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Religion News Report

August 30, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 253)

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=== Aryan Nations Trial
1. Ex-guard tells of firebomb
2. Guard: Supremacist Leader Directed Cover-Up
3. Butler attorney seeks to suppress testimony
4. Security tight in CdA for opening of Aryan trial
5. Aryans stroll through courthouse
6. Bankrupting Weak Minds, Sick Souls

=== Ho-No-Hana Sanpogyo
7. Japan: Government gets 150,000-signature petition to dissolve foot cult

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
8. Cult Leader Said to be Hiding in Kenya

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
9. Judge cancels hearing on remaining Davidian issue
10. Caddell: Government should pay all of re-creation cost
11. Davidian arrested for having handgun at Dallas airport

=== Fangcheng Church
12. Missionary's Ordeal in China
13. U.S. Missionary Urges China to Free Christians

=== Shen Chang Human Science
14. Police arrest leader of qi gong group

=== Mormonism
15. Utah's non-Mormon minority struggles to feel included

=== Catholicism
16. Pope Offers Moral Medical Guides

=== Attleboro Cult
17. Cultist vows to defy judge
18. Nurse meets with pregnant cult member
19. Nurse visits ordered for pregnant sect member

=== Occult
20. Darien police turn to psychic
21. Racism Alleged At Agency For Victims Crime Victims

=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes
22. Three German neo-Nazis get heavy prison terms for racially
motivated killing
23. Forum discusses ways to keep hate groups out

=== Militia Groups
24. Waiting Game in Shadow of Waco

=== Millennium World Peace Summit
25. What does God want? Turner has ideas
26. Turner Attacks Christianity at U.N. 'Peace Summit'
27. Anan Says No Room for Religious Bigotry
28. Religious Leaders Start Signing Peace Declaration

=== Other News
29. Was 'jar baby' stolen from Jersey morgue?
30. Town split by church fight
31. Israeli Scholar's Copyright Upheld

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance
32. Bible Story Boy Headed for High Court
33. Prayers at Football Games
34. Prayer backers rallying

=== Science
35. CSICOP Release on Turin Shroud

=== Noted
36. Your Turn: Colorful describes Rainbow people and their celebrations.

=== Books
37. Signs From Above
38. Real Science or Voodoo Science?


=== Aryan Nations Trial

1. Ex-guard tells of firebomb
Spokesman Review, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Coeur d'Alene _ A former Aryan Nations guard told a jury Tuesday that he built a firebomb with help from Richard Butler two years ago and went looking ''to burn down'' property owned by a Jewish activist.

Another former Aryan guard testified that an SKS assault rifle used in a July 1998 attack on a woman and her son was given away as part of a cover-up Butler orchestrated after a civil suit had been filed against him and the Aryan Nations.

Ex-Aryan guards Charles W. Hardman and Scott Dabbs were lead-off witnesses in the suit brought against the Aryan Nations by attorneys affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

They represent Victoria and Jason Keenan, who are seeking a monetary judgment for being chased and shot at by three Aryan guards -- Jesse Warfield, John Yaeger and Shane Wright.
(...)

Victoria Keenan continues to suffer from stress and anxiety associated with the attack, he said.

''She cries for no reason. She has nightmares,'' Dees said, and the assault ''virtually destroyed relations with her husband.''

In moments of intimacy, she sees ''the face of Jesse Warfield, who she describes as the devil himself,'' Dees told the jury.

Dees said the plaintiffs seek damages, but he didn't suggest a specific amount in his opening statement.

Defense attorney Edgar Steele responded by asking the jurors to ''set aside the emotions and feelings'' generated by Dees.

Steele told the jury the assault on the Keenans was ''terrible and reprehensible. I join the other side in condemning it.''

The defense attorney said the jury will hear other witnesses describe Butler as a racist, but one who doesn't condone violence.

''Misfits and malcontents have left the Aryan Nations over the years because all Butler does is talk,'' the defense attorney said.

''He's well beyond being politically incorrect,'' Steele said, ''and we're not going to deny that.

''But I'm going to prove that Mr. Butler isn't responsible for these terrible things,'' he said.

The guards weren't acting as agents for Butler or the Aryan Nations and, in fact, were off duty and ''stinking drunk'' at the time of the assault, Steele argued.
(...)

Dees kicked off the trial not by calling Butler to testify, but by reading to the jury what the 82-year-old Aryan leader said under oath during a pre-trial deposition.

In that deposition, Butler testified that he sends away felons unless they produce paperwork from a parole officer approving their visit to the Aryan Nations.

With Butler's own words as the setup, Dees then called Hardman as the plaintiffs' first witness.

Hardman told the jury he learned about the Aryan Nations while serving Georgia prison time after convictions for burglary and statutory rape. He said he sent the North Idaho white supremacy group $2,000 for books and literature.

Once out of prison, he broke parole by leaving his electronic monitoring bracelet in Georgia while he took a Greyhound bus to the Aryan Nations compound north of Hayden Lake.

Just days after his arrival in November 1997, Hardman testified, he told Aryan chief of staff Michael Teague and Butler that he was a fugitive and a felon.

Butler told Hardman he ''could stay, but not to get into trouble,'' the witness testified. Butler then married Hardman to a 15-year-old runaway who had accompanied him from Georgia.

''We got married and we didn't get along, so three days later I put her on the bus and sent her back home,'' Hardman testified.

He later lived at the Aryan Nations with another female runaway, Hardman said.

While living there in early 1998, there was a string of vandalism, including a mattress fire in a bunkhouse and the cutting of an electrical power line.

Butler became enraged and blamed Jews for the vandalism, Hardman said.

The witness said he had been entrusted with providing security at the Aryan compound and believed he had failed in that duty.

''I felt that he (Butler) was the leader of the white race and the second Adolf Hitler,'' Hardman said.

Stunned by Butler's anger, Hardman said he told him he had a gallon of gasoline.

''I said, `I'll go burn something down. All I need is a jar,' '' Hardman said in recounting his conversation with Butler.

Butler responded, ''Well, just a minute.'' He went into his residence and returned with an empty Coca Cola bottle that he gave Hardman for a Molotov cocktail, Hardman testified.

Hardman said he took the bottle and made the firebomb with soap and gasoline, before leaving the compound with Butler's knowledge.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Guard: Supremacist Leader Directed Cover-Up
Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler directed a cover-up after a civil-rights lawsuit was filed against the white supremacist sect, a former security guard testified Tuesday.

Scott Dabbs, a security guard at the Aryan Nations headquarters from August 1998 until February 1999, told a 1st District Court jury that Butler and his second-in-command, ''Colonel'' Michael Teague, plotted to dispose of and fabricate evidence after the suit was filed in January 1999.

Dabbs' testimony concluded the second day of a trial that could force the Aryan Nations to pay for the actions of security guards accused of attacking a mother and son who drove by sect headquarters in July 1998.
(...)

Dabbs testified he was with Butler and Teague when a reporter called the Aryan headquarters asking for comment on the lawsuit the day it was filed. He said Butler told him an SKS assault rifle used in the July attack would have to be disposed of because it could be used as evidence.

Butler later told him to place the rifle in the car trunk of another Aryan Nations member, and it was never seen again, Dabbs said.

Later, false rules for guards were printed and backdated, he said. He was with Butler when a legal-forms shop refused to sell him documents that could be used to place the sect's assets into a trust, Dabbs testified.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Butler attorney seeks to suppress testimony
The Spokesman Review, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Richard Butler's defense attorney is expected to move today to prevent a Coeur d'Alene jury from hearing about a former Aryan Nations security guard who faces murder and assault charges in Los Angeles.

Attorney Edgar Steele doesn't want the jury in the landmark civil damages case to hear references or testimony about Buford Furrow.

Furrow is accused of murdering a Filipino-American letter carrier and shooting up a Jewish community center in an assault-rifle shooting spree in August 1999.
(...)

