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Religion News Report

October 20, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 275) - 2/3

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

» Continued from Part 1

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
16. Campus Witches May Wear Black, but Don't Look for Hats or Broomsticks
17. Finding goddess within, threesome creates spiritual game
18. Witches seek to halt church's Baptist-flavored Halloween production

=== Occult / Satanism
19. Scarred girl tells of Satanic cult
20. Hollywood Pushing Satanic Themes

=== Hate Groups
21. ADL Launches Online Database of Hate Symbols
22. 'Hate.com' : New Documentary Tracks White Supremacists Online
23. Executive buys home for Butler, report says

=== Other News
24. Bones found; tests awaited
25. Religious Sect Vows to Honor Alien
26. Court hears freemasons challenge
27. 'Bride of Christ' sacked from teaching job
28. Chinese Christian Reportedly Beat
29. Christian Group Official Resigns
30. The Sins of the Fathers

» Part 3

=== Noted
31. The New Gospel of Academia
32. Born to Believe (Church of the First Born)
33. Drive-thru Deliverance (Landmark)
34. Pokémon founder deals a winner
35. From ancient Eden to the hippie era - searching for utopia
36. Motivational speakers

=== Books, Film, Internet
37. Watch Out Harry Potter -- the Hobbit Is Back
38. Religious themes dominate 'Second Coming'
39. Anonymous Net Posting Not Protected

=== The Bishop Around The Corner
40. Bishop attacks floral tributes



=== Paganism / Witchcraft

16. Campus Witches May Wear Black, but Don't Look for Hats or Broomsticks
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 20, 2000
http://chronicle.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) These students are part of a growing pagan movement on campuses in the United States. Followers revere everything in nature as having a divine energy and believe in a polytheistic structure of gods and goddesses. They embrace a variety of earth-based beliefs, including traditions of ancient Celtic, Norse, Egyptian, druid, and shamanistic origin. Their most significant influence is Wicca, a religion with roots in pre-Christian Europe, which is often referred to as witchcraft. Many pagans, even those without Wiccan influences, call themselves witches.

For some observers, these terms conjure up images of satanic rituals and animal sacrifice, which adherents say are false stereotypes that have nothing to do with their beliefs.

They may not wear pointy black hats or ride broomsticks, but they do cast spells, including ones for healing, love, and success, and they perform rituals for lunar cycles, solstices, and equinoxes.

This month, they are preparing for their most important holiday, on October 31, which they call Samhain, or ''summer's end.'' On that night, they perform a ritual in an attempt to channel the spirits of long-dead ancestors, a tradition that is said to have evolved into Halloween.

Many followers say they were disenchanted with the rigid structure of mainstream religions. Paganism is more individualistic, allowing them to shape their own belief systems by combining a variety of traditions. And Wicca, in particular, is practiced predominantly by women, who see it as an opportunity to take leadership roles that they might be less likely to find in mainstream denominations.

Peggy Foy, a sophomore who is a member of the Georgia group, was raised in a Roman Catholic household and went to Catholic schools. But she always had nagging questions. She once asked her teachers, ''What about people who never heard of Jesus? Are they going to hell because of that?''

''One of my religion teachers said that the church has acknowledged more than one path to grace, so I said, 'Aha, that's my out!'''

Ms. Foy was attracted to paganism, she says, because it ''recognizes power in nature, not just an external force.''

It's no coincidence, scholars and followers say, that paganism is growing in an era when environmentalism and feminism are among the movements that have dominated campus discourse.

''Paganism reverberates with [those] two very powerful and culture-changing movements we've had now for several generations,'' says John K. Simmons, a professor of religious studies at Western Illinois University.

Paganism's increased visibility in recent years appears due in part to the spreading of the word via the Internet, as well to television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, which portray witches as strong women who use their power to do good. Pagan practitioners who once tended to keep quiet about their religious beliefs now realize that they are not alone.

