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Religion News Report

July 22, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 233)

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=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Interim report clears government of wrongdoing at Waco
2. Danforth clears U.S. in Davidian tragedy
3. ''This is not a close call''
4. Counsel's input sought in Waco siege
5. Danforth Speaks : Special counsel's report vindicates government
6. FBI chief hails new Waco report
7. Former FBI official Byron Sage on the Waco advisory verdict

=== World Message Last Warning
8. Bushara charged
9. I'm preaching God's word - Bushara

=== Aum Shinrikyo
10. Asahara children refused registration by Ibaraki town

=== Falun Gong
11. Cult members' suicide threat
12. Falun Gong Marks Ban Anniversary with Protests
13. Beijing lacks new strategy in anti-cult battle
14. Chinese agency slams ''evil'' Falun Gong, anti-China forces
15. China Savages Falun Gong
16. With Beijing BC-China-Banned-Sect, Bgt (moved under World)
17. Falun Gong Holds D.C. Vigil

=== Scientology
18. Judge releases McPherson autopsy photos
19. Judge releases McPherson photos
20. Scientology Papers Inquiry Begins
21. Catholic Church warns of Scientology front organization

=== Hinduism
22. Indian priest jailed for marrying girl to dog

=== Islam
23. Arrests made in cigarette trafficking to aid Hezbollah

=== Catholicism
24. Catholic-Orthodox talks end; differences remain
25. Dutch will not prosecute Pope for anti-gay remarks

=== Other News
26. Colorado authorities probe latest death in church opposed to medical care
27. Australian guru accused of molesting girls
28. Father of woman missing in Tokyo sets up new hotline
29. Foreign Missionaries Being Driven Out Of Russia
30. Hopi Eagle-Taking Brings Conflict
31. Village Expels 29 Mexico Families

=== Noted
32. And lead them not into temptation, OzzFesters

=== Books, Film, Internet, Other Media
33. The Eyes of Tammy Faye': A Televangelist Nightmare, but With Optimism
34. All eyes on Tammy Faye
35. Getting an online glimpse into cults

=== The Cereal Maker Around The Corner
36. General Mills apologizes for sending CD-ROM bibles with cereal


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Interim report clears government of wrongdoing at Waco
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2000
http://www.postnet.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Citing ''overwhelming evidence,'' special counsel John C. Danforth Friday said that the preliminary results of his investigation into the confrontation with the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, in 1993 cleared the government of any of the ''dark questions'' he was asked to look into.

Specifically, the former U.S. senator said ''with 100 percent certainty'' that:

- Government agents did not start the fire at Waco.
- Government agents did not shoot at the Davidians on April 19, 1993.
- Government did not improperly use the United States military.
- Government did not engage in a massive conspiracy and cover-up.

Noting that his office's 10-month investigation reviewed more than 2 million pages of documents, interviewed almost 900 witnesses and examined a large amount of physical evidence, Danforth told a news conference:

''Responsibility for the tragedy at Waco rests with certain of the Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh, who shot and killed four ATF agents, wounded 20 others, shot at FBI agents trying to insert tear gas into the complex, burned down the complex and shot at least 20 of their own people, including five children.''

Danforth said his investigation had reached conclusions on 95 percent of the issues that Attorney General Janet Reno asked him to investigate. He hopes that the remaining questions can be answered in the next three and a half months. They include:

- What happened to certain physical evidence?
- Why did the FBI deny until last year the existence of audio tapes authorizing
the FBI to use pyrotechnic rounds at the confrontation.
- Why did the Justice Department team prosecuting the Branch Davidians fail to
disclose the use of pyrotechnic rounds?
- Why did the FBI provide incorrect information about the use of pyrotechnic
tear gas during congressional hearings in 1995?

In a preface to the 149-page interim report, Danforth noted the strong amount of evidence that exonerated government agents' behavior during the 51-day siege and its conclusion. He also noted that a poll last August indicated that 61 percent of the public believed that federal agents started the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian complex.

That discrepancy, Danforth wrote, shows the need for frankness in government investigations of such incidents.
(...)

He spent much of the time in the news conference emphasizing his theme that the mistrust that surrounds the fire at the Branch Davidian complex undermines basic American tenets. He said he hopes people will use the interim report to help erase some of that lack of trust.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Danforth clears U.S. in Davidian tragedy
Dallas Morning News, July 21, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The former senator who spent ten months attempting to shed light on ''dark questions'' about the Branch Davidian siege said Friday that he found no evidence of wrongdoing by the government during events near Waco that left more than 80 people dead in 1993.

Special Counsel John Danforth said federal agents did not start the fire at the compound, did not shoot at Davidians as the compound burned and did not engage in a ''massive conspiracy and coverup.''

He placed blame for the deaths of the Davidians and four federal agents during the siege completely on the shoulders of cult-leader David Koresh and certain of his followers. They started the fire and ''shot at least 20 of their own people, including five children'' on the last day of the siege, he said.

Mr. Danforth - who said about 900 people were interviewed and 2 million documents examined during his inquiry - also said he found that Attorney General Janet Reno and other government officials both in Washington, D.C., and on the scene in Waco did not act wrongfully during the siege.

''All of us should be more skeptical of those who make sensational accusations of evil acts by government,'' he said. ''At the same time, government personnel, especially government lawyers, owe the American people an openness and candor that was lacking in the response to the tragedy in Waco.''

Mr. Danforth was appointed by Ms. Reno last year after the Justice Department admitted, after years of denials, that pyrotechnic tear-gas grenades were used at the compound site on April 19, 1993.

At the Friday's news conference, he said the use of those grenades bears ''absolutely no relationship to the tragedy'' because they were fired at a site about 75 feet from where the compound burned to the ground four hours later.

But Mr. Danforth did say an FBI agent, an FBI attorney and some members of the government team involved in the 1994 criminal trial against the Davidians were less than honest about the use of those tear-gas grenades on the last day of the siege.

He said public confidence in the government was shaken by 1999 revelations that those grenades were used, ''albeit harnlessly.''

Mr. Danforth said he decided to publicize the preliminary results of his investigation after a jury's civil verdict last week vindicated the government because ''I have always felt that it was important to answer these dark questions to the American people as soon as we were sure of the answers.''

He later said of his 150-page report, ''I hope that it is completely convincing to the American people.''
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3. ''This is not a close call''
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2000
http://www.postnet.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Special counsel John C. Danforth announced Friday that ''overwhelming'' evidence showed that federal agents did not shoot Branch Davidians or start the fire that engulfed their complex near Waco, Texas, in 1993.

Danforth also said there was no evidence that the military acted illegally or that there was a massive cover-up by government officials after the tragedy that took about 80 lives. Danforth's conclusions were contained in a 150-page report that broke 10 months of silence on his investigation.

''I can say that the conclusion that I have reached in this report was reached to my satisfaction with 100 percent certainty,'' Danforth said. ''There is no doubt in my mind.''
(...)

While his findings are preliminary, Danforth said they accounted for about 95 percent of the investigation. He said there is still a possibility that criminal charges could be filed based on some actions by federal officials who may have misled their superiors or failed to disclose information about the use of military tear gas rounds. Danforth would not discuss that aspect of the investigation.

Danforth, a former U.S. senator from Missouri, staked his reputation on the report, which he called ''the most important work I have ever done.''
(...)

