Apologetics Index
News about religious cults, sects, and alternative religions
An Apologetics Index research resource


Religion News Report

February 12, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 323) - 2/3

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

» Continued from Part 1

=== Unification Church
17. The Moonies: Looking to its youth for survival
18. Continuation of the Church Will Fall to Moon's Son
19. Life as Moonchild Far From Blessed

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
20. Mary's Flames'': The Long Road To Horror In Kanungu

=== Islam
21. Iranian Hard-liners Renew Death Sentence on Rushdie

=== Buddhism
22. Buddhists In Central Vietnam Claim Government Harassment

=== Mormonism
23. LDS Church Will Not Oppose Polygamy Bill
24. U. theater department denies bias
25. Judge orders Mormons to provide sex-abuse records

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
26. Jehovah's Witnesses Tried in Moscow

» Part 3

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
27. Pagans are grateful for understanding

=== Other News
28. France may further delay vote on anti-cult measure
29. Tokyo Police Identify Remains (Lucie Blackman)
30. Reps Pass Secret Cult Prohibition Bill
31. Vietnam unrest threatens to raise objections to US trade deal
32. New governor practices quiet faith

=== Noted
33. Children of a Lesser God

=== Books
34. The relationship between Japanese culture, Buddhism
35. From Leviticus to levitation

=== Unification Church

17. The Moonies: Looking to its youth for survival
Children of a Lesser God (Series)
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2001
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link

Mose Durst sat in the living room of a spectacular church-owned home in one of Berkeley's swankiest neighborhoods, just below the Claremont Hotel.

Since the 1970s, Durst has been at the right hand of Moon, the Korean-born evangelist, conservative political activist and self-proclaimed messiah.

Durst has served as the Northern California leader, and the national president, of the Unification Church. Now he's back in the Bay Area, thinking about his legacy, and the future of his church.

On this afternoon, Durst is feeling contrite. He admits that the Moonies made mistakes in the 1970s, when they sent out an overzealous army of tireless recruiters. But it's time, he says, to give his church another chance.

''People perceive us as a bad religious movement, and they isolate us more,'' he said. ''If you think we're evil, let's sit down and talk. Let's find common ground. Otherwise, you force us into a cul-de-sac, like at Jonestown or Waco.''

For years, the Moonies have struggled to make the leap from ''cult'' to ''religion,'' to win credibility among political and religious leaders in the United States and around the world.

Through such publications as the Washington Times, a church-affiliated, conservative daily newspaper in the nation's capital, and through alliances with priests and pastors across the theological spectrum, Moon and company have spent a fortune courting the opinion-makers of church and state.

Now the church is looking closer to home, at the next generation of Western converts.

Durst confesses that, in the early years of Moon's American mission, church leaders erred in assuming God would provide for the children of devotees. The first kids born into the movement, he concedes, did not always get the parental attention they deserved.

Durst says there are about 10,000 members of the Unification Church in the United States. He concedes that the number is much lower than figures the church reported in earlier years.

''That's right,'' he said with a smile. ''I no longer lie.''

Worldwide, the Moonies claim 3 million members, with most of them living in Korea and Japan. Some scholars, however, say the actual number of committed adherents may be closer to 250,000.

Nevertheless, Moon has built one of the wealthiest religious movements in the world, with extensive business interests and land holdings in Asia, South America and the United States.

Today, the movement has reorganized into more familiar religious congregations.

18. Continuation of the Church Will Fall to Moon's Son
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2001
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link

The concerns about the next generation of Moonies start at the top, with the sons of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

In 1998, Moon's former daughter-in-law, Nansook Hong, published a tell-all memoir about her turbulent 14-year marriage with the self-proclaimed messiah's eldest son, Hyo Jin Moon.

Entitled ''In the Shadow of the Moons,''Off-site Link she accused the onetime heir to Moon's spiritual and financial empire of alcoholism, cocaine abuse, wife beating and cavorting with prostitutes.

Then, in October 1999, one of Moon's other sons, Phillip Youngjin Moon, 21, committed suicide by jumping from a 17th-story balcony at Harrah's hotel in Reno.

Both events are more than personal tragedies. They strike at the heart of Unification Church theology.

Moon, 80, teaches that he and his wife are the True Parents of a new spiritual lineage born without original sin.

Some Unification Church leaders say problems in Moon's own family have troubled rank-and-file Moonies.

''Many members have been disappointed,'' said national church Treasurer Michael Inglis. ''It challenges some people's faith.''

Given the troubles surrounding his eldest son, Moon is grooming his third eldest male child, Hyun Jin Nim, as his successor.

Last year, the Unification Church published a history of its U.S. ministry, ''40 Years in America,'' and it ends with the clear anointing of Hyun Jin Nim, a graduate of Harvard Business School.

In the book's final chapter, Nim admits that many children of Moonie parents ''have become disillusioned and have fallen astray.'' He promises ''to revive the second generation of our movement as well as offer a fresh new vision for the world's youth.''
In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family
by Nansook Hong
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316348163/christianministrOff-site Link

19. Life as Moonchild Far From Blessed
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2001
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link

Phoenix -- Many mothers and fathers have high expectations for their children, but few as lofty as Donna Collins' parents.

''When I was born, my dad was surprised I was crying at all,'' she said. ''I was supposed to be perfect - born without sin.''

As the first ''blessed child'' born in the West, this cute, curly-haired blond was supposed to embody Moon's vision that the world's religions would come together under his messianic leadership.

Moon and his wife were to be the True Parents of a spiritual master race that would spread his message - a mix of Christianity, spiritualism and right- wing politics - to the four corners of the Earth.

