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Religion News Report

November 24, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 136)

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Religion News Report - November 24, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 136)

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. U.S. fights gunfire test in siege case

=== Aum Shinrikyo
2. Cop 'guns down' AUM poster suspects

=== Life Space / Shakty Pat Guru Foundation
3. Life Space guru denies suggesting man leave hospital
4. Police search cult facilities
5. Man wins battle for Life Space kid
6. Life Space puts legal experts in holy confusion

=== Falun Gong
7. 12 more Falun Gong members reportedly put in labor camps

=== Scientology
8. Scientology prompts review of death case
9. NOTs temporarily protected

=== Mormonism
10. Judge believes Tanners will lose

=== Unification Church
11. Moon youth group wins case

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
12. United Pagan Allied Network reaches out to conquer negative stereotypes

=== Hate Groups
13. Neo-nazi group banned from poll

=== Other News
14. Cops snare bat-attack cultists for bashing (Hono Hana Sanpogyo)
15. Pala cult member convicted of 17 counts in crime spree (Gatekeepers)
16. Buyers Snap Up Heaven's Gate Goods
17. Police Raid Another Tutsi Cult Camp (World Message Last Warning Church)
18. Despite protests, Muslims lay mosque cornerstone in Nazareth

=== Interfaith
19. Israel Religious Leaders Seek Peace
20. Muslim Mom Says Group Prejudiced

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance
21. In Russia, Court Eases Curb in Law On Religion
22. Russian court loosens bonds on religious groups
23. Proselytizing Criticized in Nepal
24. Hindus picket Baptist church in Boston over prayer book

=== Books
25. Out of This World

=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. U.S. fights gunfire test in siege case
Dallas Morning News, Nov. 23, 1999
Government lawyers argued Monday that field tests can't re-create the last
day of the Branch Davidian siege and instead proposed that a judge commission
studies of what gunfire might look like - or if would show up at all - on the
infrared camera the FBI used that day.

The kind of re-creation lawyers representing Branch Davidians have proposed
would be unreliable and inadmissible in federal court proceedings, Justice
Department lawyers argued in a pleading filed Monday. The federal judge
overseeing the case and the special counsel investigating the siege, John
Danforth, have already endorsed it.

"In short, it would produce more confusion than clarity," the 10-page Justice
Department pleading stated. "In contrast, the study of the spectral and
temporal characteristics of muzzle blasts and accompanying demonstration of
FLIR [infrared] technology would . . . help to resolve the issue with

Last week, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith ordered infrared field tests at
the request of Mr. Danforth's office. The special counsel sought court
intervention Nov. 5, after FBI officials offered a private "accurate
re-creation" for Mr. Danforth's investigators even as Justice Department
lawyers scoffed at proposals by the Branch Davidians' lawyers for a joint
public test.

In a separate federal court filing Monday, the department said that an FBI
technician conducting an ammunition inventory Friday found 20 envelopes with
bullets test-fired from guns recovered from the Branch Davidian compound.

It came four days after lawyers assured Judge Smith that they had surrendered
everything in the government's possession relating to the Waco tragedy.
"It was inadvertent. These were in a place that they simply hadn't looked
before," a Justice Department official said.

The envelopes were delivered Monday to the federal court in Waco. The Justice
Department filed a brief pleading announcing the turnover, along with an FBI
official's sworn statement that the evidence "possibly" had been overlooked
after being inadvertently misfiled during renovation of the FBI laboratory.

The Justice Department official said the discovery had not prompted renewed
searches for Branch Davidian evidence.

But the chairman of the Texas Public Safety Commission said Monday that Texas
officials are increasingly concerned that a key piece of evidence may still
be at the FBI lab, following a fruitless two-day search of tons of Branch
Davidian evidence in Waco.

"But we did not find that canister we were looking for," he said. "We don't
know where it is. It may be in the FBI's lab. That's the only other place
that we know it could be. Nobody else has had access to that except FBI
agents over the years."
Back To Top

Current reports, news archive and other resources regarding Waco / Branch


=== Aum Shinrikyo

2. Cop 'guns down' AUM poster suspects
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Nov. 22, 1999
One of the nation's boys in blue managed to "gun down" with one shot three
AUM Shinrikyo fugitives suspected of carrying out the deadly 1995 gas attack
on Tokyo's subways.

