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Religion News Report

July 31, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 236) - 1/3

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow


=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. Aum's Hayakawa gets death
2 Court sentences Aum's Hayakawa to death
3. Judge sentences third Aum cultist to death for role in Sakamoto killings
4. Regrets of an Aum 'fanatic'
5. Death Sentence in Japan Cult Case
6. Latest Aum death sentence marks milestone

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
7. Kanungu Dead Poisoned

=== Zhong Gong
8. [Zhong Gong] Founder Emerges

=== Jesus Christians
9. Bobby's plea spares cult members from jail
10. Cult boy Bobby tried to recruit 12-year-old best friend
11. Police find sect boy at woodland camp
12. Cult runaway defies court
13. Boy camped with cult as hunt went on
14. Boy found safe in cult forest hide-out
15. At 16, we should have not only a voice,...

» Part 2/3

=== Scientology
16. Scientologists seek religious status under European Act

=== Unification Church
17. Parents Day shows links of Moon's church to GOP
18. Bayou La Batre residents embrace church they once called a cult

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
19. Davidian case may be fading
20. Reno says raid concern shared

=== Buddhism
21. Anointed N.Z. child lama swaps Gameboys for meditation
22. Dalai Lama Not Invited to U.N.

=== Islam
23. Islamic group celebrates growth
24. Civil rights suit filed in mosque dispute

=== Mormonism
25. BYU Suspends 'Real World' Member
26. 'Real World' Member Balks Suspension
27. Mormon Intimacy Book Is Big Hit

» Part 3/3

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
28. Religion, medicine clash

=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes
29. SE Texas town OKs posting of sign against hate
30. Florida militia leader sentenced for terrorist plots
31. Arrests Made in Jerusalem Fires

=== Other News
32. Death by religion angers prosecutor
33. Masonry move for police
34. Search for missing Lucie 'becoming desparate', says father
35. Utes see 'spirits' in calamities

=== UFOs
36. Waiting for their first spaceship

=== Death Penalty / Human Rights Abuses
37. Clerics pragmatic in stand against death penalty
38. Amnesty group vilifies INS for asylum seeker's years of imprisonment

=== Other News
39. Life Without 'Sin' May Spell Death of Sect
40. In Russia, a fest with pagan roots comes back
41. The Bible, as History, Flunks New Archaeological Tests

=== Books
42. A bite of religion
43. Review: Is anybody out there?


=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. Aum's Hayakawa gets death
Asahi News (Japan), July 29, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Tokyo District Court on Friday sentenced former senior Aum Shinrikyo member Kiyohide Hayakawa to death for playing a key role in the killing of an anti-Aum lawyer, his wife and child, and an Aum member who wanted to leave the cult.

Hayakawa became the seventh person to be sentenced to death for a series of crimes by Aum Shinrikyo members.

Hayakawa was also tried for his role in the cult's construction of a plant to mass-produce nerve gas.

In handing down his ruling, Presiding Judge Kaoru Kanayama said Hayakawa, 51, was actively involved in the November 1989 killings of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, his wife, Satoko, 29, and their 1-year-old son, Tatsuhiko, at their home in Yokohama.

''There is no other way but to give him capital punishment, given the fact that he had committed murders in conspiracy with Aum founder Chizuo Matsumoto,'' the judge said.

According to the ruling, Matsumoto considered the layer a serious threat to Aum, and ordered Hayakawa and other Aum members to murder him. They followed the order.

The judge also said that serious punishment was warranted, given the motive of the crime.
(...)

The judge dismissed the defense's argument that Hayakawa played a minor role in the killings.

Sakamoto had been helping people trying to persuade their family members to leave the cult.

Hayakawa was also convicted for the February 1989 strangling of 21-year-old Shuji Taguchi, an Aum member who wanted to leave the cult.

The ruling said that Matsumoto had ordered Hayakawa and other members to kill Taguchi. That killing began a series of murders committed by Aum members eager to protect the cult.

Hayakawa was also convicted for his role in the construction of a sarin plant at an Aum facility in Yamanashi Prefecture. Aum members used sarin gas in a 1994 attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and in the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system. The two crimes claimed 19 lives and injured thousands of people.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Court sentences Aum's Hayakawa to death
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), July 29, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Presiding Judge Kaoru Kanayama said Hayakawa, 51, bore heavy responsibility for his role in both cases because he adhered to the cult's doctrine by which cult members justified committing crimes in defense of the cult.

Hayakawa already has appealed against the sentence to a higher court.
(...)

