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Religion News Report

November 19, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 134)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

=== Waco/ Branch Davidians
1. Waco test impossible, officials say
2. Investigators to begin review of siege evidence
3. Senate Panel Backs Waco, Spying Subpoenas Plan
4. Waco Prober Seeks FBI Firearms
5. Waco woven into Idaho couple's lives

=== Aum Shinrikyo
6. Lower House panel approves bills to crack down on Aum
7. Highlights of the legislation

=== Falun Gong
8. Mass trials of Falungong members expected after UN chief's departure
9. China to try Falun Gong leaders, frees HK members
10. Falun Gong adherent gets aylum in S.F.
11. Falun Gong
12. Beijing reassures UN leader about sect
13. Members of banned sect protest, arrests reported in China

=== Scientology
14. Foe of Scientology plans move to area
15. State vs. Scientology

=== Hate Groups
16. Pastor Who Takes Pride in Hate Traces the Emotion to Bible (Phelps)
17. Supremacist testifies for L.A. shootings grand jury (Butler)
18. Amazon.com Stops German Mein Kampf Sales

=== Shakty Pat Guru Foundation / Life Space
19. Cultists say mummified man still lives

=== Breatharianism
20. Breatharians found guilty of manslaughter

=== Mormonism
21. Couple want LDS suit dismissed
22. Family Conference Stumbles Over LDS Participation
23. Popular LDS Genealogy Web Site Is Adding 240 Million More Names

=== Other News
24. Freemasons Set to Reveal Secrets on Internet
25. Patriarch Accuses Missionaries
26. Massachusetts high court throws out abuse finding against minister
27. Evangelist says Y2K isn't a big problem (Garner Ted Armstrong)
28. New score just in: Organized religion 9, Others 1.
29. Catholic bishops vote to certify theologians

=== Noted
30. A Question of Right and Wrong (Character training in schools)
31. Cal Thomas: Faith and persecution

=== Interfaith / Interdenominational
32. Leaders debate the changes that religious diversity brings to the
millennium (NCC)

=== Film
33. Film Review: 'Omega Code' a mega disaster
34. 'Jesus in love' film backed by Vatican


=== Waco/ Branch Davidians

1. Waco test impossible, officials say
Dallas Morning News, Nov. 18, 1999
http://dallasnews.com/specials/waco/1118waco1waco.htm
Tests to find the cause of flashes on FBI infrared videotape shot in the
final hours of the Branch Davidian siege will probably be meaningless because
the camera used at Waco no longer exists, federal officials said Wednesday.

Authorities have refused to release anything about the make or capabilities
of the FBI's infrared camera used to record the fiery end of the 1993
Davidian standoff. They cited national security and law enforcement secrecy
rules.

But an FBI official said Wednesday that the camera was a one-of-a-kind
instrument extensively upgraded after the 1993 incident and had capabilities
that probably couldn't be duplicated with any other camera.

"It does not exist in the form that it was. It has been upgraded from analog
to digital recording," said the official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity. "It's a significant change that is so fundamental to a
re-creation, I don't know how we can ever say how experts will be able to
agree to a test protocol."
(....)

The issue is a cornerstone of the Branch Davidians' lawsuit, which alleges
the government's gunfire kept innocent women and children trapped in the
compound as it burned to the ground.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Investigators to begin review of siege evidence
Dallas Morning News, Nov. 17, 1999
http://dallasnews.com/specials/waco/1117waco1waco.htm
Texas Rangers and investigators from the office of special counsel John
Danforth will begin sifting through 12 tons of Branch Davidian evidence in
Waco on Wednesday, searching for a missing tear-gas projectile and other
items that may shed new light on the 1993 standoff.

Six Rangers will be joined by up to 10 members of Mr. Danforth's staff and
congressional investigators for the examination of mounds of the burned
remains of the Branch Davidian compound, officials said.

"This is evidence that frankly has never been intelligently looked at, so I'm
sure we're going to find things that nobody knew were there," said James B.
Francis Jr., chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety Commission.
"Whatever we find, we intend to turn over to the court."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Senate Panel Backs Waco, Spying Subpoenas Plan
AOL/Reuters, Nov. 18, 1999
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=1999111707100263
A Senate panel approved a plan on Wednesday for issuing dozens of subpoenas
as part of a broad congressional inquiry of the Justice Department's handling
of the Waco, campaign finance and China spying investigations.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, brushing aside Democratic
objections, approved a procedure to be used for issuing up to 38 subpoenas
for thousands of documents related to the investigations.

Democrats said the subcommittee probe and the possible subpoenas were too
broad and already had been covered by multiple congressional and government
investigations.

The subpoenas, to be aimed at officials including Attorney General Janet
Reno, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
and Defense Secretary William Cohen, would seek "any and all'' documents
related to all three probes.
(...)

But Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a Democrat, said the subcommittee was
going over old ground. "We're going to run this simultaneously after we've
already done this in the House and the Senate?'' Biden said of the Waco
probe, noting it would clash with an ongoing investigation by former Sen.
John Danforth, who has complained about Specter's investigation.


4. Waco Prober Seeks FBI Firearms
AOL/AP, Nov. 15, 1999
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=1999111506150120
The special counsel re-investigating the 1993 Branch Davidian siege has asked
the FBI to turn over the firearms carried by its on-scene personnel to
determine whether federal agents fired shots during the standoff's final
hours.
(...)