Steele said he also wants the judge to bar introduction of a 1995 photograph of Furrow in an Aryan guard uniform.

The jury was selected Monday behind closed doors guarded by four sheriff's deputies. No members of the media or public were allowed in to the initial selection process.

The judge later allowed one pool reporter, from The Associated Press, and one member of the public, Coeur d'Alene attorney Harvey Richman, into the courtroom.
(...)

The Spokesman-Review on Monday filed an emergency motion protesting the judge's decision to bar the media from the jury selection process.

''The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the media with the right of access to public court proceedings,'' attorney Joel Hazel said in the motion.
(...)

The judge also has denied media requests to hold the trial in a larger court or provide an audio feed of the proceedings to an adjoining courtroom that was set aside for the press corps.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Security tight in CdA for opening of Aryan trial
The Spokesman Review, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Coeur d'Alene _ Police paced rooftops, guarded alleyways and lurked in every shadow as a landmark trial aimed at bankrupting the Aryan Nations began Monday.

That show of force carried the day as protesters and troublemakers made only cameo appearances.

They were vastly outnumbered by police -- and national media -- as Richard Butler entered the Kootenai County Justice Building to defend his racist group from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Morris Dees.
(...)

Irv Rubin, leader of the Jewish Defense League in Los Angeles, had arrived at 6:30 a.m. to find nothing but police barricades.

''I expected a lot more people,'' Rubin said.

Rubin promised Chief Cronin that his third trip to Coeur d'Alene in as many years would include only talk.

''I totally want to cooperate. I don't want to protest or cause a disturbance. I'm just a spectator,'' Rubin said. ''I don't want to influence a jury in any way or manner.''

However, Rubin later traded barbs with Vincent Bertollini, of Sandpoint, one of two leaders of the 11th Hour Remnant Messenger, which preaches white supremacy.
(...)

Bertollini -- who said he is helping fund Butler's legal bill -- then called Rubin ''the most notorious person in the country.''

Rubin replied: ''Next to you.''

Bertollini was asked if his racist mailings could inspire another Buford Furrow -- who is accused of murdering a Filipino-American letter carrier and shooting up a Jewish community center in a Los Angeles shooting spree in August 1999. He responded: ''No more than video games.''

He later added: ''Buford (Furrow) should have gone for the `big guy,''' as he looked at Rubin, ''not the little people.''

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, the Aryan Nations will still call North Idaho home, Bertollini said.

''Butler will never leave this area. If he ends up living in a wooden box under a bridge, he will stay here,'' Bertollini said. ''Should (Butler) meet his demise in any way, I guarantee that someone will step in and take his place.''

Bertollini quickly said the next Aryan Nations leader would not be him.
(...)

Rubin, who staged a counter-rally at the 1998 Aryan Nations parade, again took the opportunity to rip local officials for not doing enough to fight the Hayden Lake-based hate group.

''It's not bad luck that these people located here,'' Rubin said. ''Butler has said that the silence of the community means his acceptance. It's true.''

Bill Wassmuth, former head of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said Rubin's comments are wrong.

Wassmuth, who released a book this year titled ''Hate is My Neighbor,'' disagreed with Rubin's criticism of local public officials.

''It's easy for someone out of the area to criticize the local folks. It's simply inaccurate,'' Wassmuth said as he stood outside the courthouse.

Wassmuth's book contains key moments of the early fight against racism in North Idaho -- including the bombing of his home.

''You always want more,'' he said, ''but certainly, the Coeur d'Alene community has worked diligently for 20 years and has done everything they could possibly do.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Aryans stroll through courthouse
The Spokesman Review, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Coeur d'Alene _ Tired of getting little reaction outside, three Aryan Nations members decided to take a little stroll Tuesday afternoon through the Kootenai County Courthouse.

Their exercise put several Kootenai County deputies on alert while they guarded the courtroom.
(...)

Jere Brower, 24, and two other unidentified Aryans walked nervously through the metal detector and then started handing out racist literature.

They handed a copy to Bill Keenan, who was waiting outside the courtroom where his ex-wife, Victoria, and their son, Jason Keenan, sat in the trial.

Bill Keenan took the flier and ripped it into pieces in front of the Aryans before walking over and throwing the paper away in a trash can.
(...)

Eventually, the Aryans left the courthouse and gathered outside on Garden Avenue where the number of police had dropped by half from Monday. But, the Aryan presence quadrupled from two to eight.

One of those Aryans was Mike McQueeney, who drove to Coeur d'Alene from Mercer, Wis., to support Butler and protest against Irv Rubin, the leader of the Jewish Defense League from Los Angeles.

McQueeney said he and Rubin supporters scuffled two years ago on a Jerry Springer show titled ''Klan-frontation.''

''He's one of the most hated men in America,'' McQueeney said of Rubin. ''I don't mean any physical harm to the guy. I just believe in different things than him.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Bankrupting Weak Minds, Sick Souls
The Columbian, Aug. 29, 2000 (Opinion)
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
There are few places in the world more beautiful than northern Idaho. And few places more ugly.

A trial that began Monday in a Coeur d'Alene courtroom has the potential to put the Pacific Northwest's most well-known white supremacist group out of business and cut the ugliness quotient substantially.
(...)

I've written before about my one in-person encounter with Richard Butler, when I was in college and he was a pathetic old neo-Nazi who visited a sociology class wearing a ''uniform'' that made him look like a kid playing Army dress-up.

Today Butler is older than ever he's 82 and he's still pathetic and still a neo-Nazi (though I'll bet he won't wear his Wehrmacht costume to the trial). His dream of building a homeland for the white race in the Pacific Northwest has fallen on hard times, as has his effort to recruit fellow hate-mongers: Where once 50 or 60 people lived in his Hayden Lake compound, today it's thought to harbor fewer than a dozen.

But Dees is correct when he says Butler is still a dangerous man. Among Aryan Nations' followers is Buford Furrow Jr., the man accused of killing a Filipino-American mail carrier and wounding five people at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles last August. ''He was a good soldier,'' Butler said of Furrow after the shooting spree.

Weak minds, sick souls
Of course, Richard Butler is free to believe whatever contemptible nonsense he wants. He's even free to preach that contemptible nonsense to as many weak minds and sick souls as he can.

But his rights end when words become actions and actions inflict harm. And Dees contends that, even though Butler claims to have had no knowledge of the July 1998 assault until days after it happened, the Aryan Nations security guards were acting with Butler's approval and encouragement. Thus, he's liable for damages.

The suit on behalf of Keenan and her son doesn't seek a specific dollar amount, but if Dees' track record is any indication, the judgment could be massive. During the past two decades, the Southern Poverty Law Center has won almost $50 million in damages from neo- Nazi, white-supremacist and Ku Klux Klan groups across the country.
(...)

Dees admits that's the main idea behind the lawsuit against Butler: to break Aryan Nations so it cannot hurt anybody else.

Butler's supremacist philosophy has always been ideologically bankrupt. How fitting that it could soon end up financially destitute, as well.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Ho-No-Hana Sanpogyo

7. Japan: Government gets 150,000-signature petition to dissolve foot cult
BBC Monitoring, Aug. 30, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo
Tokyo, 30th August: The Cultural Affairs Agency on Wednesday [ 30th August] received a petition with more than 150,000 signatures calling for court dissolution of the foot-reading cult Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo, agency officials said.

Along with citizens opposed to the cult, Kiyomi Suzuki, mayor of the city of Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture where the cult is based, and Motoi Ogura, chief of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, handed the petition to the agency's Director-General Masamine Sasaki.

Ho-no-Hana's founder Hogen Fukunaga, now on trial for fraud charges, has a residence in Shibuya. The agency has jurisdiction over religious groups.

Koichi Shida, who led the signature campaign in Fuji, told Sasaki: ''We obtained about 147,000 signatures out of the city's electorate of roughly 180,000. That shows how people hope for the dissolution,'' according to the officials.
(...)