While there was no ''massive cover-up,'' Danforth concluded that an FBI lawyer, Jacqueline Brown, failed to tell lawyers in the U.S. Justice Department that the military rounds - which could start fires - had been used away from the complex. Danforth said it would be ''overkill'' to prosecute Brown.

But the investigation continues into whether two Justice Department prosecutors who led the criminal case against the Davidians violated the law by not disclosing the use of the pyrotechnic tear gas. They are LeRoy Jahn and her husband, Ray Jahn, of San Antonio.

Ray Jahn submitted a written statement to Congress in 1995 saying the FBI had used only ''nonlethal ferret rounds.'' He admitted to Danforth's investigators that he knew pyrotechnic rounds had been used, but claimed his misstatement to Congress was only ''negligent.'' Danforth said he ''is still investigating whether the criminal trial team intentionally concealed ... the use of pyrotechnic tear gas rounds from counsel for the Davidians and from Congress.''

Danforth also said that Richard Rogers, the head of the FBI's hostage rescue team at Waco, had sat silently behind Reno and FBI Director Williams Sessions when they testified to Congress in 1993 that no pyrotechnics were used. Danforth said Rogers didn't violate any law but should have spoken up.

In addition, Danforth said he was investigating what happened to the missing pyrotechnic tear gas rounds.
(...)

While the report absolves the government of deliberate bad acts, it did not probe judgment calls made by the federal agents that dealt with the Davidians. Danforth did not deal with the initial raid by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that started the standoff. The ATF went ahead with the raid even though its commanders knew they had lost the element of surprise.

Later, the commanders lied about knowing that surprise had been lost. In the initial raid, four agents were killed and 20 were wounded. Also, six Davidians were killed.

The report also did not question the FBI's decisions to use converted tanks and tear gas to roust the Davidians. Some FBI negotiators objected to the plan, saying it would lead to a violent end to the confrontation. Danforth said it was the job of Congress or the agencies themselves to examine the judgment calls, and he would not comment on whether they should do so.

Danforth said the responsibility for what happened rested with the sect's leader, David Koresh, and the Davidians who followed him. He said surveillance recordings that picked up the conversations from inside the complex showed that people were talking about setting a fire. He said that as the fire consumed the complex, some Davidians killed their own children with gunshots to the head.

Danforth said there were several pieces of evidence that discounted allegations that FBI agents fired guns at the complex:

All witnesses interviewed said the FBI did not fire.

Pathologists reported that the Davidians who died from gunshots had wounds that were not consistent with high velocity rounds that would have come from government assault and sniper rifles.

Two experts in infrared technology reported that flashes on a surveillance tape were not gunfire. One company, Vector Data System Ltd., reported in May that a simulation test showed the flashes were not gunfire. Danforth's report contained findings from a second expert, Lena Klasen, who determined from the infrared tape and photographs that there had been no people near the flashes.
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4. Counsel's input sought in Waco siege
Dallas Morning News, July 22, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/115858_dcwaco_22tex.A.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON - Congress wants to hear from the Waco special counsel who has emphatically cleared the government of wrongdoing during the 1993 Branch Davidian siege.

Hours after he issued FBI">a report exonerating federal law enforcement, special counsel John Danforth was asked Friday to appear next week before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee reinvestigating the government's conduct at Waco.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, want Mr. Danforth to explain how he conducted his sweeping, $12 million investigation and answer questions about the 51-day standoff that ended with the deaths of about 80 Branch Davidians.

''We need to know obviously more than his conclusions, but the details of the evidence and what he has done,'' Mr. Specter said. ''... There is a responsibility on congressional oversight to make an independent determination. The starting point is to get the details as to what Danforth has done.''
(...)

Ms. Reno appointed Mr. Danforth last September after the Justice Department was forced to recant years of denials that pyrotechnic tear-gas devices were used on the siege's final day. She declined to comment on Waco because of her role in approving the FBI's tear gas plan. She designated her deputy, Mr. Holder, to deal with Mr. Danforth.

''We join Senator Danforth in wishing that this report begins the process of restoring the faith of the people in their government,'' Mr. Holder said.

But in some circles, the report did little to quell the tenaciously held belief that the government committed wrongful acts and then covered them up.

''We had received indications from Danforths' office that they intended to tow the government line on every issue,'' said Michael Caddell, the lead plaintiff's attorney in the civil suit. He said he was troubled by the fact that the inquiry accepted the explanations of FBI commanders and other agents with little criticism, even though ''they've admitted that they lied for seven years,'' about the pyrotechnic tear-gas grenades issues.

''But you're willing to believe them on everything else? These people are never challenged on their credibility,'' he said.

Mr. Caddell agreed with some of the report's conclusions, specifically those clearing the military of an active role in Waco. But he was disappointed in much of its findings, especially Mr. Danforth's assertion that the FBI's commanders in Waco did not violate Washington-approved operation plans by sending tanks in to dismantle the building on the last day of the siege. Mr. Caddell says a 1993 document initialed by the two on-scene commanders describes their mission as a demolition.

He said the report also failed to address criticisms that were raised in depositions of infrared experts hired by Mr. Danforth and the federal court that is hearing the civil case.

''There are a number of us, us being Waco critics, who are dumfounded by his results,'' said Colorado filmmaker Michael McNulty, whose two Waco documentaries popularized the theory that agents fired on the Davidians, trapping them inside their burning retreat. ''I'm afraid Danforth has not answered all of the dark questions.''

Branch Davidian Clive Doyle said the findings in Mr. Danforth's report came as no surprise, especially after the jury's verdict last week.

''It takes somebody with a lot more courage, than probably most politicians have got, to stick their neck out and buck the system,'' said Mr. Doyle, who survived the fire that consumed the compound at the end of the siege and who is a plaintiff in the suit. ''His job is make Janet Reno look good, make the government look good, because ... he is trying to get people to trust the government again, so he's got to exonerate them. Otherwise, you still got the problem.''

Taken with the jury's findings, Mr. Danforth's report could blunt the move toward in-depth congressional hearings.
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5. Danforth Speaks : Special counsel's report vindicates government
Dallas Morning News, July 22, 2000 (Editorial)
http://dallasnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
An American tragedy as horrifying as the 1993 conflagration at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco deserves closure. Perhaps the long-awaited independent report on the Waco tragedy will provide a measure of it.

Breaking 10 months of silence on Friday, special counsel John Danforth's interim report on the siege concludes in very direct language that government agents at Mount Carmel acted properly.
(...)

The strong, unequivocal affirmation of government actions at Waco offers compelling evidence that ought to quell suspicions that have swirled for seven years around the final hours of the siege. The basic theme of conspiracy theorists is that the government committed outrageous acts and lied about them.

But as the facts emerge from separate probes, the conspiracy theory falls apart. Earlier this month, an advisory jury in a wrongful death case rejected claims of government impropriety. Now an independent report, free of the constraints of courtroom rules of evidence, has come empathetically to the same conclusion after 10 months of culling over 2 million pages of documents, interviewing over 900 witnesses and examining mountains of physical evidence.

Nevertheless, the Waco episode is yet another wound to faith and trust in government. And for that there is government shame, if not blame.

Mr. Danforth said he is concerned that some FBI agents and government lawyers concealed evidence of pyrotechnic devices being used on the final day of the siege. These devices did not cause the fatal fire. However, the lack of candor has ''caused some real damage to our country.''

''All of us should be more skeptical of those who make sensational accusations of evil acts by government,'' he said. ''At the same time, government personnel, especially government lawyers, owe the American people an openness and candor that was lacking in the response to the tragedy in Waco.''