''The fact that the cult members killed all Sakamoto's family members for the sake of murdering the lawyer shows they had little respect for the lives of people outside the cult,'' the judge said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Judge sentences third Aum cultist to death for role in Sakamoto killings
Japan Times (Japan), July 29, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) In handing down the sentence, Judge Kaoru Kanayama said Kiyohide Hayakawa, 51, deserves to hang despite his lawyers' call for a lighter sentence because he was acting on the orders of Aum founder Shoko Asahara, 45.

''Even if he was merely a puppet of Asahara, he cannot escape his grave criminal responsibility, considering the nature of his crimes, their motives, style, impact on society and the victims' sentiments,'' the judge said.
(...)

Friday's ruling is the third death sentence handed down in the Sakamoto killings, for which seven cultists, including Asahara, are held responsible.

Satoru Hashimoto, a karate practitioner and former bodyguard of Asahara, was sentenced to death Monday for striking the lawyer several times and kicking the wife's stomach while they were being strangled.

Kazuo Okazaki was sentenced to hang in October 1998 for actually strangling the lawyer. His appeal hearings started last month.
(...)

Asahara had ordered the six men to kill Sakamoto because he saw the attorney as a hindrance to the cult, the court said.

Sakamoto was helping parents seeking to retrieve their children from Aum and was preparing a lawsuit against the cult.

The crime was ''extremely short-sighted and self-centered'' and leaves no room for leniency, Judge Kanayama said.
(...)

Hayakawa was found guilty of seven charges, including helping Aum produce sarin nerve gas and LSD.
(...)

During his trial, Hayakawa expressed remorse for the victims, saying he is ''unpardonable as a human being.''

However, he also claimed he could not defy Asahara's orders to kill the Sakamotos and Taguchi because he believed them to be ''absolute.''

Prosecutors in December had demanded the death penalty, but Hayakawa's lawyers had asked for leniency. They said the cultist had showed a sincere attitude by telling the truth and argued that he faced the threat of death if he defied Asahara's orders.
(...)

Sakamoto's former colleagues said Hayakawa's death sentence has a heavier meaning than Monday's ruling on Hashimoto, because Hayakawa played a key role in the lawyer's murder.

Lawyer Hisashi Okada said Hayakawa could have avoided the murders because he was in a position of telling other cultists to actually carry out the crime.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Regrets of an Aum 'fanatic'
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), July 29, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Kiyohide Hayakawa, 51, got his master's degree at Osaka Prefectural University and started his career at a major general contractor. After changing jobs, he came across the books of guru Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, and became a member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult.

In 1987, after having actively participated in cult activities as the leader of its lay members, Hayakawa retired into the cult and donated his entire estate to it.

As a committed member, he made use of his expertise in building design to take charge of building cult facilities. He also spoke as the cult's representative at talks or negotiations with outside parties, as his social skills and initiative were highly esteemed within the cult. While most cult members were in their 20s, Hayakawa was six years the senior of Matsumoto.

It was Hayakawa who visited The Mainichi Shimbun, whose weekly magazine, Sunday Mainichi, was running a series criticizing the cult. The cult intended to plant a bomb at the newspaper at a later date. He also visited TBS and demanded that the company not air an interview with lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto.

After the murder of Sakamoto and his family, Hayakawa often visited Russia to meet with politicians and other influential people in an attempt to expand the cult's influence.

He was also partly responsible for the militarization of the cult. He helped to purchase automatic rifles in Russia and a large helicopter from which the cult planned to disperse deadly sarin gas over a wide area.

Given his devotion to cult activities, the prosecutors called Hayakawa Matsumoto's right-hand man and even his alter ego.

During his arraignment for the murder of the Sakamoto family, Hayakawa said, ''I want to quit being a human,'' out of his unbearable sense of guilt.

In the subsequent court hearings, he revealed his ambivalent feelings toward Matsumoto, saying ''Asahara is a fanatic. As I believed he was the world's messiah, I, too, am a fanatic.'' However, he also said, ''I cannot continue to live if I deny Asahara's spirituality,'' describing the complicated feeling within himself.

In the last session to hear his final opinions on the case held in March, Hayakawa apologized for his deeds. ''All we (the cult) have done is to create a living hell,'' he said, adding ''I am filled with remorse and shame for the fact that I still exist as a human (after all I have done).''
[...entire item...]


5. Death Sentence in Japan Cult Case
AOL/AP, July 28, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO (AP) - The cult driver. The so-called ''construction minister.'' A technical expert dubbed the ''murder machine'' who helped plot a deadly nerve gas attack in Tokyo.