Unfortunately for the unnamed 50-year-old officer, though, the shot he fired
from his pistol earlier this month struck a wanted poster for three doomsday
cultists who've been on the run since the gassing. The real fugitives were

Police said the officer mistakenly fired his pistol on Nov. 9. He had been
practising using blanks on a target range together with two other officers
for a shooting contest. He removed five live bullets and practiced with

The officer finished shooting about an hour later, reloading his gun. The
officer then decided to hit the practice range once again, but forgot that he
had reloaded his pistol with live ammunition.
Back To Top

News archive and other resources regarding Aum Shinrikyo:


=== Life Space / Shakty Pat Guru Foundation

3. Life Space guru denies suggesting man leave hospital
Japan Times, Nov. 22, 1999
The founder of the Life Space self-enlightenment group on Monday denied
responsibility for moving a member of the group from a hospital in Hyogo
Prefecture to a hotel in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, where the man's mummified
corpse was found earlier this month.

Koji Takahashi, who describes himself as a "guru," said in an interview with
Kyodo News that he had given no instructions for Shinichi Kobayashi, a
retired company worker, to be moved to the Narita hotel where he subsequently

Speaking in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, Takahashi said, "Kobayashi's eldest
son came to me around June 29, asking me for advice on the treatment of his
father." "I told him that I would welcome it if he had decided (to move
Kobayashi out of the hospital). I did not give any instructions myself,"
Kobayashi said.

Members of Life Space who helped move Kobayashi from the hospital say they
had been requested to do so by his son. The group, with Kobayashi, reportedly
took a direct flight to Narita from Itami before going to the hotel, where
Takahashi was staying.
Back To Top

* Koji Takahashi also goes by the name of Shakty Pat.

4. Police search cult facilities
Asahi Daily News (Japan), Nov. 24, 1999
Investigators this morning searched the facilities of a self-enlightenment
cult that kept the mummified body of a follower at a hotel near Narita
airport, Chiba police said.

At about 9:05 a.m., seven to eight police officers searched the hotel where
members of the Life Space group, also known as the Shakty Pat Guru Foundation
(SPGF), were staying in Ooarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Ten investigators arrived at SPGF's publishing facility in Bunkyo Ward,
Tokyo, at the same time. They left the site around 10:10 a.m. with six girls
who appeared to be elementary or junior high school age.

The searches were conducted on suspicion that the cult abandoned a dead body.
On Nov. 11, police found the mummified body of Shinichi Kobayashi, 66, who
was a member of the group, in a hotel in the Narita airport vicinity.

Police suspect that a lack of proper medical treatment led to Kobayashi's
death. The cult kept Kobayashi's body and photo records at the hotel.

Life Space officials insist that Kobayashi was alive when police entered the
hotel. They said they removed Kobayashi from the hospital to give him proper

Kobayashi's family paid 8 million yen for Life Space's treatment. Life Space
has been involved in similar cases. In April 1998, a 43-year-old university
employee visited a cult facility in Tokyo for treatment of a kidney problem.
He died after refusing hospital treatment. Four years ago, a 22-year-old
college student died while taking part in a group seminar. The parents were
awarded 28 million yen in compensation.
Back To Top

5. Man wins battle for Life Space kid
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Nov. 24, 1999
A man received custody of his granddaughter from a family court in Hokkaido
because her parents, members of the controversial cult Life Space, had not
been taking sufficient care of her, court sources have revealed.

The court made the man the legal guardian of his 6-year-old granddaughter
after learning that she had been taken away from her parents, forced to live
with about 20 other children under minimal adult supervision and given a
daily allowance of 1,000 yen, which she was to use to buy her own food.

The girl's parents accused the grandfather of kidnapping the child, but the
court rejected their arguments, saying that "the girl wanted to return to
live with her grandfather of her own volition and that doing so was better
for her welfare."
Back To Top

6. Life Space puts legal experts in holy confusion
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Nov. 23, 1999
A mummified body found in a Chiba Prefecture hotel two weeks ago has thrown a
cult known as Life Space into the national limelight. Cultists - led by
their founder, the hippielike, elderly self-professed guru Koji Takahashi -
claim the mummy was alive until an autopsy was carried out, but the public
has been calling for prosecution.

Life Space members insisted Kobayashi was still alive. Police had to obtain a
warrant to remove the body. Police have since raided the hospital where
Kobayashi was initially treated to try and establish whether there are
grounds for charging Life Space.

