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Religion News Report

July 25, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 234)

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=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. Japanese Cultist Sentenced to Death
2. Japan Cultist to Hang for Murder of Lawyer's Family
3. Cultist learns he is to hang
4. 3 ex-AUM members appeal death, life sentences
5. Internet Site Posts Secret CIA Documents

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
6. Clinton Felt 'Personally Responsible' for Waco
7. Mr. Danforth's Verdict on Waco
8. Groups differ on lessons learned from Mount Carmel siege
9. Waco report says earlier Justice inquiry incorrect, incomplete
10. Waco secrecy fed public mistrust, Danforth says

=== World Message Last Warning
11. Bushara Remanded
12. More Followers Arrested In Iganga

=== Falun Gong
13. Stand-off trio `not members of sect'
14. Falun Gong activities said ''shining light'' in Hong Kong's crown
of autonomy

=== Scientology
15. Stand will be specially monitored

=== Islam
16. Kidnap probe on cult members
17. 'Big Brother' Contestant Stirs Talk

=== Mormonism
18. Church decides to allow gay S.F. man to depart over Prop. 22 without
being disciplined

=== Catholicism
19. Mexican Village To Welcome Families

=== Animism / Shamanism
20. Appleton boy could be nation's youngest shaman

=== Other News
21. French government signs extradition papers for Einhorn
22. Police Probe Colo. Infant Death
23. Obituary of Ezequiel Gamonal Leader of a Peruvian cult influenced
by the films of Cecil B de Mille
24. Westerly school forced to drop portions of dress code

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance
25. ACLU Targets 'Choose Life' Plates

=== Noted
26. Faiths rethink stance on suicide
27. The cost of immortality
28. Prayer & Privacy
29. Divorced evangelist says personal pain taught him compassion
30. America in jaws of fear as rattlesnakes get more bite: Deaths rise as
venom of previously 'harmless' types turns potent

=== Death Penalty / Human Rights
31. Don Raps Church
32. Death Sentence Makes All Ugandans Killers

=== Books
33. Latest Christian thriller takes book world by storm


=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. Japanese Cultist Sentenced to Death
Associated Press, July 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO (AP) -- A former member of the cult behind the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing an anti-cult lawyer and joining an earlier gas attack, the court said.

Satoru Hashimoto, 33, and four other cult members had already been found liable in civil lawsuits for the 1989 killings of attorney Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and infant son.

Hashimoto was the second former member of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult to be sentenced to death in the case. Kazuaki Okazaki, 39, was handed the sentence last October but has appealed.

The Tokyo District Court also found Hashimoto guilty of involvement in a sarin nerve gas attack in central Japan in 1995 that killed seven people. Hashimoto helped a group of cultists spread the deadly gas.
(...)

Hashimoto had argued during the trial that he did not deserve the death penalty because he could not defy Asahara's orders.

''You acted at the orders of Asahara, but you bear a heavy responsibility for joining in the crime of your own will,'' Judge Toshio Nagai responded, Kyodo News agency reported Tuesday.

Hashimoto and four other top cultists strangled Sakamoto, his wife, and their 1-year-old son on Nov. 4, 1989, at their home in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo, at the direction of Asahara, police say.

Sakamoto was preparing a lawsuit against the cult when he was killed, accusing Aum of luring youngsters into the group.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Japan Cultist to Hang for Murder of Lawyer's Family
AOL/Reuters, July 25, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO (Reuters) - A former member of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult was sentenced to death on Tuesday -- the sixth member sentenced to hang for murders committed before and during the cult's fatal gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

Satoru Hashimoto, 33, was found guilty of the 1989 murder of an anti-Aum lawyer and the lawyer's wife and infant son as well as for a 1994 sarin gas attack on a central Japan city that killed seven people and injured many others, court officials said.

Murdered lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, one of Aum's most vocal critics, had been investigating its activities.

Prosecutors said Hashimoto and other cult members crept into the home of Sakamoto as he and his wife and son slept, injected them with lethal doses of potassium chloride and strangled them.

The murders drew public attention to the cult even before the lethal subway gas attack in March 1995, which left 12 dead and thousands ill and shocked a nation which had long prided itself on the safety of its citizens.

Unprecedented Brutality
Tokyo District Court Judge Toshio Nagai said Hashimoto, a karate expert and bodyguard to cult founder Shoko Asahara, deserved the maximum penalty as his crimes were unprecedentedly brutal, Japanese media reports said.

Kazuaki Okazaki, another former senior Aum member, was also sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of the Sakamoto family -- the first death sentence handed down to Aum members.
(...)

Cult leader Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, remains on trial for organizing the gassing and 16 other charges.

Asahara's trial is now in its fifth year and could go on much longer given Japan's notoriously snail-paced court system, with some legal experts saying it may well take more than 15 years for a final verdict.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Cultist learns he is to hang
Asahi News (Japan), July 25, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/
The Tokyo District Court today handed down the death sentence on former Aum Shinrikyo cult member Satoru Hashimoto for his role in the 1989 murder of a Yokohama family and a lethal 1994 gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
(...)

The judge accepted that Hashimoto's role was subordinate and that he had shown great remorse. But Nagai also said that Hashimoto freely chose to take part in each crime, and therefore must be held responsible.
[...more...


4. 3 ex-AUM members appeal death, life sentences
Kyodo News Service (Japan)/Associated Press, July 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO, July 25 (Kyodo) -- Three former members of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult, two of whom were sentenced to death for their involvement in the 1995 sarin nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, appealed their sentences to the Tokyo High Court on Tuesday, sources close to the defendants said.

Toru Toyoda, 32, and Kenichi Hirose, 36, are appealing their death sentences, and Shigeo Sugimoto, 41, his life sentence for his involvement in the attack, all meted out by the Tokyo District Court on July 17.

At the time of their trial, attorneys representing Toyoda and Hirose had argued the death sentence was too severe.

They said it would be absurd if the two received the same sentence as that expected for the cult's founder, Shoko Asahara, the alleged mastermind of the attack, and argued Toyoda and Hirose had been controlled by Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

Sugimoto's attorneys argued he only assisted in the gassing, and asked for his sentence to be commuted.

The district court, however, ruled Toyoda and Hirose were largely responsible for the attack, which it called cruel and indiscriminate.
(...)

Sugimoto served as a driver for Yasuo Hayashi, 42, another member of the squad. Hayashi was sentenced to death last month and has appealed the sentence.

The three defendants were also on trial in connection with various other charges.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Internet Site Posts Secret CIA Documents
AOL/Reuters, July 23, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Web site has posted CIA documents revealing a 1998 briefing for visiting Japanese security officials about the structure and focus of U.S. intelligence -- but experts said on Sunday that the most exciting thing about it was probably its ''secret'' designation.

