stolen

=== Islam
11. INSIDE JIHAD U. : The Education of a Holy Warrior

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
12. Jehovah's Witnesses: Members say beliefs of church are often misunderstood

=== Other News
13. Another former Cerullo associate accuses him of fund-raising fraud
14. Russia: New Cult Of Pyramid Energy Draws Believers
15. Crop circles mystify Russian farmers
16. Starvation cult victim's diary reveals final cravings (Breatharianism)
17. Astrologist releases taped converations with Mitterrand
18. Nuwaubians' annual festival gets under way
19. Evangelist plans move to Dallas (Steve Hill)

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance
20. Not Remaining Silent
21. Employer didn't know ponytail, religion were linked

=== Noted
22. Flocking to the Church of Oprah
23. Art contest winner dogged by controversy over portrayal of Jesus
24. King of South Carolina (Voodoo)
25. An inseparable church and state: On greeks playing the Euro card
26. Faith Popcorn shines light on evolution of spirituality

=== Death Penalty / US Human Rights Violations
27. U.N., European Union denounce execution
28. Death by incompetence
29. Fatal, fallible penalty
30. Death penalty splits faithful
31. Death Penalty Support Softening, Polls Show
32. Death Penalty Doubts in California
33. Time for California To Stop Killing, Too
34. Charges of Bias Challenge U.S. Death Penalty

=== Books
35. Welcome Back, 'Potter'
36. Ancient Judaism Is New Age,Says Author
37. 'Papal Sin' Author On Crusade for Change


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Davidian lawyers challenge report
Dallas Morning News, June 25, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/
101782_waco_25tex.ART.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - Lawyers in the Branch Davidian wrongful-death case have filed a detailed challenge to a British firm's report dismissing their claims of government gunfire at the end of the 1993 siege.

The pleading, filed Friday afternoon by lead plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Caddell, is aimed at persuading U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith to reconsider his recent threat to throw out the issue. The pleading argues that further investigation and a full-courtroom airing are needed because the report by court-appointed Vector Data Systems is too flawed to resolve whether government gunfire caused repeated flashes on a 1993 FBI infrared recording.

It includes a report from a retired CIA imagery analyst disputing Vector's conclusion that flashes on the FBI video weren't gunfire because no gunmen were visible where flashes were recorded and no people were visible until after a fire had engulfed much of the Branch Davidians' building.

In a preliminary review of the infrared recording and still photos taken from an FBI airplane, the analyst said he could see personnel on the ground in three areas near the front and rear of the compound just before it burned.

''Vector Data Systems is incorrect in the claim that personnel cannot be seen,'' stated the four-page affidavit by Carroll L. Lucas, who worked for the CIA for 25 years and has more than 45 years of experience in both classified and unclassified imagery analysis. ''The Vector Data Systems analysis indicating that recorded flashes on the Mount Carmel imagery are solar flashes is flawed and unreliable.''

The wrongful-death lawsuit filed by sect members and relatives of those who died during the siege alleges that government gunfire cut off escape routes and kept innocent women and children from fleeing when their compound caught fire. More than 80 people died amid the blaze that broke out just after noon on April 19, 1993, about six hours after the FBI began a tank and tear gas assault aimed at forcing the sect to surrender.

Government lawyers have dismissed that claim as baseless, insisting that the government acted properly and should not be held responsible for the Waco tragedy. They have maintained that no one from the government's side fired a gunshot during the April 19 tear gas assault.

The government's defense team has argued that studies submitted by two Defense Department scientists in support of the sect's charges are junk science and government scientific experts have also debunked the gunfire claim.

Government lawyers have also dismissed recent criticisms of Vector as insignificant. They contend there is ample scientific evidence to support Vector's core claim that heat and sunlight reflections - not government gunfire - caused the flashes on the April 1993 FBI video.

Judge Smith decided on the eve of the wrongful-death trial to sever the April 19 gunfire issue, telling lawyers for both sides that he wanted to hear personally from the chief analyst assigned by Vector to study the FBI video and data from a March infrared field test ordered by the court to help resolve the gunfire issue.

On June 14, Judge Smith issued a terse order stating that he was considering dismissing the entire issue. He then gave plaintiffs in the wrongful-death case 10 days to submit any evidence they had that might make him reconsider but extended that deadline until next week for the group of plaintiffs represented by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

On Friday, Mr. Clark said he plans to file his own detailed brief on the issue early next week and said his pleading will including a study supporting the gunfire claim from a New Jersey infrared expert. A conservative media watchdog group, Accuracy in Media, funded that expert's study, and its chairman, Reed Irvine, said Friday that his and another Washington-based conservative group are considering commissioning a full infrared field trial to challenge the court's Vector test and study.
(...)

Citing Vector's American ownership, Mr. Caddell's brief argued, ''The court cannot simply assume that Vector is right because it was chosen by the O.S.C. [the office of Waco special counsel John C. Danforth] and is ostensibly nonaligned. Indeed, [the analysts'] ... testimony makes clear that Vector is very much aligned with the U.S. government.''

Although it is part of the sect's $675 million lawsuit, Friday's pleading could pose a challenge to Mr. Danforth's inquiry into government actions during the 1993 siege.

Mr. Danforth selected Vector Data Systems late last fall to help his investigators study the infrared recording taken on the final day of the siege from an FBI airplane. Judge Smith then appointed Vector on Mr. Danforth's recommendation to evaluate the recording for the court and supervise the court-ordered infrared field test at Fort Hood.

Mr. Danforth told reporters when he was appointed last fall by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the Waco incident that his core mission would be answering ''dark questions'' such as the charge of government gunfire on the final day of the siege.

Federal officials familiar with the inquiry say Vector's analysis is expected to be a cornerstone for Mr. Danforth's final investigation report, which is expected to be released this fall. Officials with Mr. Danforth's office could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Mr. Caddell said Saturday that he is hopeful that the judge will keep the gunfire issue alive because of clear problems with Vector's study. But he added that he considers it ''a distraction'' to the issues in the wrongful-death trial.

Those include allegations that government agents used excessive force in a Feb. 28, 1993, raid that began the standoff. The suit also alleges that FBI commanders violated Washington-approved plans for ending the siege, taking actions that may have caused or contributed to the final fire, and were negligent in not having adequate fire fighting equipment available before beginning the tear gas assault.

''Depending on how the trial comes out, we may reconsider the gunfire issue. We can only recover for these deaths once,'' Mr. Caddell said. ''Right now, this trial is more important. If we make a recovery from other causes of action, we may not pursue the gunfire issue.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Waco judge imposes time limit
San Antonio Expres-News, June 23, 2000
http://www.hearstnp.com/san_antonio/bea/
news/stories/san/san36908.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - In a surprise move at noon Friday, Judge Walter Smith, Jr. ruled plaintiff and defense presentations in the Davidian wrongful death suit will be limited to 40 hours each.

The ruling effectively bars former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark from any significant role in the case.

Clark represents several Davidian survivors of the 1993 shootout at Mount Carmel, many of whom still believe in David Koresh. Michael Caddell of Houston represents Davidian relatives, who partly blame Koresh for the deaths of their loved ones.

''In this country, you are entitled to your day in court. To limit the trial to 40 hours is to destroy the integrity of the trial,'' Clark told the San Antonio Express-News after the ruling.

A limit on presentations first was suggested about two weeks ago by Caddell, lead plaintiffs attorney in the case.

Both Clark and Justice Department attorneys opposed the time stricture, and Smith allowed the trial to open and run for five days - 21 hours and 30 minutes by his notations - before imposing the limit.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Emotions in check in Waco lawsuit
San Antonio Express-News, June 24, 2000
http://www.mysa.com/mysanantonio/extras/
waco/062500waco.shtml
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[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO - The Davidian wrongful death lawsuit, which opened Monday in Waco, has been a mild affair, unlike prior proceedings about the 1993 Mount Carmel events.

As a result of a Friday ruling by Judge Walter Smith of Waco, it appears it will remain that way.

At issue in the trial is whether the Davidians or the federal government is chiefly responsible for the deaths of the 84 men, women and children - including four federal agents - who perished in the shootout, siege and fire. The suit has been brought by the kin of some 60 of Mount Carmel's Davidian dead and by a few Davidians who survived the ordeal.

But last week, the bitter notions that have fueled debate over Waco elsewhere were hardly in evidence in the courtroom.

Nobody mentioned the First or Second Amendments, freedom of religion or the right to bear arms.

None of the lawyers spoke the words ''self-defense,'' virtual fighting words, given the ATF deaths.

No one asked if helicopters had fired on Mount Carmel's residents during the assault, although witnesses who were on the stand swear they saw as much.

No photos of the dead were displayed; lead attorneys for both sides in the case excluded them in an agreement.

And no one shed tears in the witness box.

All of this happened - or didn't happen - because the case was largely in the hands of lead plaintiffs attorney Michael Caddell of Houston and his wife and law partner, Cynthia Chapman.

Their mild, upbeat strategy for the case regards passion and defiance, often displayed by Davidian attorneys in the 1994 San Antonio criminal trial, as counterproductive.

Until Friday, the Davidian faithful, gun rights advocates and other anti-government partisans, some of whom are in the courtroom each day, were little worried about any deficiencies they note in the case Caddell and Chapman are presenting.

That's because the survivors and dissidents were waiting to hear the witnesses they expected another plaintiff's attorney, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, to call.