Takahashi insists the cult has done no wrong, though he won't answer detailed
questions about group activities. During a recent news conference, he
repeatedly dismissed reporters' questions, saying "accepted theory" was
behind all his actions. This accepted theory, teisetsu in Japanese, is a
doctrine that explains everything, or so Takahashi says. After a reporter
asked whether Takahashi believed Kobayashi had died because of the autopsy,
the self-professed guru merely replied, "Yes, according to the accepted

Life Space members are quick to dismiss charges of wrongdoing, but legal
experts aren't so sure.

"The fact that they've stolen a dying patient from his doctor, left him
somewhere where he can't be treated and drove him over such long distances
could be treated as a type of assault. If authorities can establish links
between the transportation of the body and death, there's a chance they could
becharged with inflicting bodily injury resulting in death," says Kazuo
Kawakami, a one-time prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors
Office and current lawyer.

Michio Sato, a member of the House of Councillors who once served as a
prosecutor with the Sapporo High Prosecutors Office, isn't as adamant as

"From what I can understand through media reports, it'd be hard to charge the
cult with murder. It's not possible to determine whether the cult was content
to just let Kobayashi die," he says. "Then again, they might be just saying
the sorts of things any criminal says, so investigators should pursue the
case as much as they can and not dismiss the possibility the cult's actions
could have been murder without clear intention."

Takeshi Tsuchimoto, a former Supreme Prosecutors Office prosecutor, says
authorities should go after the cult.
Back To Top

News archive and other resources regarding Life Space:


=== Falun Gong

7. 12 more Falun Gong members reportedly put in labor camps
Nando Times, Nov. 23, 1999
Chinese authorities have sent 12 more members of the banned Falun Gong
spiritual movement to labor camps, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The 12 were sent away for doing Falun Gong meditation exercises in public in
defiance of a government ban on the movement, the Hong Kong-based Information
Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

The center said the number of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced nationwide
to labor camp terms may exceed 2,000. Police in China can hand down labor
camp sentences without trial.
Back To Top

Current reports, news archive and other resources regarding Falun Gong:


=== Scientology

8. Scientology prompts review of death case
St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 24, 1999
In an unusual step, Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood has agreed to
reconsider her conclusions in the 1995 death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson.

Lawyers for the Church of Scientology have given Wood new evidence that, they
say, casts doubt on Wood's original opinion: that McPherson was severely
dehydrated when she died while in the care of Scientology staffers.

Scientology's evidence includes sworn statements from laboratory employees
involved in the original testing of McPherson's eye fluid, a clear,
jelly-like substance used by medical examiners to assess a body's condition
at death. It includes other scientific information that, according to the
church, shows McPherson's death had nothing to do with dehydration.

Wood said she will review the materials and also has agreed to join a
church-hired toxicologist in testing a second sample of McPherson's eye fluid
-- about one-fifth of a teaspoon -- which has been stored by Wood's office
since the autopsy.

The medical examiner's findings are key elements in two court cases against
Scientology. Three years after McPherson's death, the Pinellas-Pasco State
Attorney's Office charged the church's Clearwater operation with two criminal
counts: abuse of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license.
The church also faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McPherson's family.

One of Scientology's lawyers, Lee Fugate, said if Wood were to alter her
original conclusions, "that may change the entire playing field." Wood
originally listed the manner of McPherson's death as "undetermined." Wood
said it is possible her review could lead to a finding of accidental death.

Wood told reporters McPherson died slowly, contradicting Scientology lawyers
who were saying then that McPherson's death was sudden and caused by a staph
infection. At the time, a Scientology lawyer reacted angrily to Wood's
statements, calling the veteran medical examiner "a hateful liar." Also, the
church sued Wood seeking her records in the case.
Back To Top

9. NOTs temporarily protected
Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), Nov. 22, 1999
Posted to ars by "Catarina Pamnell" <catarina@pamnell.com>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 11:21:40 +0100
Message-ID: <81dq3r$sf6$1@cubacola.tninet.se>
http://www.deja.com/forms/mid.shtml (enter msg. ID)
The 'Scientology bible' temporarily protected

The legislative council [who prepares laws] has accepted the change in
The Official Secrets Act that was proposed by the government. However, this
is to be viewed as a temporary measure, and in the long-term view a simple
change should be made in The Freedom of the Press Act.

Ever since the 'Scientology bible' was handed in to Swedish authorities a
couple of years ago, it has caused trouble. Due to the Swedish Principle of
Public Access to Official Records, it became a public document as soon as it
had been registered with these authorities, and anyone could read it for

This led to protests from the United States, who considers this a breach of
copyright law. The 'Scientology bible' has never before been made public to
persons outside of the Church of Scientology. The legislative council says
that this case highlights a weakness in Swedish law, since it is possible to
hand in material to a public authority, with no other intention than
undermining the copyright of another.