The events at Mount Carmel deserved a thorough review. The confrontation undoubtedly was a tragedy, but to keep dissension alive without any new evidence would be even more tragic.
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6. FBI chief hails new Waco report
CNN. July 21, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ST. LOUIS -- FBI Director Louis Freeh said Friday his agency has been vindicated by a special counsel's newly issued interim report clearing the government of wrongdoing in the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas.

''The simple truth, as the FBI has maintained since April 19, 1993, has been unmistakingly confirmed again today,'' Freeh said.

''The FBI fired no shots on that day and the Davidians started the fires that ultimately engulfed the compound,'' he said.

In his preliminary report to the U.S. Justice Department, special counsel and former U.S. Senator John Danforth said that Davidian leader David Koresh and several other group members were entirely responsible for the incident that claimed more than 80 lives.

''The tragedy at Waco rests with certain Branch Davidians and their leader David Koresh who shot and killed four (government) agents, wounded 20 others, shot at FBI agents trying to insert tear gas into the complex, burned down the complex, and shot at least 20 of their own people, including five children,'' Danforth's report said.
(...)

But Danforth said the investigation revealed ''that a few government lawyers and an FBI agent did conceal from the public, Congress and the courts that an FBI agent fired three pyrotechnic tear gas rounds.''

Danforth said the tear gas was ''fired at a construction area about 75 feet from the living quarters of the Branch Davidian complex four hours before the fire and ... did not cause the fire.''

''Although the government did nothing evil on April 19, 1993, the failure of some of its employees to fully and openly disclose to the American people the use of pyrotechnic devices undermined public confidence in government and caused real damage to our country,'' Danforth said.
(...)

Ramsey Clark, who represented several survivors and relatives at the civil trial, said the report ''failed to address the obvious.''

''If their conduct was so right,'' Ramsey asked, ''how did it end so very wrong, with so many deaths?''

Clark added that Danforth's report, along with the jury verdict, only reinforces dangerous law enforcement practices.

Danforth did not address whether government agents used poor judgment at Waco. ''This was an investigation into bad acts, not bad judgment,'' he said.

Reno named Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, as an outside investigator under pressure from members of Congress who claimed there had been a government cover-up.

His final report is expected in 3 1/2 months and Danforth said the tab for the investigation will be almost $12 million.
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7. Former FBI official Byron Sage on the Waco advisory verdict
Findlaw/CNN, July 19, 2000
http://news.findlaw.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(CNN) -- Former FBI supervisor Byron Sage joined Law Chat on Wednesday, July 19, to talk about the advisory verdict in the Branch Davidian civil lawsuit against the federal government. Sage was the FBI's principal hostage negotiator in the Branch Davidian standoff at Waco, Texas, in 1993.

On Friday, July 14, a five-member advisory jury concluded that the federal government was not to blame in the deaths of 80 Branch Davidian members in a 51-day standoff that culminated in a shootout and fire at the Davidian compound near Waco. A federal judge will make a final decision in August.
(...)

Chat Moderator: Are you satisfied with the verdict in the trial?

Byron Sage: I am satisfied with it, but I am not comfortable that we had the opportunity to get as much information out to the American public as I would like. Also, it's important to note that this is a partial resolution. The court's final verdict will probably not be entered until August, and we don't know what that will be.
(...)

Chat Moderator: Can you tell us about some of the evidence that was presented in this case?

Byron Sage: I think the most powerful evidence was introduction of the court-authorized microphone intercepts from the communications inside the compound. The reason I focus on that is because here the court received, and hopefully the public received, the first glimpse of actual statements of intent by the Davidians themselves.

Instead of the government saying that they did this or that, you actually have the Davidians talking about setting the fire, spreading the fuel, and everything that caused the tragic incident of April 19, 1993. Some of the conversations actually went back as far as March 15, 1993.

Question from denise: Do you suspect the plaintiff's attorneys will appeal this verdict and the likely final verdict? Or will they come to the realization finally they have no case?

Byron Sage: I think that there will be an appeal, but I don't think that they will prevail. The only reason I say that with such confidence is that the facts are not present to support the allegations. What they are alleging simply did not happen. We did not shoot into the compound. We did not start the fires. We gave the people inside that building every opportunity to exit safely. They chose to perish inside.

Question from Chicago: Mr. Sage, do you think the jury was persuaded by comments like ''you always wanted to be a charcoal briquette''?

Byron Sage: Yes. That was a quote from Steve Schneider, a Davidian. He actually makes this comment after coming from a meeting with David Koresh. I think it's a powerful statement in the context of how it was made. It was made the night before the fire on the April 19, and it was expressed almost in a joking or light-hearted fashion. There was laughter involved.

These people are actually talking about setting the building ablaze and killing themselves, including the children. To me, that was absolutely chilling. I have no doubt that it had a significant impact on the jury. Again, these are the Davidians making these comments on the tape, not the FBI representing what was said. That's very powerful.
(...)

Chat Moderator: Do you believe that the sect members themselves were suicidal or do you believe Koresh decided that death was the only outcome?

Byron Sage: I think the sect members felt that their actions on the April 19 were the ultimate demonstration of faith. I don't think, from interviews of Branch Davidians that came out during the siege or after, that in their mindset, they viewed their actions as suicidal.

Unfortunately, I think this is more an issue of semantics than anything else, because ultimately, their actions resulted in the death of approximately 78 human beings, on the April 19, including approximately 21 precious young kids. Those children did not have the opportunity to make their own decisions. That's the true tragedy of this event.
(...)

Question from Chicago: Mr. Sage, playing devil's advocate for a moment, sure the FBI was cleared. But do you think mistakes were made in how the siege was handled? Could things have been handled differently?

Byron Sage: Absolutely. I think that's an appropriate question. I think a great deal was learned from the manner in which the situation was handled. Never before in the history of law enforcement has such a horrific event faced law enforcement.

As a direct result of the events at Waco, the FBI has formed what is known as the ''critical incident response group'' (CIRG), headquartered at Quantico, Virginia. This group has received additional training in crisis management and coordination of critical assets including negotiations, tactical response, and technical coverage to address major critical incidents. All of these elements are now under one central command.

The purpose is to insure that all of these elements are functioning in concert with one another and that their actions are coordinated, focused on a successful resolution. That coordination was a major problem at Waco. But ultimately, in my opinion, it did not contribute to the final outcome. It's more of an administrative coordination issue than it was a problem in contributing to a safe resolution at Waco.

Negotiations and tactical elements on several occasions sent mixed signals to the Davidians. In hindsight, that was very detrimental to the overall effort to convince them to come out. Ultimately, it was their decision not to exit. I think it's important to note that 35 Davidians, including 21 precious young children, did exit during the siege and were treated professionally in spite of expressed fears by some of the Davidians that they would be mistreated. The issue of perception is critical in these events. That's where the majority of the changes have been made.
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=== World Message Last Warning

8. Bushara charged
New Vision (Uganda), July 21, 2000
http://www.newvision.co.ug/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The police yesterday charged self-styled prophet Wilson Bushara with several counts of defilement and holding an illegal assembly. He is expected to appear in court today.

Bushara and 28 followers of his World Message Last Warning Cult were transferred to Luweero on Wednesday evening, two days after they were arrested in Iganga.
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9. I'm preaching God's word - Bushara
The Monitor (Uganda), July 20, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Kampala - Wilson Bushara, the fugitive ''prophet'' yesterday pleaded his innocence and maintained that he has not committed any crime but was merely preaching the word of God.