On Friday, however, a time-limit ruling from Smith may have sharply curtailed Clark's participation.

Clark, 77, a somber, stately figure, was devising a strategy at odds with the Caddell-Chapman approach, in part because Clark views the Mount Carmel events through a different lens.
(...)

The idyllic and virtually nonviolent picture drawn of Mount Carmel squared with the interests of Caddell's clients, perhaps, but also with his personal views.

''I am an advocate of gun control, and I am troubled by all of the guns that were at Mount Carmel,'' he said during a Wednesday news conference.

In his opening remarks, Caddell said he believes that a few male Davidians may have started one of the fires that consumed Mount Carmel. The fire he cited broke out in the building's chapel.

Clark did not have such latitude. He cannot make key concessions in order to gain common ground, because among his clients are those survivors who place total blame on the government for the deaths at Mount Carmel.

Since leaving the federal government, Clark, who was attorney general during the Johnson administration, has become known as the advocate of protesters, heretics and hated men - clients with a radical tinge.

He sued the federal government on behalf of the students who were killed by the National Guard at Kent State University in 1970 - and 10 years later collected a settlement. He brought suit on behalf of the convicts who survived the Attica prison massacre, and, after the Persian Gulf War, he represented the government of Iraq.

He is now defending former American Indian activist Leonard Peltier, imprisoned after he was convicted of killing federal agents in South Dakota, and a New York woman who is in a Peruvian prison, convicted of aiding that country's guerrilla movement.

He was among the first attorneys to join the Waco suit, and his strategy is similar to that he pursued on behalf of his Kent State and Attica clients.
(...)

To build his case, which most observers say is hastily prepared, Clark last week brought to Waco a New Orleans electronics and espionage expert named Gordon Novel. He is the man who originated most of the shocking allegations and conspiracy theories that have hovered over the Waco events for seven years.

Clark also announced he would call retired U.S. Army Gen. Ben Partin as an expert witness. Partin became notorious after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing for advocating a theory of the blast that pointed to the federal government, not Timothy McVeigh, as the culprit.

Clark planned to put two adult male Davidian survivors, Clive Doyle and David Thibodeau, on the stand.
(...)

And despite his reliance on conspiracists such as Novel and Partin, Clark was weaving his strategy out of nostalgic threads from his past.

For many conspiracists, anti-government activists and gun rights advocates, Mount Carmel has become a kind of Alamo, a place where a last stand was made on sacred ground.

But for Clark, Mount Carmel is the reincarnation of the Jim Crow South.

''When I was doing civil rights work in the government,'' Clark said, ''our first priority, above all others, was police abuse. That's because, if the police won't protect you, who will?

''We had all of these cases reported where black people were jailed in the South for resisting arrest. But often, what it really was, was resisting assault.

''Something like that is what happened at Mount Carmel. The federal government assaulted those people.''

If Clark had argued a similar analogy in the courtroom, the trial would have turned into a contentious, acrimonious or controversial proceeding - anything but mild.

But on Friday, Smith ruled the plaintiffs' attorneys - all of them - will have only 40 hours to present their cases.

By Smith's time clock, they already had spent 21 hours when he made the ruling.

Clark's freedom to call witnesses now is limited to the time lead attorney Caddell can spare.
(...)

When the judge made his ruling Friday, Clark grimaced.

Unless Smith changes his mind - he's done so several times in both Waco trials - Clark believes his participation will be limited to a summation, or closing arguments speech, probably less than 30 minutes long.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Reno says federal agents had discretion to use tear gas, remove Davidians
St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP, June 23, 2000
http://www.stlnet.com/postnet/news/wires.nsf/National/
05E835E3C1150BA0862569080007A048?OpenDocument
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WACO, Texas (AP) -- During the final day of the Branch Davidian standoff, federal agents had the discretion to do what needed to be done to insert tear gas to flush sect members out of the compound, Attorney General Janet Reno said in a videotaped deposition played for jurors Friday.

''But the discretion would have to be exercised within the limits of the plan,'' Reno said of the FBI commanders at the Mount Carmel site near Waco.

The Reno-approved plan called for FBI agents to use tank booms to gradually insert tear gas in the building. If after 48 hours the tear-gassing plan was ineffective, then agents could begin the systematic dismantling of the compound.
(...)

Plaintiff's attorney Michael Caddell contends that federal agents violated the approved plan when they prematurely began tearing down a part of the building know as the gymnasium while agents in tanks launched tear gas into the compound.

Earlier Friday, Steve McGavin, an FBI supervisory agent who helped draft a proposal to remove the Davidians, told jurors that firefighting equipment was not on the ''inner perimeter.'' ''There was no plan to bring in firefighting equipment until we could secure the building and secure the safety of firefighters,'' he said.

Caddell later showed videotaped testimony of four former high-ranking FBI officials who said they believed Reno's instructions for on-site emergency crews included firefighting equipment.
(...)

Reno said she didn't dictate details of the plan, such as where the tanks were or how tear gas would be inserted into the building. She told investigators in 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 because she was not on the scene.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Reno says she ordered firefighting equipment to be present at Mount Carmel
Waco Tribune-Herald, June 23, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/
local/2000/06/23/961812517.23827.8563.0321.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that emergency vehicles, including firefighting equipment, be on hand before the FBI commenced its final tear-gas operation designed to drive the Branch Davidians from Mount Carmel, Reno and high-ranking FBI officials testified Friday.

Attorneys for plaintiffs in the Branch Davidian wrongful-death lawsuit against the government turned their attention Friday to allegations that the FBI helped start and spread the fire and failed to have a plan to fight a fire at David Koresh's compound east of Waco.

Reno, former FBI director William Sessions and three former top FBI officials, all testifying through videotaped depositions, said that Reno was not told that FBI commanders in Waco didn't have a plan to fight a fire if one broke out during the April 19, 1993, tear gassing of the Branch Davidian complex.
(...)

Government attorneys have said that FBI leaders were justified in holding back firefighters because sect members had fired upon government agents in tanks earlier in the day and because the group's massive arsenal was ''cooking off'' in the inferno.
(...)

Bradford said that Reno did not specifically direct that fire trucks of any kind be available on the scene.

However, Reno, Sessions, former deputy assistant FBI director Danny O. Coulson, former assistant FBI director Larry O. Potts and former deputy FBI director Floyd Clarke all testified that Reno ordered that sufficient emergency vehicles be available to handle all emergencies. They said that included fire trucks.

Under questioning from lead plaintiffs' attorney Mike Caddell of Houston, the top Justice Department officials said that cost would not have been a consideration in the decision not to use armored firefighting equipment at the end the 51-day siege, which already had cost the government $6 million.
(...)

Caddell introduced a report from an interview two FBI agents conducted with Reno in August 1993 during the investigation into the Branch Davidian tragedy. Reno indicated that she told FBI leaders to ''back away'' during the tear-gas operation if Branch Davidians put children in the compound's four-story tower.

''They told me I should butt out after giving okay. Can't call back. Not law enforcement official. Not on scene,'' the agent's hand-written notes from the Reno interview indicated.

Caddell criticized government officials for not providing the interview notes to him until two weeks ago, calling the delay ''reprehensible, inexcusable and unforgivable.''

''When an interview with Janet Reno in August 1993 says they told her to butt out and can't call back, I think the jury understands what that means,'' Caddell said. ''And now to prop up Janet Reno as the be-all and end-all of what did or didn't happen at Mount Carmel in 1993, of course, is ridiculous. I think at the end of the day, the jury was dismissing Janet Reno and just ignoring her.''

Reno testified that FBI supervisors in Waco had wide discretion in their actions because they were on the scene and she wasn't. She said, however, that they did not have ''implied authority'' to use pyrotechnic devices to deliver the tear gas.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aum Shinrikyo

6. Aum-staffed PC shop opens after week delay
Japan Times (Japan), June 25, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/
getarticle.pl5?nn20000625a9.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A personal computer shop run by two human rights activists and staffed by eight followers of Aum Shinrikyo opened for business Saturday in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, one week after the scheduled opening.

The outlet was initially scheduled to start business on June 17, but a request from the building's landlord and real estate company to retract the firm's contract delayed the opening.

The landlord had demanded the shop cancel the contract claiming they were not informed that Aum followers would be working there. Local residents have also joined talks between the shop and proprietors.

The shop, managed by Eizo Yamagiwa and Yukio Yamanaka, both members of the Liason Committee on Human Rights and Mass Media Conduct, which supports the cult followers, finally received the green light for its opening after promising not to cause any trouble, according to the landlord.
(...)

Lawyer Saburo Abe, who serves as administrator for the now bankrupt cult, initially approved the cult's PC sales as a way to raise compensation money for victims of cult crimes.

However, he has since retracted the idea on strong opposition from victims who claimed such activity would lead to keeping the cult alive.
(...)

Kenji Utsunomiya, lawyer for the victims of the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, said although the victims may feel uncomfortable about the outlet, they cannot tell Aum followers not to work because they have a right to make a living.

Utsunomiya pointed out that the shop which opened Saturday is different from the four defunct PC shops, as it is run by people not connected with the cult.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Buddhism

7. Buddhism and Basketball? It Works for Phil Jackson
Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2000
http://www.latimes.com/news/state/
20000622/t000059281.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Blocks away from the triumphant Los Angeles Lakers victory parade Wednesday, the Buddhist priest pondered the win, the way and the sound of thousands of hands clapping.