The legislative council does not, however, consider the change in the
Official Secrets Act proposed by the government to be the best road to take
in this matter. Instead, the paragraph that defines exceptions to the
Freedom of Press Act should be extended to include copyright protected works
handed in to public authorities without the consent of the copyright holder.
But the Freedom of Press Act is part of the Constitution, and changes to the
Constitution takes time to accomplish. Because of this situation, the
legislative council accepts the proposed changes as a temporary measure.
[...entire item...]

Current reports, news archive and other resources regarding Scientology


=== Mormonism

10. Judge believes Tanners will lose
Deseret News, Nov. 20, 1999
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell has continued a restraining order that
prevents LDS Church critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner from posting on their
Internet site
transcripts of a church handbook or directing others to Web
sites where the material was posted.

In addition, Campbell now spells out reasons she believes Intellectual
Reserve Inc., legal copyright holder for LDS Church publications, will win
its federal lawsuit against the Tanners.

In an order issued Friday, Campbell rejects the Tanners' arguments, calling
them unpersuasive. "First, the court considers whether there is a
substantial likelihood that plaintiff will eventually prevail on the merits"
following a trial of the case, she wrote. "The court finds that plaintiffs
have provided evidence of a copyright registration certificate," which
amounts to evidence of the validity of the copyright. "Based on the record .
. . it appears that the plaintiff owns a valid copyright," she wrote.

Also, she wrote, a trial probably would result in IRI proving that the
Tanners' actions materially contributed to "the (copyright) infringing
conduct of another." The Tanners "are assisting persons in copying the
allegedly infringing material onto their computer," she wrote.

Campbell cited a federal court decision that a person who knowingly induces
copyright infringement by another "may be held liable as a 'contributory'

The Tanners have posted e-mail on their Web site that suggested an Internet
user could "download the complete handbook" or send a copy of it to others,
she wrote. "At least one of the Web sites defendants list explains how to
quickly download a version of the handbook."
Back To Top

* Note: As pointed out by Watchman Fellowship, the Salt Lake Tribune
printed a link to the entire handbook (rather than just the 17 pages the
Tanners made available).


It is not clear why the Mormon Church makes the process of having one's
name removed from their records so difficult, and why it often taken legal
threats to finally get them to do so. For one thing, claiming (like so
many others) to be the fastest growing religion, while failing to exclude
ex-members from the count is, at the very least, dishonest. Also not
clear is why this information should not be publicly available.

News archive and other resources regarding the Mormon Church:


=== Unification Church

11. Moon youth group wins case
Stetson University, Nov. 12, 1999
(...) On Nov. 5, 1999 the final hearing took place in the St. Petersburg City
Court of two separate suits to liquidate the Collegiate Association for
Research of the Principle (CARP), a public student organization founded by
Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Judge Svetlana Masolova rejected the claims of the City
Prosecutor and the St. Petersburg Justice Department.

Cases against CARP have been going on in St. Petersburg for more than four
years. City authorities have wanted to shut down this organization in order
to demonstrate their determination to fight against non-traditional beliefs
in Russia.

In July 1995 two anti-cult groups, the Committee for the Protection of Family
and Personality and the Interregional Committee for Salvation from
Totalitarian Sects, simultaneously launched suits at the Dzerzhinsky District
Court of St. Petersburg, seeking to liquidate CARP and demanding compensation
for supposed moral damage. CARP was accused of "destroying the genetic fund
of Russia," turning its members into "zombies" and hindering their
intellectual development. They demanded a total of 80 billion rubles
(approximately $13m in 1995), which they claimed was necessary in order to
establish rehabilitation centers providing psychiatric aid to the "victims."
The head of the Interregional Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian
Sects, Ninel Russkikh, for example, demanded that her 22-year-old daughter, a
CARP member who is also a Unification Church member, be forcibly confined to
a mental institution for 16 months.

When it became clear, in the autumn of 1998, that the anti-cultists' efforts
had not met with the expected success, the St. Petersburg City Court
scheduled a hearing on the City Prosecutor's case demanding the liquidation
of CARP on the absurd charge that it conducted religious activities in 1994
and 1995. (The warning that the Justice Department sent to CARP about
suspected religious activity in 1994-1995 was disavowed by the Justice
Department in May 1999 due to a lack of evidence.)