Fukunaga and several other senior members of the cult were arrested and indicted for swindling victims out of money in several cases in May and June. Cult leaders claimed the power to diagnose illness through foot examinations, and demanded large sums from victims in return for ''curing'' their relatives.

According to the Religious Corporation Law, the agency, parties concerned and public prosecutors can ask courts to dissolve cults.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

8. Cult Leader Said to be Hiding in Kenya
Xinhua News Agency, Aug. 27, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Uganda's fugitive doomsday cult leader Joseph Kibwetere is suspected to be hiding in western Kenya, the Monitor daily quoted human rights activists as reporting Monday.

Officials of Western Kenya Human Rights Watch (WKHRW) and the Uganda Human Rights Activists (UHRA) urged the Kenyan government to investigate Kibwetere's alleged presence in Kenya.

They said that followers of Kibwetere's Movement of Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God are infiltrating western Kenya in big numbers.

''Their followers are selling their plots and other properties in order to join the cult, saying that the world will end on December 31, 2000,'' they said in a statement.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Waco / Branch Davidians

9. Judge cancels hearing on remaining Davidian issue
Waco Tribune-Herald, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A September hearing on the remaining issue in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit against the government - whether agents shot at sect members during the April 19, 1993, fire - was canceled Tuesday by a federal judge in Waco.

U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. had set a hearing for Sept. 18. However, in an order Tuesday, Smith said he would issue a ruling in the lawsuit based on evidence already in the record since none of the plaintiffs expressed an interest in paying for an infrared expert to be brought from England to Waco for the hearing.

Smith removed the issue from the lawsuit because David Oxlee of Vector Data Systems was not available to come to Waco for the trial, which started in June.

After an advisory jury's verdict cleared the government of wrongdoing in the deaths of David Koresh and 75 of his followers, the majority of plaintiffs said that they no longer were interested in pursuing the gunfire issue. They had alleged that FBI agents fired into Mount Carmel on the final day of the standoff and pinned sect members inside a burning Mount Carmel.
(...)

Smith has set no timetable for when he will issue his final ''findings of fact and conclusions of law'' from the civil trial.

Also in his order, Smith clarified a previous order by saying that the costs associated with the March demonstration at Fort Hood are to be paid by the individual plaintiffs, not the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Lead plaintiffs attorney Michael Caddell of Houston questioned Smith's Aug. 11 order in which the judge broke down the cost of the re-creation based upon the number of plaintiffs each of the three attorneys represented. In a motion filed Monday, Caddell called the judge's order ''manifestly unjust'' and asked the judge to clarify his order.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Caddell: Government should pay all of re-creation cost
Waco Tribune-Herald, Aug. 28, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The lead plaintiffs' attorney in the Branch Davidian civil lawsuit charged Monday that the government should bear the full cost of a March infrared videotape re-creation.

Michael Caddell of Houston says it's the government's responsibility because the tests were flawed and designed to exonerate federal agents. Caddell claims in a motion filed with U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco that it would be ''manifestly unjust - not to mention clear error'' for the judge to expect Caddell to bear the additional costs of the re-creation.
(...)

In an Aug. 11 order, Smith ordered Caddell to pay $20,014 for his share of the re-creation. He ordered other plaintiffs' attorneys Ramsey Clark and James Brannon to pay $5,131 and $513, respectively.

The judge said he presumes the government will pay the other half of the $51,318.17 that the Department of Defense has billed for the test at Fort Hood. Those costs exclude the salaries of military personnel who participated and the cost of transporting a Lynx helicopter from England to Fort Hood, the judge noted.

''It is particularly inappropriate to assess any portion of these costs against the plaintiffs in this matter when the protocols agreed to were not followed and the plaintiffs' requests for explanations were derisively dismissed,'' Caddell wrote in his motion.

Caddell told the judge that he already has spent $1.5 million of his own money on the case, ''a commitment to the truth far greater than that made by any other participant in this matter.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Davidian arrested for having handgun at Dallas airport
Waco Tribune-Herald, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A Branch Davidian who left Mount Carmel during the 1993 government siege has been arrested for having a handgun at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Rita Faye Riddle, 43, now of Candler, N.C., was released from the Dallas County Jail on Sunday after posting $5,000 bond on charges of carrying a weapon in a prohibited location.

Airport spokesman Emilio Howell said Riddle was arrested after airport security officers spotted a pistol in her bag as it went through a scanning machine about 8:45 a.m. Saturday. Riddle consented to a search of the bag and officers found the handgun, Howell said.

''She stated to the officers that she had no knowledge of the handgun,'' Howell said. ''She said it may have belonged to her traveling companion.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Fangcheng Church

12. Missionary's Ordeal in China
The San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 29, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
At age 24, UC Berkeley graduate Patricia Lan has already been on three secret missions to help evangelical churches in mainland China.

But none of those trips prepared this South Bay resident for what happened to her last week in a small Chinese village. There, she said, she was interrogated by police, accused of being a member of an ''evil cult'' and forced to spend a long night in a dingy jail cell packed with 20 other Christian women.

''It was very chaotic,'' said Lan, a member of the Chinese Agape Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Cupertino. ''The living conditions in there are like hell. If I'd stayed in jail a couple more days, I'd have gone crazy.''

Lan, who returned to the Bay Area during the weekend, was one of three Americans arrested with 127 Chinese citizens last week in a government raid on the underground Fangcheng Church movement in central China.

Her fellow missionaries, Henry Chu, 36, and his wife, Sandy Lin, 28, were expected to arrive at San Francisco International Airport today on a flight from Hong Kong.
(...)

Fangcheng Church is one of many evangelical church movements in China that operate in defiance of government restrictions on worship outside state-controlled churches.

According to human-rights activists, last week's crackdown was part of an escalating campaign against a religious revival among Christians and other spiritual groups in China.

''The government feels they are losing control,'' Lan said. ''The other (state-sanctioned) churches must have their sermons approved by the government, and can't preach to people under 18. But government has no control over these (underground) churches.''
(...)

Chinese authorities said Lin and her South Bay brethren were arrested and deported for ''activities incompatible with the tourist status under which they entered China.''

They said the Fangcheng Church members were arrested for belonging to an ''evil cult,'' the same label the government used in its campaign against the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Chinese Agape Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Cupertino is one of four Chinese evangelical churches in the Bay Area that are part of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, a fast-growing network of Pentecostal congregations that grew out of the countercultural ''Jesus Freak'' movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lan's Cupertino pastor, who asked that his name not be used, said his church has been sending small teams of missionaries to China since 1994.

''All we are doing is sharing the gospel -- telling people about God,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. U.S. Missionary Urges China to Free Christians
Inside China Today/Reuters, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
BEIJING, Aug 30, 2000 -- (Reuters) An American missionary detained in China last week for attending a secret meeting of a banned Christian church has appealed to Beijing to free 130 of his brethren and denied the church was a dangerous cult.

Henry Chu, 36, was one of three U.S. missionaries freed on Friday, two days after they were detained in the central province of Henan with 130 members of the China Fang-cheng Church, an evangelical group Beijing banned last year.

Chu, his wife Sandee Lin and her friend Patricia Lan - all Taiwan-born U.S. citizens - left China on Saturday after being driven by police for 15 hours from Henan to Shanghai airport, Chu said.
(...)

''I don't want to condemn the government,'' he said. ''But I do hope through this incident the government will come to the knowledge that the Christian underground in China, they are not cults at all. They are bible-based Christians.''


Although China's constitution enshrines freedom of religion, worship is banned outside official state-sponsored religious organizations.

But millions of Christians meet secretly in prayer groups, for bible study sessions and services in home-based churches.

Chu said he was on his 10th visit to China to give secret bible classes and deliver teaching materials when police raided a meeting he was attending in a Henan village.
(...)

The Fang-cheng church ran afoul of China's Communist rulers last year for its affiliation with overseas Christians and its refusal to join the state church, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

It was one of at least 14 Chinese Christian sects Communist authorities had labeled ''evil cults'' - the same label as the Falun Gong spiritual group, the center said.