The documents were posted on a Web site maintained by New York architect John Young that is dedicated to fighting government secrecy. They included the agenda for a CIA briefing of officials from Japan's Public Security Investigation Agency, a slide presentation marked ''secret'' and a list of PSIA agents.

The Japanese Ministry of Justice describes the PSIA as one its ''major external organs,'' set up in 1952 to gather domestic and international information on ''subversive organizations.''

The agency's most prominent target in recent years has been the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) doomsday cult, whose gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 killed 12 people and injured thousands.
(...)

Young said the FBI had asked him, at the request of Japanese authorities, to remove the list of PSIA employees from his Internet site, Cryptome (http://jya.com/crypto.htm), but he had refused.

He acknowledged in an e-mail to the FBI that he expected in consequence to be contacted directly by the Ministry of Justice.

Young said his purpose in publishing the names was ''to contribute to public awareness of how government functions and to identify who performs those functions.''
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=== Waco / Branch Davidians

6. Clinton Felt 'Personally Responsible' for Waco
AOL/Reuters, July 25, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Days after the U.S. government was absolved of wrongdoing in the 1993 siege and fire at the Branch Davidian compound, the White House released on Monday testimony from President Clinton in April that he ''felt personally responsible'' for the roughly 80 deaths.

Clinton believed he ''made a terrible mistake'' in allowing FBI agents to storm the sect's compound to end a seven-week standoff, according to testimony during an April 21 interview with Justice Department investigators probing alleged campaign finance violations.
(...)

Former Sen. John Danforth, a Republican from Missouri, told a news conference on Friday there was ''no evidence of wrongdoing'' by the government.

But in his testimony in April, Clinton indicated that he still struggled with what happened in Waco that day.

''Once this thing happened, I was totally preoccupied with it, because I felt responsible for it,'' Clinton said, citing a similar situation that occurred while he was serving as governor of Arkansas.

In that case, he said he argued successfully against a storming of the compound in question, located in the mountains of north Arkansas. The area was evacuated and arrests were made without any deaths.

''And that's what I thought we should have done. And I gave in to the people in the Justice Department who were pleading to go in early, and I felt personally responsible for what had happened, and I still do,'' Clinton told the investigators.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Mr. Danforth's Verdict on Waco
New York Times, July 25, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
John Danforth noted last Friday that his inquiry into the 1993 Waco disaster had been limited to ''whether government agents had engaged in bad acts, not whether they exercised bad judgment.''

This is an important distinction.
(...)

The report found that the agents had not shot at the cult members or started the fire, as many critics of the government's behavior have long asserted. At the same time, however, the report did not address the question whether Ms. Reno had been right to order the assault, which we continue to believe was a reckless move.

Mr. Danforth rebuked the government on other grounds, mainly its failure to tell the truth about the use of incendiary tear gas canisters. Indeed, it was the disclosure that F.B.I. agents, despite repeated denials and without telling Ms. Reno, had fired such devices that prompted the investigation.
(...)

On the whole, Ms. Reno and the country have reason to be reassured by the report, which seems to put to rest what Mr. Danforth called ''the dark questions'' -- whether the government had conspired to wipe out the Branch Davidians and whether it later engaged in a cover-up. Mr. Danforth's team of 56 lawyers and investigators answered no on both counts, placing responsibility for the fire and for the deaths of the cult members squarely on David Koresh, the sect's leader.

Nevertheless, the tragedy need not have happened at all. The one thing the F.B.I agents always had on their side was time. Ms. Reno went along with the F.B.I.'s assault proposals partly on grounds, never substantiated, that children were being sexually abused inside the compound. The agents should have been ordered to starve the cult out and hold the tanks and tear gas. Mr. Koresh might still have orchestrated the same suicidal endgame, but the country would have been spared years of doubts about the wisdom and integrity of its government.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Groups differ on lessons learned from Mount Carmel siege
Waco Tribune-Herald, July 22, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Ramsey Clark told an advisory jury in Waco a little more than a week ago that they should rule in favor of the Branch Davidians in their lawsuit or ''no one here will be free from the violence of their own government.''

His argument failed to sway jurors, who ruled the government was not guilty of negligence at Mount Carmel.

Clark, who represents many of the longtime Davidians, said his closing argument was not rhetoric.
(...)

He said the ruling could fuel a trend toward law enforcement using military tactics against civilians.
(...)

Government co-counsel Michael Bradford, however, said the public doesn't have to worry that federal authorities see the Waco jury's ruling as a thumbs up for its handling of Mount Carmel.

''I think there have already been a lot of internal reviews about the way crisis situations like that are handled,'' said Bradford, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. ''There have been lessons learned and changes made in policies.''

Bradford points to the 81-day siege of the anti-government Freemen group in 1996 that ended peacefully.
(...)

Clark, though, isn't so sure that the government has changed its approach to groups like the Davidians.

''One swallow doesn't make a summer,'' Clark said. ''You don't have tragedies like Waco very often.
(...)

Attorney Kirk Lyons of North Carolina, who assisted the plaintiffs in the civil trial, believes many people in the FBI learned a lesson at Waco. Like Bradford, Lyons said he saw proof of that in Montana.

However, Lyons still thinks the Waco jury sent the wrong message to the government.

''Government needs to be constantly watched,'' Lyons said. ''The message I'm seeing now is, 'The jury let us off the hook; we can go back to business as usual.' It's only matter of time until someone in the agency tries a bone-headed stunt like that again.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Waco report says earlier Justice inquiry incorrect, incomplete
Dallas Morning News, July 23, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ST. LOUIS – The Waco special counsel's report emphatically clears Attorney General Janet Reno of wrongdoing in the Branch Davidian siege and its aftermath, but it doesn't extend that finding to her Department of Justice.

The preliminary report released Friday by special counsel John Danforth reserved some of its strongest criticism for the Justice Department's actions in seven years of inquiries that have followed the 1993 Waco tragedy.

Although it found no evidence of a massive or deliberate cover up, the report details repeated instances of nondisclosure and resistance to thorough examination of government actions in Waco - a pattern that began with the agency's own 1993 post-siege review and continued in Mr. Danforth's ongoing investigation.

Justice Department officials initially tried to impose ''a certain degree of control'' over the Danforth probe, the preliminary report states. There was then ''substantial resistance,'' within the agency to Mr. Danforth and his investigators' requests for access to internal agency documents, despite Ms. Reno's vigorous, public promise of ''total openness and independence'' for her Waco special counsel, the report says.

In some cases, it took direct intervention from FBI Director Louis Freeh or the acting attorney general named to oversee the agency's response to the Waco probe to force officials to surrender some of the estimated 2 million documents so far turned over to the special counsel's office, the report states.

The special counsel's preliminary report concludes that problems have been resolved, and the Justice Department is complying with requests for access to about 300,000 remaining Waco documents. But some congressional sources say they fear that cooperation has not extended to Capitol Hill.