The absence of any sustainable legal arguments forced the City Prosecutor
and the Justice Department to openly display their ideological bias and to
forgo even the pretense of following legal norms. As a result, on Nov. 5,
1999 the City Court of St. Petersburg rejected the City Prosecutor's and
Justice Department's suits to liquidate CARP and, at the same time, accused
the city Justice Department of acting illegally when it rejected the attempt
by CARP to re-register.
Back To Top

* Includes a report by "Human Rights Without Frontiers," an organization
that, among other things, disseminates reports written by cult members
and cult apologist organizations (e.g. CESNUR).

News archive and other resources regarding Unification Church:


=== Paganism / Witchcraft

12. United Pagan Allied Network reaches out to conquer negative stereotypes
Excite/U-wire, Nov. 19, 1999
When the United Pagan Allied Network participated in the University of South
Florida's Homecoming parade, the members were wary about being accepted by
the crowd that lined Maple.

But they received little attention from the unamused crowd.

That's the typical reaction to the group, according to Horowitz. She said
most people assume that pagans are Satan worshippers.

Another group that gets clumped with pagans are goths.

UPAN was formed at USF to fight such stereotypes and to teach others of the
ways of paganism. "We aren't here to convert anyone," Horowitz said. "We
accept all forms of religion in our organization. We encourage people to
speak their minds at our meetings, as long as they respect other people's
beliefs. We have Christians in our group, we have atheists running around. We
are all so different, but it works."

Many religions fall under paganism, including Wicca and, according to
Horowitz, even Buddhism. "Most Christians put Buddhism under paganism
because they don't believe in God," Horowitz said. "In the eyes of some
Christians, anyone that does not believe in God is a pagan."

There are numerous types of paganism, including Paganism (spelled with a
capital P), a strand of neopaganism that strives to allow each person to draw
from whatever religious and cultural traditions are meaningful for the

The practices of Paganism derive from those of Wicca, one of the first
neopagan religions. Other neopagan religions include neo-Shamanism,
neo-Druidism and neo-Native American practices. These religions attempt to
reconnect with nature, using imagery and forms from other types of pagans.
This is the most modern of pagan religions, in which a reverence for the
Earth and all of its creatures is held.

"The neopagan movement is the new wave of paganism," Horowitz said. "It is
defined by the person, therefore one can set his or her own rules. That's why
I like it. No one is bogged down by constricting rules. "

Most of the members of UPAN were raised Catholic but slowly became involved
in paganism, according to Rick Kistner, a freshman majoring in biochemistry.
Back To Top

News archive and other resources on Witchcraft (Wicca), paganism, etc.:


=== Hate Groups

13. Neo-nazi group banned from poll
News Wire, Nov. 24, 1999
A Moscow court has barred a neo-Nazi movement from competing in next month's
parliamentary elections. The city court backed a Moscow district court's
ruling against the Spas political movement, whose followers wear
Swastika-like symbols, use a Nazi-style salute and profess anti-Western and
anti-Semitic views. The Russian Justice Ministry brought the case to court
after the Central Election Commission registered Spas to run in the December
19 elections. It accused the movement, led by neo-Nazi Alexander Barkashov,
of forging documents it submitted to the ministry last year to register as a
political movement. According to the ministry, the movement does not have as
many regional branches as it claims. Electoral law requires that political
parties and movements have representation in at least half of Russia's 89
regions to qualify to run in elections. The Justice Ministry is to cancel
Spas' registration as a political movement. The electoral commission will
then be required to strike it off the ballots. Russian neo-Nazi groups,
although small, have been accused of beating members of racial minorities,
desecrating Jewish cemeteries and bombing synagogues.
[...entire item...]

News archive and other resources regarding hate groups:


=== Other News

14. Cops snare bat-attack cultists for bashing
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Nov. 21, 1999
Eight followers of a Shizuoka-based cult have been arrested after abducting a
woman from her home to make her attend the cult's seminars and assaulting and
injuring three men in the process, police said on Saturday.

In an attempt to force the woman to rejoin the cult, Tochigi and seven others
allegedly stormed into her home with metal baseball bats in their hands and
bashed the men before driving away with her.

Tochigi and the woman got to know each other at a company where the cult
member had a part-time job. After going out together for a while, Tochigi
solicited the woman to participate in seminars organized by Hono Hana
Sanpogyo, investigators said.

The woman took part in two seminars, and had paid a 1.2 million yen "training
fee" to attend another scheduled on Oct. 30. But then the woman became
reluctant to join the cult, prompting Tochigi to abduct her, police said.
Back To Top

15. Pala cult member convicted of 17 counts in crime spree
San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 23, 1999
A Superior Court jury that convicted a 26-year-old man yesterday of numerous
charges, including an attempt to murder a police officer, is now being asked
to decide whether he was sane when the crimes occurred.