While the FBI and Justice Department have always maintained the Branch
Davidians killed themselves, independent filmmakers, lawyers for survivors
suing the government, and others skeptical of the claim contend government
agents fired at the compound.
(...)

"Their request came in, and we are complying with the request,'' FBI
spokesman Bill Carter said Monday, declining further comment.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Waco woven into Idaho couple's lives
Spokane.net, Nov. 14, 1999
http://www.spokane.net/news-story-body.asp?Date=111499&ID=s660292&cat=
Former gun dealers Henry McMahon and Karen Kilpatrick live in a small
apartment in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in the shadow of Ruby Ridge. But their
lives are occupied by another symbolic location in the anti-government
movement: Waco, Texas.

McMahon was the gun dealer who sold Branch Davidian leader David Koresh 223
legal firearms. Kilpatrick was a close friend of several Davidians.
(...)

They expect to be called as witnesses early next year in the suit brought by
surviving Davidians against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
(...)

Whenever there's an opportunity, the Bonners Ferry couple speak out against
the government. McMahon spoke at a Soldier of Fortune convention and
testified before Congress. McMahon and Kilpatrick will tell anyone who will
listen that they were mistreated, assaulted and wrongfully detained by ATF
agents for three weeks after the Davidian siege began in February 1993.

The ATF disputes that. The FBI also found no merit to their claims of civil
rights violations. Yet another arm of the federal government, the Social
Security Administration, says the couple are victims of government-caused
stress.

Both now suffer from post-traumatic stress traceable to the ATF raid at the
Davidian compound, a federal administrative law judge ruled in 1997.
(...)

McMahon and Kilpatrick started visiting the Davidian compound regularly, and
were even invited to Thanksgiving dinner there. They sat through Koresh's
10-hour-long Bible studies, but never moved to the compound.
(...)

Kilpatrick said she became friends with others living at Mt. Carmel, and even
changed baby diapers there. She said she saw none of the child abuse federal
agents alleged occurred at the compound before the ill-fated raid.
(...)

"The ATF was asking me all these questions about David Koresh. Why does he
need so many guns? What's he going to do with them?" McMahon recalled.
Disturbed with the questions, McMahon said he picked up his telephone and
called Koresh. "I said, 'David, the ATF is here asking questions about
you,"' McMahon said. "He told me, 'If they want to see my guns, tell them to
come out here."'

McMahon said he offered the phone, with Koresh on the line, to the two ATF
agents, who were upset the call had been made.
(...)

Later that month, after three people died in the Randy Weaver standoff at
Ruby Ridge, McMahon recalled that he and Koresh "talked about a government
that we both thought was out of control."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aum Shinrikyo

6. Lower House panel approves bills to crack down on Aum
Japan Times, Nov. 17, 1999
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news11-99/news.html#story1
The Lower House Judicial Committee approved two bills Wednesday designed to
tighten control of Aum Shinrikyo and facilitate redress to the cult's
victims.
(...)

The committee's approval will pave the way for the bills to be passed in a
plenary session of the Lower House today and the Upper House by early
December.

One of the bills, submitted by the government, will allow the Public Security
Investigation Agency to regularly supervise or restrict the activities of Aum
followers.
(...)

One point of contention during Diet deliberations was whether the law would
be used to crack down on other groups. Opposition lawmakers claimed that
provisions of the bills may lead authorities to apply it to other groups, but
Justice Minister Hideo Usui repeatedly said, "Aum is the only group at the
moment that would meet the conditions of the legislation."

To clarify the government's point, the DPJ insisted that the bill be limited
to cover groups whose attempt at indiscriminate mass murder occurred within
the past 10 years. The LDP-led coalition parties agreed to that point.

The four parties also agreed to narrow the definition of the law's target, by
mentioning in the legislation that it is aimed against groups that committed
indiscriminate murders "by, for example, using sarin gas."
(...)

The other bill, submitted by the LDP-led ruling coalition, aims to collect
the assets of the bankrupt Aum Shinrikyo and its affiliated companies and
groups, and submit them to the court-appointed trustee assigned to dispose of
the cult's assets.
(...)

Senior Aum Shinrikyo member Tomomitsu Niimi, who is facing murder and other
charges in 11 court cases, denounced on Wednesday the "bashing" that the
religious cult was taking at the hands of the public.

During a trial hearing at the Tokyo District Court, Niimi, 35, argued that
the public's behavior toward the cult is a kind of "kin-hatred" by Japanese
people "who, like current Aum members, neither regret nor even know about
their past."

However, when Judge Kaoru Kanayama asked him about his feeling toward the
victims of his alleged crimes, Niimi declined to comment, saying he would
tell the whole truth in his next hearing.

Niimi stands accused of involvement in several murder cases, including the
deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo subway system in 1995. However, he has
maintained silence about those and other incidents allegedly committed by
cult members, as well as his faith to Aum founder Shoko Asahara.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Highlights of the legislation
Japan Times, Nov. 17, 1999
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/news11-99/news.html#story2
The first of two bills aimed at curbing the activities of Aum Shinrikyo
imposes controls on groups whose members have carried out or attempted
indiscriminate mass murder. The following conditions apply to the bill:

1) The legislation targets any group whose members have carried out or
attempted indiscriminate mass murder in the past 10 years. The group also
must have a leader who holds strong influence on the members, the same
members as when the crime was committed, or a platform that approves of
murder.