Over the past few months, judges have handed down one death sentence after another to senior members of the doomsday cult responsible for the 1995 gassing of the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and sickened thousands. But Japan is extremely secretive about executions, and nothing has yet been heard of any Aum executions - which may not occur for years.

The latest ruling came Friday, when Tokyo District Court Judge Kaoru Kanayama sentenced former Aum Shinri Kyo member Kiyohide Hayakawa, 51, to death for his role in two murders and for building a sarin nerve gas factory.

One key player is yet to be sentenced, or convicted: Shoko Asahara, the enigmatic guru who was the force behind the cult and who is believed to have issued the orders that his followers are to die for.

Asahara, 45, is on trial for masterminding the subway attack and other crimes, including an earlier nerve gas attack in central Japan.

Japanese trials are notoriously lengthy, but Asahara's is aggravated by the 17 charges he faces and the difficulty of putting together evidence against the guru, who gave orders but did not personally take part in any of the crimes.

''It's going to take at least 15 more years, maybe 20,'' said Masaki Kito, a lawyer for victims of the subway gassing.

The cult's leaders concede Asahara and other members were behind the subway gassing, which was meant to set off a chain of events leading to Armageddon. Still, they insist that he is spiritually ''a genius.''

Although Aum is banned and under surveillance, its approximately 2,000 members are still active and have attempted a resurgence under the name Aleph.
(...)

Like several others among the 14 indicted members of the cult, Hayakawa's defense rested on the claim that he was brainwashed by Asahara.
(...)

In Japan, the death penalty is carried out by hanging. The names of those executed here are not announced, but word usually leaks out. Last December, the Justice Ministry announced two executions, and said they were the fourth and fifth carried out in 1999.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Latest Aum death sentence marks milestone
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), July 29, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The first series of trials of Aum Supreme Truth cult members reached a major milestone Friday, when the Tokyo District Court handed the death sentence to one of the cult's senior members.

Kiyohide Hayakawa, 51, was sentenced to death in two murder cases, including that of a lawyer and his family.

Including Hayakawa, the district court so far has handed sentences to 13 of 19 members involved in one or more of the three major Aum murder cases and charged on suspicion of murder or attempted murder.
(...)

Seven of the 13--four of whom were found guilty of releasing sarin gas in the subway system and three of whom also were found guilty of murdering the lawyer and his family--were sentenced to death.

The sentences emphasized the fact that cult founder and former guru Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, masterminded the incidents. They also reflected the fact that many senior cult members participated in the crimes under Matsumoto's orders.
(...)

The district court has yet to hand down sentences to Tomomitsu Niimi and Tomomasa Nakagawa, who are both suspected of having been involved in all three of the most serious murder cases, and Masami Tsuchiya and Seiichi Endo, both of whom reportedly helped make sarin gas.

Their proceedings are likely to take more time because their defense lawyers' arguments are at an early stage.

As for Matsumoto, prosecutors have just begun to establish the facts concerning the 12th of the 17 crimes in which he is suspected to have been involved.

To avoid prolonged court hearings, some members of the legal field have demanded the cancellation of six of the 17 indictments against Matsumoto relating to crimes in which no one was harmed.

However, prosecutors have decided to begin proceedings regarding the cult's production of automatic rifles this month, claiming it is necessary to clarify how the group had built up its armory.

The plethora of sentences handed down in Aum-related trials between last month and this month has highlighted the length of Matsumoto's trial, and it is inevitable that moves to speed up the leader's trials will accelerate.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

7. Kanungu Dead Poisoned
New Vision (Uganda), July 28, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000728/20000728_feat11.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Kampala - Most of the hundreds of the people who died at the hands of a doomsday cult at Kanungu early this year, had been poisoned, police said on Thursday.

''The bodies which were found buried in the pits, had been poisoned, Police pathologists have told us. But we have not got the detailed reports from forensic experts of the type of poisoning because we have not yet paid to get the results. Those that were strangled were few,'' Police spokesman Asuman Mugenyi told AFP, a French news agency.

The final death toll in the cult killings has now settled at 778, Mugenyi added.
(...)

Earlier reports had suggested that most of the members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God had been strangled to death, a theory lent credence by the presence of twists of banana fibre around the necks of many victims.