A Senate subcommittee headed by Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa, has asked Mr. Danforth for a formal briefing on his preliminary report.

One official on Capitol Hill said, ''We'd like to hear directly from Senator Danforth as to whether he's met the same fate as the Senate, and as well as the House committee investigating this matter. We'd like his thoughts on why the Department of Justice in July 2000 has yet to turn over thousands of documents on Waco.''

''We know that the Department of Justice has had some relevant FBI documents, including significant documents, for months. Yet they have sat on them despite congressional subpoenas and repeated requests from the office of special counsel,'' said the official. ''This does not bode well for Janet Reno's Department of Justice, and it deserves a lot more critical look than it has received to date.''
(...)

Mr. Danforth's preliminary report faulted a 1993 Justice Review of the incident for not identifying and disclosing the use of the devices. It concluded that the department's failure was grounded in the ''assumption that the FBI had done nothing wrong.'' As a result of that ''clearly negligent'' assumption, the report stated, the review that the Justice Department presented to the public in September 1993 as a x complete assessment of FBI actions was neither thorough nor complete.

But when two House subcommittees opened a lengthy inquiry into the Davidian siege, Ms. Reno's special assistant Richard Scruggs and his chief assistant from the 1993 Justice Review were asked to lead the Justice Department's preparations for the congressional hearings.

The department's prevailing attitude was that the 1995 hearings would be aimed at partisan bashing of Ms. Reno, the report states.

Internal Justice documents generated for the hearings and FBI and Justice Department briefings of congressional investigators erroneously insisted that nothing pyrotechnic was used on April 19, the report states.

The special counsel is still investigating whether the misstatements in the documents were product of intentional wrongdoing.

After the Waco controversy resurfaced and Mr. Danforth was brought in to investigate, some Justice officials improperly tried to assert control over the inquiry, the report states.
(...)

The wrangling with Justice officials - particularly fights over access to evidence - ultimately were all resolved, the report states. But it adds that the efforts were often ''contentious'' and took ''an unnecessarily large amount of time and resources.''

''The office of special counsel did not allow these problems to affect the integrity of its investigation, and ultimately obtained all the information that it requested,'' the report states. ''However, the office of special counsel strongly recommends that the Department of Justice draft more specific guidelines outlining the relationship between a special counsel and the Department of Justice in situations where the Department … is the subject of an investigation.''

Addressing such problems fully with not only the current special counsel's probe but with all legitimate oversight inquiries could prevent a repeat of the seven-year controversy arising from the Waco tragedy, the Capitol Hill official said.

''No one short of the 40 conspiracy nuts on the Internet who are still obsessing about Waco take issue with Danforth's findings of no serious wrongdoing by the government. But the embers weren't even cool in Waco before the Justice Department began stonewalling and blocking legitimate congressional oversight, legitimate discovery requests from both civil and criminal lawyers, and even a legitimate review by their own agency,'' the official said.

''The American public would not be at the point of learning about these things only seven years after the fact if the Department of Justice had been open from day one,'' the official said. ''Millions of dollars have been spent to answer questions that should have been readily and fully answered immediately after the fire.''
(...)

Mr. Danforth said his report later this year will seek to answer these questions:

Did Justice Department attorneys ''intentionally'' conceal the use of pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds when they failed to inform defense attorneys about them during the 1994 criminal trial in which eight Branch Davidians were convicted on weapons and other charges relating to the siege?

Did the FBI or Justice Department intentionally make ''misstatements'' in internal documents generated in connection with the 1995 congressional hearings that detail use of gas grenades in Waco and that say none of the gas was pyrotechnic?

What happened to the pyrotechnic tear-gas grenade shells?

Why did the FBI not reveal until 1999 the existence of infrared tapes from the last day of the siege that contain audio tracks showing Mr. Rogers authorizing use of the pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds?

U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith will make final rulings within a few weeks in the lawsuit by surviving Branch Davidians and their relatives. An advisory jury on July 14 found federal agents not guilty of using excess force at the beginning of the siege and not guilty of starting the fire at the end of the siege or being negligent for not having firefighting equipment nearby. The judge will also rule on whether FBI agents shot into the burning compound, thereby preventing sect members from escaping.

Mr. Danforth is expected to be asked to appear as soon as next week before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee to discuss his findings and how he conducted his investigation.

The House Government Reform Committee, which also has been examining issues arising from the siege, has yet to determine whether it will hold hearings.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Waco secrecy fed public mistrust, Danforth says
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 2000
http://www.postnet.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Special counsel John C. Danforth was amazed that most Americans were willing to believe, without evidence, that the government intentionally burned up a group of its citizens at Waco, Texas, in 1993.

Danforth said that amount of mistrust, revealed in a poll last September, undermines the fundamental bargain of American democracy -- that government derives its authority from the consent of the governed.

But in his 10-month investigation of the Waco siege, Danforth also concluded that the government itself was partly at fault for the mistrust. When it came to telling what really happened at Waco, the government was its own worst enemy.

Danforth said that by withholding information from Congress and even stonewalling Danforth's investigators, a few FBI agents and Justice Department lawyers sometimes made it look as if the government was lying.

Danforth called for greater ''openness and candor'' in government as an ''antidote'' to the ''remarkable'' distrust of government. And he called upon all Americans to surrender the dark assumption that the government is involved in evil acts.

The main point of Danforth's interim report of his investigation into the deaths of 80 Branch Davidians at Waco was that the serious allegations of government wrongdoing were untrue. David Koresh caused the death of the Branch Davidians who died in a fire on April 19, 1993 - not Attorney General Janet Reno or anyone else in the government.

But, even though he exonerated Reno, Danforth did not give the Justice Department a clean bill of health. He provided the most detailed account to date of how a few FBI agents and lawyers held back important information about the use of pyrotechnic tear gas rounds, which can cause fire. Agents fired three of these rounds at a bunker 75 feet away from the building four hours before the fire started.

The government's failure to disclose information about the pyrotechnic tear gas was ''especially puzzling,'' Danforth said, ''because the use of pyrotechnics had nothing to do with the fire because they weren't fired at the building.

''Yet the failure to disclose this information, more than anything else is responsible for the loss of the public faith in the government's actions at Waco,'' he said.
(...)

Danforth also criticized the Justice Department's own 1993 investigation of Waco, which was headed by Richard Scruggs, an acquaintance of Reno's who came from Miami at her request. Danforth said Scruggs began with the assumption that the FBI did nothing wrong and ''did not conduct a formal investigation.''
(...)

Danforth also prepared his own transcripts of conversations among Davidians about starting the fire. The conversations had been intercepted by 11 electronic bugs that the government had sneaked into the complex with the delivery of milk and other items.