''It's become safer for pagans to go public with their faith,'' says Cairril Adaire, national coordinator of the Pagan Educational Network, a witches' advocacy group in Bloomington, Ind. (Cairril is her given name, Adaire her pagan name. She doesn't use her original last name.)

On college campuses in the past several years, many pagan groups that were once underground have become official student organizations. They are active at Auburn University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Pennsylvania State University at University Park, Rowan University, the University of California at Riverside, and the University of Florida, among other institutions.

The Witches' VoiceOff-site Link, a national advocacy group that formed four years ago, includes on its World Wide Web site links to adult, college, and youth pagan groups. It lists 113 college groups; 38 were added in September alone.

Two years ago, Ms. Adaire says, the Pagan Educational NetworkOff-site Link received its first request for information from a college student wanting to start a pagan group on her campus. Now she receives requests every other month.
(...)

The five-year-old Pagan Student Association at Georgia is one of the oldest such college groups. In the past two years, its membership has doubled, to 20, and the number of students who have attended meetings increased from a high of 25 in 1997-98 to a high of 45 last year. (By comparison, hundreds of students attend services of various Christian denominations every Sunday here.)

Neither the Pagan Educational Network nor the Witches' Voice tries to track the number of college students who practice the faith, largely because many are still, as pagans say, ''in the broom closet.''

Many live in fear of harassment if they reveal their beliefs; even those who have practiced openly are reluctant to talk about their experiences. Often, even their parents are kept in the dark.
(...)

Pagans explain that they don't believe in Satan. Nor do they cast spells that would manipulate or harm others, whether animal or human. There is, indeed, a witches' code of ethics, known as the ''Wiccan Rede'': ''An ye harm none, do what ye will.'' Another passage advises, ''What ye send forth comes back to thee, so ever mind the Rule of Three,'' which promises that what Wiccans do in their actions -- good or bad -- returns to them threefold.

For the most part, the Georgia group says, people on the campus have not only tolerated but welcomed their activities. But there have been confrontations. Members of one Christian group have stood outside the pagan group's meetings and prayed for their souls. And when the pagans have attempted to recruit new members, they have been approached by Christian students who warn them of an afterlife in hell.

The Rev. Robert G. Beckwith, director of the Wesley Foundation, a Methodist group on the campus, chose his words carefully when discussing the pagan group.

''Our intent is not to debate others whose stated purposes and beliefs are very much opposed to ours,'' he says. ''We seek a relationship with God as he revealed himself through the Testaments and revealed himself through Christ. They seek to touch the supernatural apart from Christ, and that's never a good thing.''
(...)

Not all Christians consider pagan students a hostile force. ''My main concern is to defuse some of the hysteria about this,'' says Bruce D. Forbes, a professor of religious studies at Morningside College, a Methodist institution, and a minister in the United Methodist Church. ''People assume that paganism and witchcraft are the same thing as satanism, but most pagans and Wiccans are very opposed to Satanism.''

That leaves the question: What kind of magic do pagans believe they perform? In reality, much of it is psychological, sort of a placebo effect, often with candles and crystals to reinforce their beliefs. And even witches don't think that their spells are guaranteed to work.

''If there's something that I would like to see occur, I'm going to put myself into a consecratory ritual space and will meditate deeply on that subject and open myself up to the gods and to the life force,'' says Ms. Adaire, of the Pagan Educational Network.
(...)

Ms. Wolfe, co-president of the Georgia pagan group, likens magic spells to ''the power of positive thinking.''

''A spell is like a prayer,'' she says. ''Its function is to use our ability and our connection with the divine to make change and increase the possibility of something happening.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Finding goddess within, threesome creates spiritual game
Star-Telegram, Oct. 18, 2000
[URL removed because it currently refers to inappropriate content]/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Soon, the women discovered a common quest: exploring the deeper meaning of life. They made a pact to meet to chat about life, love, fears, children-- anything and everything. They meditated, shared dinner, cried and laughed. Eventually they called themselves the Goddess Group, which later included other female friends.