2) The Public Security Examination Commission, an extra-ministerial board of
the Justice Ministry, can place any such group under surveillance by the
Public Security Investigation Agency for up to three years.

3) Every three months during this period, the targeted group must provide the
agency's director general with information about its members as well as the
nature of its activities.

4) If necessary, agency officials will be allowed to enter the group's
facilities to carry out further inspections.

5) If the group is found to have engaged in further acts of murder, assault
or other illegal activities, the commission can stop it from obtaining or
using any land or facilities for its activities for up to six months.

The second bill aims to facilitate the seizure of assets from a bankrupt
group:

1) This bill applies to any bankrupt group or its affiliated companies,
groups and individuals placed under surveillance.

2) A court-appointed trustee will be allowed to request that the group return
assets it held before it went bankrupt.

3) The trustee will be able to ask the director general of the Public
Security Investigation Agency to provide information on the targeted group's
assets.
[...entire item...]


=== Falun Gong

8. Mass trials of Falun gong members expected after UN chief's departure
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Nov. 18, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/asia/afp/article.html
?s=asia/headlines/991118/asia/afp/Mass_trials_of_Falungong_members
_expected_after_UN_chief_s_departure.html
Hundreds of believers of the banned Falungong spiritual group will be
prosecuted following UN chief Kofi Annan's visit to China, with the trial of
a key member expected Sunday, a rights group said.
(...)

His visit has delayed the trials of 300 practitioners facing prison terms for
refusing to give up their faith and up to 1,000 others expected to be sent to
labour camps, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and
Democratic Movement in China said Thursday.
(...)

Many more trials will be conducted in the coming month, the centre said,
adding they have learned of a secret state document which asks various
provinces to complete prosecutions of Falungong members before the Macau
handover on December 20.
(...)

The centre estimates more than 1,000 people have already been sent to 300
labour camps in the country.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. China to try Falun Gong leaders, frees HK members
AOL/Reuters, Nov. 18, 1999
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=1999111808356850
China is to begin trying about 300 leaders of the banned Falun Gong spiritual
movement just days after a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to
Beijing, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Thursday.

A court in Chongqing city in the western province of Sichuan would try Gu
Zhiyi on Sunday, the start of a series of trials across the nation, the
Information Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Movement in China said in a
statement.
(...)

Meanwhile, a local Falun Gong member told Reuters most of the five Hong Kong
practitioners who were detained by Chinese police in Beijing on Wednesday had
been released and were now returning to Hong Kong, due for arrival later on
Thursday. The five, including a child, were rounded up when they tried to
unfurl a Falun Gong banner in Beijing. Falun Gong, outlawed in China, is
legal in the territory which retains a high degree of autonomy.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Falun Gong adherent gets aylum in S.F.
San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 17, 1999
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/11/17/MN1958.DTL
Zhung, an attractive, earnest, spirited woman in her 30s, is believed to be
the first adherent of the banned Chinese Buddhist sect Falun Gong to be
granted political asylum by a San Francisco immigration judge. She came to
The Chronicle last week, warily. The agreement was no last name and no
photographs, nor could her hometown in China be revealed, except to say it is
in the north. There, she left a husband, child and mother. ("We could only
afford to have one person escape.'') She is concerned about the reaction of
Chinese officials on both continents.

China is "deeply resentful'' about the ruling in Zhung's favor and a similar
case on the East Coast. A spokesman at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco
said his government has the support of the people in its crackdown on this
"criminal organization.'' (The consulate's response to a recent Chronicle
editorial on Falun Gong is in Letters to the Editor, page A26.)
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Falun Gong
San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 17, 1999 (Letter to the Editor)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/11/17/ED40629.DTL
Editor -- The recent editorial "True-to-Form China'' (Chronicle, November
10) irresponsibly accused the Chinese government of cracking down on Falun
Gong illegal activities and a continuing history of ``oppression and
brutality.'' The facts speak otherwise.

Falun Gong is not a religion at all. There is plenty of evidence to prove
that Falun Gong is no ordinary organization, but an anti-science,
anti-humanity and anti-society cult.
(...)

No responsible government will ever allow such cults to harm people's safety
and social stability. China is a country ruled according to law, and her laws
not only protect the freedoms of association, speech, assembly and religious
belief of its citizens, but also brook no abuses of these freedoms by anyone.
The Chinese government handles the Falun Gong issue according to law, by
doing so to protect the basic human rights and freedoms of citizens and to
safeguard China's constitution and laws. In this issue, we firmly oppose any
irresponsible remarks on and interference in China's internal affairs.

OU QIAN
Spokeswoman Office of the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
San Francisco
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Beijing reassures UN leader about sect
Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 17, 1999
http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/china17.html
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that China's explanation of its
prohibition of the Falun Gong sect gave him a "better understanding" of the
government crackdown.
(...)

Annan, who earlier expressed concern about the government's campaign, said
Tang gave him "a full explanation as to how the government sees the group"
and that he now has "a better understanding" of the issues involved.