Yes, said the Rev. Noriaki Ito, he expected the Lakers would ride to a world championship the moment he heard Coach Phil Jackson was coming to town. He had followed him for years, knew he practiced Zen meditation and knew he incorporated those concepts into his coaching.

Jackson, of course, practices more than Zen. The son of fundamentalist Christian preachers, he has told reporters he also believes in prayer, miracles and the laying on of hands. He employs yoga and believes in the power of spiritual symbolism--one reason he used to display a Native American headdress with eagle feathers in the Chicago Bulls team room.

But to Ito, Jackson embodies the perfect blend of the priest's two great loves: Buddhism and basketball.
(...)

''I liken Phil Jackson to a true martial arts master who realizes that the spiritual, mental and physical have to be integrated into one,'' said Ito, the 51-year-old head minister at Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo. ''I believe that's what brought the Lakers over the hump.''

Ito and other Buddhist priests around the Southland say they recognized a Buddhist imprint on the Lakers game almost immediately:
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hinduism

8. Return to an abhorrent past
Rediff.com (India), June 23, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/jun/23akd.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The shankaracharya of Puri, Nischalanand Saraswati, has said that neo-converts to Hinduism should pray in separate temples. These swastik temples, as they will be called, are to be for the exclusive use of all those who have joined or rejoined the Hindu fold. Those 'lucky' enough to be born Hindus can, of course, continue to pray in the existing temples across India and the globe.

It is also another tragedy that the pseudo-defender of Hindus, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has kept silent on this crazy suggestion. It only proves what was always believed: that the VHP and shankaracharyas don't care for the neo-converts, they just don't want them flocking to the other religions. In that sense their attitude is like the dog in the manger.

If the VHP and shankaracharya really cared for those who seek to become Hindus, the way is not to push them into separate temples but to welcome them into the existing Hindu temples, to treat them equally as brothers and sisters of the Hindu faith. But it is this very concept of equality (which is notoriously absent in Hindu society) at which the shankaracharya is balking.

He is clearly creating a separate Hinduism for the different peoples involved. And in trying to do so, he is not only dividing Hindu society, but going against the very grain of equality and fraternity.

Who are the neo-converts that the shankaracharya speaks of? They are the tribal people, in the news lately because many of them who had converted to Christianity are now being reconverted to Hinduism. These conversions are carried on with pomp and purification ceremonies, called 'shuddhi'.
(...)

You can also be sure that Europeans and white Americans who become Hindus, such as the ISKCON converts, will never be pushed into the swastik temples. Simply because the white-skinned convert is often rich (usually in dollars) and very powerful, something that neo-convert tribals are not.
(...)

The problem with casteism is that it is not the problem of the so-called lower castes, but of the so-called upper castes, who refuse to give up their prejudices against their fellow Hindus.
(...)

The idea of a separate Hindu sect for the deprived castes has been put forward in the past, but the disunity among the deprived castes and the sincere attempts to reform Hinduism by many social activists made the idea stillborn. But if swastik temples can be built for neo-converts, temples can also be built for the other deprived castes. And these temples can have priests from the laity, not from only one specific caste. Then who needs a shankaracharya?

It would be an irony if the shankaracharya's idea of swastik temples triggers something much bigger: the reformation and renaissance of Hindu society. In which case, it won't be such a bad idea!
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Satanism

9. Satan worship causes concern in northeast India
Yahoo/AFP, June 23, 3000
http://english.hk.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/
asia/afp/article.html?s=hke/headlines/000623/asia/afp/
Satan_worship_causes_concern_in_northeast_India.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Church leaders in the Christian-dominated Indian state of Mizoram voiced concern Friday at a growing trend among young people for indulging in Satanic rituals.

''Small groups, numbering about ten youths, converge at the middle of the night in cemeteries and start invoking Satan by placing a monkey skull in between them with the words God is Satan inscribed,'' a church official, who requested annonymity, told AFP by telephone from Mizoram.

''After that they fall into a hypnotic state and start slashing their wrists with the blood as offerings for the devil,'' the official said.

The tiny state of Mizoram, which is overwhelmingly Christian, is located in India's far notheast and borders Burma and Bangladesh.

The Presbyterian Church Synod in Mizoram is extremely concerned at the possible emergence of a Satanic cult in the state.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Civil War General's Skull Stolen
AOL/AP, June 23, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0006230720222069
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - The skull of a Civil War general known as an ''evil genius'' was stolen from his grave in a crime authorities believe may be part of a satanic ritual.

The remains of Gen. Elisha G. Marshall were dug up between 8 p.m. Tuesday and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the city's Mt. Hope Cemetery, police said. Some bones were found near the grave site along with satanic symbols.

The grave-robbing occurred during the summer solstice - the day with the longest period of sunshine. Police said they typically find evidence of satanic activities on that day.

''We try to do (details at the cemetery) two or three times a year, depending on the satanic calendar,'' said Sgt. Dan Magill. ''I've been there the last five years during the summer solstice. Unfortunately, we were doing something else that night.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

11. INSIDE JIHAD U. : The Education of a Holy Warrior
New York Times Magazine, June 25, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/20000625mag-taliban.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
In a Pakistani religious school called the Haqqania madrasa, Osama bin Laden is a hero, the Taliban's leaders are famous alums and the next generation of mujahedeen is being militantly groomed.
(...)

A madrasa is a Muslim religious seminary, and Haqqania is one of the bigger madrasas in Pakistan: its mosques and classrooms and dormitories are spread over eight weed-covered acres, and the school currently enrolls more than 2,800 students. Tuition, room and board are free; the students are, in the main, drawn from the dire poor, and the madrasa raises its funds from wealthy Pakistanis, as well as from devout, and politically minded, Muslims in the countries of the Persian Gulf.

The students range in age from 8 and 9 to 30, sometimes to 35. The youngest boys spend much of their days seated cross-legged on the floors of airless classrooms, memorizing the Koran.
(...)

What Westerners would think of as high-school-age and college-age students are enrolled in an eight-year course of study that focuses on interpretation of the Koran and of the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. These students also study Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic history. The oldest of those attending Haqqania -- the postgraduates, if you will -- are enrolled in the ''mufti course.'' A mufti, in Islam, is a cleric who is allowed to issue fatwas, or religious rulings, on matters ranging from family law to the rules governing the waging of jihad, or ''holy war.'' (One room in the school's administration building houses upward of 100,000 fatwas issued by the madrasa over the years.) There are about 600 students in the mufti course.

Very few of the students at the Haqqania madrasa study anything but Islamic subjects. There are no world history courses, or math courses, or computer rooms or science labs at the madrasa.

The Haqqania madrasa is, in fact, a jihad factory.

This does not make it unique in Pakistan. There are one million students studying in the country's 10,000 or so madrasas, and militant Islam is at the core of most of these schools.
(...)

The maulana made me an offer: I could spend as much time as I wanted at the madrasa, go wherever I wanted, talk to anybody I chose, even study the Koran with him. He had a point he wanted to make, of course: his madrasa might be Taliban U., but it was not a training camp for terrorists.

Strictly speaking, Haq was right: I never saw a weapon at the Haqqania madrasa. The closest guns could be found across the Grand Trunk Road, at the Khyber Pass Armaments Company, a gun store that sells shotguns for $40 and AK-47's for $70. And I never heard a lecture about bomb making or marksmanship.

On the other hand, when the Taliban was faring badly not long ago in battle against the northern alliance -- the holdout foe of the Taliban in Afghanistan's seemingly endless civil war -- Haq closed down his school and sent the students to the front.
(...)

During the school day, I would make a special point of auditing classes in which the Hadith was studied, because so much of Islamic thought is found in the Hadith, and also because the Hadith has traditionally been understood to be a text open to interpretation, argument and rigorous intellectual inquiry. But such is not the case at the Haqqania madrasa. In the classes I attended, even the high-level classes of the mufti course, the pattern was generally the same: a teacher, generally an ancient, white-bearded mullah, would read straight from a text, and the students would listen. There was no back and forth. It seemed as if rote learning was the madrasa's only style of learning.
(...)

After a time, I began to be asked questions during classes, questions about America and about my views. One day, in a class devoted to passages in the Hadith concerning zakat, or charity, I was asked my views about Osama bin Laden.
(...)

I began by saying that bin Laden's program violates a basic tenet of Islam, which holds that even in a jihad the lives of innocent people must be spared. A jihad is a war against combatants, not women and children. I read to them an appropriate saying of the Prophet Muhammad (I came armed with the Hadith): ''It is narrated by Ibn Umar that a woman was found killed in one of these battles, so the Messenger of Allah, may peace be upon him, forbade the killing of women and children.''

They did not like the idea of me quoting the Prophet to them, and they began chanting, ''Osama, Osama, Osama.''

When they calmed down, they took turns defending bin Laden.

''Osama bin Laden is a great Muslim,'' a student named Wali said. ''The West is afraid of strong Muslims, so they made him their enemy.''

I was curious to know how Wali came to admire Osama bin Laden so ardently. After all, there was no course at the madrasa -- at least so far as I could tell -- titled ''The Sayings of the Great Muslim Osama bin Laden.''

''Osama wants to keep Islam pure from the pollution of the infidels,'' he said. ''He believes Islam is the way for all the world. He wants to bring Islam to all the world.''