Separate transcripts of the conversations that had been prepared by the Justice Department appeared to have been influential in the recent trial. Danforth's transcripts added some new detail and fixed the time of the conversations more precisely. In the hour just before the fire - between 11:17 a.m. and 12:04 p.m. - Davidians said:

''Do you think I could light this soon?''

''I want a fire on the front . . . you two can go.''

''Keep that fire going, keep it.''

Danforth concluded, as did the jury, that ''The only plausible explanation for these comments is that some of the Davidians were executing their plan to start a fire.''

Danforth said all of the witness and physical evidence was consistent with Koresh's teaching that fire would ''transcend'' or ''translate'' the Davidians immediately to heaven.
(...)

In a preface that Danforth personally wrote, the special counsel said that the willingness of people to believe such clearly erroneous charges poses a challenge to the principle in the Declaration of Independence that government derives its ''just powers from the consent of the governed.''

''When 61 percent of the people believe that the government . . . intentionally murders people by fire, the existence of public consent, the very basis of government, is imperiled.''

Danforth cast his net of blame widely. He blamed government lawyers for their lack of candor. He blamed lawyers for the Davidians for taking their zealous representation to ''extremes.'' He blamed the media for giving ''equal treatment to both outrageous and serious claims'' in the interest of ''balance.'' And, he blamed Congress for forcing government officials into a ''bunker mentality.''

To break ''this vicious circle of distrust and recrimination,'' said Danforth, requires action from the government and from the people.

The government must be more open. Government lawyers must stop ''playing it close to the line'' and trying to win legal ''victory at all costs.''

''A government lawyer should never hide evidence or shade the truth, and must always err on the side of disclosure,'' Danforth said.

As for the people, Danforth said, ''We all have the responsibility to distinguish between healthy skepticism about government and the destructive assumption that government is an evil force engaged in dark acts.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== World Message Last Warning

11. Bushara Remanded
New Vision (Uganda)/Africa News Online, July 22, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Kampala - Self-Styled Luweero Wilson Bushara and four hard core followers of his ''World Message Last Warning Chuch'', were yesterday remanded by Luweero court, over charges of defilement and holding an illegal society.

A total of 22 adults had on Wednesday been transferred to Luweero for prosecution, after being arrested in Iganga on Monday, but only Bushara and four of the followers, appeared in court.

The prosecutor, Mr. James Oringa said the other 17 had been released on Police bond. Those who appeared together with Bushara include: Bishop Mosses Rwakaribata, Bishop Peter Rwetisha, Assistant Bishop Robert Segirinya and Assistant Bishop Josam Kamugisha. Cult leader Bushara was charged with defiling tow under-age girls in addition to the joint charge of holding an illegal assembly which he allegedly committed together with the rest of the group.
(...)

The rest of the group who did not appear in court include: Geoffrey Nabimenya, Kataratanzi, Stephen Masiko, Tito Bizimungu, Stephen Muhanguzi, George Nankunda, James Kahe, James Rwekibira, Samuel Asiimwe, Jane Kamuheebwa, Geoffrey Kiiza, John Kaheru, Stephen Kazoora, Jackson Mwesigye, Kyokureeba, Benon Karugiye.

They used to serve in various capacities under Bushara's disbanded World Message Last Warning Church.
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12. More Followers Arrested In Iganga
New Vision (Uganda)/Africa News Online, July 22, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Kampala - Police in Iganga have arrested more followers of self styled Prophet Wilson Bushara, whose hideout they raided early this week. The District Police Commander, Mr. Good Mwesigwa, did not identify the 12 people arrested, including four women with babies.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

13. Stand-off trio `not members of sect'
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), July 23
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Three mainland overstayers who threatened to jump out of a Happy Valley flat to escape arrest on Friday were not genuine Falun Gong members, the group's Hong Kong branch spokesman said yesterday.

Kan Hung-cheung continued the war of words between Falun Gong factions as immigration chiefs ordered the overstayers to report to officials tomorrow or face arrest.

Mr Kan claimed the trio did not belong to the religious group. ''I do not know any of them. But all have breached the Falun Gong principles, so I believe they are not Falun Gong practitioners.
(...)

Mr Kan's claims were rejected by Wong Chui-lai, who claimed she and the overstayers belonged to a Falun Gong group led by Belinda Pang San-san. A split has emerged within the sect with Ms Pang claiming to be the new master of the religion, replacing Li Hongzhi.
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14. Falun Gong activities said ''shining light'' in Hong Kong's crown of autonomy
BBC Monitoring/Hong Kong iMail, July 24, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of editorial entitled: ''The miracle of autonomy'', carried by 'Hong Kong iMail' web site on 24th July

Big Buddha is watching you. And he's about to perform one of those miracles that only happen once in a lifetime - or once in several lifetimes, considering that we are talking about Buddhism here.

A great many curious new beliefs have emerged among the Falun Gong members in Hong Kong. One says that one of the practitioners here, Belinda Peng Shanshan, is taking over the mantle of the movement's leadership, now that the hidden-away founder Li Hongzhi has reached the age of 50.

Another says that the giant Buddha statue on Lantau island is going to be the location of a great miracle - and members of Falun Gong need to be present there to be part of it. This belief is the reason the human yo-yo, Wendy Fang Minqing, reappeared in Hong Kong yesterday. She, you will be recall, is the pregnant woman who keeps trying to get into Hong Kong without a valid visa.

Perhaps the most worrying new belief is the feeling that persecution and imprisonment in Beijing are part of the initiation into the deepest part of the faith for true believers. Once such a belief takes root, there will be no end to the trouble for the Beijing authorities. Still, we have no sympathy in that regard. Beijing has brought its problems upon itself. Heavy-handed, unfair persecution is the one guaranteed way to make a religion grow.

Yet there is one thing about the Falun Gong's presence in Hong Kong that is not appreciated enough. Their activities here are a shining light in Hong Kong's crown of autonomy. There are many fields of endeavour in the SAR where people worry that ''one country'' has overridden ''two systems''. But the Falun Gong members' freedom to practise their faith in Hong Kong is something we should be proud of. If we were the chief executive, we would go to the airport and personally escort Fang Minqing into Hong Kong - and make sure we were photographed doing so.
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=== Scientology

15. Stand will be specially monitored
Volksblatt Wuerzburg (Germany), July 21, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000721c.htmOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The informational booth of the ''Commission for Violations of Psychiatry against Human Rights, Inc.'' (KVPM [the German CCHR]) will be ''specially monitored'' tomorrow, Saturday, by the city. That was communicated by city hall spokesman Ole Kruse yesterday. As reported on Tuesday, the Catholic Church had issued a warning about the Scientology aligned organization. This is the third time in several weeks the Commission had set up a stand on the upper market .