Blaine Applin, a member of a small religious group in Pala known as The
Gatekeepers, was found guilty of 17 felony charges in the first phase of a
trial in which he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Applin was convicted by the panel of attempting to murder San Diego police
Officer Leonard Lefler on July 13, 1998, and with conspiring with Christopher
Turgeon to kill Lefler. Prosecutors say Turgeon is the leader of The

Turgeon is scheduled to be tried in January. Both men also face murder
charges in Washington in the March 1998 shooting death of a former
Gatekeepers member outside Seattle. Prosecutor David Berry said Applin and
Turgeon robbed a Kearny Mesa lingerie-modeling business, then planned to rob
an adult bookstore in the Midway District to finance their religious group.
Back To Top

16. Buyers Snap Up Heaven's Gate Goods
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 21, 1999
Just another Saturday and just another estate sale--except that the stuff in
this estate was left by the 39 Heaven's Gate cultists who committed suicide
in March 1997.

The vehicle buyer said he represents people interested in making a Heaven's
Gate movie, "so realism is important." He refused to provide reporters with
his name, and officials of the public administrator's office decided to honor
his desire for anonymity, pending a legal ruling by county lawyers Monday.

Owners of the Museum of Death, in the process of moving their ghoulish
establishment from downtown San Diego to a former Jamaican restaurant on
Hollywood Boulevard, snapped up several items, including some bunk beds.
"People will love it," said museum owner Cathee Shultz. "We already have the
best Heaven's Gate collection: some of the Nike tennis shoes, the shrouds and
patches saying 'Away Team' and 'Earth Exit.' "

Proceeds from the auction--$32,707--will be split among the families of the
39. To settle a lawsuit by two ex-cult members, the county had already
relinquished the "intellectual property," including leader Marshall
Applewhite's rambling journals, the farewell videotapes, drawings of aliens
with bulbous heads, and T-shirts with the logo "FARFROMHOME."
Back To Top

17. Police Raid Another Tutsi Cult Camp
Northern Light/ANS, Nov. 21, 1999
A force of Police and UPDF from Kabamba Military School, Friday closed an
illegal Tutsi-Hima settlement camp set up by a self proclaimed prophetess
Nabassa-Gwajwa in Ntusi, Sembabule.

A police statement signed by the Police Spokesman, Asuman Mugenyi, said
Nabassa, who feeds on honey, is under police custody at Masaka pending
inquiries surrounding her activities.

On September 18, 250 - heavily-armed policemen invaded the camp of a self-
styled prophet Wilson Bushara of the World Message Last Warning Church. The
camp at Bukoto in Nakasongola accommodated over 1,000 followers who had to
surrender their wealth to Bushara for places in heaven.

Nabassa's camp situated at Muzeire- Kanoni, in Ntusi, Sembabule opened in
1996 when Nabassa proclaimed herself a prophetess after 'resurrecting '. Like
Bushara she told her followers that the world would end before the year 2000.

Her doctrine was a blend of Christianity and the Chwezi practices. Some of
the reasons for the closure were that the camp had become a security risk
because many senior security and government officials frequented Nabassa's

Local people are said to have referred to the camp as 'Sodoma'.
Back To Top

18. Despite protests, Muslims lay mosque cornerstone in Nazareth
CNN, Nov. 23, 1999
Undeterred by Christian protests that shuttered key holy sites for a second
day, Muslims in the town of Jesus' boyhood on Tuesday unveiled the massive
cornerstone for a mosque to be built in the shadow of a major Christian

The Vatican said the mosque would "lay the groundwork for future conflicts
and tensions" among Christians and Muslims in the town.

A crowd of several thousand Islamic activists, some shaking their fists, held
prayers and listened to speeches before the uncovering of the slab of
yellowed stone, draped in a green cloth embroidered with a Koranic verse.
"God is great!" some of the celebrants yelled.

Once the cloth was removed, the crowd chanted, "With our blood and spirit, we
will redeem you, Shahab el-Din!" Fireworks lit the late afternoon sky.

"For us it's a festive day," said Ziad Marwan, a 23-year-old auto mechanic
who was among those attending the ceremony. "We are building a mosque; we are
liberating Islamic land."
Back To Top

* News archive and other resources regarding Islam:


=== Interfaith

19. Israel Religious Leaders Seek Peace
Northren Light/AP, Nov. 22, 1999
From the same Sea of Galilee shores where Jesus preached his message of
peace, religious leaders have appealed to their followers to stop making
religion a source of conflict in the next millennium.