''There are no more possibilities of any more bodies being found. There is nothing else. We have searched everywhere,'' Mugenyi told the news agency.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Zhong Gong

8. [Zhong Gong] Founder Emerges
(Incorrectly headlined as: ''Falun Gong Founder Emerges'')
AOL/AP, July 29, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING (AP) - After spending months in hiding, a founder of an outlawed Chinese meditation-exercise sect has resurfaced in Guam, where China is blocking his efforts to get political asylum, a human rights group reported Saturday.

Despite a nationwide manhunt, Zhang Hongbao eluded Chinese police and in February reached Guam, a U.S. territory 3,700 miles west of Hawaii, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Zhang founded the Zhong Gong sect in 1987, and millions practiced its exercises, which are similar to the traditional Chinese health practice known as qigong, the respected rights center said.

Authorities began cracking down on Zhang's group shortly after a ban was imposed in July on a similar sect, Falun Gong. China's communist leadership views the groups as a threat to its monopoly on power.

Zhang thought Guam immigration authorities would approve his political asylum status on July 21, but his case was delayed when the Chinese Embassy in the United States requested Zhang's extradition, the center said.

In a formal letter sent to Guam officials, China said Zhang should be returned because he left the country illegally and is a suspect in a criminal case, the center said. The letter did not provide further details, it said.

Zhang's case is now being handled by immigration officials in Hawaii, who are expected to make a decision next week, the group said.
(...)

Like Falun Gong followers, Zhong Gong members refer to their founder as ''master'' and themselves as ''disciples.'' They say they use Zhong Gong to open energy channels in their bodies, promoting health and vitality. They also say Zhang's teachings promote moral living.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Jesus Christians

9. Bobby's plea spares cult members from jail
News Wire (England), July 28, 2000
http://www.lineone.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Two members of a religious cult have been spared a jail sentence for refusing to tell the High Court the whereabouts of runaway Bobby Kelly after a plea to the judge by the 16-year-old.
(...)

Susan and Roland Gianstefani, two members of the cult who met Bobby at a shopping centre in Romford while he was with his grandmother, Ruth Kelly, were taken into custody two days ago.

Giles Bain was appearing for the married couple. He told Mr Justice Sumner, who was about to sentence them for contempt, that the Official Solicitor's representative had spoken to Bobby, who had made a statement he wanted passed on to the judge.

Mr Bain said Bobby realised their ''liberties may be at stake'' and said he hoped ''they didn't get into trouble''.

Bobby said in his note that he recognised the couple were acting ''nobly'' because they did not want a cult deprogrammer to ''get his hands on me''.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Cult boy Bobby tried to recruit 12-year-old best friend
Daily Express (England), July 28, 2000
http://www.lineone.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Missing teenager Bobby Kelly was found safe and well yesterday as it emerged that he tried to recruit his 12-year-old best friend to join the cult he ran away with.

The 16-year-old was discovered living with two Jesus Christians in a tent after an investigation by Scotland Yard's kidnap squad.
(...)

The two men were arrested and Bobby was driven to an emergency private hearing at the High Court in London to decide his future.

But even as he was taken away, new details surfaced of how deeply he had embraced the cult's ideas.

Bobby, who ran away from home in Romford, Essex, last month, tried to persuade his friend, John Moyes, to follow him. In a letter, he quoted the Bible urging John to ''give his life to God''. He also asked the younger boy to hide the note in case it helped police find him.

Bobby defended the cult, described his life as a fugitive from the police and talked of fleeing the country.

The letter added: ''Despite what you hear in the papers, just believe me that the Jesus Christians are not an evil cult.

''I'm not getting brainwashed. I hope we are still mates. You might think that I'm enjoying the attention but to be honest I really don't like it. I just want to get on with working for God.''

The letter, posted on July 19 in Farnborough, close to where the teenager was found, went on: ''I'm in hiding now and I can't tell you where, as the police might get this letter but it has many trees and overall is a nice place.

''I'm getting a bit frustrated that I can't move places. If we do, the police might spot me.

''Keep this to yourself - remember the main reason why I am doing this is because of Luke, 14.33.''

The Bible passage says you must give everything to God.

Bobby continued: ''I won't be leaving the country, at least for the next couple of years, so I hope I can see you.'' Yesterday, John's mother Paula, 31, also from Romford, said of Bobby's note about the cult: ''He introduced them to John. They were trying to sell it to him.''

She revealed that Bobby had also telephoned, and her son pointed out that he could not join the cult because of his age. However, another cult member, intervened in the conversation and said: ''You can be any age.''

Bobby, who was made a ward of court last month after disappearing with the Jesus Christians, was found at Mytchett, Surrey. The party had moved into the woods two days ago after spending 10 days at a nearby public campsite.
(...)