The leader of the World Last Message Warning church was arrested July 18 in Iganga and transported to Kampala yesterday en route to Luwero.

During a brief chat with reporters at Kampala Central Police Station, Bushara, who was speaking in Runyakore, was introduced together with ''archbishops'' Robert Segirinya,36; Jotham Katake,38; Moses Wakaribata,31; and Peter Rwitsa, 40.

Police said they have been ''helpers'' of Bushara.
(...)

Bushara attracted media attention when he proclaimed that the World would end on June 30, 1999 and convinced his followers to sell off their property and buy places in heaven.

He has been on the run since his sect was dispersed from their camp in Luwero on September 18, last year after police received reports that they were committing crimes ranging from defilement, rape, abduction and theft.
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=== Aum Shinrikyo

10. Asahara children refused registration by Ibaraki town
Kyodo News Service/Associated Press, July 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
MITO, Japan, July 21 (Kyodo) -- The city of Ryugasaki, Ibaraki Prefecture, will refuse resident registration and admission to local school by three children of Shoko Asahara, founder of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult, Mayor Takehisa Kushida said Friday.

''We will not recognize them as citizens'' because of local residents' concerns, Kushida told a press conference.
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=== Falun Gong

11. Cult members' suicide threat
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), July 22, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Hong Kong firefighters forced their way into a Happy Valley flat late last night where three mainland Falun Gong practitioners were threatening to jump from the 10th floor after immigration officers tried to arrest them for overstaying.
(...)

The trio - two men and a woman aged between 28 and 31 - want their stay extended for three months.

Another four Falun Gong members including a six-year-old girl, whose visitors' permits had expired, were arrested in the same building in Sing Woo Road yesterday morning.
(...)

The Immigration Department claimed the operation was not aimed at cracking down on the religious group but was a routine check on over-stayers.

One of the practitioners said a group of about 10 sect members arrived in the SAR to attend the Hong Kong Book Fair at the Convention Centre, which started on Wednesday.

A woman who claimed to be a Falun Gong practitioner said her fellow believers were reluctant to extend their stay earlier because they worried that their application would be rejected by the Immigration Department.

But Falun Gong's SAR branch spokesman, Kan Hung-cheung, said he did not know any of the sect members arrested yesterday.
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12. Falun Gong Marks Ban Anniversary with Protests
AOL/Reuters, July 22, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (Reuters) - Hundreds of members of the outlawed Falun Gong on Saturday marked the first anniversary of China's ban on their spiritual movement with protests in Tiananmen Square that were quickly suppressed by police.

Sporadic small protests erupted throughout the day at the square, which was swarming with police. Nearby police holding cells were overflowing with detained followers, who continued to be carted off in white vans until dusk.
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13. Beijing lacks new strategy in anti-cult battle
The Straits Times (Singapore), July 21, 2000
http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING -- The Chinese government showed its lack of a new strategy in its fight against the outlawed Falungong cult, as the group's followers stepped up protests in Beijing in the run-up to the first anniversary of its official crackdown on the sect.

Police this week have hauled away dozens of Falungong protesters from Tiananmen Square, in some cases using violent force.
(...)

Stunned by the Falungong demonstrations which have taken place this week, the Communist Party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, yesterday published a commentary saying that the anti-Falungong fight must continue.
(...)

While the government is in want of new strategies to win over defiant Falungong members, protests of varying scales continue unabated.
(...)

An observer, who knows several Falungong members, said: ''''The followers keep up the protests not because they are anti-government but because they want the government to lift the ban on the group. They don't understand why it has been outlawed.''
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14. Chinese agency slams ''evil'' Falun Gong, anti-China forces
BBC Monitoring, July 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
China's Xinhua news agency has carried an anti-Falun Gong commentary on the first anniversary of the banning of the group. Xinhua sad that the group is a ''poisonous torrent and an ''evil force which is anti-science, anti-humanity, anti-society and anarchistic''. Xinhua noted the increase in gatherings of Falun Gong practitioners on Tiananmen Square, adding that ''the soil and the greenhouse for breeding Falun Gong are yet to be eliminated in China, while foreign hostile, anti-China forces have never stopped their efforts to `westernize' and `disintegrate' China''.

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China news agency)

Beijing, 21st July: Xinhua, China's official news agency, published a commentary today, saying that the government has won decisive victories in its one-year old campaign against the ''Falun Gong'' cult.

It warns that the campaign, which was launched by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on 22nd July, 1999, and is being led by the CCP, will be a long-term, tortuous and complicated one.

''Falun Gong'' is a ''poisonous torrent'' moving against the trend of the times, and has caused thousands of its followers to go mad or even commit suicide, the commentary says.

It points out that the anti-science, anti-humanity and anti- society cult has been turned into an anti-government political organization and a tool for overseas anti-China forces, which has exposed the ugly face of the cult leader Li Hongzhi and his ''Falun Gong'' group.

According to the article, since May this year, the cult leader has came out from behind the curtain to publish his instructions via the Internet and repeatedly spelt out his hackneyed remark about the ''final chance for 'consummation''' to urge his followers to come out ''against the pressure'', and risk direct confrontation with the government.

''The law of the human world is in contradiction with that of the Cosmos,'' Li is quoted as saying, urging his followers to go to Beijing to promote ''Falun Gong'' by ''refusing to be confined by the law of the human world.''

As a result of Li's agitation, the number of Falun Gong members participating in illegal gatherings in the Tiananmen area has increased, the article says.

Some other Falun Gong followers have pressured the government to rehabilitate the cult, and some have distributed leaflets supporting Falun Gong or openly practised its rituals, according to the commentary.

All these things show that Falun Gong has come to the end of its tether and is putting up a deathbed struggle, Xinhua comments.
(...)

The international community is in agreement that cults are a harmful factor damaging the social environment, and criminal activities by cults must be eradicated by law, according to the Xinhua article.

Since Falun Gong was banned, the Chinese government has punished backbone members of the cult, and has also issued an order to arrest the cult leader Li Hongzhi, it notes.

As of the end of June this year, courts at different levels have handled 162 Falun Gong cases involving 141 people, of whom 123 were given criminal penalties, and 15 were released without being penalized.

The article says that the China is determined to carry out the anti-Falun Gong campaign through to the end, as Li Hongzhi and his followers are not reconciled to their defeat.

The cult has changed its tactics for confrontation with the government, sent agents underground, and formed the so-called ''second echelon'', in order to pose a long-term challenge to the party and the government, the commentary says.
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15. China Savages Falun Gong
AOL/AP, July 21, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (AP) - State media on Friday accused followers of the Falun Gong meditation sect of violence and murder, and labeled its founder an agent of anti-China forces abroad.

The diatribe came on the eve of the first anniversary of China's outlawing of the sect and followed another day of protests in Beijing's sprawling Tiananmen Square.
(...)

In one of the most strident attacks on the meditation sect, the government's Xinhua News Agency accused Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi of inspiring protests by promising salvation for those who ``wholly embrace Buddhist law'' and damnation for those who refuse.

``This nakedly provokes those 'Falun Gong' followers in whom the poison has settled most deeply to throw themselves on the front line, to become 'cannon fodder' and articles of sacrifice,'' said the article, which was also read on the main evening news broadcast.

Some among the hardcore of Falun Gong followers have resorted to ``violent resistance of the execution of law, disturbing social order,'' the Xinhua article said.

