Apologetics Index
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Religion News Report

January 13, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 310) - 3/3

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues
Rainbow


» Part 2

=== Other News
25. '80s cult killer gets 'third strike' term for passing bad checks
26. Nation of Islam Activist Charged in 10-Year-Old Murder Case
27. Suspected cult leader to face more counts
28. Judge spares drug-dealing Rastafarian because of his beliefs
29. Sect leader sues U.S. government after hallucinogenic seized
30. British national missing from Puttaparthi
31. Rift divides Brownsville revival
32. Christian religions to gather
33. Evangelists seek sex-change ban
34. Rocking monks told to stop recording

=== Noted
35. Tony Robbins: Practicing What He Preaches

=== Other News

25. '80s cult killer gets 'third strike' term for passing bad checks
Sacramento Bee, Jan. 13, 2001
http://www.sacbee.com/Off-site Link

The heinous deeds and bizarre, once-hidden past of Robert Rozier formally caught up with him Friday.

After a spirited, emotion-filled hearing in a Placerville courtroom, an El Dorado County judge sentenced the former Miami cult executioner and protected federal witness to 25 years to life in state prison, concluding one of the strangest bounced-check cases ever.

Rozier, a former Cordova High School and University of California, Berkeley, football star, was arrested for passing bad checks nearly two years ago in a quiet, wooded Cameron Park subdivision where he was living anonymously as Robert Rameses -- his secret identity under the federal witness protection program.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Eddie T. Keller -- saying that ''words like depraved, vicious, ruthless and callous come to mind'' -- sentenced Rozier to the maximum term under California's ''three strikes'' sentencing law for bouncing 27 checks totaling $2,200.

In reality, the sentencing and the intense arguments in court had little to do with bounced checks.

Rather, they had to do with the fact that the same man who owned a Sacramento auto-detailing business, worked odd construction jobs in El Dorado County and regularly stopped in for drinks at a roadside tavern in Coloma was also an admitted seven-time murderer.

In a Florida plea bargain, Rozier had pleaded guilty to four murders and confessed to three others but won a reduced prison term for testifying against Miami sect leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh and his cult, blamed for at least 23 murders and a series of firebombings in the 1980s.

As Rozier watched intently Friday, defense attorney William T. Yankey waved his arms emotionally and argued that his client never should have been subjected to sentencing under the ''three strikes'' law because of the service he provided the U.S. government in risking his life to testify against the Miami cult.
(...)

Finally, Yankey argued that Rozier was a reformed man who long ago had been brainwashed into killing by Yahweh Ben Yahweh, a charismatic cult leader who exhorted his followers to seek retribution for 400 years of persecution of African Americans. He even likened Rozier to Lieutenant William Calley, the officer -- who now lives freely -- who was convicted in the My Lai massacre for killing of hundreds of civilians in Vietnam.
(...)

As he pronounced sentencing, Keller lectured Rozier, telling him he had blown an unbelievable opportunity for freedom after serving 10 years in prison for his murder convictions.

''It was probably one of the greatest gifts, Mr. Rameses. You were home free. Free of the death penalty. Free of those cults. And you went back to committing crimes,'' Keller said.
[...more...]


26. Nation of Islam Activist Charged in 10-Year-Old Murder Case
AP, Jan. 12, 2001
http://www.foxnews.com/Off-site Link

PLAINFIELD, N.J. - A Nation of Islam leader was being held without bail Friday after he was charged with murder in a 10-year-old case.

Mustapha Muhammad, who helped organize last year's ''Million Family March,'' was arrested Wednesday by members of a cold case squad after attending a community meeting.

He faces murder, weapons and conspiracy charges in the Aug. 22, 1990, death of Reynaldo Lopez, who was found shot to death in Newark. Two others also suspected in the killing are in custody already. Newark Police spokesman Sgt. Amilkar Velez refused to say how police connected Muhammad to the killing.
[...more...]