He had been made a ward of court last month after his grandmother Ruth Kelly, 58, raised concerns about his links with cult members.

The ruling meant Official Solicitor Lawrence Oates was his legal guardian and anybody who knew his whereabouts must tell the court or face contempt charges.

Two cult members, married couple Sue and Roland Gianstefani, who refused to divulge Bobby's whereabouts, were yesterday spared jail after the teenager made an impassioned plea on their behalf.

In a statement passed to the High Court judge, Bobby, who was elsewhere in the court building, defended the pair by saying they tried to shield him from anti-cult campaigner Graham Baldwin.

Bobby said in the statement: ''I hope that they didn't get into trouble. I recognise that it was noble. They didn't want Graham Baldwin to get his hands on me. They were willing to go to prison for me.''

The Gianstefanis received a six-week jail sentence, suspended for a year.

Afterwards, Mr Baldwin said: ''They have put words into his mouth. I have never spoken to Bobby and I have never spoken to the Jesus Christians.''The two men arrested yesterday will be dealt with by a High Court judge, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Cults routinely lie about so-called deprogrammers in an effort to maintain control over their members.


11. Police find sect boy at woodland camp
The Daily Telegraph (England), July 28, 2000
http://www.lineone.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Hours after his discovery, Bobby Kelly, 16, pleaded for two other members of the Jesus Christians who refused to tell the High Court where he was to be spared a jail sentence.

Susan and Roland Gianstefani, who met Bobby while handing out leaflets in Romford, Essex, on the day he disappeared, were detained two days ago and found guilty of contempt of court.

Although they knew the teenager was at a campsite near Farnborough they kept the information secret for fear that he would be subjected to ''forceful means'' to ''deprogramme'' his religious beliefs.
(...)

Dave McKay, head of the Jesus Christians, last night said he was disappointed that Bobby had not been able to make up his own mind about whether to stay or go.

The group has denied that Bobby was brainwashed, saying he left home voluntarily.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Cult runaway defies court
Daily Express (England), July 27, 2000
http://www.lineone.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Bobby Kelly, in his first interview since he disappeared a month ago, said he planned to spend the rest of his life with the Jesus Christians.

And members of the group accused of kidnapping the youngster announced that they would go to prison rather than hand him over to police.

The defiance comes the day after a High Court judge made a direct appeal to the boy to come home. Bobby admitted yesterday that he was missing his friends and family, but said he could not live his life for God with them.
(...)

Bobby spoke to the BBC Today programme from a phonebox. He denied being brainwashed by the cult, although he admitted that one of the members was waiting outside.

Last night his exhausted grandmother, who lived with Bobby in Romford, Essex, said she did not recognise the boy in the interview. ''I just want my Bobby to come home,'' said Mrs Kelly.
(...)

Bobby said he was the youngest person to have joined the cult. They planned to take him to Germany to become a missionary, but the boy claimed yesterday he was still in England.
(...)

Dave McKay, the leader of the Australian-based Jesus Christians, made a statement on the group's official website in which he referred to cult members Roland and Susan Gianstefani.''Roland and Susan are prepared to go to jail for several years if necessary before they will divulge any information which would compromise Bobby's freedom and personal rights,'' the message said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Boy camped with cult as hunt went on
The Guardian (England), July 28, 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Two weeks ago a man strolled into the reception centre of a busy campsite near Farnborough in Hampshire and booked a two night stay, signing himself into the visitors' book as Reinhard Zeuner from Erlangen in Germany.

That day, Friday July 14, Bobby Kelly's face was on the front of the Express newspaper under the headline ''Cult kidnap boy aged 16.'' He was in other newspapers too, and the cult members with him read the reports with alarm.

Their fear was that Bobby would be ''deprogrammed'' - forcibly made to give up the religious beliefs he had acquired since he left his grandmother's home in Romford to travel with them a month earlier.

So Zeuner and another cult member, Andrew Eagles, took Bobby to the campsite, where they kept a low profile, renewing their stay every few days.
(...)

On Tuesday, the day of the judge's appeal, Detective Constable Shaun Reardon of the Metropolitan police kidnap and special investigations unit rang the campsite and asked if a Mr Zeuner had booked in.

Visitors' services manager Susie Porter took the call. ''You've just missed him,'' she said. Five hours earlier the group had packed up their two domed tents and headed into the woods behind the field.

Here, in a clearing in the woods at Ash Ranges, Bobby was found and the two men were arrested by plainclothes detectives at 10.30am yesterday.