''Goddess is a metaphor for the good virtue we all have inside of us. It's about bringing out the best of yourself and what's all around you. At the end of the group, we would walk out feeling more confident and knowing the purposes of our lives,'' Werner said.

Wanting other women to experience sharing and unity, they developed a forum -- a thought-provoking board game being readied for national distribution by Barnes & Noble and Borders for $39.95. The threesome came to realize how their relationship had created a life-enhancing support system when Berkowitz faced a divorce. They discovered that female bonding strengthened the Goddess Group.
(...)

Berkowitz, Robles and Werner had considered writing a book, but decided that reading was an isolated event. The outcome had to allow females to spend quality time together. And have fun, too.

Thus the game, Go Goddess!, first issued in 1999 for $50 at a few upscale stores. Packaged in a purple hat box, the game uses the colors of the seven chakras, or energy centers of the body.

Players ask open-ended questions that reveal personal information and deal with dreams, disappointments, self-image and ''what if'' situations.

''It's an experience and a gift that allows women to explore their personal power,'' Werner said.

Go Goddess! begins with a mediation instructing players to relax, trust and have confidence in themselves and one another. Questions are either answered individually or by all depending on the card's instructions. Together all cards that were answered are used to make a circle, and when the circle is complete, puzzle pieces are solved, candles are lit and the game ends.

''Go Goddess! is about letting women look within and find their truths. A woman who is aware of her truth then has the power and courage to act on her truth and be the best that she can become,'' Berkowitz said.
(...)

The game closes with a silent reflection of answers, and each player must ask herself what she wishes to change, and together the players blow out the candles.

Unlike competitive board games, there are no losers. The rules are simple -- no men allowed and everyone must listen and learn.
(...)

Werner, who left her practice to rear three daughters, ages 7, 9, 10, felt that young girls gaining self-awareness needed a tool to help them figure out and express feelings. She urged the other two to create a game for the younger set. The result is Go Goddess Girl! Tween Talk, a new game for girls 8 to 12 that encourages conversations and feelings about growing up as they make a beaded bracelet.

The Go Goddess! experience has created an even greater need for the Goddess Group, now at 40 members. Speakers at the meetings include a mix of spiritual guides such as tarot readers and reflexologists as well as material guides such as financial planners.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Witches seek to halt church's Baptist-flavored Halloween production
Findlaw/AP, Oct. 17, 2000
http://news.findlaw.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
DUNBAR, W.Va. (AP) _ Two modern-day witches who say a Halloween production in a city park violates their constitutional rights have asked the American Civil Liberties Union to help stop the holiday display.

ACLU volunteer attorney Deborah Reed was to file a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston on the witches' behalf, said Hilary Chiz, state executive director.

The lawsuit seeks to halt the First Baptist Church of Dunbar's ``Haunted Hollow'' presentation at Wine Cellar Park. The production violates the U.S. Constitution by validating the establishment of particular religion, Chiz said.

For $5 and a can of food thrill seekers are taken on a 45-minute tour of the ``Haunted Hollow,'' which ends with a six-station presentation on the perils of sin, said associate minister Mark Jarrell.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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» More about religious intolerance

=== Occult / Satanism

19. Scarred girl tells of Satanic cult
Herald Sun (Australia), Oct. 20, 2000
http://heraldsun.com.au/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A 15-year-old Melbourne girl in hospital with severe burns claims she was set alight during an escape from a Satanic cult.

The girl, whose abdomen is scarred by a large pentagram, told counsellors she had been repeatedly abused by a cult hidden in the Dandenong Ranges.
She needed treatment at the Royal Children's Hospital for horrific facial and body burns after claiming to have broken free.

An occult specialist was called in after doctors identified the five-pointed star, a mark used in witchcraft, carved or branded on her stomach.

The teenager, who cannot be named, told counsellors she was born into the cult and had been sexually abused for years. She claimed other children were still within the cult which had up to 50 members.

An intervention order against a family member was sought in July but not formalised after she failed to sign it and fled interstate.