27. Suspected cult leader to face more counts
Tulsa World, Jan. 12, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

A Tulsan who is charged with molesting a boy during what police described as cult group training will face new charges involving different youths, a prosecutor said Wednesday after the defendant was judged to be mentally competent.

Based upon a psychologist's evaluation, Tulsa County Special Judge Kyle Haskins found Jermol Gentry competent and scheduled a Feb. 14 preliminary hearing on a two-count felony case that was already filed.
(...)

Assistant District Attorney Steve Sewell announced in court that additional charges involving ''other victims'' would be filed.
(...)

Dr. William Cooper examined Gentry in the Tulsa Jail at the request of defense attorney Peter Astor. The lawyer had asserted on Nov. 29 that Gentry was ''delusional,'' exhibiting signs of mental illness and had a history of mental illness.

Cooper, a Tulsa psychologist, said Gentry could appreciate the nature of the charges, consult with his lawyer and assist in preparing a defense. Those are the key issues in a competency examination.

Cooper reported that Gentry is mentally ill and receives Social Security disability benefits ''for a mental disorder.''
(...)

Police said the boy who allegedly was molested and sodomized by Gentry said the defendant was the ''leader of several subjects who use martial arts, wrestling, religion and marijuana to lure new members into their group.''
(...)

Astor maintained Wednesday that the whole ''sex cult thing was blown out of proportion.''
[...more...]


28. Judge spares drug-dealing Rastafarian because of his beliefs
The Independent (England), Jan. 13, 2001
http://www.independent.co.uk/Off-site Link

A Rastafarian who insists he should be allowed to use and sell cannabis as part of his religious and cultural beliefs was shown leniency by a judge yesterday.

Rasta Brown, 37, was given 150 hours of community service. He had been trying to raise some money to clear a loan and support the mothers of his children when he asked an undercover policeman if he wanted some ''weed''.
(...)

But Brown told Inner London Crown Court that in his view he had done nothing wrong as both the use and sale of marijuana was a recognised part of Rastafarian culture and religion.
(...)

At an earlier hearing, Brown insisted that the recently introduced Human Rights Act in effect allowed such behaviour because of its protection for an individual's freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Judge Gibson rejected that argument, but said yesterday it was clear that Brown ''sincerely believed that what the law calls cannabis and what you call herb is simply a product of nature'' and not a drug.

He also accepted that Brown's present use of it, and his supply of it to fellow Rastafarians for medicinal purposes, was ''very much bound up with your beliefs''.
Because of that, he was to be ''distinguished quite sharply from many people who deal in illegal drugs in this country''.
(...)

He went on: ''I am sentencing you today in what many would regard as a lenient way. However, you should not leave court believing that the same leniency will be available to you on any future occasion.''
[...more...]


29. Sect leader sues U.S. government after hallucinogenic seized
National Post (Canada), Jan. 12, 2001
http://www.nationalpost.com/Off-site Link

A lawsuit between the U.S. government and a member of the wealthy Bronfman family hinges on an obscure Brazilian religion that worships spirits in plants and animals and encourages ritualistic vomiting.

Jeffrey Bronfman, second cousin to Edgar Bronfman Jr. and grandnephew to dynasty founder Samuel Bronfman, heads a chapter of the Union of the Vegetable based in his home in Santa Fe, N.M.

His group, with the unwieldy name of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal (Portuguese for the United Beneficent Spiritual Central of the Vegetable), is suing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for the return of a shipment of hallucinogenic tea that it says is part of its religion.

Mr. Bronfman's group is an offshoot of Santo Daime, a mix of Catholicism and native spirituality, which was founded by Raimundo Irineu Serra, an impoverished rubber tapper working in an isolated part of the Amazon before the Second World War.

The Union of the Vegetable, one of the three branches of Santo Daime, is mainly practised by foreign adherents who engage in group meditation after ingesting a hallucinogenic tea. The other branches of the Santo Daime religion -- Barquinha and CEFLURIS -- are practised mainly in Brazil and all are associated with the Amazon rain forest.