The article listed instances of what it called cult-inspired violence, including the murder of his mother and father by 33-year-old follower Zhu Changjiu. Zhu, from northern China's Hebei province, pummeled his 73-year-old parents to death with a blunt object in a fit of rage after they burned his copy of the Falun Gong manual, Xinhua said.

Falun Gong has evolved from an ``anti-science, anti-humankind, anti-society cult organization into a political organization openly opposing the government and a tool of overseas anti-China forces,'' the official Chinese agency said.
(...)

Falun Gong followers have streamed into Beijing this month from around China to renew their civil disobedience campaign. In recent weeks, police have detained about 200 followers daily in Tiananmen Square, according to a Communist Party official.
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16. With Beijing BC-China-Banned-Sect
Canadian Press/Associated Press, July 20, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TORONTO (CP) -- Canadian followers of the spiritual Chinese practice of Falun Gong are urging Ottawa to press China to end a year-old crackdown that includes beatings, mass jailings and torture of its adherents.

''If the governments of the world, including Canada, continue to maintain silence in the face of these violations, China may interpret this as international support for their course of action,'' Susan Mitchell told a news conference Thursday.
(...)

While the movement claims an estimated 70 million followers in China, it's not clear how many there are in Canada because there are no membership lists or dues collected.

About 50 practitioners meditated outside the Ontario legislature during the lunch hour, one of several gatherings across the country to mark the first anniversary of Beijing's crackdown.
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17. Falun Gong Holds D.C. Vigil
AOL/AP, Julu 20, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 100 Falun Gong protesters exercised quietly and stood vigil in front of the Chinese Embassy Thursday, as the embassy spokesman held a news conference to condemn the movement as a dangerous, mind-controlling cult.

On the first anniversary of China's crackdown on the group, followers protested the deaths of 24 members they said were killed while in custody of the Chinese government, and the detention of thousands more.

``We're going to hear a lot of noise from the remaining zealots of that cause,'' embassy press counselor Zhang Yuanyuan said, claiming that 98 percent of Falun Gong's practitioners have rejected the group.

Zhang repeated government accusations that the group cheats its followers and has caused hundreds to die by convincing them to refuse medical treatment. He said their leaders use them as ``cannon fodder against the law of the land.''

``The Chinese government cannot allow this cult to prey on innocent people,'' Zhang said.
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=== Scientology

18. Judge releases McPherson autopsy photos
St. Petersburg Times, July 21, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CLEARWATER -- A Pinellas judge Thursday ordered that photos of the 1995 autopsy of Lisa McPherson be released, a ruling that closes the book on the criminal case against the Church of Scientology.

The church's last-minute attempt to keep the photos sealed was denied by the Second District Court of Appeal and they were given to media outlets Thursday afternoon.

They also were made available for public inspection at the Circuit Court Clerk's Office in Clearwater and at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

The St. Petersburg Times elected not to publish the photos in the newspaper. Two of the 40 photos will accompany this story on the newspaper's Internet site and users first get a warning of what's to come. (Click hereOff-site Link for the photos, which may be offensive to some viewers)

Bob Minton, head of a Scientology watchdog group in Clearwater, said he had no plans to publish the photos on the Internet, but expected others would.
(...)

The church argued the photos could jeopardize its right to a fair trial in a wrongful death lawsuit by McPherson's family, still pending in Tampa.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell released the photos after a Times lawsuit was filed, contending the photos were public record.

Most of the photos show McPherson, 36, on a metal gurney at the Medical Examiner's Office on Dec. 6, 1995, the day after she died of a blood clot in her left lung while in the care of Scientology staffers who tried for 17 days to nurse her through a mental breakdown.

The photos show a woman who is thin, but not skeletal. They show a large black bruise on her lower left thigh and a number of abrasions on her hands, arms, legs and feet.

They also show large areas of her body that are purple -- areas that lay people might interpret as bruises but in fact are places where a lack of circulation has caused blood to settle.

The clues left by McPherson's body have been hotly debated for four years, a debate that continues in the wrongful death case.

Did McPherson lose 40 pounds in the 17 days of church care as prosecutors and McPherson's family have alleged? Was she severely dehydrated?

No, say church officials, who Thursday produced photos of McPherson taken weeks before her death. Her build in the autopsy photos is no different than the photos of her during life, they say.
(...)

Explaining the Times' decision to present two of the photos on its Internet site, the newspaper's editor and president Paul Tash said: ''We're in the business of providing information, and those photos seem to reflect on the arguments made by both sides about the cause of Lisa McPherson's death and her care in the days before. We publish them here so that readers are not inadvertently confronted with them but may choose to see them if they wish.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Judge releases McPherson photos
The Tampa Tribune, July 21, 2000
http://www.tampatrib.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The struggle over the Lisa McPherson autopsy evidence is over. Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell ruled Thursday that the autopsy photographs are a public record now that criminal charges of practicing medicine without a license and abuse of a disabled person have been dropped against the Church of Scientology.

The Tampa Tribune immediately obtained copies of the photographs, but Managing Editor Donna Reed said the paper has no intention of publishing them.

The church had sought to block the release of the photographs, in part because a civil lawsuit filed by McPherson's family is pending against the church in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

The Tribune fought for the release in order to protect the public's right to access government records, Reed said.
(...)

Church official Mike Rinder said that in addition to the concern that potential jurors in the civil case could be tainted by viewing the pictures, the church does not want to see such personal photographs of a member posted on the Internet and plastered on protest signs by church critics.
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20. Scientology Papers Inquiry Begins
AOL/AP, July 21, 2000
http://my.aol.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PARIS (AP) - Prosecutors opened an investigation Friday into the disappearance of hundreds of documents that were to be used as evidence in a case against Church of Scientology members, judicial officials said.

Authorities were expected in the coming days to name a special magistrate to carry out the investigation, the officials said, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity.

The dossiers, which disappeared in 1998 from the Justice Ministry, were part of a case opened in 1990 against 16 regional Scientology leaders for alleged fraud, illegal practice of medicine and premeditated violence.

The case stemmed from a complaint by a former Scientologist, Juan Esteban Cordero, who accused the Church of Scientology of ``progressive mental conditioning'' that led him to spend more than $177,000 on Scientology-related courses.

In June, the ministry said it had asked the judicial watchdog organization to investigate Judge Marie-Paule Moracchini, who was handling the Scientology case when certain records were lost and others destroyed. She risks possible disciplinary sanctions.

Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou has said she believed fraud was involved in the dossiers' disappearance.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Related:
- France fined over missing Scientology files
- Scientology leader jailed for fraud


21. Catholic Church warns of Scientology front organization
''Commission for Offenses of Psychiatry'' [''Kommission fuer Verstoesse der Psychiatrie'']
Volksblatt Wuerzburg-Stadt, Germany, July 18, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000718a.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The name of the Aesculapian Staff is wrapped around a cross. With mouth wide open, the snake directs its look threateningly upon the observer. ''Psychiatry destroys Religion'' is the title of a glossy brochure with this provocative cover picture.

Possibly the magazine will be again be made available this Saturday, when the ''Commission for Offenses of Psychiatry against Human Rights'' (KVPM) sets up its information stand on the ''Oberen Markt'' in Wuerzburg. The KVPM association uses brochures and hand-outs to make a bad example of, among other things, the abuse of children and youth through drugs and psychiatrically prescribed pills. Not just tragedies like the mass slayings among American students, but also increasing aggressiveness and violence among youth in Germany, according to the KVPM, can be chalked up to unscrupulous children and youth psychiatrists.