Police reportedly inspected a Dandenong Ranges bushland site south-east of Melbourne which the girl claimed was then occupied by the cult but may now be abandoned.

Local police are aware of a number of sects and alternative religions in the area but said they had no recent reports of concern.

Authorities are believed to have dropped their investigations because the girl refused to make an official statement and her exact whereabouts is now unknown.
(...)

The accuracy of a number of the girl's claims, including her age, has been questioned.

The hospital conducted bone tests and determined she was at least 18.

But private counsellors involved are concerned investigations may have been dropped prematurely and say the existence of the cult remains a real possibility.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. Hollywood Pushing Satanic Themes
The Associated Press, Oct. 19, 2000
http://my.aol.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Hollywood is playing devil's advocate. With Halloween approaching, a rush of films starring the Prince of Darkness is hitting theaters, from apocalyptic thrillers to lighthearted romps.

Harold Ramis, director and co-writer of the comedy ``Bedazzled,'' which opens Friday, said the current crop of satanic flicks may be a carryover from the millennium fever last year, when such end-of-the-world movies as ``End of Days'' and ``Stigmata'' came out.

Or it could just be coincidence.
(...)

Then there's ``Lost Souls,'' which opened last Friday - it had been scheduled for release last year but was delayed because of the crowded market, the filmmakers say. The movie stars Winona Ryder as a zealot on a crusade to convince a non-believer (Ben Chaplin) that he has been chosen as host for the earthly incarnation of Satan.

Other devilish fare: The new cut of ``The Exorcist,'' featuring Linda Blair as that head-spinning, soup-spewing girl possessed by Satan, came out last month and has exceeded box-office expectations. And the 1970s flick ``The Omen'' recently came out in a DVD box set with its three sequels.

On top of the new crop of devil movies, the horror sequel ``Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2'' debuts next week, while ``Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000'' arrives in December.

Moviegoers' appetite for all things hellish seems strong. Distributor Warner Bros. expanded ``The Exorcist'' last week to 1,655 theaters, up about one-third, pushing the reissue's gross to a healthy $30.5 million in just over three weeks.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups

21. ADL Launches Online Database of Hate Symbols
U.S. Newswire, Oct. 18, 2000 (Press Release)
http://www.usnewswire.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK, Oct. 18 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind online database of extremist symbolsOff-site Link that will enable parents, educators and law enforcement to identify the influence or possible presence of hate groups in schools and communities.

The database, which is accessible at www.adl.orgOff-site Link as a major new component of ADL's Web site, provides information about more than three dozen hate symbols commonly exploited by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and racist skinheads, as well as organized hate groups. Hate On Display: Extremist Symbols, Logos and
Tattoos is an interactive and user-friendly tool that allows users to scan a menu of racist images. Users simply point and click on a symbol to access information on the image and its potential association with extremist groups. The database will be constantly updated as new information on hate symbols and
their use by extremists becomes available from law enforcement, ADL Regional Offices and tips from the public.

''This is another step forward in the battle against hate in our schools and communities,'' said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. ''We are giving parents, educators, community leaders and law enforcement instant access to a wealth of information on hate symbols with the goal of raising awareness
to these potential warning signs.''

ADL's Hate on Display presents information on a variety of hate symbols, giving their origin, connotation, and possible connection to organized hate groups. For many symbols, the online database includes hyperlinks to related ADL reports and
publications on extremist groups and their rhetoric. For those communities and police departments without Internet access, the Hate on Display resource will also be available in print form.

The database enables any user to report symbols and even send
images to ADL at a specially designated e-mail address: hate-symbols(At)adl.org.
(...)

''Racists, anti-Semites and bigots glorify these symbols by using animated, full-color graphics that can have great appeal to rebellious teens, and even children,'' Mr. Foxman said. ''These are the calling cards of hatemongers and unfortunately the Internet, this great educational resource, makes it so easy
to download and save these symbols directly from hate sites. Parents and educators must be aware of this potential danger right at home.''