Adherents say Mr. Serra founded the religion after drinking a strange brew made by the Indians in the Accre region.

The tea, which is commonly referred to as ayahuasca, is made by boiling Amazon plants to produce a thick, brownish concoction with the consistency of tomato juice, which can cause hallucinations and vomiting.

When Mr. Serra drank it, he claimed to have had visions of a woman dressed in white, which he referred to both as ''Our Lady of Conception'' and the ''Forest Queen.''

His followers founded an ashram-like village in the Amazon known as Ceu de Mapia, where 700 people still live without electricity, running water or money.
(...)

According to Ms. Bandeira de Mello, those who want to join the cult must be initiated at a ceremony in the Amazon. She would not say what the ceremony involves but noted Amazon residents who practise the religion take the ayahuasca tea every day.

Outside of the Amazon region, the tea is taken only when services are held, usually every 15 days, she said. According to Ms. Bandeira de Mello, the tea is used as a type of sacrament.

One of the goals of the religion is also to create sustainable communities in the Amazon. In the early 1990s, the World Bank proposed funding some of these Santo Daime projects but pulled the plug when the organization's officials found out about the hallucinogenic tea.

Vomiting, which is euphemistically referred to as ''a passage'' in the Santo Daime religion, is encouraged as a means of ''spiritual purification.''
[...more...]


30. British national missing from Puttaparthi
The Times of India (India), Jan. 13, 2001
http://www.timesofindia.com/Off-site Link

BANGALORE: He came to India to be with his spiritual guru. Not for a moment did his family imagine that they would be searching for him two months later.

British national Natwarlal A. Dudakia (62), a staunch devotee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba since the past three decades, came to India last November to participate in the Baba's 75th birthday celebrations held at Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh.

But since November 25, there has been no trace of him. His son Alkesh Dudakia has now flown down from London in search of him.

The only clues he has are his father's travellers cheques, purchased from State Bank of India, Puttaparthi Branch. ''My father has purchased Rs 15,000 worth travellers cheques from the bank and he must have encashed it during his journey. If the bank authorities can establish where these cheques have been encashed, then it will make my search a bit easier. At least then I will have a starting point,'' says Alkesh.
[...more...]


31. Rift divides Brownsville revival
Religion News Service, Jan. 12, 2001
http://www.star-telegram.com/Off-site Link

A rift between officials at a Pentecostal ministerial training school born out of the widely watched and celebrated ''Brownsville revival'' in Florida has led to the dismissal of the school's president and the creation of another, competing school.

The board of Brownsville Revival School of Ministry in Pensacola dismissed Michael Brown as the school's president in December. As the school begins its spring semester, Brown has created the F.I.R.E. (Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism) School of Ministry about 15 minutes away from his former campus and expects a sizable number of his former students to move to his new school.

Brown also has created ''F.I.R.E. Church,'' which he said drew more than 500 for its first service on Jan. 7.

Bob Phillips, chairman of the board of the Brownsville school, said the board dismissed Brown after three months of discussion. The independent school was affiliated with the Brownsville Assembly of God Church in Pensacola, which became known for its revival meetings that began in June 1995.

Phillips, whose board includes a majority of members that also serve on the church board, said Brown was seeking greater independence from the church.

''As the board, we took the position -- and it is in our bylaws -- basically that there's an accountability of the board to both the church and the school and so we saw the presidency as a position of stewardship, not ownership,'' he said.

Phillips said the school, which opened in 1997, is on property purchased with the help of a loan of more than $2.5 million from the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal denomination based in Springfield, Mo.

He said the board tried unsuccessfully to work out several ways to continue with Brown as president, including suggesting that he become ordained by the Assemblies of God or allow the church's pastor, John Kilpatrick, to become executive president of the church while he retained the presidency.