I answered that the Koran states that ''there is no compulsion in religion.'' This is the Koranic saying frequently quoted by those who believe that, at its core, Islam is moderate and tolerant of others.

Wali: ''There is no compulsion. But the West compels Muslims to live under the control of infidels, like in Chechnya.''
(...)

When I asked Sayid, whose brother is a Taliban judge, how his parents felt about his being at the madrasa, knowing there is a chance he might one day fight and die as a mujahed, he replied, 'They would be so proud.'

''All things come from Allah,'' one student said. ''The atomic bomb comes from Allah, so it should be used.''

I then asked: Who wants to see Osama bin Laden armed with nuclear weapons? Every hand in the room shot up. The students laughed, and some applauded.
(...)

I asked one final question, more out of self-interest than anything else: What would you do if you learned that the C.I.A. had captured bin Laden and was taking him to America to stand trial?

A student who gave his name as Muhammad stood up: ''We would sacrifice our lives for Osama. We would kill Americans.''

What kind of Americans?

''All Americans.''

As I left the mosque, Muhammad and a group of his friends approached me. ''We'd like you to embrace Islam,'' he said. ''We love you. We want you to have Islam.''
(...)

For Samiul Haq, the world is divided into two separate and mutually hostile domains: the dar-al-harb and the dar-al-Islam. The dar-al-harb is the ''abode of war.'' The dar-al-Islam is the ''abode of peace.'' The dar-al-Islam is the Ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims. The dar-al-harb is everything else. In the 1980's, the Soviet Union epitomized, for fundamentalist-minded Muslims, the abode of war. Today, it is the U.S. that symbolizes the dar-al-harb.

How this came to pass, how America, which supported -- created, some would say -- the jihad movement against the Soviets, came to become the No. 1 enemy of hard-core Islamists is one of the more vexing questions facing American policy makers and the leaders of a dozen Muslim countries today.

One school of thought, Samiul Haq's school, says it's the Americans' fault: American imperialism and the export of American social and sexual mores are to blame. The other school of thought holds that Islam, by its very nature, is in permanent competition with other civilizations. This is the theory expounded by the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington, who coined the term ''Islam's bloody borders'' -- a reference to the fact that wherever Islam rubs up against other civilizations -- Jewish, Christian, Hindu -- wars seem to break out.
(...)

In Samiul Haq's view, the West is implacably hostile to the message of Islam, and so the need to prepare for jihad is never-ending.

''Jihad'' is a concept widely misunderstood in the West. It does not mean only ''holy war.'' It essentially means ''struggle,'' and according to the traditional understanding of Islam, there are two types of jihad: greater and lesser. ''Greater Jihad,'' is the struggle within the soul of a person to be better, more righteous -- the fight against the devil within. ''Lesser Jihad'' is the fight against the devil without: the military struggle against those who subjugate Muslims.

Whenever I meet a Muslim fundamentalist, I ask them the same stupid-sounding question: Which is more important to Islam, greater jihad or lesser jihad? The answer, usually accompanied by an indulgent look, is usually something like, ''They don't call it 'greater jihad' for nothing.'' The struggle against the external oppressor waxes and wanes, but the fight to suppress the evil inclinations within is perpetual.

But in my conversations with Haq, and with mullahs across Pakistan and Afghanistan, I kept getting a different answer. ''They are of equal importance,'' Haq said. ''Jihad against the oppressor of Muslims is an absolute duty. Islam is a religion that defends itself.'' Jihad against the devil without has assumed a place of permanent, even overriding importance in the way these mullahs look at the world. This was surprising to me, because not even the leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ever answered the question this way.
(...)

Haq's secret was not that the Haqqania madrasa is a training camp for terrorists. And the secret of the Taliban -- the secret of Talibanism -- is not found inside the Shrine of the Cloak of Muhammad. The secret is embodied in the two 11-year-olds cocking their fingers at me, and in the taunts of the students in the mosque who raised their hands for Osama bin Laden, and in the person of Mullah Haji Muhammad, my 17-year-old minder in Kandahar who has no interest in any book but the Koran, and in the hundreds of thousands of young men like him at madrasas across Pakistan and Afghanistan. These are poor and impressionable boys kept entirely ignorant of the world and, for that matter, largely ignorant of all but one interpretation of Islam.

They are the perfect jihad machines.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Jehovah's Witnesses

12. Jehovah's Witnesses: Members say beliefs of church are often misunderstood
Deseret News, June 24, 2000
http://www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,175014325,00.html?
With more than 89,000 congregations and 5.9 million members spread throughout 234 nations of the world, it would seem the Jehovah's Witnesses should be a well-known commodity. But to most people, the Jehovah's Witnesses seem to be known mostly for their fervent doorstep proselyting, their refusal of blood transfusions and their seeming unwillingness to celebrate traditional holidays.

Utahns wanting to get an up-close and personal view of the church are welcome to attend the District Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses 2000 being staged at the Dee Event Center at Weber State University in Ogden Friday, June 30, to Sunday, July 2.
(...)

This society has printed more than 21 million Bibles and Bible-study aids used by Jehovah's Witnesses during the past 116 years.
(...)

Watchtower magazine, which members often distribute during their door-to-door visits, began publication in 1879 and has been published in 125 languages. It is the world's most widely circulated religious magazine. Awake is another magazine published by the church.
(...)

The church teaches that death is the result of sin inherited from the first man, Adam, through his disobedience to God by eating of ''the tree of knowledge of good and bad.'' The church teaches that the dead are conscious of nothing, but God, through Jesus, will resurrect the dead.

The church teaches that the Earth will never be destroyed or depopulated and is destined to be a peaceful paradise.

The church also teaches that salvation will include millions who are not Jehovah's Witnesses but who will be resurrected, including many living now who will yet accept the truth. Judgment will be left to Jesus, they believe.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Theologically, Jehovah's Witnesses is a cult of Christianity.


=== Other News

13. Another former Cerullo associate accuses him of fund-raising fraud
San Diego Union Tribune, June 24, 2000
http://www.uniontrib.com/news/uniontrib/sat/
metro/news_3m24cerullo.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A former executive with televangelist Morris Cerullo's ministry has filed a lawsuit saying he was fired after confronting Cerullo about ''unethical and fraudulent fund-raising techniques.''

John Paul Warren's suit, filed last month in San Diego Superior Court, is the second such lawsuit this year against Cerullo, a 68-year-old San Diego-based evangelist known for his cable network and worldwide crusades.

Another former executive sued in March, saying he resigned after confronting Cerullo about unspecified ''fund-raising abuses.'' Both suits were filed by the same lawyer.

Cerullo, whose ministry says it has trained 1.3 million people around the world in Christian proselytizing, says the claims are completely false. ''The Bible teaches us not to take our brothers to court,'' Cerullo said.

Warren's suit says Cerullo reneged on a promise to give each $1,500 donor a satellite dish allowing access to the ministry's Global Prayer Satellite Network. To Warren's knowledge, none of the donors received a dish, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also accuses Cerullo of hiring Warren for the unstated purpose of gaining access to the confidential 5,000-name donor list that Warren had built up during his 20 years as a minister in Northern California.

The lawsuit says Cerullo hired Warren in 1998 with a promise to make him ''second in command'' and ''successor'' when Cerullo retired at the end of 2000. Instead, it says, Warren was given a lesser position, and was fired in October 1999 after confronting Cerullo about ''several integrity issues.''

Warren's lawyer, Dean Broyles, said Cerullo routinely coaxed money from donors by promising to spend it in certain ways, then didn't follow through.

''Both of my clients were very high up within the organization and they were privy to and personally observed a lot of ethical misconduct within the industry,'' Broyles said. ''In my humble opinion, that's why they're no longer there.''
(...)

Cerullo -- who says his Christian cable network is the second-largest of its kind in the world -- ran into controversy this year for placing ads in 80 unsuspecting Jewish newspapers for a made-for-TV movie that turned out to be a pitch to convert to Christianity.

In the ads, the movie, titled ''The Rabbi,'' had been billed as a film about an Israeli rabbi's struggle with modernity.
(...)

He said he offered to settle the cases through a group of Christian arbitrators but the offer was refused.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Morris Cerullo is a controversial preacher, promoting heretical word-faith
teachings.
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c47.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]


14. Russia: New Cult Of Pyramid Energy Draws Believers
Radio Free Europe - Radio Liberty, June 19, 2000
http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/
2000/06/F.RU.000619153928.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Around the time Russia's financial pyramids crashed five years ago, ruining millions who believed in easy wealth for a handful of rubles, Russian self-styled scientist Aleksandr Golod set about building another kind of miracle pyramid -- out of plastic. He says he is soaking up healing energy from the earth, and many Russians believe him.
(...)

The pyramid, Golod's 17th such structure in Russia, is meant to re-establish world harmony, Golod explains on his English-language website (http://www.glasnet.ru/-abo/english.htm). According to the site, all bad things -- from AIDS to hurricanes to the devaluation of the ruble -- are provoked by the messy mental activity of humans. Since you can't keep people from thinking, the best way to bring the structure of space into harmony, Golod says, is to stand ''in the zone of a pyramid's activity.''
(...)

Visitors walk around picking up pebbles, while men in blue uniforms unload crate after crate of bottled mineral water. The five-liter plastic bottles sit in the pyramid for a short time, ostensibly to soak up healing energies, before being moved out again to be sold.
(...)