TYPES OF SYMBOLS
The ADL Hate on Display database offers analysis of a variety of symbols:

-- General racist symbols: Used interchangeably by a wide spectrum of racist groups, they include the Celtic Cross, the Odin Rune, the Confederate Battle Flag, the ''Aryan Fist,'' Runic alphabet and Anarchy sign.

-- Neo-Nazi symbols: Neo-Nazi groups have expropriated commonly identifiable images such as the swastika and Nazi eagle, although less easily identifiable variations also exist, including various runes.

-- Skinhead symbols: Among symbols popular with racist skinheads are the ''three sevens link,'' boot images, a clenched fist, and others. Most of these symbols help identify skinheads to each other and focus on their subculture.

-- White Power music: ''Hatecore'' music, and the fringe industry of record labels that sells recorded music by white supremacist groups, relies on a series of emblems for record albums covers and promoting concerts.

-- Group Symbols: These help extremist organizations that spread racist and anti-Semitic propaganda to distinguish their individual groups from others with a similar ideology.

-- Prison Tattoos: Spider's web and other images popular with racist gangs.

-- Number symbols and acronyms: Shorthand for racist and anti-Semitic ideas.

-- Occult Symbols: Symbols such as an inverted cross, a
pentagram and the ''Cross of Nero'' are used by occultists and
those with anti-Christian beliefs.

------
EDITORS NOTE: To view the ADL Hate On Display database, log on to www.adl.orgOff-site Link. For additional information on hate symbols or to speak with an expert on hate groups and extremism in the U.S., contact the ADL Media Relations Department at 212- 885-7749.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. 'Hate.com' : New Documentary Tracks White Supremacists Online
The Village Voice, Oct. 18-24, 2000
http://www.villagevoice.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Remember: This is Alabama, the self-proclaimed heart of Dixie, ground zero of Southern hospitality-and of violent race wars. Though the Southern Poverty Law Center (splcenter.orgOff-site Link) still keeps a careful eye on its flanks, the fires of hatred and threats of racist violence have moved from the red-clay hills and sleepy downtown streets to the wide-open Internet.

Now, after years of fighting white supremacists online, the SPLC has joined forces with HBO to produce Hate.com: Extremists on the Internet, a documentary set to debut nationwide on October 23. SPLC co-found Morris Dees, who narrates the film, calls the Internet ''an ideological Wild West where rural Klansmen, tattooed skinheads, and college-bound boys-next-door exchange malicious ideas and terrorist tactics.''

The film documents an America in which violence stemming from racism-and now antigovernment hatred-is a reality in 2000, just as it was 30 years ago. The battleground has changed, but the war remains the same. ''It's true that nothing major has been blown up since Oklahoma City,'' says Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report, ''but it is not true that no one is trying.''

Potok says ''26 or 27'' major terrorist conspiracies have been thwarted since that tragedy-many involving the seemingly average American guy who just happens to be involved in some sort of white-supremacist group.

At last count, the SPLC had classified 457 active hate groups in the U.S. Those include 138 renderings of the Ku Klux Klan and 130 neo-Nazi groups, plus 40 skinhead, 46 Christian Identity, and 21 black separatist groups. The center's ''other'' category includes more than a dozen branches of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC.org), a ''European culture'' group whose CEO takes credit for keeping the Confederate flag flying over South Carolina for seven years. Most of these groups have gained a wider audience by using the Web as a cheap and universal medium. As of early 2000, the Intelligence Report magazine listed 305 URLs for hate sites.

Hate.com producers Vince DiPersio and William Guttentag interview some of the hate movement's more outspoken leaders about their politics and how they recruit, including how they target kids. We meet Aryan Nation founder Richard Butler; William Pierce, now owner of Resistance Records, who wrote the alleged blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing, The Turner Diaries, and a later novel about hunting down interracial couples, Hunter; and Don Black of Stormfront.org fame, as well as his 11-year-old son, Derek Black, who manages ''Stormfront for Kids.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Executive buys home for Butler, report says
Idaho Statesman, Oct. 18, 2000
http://www.idahostatesman.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
HAYDEN -- A fellow white supremacist reportedly has bought a house for Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler, who is about to lose his 20-acre Hayden Lake compound in a $6.3 million civil judgment.