Rabbis, imams, priests and Buddhist monks -- many from opposing religious and
political factions -- attended the three-day conference. The Dalai Lama gave
the opening speech Sunday, urging people to use politics as a tool for peace.

At one table, Imam Wallace Deen Muhammad, the leader of the American Muslim
Mission and the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, said he hoped
his first visit to Israel would give his movement increased legitimacy,
especially among American Jews.

Muhammad has been credited with steering his estimated 2.5 million followers
toward mainstream Sunni Islam and away from the more radical reconstituted
Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan, whose inflammatory racial and
alleged anti-Semitic statements have earned him notoriety. ``I'm at home
with the rabbis, the imams, the Christian leaders,'' Muhammad said.
Back To Top

20. Muslim Mom Says Group Prejudiced
Washington Post, Nov. 21, 1999
To help find her disabled son a ride to his doctor's appointments five years
ago, Linda Turpin Muhammad turned to a Manassas interfaith group of churches
and synagogues that finds members to volunteer their services.

But instead of help, Muhammad said, she got a dose of discrimination after
telling a worker at Prince William Interfaith Caregivers that she is Muslim.
Muhammad alleges that the group denied her request because it does not serve
Muslims, leaving her stranded without transportation for her son.

Interfaith Caregivers officials counter that Muhammad's request was denied
because volunteers were unavailable and that there was no discrimination.

Five years later, the run-in has wended its way through two courts and the
Prince William County Human Rights Commission, where Muhammad filed a
complaint shortly after the incident, alleging that Interfaith Caregivers
discriminated against her because of her faith.

The claim languished with the commission for three years before it was
dismissed. The panel ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case. By then
it was too late for Muhammad to sue Interfaith Caregivers.

This week, she will ask the Board of County Supervisors to award her $20,000
as compensation for the county's failure to inform her that she could have
fought her case in court.

Officials at Interfaith Caregivers, a consortium of 215 churches, temples and
two mosques new to Prince William County, said discrimination had nothing to
do with turning down Muhammad's request. Director Elizabeth Liska said that
some of the dates Muhammad requested for rides were just a few days away and
that it was unclear whether a volunteer could be found in time to help. Liska
said Muhammad called the group back to withdraw her request.
Back To Top

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance

21. In Russia, Court Eases Curb in Law On Religion
International Herald Tribune, Nov. 24, 1999
The Russian Constitutional Court eased a restriction in a controversial 1997
religion law Tuesday, but at the same time upheld the overall right of the
government to limit the activity of religious faiths, which has been widely
criticized in the West.

The decision came in a closely watched test case. The 1997 law on religion,
and its implementation by the government, has been monitored by many groups
who fear it could lead to a rollback of Russia's pledge in its constitution
not to establish an official state religion.

The case at issue involved Jehovah's Witnesses. In the town of Yaroslavl,
northeast of Moscow, the local prosecutor had attempted to close down a
branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses on grounds that the local congregation did
not have documents showing that it existed more than 15 years ago, as the law

But the local congregation claimed it did not need the documents because the
Jehovah's Witnesses had already been certified in Moscow as meeting the
requirement. The group says it has operated for more than 50 years in Russia
but in Soviet times was hidden to avoid the authorities.

The Constitutional Court backed the Jehovah's Witnesses, saying that the
local congregation was correct, and throwing out the prosecutor's claim.

The case marked one of the first challenges to the 1997 law.

By some estimates there are more than 10,000 small religious groups that
could feel the impact of these restrictions, which so far have not yet been
fully enforced.

In the decision Tuesday, the court upheld the government's right to impose
restrictions on religion. The court said these would have to be in the
interest of public health, safety, order and morals, and protection of the
rights of other persons, according to a summary provided by Russian news

The court also approved of the state's right to set barriers before groups
can be officially registered to prevent ''the legalization of sects that
violate human rights and commit unlawful and criminal deeds.''
Back To Top

22. Russian court loosens bonds on religious groups
CNN/Reuters, Nov. 23, 1999
Russia's Constitutional Court loosened the bonds restricting religious groups
in the former Soviet state on Tuesday, a move the Jehovah's Witnesses hailed
as a step forward for human rights.

The court softened part of a controversial 1997 law "On freedom of conscience
and religious organisations" which had asked religious groups to prove they
had existed for 15 years before being registered in Russia.