No proof has been offered that the pyramid has any effect on health whatsoever. Isn't this just a hoax meant to fill one scientist's pockets by capitalizing on people's despair?

Nikolai says no. He points out that entrance to the pyramid is free, and no one is forced to buy souvenirs.

A makeshift stand outside sells other objects that are said to have been ''treated by the pyramid.'' For example, little pebbles -- about a dollar each -- are supposed to create a safe field around any object. The instructions claim that if you put one on your cell phone, it will neutralize the radio waves that are said to cause brain cancer.

Golod suggests using his pebbles to combat world disasters like wars and pollution, and offers to export pyramid product to the United States, Germany, and Australia. He suggest lining the borders of a city or even a country with stones that have been inside the pyramid. He says people will live longer and earthquakes will be weaker.

The pyramid 30 km outside of Moscow was finished at the end of last year, just in time to capitalize on millennium-inspired interest in the unexplained. It is Golod's seventeenth such pyramid -- for an overall investment of almost $2 million -- and it is also the best visited.
(...)

The Russian Orthodox Church as a whole has not yet taken a position on the pyramid movement. Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Patriarchate's External Affairs Department, told RFE/RL that church teachings do not allow placing faith in anything, including natural healing, more than in God.

But he says the church is withholding judgment until more research is done on the pyramid's alleged healing powers.

''It is difficult for me to say anything concerning this pyramid because I haven't seen it. If it turns out that it can have some natural effect, then maybe there's nothing bad about it. But if it's something occult, if some magical symbolism is used, if they call upon invisible spirits, then of course, it can be seen in a negative way. If there's some fake underlying spiritual base to it, then probably the church cannot agree to this.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. Crop circles mystify Russian farmers
BBC Monitoring, June 24, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/
monitoring/media_reports/newsid_804000/804079.stm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The overnight appearance of crop circles in a field in southern Russia has puzzled farmers, with witnesses saying aliens landed there.

Russian Public TV reported that a farmer from the village of Yuzhnoye, Stavropol Territory called in local officials ''to record an act of vandalism'' after finding that his field of ripe barley had seemingly been ruined.

Closer examination revealed four distinct circles - one 20 metres in diameter in the centre and three outer ones 5-7m in diameter each.

The barley had been smoothed down ''as if by hand'' in a clockwise direction.

Representatives of the Stavropol security council arrived on the scene and suppressed all reports of what happened.

They found no traces of radiation or chemicals, and human intervention was ruled out.

Officials found eyewitnesses in a neighbouring village who said they had seen a UFO landing in the field.

Vasily Belchenko, security council deputy secretary, was inclined to believe them.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. Starvation cult victim's diary reveals final cravings
Sunday Mail (Australia), June 24, 2000
http://thesundaymail.com.au/common/story_page/
0,3533,852118%255E2765,00.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Starvation cult victim Lani Morris's last lucid thoughts were of fruit juice - oceans of the stuff she could bathe in.

In her last days, she seemed obsessed by thoughts of food. ''Every morning I think of cups of Earl Grey tea. Yesterday I caught myself reminiscing over tomato and coriander soup . . . today it is Black Forest cake and pancakes with maple syrup and ice-cream and hot chocolate with marshmallow . . . ''

Ms Morris, 53, kept a diary that chronicled her day-by-day progress towards her death on July 1, 1998.

Weeks earlier she had flown from Melbourne to undergo a Breatharian treatment to cleanse her spirit by fasting - living on air for a prolonged period.

Her diary begins with her excitement of the first day when she fancied a tingling sensation indicated the cleansing process had begun.

READ THE FULL REPORT IN THE PRINT EDITION OF THE SUNDAY MAIL
[...entire item...]

* I do not have a copy of the printed report (but would appreciate one).


17. Astrologist releases taped converations with Mitterrand
Yahoo/AFP, June 24, 2000
http://english.hk.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/world/
afp/article.html?s=hke/headlines/000624/world/afp/
Astrologist_releases_taped_converations_with_Mitterrand.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Astrologist Elizabeth Teissier, has decided to publish transcripts of taped conversations she had with former French president Francois Mitterrand between 1990 and 1995, she said Saturday.

''I want to respond to all kinds of insinuations which have cast doubt over the purely professional discussions between Mitterrand and myself, and to demonstrate the importance of astrology in politics,'' she told AFP.

Mitterrand's daughter Mazarine Pingeot said Saturday that her father, who served as president from 1981 to 1995, did not seek Teissier's advice to make important decisions.
(...)

The tapes reveal Teissier advising Mitterrand on such subjects as the government of former prime minister Edith Cresson and the date of the French referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, according to extracts printed by pay-TV station Canal Plus in the written version of one of its programs.

Teissier claimed Mitterrand had called upon her often during the Gulf War, she said, adding that the former president was keen to seek her advice despite his skeptical and rational nature.
(...)

Teissier said that she met Mitterrand in 1989 at his request, and that she recorded their conversations from 1990 onwards with his consent.
(...)

Teissier, who held her meetings with Mitterrand at the Elysee Palace except in 1995, when their conversations took place on the telephone, had already revealed the content of her interviews in a book published three years ago.

It was only after recent press speculation about their relationship that she decided to publish the transcripts, she said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Nuwaubians' annual festival gets under way
The Macon Telegraph, June 24, 2000
http://www.macontelegraph.com/local/festival0624.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
EATONTON - The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors' annual festival began Friday, and at least a portion of the festival will involve political activities.

This is the second year in a row that the annual festival to honor Malachi York, referred to in Nuwaubian literature as the group's ''supreme grand master,'' comes in the middle of the group's ongoing legal battle with county officials.

Last year, buildings on the 476-acre village west of Eatonton were padlocked as members held their celebrations outside in the heat and rain. This year, the festivities will be put on hold at least twice by political activities.

With the continuation of hearings by the county Board of Registrars, which have resulted in 36 members of the group being purged from the voter rolls of Putnam County, the Nuwaubians are planning activities to protest what they term discrimination and profiling.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Evangelist plans move to Dallas
Dallas Morning News, June 24, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/religion/101177_hill_24met.ART.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Steve Hill, a hellfire-and-brimstone evangelist who led one of the largest and longest Pentecostal revivals in modern American history, has announced that he's moving to Dallas.

During his five years at the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Fla., Mr. Hill drew 3 million people to six-hour services during which worshipers leaped over pews to repent their sins, then fell to the floor weeping and writhing. Word spread quickly about the Pensacola Outpouring, as it became known, and soon, people from all over the world flocked to the church.

Mr. Hill wasn't available for comment. Calls to leaders at the Brownsville church weren't returned.

But the 46-year-old evangelist has told friends that he isn't starting a church in Dallas but will travel the world leading crusades. He apparently chose Dallas because he wanted access to a large airport to make traveling more efficient and cost-effective.

''Steve feels like the Lord has spoken to him to spread the message beyond Brownsville,'' said the Rev. Darius Johnston, senior pastor of Christ Church Assembly of God in Fort Worth. ''The thrust of his ministry is to awaken people to a relationship with God. Mostly, it's a call to repentance.''

Mr. Hill will lead an Awake America crusade Sept. 1-3 at Mr. Johnston's church. Mr. Hill also operates Together in the Harvest Ministries (www.stevehill.org), which has a mission of ''calling sinners to repentance.'' He and his wife, Jeri, have said they hope to be settled in Dallas by August.

Observers of Pentecostalism expect Mr. Hill to be well received in Dallas, but said he'd run into problems if he tried to start a ministry similar to Brownsville.
(...)

Soon Mr. Hill was preaching four or five nights a week to overflow crowds of 6,000 people. The large church built an even larger church. Some church historians drew comparisons with the great revivals in the early 1900s. Even so, Mr. Hill has never enjoyed the name recognition of the Rev. Billy Graham, television evangelist Benny Hinn or Bishop T.D. Jakes.

''He's not up to their level in terms of popularity, and in terms of having a proven track record that would make people trust him,'' said the Rev. Gary Stratton, dean of the chapel at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., and a student of American revivals. ''Many people have been so burned by evangelists with meteoric rises, that they want to sit back and watch for a while.''

Mr. Stratton said Mr. Hill's confrontational preaching was off-putting to some Christians. During sermons at Brownsville, Mr. Hill would shake his fist at the cowd. With sweat pouring down ever reddening cheeks, he bellowed a be-saved-or-be-damned message.

''If you are living in sin and calling yourself a Christian, either change your name or get right with God,'' he shouted during one sermon.

Mr. Hill's time in Pensacola wasn't without turmoil.

In 1998, the Pensacola News Journal accused him of fabricating parts of his dramatic testimony and raised questions about how the money made from the sales of books, tapes and other products was being spent. It also reported that Mr. Hill and Mr. Kilpatrick hadn't paid state sales tax on the products, which they quickly rectified. Mr. Hill said the problems were honest mistakes.

Mr. Hill also faced criticism from within Pentecostal circles. Hank Hanegraaf wrote in his 1997 book, Counterfeit Revival, that the Pensacola Outpouring was duping followers through hypnosis and hysteria, a charge that Mr. Hill vehemently denied.