It estimated Fang-cheng had about 500,000 followers. Chu said the number was much larger, but declined to give a figure.

Chu said persecution of church members had intensified since it was bracketed with Falun Gong, whose members have staged almost daily demonstrations in Beijing since the spiritual group was banned last year.

''The underground church has been persecuted for 50 years and they never retaliate against the government like Falun Gong does,'' he said.

''They are law abiding citizens except that they follow Jesus Christ.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Shen Chang Human Science

14. Police arrest leader of qi gong group
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.scmp.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Another qi gong master has been arrested in the latest crackdown on mainland spiritual groups, a human rights group reported yesterday.

Shen Chang, founder of Shen Chang Human Science - a branch of the qi gong deep-breathing discipline which claims to have five million adherents on the mainland - was arrested last month, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

The centre said police and prosecutors confirmed Shen, 44, was charged last week with tax evasion and ''assembling a crowd to disturb social order'' in Suzhou city, Jiangsu province.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Mormonism

15. Utah's non-Mormon minority struggles to feel included
Denver Post/AP, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.detnews.com/2Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SALT LAKE CITY -- John Norman still remembers being excluded from birthday parties and Boy Scouts events when he was growing up in the mostly Mormon city of Logan, in northern Utah. The memories hurt.

Now a Catholic priest, Norman exemplifies the feelings and frustrations of Utah's non-Mormon minority.

''They just didn't recognize that their actions left people out,'' Norman said.
Whether they grew up here or moved to Utah from elsewhere, non-Mormons say they often feel oppressed and must struggle to be heard.
(...)

Settled in the 1840s by Mormons fleeing persecution, Utah is now 76 percent Mormon. But just half of Salt Lake City's residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the gentile population is growing as outsiders stream in, drawn by the rugged mountains and booming economy.

Non-Mormons are acutely aware of how their differences affect everything from whom they date to how their businesses fares.
(...)

O'Grady, who moved to Salt Lake City from New York City five years ago, says that being non-Mormon -- coupled with the fact she's a woman -- is a barrier in business dealings.

She comes away from business meetings feeling excluded and is convinced that if the church refuses to support a project, it dies.

Missionaries' ambitious attempts to convert newcomers also upsets some people. So has the church's acquisition of a block of downtown Salt Lake City to build a semipublic park where it will be illegal to smoke, skateboard, organize protests and hand out pamphlets.

The American Civil Liberties Union contends the $8.1-million sale deprives citizens of First Amendment rights and has challenged parts of the deal.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Theologically, Mormonism is a cult of Christianity.


=== Catholicism

16. Pope Offers Moral Medical Guides
USA Today, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.usatoday.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ROME - Pope John Paul II sought Tuesday to lay down moral guidelines for medical research in the 21st century, endorsing organ donation and adult stem cell study but condemning human cloning and embryo experiments.

John Paul's address to an international conference of 5,000 transplant specialists appeared to be an attempt to set moral limits on such life-and-death issues as organ transplants and related research.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Attleboro Cult

17. Cultist vows to defy judge
Boston Herald, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.bostonherald.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A pregnant Attleboro cult member suspected of covering up the death of her last baby vowed to defy a judge's order that she allow an appointed health aide to help deliver her child - and could be locked up as early as today.

``In no way at all will I accept any kind of medical assistance. It is against God,'' Rebecca Corneau, who is 8 1/2 months pregnant, boldly told Attleboro Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Nasif yesterday.

Nasif - who just two weeks ago deemed Corneau an unfit mother and took away her three kids - refused a prosecutor's request to put the woman in a secure health facility until her baby is born, instead giving her a chance to comply with court-ordered daily visits from an Attleboro nurse.

But Corneau, described by one prosecutor as ``cocky,'' vowed to ignore the judge's order.

``I will not allow her into my home,'' Corneau, 32, told the court, referring to the nurse. ``I will not be examined by anyone. As far as I'm concerned, it's none of their business.''

Attleboro nurse Beth Collins was slated to visit the cult's Attleboro home sometime late yesterday or early today to check on Corneau, but Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. said he ``has no faith'' she will comply.

Walsh said he expects to be back in court as early as today, once again seeking to have her taken into state custody.

The petition to have Corneau put into a secure setting is believed to be the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

Walsh, who confirmed that a second cult member is pregnant and could be affected by yesterday's ruling, said his goal is not to punish Corneau, but ``to protect the baby.''

``We've got two dead babies here. I don't want a third dead baby,'' the DA said. ``The last thing we want is to have a third child buried up in Baxter State Park.''
(...)

Corneau's husband, 32-year-old David Corneau, appeared at the care and protection hearing yesterday in handcuffs and backed his wife, citing their hardline religious beliefs. David Corneau is among eight members of the Christian fundamentalist sect behind bars for stonewalling a grand jury probing the boys' disappearances.

``You cannot force the medical system on myself or my wife,'' David Corneau proclaimed. ``Only one holds the key to life and death and that's God Almighty himself, not the medical system.''
(...)

Nasif, who called Walsh's unprecedented court action ``courageous,'' warned Corneau that violating his order would be akin to contempt of court. In all, Nasif has taken 13 children from the cult and put them into Department of Social Services custody.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Nurse meets with pregnant cult member
Boston Herald/AP, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.bostonherald.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ATTLEBORO - A nurse met for about 15 minutes today with a pregnant member of a fundamentalist sect who had said she would not agree to a judge's order that she be examined by the nurse.

Prosecutors had no immediate comment on whether they were satisfied with the visit, which took place in the back yard of the home Rebecca Corneau shares with other sect members.

Corneau had vowed Tuesday not to let a state nurse into her house, and prosecutors said she could be held in contempt of court if she refused to do so. Corneau is suspected of covering up the death of her last baby, and prosecutors say they are concerned for the welfare of her unborn child.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Nurse visits ordered for pregnant sect member
The Boston Globe, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.boston.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ATTLEBORO - A judge yesterday ordered a nurse to make daily visits to a pregnant member of a fundamentalist sect, setting up a potential showdown because the expectant mother says she will refuse any medical exam.

Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth P. Nasif rejected a prosecution bid to lock up Rebecca Corneau in a medical facility for the remaining month of her pregnancy. Corneau is suspected of covering up the death of one child and has been declared unfit to care for two others.

Nasif instead appointed a nurse from the Attleboro Public Health Department to serve as a guardian for the fetus. The nurse, Beth Collins, is expected to try to visit Corneau's home today after receiving a written order from Nasif.

Corneau was adamant at the hearing that she would not allow any health officials into her home or accept any medical help with her pregnancy, said an official from the Plymouth District Attorney's office who attended the hearing. The religious group reportedly shuns modern medicine.
(...)

At the hearing yesterday, Walsh presented evidence from well-known pediatric medical specialist Eli Newberger of Children's Hospital, who is acting as a consultant to the district attorney's office.

According to Walsh, Newberger's analysis of diaries kept by sect members suggests that Corneau's previous child Jeremiah - who she claims was ''stillborn'' - was actually born alive but probably died when its lungs weren't properly aspirated, a routine procedure in hospital births. The other infant, Samuel Robidoux, allegedly starved to death after he stopped nursing, and Newberger's analysis suggested he suffered terribly, Walsh said.

At first, Walsh said, he thought the sect members were merely ''misguided,'' but anyone who could watch a child starve like that, he said, ''you have got to say that is not a nice person.''

Walsh acknowledged that his office might be on shaky legal footing, but he pled necessity.

''If society can't do something to protect this kid, there is something wrong with that,'' he said. ''I don't know about the strong legal grounds we're on, but I think it's pretty strong moral and ethical grounds so we're going to try to do it.''

Walsh also insisted that he was not trying to make any larger political points in the debate over abortion rights, saying ''this is a case, it is not a cause.''

Legal experts, however, said the case illustrates how courts and officials are increasingly intervening to protect the rights of unborn children in the later stages of development.