The 82-year-old Butler is due to be evicted from his Aryan Nations compound as early as next week after losing a civil lawsuit to a mother and son who were shot at and assaulted by Aryan Nations security guards.

Wealthy computer executive Vincent Bertollini purchased the $107,500 house for him in nearby Hayden in a deal that closed Thursday, The Spokesman-Review reported.
(...)

The house can't be put in Butler's name, as it would be subject to seizure by Victoria and Jason Keenan, who won the judgment against Butler and the Aryan Nations last month. Human rights leaders had hoped the judgment would force Butler to leave the state where he has lived for nearly 30 years.

Bertollini and associate Carl Story, both of nearby Sandpoint, operate the 11th Hour Remnant Messenger, which shares the anti-Semitic, white supremacist philosophy of Aryan Nations.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

24. Bones found; tests awaited
Inland Empire Online/Press-Enterprise, Oct. 19, 2000
http://www.inlandempireonline.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Deputies unearthed bone fragments Wednesday while searching for the grave of a boy born to a Wonder Valley couple, charged with torturing two other sons in their High Desert home.
(...)

About 15 miles away in Joshua Tree, John and Carrie Davis, shook their heads as a judge recited six felony charges against them. John Davis' sister, Faye Potts, 46, faces the same charges. They were held on $2 million bail each and could face life in prison if convicted of torture.

During an interview Monday before their arrests, the Davises denied they abused or chained their children.

The charges include two counts each of torture, felony child abuse involving great bodily harm and false imprisonment.
(...)

The charges resulted from the alleged abuse of the couple's sons Yahweh, 17, and Angel, 12. The elder boy, who bears the Hebrew name of God, called 911 Saturday to say that the boys were chained in the bedroom of their Wonder Valley home.

''It appears that from birth, the children had been isolated from the outside world,'' Root said.

Investigators said the boys were fed only bread and rice and had been allowed to speak only by reading from the Bible or when spoken to. Healed wounds indicated repeated beatings, authorities said. The boys were severely underdeveloped mentally and physically, with wasted muscles that make it difficult for them to walk, Root said.

The children apparently were not permitted to use a bathroom but went outside ''in an animal way,'' she said. Their hygiene allegedly consisted of receiving a shower every few months from a cold hose, Root said.
(...)

''The evidence is that both surviving boys were disciplined with rods and beatings, more ritual than corrective,'' Root said. ''I have no reason to believe the 5- to 6-year-old lived in any better conditions than his brothers.''

The search for a gravesite began at daybreak. The Davises had said their son, Rainbow Lord, was about 6 when he died and was buried in the desert, authorities said. The boy apparently was their middle son.

Investigators did not believe Rainbow was murdered, but that he may have died as a result of neglect, Root said. They are investigating the child's death to shed light on the conditions faced by his surviving brothers, she said.

''The child was probably ill, probably dying, and there was no effort to acquire any kind of medical intervention,'' Root said. ''They're saying it was against their religious beliefs to seek medical help.''
(...)

Carrie Davis wiped tears from her cheeks while Judge James C. McGuire read the charges. The two women sat handcuffed together in the courtroom. John Davis sat a row in front of them, sometimes turning around to make eye contact. They wore dark green inmate clothing.

When the judge asked Davis if that is his true name, Davis replied it was the name on his birth certificate but not his real name.

Asked what his real name is, he replied softly, ''Lord.''

John Davis had changed his name to Rajohn Lord, according to Social Security Administration records.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Religious Sect Vows to Honor Alien
Fox News, Oct. 19, 2000
http://www.foxnews.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK - A secretive, well-funded religious group from Quebec has announced plans to clone a human being, just as the first humans were cloned by a race of aliens long ago.

At least that's the belief of the Raelians, a sect founded by a French race-car driver and former sportswriter who now calls himself Rael.