Crowds at the revival began diminishing two years ago, when Mr. Hill and Mr. Kilpatrick began traveling around the country leading crusades. The men said they wanted all of America to share in the Pensacola experience. But without Mr. Hill's fiery preaching, the revival seemed to lose it fervor.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance

20. Not Remaining Silent
Washington Post, June 25, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
articles/A55530-2000Jun24.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[Religious Intolerance]
Vanessa Brown already has figured out how she'll spend her first state-mandated minute of silence when classes resume in the fall at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax.

She plans to walk out of the classroom in protest.

Brown, 16, a varsity cheerleader who nailed a 4.0 grade-point average her junior year, is appalled with Virginia's new law, which she believes violates the First Amendment separation of church and state.

So when a classmate mentioned that her father was preparing a lawsuit for the American Civil Liberties Union, Brown jumped at the chance to join eight other students around the state as plaintiffs. The ACLU of Virginia, which filed the lawsuit in federal court on Thursday, is seeking to overturn a new law that instructs students to ''meditate, pray or engage in other silent activity'' during a minute of silence each day.
(...)

For Brown and the other plaintiffs, Virginia's moment of silence law, which goes into effect July 1, is an unconstitutional attempt to force religion on them.

The Virginia attorney general's office, which will defend the new law, says nobody is being required to pray.

The law is ''very clear that the decision whether to pray must be the decision of the student, not the decision of teachers or administrators and not subject to government pressure,'' Attorney General Mark L. Earley (R) said in a statement. ''After all, the moment of silence belongs to the students and no one else.''

But Mia Magruder, 13, a plaintiff from Central Virginia, has personal reasons for believing that she will face pressure to pray.

For the past year, the seventh-grader has been battling with a teacher who repeatedly promoted creationism and questioned students who, like Magruder, said they believed in evolution. Magruder talked back, but other students were more cowed, she and her father said.

''It blew me away that someone could try to go ahead and start converting people in school,'' said Magruder, a straight-A student who writes poetry and dances.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. Employer didn't know ponytail, religion were linked
Denver Post, June 24, 2000
http://www.denverpost.com/news/news0624l.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
June 24, 2000 - GRAND JUNCTION - An attorney for the company that won't allow an American Indian to work as a beer truck driver unless he cuts his hair insists the company didn't know about the religious significance of the man's long hair.

Central Distributing Co. attorney Frederick Aldrich said when James Carrillo was sent home on the day he was to begin training for a truck driving job, he did not mention that he wore his hair long because of American Indian religious beliefs - a claim Carrillo denies.

''The company has a dress code that includes hair above the collar,'' Aldrich said Friday. ''He was offered employment with a condition that he cut his hair. He came in the next day without a haircut. He never mentioned religious beliefs.''
(...)

Carrillo said when he returned to Central Tuesday he was told he couldn't work until he had his hair cut. He said one supervisor offered to cut it for him on the spot. He said several other American Indians working at the company came forward to say they cut their hair for the job and urged him to do the same.
(...)

Carrillo said he follows American Indian religious practices that recognize hair as a symbol of power and strength. A man is only supposed to cut his hair to show deep sorrow.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

22. Flocking to the Church of Oprah
Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2000
http://www.latimes.com/living/20000624/t000059965.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
DETROIT--A prophet walks among us and her name is Oprah. You know her as a television talk show host, one of the most popular, successful and recognizable women of our time. But make no mistake, she also is a teacher, sent to Earth to spread the word.

erhaps it is only fitting that a 21st century wise man is a woman and that her chief medium is electronic. Buddha might have taken to the airwaves, had they been available. Gifted with profound moral insight and exceptional rapport with her followers, Oprah Winfrey has grown from a masterful communicator into an inspirational phenomenon. Even a cynic would have to acknowledge that she appears to be driven by a passion for the betterment of humanity.

She has come by her revelations, profound and otherwise, through the hard work of introspection. Her daily television program, the highest-rated talk show of all time, reaches 22 million American viewers and is seen in 160 foreign countries; her Web site, Oprah.com, is visited by 1.3 million users a day; and the premiere issue of O: the Oprah Magazine sold 1.6 million copies and more than half a million subscriptions. Still, she is using yet another venue to share her perceptions of the examined life. This month, she is bringing her Personal Growth Summit to 5,000-seat arenas in four cities, including Los Angeles, where she'll speak at the Shrine Auditorium on Thursday.
(...)

Graham's thoughtful explanation of why she follows Oprah is typical of many here. Forty women who hired a bus and driver to take them to Detroit from their hometown near Toronto, the 32-year-old student and part-time bartender who flew in from Minneapolis, and a group of 17 ''girlfriends,'' ages 25 to 75, who traveled from a Cleveland suburb in two vans and a car, all admit to some hero worship. But, when questioned, they speak more about the substance of Oprah's social agenda and what it has meant to them than of how much they just love her.
(...)

Her friend Nancy Van Ness, a high school English teacher, added, ''I like the fact that she encourages women to search for the best they can be.''
(...)

With tickets priced from $20 to $30, the Personal Growth Summits don't seem designed to make money either. All profits will go to Oprah's Angel Network, a charity that has raised $3.5 million to fund college scholarships for needy students by pooling spare change that her viewers leave at collection points throughout the country.
(...)

Her disciples certainly don't think the Personal Growth Summits are overkill. Michelle Gannon, a 46-year-old Michigan homemaker who came to the Fox with her sister, said, ''We connect with her spiritual quest. I think she's on a mission from God.''

Is this to be a religious experience? Have these women come to the church of Oprah?
(...)

And so it goes. One life lesson after another--rules to live by, to grow by. Winfrey has the theatrical know-how and charisma to stage a revival meeting, to whip the crowd into a frenzy Elmer Gantry would envy. She doesn't do that. She is deliberately low-key. She wanders into places that are just this side of religious: ''I'm defined by my spirit, which comes from a greater spirit,'' but she stops short of proselytizing.

''I'm not here to preach to anyone about how to run your life,'' she says. ''I just know what worked for me and I'm here to share it. I'm not here for ego purposes. I feel the calling to share what I know and I hope it will be well-received. I'm hoping that you leave this place feeling a sense of empowerment that comes from inside. It doesn't come from me, because I don't have any power over your life. But you do.''

She's ingested this human-potential seed so completely that she can easily spit it out, in full bloom. She doesn't claim her message is new, only that it may heal the heart-sickness so many of her fans write her about in the 10,000 letters and 4,000 e-mails she receives a week. She's synthesized from the best, from Eastern and Western philosophy and the gurus of New Age enlightenment.
(...)

So much of the human-potential movement has used the promise of economic prosperity as bait. That has been integral to the presentations of Tony Robbins, Marianne Williamson and Terry Cole-Whittaker. In recent years, the most inviolable standards in America have been essentially marketplace values. Is it making any money? Are you making any money? In that climate, all sorts of cynical, hedonistic and nihilistic behavior flourishes.

Winfrey asks, Are you happy? Do you have peace of mind? Is your life worthwhile? Who else in the public eye poses these questions?
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Art contest winner dogged by controversy over portrayal of Jesus
CNN/AP, June 23, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/STYLE/arts/
06/23/religion.in.the.news.ap/index.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vermont (AP) -- For six months, artist Janet McKenzie has been steadily in demand for radio, television and newspaper interviews. She has been deluged with letters and e-mails hailing her as prophetic, begging to buy her painting.

Such is the fame that has come from her work, ''Jesus of the People.''

But the reaction has been equal parts fury, as well: letters, accusations of blasphemy, political correctness, racism, paganism and ignorance. Framed Plexiglas now protects the painting's dark-skinned, slightly feminine face crowned with thorns.

''There is not one single aspect of that painting that hasn't been ripped up, shredded, denied, misinterpreted, thrown back in my face; I've been told this is wrong on every level,'' says McKenzie, 51, at the Blue Heron Gallery in South Burlington, where ''Jesus of the People'' was exhibited before moving to New York and around the country.
(...)

On December 14, National Catholic Reporter, a Kansas City, Missouri-based weekly newspaper circulated in 96 countries, announced the results of its Jesus 2000 contest. People had been invited to send in their artwork with their interpretations of what Jesus should look like in the 21st century.
(...)

From nearly 1,700 entries, McKenzie's oil-on-canvas painting was chosen as the winner. She received a $2,000 award, and the image was reprinted on the newspaper's millennium issue cover.

''We knew it was potentially a controversy, but we really had no idea what to expect,'' says Michael Farrell, the paper's editor. ''We didn't think there would be such outrage.''
(...)

In painting ''Jesus of the People,'' controversy wasn't McKenzie's intent. But she says she's glad the painting has made people think. Her young mixed-race nephew in Los Angeles, she says, would never have been able to see himself in more traditional representations of Jesus.

The painting ''isn't about race or gender, first. It's about the essence of Jesus, which is about grace and love, first and foremost,'' she says.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. King of South Carolina
Washington Post, June 25, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43222-2000Jun22.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Ajamu, 60, is a high priest in the Yoruba religion and the foreign minister of Oyotunji, a 10-acre village near the southeastern town of Sheldon in Beaufort County whose residents consider it an independent nation, founded 30 years ago by a divine, polygamous king. Ajamu is carrying a ceremonial cane and wearing a white tropical shirt and trousers.

He leads the trucker and his wife into an unlit room. They sit down to talk.
(...)

After a half-hour, the trucker emerges from his consultation, smiling broadly, thrilled with Chief Ajamu. ''He's real,'' he says. ''He's real!''