Alfred Singer, speaker for issues of weltanschauung, religion and sects of Wuerzburg Diocese, issued a warning yesterday about the Commission, which had received a permit from the city administration for the 17th and 24th of June, and is present now in the city for the third time within a short period. The German KVPM was founded in 1972 by members of the Scientology Organization and is registered as an incorporated association (e.V.) with the Munich municipal court. According to the Wuerzburg minister's statements, the association belongs to a Scientology sub-organization with offices in Los Angeles.

According to Singer, the Commission is dangerous because of its attempts to get passersby to sign a written statement of intention. In the so-called security letter, the signer declares his opposition to psychiatric or neurological treatment. Singer cites Bonn attorney Ingo Heinemann on the subject. The director of a group of parents' initiatives describes the KVPM as an extremely aggressive front organization for Scientology. It is said to carry out ''slander campaigns'' against psychiatry in Germany. The reason: Scientology itself intends to be able to solve all psychological problems and views psychiatry as competition.

The security letter, which is formatted like a patient admittance form, could lead to misunderstanding if treatment is necessary. In general, though, the following applies, ''Nobody can be submitted to treatment against their will.'' The statement also contains an extensive power of attorney and the authorization for legal representation for the signers. Those who sign can count on not only enormous expenses, but also their ''private health matters'' can be exploited by KVPM and thereby Scientology.

Alfred Singer reported that the Commission already had made a try two years ago in the Catholic and Evangelical communities. Back then it criticized the fading awareness of guilt and shame and the growing influence of psychology and psychiatry upon religions. As far as the Wuerzburg dioceses sect commissioner was concerned, that was an ''all too transparent attempt to gain confidence by an ideology which is not compatible with the Christian belief.''
[...entire item...]

* Scientology Front GroupsOff-site Link


=== Hinduism

22. Indian priest jailed for marrying girl to dog
The Independent (South Africa), July 18, 2000
http://www.iol.co.za/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
New Delhi - A Hindu priest in the eastern city of West Bengal was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly ''marrying'' a four-year-old girl and a dog, the Press Trust of India reported.

The news agency quoted a judicial magistrate as saying Hindu priest Abhay Chatterjee would not be granted bail for his role in trying to ''solemnise'' the bizarre marriage at Khordah Mohanpur village on July 10.

The girl's father, Subal Karmakar, and his associate have also been jailed, and police are looking for the dog's master, who apparently offered Karmakar money for his daughter.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

23. Arrests made in cigarette trafficking to aid Hezbollah
Associated Press, July 22, 2000
http://www.oregonlive.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- In a quiet street of tidy, middle-class homes, the house of Mohamad Youssef Hammoud was notable to neighbors only for the steady stream of people passing through.

Federal authorities say at least some of them were members of a cigarette-smuggling ring that was raising money for the Islamic militant group Hezbollah.

On Friday, 18 suspects were arrested in raids of houses and businesses in and around Charlotte, FBI officials said. All were indicted on federal charges including immigration violations, weapons offenses, money laundering and cigarette trafficking, U.S. Attorney Mark Calloway said.
(...)

A source told agents Hammoud was well-connected to Hezbollah members in Lebanon and is believed to have received Hezbollah-sponsored military training.

The source ''believes that if Hezbollah issued an authorization to execute a terrorist act in the United States, Mohamad Hammoud would not hesitate in carrying it out,'' the affidavit read.

Hezbollah issued a statement Saturday in Beirut that denied any involvement with the people charged in Charlotte.
(...)

The ring allegedly bought cigarettes in North Carolina, which has relatively low cigarette taxes of five cents a pack, and unloaded them in Michigan, where prices are higher because of 75-cent-a-pack taxes.

The profits were allegedly used to smuggle money to Hezbollah in Lebanon since 1996.

FBI officials would not comment on how much total money they believe was sent. An FBI informant said one of those arrested, Ali Hussein Darwiche, had transported more than $1 million from the U.S. to Lebanon, and another $360,000 in cashiers checks was traced to Lebanon, according to an affidavit.

Three of the suspects are believed to have provided material support or resources, including night vision devices, global positioning systems, digital photo equipment and computers, Calloway said.

Hezbollah draws its support from the 1.2 million-member Shiite Muslim community, Lebanon's largest sect, and enjoys the financial backing of Iran and the crucial political endorsement of Syria.

In the 1980s, Hezbollah was believed to be the umbrella group for militants who kidnapped Westerners and destroyed two U.S. Embassy compounds, the U.S. Marine headquarters at Beirut and a French military base. A total of about 290 Americans and about 60 French soldiers were killed. Hezbollah is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Catholicism

24. Catholic-Orthodox talks end; differences remain
Pioneer Planet/AP, July 20, 2000
http://www.pioneerplanet.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Despite 10 days of talks ending Wednesday, leaders of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches failed to reach an agreement over theological issues that have divided them for almost 1,000 years.

But both sides agreed that the latest dialogue made the issues clearer, a necessary step for resolution of their differences.
(....)

The meeting at Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary in western Maryland was the latest in a series of dialogues between the two churches, created by a split in 1054. The meetings began in 1980 to try to forge closer ties between the churches that still have similar practices and beliefs.

Some 46 delegates representing the world's 1 billion Catholics and 228 million Orthodox attended the Emmitsburg talks, the first in the United States.

The closed-door meetings focused on the status of Eastern European Catholics in former Soviet-bloc states, an issue that has plagued the discussions since 1990.

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 allowed Eastern European Catholics to practice openly after decades of repression forced them into the Orthodox Church. Orthodox leaders claimed Rome was encouraging the shift and struggles ensued over ownership of churches that had been Catholic before the Soviet takeover of the Eastern bloc after World War II.

But behind the Eastern European conflict is a key theological issue that remains a steadfast barrier to full reconciliation -- the role of the papacy in the church hierarchy.

Roman Catholics believe the pope, as the bishop of Rome, holds the highest position within the church. The Orthodox leader, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, is the ``leader among equals'' of the 15 independent Orthodox churches.

Acceptance of the supremacy of the pope by Eastern European Catholics conflicts with their Orthodox practice of decision-making by groups of bishops, or synods, Archbishop Stylianos said.
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25. Dutch will not prosecute Pope for anti-gay remarks
AOL/Reuters, July 18, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
AMSTERDAM, July 18 (Reuters) - Dutch authorities will not prosecute Pope John Paul for discrimination after he slammed a gay rights march as an ``offence to Christian values,'' an Amsterdam court said on Tuesday.

It said the public prosecutor had decided not to press charges because of the Pope's status as head of the Roman Catholic church, head of the Vatican state and highest representative of the Holy See. This position gave him global immunity from jurisdiction, the court said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Dutch magazine Gay Krant filed a complaint against the Pope after the pontiff criticised a gay rights march in Rome. The 80-year-old Pope said in a speech that the Church considered homosexuality ``objectively disordered'' and condemned homosexual acts as being ``against natural law.''
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=== Other News

26. Colorado authorities probe latest death in church opposed to medical care
CNN/AP, July 22, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado (AP) -- Authorities in Colorado are investigating the death of a 2-day-old boy whose parents belong to a religious group that does not believe in medical intervention for illnesses.

It is the second time in six months that a child has died in the care of parents who are members of General Assembly Church of the First Born. Six other children in the church have died after medical treatment was withheld.
(...)