According to the applicable legal situation and administrative practice, an informational stand can be refused only if it is known or expected that crimes will be committed or codes violations will occur, according to Kruse. There is no indication for either of those with KVPM.

Yesterday, the KVPM's national management disputed that signers of the so-called ''protection letter'' to refuse psychiatric treatment would be running financial risks. His organization's help was always free, said KVPM President Bernd Trepping of Munich. But he said that anybody could find out that most of the Commission's activists were Scientologists and that the booklets were financed by Scientologists, so he was not disputing that.

Reverend Alfred Singer, sect commissioner of the Wuerzburg Diocese, had advised against filling out the statement of intention which was formatted like a patient admittance form. Those who signed the ''protection letter'' with power of attorney would not only have to count on enormous expenses but also on having ''private matters of health'' exploited by Scientology.

The Bavarian State Interior Ministry has also been involved with the KVPM. It said in its 1997 booklet ''Scientology - an anti-Constitutional Endeavor,'' that while the KVPM ''vociferously opposed alleged abuse in psychiatry,'' it avoided mention of ''systematic mistreatment'' of Scientologists by the Scientology Organization in its ''Rehabilitation Forces.''
[...entire item...]


=== Islam

16. Kidnap probe on cult members
The New Straits Times (Malaysia), July 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
IPOH, Mon. - Nine members of the Al-Ma'unah cult who were allegedly involved in a five-day standoff with security forces in Sauk early this month are being investigated for kidnapping.

They were believed to have taken four people hostage including two policemen and a soldier during the standoff which began on July 3. The other hostage was a local villager.

The soldier and one of the policemen were tortured and killed by cult members before they surrendered to security forces.
(...)

Meanwhile, police are investigating reports that a Kampung Sauk resident was allegedly trying to influence the people into thinking that the firearms heist was ''staged'' by the Government.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. 'Big Brother' Contestant Stirs Talk
New York Times/AP, July 23, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- William Collins, who stirred up controversy as a ''Big Brother'' contestant, proved as feisty Sunday outside the confines of the CBS reality-TV show.

In Collins' first news conference since he was voted off the show Thursday, the Philadelphia youth counselor said he was prepared for any threats.

''I believe in my God and I believe in my gun,'' Collins told the Television Critics Association, noting that he had a permit to carry a weapon.

Collins riled his fellow contestants by playing pranks on them and engaging in heated discussions on race. He created headlines outside of the house because of his connection with the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Wearing the floppy orange hat he sported on ''Big Brother'' and carrying a Bible, Collins dodged questions about his political beliefs but spoke at length about his religious devotion.

''You've seen me with my gun, but you haven't seen me with my God,'' said Collins, apparently referring to a photo showing him armed at a 1998 rally held in Texas to protest the dragging death of a black man.
(...)

During a ''Big Brother'' interview Thursday, Collins said he had been a member of the New Black Panther Party. The group is headed by Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who was ousted by the Nation of Islam for calling Jews ''bloodsuckers.''

Collins refused to discuss his own political stance or his relationship with Muhammad, saying ''I don't want the press to play Don King between me and brother minister (Muhammad).''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Mormonism

18. Church decides to allow gay S.F. man to depart over Prop. 22 without being disciplined
San Francisco Examiner, July 20, 2000
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Mormon Church has backed off its efforts to discipline a gay San Francisco man who sought to resign his membership.

A disciplinary hearing scheduled for Sunday has been canceled, and Owen Edwards' request to have his name stricken from church rolls has been granted, according to the Mormon Church's Bay Area spokesman, Jay Pimentel of Alameda.

''It's a done deal. There will be no hearings or proceedings or discipline of any sort,'' Pimentel said Wednesday, two days after The Examiner ran a front-page story laying out problems, including the possibility of excommunication, that Edwards faced for trying to quit the church.
(...)

The Utah native, who moved to San Francisco three years ago, hasn't attended church since he was a teenager. But he didn't take steps to quit until he was angered by the church's campaign for Proposition 22, the initiative outlawing gay marriage that California voters passed in March.

In February, Edwards sent a letter to his local bishop asking that his name be taken off the rolls.

More than four months later, on July 8, he received a letter from Mormon Bishop Bryan Earl of San Francisco. Edwards was told that his request had triggered a July 23 ''bishop's court'' disciplinary hearing, with excommunication a possible result.

Edwards was just one of many Mormons, not all of them gay, who have run into problems trying to leave the church. Three gay members in Utah were excommunicated after they sought to quit, and lost customers and contact with friends and family as a result.

They have told of repeated visits and calls by church leaders and members, to a degree they felt was harassment.

After getting the bishop's letter, Edwards went to the press and started seeking an attorney.
(...)

Pimentel said the decision to cancel any discipline had come after the local bishop consulted with higher authorities and had been made before The Examiner's story ran Monday. He didn't identify the higher-ups.
(...)

The church's decision appears to foil hopes by ex-Mormon activists here and in Utah that Edwards' situation would lead to a lawsuit against the Mormon Church over the tactics they say it employs when members seek to resign.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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*
Related:
Leaving Mormon Church difficult
San Francisco Examiner, July 17, 2000

Theologically, Mormonism is a cult of Christianity. By making it difficult
for people to leave, the Mormon Church also displays one of the sociological
characteristic of cults.

How to have your name removed from Mormon Church Records


=== Catholicism

19. Mexican Village To Welcome Families
New York Times/AP, July 24, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/i/AP-Mexico-Religious-Expulsion.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Indian traditionalists in southern Mexico have agreed to welcome back 14 Protestant families expelled from a village for not sharing their religious beliefs, the government news agency Notimex reported Sunday.

The Protestant families were driven out of Plan de Ayala, near the Guatemalan border, on Wednesday by Indians who practice a Catholicism mixed with Indian traditions. Another 15 Catholic families also were expelled, but it was not clear if any agreement would be made to allow them to return.

The two sides signed an agreement Sunday stating that they would go to outside authorities the next time differences arise, Notimex reported.
(...)

The expulsion 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.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Animism / Shamanism

20. Appleton boy could be nation's youngest shaman
Post-Crescent (Wisconsin), July 16, 2000
http://www.wisinfo.com/postcrescent/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) By the time Thai was 5, it was clear he had an uncommon gift for communicating with the spirit world. And, many would say, the power of healing.

Today, at just 15, he may be the youngest Hmong shaman in the United States, according to the local Hmong community.

In the Hmong culture, a shaman is a religious figure and ''communication vehicle between the living and spirit world,'' said Pam Vang, intercultural relations coordinator for the Appleton Police Department.

''You call for a shaman whenever you feel your spiritual world is not in harmony.''

Whether you have had a string of bad luck, are frightened about something or you are ill, it is the shaman you go to when things have gone awry and other alternatives have not worked.

''The shaman finds out what is out of balance in a person's life and tells the spirits,'' Vang said. Through the shaman, the spirits tell the person and his or her family what to do so the person's soul does not wander.