Ajamu won't discuss his consultations--they're as secret as a Catholic confession, he says--but the trucker is eager to talk. He says Ajamu could see the spirits that are tormenting him. They're offering him his old girlfriend back if he'll cross over to the evil side. But if he takes the offer, his wife will die and so will his old girlfriend's husband.

Now that he knows what he's up against, the trucker figures he can fight it. He's a satisfied customer. Ajamu asked $50 for the consultation. The trucker left $60, and considered it a bargain.

''These people know how to deal with spirits,'' he says. ''They really, really do.''
(...)

Oyotunji is a voodoo religious community, a pseudo-independent country and a roadside tourist trap. It was founded in 1970 by King Oseijeman Ofuntola Adefumni I and a few dozen of his followers, all of them African Americans, most of them from New York.
(...)

Religious dissidents carving a community out of the wilderness is an old American tradition--think Pilgrims, Mormons, Shakers--but King was more interested in African traditions. He organized Oyotunji as a traditional Yoruba village, complete with royalty, polygamy and animal sacrifices. King, now the king--or Oba, as the ruler is called in Yoruba--quickly took several wives. At one point, he was married to eight women.

Despite some petty harassment from local whites, the village grew, attracting scores of black Americans who longed to return to their African roots. Some left quickly. Some stayed for years. One tried to kill the king.
(...)

Nowadays, Oyotunji is a kind of voodoo Vatican--home to a couple dozen permanent residents, plus visiting pilgrims and students who live there while studying to become priests. It's a respectable part of the community these days, a member in good standing of the Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. An inseparable church and state: On greeks playing the Euro card
On Greeks Playing the Euro Card
New York Times, June 25, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/review/
062500greek-euro-review.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ROME -- On Monday, the European Union tapped Greece to become the latest member to adopt the euro as a common currency. The approval was recognition that Greece, and its newly trimmed economy, was ready to join the club of modern Europe.

On Wednesday, Orthodox church leaders gathered hundreds of thousands of protesters carrying Greek flags and crucifixes in what was the second mass demonstration this month to protest the government's decision to remove religious affiliation from state identity cards, which brings it in line with other members of the European Union.

The government views the change as a way to protect minorities and a natural step on the path to European integration and custom. The church, however, views it as an assault on Greek nationalism and identity, and its own authority. ''Resist, my dear Christians,'' Archbishop Christodoulos told cheering crowds. ''The forces of globalization and religious marginalization are out to get us.''

The clash between national identity and the homogenized political values of a newly integrated Europe is found in other countries eager to be let in. These days, Greece is a society tugged in opposite directions, as it tries to reconcile its past with its uncertain future. It is a member of the European Union and of NATO, yet it is also the poorest country in the European Union and the only one where the Orthodox faith is dominant. Though the country has placed its economic future in Europe, it is also a Balkan nation, bound by history and geography to ancient, unresolved conflicts and festering grievances.

Interest rates, inflation and government spending are the criteria for entrance into the euro. But membership has other implicit rules of conduct, including religious pluralism and commitment to security. Greece has passed the economic hurdle, but still struggles with the social and cultural costs.

Church and state are not separate in Greece, where 97 percent of the population is Orthodox, and the constitution stipulates that the Orthodox religion is dominant.
(...)

The church played a huge role in preserving Greek language and culture under the Ottoman Empire. It was one of the few institutions providing moral leadership during the Nazi occupation. Even Greeks who are not particularly religious are not dismissive of the church's role.

And perhaps emboldened by the popularity of its anti-NATO stance during the war in Kosovo, the church has asserted itself more strongly of late. The church is worried that the country plans to institute a separation of church and state, which among other things would drastically reduce church income.

The battle over the identity cards hit a nerve throughout Greek society. More than 70 percent support adopting the euro, viewing it as a passport to economic growth and stability.

Yet, in a recent poll, 40 percent said they supported the church's stance on identity cards. And that seems to be less about religious fervor than the tension between Greece's traditionalist past and modern future.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Faith Popcorn shines light on evolution of spirituality
Detroit News, June 22, 2000
http://detnews.com/2000/religion/0006/25/e06-79315.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[t00.html#trends ]
(...) ''The future will be so radically different from anything we've known before, that having a spiritual connection will become more profoundly important,'' says Popcorn, answering questions on her web site, www.faithpopcorn.com. ''Spirituality and religion, however, will become much more self-defined. In essence, people will mix and pour their own religious cocktails.

''There will be a morphing of traditional religious practices and denominations. ... We'll see some people at the center of organized religions react to this by becoming more and more fundamentalist.''
(...)

This kind of talk comes easy for a Jewish girl who spent part of her childhood in Catholic schools in Shanghai, with a father who was a lawyer who worked for what became the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. As a young woman, the future futurist dreamed of a career in New York's theaters, but ended up as an ad copywriter. One mentor couldn't pronounce her name -- Faith Plotkin -- and christened her Faith Popcorn. In 1974, she helped start BrainReserve and, in 1991, wrote The Popcorn Report. The rest is the opposite of history.
(...)

''We're all at the start of a great awakening, a time of spiritual and religious revival,'' Popcorn insists. ''What's different about this awaking is that there's very little agreement on who or what God is, what constitutes worship and what this outpouring means.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty / US Human Rights Violations

27. U.N., European Union denounce execution
Seatlle Post-Intelligencer, June 24, 2000
http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/national/exec24.shtmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK -- The United Nations joined the European Union yesterday in denouncing the execution of Gary Graham as an uncivilized act rejected by most of the world.

''The execution of Mr. Graham ran counter to widely accepted international principles and to the international community's expressed desire for the abolition of the death penalty,'' said Mary Robinson, the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights.

A letter from Robinson to Texas Gov. George W. Bush on Wednesday noted ''overwhelming international consensus'' against the death penalty for juvenile offenders who ''lack maturity and judgment.''
(...)

''More importantly,'' Robinson wrote, ''it reflects the belief that children and juveniles are more susceptible to change, and thus have a greater potential for rehabilitation than adults.''

In 1984, the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council adopted safeguards against the execution of people who commit a capital crime under age 18.

The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to abolish the death penalty several times. Islamic countries, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States, have voted in support of capital punishment.

Robinson said the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of the Child bars capital punishment for crimes committed by youths. She said the 1990 treaty by 191 nations was ''one of the most universally ratified human rights instruments.''

The United States signed but has not ratified it. Robinson told Bush that as a signatory, the United States was still ''obliged not to violate the spirit and intent of the treaty.''

Portugal, which holds the European Union presidency until July 1, also criticized the execution. ''The EU is absolutely . . . against the death penalty,'' said a spokesman for the Portuguese mission to the U.N. ''The EU has tried to convince the U.S. not to resume capital punishment.''

France, which will take over the six-month rotating EU presidency, was stronger in its denunciation. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret said the French consul in Houston intervened several times on Graham's behalf.

''We are dismayed by the news,'' she said in Paris. ''We especially regret that the authorities in Texas knowingly took the risk of putting an innocent man to death.''

Gazeau-Secret added, ''We will make the campaign for a moratorium on executions in the United States into one of the themes of our presidency of the European Union.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Death by incompetence
US News & World Report, June 26, 2000
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/000626/26edit.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Over a dozen years ago, Walter McMillian was arrested for the murder of a young white woman in his hometown of Monroeville, Ala. McMillian was a 45-year-old self-employed contractor who had no prior felony convictions. He also happened to be black. Numerous witnesses called on his behalf said he had been at home at the time with about 30 to 35 people, raising money for his sister's church. The state put on three witnesses against him. McMillian was convicted, and a judge sentenced him to death. McMillian continued to proclaim his innocence. Two years later, an outside attorney, Bryan Stevenson, took up McMillian's cause and worked doggedly on it for the next four years. He found that the police had concealed exculpatory statements from the state's primary witness against McMillian. After nearly six years on death row, McMillian was set free in 1993.

Had it not been for Bryan Stevenson, McMillian would probably be dead by now, a mere statistic in America's struggle with violent crime. Stevenson is a Harvard-trained lawyer who is devoting his life to a nonprofit organization, the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, helping poor people accused of capital crimes. He won a MacArthur grant and devoted his $250,000 prize money to the organization. Stevenson also happens to be black.

Last week, Stevenson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the death penalty is now a red-hot issue. ''The desire to achieve a capital murder conviction at any cost frequently results in proceedings where a reliable determination of guilt or innocence is not likely,'' he told the lawmakers. His ability to free McMillian, he believes, is a sign not that the system is working but rather that it is badly out of whack.

It would be morally reassuring to think that the McMillian case was an aberration, a remnant of the Old South. But last week also brought forward a stunning report from a team of researchers at the Columbia Law School that makes plain that what happened in Alabama is happening all over the country.
(...)

With the facts staring us in the eye, it would be unconscionable for the nation to continue on its current course. Congress should promptly pass legislation allowing death-row defendants to use DNA tests. The 37 other states that apply the death penalty should follow the lead of Illinois, placing a moratorium on executions until each state can be absolutely certain that it is not taking an innocent life.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Fatal, fallible penalty
Boston Globe, June 24, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/176/editorials/
Fatal_fallible_penalty+.shtml
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Gary Graham's execution in Texas may yet have redemptive value if it marks the beginning of the end of capital punishment in the United States. More than many recent cases, Graham's displayed the essential fallibility of the death penalty. He was convicted with no physical evidence, on the testimony of a single eyewitness, and given poor legal representation in a state with a troubled history of unequal justice for black men, especially those, like Graham, accused of killing a white victim.
(...)