"In dealing with this issue, the fundamental rights of citizens will be
respected, and some of the actions they are taking are for the protection of
individuals," Annan said.
(...)

Falun Gong members have complained of police beatings, illegal detentions and
imprisonment in labor camps without trial and have repeatedly appealed for
Annan's help.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi reiterated that Chinese policy aims to
punish "criminals who mastermind and calculate the criminal activities" and
not ordinary Falun Gong followers. Sun denied that any persecution is taking
place.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Members of banned sect protest, arrests reported in China
San Francisco Gate, Nov. 17, 1999
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/
news/archive/1999/11/17/international0430EST0516.DTL
Gathering furtively before police could catch them, several members of the
banned Falun Gong spiritual movement staged a brief protest today in
Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

In the latest act of defiance against the government's four-month campaign to
vanquish the group, four women, a man and a young child performed slow
meditation exercises on the vast square's pavement. Plainclothes and
uniformed police quickly hustled them into a van and drove them away.

"We appeal to international society and to kind people who uphold justice to
support Falun Gong believers who have been persecuted ruthlessly,'' a member
of the movement who watched but did not take part in the demonstration said
in a written appeal handed to a foreign reporter.
(...)

The written appeal by the Falun Gong member, who did not give his name, said
fellow adherents were leaving their homes and jobs, sometimes walking or
bicycling from distant cities, in their quest to defend the movement. It
said members were living in an "environment of absolute terror.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

14. Foe of Scientology plans move to area
St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 16, 1999
http://www.sptimes.com/News/111699/NorthPinellas/Foe_of_Scientology_pl.shtml
The Church of Scientology came to court Monday hoping its No. 1 enemy, Robert
S. Minton, would never again be allowed near church properties in Clearwater.

Instead, church officials learned that Minton, a 53-year-old New England
millionaire, plans to be much too close for their comfort.

Clearwater lawyer Denis de Vlaming told Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thomas
E. Penick Jr. that Minton has purchased a building next to the Clearwater
Bank Building on Cleveland Street, one of Scientology's signature properties
downtown. Later, de Vlaming clarified, saying Minton will not be closing on
the building for a few weeks.

Either way, Minton wants to use the building as a headquarters for a new,
anti-Scientology organization named after Lisa McPherson, the church member
who died in 1995 while under the care of Scientology staffers. Minton also
plans to live in the building, de Vlaming said.
(...)

The plans came to light during a hearing on whether a temporary restraining
order against Minton should be made permanent. The church secured the order
Nov. 4, three days after Minton was arrested for misdemeanor battery, accused
of striking church staffer Richard W. Howd.
(...)

Under the temporary restraining order, Minton must remain 150 yards from the
Fort Harrison Hotel, the Clearwater Bank Building, which houses offices and
dining areas, and 15 other local Scientology properties.
(...)

Minton, a retired investment banker, has spent about $2.5-million to finance
Scientology's critics and those who are in litigation against the church. He
says Scientology abuses its members and critics.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* As is its practice, the Church of Scientology is conducting an ongoing
harassment campaign against Bob Minton and other critics. For
documentation, see:

http://www.apologeticsindex.org/s04.html#cosharass


15. State vs. Scientology
Sindelfinger Zeitung (Germany)
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/991117b.htm
This Wednesday the conflict between the administrative presidium and a
Scientology organization will begin anew before the Stuttgart Administrative
Court. The Stuttgart Dianetics sect branch is to lose its association status.

The behavior of Dianetics Stuttgart has been a thorn in the side of the
authorities since 1994. The Scientology branch has been operating a brisk
commercial business under the auspices of a registered association, according
to the administrative presidium ["Regierungspraesidium"]. The association
articles and the general meetings were said by the speaker of the
administrative presidium to be "pseudo-meetings" throughout. As a result, its
association privileges must be taken away. Dianetics Stuttgart was said to be
striving for commercial advantage in its so-called "auditing" and training
its auditors. In early 1996, for instance, about twelve hours of auditing
cost 8,652 marks ($6,575). At that time the Scientology Academy was offering
Grades 0 through IV at 18,400 marks ($14,000). The administrative presidium
estimated the annual intake of Dianetics Stuttgart to be 2 to 3 million
marks.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Hate Groups

16. Pastor Who Takes Pride in Hate Traces the Emotion to Bible
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 16, 1999
http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/19991116/t000104294.html
From his perch on a cracked sidewalk, the Rev. Fred Phelps looked upon his
handiwork and found it was good.
(...)

The 69-year-old Baptist pastor from Topeka said little, but the placards he
held aloft succinctly conveyed the three-word credo of his ministry: "God
hates fags."

Phelps is a man out of his time, a Bible-spouting fundamentalist at play in
the field of 20th-century media manipulation. A preacher whose following
amounts to little more than his extended family, Phelps leads an
anti-homosexual ministry across the United States, a land he calls a modern
Sodom.

Gay activists have reviled him for years, but it is only in recent weeks that
Phelps made an impact on the roiling national debate over religion and
homosexual rights. It came as Phelps suddenly expanded his withering attacks
on gays to target some of the religious right's most influential evangelists
-- Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson -- for their controversial
public campaign to seek dialogues with homosexuals and convert them to
heterosexuality.
(...)