With the shaman as chief communicator, the spirits not only heal, but also bless, guide and protect.

There are perhaps two dozen shamans in the Fox Cities, estimates A Vang, an Outagamie County Hmong culture trainer who is studying local shamans.
(...)

The religion of Shamanism has been historically intertwined with Hmong culture and tradition for centuries. Only in the last 50 years have some Hmong stopped practicing it after becoming Christians. Others who have not fully embraced Christianity continue to practice Shamanism as well.

''A number of Hmong are partially Christian, but have not given up their animist beliefs, which actually borrows pieces from other faiths,'' said Thai Thor, who saw the young shaman perform a ceremony recently.

''We do shaman ceremonies for almost all events,'' he said. ''It's part of our history. You can't just write it off. To get rid of it would be to lose our identity.''

Thor sees Thai and other shamans as part psychotherapist, part medicine doctor, but without the actual medicine. ''It's more a matter of psychological healing,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

21. French government signs extradition papers for Einhorn
CNN/Reuters, July 24, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) -- The French government has approved the extradition of ex-hippie guru Ira Einhorn to the United States to face a new trial for the 1977 murder of his girlfriend, Helen ''Holly'' Maddux, Philadelphia city officials said Monday.

The Philadelphia district attorney's office issued a statement saying Einhorn would have 60 days to mount a final appeal after French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin signed the papers to extradite him late last week.
(...)

Einhorn, a one-time radical associated with 1960s luminaries such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, is accused of bludgeoning Maddux and stuffing her into a trunk in his apartment closet, where it remained for 18 months until found by homicide detectives.

He jumped bail before his 1981 murder trial and was captured in France in 1997, four years after being convicted of murder in absentia.
(...)

The U.S. government has been pressing the French for his return since his capture.
(...)

The Maddux family last year won a $907 million wrongful death verdict against Einhorn that would deny him the ability to profit from his story as a fugitive through a book or movie deal.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Police Probe Colo. Infant Death
New York Times/AP, July 23, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) -- Authorities were 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 was the second time in less than two years 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.
(...)

Reached by phone Saturday, Billy Reed said neither he nor his wife would comment on their son's death or their religious beliefs. There is no telephone listing for the church.

Kurtzman said he will investigate further before deciding whether to rule the baby's death a homicide. The Mesa County Sheriff's Office is also investigating.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Obituary of Ezequiel Gamonal Leader of a Peruvian cult influenced by the films of Cecil B de Mille
The Daily Telegraph (England), July 24, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
EZEQUIEL GAMONAL, who has died aged 82, was a Peruvian prophet regarded by tens of thousands of followers as the Messiah.
(...)

Gamonal was worshipped by his sect, the Israelites of the New Universal Covenant. Its members were mainly Andean peasants who wore Old Testament costumes modelled on the Hollywood epics of Cecil B De Mille.

Gamonal, a former village shoemaker, taught that he had been chosen by God to inaugurate the new Israel, which had been transferred from the Middle East to Peru as a punishment for the original Israelites' loss of faith.
(...)

Belief in the sacredness of the jungle led the Israelites to found a number of ''colonies'' deep in the rainforest, where they sang psalms in wooden temples and farmed. However, Peru's media insisted that they were, in fact, a ''diabolical cult'' which murdered its own members. No evidence of this ever came to light, but unsubstantiated rumours continued to circulate of brethren killed because they had displeased the Messiah.

In fact, most Israelite brothers and sisters seemed utterly devoted to their grumpy prophet.
(...)

Gamonal was born in 1918 to a peasant family in southern Peru.

It was while working as a shoemaker in the 1950s that he converted from Roman Catholicism to Seventh-day Adventism, though he was quickly expelled from the latter denomination after dressing as a Hebrew prophet and claiming to receive divine revelations.

Chief among these was a visit to what Gamonal called the ''third heaven'', in which he met the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and was ordered to copy the Ten Commandments on to a blackboard. From then on, observance of the Commandments became the first duty of the Israelites. In 1969, the new religion was recognised by the Peruvian state, and by the 1990s estimates of its strength ranged from 60,000 to 200,000.

Gamonal's cosmology was a complex and often confusing mixture of Seventh-day Adventism, Judaism and Inca legend. From the 1960s until his death, he taught that various apocalyptic disasters were about to befall the world, although on several occasions he was able to delay their arrival by petitioning God for more time. As a result, the deadline for the end of the world, originally scheduled for this year, was regularly pushed back.
(...)

He died during the Israelites' Pentecost celebrations, and disappointed many of his followers by failing to fulfil his promise that he would rise again after three days.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Westerly school forced to drop portions of dress code
MSNBC, July 25, 2000
http://www.msnbc.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WESTERLY – The same school that sent home a student for wearing a White Zombie T-shirt has been forced by the state to drop part of its new dress code.

The Westerly School Committee wanted to prohibit clothing that implicated ties to cults or gangs. But Commissioner Peter McWalters ruled two weeks ago that the phrase was unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable because the code didn’t define ''cult'' or ''gang.''
(...)

School Superintendent Scott Kizner said the committee deleted the passage from the dress code this week, because “Westerly doesn’t have a gang and cult problem, and you cannot define gang and cult by clothing – it’s by behavior.”
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance

25. ACLU Targets 'Choose Life' Plates
Yahoo/AP, July 23, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - With more than 100 specialty license plates in the state, new designs brought before the Louisiana Legislature don't grab much attention.

As a result, civil rights attorneys and women's reproductive rights advocates only recently learned about new anti-abortion ''Choose Life'' license plates that won approval from state lawmakers and are headed for the streets.
(...)

The ACLU is now considering legal action to remove lawmakers' authority to approve specialty license plates altogether.

''If they're going to allow this kind of political message on a state-sanctioned license plate, then they're going to have to allow for KKK and Gay Pride plates and all kinds of messages people may want,'' Cook said. ''This license plate entangles the state with religion.''
(...)

In Florida, Choose Life plates were approved, but a pending lawsuit is blocking motorists from obtaining them. Opponents claim the plates are a state-sanctioned political statement against abortion; supporters say they are only meant to promote adoption.
(...)

The plates costs $25 in addition to registration fees, and the money generally goes to support the organizations depicted. The Choose Life fees go to organizations that provide counseling for expectant mothers.

Bowler sponsored the Choose Life plate bill at the request of the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group based in Tupelo, Miss.

If the ACLU attempts to block the plate, American Family has a team of constitutional lawyers prepared to intervene, said spokesman Allen Wildmon.