The Denver Post reported Saturday that the child died while his parents, Billy and Barbara Reed, and elders of the church prayed over him. They did not seek medical help.
(...)

Six months ago, two other members of the church, Joshua and Mindy Glory, pleaded guilty to child abuse in the death of their 18-day-old son, Warren Trevette Glory. The infant died of pneumonia while church elders prayed over him and anointed him with oil.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Related:

- Baby dies after medical care withheld
- Death raises church-state questions anew


27. Australian guru accused of molesting girls
Yahoo/AFP, July 20, 2000
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A 71-year-old man, described as the guru of a religious cult who collected a harem of nine ''wives'', went on trial Thursday on charges of molesting four girls aged between seven and 10.

Crown prosecutor George Slim said New Zealand-born Alistah Laishkochav had drawn followers who were attracted to his professed ''spiritual powers'' based on Jewish, Muslim and Hawaiian sources.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Father of woman missing in Tokyo sets up new hotline
AOL/Reuters, July 21, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO, July 21 (Reuters) - The father of a young British woman who went missing in Tokyo this month said on Friday he had set up a confidential telephone hotline as leads on his daughter's whereabouts dwindled.

Police have pasted posters around Tokyo of Lucie Blackman, a 21-year-old ex-stewardess believed to have been working in a hostess bar before disappearing on July 1. But their investigation has thrown up few clues.
(...)

Japanese media have reported Lucie's roommate, Louise Phillips, received a call from a man giving his name as Akira Takagi to say Lucie was training with a religious cult and would be in meditation for at least one week.

Her father has expressed doubts that there was any connection with Japan's numerous religious cults.
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29. Foreign Missionaries Being Driven Out Of Russia
Lifeline News/Keston News Service, July 21, 2000
http://www.lifelinenews.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
LONDON (CWNews.com/Keston) - A significant number of foreign Christian missionaries have been expelled from Russia, with an increased number over the past year, revealed a major investigation by Keston News Service. Other missionaries are being obstructed in their work.
(...)

Tolerance towards foreign missionaries has been one of the touchstones of religious freedom in Russia since the lifting of Soviet-era controls. ''Increasing restrictions on foreign missionaries are often an indicator of increasing restrictions on religious freedom in general,'' commented Lawrence Uzzell, director of Keston Institute.

''Much of the hostility towards foreign missionaries comes from local officials whose job was to keep religion in check during the Soviet era,'' added Keston's Moscow correspondent Geraldine Fagan. ''But behind these officials often stands the FSB, the successor to the KGB, who appear to regard the foreign missionary presence in Russia as a serious threat to state security.''

Russia's National Security Concept, signed by the then acting president Vladimir Putin last January, highlighted what it termed the ''negative influence of foreign missionaries'' in the country.
(...)

Keston noted that not all missionaries are encountering problems-- some continue to engage in high-profile ministry in Russia without difficulty.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Hopi Eagle-Taking Brings Conflict
New York Times/AP, July 21, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Every spring for centuries, Hopi Indians gathered fledgling golden eagles from nests perched on the red-hued cliffs of what is now northeastern Arizona and used them in religious ceremonies.

But Wupatki National Monument officials stopped the practice last year, saying it violated federal laws prohibiting taking wildlife from national parks.

The case is the latest in a string of disputes involving Indian cultural and religious traditions, the government and environmentalists.

To the Hopi, what's at stake is the essence of their religion, which is older than the 12th-century ruins their ancestors built at Wupatki.

``The practice of eagle-gathering is central to Hopi religion and cultural life,'' tribal chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. said. ``The Hopi regard the eagles as embodying the spirits of their ancestors.''

Interior Department lawyers have been considering the issue for nearly a year and hope to have a ruling before 2001, said Patricia Parker, the National Park Service's Indian liaison.

Critics say the Park Service cannot give the Hopi an exemption without giving all other tribes the same rights in other national parks and monuments.
(...)

Some Indian leaders complain that environmentalists show ambivalence toward tribes. For example, they joined with the Hopi and other tribes to try to block mining on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, but opposed the Makah tribe's whale hunts in Washington state.
(...)

``You find a lot of environmentalists who are only too happy to appropriate the words of Chief Seattle, or take the thinking of other great people of native history about the environment,'' she said. ``There are people who are only too happy to adopt those trappings as their own and continue to disregard the living people who are related to that legacy.''

The Hopi have permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gather 40 golden eaglets a year for use in religious ceremonies, during which the birds are killed. The ceremonies are exempt from the 1962 federal law protecting golden eagles, which are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The permits do not specify where the eagles can be taken. The U.S. Forest Service allows them to be gathered in federal forest land.

Wupatki Monument Superintendent Sam Henderson said he intervened because federal law does not exempt Hopis or other Indians from the ban on killing or capturing wildlife in the monument.

Parker said the prohibition was enforced last year because it was the first time the Hopi made a formal request to gather eaglets in the monument.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Village Expels 29 Mexico Families
Associated Press, July 21, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) -- Indian traditionalists in southern Mexico have expelled 29 families from a village, apparently for not sharing their religious beliefs, officials say.

It is part of a continuing struggle that has seen tens of thousands of people, most of them Evangelical converts, driven from their homes in Chiapas in recent decades.

Francisco Torres Vera, the state representative for the area where the expulsions occurred, said 14 Protestant and 15 Catholic families were driven out of Plan de Ayala, near the Guatemalan border, on Wednesday by Indians who practice a Catholicism mixed with Indian traditions.
(...)

The hillsides overlooking San Cristobal are populated by thousands of people driven out of Chamula over the past 30 years.

Local Mayan Indian cultures place a strong value on consensus and village leaders in areas such as Chamula and claim the converts undermine local cultures that have been under attack by the outside world for hundreds of years.

Their critics often accuse the leaders of using the expulsions to rid themselves of people who question their political or economic power.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

32. And lead them not into temptation, OzzFesters
Bergen Record, July 21, 2000
http://www.bergen.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The last thing anyone expects to hear at the OzzFest is a band touting its Christian faith.

This is a tour whose namesake, Ozzy Osbourne, will forever be known as the heavy-metal madman who once bit the head off a bat onstage. Pantera has taken to having porno stars join them for autograph sessions. Methods of Mayhem is led by notorious former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, whose marital and legal problems have been well-documented.

Taking part on this raucous bill makes P.O.D. (Payable on Death) stand out all the more. The band, making its first OzzFest trek, is a rarity in the rap-metal world: a group whose hard-edged music is accompanied by positive, non-violent Christian lyrics.

''Everybody wants to be evil. We're trying to be a light in this world,'' P.O.D. singer Sonny Sandoval said from a tour stop in Virginia Beach. The OzzFest comes to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on Monday.

Though he looks forward to talking spirituality with interested fans at the OzzFest shows, Sandoval says he won't be preaching the good word to anyone who doesn't want to hear it.

''If anyone wants to talk to me, that's cool, because I know that God can change people's lives,'' he said. ''I don't come off all preachy, though. We're not evangelists. We want to turn people on to God, not off.''
(...)

P.O.D. walks a fine line when it comes to vocalizing its beliefs. While the band wants its views to be known, it doesn't want to alienate fans by coming off as proselytizing.

''I think that comes with experience,'' Sandoval said of finding lyrical balance. ''Our early stuff is cheesy. I was a new Christian and it was all, 'I'm going to go out and tell everyone all about it.'''