On the Jesus Christians' website, the group declared that ''we recognised something like this was almost inevitable''.

The website reiterates their fear of ''deprogramming''. It states: ''We regard Bobby Kelly as an adolescent... not fully adult, not fully child... 16-year-old children all over Britain do things that their parents and guardians do not agree with, but the police are not called in, a nationwide manhunt is not mounted... and certainly the whole country is not banned from hearing their side.''

Founded by David McKay in 1981 and at one time - maybe still - consisting of no more than his family, friends and dropouts picked up on the group's travels, the Jesus Christians preach a fundamentalist version of Christianity, insisting that salvation can be obtained only by reverting to the precepts of the Bible.

The insistence on returning to a wandering lifestyle, not dependent on money, has not prevented the group carrying out a series of stunts with a shrewd eye to publicity, such as superglueing Australian dollar bills to pavements to illustrate the illusory nature of cash and dressing up as babies outside more orthodox religious gatherings to demonstrate the need to be childlike to accept God's message.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Boy found safe in cult forest hide-out
The Guardian (England), July 28, 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) The 16-year-old, who was made a ward of court after his disappearance a month ago, was yesterday discussing his future with lawyers representing the official solicitor, Laurence Oates, who is supervising his interests.

Mr Oates said the boy was in good spirits and would now be given space and time to reflect on his experiences, which, according to the cult, included a camping and sightseeing trip in southern England as well as the offer to go on holiday to Germany with them.

It was not clear when or where he would be reunited with his grandmother and legal guardian Ruth Kelly, with whom he lived in Romford, Essex, before he went missing, or with his mother Jessica.
(...)

The two men arrested when he was found, cult members Andrew Eagles and Reinhard Zeuner, were both released after a private hearing at the high court yesterday.
(...)

Susan and Roland Gianstefani were among the Jesus Christians he met on June 27, when he was shopping with his grandmother in Romford and saw members of the group handing out leaflets. That afternoon the boy packed some belongings and told his family he was ''going with them''.

The Gianstefanis were arrested on Tuesday and faced going to prison for contempt of court after refusing to reveal his whereabouts. At the high court, Anthony Kirk, counsel for the official solicitor, read a statement from Bobby in which the boy referred to the couple's fears that he would be ''deprogramed''.

Judge Mr Justice Sumner sentenced the Gianstefanis to six weeks in prison, but suspended the sentence because they had apologised to the court, Bobby had been found safe and well, and because they had eventually agreed to give information about his whereabouts to the court. Outside court, the Gianstefanis, who arrived in Britain last year, made it clear the cult would be seeking to maintain contact with Bobby. ''We look forward to having a better relationship with Bobby and his family in future,'' Mr Gianstefani said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. At 16, we should have not only a voice, but a vote In the fullness of time he might well tire of prayer, bible-reading and proselytising (Column, Janet Street-Porter)
The Independent (England), July 30, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Who would want to be 16 years old? Certainly not Bobby Kelly from Romford in Essex. After meeting members of a religious sect while out on a shopping trip he disappeared from the house he shared with his grandmother and joined them. When his family had him declared a ward of court he telephoned the BBC and said he would not be coming home as he had to ''live his life for God'' and gran would get in the way.

Desperate though his family was, it does seem that by resorting to the courts it may have exacerbated matters. Bobby now must feel like a criminal. His offence? Simply to act on impulse and decide something for himself, unpalatable though that might be to friends and family. Now he has been found the court will be deciding his future. But Bobby's expectations from life now will be very different to those before he disappeared. Why can't he be allowed to decide his future for himself?
(...)

Let us not get bogged down in the merits or otherwise of the motley band of people that Bobby found so appealing. Called the Jesus Christians and founded by a former member of the controversial Children of God sect, the group appealed to converts with leaflets claiming ''God is now your Boss and he has a new job for you''. The BBC was initially prevented from broadcasting a telephone interview with Bobby, but went to court to get the ban lifted. Clearly there is something fishy going on when an organisation claiming to be doing God's work can be so unhelpful about the whereabouts of a recent recruit, but put yourself, if you can, in Bobby's place.

I tend to give young people the benefit of the doubt. I am sure that in the fullness of time Bobby might well tire of a relentless diet of prayer, bible-reading and proselytising but it must have seemed a hell of a lot more exciting than going to the local youth club.
(...)

The lesson to learn from the Bobby Kelly episode is that 16-year-olds ought to have a voice, a vote and a straightforward set of rights.
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» Continued in Part 2