Even amid the byzantine underground culture of American hate groups, Phelps'
roving ministry stands apart. He makes no effort to expand his flock, a small
tribe of a few dozen relatives and hangers-on. He echoes the apocalyptic
ravings of survivalists, but forbids his congregation to stockpile guns.
"He's with the nuts and flakes," says Joe Roy, director of intelligence for
the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate watchdog group.
(...)

Phelps' greatest danger, in the eyes of Christian groups, is his ability to
freeload on media coverage. "People see his offensive signs and they think
that's the face of Christianity," said Amy Tracy, a spokeswoman for Dobson's
Focus on the Family, who says she is a converted lesbian.

Falwell contends that Phelps "needs to be taken seriously. I can understand
why gays and lesbians would be afraid of him." But gay activists complain
that Falwell and Dobson take private delight in Phelps' attacks because they
end up appearing more sympathetic each time he lambastes them.
"Phelps is Falwell and Dobson without the nice wrappings," said David
Smith, a spokesman with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group in
Washington.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Supremacist testifies for L.A. shootings grand jury
Seatlle Post-Intelligencer/AP, Nov. 18, 1999
http://www.seattlep-i.com/local/butl18.shtml
(...) Richard Butler, 81, founder and head of the Aryan Nations church in
Hayden Lake, Idaho, was ordered to travel to Los Angeles at taxpayers'
expense to testify behind close doors on Nov. 10, The Spokesman-Review
reported.

The focus of the investigation is Buford O. Furrow Jr., 37, a former Aryan
Nations security guard who most recently lived near Olympia.

FBI agents served Butler with a subpoena last month, and the FBI is also
looking for other people who may have known Furrow while he was at the Aryan
Nations compound in 1995, The Spokesman-Review reported.
(...)

Butler said he was questioned by assistant U.S. attorney Michael Gennaco
about Christian Identity beliefs, which hold that white people are the true
children of God, the real Israelites. "Apparently, they just wanted me to
explain my Christian beliefs," he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Amazon.com Stops German Mein Kampf Sales
Excite/Reuters, Nov. 18, 1999
http://news.excite.com/news/r/991118/17/net-amazon-meinkampf
Online retail pioneer Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN.O) said on Thursday it will stop
selling Adolf Hitler's prison-penned manifesto "Mein Kampf" in Germany, but
two major rivals said they had no plans to follow suit.

Citing German laws prohibiting sales of hate literature and under pressure
from the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Amazon will
restrict sales of the hate-filled book. "We're not shipping it into Germany.
It's still available at our Web site and can be shipped elsewhere," Amazon
spokesman Bill Curry said.

But rivals Barnesandnoble.com Inc. (BNBN.O) and Borders Group Inc. (BGP.N)
will continue -- at least for now -- to ship the heavily anti-Semitic book,
which Hitler wrote in prison years before he led the Nazi party to power in
1933.

The book's English version was among Amazon's most popular titles in Germany.
The Wiesenthal Center filed legal complaints against Amazon and other
Web-based book sellers in August. "It's clear that the German-language
version is banned in Germany. It's less clear about the English version and
we thought that given that uncertainty the prudent thing was to stop shipping
it into Germany," Curry added.
(...)

Seattle-based Amazon also said it would stop computer generated e-mail
marketing of other anti-Semitic books to Mein Kampf buyers, a technique used
to induce customers to make similar purchases.
(...)

Amazon.com does not disclose data on individual book sales or provide
country-by-country figures. But in September the Web site listed Mein Kampf
as No.2 on its "uniquely best selling" list in Germany, suggesting the book
is much more popular in Germany than among other Amazon customers.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Shakty Pat Guru Foundation

19. Cultists say mummified man still lives
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Nov. 16, 1999
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news06.html
Police on Monday began an autopsy on a 66-year-old man who was found
mummified last week in a hotel here, despite adamant protests to call off the
examination from cultists who insist the man is still alive.
(...)

Kobayshi had been hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage, but his cultist son
obtained a discharge for him midway through the treatment.

Acolytes of Shakty Pat Guru Foundation (SPGF), a philosophy seminar group
connected to the self-enlightenment cult known as Life Space, have told
police officials that Kobayashi was recovering from treatment performed by
the group's guru, Shakty Pat, whose real name is Koji Takahashi. The
followers say that conducting an autopsy on Kobayashi would result in his
death.

According to police, two SPGF members and Kobayashi's 31-year-old son, whose
given name has been withheld, entered the Narita Police Station at around
8:30 a.m. and told police to "understand that Kobayashi is still alive."
(...)

Earlier on Sunday morning, 10 other cult members arrived at the Chiba
precinct, insisting Kobayshi was still alive and that they be permitted to
meet with him. They warned police that Kobayashi would die if the autopsy
was conducted, but left after police turned down their request.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Breatharianism

20. Breatharians found guilty of manslaughter
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newslink/weekly/newsnat-19nov1999-70.htm
A husband and wife on trial for the manslaughter of a woman under their care
during a 21-day meditation diet have been found guilty in the Supreme Court
in Brisbane.

Jim Pesnak, 60, and his 63-year-old wife Eugenia, of Ormiston east of
Brisbane, were looking after the 53-year-old Melbourne woman who was taking
part in the teachings of "breatharianism". She was undergoing a 21-day cult
cleansing diet, which meant no food and only orange juice for the last two
weeks.