''We'll see 'em in court,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

26. Faiths rethink stance on suicide
By Kathi Wolfe
Dallas Morning News/Religion News Service, July 22, 2000
http://195.7.48.75/release/new/dallas/
morning/dallasreligion/p1s8m.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) The young man was one of the more than 30,000 Americans who kill themselves each year. Father Rubey, who heads LOSS — Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide — said the reaction that the boy's mother encountered after his death is all too common. In society and in churches, well-meaning people often react to suicide in ways that hurt rather than help those who lose a family member to suicide.

But cultural and religious attitudes toward suicide are changing, according to a number of clergy, psychiatrists and suicide survivors. Because of increased awareness of mental illness, the stigma surrounding suicide is decreasing in faith communities and, spurred by a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General, many churches are beginning to confront suicide rather than sweeping it under the rug.

Last year, the U.S. surgeon general issued ''A Call to Action,'' which called suicide ''a serious public health problem.'' More Americans die from suicide than from homicide, and 500,000 people per year need emergency room treatment because of attempted suicide, the report said. It called for a com-prehensive national suicide prevention strategy.

But despite the social impact, suicide is seldom spoken of in churches, says James T. Clemons, author of What Does the Bible Say about Suicide? Even though there is more understanding of mental illness, he said, suicide survivors are still shunned in some congregations.
(...)

Recently, churches have begun to break down the walls of silence and shame that have surrounded suicide for centuries. Faith groups are passing resolutions and developing programs to foster suicide prevention and reach out to suicide survivors.
(...)

Offering support to the bereaved, the message says, ''Funerals are not occasions either to condemn or idealize an act of suicide, but times to proclaim that suicide and death itself do not place one beyond the communion of saints. Because of Christ's death and resurrection for us, we entrust a troubled person to God's love and mercy with the promise that 'whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's' (Romans: 14:7).'' Alvin M. Sugarman of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation in Atlanta spoke at the first interfaith conference on suicide, held at the Carter Center and Emory University in April.

Saving human life is the ultimate value in the Jewish tradition, Mr. Sug-arman said. ''But, I wouldn't tell a suicide survivor that suicide is a sin. When people come to me who have lost family members to suicide, I tell them suicide is like a terminal cancer. You couldn't have done anything to save your loved one.'' Judaism and Catholicism consider suicide a sin, but many leaders in both traditions now believe that those who take their life are mentally ill, and thus are not responsible for their actions. ''Because the act of suicide is carried out under emotional duress or mental disturbance, someone who has committed suicide is commended to God's mercy,'' said Richard Doerflin-ger, associate director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. The cost of immortality:
The Observer (England), July 23, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
They say life is not a dress rehearsal - but there are, in fact, opportunities for a few changes of costume and script. Needless to say, the metaphyiscal nature of immortality means that the following costs are only approximate. Most mainstream religions recognise that life after death is always the most popular part of a belief system. Consequently it is, to an extent, a sellers' market. Christianity, for example, claims that whoever believes in the Son of God 'should not perish, but have everlasting life' (John 3:16). Great - except 'it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God' (Matthew 19:24). Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, are a bit more flexible. The Tibetan Book of the Dead (pounds 7.99) outlines the correct, if complicated, procedure for transcendence. If these religions run established stalls in the afterlife marketplace, then cults are the shadowy crack dealers. Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that used sarin gas in Tokyo, promises ultimate happiness (but worldly possessions must be donated to the cult). The Raelian Movement believes that the cosmic being 'Elohim' will soon arrive by UFO. It is offering the first human cloning service (pounds 137,000 per clone) and espouse free-love and 'sensual meditation'. Scientologists assert that we are all 'thetans', immortal spirits who have 'forgotten' we are immortal. Don't worry, Scientology can remind you. For a price! Annual membership is pounds 205, but it costs much more to progress to each new level of awareness through 'auditing': you'll have to spend pounds 685,000 to become a Gold Patron Meritorious. (Although it is only pounds 6,850 to become a new Crusader.)
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Prayer & Privacy
Dallas Morning News, July 22, 2000
http://195.7.48.75/release/new/dallas/
morning/dallasreligion/p1s1m.htm
Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Rev. Patrick Moran prefers prayers with a personal touch. So for nearly 40 years, he prayed for the sick by name at every Mass. Then, a few months ago, he reluctantly stopped.

Now, the Minnesota priest simply offers a general prayer ''for all those who are sick.'' His actions are the result of an emerging debate over medical privacy that some church and legal experts predict will change the way prayer is conducted in public worship and on prayer chains and prayer hotlines.

With prayer so central to faith, the avenues for it are seemingly endless. Books on prayer are bestsellers. Conferences led by prayer superstars are sell-outs. Internet chat rooms and prayer e-mail chains abound, full of names of people who are suffering from a variety of diseases.

But with computer technology making it possible to share data more easily than ever before, Americans' concern about protecting their privacy, especially medical records, has made it a pressing legal and social matter.
(...)

Some churches get permission from ill members before going public with prayer requests. Others say that's not necessary.
(...)

Even getting consent may not solve the problem entirely. Sometimes in worship or in Sunday School, members are invited to spontaneously offer prayers. What happens if they disclose that a neighbor, a friend or someone outside the church suffers from depression, alcoholism or drug addiction?

Or when information is put on an e-mail prayer chain without the subject's knowledge? After the shootings at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth last September, an e-mail circulated nationally requesting prayers and chronicling what happened at the church, only some of which was true, according to the Baptist Standard.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Divorced evangelist says personal pain taught him compassion
Bergen Record, July 19, 2000
http://www.bergen.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Charles Stanley believes he's a better pastor because he knows what it's like to come home to a house left empty by divorce.

He's no longer just the minister of mammoth First Baptist in Atlanta and the famous evangelist who's heard on more TV and radio stations than probably any other Christian. He's a 67-year-old man struggling with the death of a 44-year marriage.

And that, said Stanley, makes him more qualified to bring Christ's love into the lives of those who need it most:

''I've had lots of people who said, 'You know, I couldn't listen to you because you couldn't understand. Now you understand.'
(...)

What led to the breakup of Charles and Anna Stanley's marriage after years of difficulty is their business, not ours.
(...)

But what happens after a Southern Baptist preacher divorces is an issue that goes beyond Stanley. He has become a lightning rod for a bitter national debate.

Many, if not most, Southern Baptist churches prohibit pastors, staff members, and even lay members who become deacons from serving after a divorce. Just because he's Charles Stanley and his In Touch Ministries goes all over the world doesn't mean he's above the law of the church, say those who believe Stanley should relinquish his pulpit.

When First Baptist members applauded the news that Stanley will stay on as their pastor, evangelist Charles Colson said on his radio show: ''Have our churches become so accustomed to moral failure that we applaud it? If this is the test of being a good shepherd, should we also endorse pedophiles as pastors so they can better empathize with people who commit child abuse? How far do you carry this preposterous argument?''