Former state prosecutor and New England School of Law Professor Wendy Murphy said Nasif's decision may make abortion rights advocates nervous, because it is saying the unborn child ''is a person with rights.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Occult

20. Darien police turn to psychic
Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.suntimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Drien police are planning to do an aerial search near the Argonne National Laboratory where an Arkansas psychic said a missing Darien physician may be buried.

Carol Pate, a psychic who has helped police in their investigations, was sought out by Darien officials to help search for Xu ''Su'' Wang, who has been missing for more than a year.
(...)

''We've consulted the psychic for no other reason than why not,'' said Campo. ''We've got nothing else going, and it's an investigative tool.''

The department sent Pate several photographs, one of Wang and another of her husband, Yijun Zeng, whom she was planning to divorce, Campo said. Pate proved herself by revealing facts about the case that have not been disclosed to the public yet, he said.

Right away the psychic told police they were dealing with a homicide because Wang had died violently.
(...)

The use of the psychic has made the department the target of some ridicule among their police peers, who are by nature skeptical.

''As police we deal with black and white generally,'' Campo said. ''Among our peers, we're catching a little bit of abuse about this. But, all other typical police avenues have been exhausted.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. Racism Alleged At Agency For Victims Crime Victims
Allentown Morning Call, Aug. 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
For more than 25 years, the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley has helped emotionally distraught people.

But several years ago, some employees there needed their own help as they faced emotional problems triggered by a turbulent working environment that included allegations of racism and occult practices.

In the last two years, three former council employees have sued the agency in federal court, alleging that their civil rights were violated by an agency that is supposed to be extra sensitive to human relations.
(...)

The three former employees who sued and two other former employees have alleged that:

- The agency's sole black employee endured racism.

- Two white employees who spoke out about the racial allegations were fired or
demoted.

- Three other employees used occult practices in the office and had a seance
with a crime victim outside the office. They burned candles and spread burnt
sage in the office to ward off evil spirits.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes

22. Three German neo-Nazis get heavy prison terms for racially motivated killing
Excite/AP, Aug. 30, 2000
http://news.excite.ca/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HALLE, Germany (AP) - Three neo-Nazis were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal beating of a Mozambican that focused national attention on a rising wave of violence against foreigners in Germany.

The state court in Halle sentenced Enrico Hilprecht, 24, to the maximum of life in prison for the brutal crime. His two 16-year-old co-defendants, Christian Richter and Frank Miethbauer, were each given sentences of nine years - one year less than the maximum allowed for juveniles.

Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentences for all three, charging they had acted out of hatred for foreigners when they went after Alberto Adriano on June 11, kicking and beating him so brutally that he died from his injuries three days later.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Forum discusses ways to keep hate groups out
Spokesman Review, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SPOKANE -- While former Aryan Nations members testified in a Coeur d'Alene trial that's gaining national attention, more than 100 students and educators gathered at Spokane City Hall on Tuesday afternoon to fight hate groups.

''It's purely coincidence that we had this event the same time as the trial,'' said Vince Lemus, city human rights specialist and event co-organizer.

The event, ''Student Forum on Hate,'' invited area students and teachers to hear presentations about hate groups and discuss ways to keep organizations such as the Aryan Nations out of their communities.
(...)

They watched a slide show documenting the past 15 years of activities on the Aryan Nations compound, including cross burnings, rallies and clashes with protesters. Afterward, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Brian Goldberg, encouraged students to learn more and understand that these groups are actively recruiting.
(...)

But racism is not just found in organizations such as the Aryan Nations, said Josh Buehner, a member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. Many times it's a friend or colleague who says something inappropriate.
(...)

The event, sponsored by Spokane School District 81, The Spokesman-Review and the city of Spokane, broke new ground, Lemus said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Militia Groups

24. Waiting Game in Shadow of Waco
Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TRINIDAD, Tex. -- John Joe Gray's land is 47 acres fenced with barbed wire off a dusty road in the East Texas woods. Posted by the padlocked gate is a hand-painted sign eight feet wide: ''We Are Militia and Will Live Free or Die.''

Beyond the gate, past the guards in camouflage, Gray's acreage along the Trinity River is his self-declared sovereign oasis. Among the 16 people with him are seven children, a recent visitor said. In case of attack, there's a subterranean bunker marked: ''KIDS INSIDE.''

The adults vow to stay above ground and resist U.S. government tyranny unto death. Of course, they have lots of guns.

It's a familiar phenomenon in America now, a band of ultra-religious, anti-government, paramilitary survivalists isolated in a rural compound. Ordinarily, Henderson County Sheriff Howard B. ''Slick'' Alfred would just leave them be. But since spring, his department and Gray's group have been locked in a curious stalemate in this county of sun-parched cow pastures 50 miles southeast of Dallas. Theirs is a low-boil conflict that Alfred is determined not to let erupt into a shooting war.

The sheriff has an arrest warrant charging Gray, 51, with assaulting a state trooper. And Gray's former son-in-law, Keith Tarkington, has a judge's order for custody of his two small boys, whom he last saw on Gray's property with their mother more than a year ago.

But Gray views the legal system as corrupt and ungodly. He's not coming out, he warned a district attorney's investigator, and anyone raiding his homestead should ''bring body bags.''

''If the police move in there, people are going to die,'' reported Austin-based talk-show host Alex JonesOff-site Link, who recently spent a night with Gray. Jones, whose radio and public-access cable programs are devoted to exposing government plots, warned that if deputies cross the property line, ''it's going to be a blood bath.''
(...)

Gray believes U.S. officials are plotting to enslave the nation, said Tarkington. He said his ex-father-in-law began calling himself ''Colonel Gray'' a few years ago and hosted the rag-tag maneuvers of the Texas Constitutional Militia on his property, where he keeps an arsenal of combat weapons.

He said Gray is a disciple of the Oregon-based Embassy of Heaven Church, a separatist group that rejects any form of government regulation, considering it an affront to God's supreme authority.

The group's Web site posts updates on the Trinidad resistance, featuring Gray's stern, bearded visage above a quote ascribed to him: ''I have come out of the system of the Corporate U.S. government. I use no Social Security number, do no banking, pay no income tax, do not carry license or insurance.'' Since sending out a note with the ''body bags'' warning shortly after the indictment, he has not communicated directly with authorities.

Brownlow said he feels bad for Tarkington. But he is also mindful of the catastrophic 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, 75 miles from here. He recalls the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, where an FBI sniper killed the unarmed wife of fugitive separatist Randy Weaver. Brownlow said it's his and Alfred's job to prevent a similar tragedy, to make sure that Trinidad doesn't join the list of infamous places invoked by those who see government as the enemy of freedom.
(...)

Gray's group has come to be called ''the family,'' but it's unclear how many people on the property are related. On his Web site, conspiracy talk-show host Jones mentioned ''a total of 10 adults and seven children (ages 3 months to 7 years).''
(...)

In a rare foray off the property, Brownlow said, three armed men hiked into a neighboring pasture at dusk on Aug. 16, smashed a remote surveillance camera and video transmitter that authorities had set up in a horse trailer, then retreated to the compound.

Because the sheriff thinks roadblocks and beefed-up patrols near the property would be provocative, the men were able to move unimpeded. And sympathizers have been free to haul in supplies for the family.
(...)

Tarkington, who married Lisa Gray in 1995, said her father did not immerse himself in the militia movement and the Embassy of Heaven until 1996, although he had long been a well-armed religious fundamentalist with a grudge against the government.

Gray's family went over the brink with him, Tarkington said. ''Lisa would say, 'This is a good deal, you don't have to pay taxes or nothing.' I said, 'Lisa, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night.' ''

After Lisa joined her father in April 1999, Tarkington filed for divorce. After Lisa failed to show up for hearings, a judge last August gave Tarkington custody of his sons. Brownlow said deputies drove to the compound to fetch the boys, but Gray's wife wouldn't let them past the gate, claiming the children weren't there.