''The board felt that its only decision was to release Dr. Brown from the position as president,'' said Phillips, senior pastor of The Encourager Church, a nondenominational church in Houston.

Brown, a messianic Jew affiliated with a nondenominational church in New Jersey, said he had hoped the church and school could continue to ''work together as one'' but wanted the school to have a self-governing board rather than a church-appointed one.
[...more...]


32. Christian religions to gather
Deseret News, Jan. 13, 2001
http://www.deseretnews.com/Off-site Link

After nearly five years of discussion about its mission and objectives, an ecumenical Christian group has again formed in the Beehive State, and one of its first tasks is to examine the underpinnings of religious intolerance.

A two-day prayer retreat and an ecumenical worship service are the first public initiatives of Community of Churches in Utah, which is bringing together representatives of nine denominations that agree on a mission statement and bylaws.

Sponsoring denominations that comprise the Community of Churches in Utah are American Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian, Catholic, Quaker, United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.
(...)

Pastor Holm said it's difficult to come to any kind of consensus as an interfaith group in Utah because beliefs vary so widely, which is part of what doomed a 25-year old mainline Protestant organization called Shared Ministry in Utah, which disbanded in 1996.

A lot of the discussion about forming an interfaith group versus an ecumenical one has been ''because of the way people feel about others, and who they label as Christians. At one point when we were putting the bylaws together, I and some others wanted to say that we're a Christian organization and anyone who feels they fit this criteria can determine whether they do, and it's up to them. But we kind of got voted down. People want to have control, to say who is in and who is out, so it's a real struggle.
(...)

Continuing divisions among faith groups in Utah exist in part, Pastor Holm said, because there are underlying elements of intolerance ''that we never discuss. It's around us, and there are ways in our everyday and religious lives that we accept and buy into that helps create an atmosphere in which hate can flourish. We need to look at those things in our own faith systems and see where we can move beyond that to cut this evil off at the pass.''

To do so, Community of Churches in Utah has discussed hosting a conference on ''Hate Behind the Mask of Religion.''
(...)

''In religion so many times things are built into our own faith systems that say we are right and others are wrong. That begins the process of 'this is good, that is bad,' that begins to create the atmosphere in which hate can flourish. That's what we want to talk about.''
[...more...]
* Determining whether a movement that claims to be ''Christian'' truly is
Christian according to biblical standards is not akin to hatred or
intolerance. Scripture warns agains false Christs, false teachers, and
false doctrines, and notes:

(2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NIV) (...) Satan himself masquerades as an angel of
light. {15} It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as
servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

More about interfaith dialogue

More about religious freedom, tolerance and intolerance


33. Evangelists seek sex-change ban
The Daily Telegraph (England), Jan. 13, 2001
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Off-site Link

Sex-change operations should be halted, a Christian umbrella group says in a highly-critical report on transsexuality to be published next week.

The Evangelical Alliance, which represents one million members in Britain, claims that surgery is ''unnecessary'' and transsexuals can be healed in other ways. The 100-page report, which includes contributions from doctors, lawyers and theologians, argues that transsexuals should be given ''holistic'' treatment for their spiritual and their mental health.
(...)

The report calls for sex-change operations to be stopped and an independent inquiry into transsexuality to be carried out by the Chief Medical Officer.
[...more...]


34. Rocking monks told to stop recording
Ananova, Jan. 12, 2001
http://www.ananova.com/Off-site Link

A group of Greek monks who produced a platinum rock album has been told to stop recording because their music tarnishes monastic tradition.

The Orthodox monks spawned a host of other Christian pop acts, but the church's governing body, the Holy Synod, say it is better if they return to quiet contemplation.

Their first record gained cult status after strong media exposure, and their new record is due for release soon.
(...)

''Certain monks have used novel ways to relay the message of Christ. This type of activity is not consistent with the lengthy monastic tradition and in certain cases, has troubled and scandalised the faithful members of the church,'' said a church statement.
[...more...]