He was told by an alien visitor in 1973 that an extraterrestrial race called the Elohim created humans thousands of years ago, and have maintained contact with us ever since through messengers that include Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed.

''We believe we've been created by beings from space, with very advanced science,'' said Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, science director for Clonaid, a company set up by the Raelians to sell cloning services to homosexual couples and parents whose children have died, among others.
(...)

Human cloning is illegal in much of Western Europe, but not in the United States. There is a ban, however, on using federal funding for research on human embryos, which would encompass human cloning. Clonaid is being initially funded by a wealthy couple whose 10-month-old daughter died in an accident, Boisselier said.

If Not Them, Someone
Experts doubt the Raelians have the expertise to create a human clone - an exact genetic copy of another person. But it's well within the realm of possibility that someone will be able to soon.
(...)

'A Dead Baby or a Deformed One'
But it's not a question whether scientists can clone people - it's a question of whether they should. The ethical cost is dauntingly high, experts say.

If the Raelians or any other group were to achieve success, it would be at a high cost of miscarriages and deformities, and danger to the surrogate mothers and the clones in their wombs.

''Most clone pregnancies end up in [spontaneous] abortion,'' Siedel said. ''And in every species where we've tried cloning, we've seen high rates of birth defects: oversized animals, malformed joints, hypoxia [lack of oxygen] and hypoglycemia [low blood sugar].''

Even a best-case scenario would result in the death of 98 percent of the clones, Siedel estimated: a 2 percent success rate.
(...)

Boisselier said the group has developed innovations that will bring the success rate up to about 30 percent, roughly in line with the success rate for in vitro fertilization clinics - three out of every 10 attempts would result in a living, breathing clone.

She added that if her team detects fetal deformities, they will abort the pregnancy. ''I don't think there will be many birth defects,'' she said.
(...)

The sect has been known to make grandiose promises in the past, according to Mike Kropveld of the Quebec-based group Info-cult, like its vow to create an embassy in Israel to communicate with extraterrestrials.

The Raelians are certainly media-savvy: at press conferences announcing the cloning plans, Rael himself was flanked by 25 attractive young women that he described as his ''public-relations executives.''
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26. Court hears freemasons challenge
BBC, Oct. 19, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Scotland's entire legal system could be seen to be flawed unless judges voluntarily disclose whether they are members of the freemasons or other similar organisations, a court has heard.

At Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Thursday, Derek Ogg QC argued that justice needed to be impartial.

He was representing Fife businessman Thomas Monogue, who is charged with housebreaking.

Mr Ogg said there were elements of the case which suggested police involvement with freemasonry.

Links with freemasonry
It was therefore important for the public to be sure that the judge hearing the case was not likely to be influenced by membership of a secret society, he claimed.

Sheriff Isabella McColl deferred a decision on whether she should reveal whether she has any links with freemasonry for a week.
(...)

Mr Monogue says freemasons may not be impartial and believes they could discriminate against him as a non-member, which would breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

The managing director of Kingdom Engineering claims he is entitled to know whether or not a judge hearing a case against him is a freemason or the member of a secret society.

He says freemasons swear to give a brother mason the benefit of the doubt in interpreting all things, including the law.

This, he says, means a judge or sheriff who is a member of a secret society might not be impartial.
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27. 'Bride of Christ' sacked from teaching job
AAP/IASI, Oct. 18, 2000
http://au.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link
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A Romanian teacher who claimed she was the wife of Jesus Christ and gave lessons in a wedding dress has been sacked, officials said Wednesday.
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28. Chinese Christian Reportedly Beat
AP, Oct. 19, 2000
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BEIJING (AP) - A Chinese Protestant arrested while worshipping at an illegal service has died in a central China jail after being beaten and then denied medical care, a rights group reported Thursday.

Police detained Liu Haitong in a raid on a private home serving as an underground church in Henan province's Xiayi county on Sept. 4, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Beaten by police and left weakened by the prison's inadequate food and poor hygiene, Liu began vomiting and developed a high fever, the center said. It reported that the 19-year-old died in the county jail on Oct. 16 after police refused to provide medical care.