Without solid evidence to the contrary, deputies had no hope of getting a warrant to search the property, Brownlow said. So the matter stayed in limbo.

Then came the assault indictment and arrest warrant in March, giving deputies the legal authority to raid Gray's compound at any time. And then Gray dug in.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Millennium World Peace Summit

25. What does God want? Turner has ideas
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.accessatlanta.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Ted Turner roused religious leaders from around the world Tuesday with a vigorous speech exhorting them to work to foster tolerance, end hatred and rid the world of nuclear weapons.
(...)

Turner made his appeal as he gave the keynote speech to the Millennium World Peace Summit, a gathering at United Nations headquarters in New York of more than 1,000 leaders of different religions. Turner, who once called Christianity ''a religion for losers,'' played an important role in convening and financing the summit.

Through the Turner Foundation, which operates domestically, and the U.N. Foundation, which supports U.N.-related projects internationally, Turner has made hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable contributions. The Atlanta businessman who founded CNN and made billions of dollars in cable television is a vice chairman of Time Warner.
(...)

Addressing people clad in ethnic and religious garb from around the globe, Turner talked of his own struggle with faith and issued a plea for harmony and understanding among people of different races and religions.

The speech was vintage Turner --- an ad-libbed, vigorous, impassioned performance, delivered loudly and with many gestures.
(...)

The concept of such a summit took shape a couple of years ago in a conversation between Turner and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said Bawa Jain, who is general secretary of the event. Turner commented on the value of having leaders of different religions commit, in writing, to peace; Annan agreed and worked to organize the conference. Turner, who donated $300,000 through his organization the Better World Fund, is honorary chairman.
(...)

In his speech, which was Webcast live around the world, Turner said he began as a very religious child and had planned to become a missionary.

But his faith was shaken, he said, because adherents of his branch of Christianity --- he did not identify it --- believed that only they could enter heaven.

''It just confused the devil out of me because I said, 'Heaven's going to be a mighty empty place with nobody else there,' '' he recalled. It struck him as something that just couldn't be right.

Turner came eventually to the conclusion that there is only one God, who manifests himself differently to different people.
(...)

ON THE WEB: For more information about the Millennium World Peace Summit: www.millenniumpeacesummit.com/Off-site Link

EXCERPTS: Turner remarks on tolerance, religion, bears

Before more than 1,000 religious leaders gathered Tuesday at the United Nations, Atlanta businessman Ted Turner talked about race, religion and the different colors of bears. Some excerpts:

On religion:
When I was a little boy, I was very religious. . . . (But) the thing that disturbed me is that my religious Christian sect was very intolerant --- not intolerant of religious freedom for other people, but they thought that we were the only ones going to heaven.

You know, everybody --- the Catholics weren't going to heaven, the other Protestants weren't going to heaven, the Jews weren't going to heaven, the Muslims weren't going to heaven, the Hindus weren't, the Shintoists, I mean nobody was going to heaven but just us! And there weren't but just a very few of us. . . . It just confused the devil out of me because I said, ''Heaven's going to be a mighty empty place with nobody else there.'' . . .
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* About interfaith dialogue and interfaith activitiesOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]

About religious pluralism



26. Turner Attacks Christianity at U.N. 'Peace Summit'
NewsMax, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.newsmax.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Any pretense that the ''World Peace Summit'' is anything other than a cover for a left-leaning agenda was stripped away as American media mogul Ted Turner addressed nearly 1,000 hooting delegates Tuesday in the U.N. General Assembly Hall.

New Age billionaire Maurice Strong introduced Turner by saying he had done more for peace, the environment and the United Nations than any other person. Turner bounded toward the podium as the cheering crowd seemed to welcome a conquering hero.

Immediately Turner denounced his own childhood Christian faith. The crowd's laughter turned to approving whoops as Turner explained he turned away from Christianity when he discovered ''it was intolerant because it taught we were the only ones going to heaven. That confused the devil out of me since that would have left heaven a very empty place.''

Turner's meandering, off-the-cuff speech praised ''indigenous'' religious faiths and then wandered through a paean to the things all humans have in common - ''culture, language, love of birds, butterflies, wives and flowers.'' In his spiritual search Turner realized that there was one God and multiple ways he manifests himself and that it makes little difference which one is chosen. This approach is precisely what evangelical Christians fear about the World Peace Summit.

Among a small group of conservative Christians monitoring the event, Darren Logan, foreign policy analyst for the Washington-based Family Research Council, called Turner's speech ''the most blasphemous thing I have ever heard in my life.''

Logan said Turner advanced the notion of ''reductionism,'' which suggests that all religions are essentially the same. ''Turner believes true tolerance means doing away with the uniqueness of all faiths and marginalizing all faiths that profess an exclusive component, like Christianity and Islam,'' said Logan.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Anan Says No Room for Religious Bigotry
Reuters, Aug. 29, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
UITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told world religious leaders on Tuesday there was no room for bigotry and intolerance in the 21st century, saying they had not always spoken out forcefully against such evils.

``Religion has often been yoked to nationalism, stoking the flames of violent conflict and setting group against group,'' Annan told the participants at a four-day religious conference in the U.N. General Assembly chamber.

``Religious leaders have not always spoken out when their voices could have helped combat hatred and persecution, or could have roused people from indifference,'' Annan said.

Religion itself was not to blame, Annan added. ``The problem is usually not with the faith, but with the faithful.''

More than 1,000 religious leaders opened their ``Millennium World Peace Summit'' on Monday.
(...)

A member of China's religious delegation, Bishop Fu Tieshen, condemned the ``tragedy of desecrating or distorting or abusing religion'' but told the gathering ``some people want to trample on the sovereignty of other countries under the pretext of protecting religious human rights.''
(...)

Media mogul Ted Turner, the honorary chairman of the meeting and a major financial supporter, told delegates: ``The religions that have survived don't have blood sacrifice, don't have hatred behind them. The ones that have done the best are the ones that are built on love.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* (John 3:16-17 NIV) ''For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only
Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
{17} For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to
save the world through him.


28. Religious Leaders Start Signing Peace Declaration
AOL/Reuters, Aug. 30, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Religious leaders began signing on Wednesday a declaration committing themselves to global peace, declaring all religions equal and recognizing equality between women and men.

The document, titled, ``Commitment to Global Peace,'' condemns all violence committed in the name of religion and is to be signed by the 1,000 envoys before they end their four-day meeting on Thursday.
(...)

The Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist leader, turned down an invitation by summit organizers to attend the last two days of the conference outside the United Nations and sent eight monks instead who were allowed to speak.

One delivered the Dalai Lama's official message to the ''Millennium World Peace Summit'' late on Tuesday after being excluded from events due to pressure from Beijing.

``The different faiths need to develop mutual respect for and understanding of each others belief and values. There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty, social injustice, inequality, oppression, environmental degradation and as long as the weak and small continue to be trodden by the mighty and powerful,'' said the message read by So Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche.
(...)

Earlier media mogul Ted Turner, whose Better World Fund underwrote much of the meeting's expenses, received an enthusiastic response despite his often irreverent remarks.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

29. Was 'jar baby' stolen from Jersey morgue?
New York Post, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.nypost.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Jersey City cops are hoping to solve as early as today the mystery of a chemically preserved baby discovered among a macabre collection of skulls and human bones in a Washington Heights apartment.

It's a long shot, Jersey City cops admit.

But they think that Manhattan investigators - who have puzzled for a month over the identity and cause of death of the tiny preserved corpse - may have stumbled on the body of a stillborn girl that vanished two years ago from a morgue at Jersey City Hospital.

The Jersey City baby went missing in January, 1998 in what cops are investigating as a possible morgue theft. The baby's parents - who cops asked not be identified - still anguish over not being able to bury her.

More than two years later, on July 17, the Washington Heights baby was found when cops visited 548 W. 164th Street after a tenant - black magic priestess Margaret Ramirez, 74 - was fatally struck by a car.
(...)