The court was told she became ill after about six days and was experiencing
right sided weakness, had difficulty mobilising and speaking. The court was
told the Pesnaks rang a doctor, who had undergone the diet as a breatharian,
for advice but did not ring an ambulance until the 11th day when she had
trouble breathing. The couple both pleaded not guilty to the charge.
[...entire item...]


=== Mormonism

21. Couple want LDS suit dismissed
Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 16, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/1999/nov/11161999/utah/47668.htm
LDS Church critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner are asking a federal court judge
to dismiss a lawsuit claiming they violated copyright laws by posting parts
of a Mormon Church handbook on the Internet. Their attorney, Brian Barnard,
said the lawsuit should be dismissed because the church has never claimed it
has a copyright on the 17 pages of the Church Handbook of Instructions that
the couple posted on their Web site. "If there is a copyright somewhere [on
the material], then we do not know about it yet," said Barnard. Instead,
according to Barnard, the church in its court filings has indicated the
handbook is a compilation of earlier works. International Reserve Inc., the
corporation that holds the church's intellectual-property assets, sued the
Tanners in early October for posting the materials that describe church
disciplinary procedures. IRI and the Tanners' attorney are scheduled to argue
the issue Thursday before U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell.
[...entire item...]


22. Family Conference Stumbles Over LDS Participation
Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 15, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/1999/nov/11151999/nation_w/47388.htm
Speakers at the opening ceremony of the World Congress of Families II here
Sunday mentioned repeatedly how the concern for the natural family transcends
culture, language and religion. They pointed to the extraordinary alliance
the group has built among Roman Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jews and
Muslims.

Behind the scenes, however, organizers have had to defend the participation
of some of its partners -- particularly members of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints
.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Popular LDS Genealogy Web Site Is Adding 240 Million More Names
Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 16, 1999
http://www.sltrib.com/1999/nov/11161999/utah/47672.htm
Already the world's most extensive online genealogical collection, the LDS
Church's 6-month-old, runaway Internet hit "FamilySearch" is about to get
much bigger.

Next Monday, 240 million new names will be added to the popular Web site at
www.familysearch.org, giving cyber-genealogists access to more than 640
million records in all. The boost of nearly 40 percent in FamilySearch's
archives is the largest single upgrade to the site since its launch last May.

Site designers originally forecast 1 million "hits," or Web page accesses
per day. However, in its first five days alone, FamilySearch recorded more
than 120 million. Since then it has had more than 1.5 billion hits,
averaging 7.5 million to 10 million daily in recent weeks.
(...)

"Church President Gordon B. Hinckley indicated that the launch of the site .
. . was just a beginning," Christoffersen said. "With this upgrade we are
making good on that promise and have extended the reach of the service to an
even larger international audience."
(...)

Family history has been a Mormon priority since the church's earliest days.
The church officially began compiling genealogical records in 1984, primarily
using the information in LDS temple ordinances such as baptisms for the dead,
eternal marriages and heavenly family sealings.

Today, the church maintains records of more than 2 billion people,
safeguarding the information on millions of rolls of microfilm stored in
granite vaults inside Little Cottonwood Canyon south of Salt Lake City.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

24. Freemasons Set to Reveal Secrets on Internet
Excite/Reuters, Nov. 19, 1999
http://news.excite.com/news/r/991119/09/net-freemasons-secrets
A group of British freemasons -- a secretive society famed for its men-only
membership and behind-the-scenes influence -- is set to reveal the world of
the secret handshake on the Internet.
(...)

They hope that by selling a video of their meetings they will help rid the
organization of its reputation for secrecy and unusual traditions.
(...)

"We're in the process of dispelling all the myths and misconceptions
surrounding our organization. The film removes the veil of secrecy which is
said to exist around freemasonry."

The Bradford Web site also has interviews with freemasons and answers some of
the questions frequently asked about the secrecy of the organization.
Surfers can visit the Web site at www.wrprovince.co.uk.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Patriarch Accuses Missionaries
AOL/AP, Nov. 15, 1999
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=1999111701173519
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II accused foreign missionaries on
Wednesday of feeding psychedelic drugs to young people as a tool for winning
converts, a news agency reported.

Alexy II frequently speaks out against foreign missionaries in Russia, who he
feels are winning souls from his traditional flock of followers. The
patriarch, speaking at a congress for Orthodox missionaries, said their main
task should be countering the work of missionaries from other faiths.

"I am convinced that foreign missionaries who arrive in this country are
anxious to divide Russians,'' the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.
In his comment about psychedelic drugs, the news agency quoted him as saying
foreign missionaries "often'' use the substances as recruiting tools.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Massachusetts high court throws out abuse finding against minister
CNN/AP, Nov. 17, 1999
http://www.cnn.com/US/9911/17/bc.ministerspanking.ap/index.html
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court dismissed a child abuse charge
against a minister who spanked his son, ruling Wednesday that child welfare
officials provided inadequate evidence.

Donald Cobble, a minister from Woburn, said he spanked his 12-year-old son
once to twice a month with the end of a leather belt to instill discipline.

The Department of Social Services filed an abuse finding against Cobble but
offered to drop the charge if he agreed to stop spanking. He refused. Lawyers
for the state argued the spanking raised "substantial risk of physical
injury" to the boy.
(...)