The Jehovah's Witnesses had sought the scrapping of the clause, saying it was
discriminatory as many groups had been outlawed in Soviet times.

The court waived the clause for most larger "non-traditional" religious
groups. The Jehovah's Witnesses said the court ruling was a partial victory.
Back To Top

* News archive and other resources regarding Jehovah's Witnesses:


23. Proselytizing Criticized in Nepal
AOL/AP, Nov. 22, 1999
Three weeks after the pope called for missionaries to spread Catholicism
throughout Asia, Hindu and Buddhist priests Sunday passed a resolution to
stay united against proselytizing.

The pledge made by 1,000 delegates from across Asia came at the end of a
three-day conference in southern Nepal. It made no direct reference to Pope
John Paul II, who made the call during his visit to New Delhi earlier this
month. But the sense of crisis within Asian religions was evident throughout
the conference at this small town close to Nepal's border with India, the
birthplace of Gautama Buddha.

During the assembly, delegates publicly and privately said they were
concerned by the pope's comments. Many described conversions as a ``war
against Hindus and Buddhists'' and a ``spiritual crime.''

``We are worried about our identity. If we become one, we will become a
majority and no one will be able to touch us,'' said Acharya Dharmendra, a
Hindu religious leader and a policy maker of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or
World Hindu Council, a major religious group in India that is allied with the
ruling party.
Back To Top

24. Hindus picket Baptist church in Boston over prayer book
Star-Telegram/AP, Nov. 21, 1999
Nearly four dozen Hindus picketed outside a church Sunday to protest a
Southern Baptist Convention prayer booklet that said Hindus have "darkness in
their hearts that no lamp can dispel."

"At any sign of religious intolerance, we have to speak up," said Chandra
Kany Panse of New England Hindus Against Religious Intolerance, which
organized the protest at Beacon Hill Baptist Church. "We would like the
convention to drop this attack and apologize."

David Draper, pastor of the Boston church, conceded the booklet was "poorly
timed," and "arrogant," although he planned to distribute it.

Sheila Decter, the New England Director for the American Jewish Congress,
joined the protest because she was upset by similar pushes by the Southern
Baptists to convert Jews.

"If demonizing another faith and converting others is part of the church's
unifying project, then it's a sad case," she said.
Back To Top

* News archive and other resources regarding Interfaith issues:


=== Books

25. Out of This World
Washington Post, Nov. 21, 1999
[ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684848562/christianministr ]
The Search for Life and Truth in a Very Large Universe
By Joel Achenbach
Simon and Schuster. 415 pp. $25

[Reviewed by Michael Shermer]

The demon-haunted world of the Middle Ages witnessed people abducted by
incubi and succubi; the spirit-haunted world of 19th-century England and
America recorded people harassed by ghosts and apparitions. We don't
experience demons and spirits because, Achenbach says in a clever title
double-entendre, our culture is captured by aliens.

Yet evidence for alien existence is, well, nonexistent, and this is where
Achenbach's narrative gets interesting.

As Achenbach takes us on his "travelogue" through our alien-haunted world,
we encounter everything from the sublime (the leaders of NASA, SETI, the
Planetary Society and the Mars Society) to the ridiculous (the followers of
the Aetherius Society, the Unarius Academy of Science, and Heaven's Gate).

And when Achenbach meets with alien true believers, such as Roswell
aficionado Philip Corso, he is confronted with an uncomfortable choice:
"Either he saw an alien corpse, and later became engaged in a massive program
to reverse-engineer UFO technology, which in turn helped win the Cold War and
stave off the full-bore alien invasion -- or his tale is a lie.

Achenbach is a journalist, not a social scientist (thus accounting for his
inability to construct obfuscating paragraph-long sentences sprinkled with
"therefore," "furthermore" and "moreover"), so don't look for
hypothesis-testing of the latest social psychological theory of mass hysteria
or cognitive dissonance. His insights into human nature instead come from a
more basic and in many ways deeper understanding through real-world
experiences with the participants themselves (outsiders would be amazed to
learn just how many psychological theories were constructed around the
thoughts and behaviors of students cajoled into participating in their
professors' experiments). At the core of this secular religion, as with its
theistic counterparts, is faith, the ultimate prophylactic against us

So are Achenbach and myself (a disbelieving journalist and skeptic,
respectively) wasting our time tilting at alien windmills? What should we do
when we confront that fault line between fantasy and reality? "What Would
Carl Do?," we might ask, paraphrasing the popular catch phrase of another

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