The Jersey City baby's hands and feet were inked before the corpse vanished from the hospital morgue, according to Sgt. Bennit Sarno of the Jersey City police.

Likewise, the baby girl found on West 164th Street had ink stains on her hands and feet, NYPD cops say.

Jersey City cops will bring the missing stillborn's footprints to New York today, where they'll be compared to prints lifted from the Washington Heights baby, said Detective Vinnie Stayzak.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Town split by church fight
The Arizona Republic, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.azcentral.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
COLORADO CITY - He'd had a month to prepare since polygamous religious leaders declared public schools the bane of this insular, isolated town of hotel-sized houses, frontier dresses and ponytails.
(...)

As it turned out, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had heeded the call of their leaders, who had implored them during church services in late July to turn their back on secular society, to cut off ties with apostates, to teach their children at home.
(...)

The decision by the dominant ''first ward'' of the church, which broke away from the mainstream Mormon church in the late 1800s after the taking of plural wives was banned, was greeted warmly by members of the ''second ward'' of the church. That ward, which also went it own way 10 years ago, created its own polygamous community in Centennial Park, across Arizona 389.

Teachers said that clashes between children of the two polygamous sects had created discipline problems, especially during past school year.

''It's a lot better that they are gone, if you ask me,'' said Melissa Hammon of Centennial Park after dropping off her 5-year-old son at the Colorado City school. ''Eighty percent of the teachers last year were indoctrinating the kids with all the first ward teachings. Now, I think they'll get a better education.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Israeli Scholar's Copyright Upheld
The Associated Press, Aug. 30, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld an Israeli scholar's copyright on the deciphering of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the musty documents chronicling Holy Land life in the time of Jesus.

The decision - the latest in the years-long battle between overseas academics and scholars here over who controls the scraps of parchment - levels fines against a trio of U.S.-based scholars for copyright violation.

Amos Hausner, a lawyer for U.S. scholar Robert Eisenman, said the decision inhibits the free use of scientific knowledge.

``It's like copyrighting scientific truth, like Einstein copyrighting 'e equals mc2,''' Hausner said. ``These ancient texts are part of the scientific knowledge.''

At issue was research by Elisha Qimron, a scholar at Ben Gurion University in the Israeli desert town of Beersheva.

After years of painstaking study of hundreds of fragments sifted from 15,000 found in cave near the Dead Sea, Qimron pieced together a 2,000-year-old missive from the leader of a Jewish sect based in the Judean Desert to a Jewish leader in Jerusalem.

Then in 1992, three scholars included Qimron's paper in a book they published and edited, ``A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea ScrollsOff-site Link.'' They did not have Qimron's permission. The publisher, Hershel Shanks, obtained a draft of the paper circulating among scholars for comment.

Judge Yaakov Tirkel, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, agreed that Qimron could not claim copyright on the scroll fragments, nor on those fragments that were pieced together by physical resemblance.

However, the deduction of the 40 percent of the text that was missing emerged from Qimron's ``creative depths,'' Tirkel said, and the scholar was therefore was entitled to the copyright.
(...)

``This case allowed the (Israeli) establishment to maintain a monopoly on the scrolls,'' said Eisenman, a professor of Middle East Religions and Archaeology at California State University-Long Beach. ``It's had a chilling effect on my work.''

In fact, the ``monopoly'' is over. The scrolls - and the scholarship by Qimron and others - are now available for study on CD-ROM and in book form.

That, Qimron acknowledged, was a result of the publication of the book by Shanks, Robinson and Eisenman.

``It's all open now,'' he said. ``The (Israel) Antiquities Authority decided to open it up after they published.''

Although overjoyed that the case was over - Eisenman's lawyer said an appeal was unlikely - Qimron said he has regrets about the access others now have to the scrolls. He said it robbed scholars such as himself of the leisurely pace they once enjoyed.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance

32. Bible Story Boy Headed for High Court
Fox News, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.foxnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[Religious freedom / Religious intolerance]
When it was Zachary Hood's turn to read a story to his first-grade class in 1996, he chose a tale from the The Beginner's Bible - and touched off a free-speech battle that is now heading to the Supreme Court.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia upheld on Monday a 1998 ruling that Zachary's New Jersey school district did not violate his free speech rights when it prevented him from reading the Bible story to his classmates.

The 12-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals split down the middle, allowing the lower court's ruling to stand. Lower-court verdicts cannot be overturned by a tie vote at the appeals level.

Zachary had selected the story of Jacob and Esau for his class reading, but was stopped by teacher Grace Oliva, who allowed him to read the story to her privately. The Hoods sued the Medford Township, N.J., school district and Oliva for violating Zachary's constitutional right to free speech.

Though the appeals court upheld the dismissal of the civil rights case against the district and Oliva, the divided panel issued an ambiguous ruling that did not address the constitutional issues of free speech or religion in public schools.
(...)

Kevin J. Hasson, an attorney for the Becker Fund for Religious Liberty who is representing the Hoods, told the Inquirer Tuesday that the family would appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
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33. Prayers at Football Games
New York Times, Aug. 29, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Along with chanting school cheers, students in some Southern high schools are now standing up to recite the Lord's Prayer at the start of football games. Although the stadium prayers seem spontaneous and undirected, they are in fact part of a movement, started by Christian ministries and radio talk show hosts, to promote school prayer. The purpose is to get around a recent Supreme Court decision that banned as unconstitutional school-sponsored student-led prayers that are broadcast over the public address system.

While there may be a legal and constitutional difference between prayer that is officially sponsored by the school and a more informal student-initiated pregame prayer, the impact on the audience is the same. When a crowd of 4,000 high schoolers rises to say a prayer, students who are nonbelievers or members of religious minorities are subjected to the majority's religious worship as the price of attending a school football game.

The constitutionality of these outbreaks of prayer is heavily dependent on the facts of each case. Allowing a student to lead a prayer over the public address system would clearly be unconstitutional. Less overt forms of support by school officials may also be prohibited, depending on the degree of their involvement.

But group prayer may be constitutional if school officials are truly uninvolved. In those instances, student prayers might well be considered private speech, protected by the First Amendment principles of free speech and free exercise of religion.
(...)

A prayer initiated by students may pass legal muster. But its message of religious orthodoxy may be just as socially coercive for teenagers as a voice over the public address system. In that respect, it is no less threatening to religious freedom than organized school prayer. Mainstream religious leaders should speak out against a strategy that imposes religious observance on a captive school audience.
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34. Prayer backers rallying
Dallas Morning News/AP, Aug. 30, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SANTA FE, Texas - Prayer will mark the start of the football season at Santa Fe High School this year, even though the school district banned the practice in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling.

With lawyerly precision, a group of area ministers on Tuesday encouraged citizens to recite the Lord's Prayerbefore Friday's football game - thereby taking the tradition of a pre-game prayer outside the school's sanction and the scope of the Supreme Court's June 19 decision banning such prayers.

In a 6-3 ruling, the high court outlawed amplified, student-led prayer that had the assent of public school officials. The Santa Fe Independent School District, which was the defendant in the case, got rid of the traditional pre-game prayer in July.

The Supreme Court ruling spawned a movement among religious groups toward planned expressions of prayer before football games and at school-sponsored events.
(...)

Spontaneous has become a buzzword among prayer advocates, because the Supreme Court has consistently ruled it has no jurisdiction over expressions of prayer that break out without planning at school events.

Mr. Shed said his organization will distribute cards to game attendees asking them to join in a recitation of ''The Lord's Prayer'' as soon as the National Anthem is finished Friday.

''I don't know of a school in Texas where this won't be happening,'' Mr. Shed said.