Cobble's attorney, Chester Darling, said he he wasn't surprised the court
chose to avoid the question of religious freedom and simply address whether
there was enough evidence for an abuse finding. "Any court will avoid the
constitutional issues if it can be reversed on other grounds, which they did
here," he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Evangelist says Y2K isn't a big problem
Alabama Live, Nov. 14, 1999
http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/Nov1999/14-e272677b.html
TV evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong assured about 200 followers Saturday that
Y2K is nothing to be worried about, unless people panic.

"Y2K is not significant at all from a biblical standpoint," said Armstrong,
president of the Intercontinental Church of God denomination. He spoke in a
meeting room at the Birmingham Marriott Hotel.
(...)

Armstrong said that in the 1960s he predicted the reunification of Germany
and the unification of Europe. "It has come to pass," he said. "It took a lot
longer than I thought it would."

Although Armstrong stresses biblical prophecy, he said it is dangerous for
people to think they need to do anything to try to bring about fulfillment of
prophecy. God can do it himself, Armstrong said. "Anyone who would try to
precipitate any prophecy in the Bible has got to be crazy," he said.

Armstrong is the son of Herbert W. Armstrong, who founded the 80,000-member
Worldwide Church of God in 1934. It started as the Radio Church of God, with
the first broadcast of "The World Tomorrow." The elder Armstrong died in 1986
at age 93 and new leadership steered the denomination away from controversial
theology. The Worldwide Church of God is now considered a mainstream
evangelical Christian denomination, similar to other Pentecostals.

Garner Ted Armstrong had been the heir apparent to his father until an
internal power struggle between the younger Armstrong and his father's chief
aide in 1978 prompted the elder Armstrong to excommunicate his son.

Since starting the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association in 1979, he
has traveled the country as a lecturer and has a TV program on WGN. His
denomination has about 100 affiliated congregations across the country that
play videos of his sermons in their services, he said. Armstrong, who will be
70 in February, said he still feels the shadow of his famous radio pioneer
father.

"One of these days people will stop identifying me as Herbert W. Armstrong's
son," he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. New score just in: Organized religion 9, Others 1.
Detroit News, Nov. 17, 1999
http://detnews.com/1999/religion/9911/17/11170255.htm
One out of every nine Americans does not belong to any organized religion.
People who answer "none" when asked their religious preference tend to be
male, young, urban and single, according to a four-year study of the
religious orientation of adult residents of the United States conducted by
Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.

At least 24 million American adults do not belong to any organized religious
institution, making them second in number only to Roman Catholics if they
were counted as a specific religious group.

"One of the basic facets to being non-aligned with a religion is that you do
not want restrictions imposed upon you," said Ronald Barrier, spokesman for
the 2,500-member American Atheists Inc., an advocacy group founded 36 years
ago by Madalyn Murray O'Hair. "We are more open, more accepting."
(...)

"We have a wave of spiritualism going through America right now,
especially among younger people," said William J. Murray, a Washington, D.C.,
religious activist who campaigns to return prayer to the public schools.
"They identify with angels, say they believe in a superior being, but will
not attach themselves to a specific denomination or creed."

Murray, perhaps best known as O'Hair's son who in 1980 rejected the atheism
of his youth to become a devout Southern Baptist, said television and other
entertainment media have promoted vague notions of the supernatural without
upholding specific organized religions. "Now it's become almost a fad to
believe in supernatural forces without attaching any explanation to them," he
said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Catholic bishops vote to certify theologians
San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 18, 1999
http://www7.mercurycenter.com/premium/nation/docs/bishops18.htm
The nation's Roman Catholic bishops voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to require
theology professors at Catholic colleges and universities to obtain
certification from their bishops declaring that what they teach is
"authentic Catholic doctrine.''

The requirement that theologians obtain a mandatum, or mandate, emerged at
the meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops as the most
controversial element in a broad statement about what the relations should be
between the church and America's more than 230 Catholic institutions of
higher education.
(...)

Although supporters of the document said they believed that it would not be
unnecessarily intrusive, it appears likely to generate tension at many
Catholic universities, which enroll about 670,000 students. Archbishop
Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee warned that the document, if implemented,
would be "a pastoral disaster for the church.''
(...)

The document has already generated controversy. "It really is redefining the
relationship of Catholic universities and colleges to the church to say that
theologians must request a mandate from the bishop which, once given, can be
withdrawn,'' said the Rev. Thomas Rausch, chair of the theological studies
department at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles. "Many Catholic
educators are worried that this will compromise the academic integrity of the
institutions and the freedom of inquiry of those teaching theology.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

30. A Question of Right and Wrong
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 17, 1999
http://www.latimes.com/news/state/19991117/t000104803.html
A growing number of the country's school districts--including Los Angeles
Unified--have decided that topics such as ethics and character development
deserve a place in the curriculum alongside English and math.
(...)

Students across the nation are increasingly being taught that their actions
have consequences--not only for them, but often for others. The Los Angeles
Unified School District has waded into the potentially dicey political and
religious waters of trying to instill character by launching the pilot course
that aims to blend old-fashioned core values and civic virtues with career
planning.