=== Noted

35. Tony Robbins: Practicing What He Preaches
CNN (Pinnacle), Jan. 7, 2001
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link

BEVERLY SCHUCH, HOST (voice-over): No, this isn't another Tony Robbins infomercial; this is the real thing: The Results 2000 Seminar at the Reunion Arena in Dallas.

This crowd of people, 15,000-strong, have paid up to $300 each to get pumped up the world's most successful performance coach.
(...)

ROBBINS: What I am is a catalyst. I shake people's worlds, but for some people that may be a little bit threatening and for other people it's exciting, and other people, I'm just, you know, I'm probably somebody to -- to entertain them, you know.

SCHUCH: Tony Robbins is part rock star, part comedian, part revival preacher...
(...)

SCHUCH: Tony Robbins' hypnotic message sells. Motivational tapes? He's moved 30 million. Bestselling books? He's got three and just signed a four-book deal with Simon & Schuster. More than a million people have attended his seminars; 10,000 have studied at his mastery university in Hawaii.

For the financially privileged and truly motivated, Robbins charges $15,000 for a peak performance week on his private island in Fiji. And a handful of top financial traders are so determined to have that Tony Robbins feeling 24-7 that they fork over a million dollars a year to be able to pick up the phone. It's all made him very, very rich.
(...)

SCHUCH: The search led him to neurolinguistic programming, or as Tony now puts it, ''Training your mind to peak states.''
(...)

SCHUCH: Another personal setback occurred last year. Tony ended his 15-year marriage to Becky Robbins.

ROBBINS: It was the toughest decision I made in my life, because I want to make everybody happy. The last thing I want to do is do something that would hurt somebody else's feelings.
(...)

SCHUCH: To complicate the family setup, Robbins also had an infant son from a previous relationship. Becky and Tony built the business together. ''Awaken the Giant Within,'' Robbins' second book, is dedicated to Becky, and she remains involved in the business.
(on camera): I don't want to exploit the pain of divorce.
ROBBINS: It sounds like you're about to exploit it. ''I don't want to exploit the pain'' -- well...
SCHUCH: But I -- but I would be remiss if I didn't ask you, Tony, because you do -- you do tell people how to be passionate, how to have successful relationships. I've listened to your tapes. And yet, you lost your marriage this year.
ROBBINS: Yes, I chose to end it. It was the toughest decision I've had in my life.
We had different directions for out life, different needs, different desires. We're very different people in many ways.
We shared our love of people and our desire to serve. That's still why we're partners in life and a business and raising our kids. But I wanted somebody who I didn't have to, you know, her desire in terms of tempo is very different than mine. You know, it's like going out on this boat or going -- riding my Harley like a bat out of hell or dive-bombing in my helicopter. These are parts of me that for other people to be happy I was always muting. And I'm not willing to mute that anymore, because, you know, I feel like I want them to have what they want, too.
(...)

SCHUCH (voice-over): Tony took self-help online last year and offered the public a slice of Dreamlife.com. And just as he shares the conference podium with big names like General Norman Schwarzkopf, Lance Armstrong and Troy Aikman, he invited some of his famous friends to participate.
Big names and deep pockets like Tom Brokaw, Andre Agassi and NBC President Bob Wright got in on the ground floor. Dreamlife began as a reborn penny stock and reached $18 a share before flopping along with the dot-com market. An October filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission suggests that Dreamlife is rapidly running out of cash.
(on camera): It's been estimated your personal worth is something like $400 million. Do you know the extent of your holdings?
ROBBINS: Overall, yes.
SCHUCH: Is that a pretty good figure? ROBBINS: You know, I don't comment on that, because it's not -- all that does is create more of that stimulation. I think that number has shrunk sizably because some of that was tied to my public company, which as a -- the dot-com industry changed radically, evaluations changed.
SCHUCH (voice-over): While the majority of shareholders could stand to lose money, Tony, who owns two-thirds of the company, says he hasn't personally invested a cent.
[...more...]