While the ACLU was successful in challenging school-run prayer before football games, Texas ACLU board member Michael Linz recently told The Dallas Morning News that the organization has no problems with No Pray, No Play, saying, ''If they want to picket or protest or pray or whatever they want to do, as longs as they don't involve the government, more power to them, and the government shouldn't interfere with them.''
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=== Science

35. CSICOP Release on Turin Shroud
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal, Aug. 23, 2000
http://www.csicop.org/Off-site Link
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Amherst, NY (August 16, 2000)--The Shroud of Turin was unveiled for a rare
two-month public viewing on Saturday, August 12, in Turin, Italy. Archbishop
Severino Poletto has assured reporters that ''the church is not afraid of
science.'' He and other caretakers of the shroud say they are open to a
scientific reexamination of the cloth. But will any one test settle the
dispute over the shroud's history? Most researchers are eager to test
hypotheses that focus on one narrow aspect of the shroud. One promotes the
pollen evidence, another questions the radiocarbon dating, a third looks for
proofs in the weave of the cloth.

Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific
Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) points out that even
definitive tests are vulnerable to partisan disputes. Scientists insist that
the 1988 radiocarbon dating--performed at three independent
labs--demonstrates once and for all that the shroud is a 14th century
forgery. However, those hoping to buttress the cloth's claim to authenticity
have suggested that bacteria or scorching from the 1532 fire may have
contaminated the sample.

Nickell believes that examining the preponderance of evidence and
demonstrating how each piece supports the other makes the strongest case. He
has employed this method in his research and is convinced that the shroud is
indeed a medieval forgery. Nickell is author of Inquest on the Shroud of
Turin (Prometheus 1998)-a study that relies on evidence from the Catholic
church
's own documents and the gospel account of St. John, in addition to the
''hard'' scientific evidence from chemical, microscopic and radiocarbon
analyses . For Nickell, documentary and forensic findings corroborate each
other and point to one answer. ''The preponderance of evidence'' says Nickell
''leads to the conclusion that the shroud is the work of a medieval artisan.''
(...)

''Defenders of the shroud typically start with their desired conclusion and
work backward to the evidence; science begins with the evidence and proceeds
forward to a conclusion,'' says Nickell. Together, the facts corroborate each
other in rejecting the claim that the shroud dates to the time of Jesus.

Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is CSICOPOff-site Link's Senior Research Fellow and an expert on the
Shroud of Turin. He is author of Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (Prometheus
1983, 1998) and numerous articles, including ''Blooming 'Shroud' Claims''
(Skeptical Inquirer, Nov./Dec. 1999) and ''Pollens on the 'Shroud': A Study in
Deception'' (Skeptical Inquirer Summer 1994).
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=== Noted

36. Your Turn: Colorful describes Rainbow people and their celebrations.
The Spokesman Review, Aug. 30, 2000 (Opinion)
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
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Spokane _ `Welcome home,'' said the sign at the beginning of the Rainbow Family International gathering in Montana in July.
(...)

By U.S. Forest Service estimates, 23,000 people were there, all volunteering their hearts to create a beautiful haven in the forest.

These gatherings have happened in most all states plus Canada, Mexico, Spain, Russia and more.
(...)

There has always been a mixed reaction to our gatherings from the law. Roadblocks have been set up at some; forest rangers came into another to educate us on plant life in the area.

Find one of the Rainbow Family Web sites for information about next year's gathering and I'll see you at home.
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=== Books

37. Signs From Above
New York Times, Aug. 27, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
THE BOOK OF MIRACLESOff-site Link
The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam.
By Kenneth L. Woodward.
429 pp. New York:
Simon & Schuster. $28.

(...) Eighty-two percent of Americans believe in miracles, according to public opinion polls. Whether one accepts or scoffs, the key to understanding these wonders may be, as Kenneth L. Woodward shrewdly suggests in ''The Book of Miracles,'' to return to the sources, the scriptures, myths and legends in which miracles first entered cultural consciousness. Most of us, when asked to name a miracle, dredge up a hoary biblical example -- Moses' parting of the Red Sea, Jesus' multiplication of loaves -- but Woodward casts a wider net across five major world faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam among monotheistic religions, and Hinduism and Buddhism among what he somewhat eccentrically calls ''Indian'' religions.

Miracles have been used throughout history as bludgeons to prove the truth of particular faiths. Woodward, however, pleads no special brief. He wisely foregoes speculation about historical veracity, thus avoiding the embarrassing excesses that have plagued the search for the historical Jesus (which, he points out, ''has yielded more sensational headlines than solid history''). Instead, he explores miracles from the inside, by assuming the point of view of the traditions that proclaim them, promulgate them and accrete new teachings and beliefs around their gritty evidence, like pearls around sand. He refuses to define miracles, arguing that they ''are best understood through stories.'' Miracles, one might say, have no meaning until they are turned into words, enfleshed in oral tradition or written scripture, thus finding their place in relation to the other elements (philosophy, theology, art, ritual) of a living body of tradition.

One suspects that the book's description of Jewish and Christian wonder tales will be familiar to many readers. Woodward, a senior writer and the religion editor for Newsweek, assumes the worst, defining basic terms (Tanakh, Torah), summarizing the lives of the main protagonists (Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus) and so on. Miracles in Judaism and Christianity, he suggests, function principally as signs of God's power.
(...)

Woodward floods us with colorful stories of Jewish and Christian saints and their marvels.
(...)

Modern Christianity, at least in its Roman Catholic and Orthodox forms, continues to take miracles seriously, but Woodward has harsh words for a figure like Oral Roberts, who coined the bright-eyed slogan ''Expect a Miracle,'' and who, Woodward says, ''trivializes'' the miraculous.

Less familiar to many American readers will be the many miracles of Islam that Woodward explores in depth. For the most part, these prodigies concern Muhammad, who, in the Hadith -- posthumous tales of his life and teachings -- is seen splitting the moon in half, blinding armies with a handful of dust, foretelling the future and otherwise confounding the laws of nature.
(...)

Woodward emphasizes the substantial disagreements between East and West in their concepts of soul, God and afterlife; these differences seep into the role of miracles as well, which in Hinduism are primarily manifestations of God's play, or lila.
(...)

Surveying this extraordinary tableau of pan-religious signs and wonders, one naturally asks: What should we make of it all? Woodward resists a generic answer, insisting that miracles arise in specific traditional communities and ''have meaning only within the boundaries of those communities.'' For example, he observes, ''Pentecostal miracles do not count as such for Catholic Christians.'' But this may prove to be too constricted a view of our contemporary religious cosmos. Traditional boundaries remain, but rivers of thought and deed -- including miracles -- flow freely across borders, and many people today, seeking signs of the divine, take equal solace in the miracles of St. Francis and those of the Baal Shem Tov. All this is part of the post-modern resuscitation of miracles, giving new life to a body of belief once gasping for its last breath, and that may be the biggest miracle of all.
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* First chapter onlineOff-site Link


38. Real Science or Voodoo Science?
ThemeStream, Aug. 29, 2000
http://www.themestream.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
There are many examples of people claiming to make great scientific breakthroughs, only to have reality show otherwise. These range from cold fusion and perpetual motion machines to ESP and homeopathy. But they all have one thing in common, says Robert Park. They are all voodoo science.

Park, a professor of physics who writes a weekly electronic bulletin, What's New, and directs the Washington, D.C., office of the American Physical Society, has put together a number of his encounters with this type of activity in his book, Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to FraudOff-site Link (Oxford University Press, $25).

Having worked as a scientist and science communicator for so long, Park makes his main point quickly: ''Of the major problems confronting society … there are few that can be sensibly addressed without input from science. As I sought to make the case for science, however, I kept bumping up against scientific ideas and claims that are totally, indisputably, extravagantly, wrong, but which nevertheless attract a large enough following of passionate, and sometimes powerful, proponents.''

He realizes that some people decide on scientific beliefs by how they would like the world to be, rather than on how it actually is. Alas, that's not how science works.

Many of the beliefs and claims he writes about were, at least originally, seriously believed by their proponents. Some, however, are simply frauds perpetrated against a gullible public. He says it's hard to tell where to draw the line - especially since some start out as true believers, even if they eventually turn to fraud. This is the reason for his all-encompassing term that doubles as the book's title.
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