The more attention is paid to individual cases like Graham's, the more Americans are able to break through the complacency that allows the mechanistic application of lethal injections and electric volts.

But Graham's case, chilling as it is, shouldn't obscure the individual humanity of the 221 other people coolly put to death in Texas since the Supreme Court declared capital punishment constitutional in 1976, the 76 executed in Virginia, the 42 in Missouri, the 48 in Florida, or the 28 in Oklahoma. As the death rolls mount, so do the chances that states are making fatal errors.

Increasingly, the public is rethinking its reflexive support for capital punishment, and for good reason.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Death penalty splits faithful
Detroit Morning News, June 23, 2000
http://detnews.com/2000/religion/0006/25/06240002.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The pope is against it. Southern Baptists are for it. And when it comes to the death penalty, there are all sorts of religious flavors in between.

The ethical conflicts are inherent. Most religions prohibit killing, per se. But most allow ''just'' killing, whether in war or through courtrooms, like the ones that stepped aside Thursday as Texas executed inmate Gary Graham.

Romans 13 is very clear that one of the options available for wanton taking of human life is the ''forfeiture of that person's life,'' says the Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission,

Pope John Paul II reads a different Bible.

''Cases where it is absolutely necessary to do away with an offender are now very rare, even nonexistent practically,'' the pope said recently in a special message to Americans called ''Ecclesia in America.''

Routine executions amount to a culture of death, said the pope, who also includes abortion in such a culture.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Death Penalty Support Softening, Polls Show
New York Times, June 22, 2000
http://www10.nytimes.com/library/
national/062200poll-watch.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Support for the death penalty, which had reached 80 percent a few years ago, appears to be softening, though a majority of Americans still favor executions to punish convicted murderers, according to recent polls.

While the candidates are doing what others have done before them, namely striving to appear tough on the issue without seeming bloodthirsty, the public is more hard line: They favor capital punishment even when reminded that some people are executed for crimes they did not commit.
(...)

So what is going on here? The candidates are being forced to walk a fine line while public opinion begins what may be a shift. While the Gallup Organization reported in 1994 that 80 percent of all Americans favored the death penalty, that number has been dropping and was 62 percent in an NBC News poll in May.

When the death penalty is put against life imprisonment, support for the death penalty falls to 52 percent, and life imprisonment is 37 percent, as was the case in a Gallup poll in February.

For now, Americans say their position on the death penalty is a simple question of justice. They see the death penalty as a way for the state to take a life for one that has been taken. It is irrelevant to them whether the death penalty acts a deterrent to crime or whether some people are convicted unfairly.

According to the Gallup poll conducted in February, Americans generally believe that poor people and blacks are more likely to be given the death penalty than are people of average income and whites convicted of similar crimes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Death Penalty Doubts in California
San Francisco Chronicle, June 22, 2000
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
file=/chronicle/archive/2000/06/22/MN21071.DTL
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
By nearly 4 to 1, Californians favor stopping state executions to study how the death penalty is applied, according to a Field Poll released today.

Although Californians still favor the death penalty 2 to 1, the support for a moratorium reflects a growing national worry that the legal system's ultimate penalty may be snaring the innocent along with the guilty.

''This crosses party lines, gender lines and ethnic lines,'' said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

The surprising results show that not only do 83 percent of Democrats favor a temporary ban on executions, but so do 62 percent of Republicans, usually the staunchest death penalty backers.
(...)

Despite the poll results, Gov. Gray Davis will not back a moratorium, said his spokeswoman, Hilary McLean.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. Time for California To Stop Killing, Too
San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
file=/chronicle/archive/2000/06/23/ED107708.DTL
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
REMEMBER when the debate over the death penalty centered on moral grounds?
(...)

But with the death penalty debate raging anew, ethics and morality are not at issue. Fairness and justice are. That is why an overwhelming majority of Californians-- who still heavily support the death penalty -- has become skittish about executions and want them stopped until it can be determined that the truly guilty are the only ones dying.

A Field Poll has found 73 percent of the state favors a moratorium on executions, but a recalcitrant Gov. Davis refuses to stop them. He believes that California has enough safeguards to prevent any mistakes.

It's a bold assertion, in light of compelling national studies that show, with particular regard to the death penalty, that our legal system is rife with flaws.
(...)

In California, where 560 inmates are on Death Row, voters are asking for a change. Gov. Davis has an opportunity to change his stance without fear of losing political support. If he is worried about looking soft on crime, Davis should consider the voter mood and do the right thing: Put the brakes on executions until the state feels more confident about capital punishment.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Charges of Bias Challenge U.S. Death Penalty
New York Times, June 24, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/library/
national/062400fed-death.html
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON, June 23 -- In the current debate over the death penalty, the focus has been largely on the states, primarily Illinois, whose governor has declared a moratorium, and Texas, which puts more inmates to death than most countries and whose governor, of course, is running for president.

This has allowed the Clinton administration to remain largely above the fray because there has not been a federal execution in nearly 40 years. Although Vice President Al Gore favors the death penalty, he has not faced the tough questioning that Gov. George W. Bush has, and Mr. Gore has said little other than that he does not see the need for a federal moratorium.

But the case of a condemned migrant worker may soon call attention to the federal capital punishment system.

Juan Raul Garza, a migrant farm worker and high school dropout who was convicted seven years ago of marijuana smuggling and three drug-related murders in Brownsville, Tex., is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 5. It would be the first federal execution since John F. Kennedy was president, when a man was put to death by hanging in Iowa for kidnapping and murder.

The Garza case raises broad and, for many, troubling issues about the application of the federal death penalty, most specifically, whether race and geography determine who is sentenced to die at the hands of the United States government.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Books

35. Welcome Back, 'Potter'
Washington Post, June 25, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55465-2000Jun24.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]

Here is what we do know:

- The new Harry Potter bookOff-site Link, the fourth volume in the super-selling series by British writer J.K. Rowling, is the biggest publishing event in American history.

- Scholastic is cranking out 3.8 million copies right off the bat, the largest first printing of any book ever, said Judy Corman of the publishing company. As a yardstick: A John Grisham novel usually has a measly first printing of 2.5 million or so.

- Nearly 30 million copies of the three other Harry Potter books are already in print. They have been published in more than two dozen languages. That's a better per-book average worldwide than Dr. Seuss.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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Harry Potter - Book IV (Title unknown until releas)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0439139597/christianministrOff-site Link


36. Ancient Judaism Is New Age,Says Author
Salt Lake Tribune, June 24, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/2000/jun/06242000/saturday/61528.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Angels, reincarnation, meditation, holistic healing are some of the hallmarks of New Age spirituality.

To experience such spiritual ecstasy or mystical union with God, many of today's religious seekers feel they must journey to India and Japan.

But, according to New York author Melinda Ribner, all of these techniques and ideas can be found within ancient Judaism.

''The New Age is so Jewish,'' said Ribner, author of New Age Judaism: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern WorldOff-site Link, in a phone interview this week.

Ribner, who will be in Utah on Wednesday, to sign copies of her book at the downtown Barnes & Noble, draws many of her ideas from the work of two Jewish saints: Rabbi Yitzchok Luria in the 16th century and the Baal Shem Tov in the 17th century.
(...)

Ribner acknowledges that belief in reincarnation is not ''mainstream'' Judaism, but she said many Jews do have a sense that suffering is handed down through generations.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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37. 'Papal Sin' Author On Crusade for Change
San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 2000
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
file=/chronicle/archive/2000/06/17/DD72543.DTL
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Garry Wills goes to Mass most Sundays, and tries to recite the rosary every day. He attended a Jesuit seminary and seriously considered becoming a priest. Last year, he wrote an adoring biography of St. Augustine, the fifth century titan of Catholic theology.

Wills, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, cares about the church, understands the evolution of Catholic dogma and possesses a brilliant, fiercely independent mind.

In other words, he's a dangerous character.

His new book, ''Papal Sin: Structures of DeceitOff-site Link,'' will keep papal apologists and defenders of the Holy Roman Church busy for a long time. It's a stinging indictment of how the Vatican has rewritten history and twisted the truth in a desperate effort to preserve outdated teachings on human sexuality and gender equality.

To Wills, the church's continuing condemnation of birth control and masturbation as ''mortal sins,'' and its refusal to even consider the ordination of women and married priests, has undermined its authority on other, more central matters of the faith.

What ties all these issues together are deeply embedded ''structures of deceit,'' a theological house of cards on the verge of tumbling down. The signs are everywhere, Wills notes, but especially in a rash of lawsuits against pedophile priests, and a crisis in new vocations.
(...)

Wills, a history professor at Northwestern University, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his book ''Lincoln at Gettysburg.''

His grasp of church history is equally impressive. In his new book, Wills argues that the most serious papal sins today are dishonesty and intellectual betrayal. He recounts how Paul VI ignored his own commission of theological advisers in the 1960s and issued his unpopular, and widely ignored, encyclical on contraception, Humanae Vitae.
(...)

''Papal Sin'' is a strident assault on the rising power of the papacy in the church, and it comes in sharp contrast to a recent series of glowing papal biographies, such as George Weigel's ''Witness to Hope.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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