By June, Life Skills, which was intended to replace the district's
20-year-old virtues-free Education Career Planning program, will be mandatory
for all ninth-graders.
(...)

Steering clear of religious doctrines, topics include student life,
self-identity, relationships and community.
(...)

To be sure, there are plenty of teachers and administrators who regard the
subject as distressingly "touchy-feely." Others dismiss the character
movement as just another educational fad.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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31. Cal Thomas: Faith and persecution
Nando Times, Nov. 18, 1999 (Column)
http://www2.nando.net/noframes/story/0,2107,500058480-500096332-500381111-0,00.html
(...) There has been a lot of talk like this lately. Christians and their
"values" aren't getting the respect they deserve from non-Christians. In
fact, say many on what the press calls the Religious Right, they are being
persecuted for their beliefs.

The direct-mail fund-raising letters from various TV ministers and some who
are ministerial wannabes speak of "religious persecution!" complete with
appropriate exclamation points. They cite the religious connections in the
Columbine High School killings of last spring and the Fort Worth church
shooting this fall. They ask for money to fight this "persecution," though
specifics are often lacking beyond "restoring" prayer and Bible reading to
public schools or hanging the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
(...)

The presumption is that non-Christians are supposed to accept the Christian
agenda and beliefs without question. Christians are surprised and offended
that anyone would oppose their beliefs and tactics, because they claim to be
right. When they are killed for their faith, they suggest that this is
unnatural and unprecedented and that government should classify this extreme
form of persecution as a hate crime.

Two things. First, many in the world being beheaded, stoned, flogged and
imprisoned for their faith might gladly exchange such real persecution for
the mostly mere inconveniences experienced by American Christians. Second,
isn't it curious that people who claim to believe what the Bible says think
it unusual, or even outrageous, that they would be subjected to persecution
for their faith? The prosperity gospel they can handle. The persecution
gospel they'd rather avoid.

Here is what their leader said about persecution: "Blessed are you when
people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds b2a of evil
against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward
in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before
you" (Matthew 5:11-12). The key word here is "falsely." If one is persecuted
for being a jerk, he deserves what he gets.
(...)

So, lighten up, Christians, and get about the business of doing the things
that will bring real persecution. You're not being fed to the lions, but you
are being fed a lot of baloney by some of your leaders who, frankly, don't
know what they're talking about when it comes to real persecution.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Interfaith / Interdenominational

32. Leaders debate the changes that religious diversity brings to the
millennium
Star-Telegram, Nov. 14, 1999
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/doc/1047/1:RELIGION12/1:RELIGION12111499.html
On the eve of the third millennium of Christianity, 1,000 church leaders from
dozens of denominations are meeting this week in Cleveland to wrestle with
America's growing religious diversity and to explore how Americans' spiritual
yearnings may change their churches.

Rising sales of inspirational books and music -- and growing interest in
spiritual subjects from angels to meditation techniques -- indicate that
Americans' interest in spirituality is soaring. But America is becoming so
spiritually and culturally diverse that some leaders of traditional churches
are struggling to cope with the changing landscape.

During the 50th anniversary convention of the National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the USA -- a group representing 35 Protestant, Orthodox
and Anglican churches -- the Cleveland Convention Center has buzzed with
questions about the future.
(...)

One of the few formal statements issued by the Council this week is an
18-page policy statement condemning ethnic and racial bias and recommitting
the council to defend religious freedom for all.
(...)

While traditional faiths were welcomed by the Council, the group's leaders
still are struggling to come to terms with the trend among some Americans to
move away from congregations entirely and, instead, search for more
self-centered spiritual enlightenment.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Film

33. Film Review: 'Omega Code' a mega disaster
Excite/U-Wire, Nov. 17, 1999
http://news.excite.com/news/uw/991117/entertainment-film-262
"The Omega Code" is a disaster. The only reason this movie ever made it to
the big screen is because the Trinity Broadcasting Network funded millions of
dollars.
(...)

"The Omega Code" has a cultic feel because it shows that people are willing
to believe in anything, however ridiculous. It also contains many abrupt
transitions.
(...)

It is as if no scientific methods or research matters for this movie.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Indeed, the so-called "Bible Codes," one of many heresies and
aberrancies promoted by TBN, have been thoroughly discounted.

http://www.apologeticsindex.org/b00.html#biblecodes


34. 'Jesus in love' film backed by Vatican
The Times, Nov. 18, 1999
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/Times/timfgneur01004.html?999
An Italian film that shows Jesus in love has won the surprise backing of the
Vatican. Alarmed officials had asked for an advance viewing of the film, to
be broadcast on Italian television in the run up to Christmas. But yesterday
Cardinal Poupard, the Vatican's head of culture, said it would be shown as
part of a two-week Vatican film festival starting next weekend. He said the
films had been chosen because they dealt with "moral and spiritual values".
(...)

The most controversial scene suggests an amorous relationship between Jesus
and Mary, the sister of Martha, whose house at Bethany Jesus visited shortly
before his arrest and crucifixion.
(...)

Ettore Bernabei, the producer, told Corriere della Sera that the film was
aimed "above all" at non-believers but it was "essentially faithful to the
Gospels". Mr Young said that in showing the "human side" of Jesus, he hoped
to convey his appeal in "immediate and up- to-date language . . . I did not
set out to make a traditional film".
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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