On ''The Fundamental Elements of Southtown,'' the group eases into its spiritual leanings. The first part of the album contains a few slightly veiled religious references. By the midpoint and end of the album, P.O.D. lets loose with overtly spiritual tracks like ''Set Your Eyes to Zion'' and ''Follow Me.''

Sandoval has strong views on the angry, vulgar, and often violent lyrics that are prevalent in today's rap and metal music.

''There's talented and gifted musicians out there, and the music is incredible, but the lyrical content behind it is garbage,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Books, Film, Internet, Other Media

33. The Eyes of Tammy Faye': A Televangelist Nightmare, but With Optimism
New York Times, July 21, 2000 - Film Review
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
''The Eyes of Tammy Faye'' was shown as part of this year's New Directors/New Films series. Following is Elvis Mitchell's full review, which appeared in The New York Times on March 31. The film opens today at the Quad Cinema, 13th Street, west of Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village.
(...)

The documentary goes through her life like a series of amiable flash cards. Anyone who saw her on ''The PTL Club'' or ''The 700 Club'' -- deep-fried exhibitionism at its most extreme -- probably was transfixed by her exhausting spectacle. It's why all of the attempts to parody the Bakkers never quite worked, because no one captured them accurately. They weren't bland and polyester like the Osmonds, the other squeaky-clean icons of the era. The good old-fashioned poor-folk anguish that poured from the television screen -- Ms. Messner erased her past face with an airbrush -- was an all-new breed of extemporaneous biography.

''Tammy Faye,'' which will be shown tonight and Sunday at the New Directors/ New Films festival, cries out for a little more analysis of its subject. Instead, it joyfully wallows in the backdraft of her excesses, trailing her as she visits a network to pitch a talk show in which she would chat with teenagers, aided by puppets, and shows off her collection of dolls, all of which feature round cheeks and frozen smiles frighteningly similar to her own.

The directors, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, are awfully quick to forgive Tammy Faye's lack of self-awareness, possibly because she has a heart as big as her hair. She was one of the first in the televangelist crowd to accept gay men with AIDS. The movie makes a case for her because she's a survivor; it's more of a mash note than a formal documentary, and there's nothing wrong with that.
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34. All eyes on Tammy Faye
BBC, July 22, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link
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Low-budget documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye is helping the widely derided mascara-laden, and often teary-eyed, former American TV evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker rebuild her shattered image.
(...)

It was an unexpected hit when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Tammy Faye, whose credibility was much maligned following the spectacular collapse of her TV ministry in the 1980s, credits the documentary with providing an authentic portrayal.
(...)

The documentary is made by film-makers who clearly appreciate Tammy Faye's excesses. Some commentators have questioned whether the film, which is very entertaining, really gets at the truth.

Although Tammy Faye reportedly had no editorial control it does advance her agenda. She charges that the man really responsible for the collapse of her religious broadcasting empire was fellow TV evangelist Jerry Falwell.

Tammy Faye claims Falwell tricked her and her former husband into giving up control of PTL. Even though Jim Bakker was convicted in court, Tammy Faye still wants to use this documentary to profess her innocence.
(...)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye has definitely increased the former TV evangelist's following among gay men, who have embraced her as a camp icon.

Tammy Faye even spent time promoting the documentary in New York with a special appearance at a gay bar where she was mobbed by adoring fans.

There's a strange irony that the gay community, so berated by American TV evangelists, should be playing such a large role in engineering her comeback.

Tammy Faye maintains she was one of the few Christians who never condemned gay people. She exclaims ''me and the gays we get along fantastic!''.

Tammy Faye says: ''I love gay people. I understand what it is like to be in their place because I was hated by everyone at the time when we lost PTL.''
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35. Getting an online glimpse into cults
The New Straits Times (Malaysia), July 20, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[NOTE: This item is likely in response to recent events in Malaysia where Al Ma'unah, a cult of Islam, has been in the news. For details, see:
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/a60.html . The first site mentioned was taken down shortly after the cult was taken into custody.]

It's always a shock to see how much influence a cult has over individuals. After the recent news I started surfing online to see what is available in terms of resources for parents, kids and teachers.

The cult that has been causing all the trouble here have a site called Persaudaraan Ilmu Dalam Al-Ma'unah (Malaysia) at
http://members.tripod.com/al-maunah/menu.htm. In Bahasa Melayu and English, this clearly offers would-be recruits magical powers that include healing, violence and mind control. Schools and parents interested in teaching cult awareness will find this an excellent resource. For other resources check out the sites below.

Most search engines and directories distinguish between religions and cults according to the following definition offered by most psychologists. In other words, cults are organisations that: have a living leader who is deemed to be above any human agency and must be completely obeyed without question, focus intently on money and new recruits, insist members only socialise with each other, force members to abandon family and friendly relationships, punish questioning, punish any member's attempt to leave the organisation, practice psychological manipulation to undermine independent thought, impose a structure of manners and behaviour and who preach that ''the end justifies the means''.

General resources for creating cult awareness: The psychology of persuasion at http://www.influenceatwork.com/Off-site Link discusses the techniques that are used by all leaders and managers to change the way people think, feel and work.

Used properly to improve society and promote good ethics, these techniques become an educational tool.

However, as the authors point out in the cults section, they can also be used for more sinister ends. Well written and presented in nice short chunks, this site is worth a few hours read.

For shorter notes on cults, check out the American Family Foundation (AFF) resources about psychological manipulation, cult groups, sects, and new religious movements. Their 101 cult papers at http://www.csj.org/infoserv-cult101/cult101.htmOff-site Link offer a very good introduction into defining a cult, seeing how these organisations work and how individual people use psychological strategies to trap and convert new recruits. There's also a useful set of checklists.
(...)

Operation Clambake at http://www.xenu.net/Off-site Link is a fantastic source of information for anyone interested in the Scientology cult. This cult which has been banned from recruiting members in various countries relies on a mixture of brainwashing and legal intimidation to milk members of money.

This group is distinguished here because on October 23, 1996, the law firm which has represented the Church of Scientology for years (that is Helena Kobrin) purchased the logo and licence agreement of the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). AFF warns that any publications or communications using the CAN name or logo after October 23 (1996) should not be regarded as emanating from or having the approval of the CAN personnel or officers who were associated with CAN before October 23, 1996.
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* Information about Scientology's so-called ''Cult Awareness Network''


=== The Cereal Maker Around The Corner

36. General Mills apologizes for sending CD-ROM bibles with cereal
Associated Press, July 22, 2000
http://www.oregonlive.com/Off-site Link
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DETROIT (AP) -- Cereal maker General Mills has issued an apology for CD-ROM versions of the Bible that are headed to grocery stores nationwide in about 12 million cereal boxes.

The discs are part of a $10 million software-and-cereal promotion that offers CD-ROMs with computer games, dictionaries and Bibles. But the Minneapolis-based company said it didn't know the Bible had been put on CD-ROMs.

''While inclusion of the Bible may be seen as added value by some, it is the company's policy not to advance any particular set of religious beliefs,'' said General Mills, which counts Cheerios and Chex among its cereals. ''Inclusion of this material does not conform to our policy, and we apologize for this lapse.''

Greg Swann, founder of Rhinosoft Interactive of Wisconsin, the company that helped create the CDROMs, called General Mills' claims that it was unaware of the software Bibles ''a flat-out lie.''

''We all knew we were walking through a minefield,'' Swann said in Saturday's Detroit Free Press. ''But I knew this idea was going to be very popular with millions of Christians who will want those free Bibles.''
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