The report could not be independently verified.
(...)

But Chinese authorities have in recent months renewed a 2-year-old campaign against people worshipping outside the state-backed Catholic and non-denominational Protestant churches.

Henan has been at the center of the crackdown. The province is home to thriving Protestant house churches - so called because they are often private homes - and the movement is serviced by evangelical preachers, foreigners among them.
(...)

The crackdown, however, is likely to intensify following decisions made last week at an annual meeting of the ruling Communist Party's elite, the center said.

Immediately after the meeting, Public Security Minister Jia Chunwang ordered police to target members of cults, separatists and ''religious extremists.'' The latter phrase, the center said, is code for people worshipping outside official churches.
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29. Christian Group Official Resigns
AP, Oct. 17, 2000
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - A top official and radio announcer for Focus on the Family said he has resigned from the conservative Christian group because he had an extramarital affair.

Mike Trout abruptly quit last week. In an interview Monday with The Gazette, he admitted to an ``inappropriate relationship with a woman other than his wife and had no choice but to resign from a ministry that stresses the sanctity of marriage.''

Trout, 53, is best known as the on-air partner of the founder and leader of the ministry, James Dobson.
(...)

Trout, who has been married for 31 years, declined to discuss details of the extramarital relationship, but said that the woman was not a Focus on the Family employee and that the relationship was over.
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30. The Sins of the Fathers
Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2000
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SWHESHATSHUI, Newfoundland -- She fears God, as the priests taught her. So much so that when Elizabeth Penashue starts to talk about the abuses inflicted by priests and the church upon her people, the Innu, she issues only a whisper. The words won't quite come. She fears God will strike her down if she speaks against a priest.
(...)

For years, rumors circulated in Canadian society of awful things happening in the church schools where many thousands of native children were taken, sometimes forcibly, during a two-century-long government effort to turn them into European Canadians. In the 1990s, aging former students began stepping forward with their stories, and what they said triggered a full-blown national self-examination.

This summer, four major churches in Canada issued a blanket apology to native people in the Atlantic province of Newfoundland, asking forgiveness for what the churches acknowledged were centuries of sexual and psychological abuse in schools the churches ran. Leaders of the Anglican, Presbyterian, United and Roman Catholic churches in Newfoundland issued the apology to right wrongs that they said church officials committed.
(...)

The ceremony was part of the Jubilee Initiative, a national church campaign organized by a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Emma Rooney, who said she wanted the churches to acknowledge the suffering they caused Canada's native people.

Early settlers thought it was right to show native people ''how to worship and how to work and how to dress and how to speak,'' said Gerry Marshall, administrator for the Lantern Christian Life Center and a colleague of Rooney. ''It was acceptable over the years to use abusive methods to do that, physical abuse. They were made to learn our language, to learn English . . . to read our books . . . learn to worship our gods. Instead of recognizing that we all travel the same journey and share the same God, we were narrow-minded as white people.''

The Canadian government has reached similar conclusions. In 1996, a royal commission concluded that the problem went beyond attempts to snuff out native culture. Thousands of students died in horrible conditions at residential schools, it found, and thousands more were physically and sexually abused in the effort to ''elevate the savages.''

In 1998, the government tried to make amends, apologizing for forcibly preventing natives from speaking their own language in schools, on reservations or in communities where only native children were required to attend. That year Canada's Indian affairs department set aside $227 million for a healing fund to be used by Indian communities. But much of that money remains unspent.

Since the public apologies, churches across Canada have been hit with billions of dollars of lawsuits by tribes whose children attended church-run schools. Some children said that they were wrongfully imprisoned; others have said they were physically, emotionally and sexually abused at schools.

In 1998, the federal government settled 220 claims involving priests and nuns who had been convicted of criminal abuse. The suits continue to proliferate. The Anglican Church recently said it may go bankrupt as a result of payments to former students.
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