What's preposterous, believes Stanley, is branding with a scarlet ''D'' all those men and women whose marriages end without sin or fault on the part of either party: ''Things happen in people's lives. Things they can't control.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. America in jaws of fear as rattlesnakes get more bite: Deaths rise as venom of previously 'harmless' types turns potent
The Observer (England), July 23, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
It was meant to reveal the strength of the young minister's fundamental beliefs. But when the Alabama cleric picked up the timber rattlesnake in front of the congregation of his baptist sect, the reptile promptly bit him. Within 10 minutes the man was dead.

The minister's demise, in 1998, may not seem surprising, or particularly undeserved. Nevertheless doctors were startled, for the timber rattlesnake does not normally kill.

Despite its fearsome reputation, rattlesnakes - of which there are 70 subspecies in the United States - rarely deliver fatal bites: on average only one in 500 of their human victims has died in the past. People have lost toes or fingers, but few perished, particularly after the development of anti-venom made from horse serum.

But now that comforting picture is changing - for something strange is happening to America's rattler population. The ability to deliver life-threatening bites, once restricted to only a few subspecies like the deadly Mojave rattler, has been spreading rapidly.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty / Human Rights

31. Don Raps Church
New Vision (Uganda), July 22, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Kampala - Dr. Richard Akankwasa of Makerere University yesterday criticised the church for failing to counter human rights abuses and instead seeking privileges from sitting regimes.

Akankwasa, a lecturer in the School of Education, said that the Christian church, Catholic and Anglican together, would have been a strong voice for the oppressed. But, he said, the two denominations often acted in competition for privileges.

''Once in a while, the Anglican and the Catholic Church act together. But each seems to prefer acting independently and occasionally area seen to be in competition for privileges from the sitting regimes,'' Akankwasa told participants at a three day consultative meeting of church leaders from the Great Lakes Region.
(...)

Opening the meeting,, Mrs. Margaret Ssekaggya, the Human Rights Commission chairperson, emphasised the importance of the church in peace building. She said the institution's impartiality and credibility were useful tools for diffusing conflicts.

Ssekaggya criticised the Lord's Resistance Army, which she said was causing suffering when it had no political agenda. She said that if LRA had an agenda, there was a possibility that the war in the North would have ended through dialogue.

Patrice Vahard, the Amnesty International Africa Region Director, said the church had to re-examine its conscience over its position on human rights. He said Africa should look to itself for solutions before blaming the international community.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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32. Death Sentence Makes All Ugandans Killers
The Monitor (Uganda), July 22, 2000 (Opinion)
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000722/20000722_feat7.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Kampala - Recently, President Yoweri Museveni commuted the death sentences of some 16 prisoners to life imprisonment (See ''Museveni Frees 520 Prisoners; 16 Escape Death'' The Monitor, July 15).

The question is whether we should have the death sentence in our laws at all.

In rational thinking, every action taken or to be taken must have a pre- determined objective.

At the same time, an objective should conform to a scientific analysis to determine whether it is Specific (clearly stated), Measurable (its results quantifiable), Achievable, Realistic and Time bound (within a time frame).

Any objective that does not satisfy all the elements of the SMART test (as the analysis is known) is scientifically faulty and rationally untenable.

What then are the objectives of the death sentence? There are various answers to this question but the prevalent ones are: a) to punish the wrongdoer, b) to act as a deterrent to would be wrongdoers and c) to avenge the death of the killers victim.

However, none of those objectives passes the SMART test.

* As a punishment: All authorities I know (dictionaries included) define punishment as causing one to suffer for an offence. Much as suffering may take many forms, death is not one of them.

Life and death are two absolute states. They lie at opposite ends of a continuum. Since suffering is an aftermath of an infliction as monitored by the victim, it can only occur along the continuum before the absolute.

In other words, nobody ''suffers'' death because there is no aftermath. Put another way, the dead do not suffer.
(...)

* As a deterrent: This second objective is even more bizarre. There is no evidence whatsoever that the death sentence has ever deterred crime. In fact, there is growing empirical evidence that the contrary is true.
(...)


Either way, the death sentence as a deterrent does not make sense.
(...)

Let us revert to the cardinal rule ''thou shall not kill''. Let us delete the exception clause in article 22 (1) of our Constitution so that it simply reads: ''No person shall be deprived of life intentionally''.

When the state kills, it does so on behalf and in the name of all the citizens.

To those of us who take life to be sanctified (and we are many), it is like hiring an assassin.

What if it is discovered later that an error had been made during the trial?
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The publisher of Religion News Report is a member of Amnesty International
and is opposed to the death penalty.


=== Books

33. Latest Christian thriller takes book world by storm
Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP, July 22, 2000
http://www.accessatlanta.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Chicago --- An assassination. Mass disappearances. A war of apocalyptic proportions. Takeover by the dreaded Beast.

It has the elements of a big-screen thriller, and though a film adaptation is not yet in the works, ''The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession'' has proved to be one blockbuster of a book.

The latest in a series of novels derived from the Bible's Book of Revelation, the book by retired evangelical minister Tim LaHaye and writer Jerry Jenkins has sold more than 2 million copies since its release in May and has been No. 1 on The New York Times fiction best-seller list for a month.

Lynn Garrett, religion editor for New York-based Publishers Weekly magazine, said no other Christian fiction book has ever debuted on the Times' list at No. 1, as ''The Indwelling'' did --- and the newspaper's list doesn't count sales by religious bookstores.
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The book is the seventh installment in LaHaye and Jenkins' ''Left Behind'' series of tales about the Apocalypse. Since the initial book, titled ''Left Behind,'' was published in 1995, the series has generated Harry Potter-like sales of about 17 million copies.
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The basis for the string of apocalyptic plot twists is Dispensationalism, an offshoot of evangelical Protestant theology followed by many evangelical Christians, including Jenkins and LaHaye. They believe the Rapture will be followed by a Tribulation, a seven-year period that will be ruled by the Antichrist before it is ended by an Apocalypse and the Second Coming of Christ.

Evangelicals such as Jenkins, 50, and LaHaye, 74, believe that the reoccupation of Israel by Jews must occur before the Second Coming can take place and that the founding of Israel in 1948 fulfills the prophecy.

Dispensationalists have held this view of biblical prophecies since the early 19th century, and Jenkins and LaHaye are among those who say their interpretation of the Book of Revelation is literal. The authors, however, are not comfortable being called fundamentalists, their spokeswoman said.

Thousands who believe in the doomsday depictions of Jenkins and LaHaye post messages daily at the Left Behind Web site, proclaiming their devotion to the authors' books.

But Garrett said she believes that devotees of the authors' ideology are only partially behind the series' phenomenal success.

''The biggest thing to me is that a lot of the people buying the books are not evangelical Christians and may not even understand the theology behind them,'' Garrett said. ''Most people just find them a ripping yarn, a good story.''
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