Today, the story of Donna Collins and Sun Myung Moon is a cautionary tale of misplaced idealism and worldly power.

Like many new religious movements of the '60s and '70s, the Moonies have not always practiced what they preached about universal brotherhood and family values.

Dennis and Doris Orme, who declined to be interviewed for this story, were married in 1969. Theirs was part of the first mass Moonie wedding to include Western converts.

Compared with later services, such as Moon's highly publicized 1982 blessing of 2,075 couples in Madison Square Garden, the Orme's wedding was an intimate affair, bringing together a mere 43 couples.

Men and women joined together in the Unification Church allow Moon to select their spouse. They also consummate their marriage in a three-day ritual, complete with prescribed sexual positions.

Dennis and Doris Orme took Moon's advice to heart, and nine months later, a child was born. They christened her Young Oon, the birth name of Donna Collins.

She first met Moon at age 2.

During the mid-1970s, leading Korean members of the Unification Church would come visit the first ''blessed child'' in the Western world.

''When I was 7 or 8, people would actually come and confess things to me about their sex lives. I can laugh about it now, but it was pretty psychotic. I thought I was pretty special, but I was like some kind of china doll.

''My parents never saw me, and I was always being handed off to other people.
They'd take me out of the closet for meetings, or for holidays.''

Dennis Orme had become the British director of the Unification Church, and the English tabloids were full of exposes about his ''sinister sect.''

Moonies were described by the Daily Mail as ''robots, glassy-eyed and mindless, programmed as soldiers in this vast fund-raising army with no goals or ideals, except as followers of the half-baked ravings of Moon, who lived in splendor while followers lived in forced penury.''

On behalf of the church, Orme filed a libel suit against the newspaper. The Moonies lost the case, were ordered to pay $2 million in court costs, and questions were raised about their tax-free status.

Meanwhile, young Collins was on the blessed fast track. It had long been assumed, she said, that she was destined to marry one of Moon's sons. At age 11, she was sent off to live in Korea.

Once in Korea, Collins, a teenager, began asking tough questions about what she saw in Moon's inner circle.

''He and his kids didn't live by the teachings. His sons would come in and swear all the time. They were having steaks flown in from America. I'd been eating rice and kimchee for three years and getting serious dysentery. It was a joke. I started asking myself, 'What is godly about all this?' ''

Then the 13-year-old was called in for an audience with the messiah.

''He got livid that somebody would have the nerve to question him and screamed at me for 30 minutes. I was bawling and shaking uncontrollably. Then he'd hold my hand, and say, 'I am your parent. One day, you will be a great woman for God.' I calmed down and said, 'Thank you. Thank you.' And then I'd write in my diary about how great it was to be with the True Father.''

But Collins had gotten the reputation as a rebel, not a good choice for the messiah's daughter-in-law.

It was a long process, but by the time she was 22 years old, Collins finally felt like she had put the Moonies behind her.

After making the break, Collins began working on her parents. ''I'd challenge them, asking, 'Why does he own all these villas and chateaus around the world and there are members of the church who don't have enough to eat, and need medical care?' ''

Finally, her parents started the long process of separating themselves from Moon. But after decades of raising money for the church, Collins said, her parents suddenly found themselves living as impoverished senior citizens.

''They were left destitute for a while,'' she said. ''They were used. A lot of people joined the church because they met people like my parents. Most members never meet Moon. But my parents were very charismatic. They laid the foundation for his church.''

''My dad now believes Moon is the Son of Perdition - the Antichrist,'' she said.
While considering Moon to be the Antichrist is speculation, fact is that he is a false Messiah - a liar whose claims about Jesus Christ are completely off-the-wall.

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

20. Mary's Flames'': The Long Road To Horror In Kanungu
The East African (Kenya), Feb. 8, 2001
http://allafrica.com/Off-site Link

Erich Ogoso Opolot And David Musoke analyse the findings of a Makerere University study of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, the Ugandan cult that murdered over 1,000 of its members a year ago.

When 2000 came and none of these predictions came to pass, discontent rose among the members. Some realised they had been duped and started demanding the return of property they had surrendered to the church.

''A chaotic situation developed in the camp. The golden rule of silence was broken. All work stopped. Members became disloyal and started to mix freely with outsiders. Then the leaders told them that the Virgin Mary had reappeared to them and extended the date for the end of the world,'' the report reveals.

As the end of the world grew increasingly elusive, members were asked to go back to their homes, and told they would be informed when to return to be taken to heaven. Later, the leaders spread the word that the Virgin Mary had extended the date by two months, to March 17, 2000.

The leaders now started selling the followers' shops, clothes and domestic animals, reportedly ''for a song.''

The high priests also requested persistent complainants to put their grievances in writing. Those who submitted such written complaints would be called to a meeting in groups or individually. Most were never seen again; when members asked about them, they would be told that they had been transferred to the cult's other camps.

Only 17 year-old Peter Ahimbisibwe, who had left earlier to buy food, survived ''Mary's flames,'' which engulfed the church, leaving an estimated 500 people dead. Later, more bodies were discovered underneath houses owned by the cult, garroted, mutilated and poisoned: 155 in Rugazi, Bushenyi on March 27; 153 in Rutooma, Rukungiri district, on March 25; 81 in Rushojwa, Rukungiri, on March 30 and 55 in Buziga, Kampala on April 27.

The Uganda government is yet to give an official explanation of the events that led to the cult deaths. A promised inquiry is yet to begin while police are still searching for cult members who escaped the inferno.

The Makerere report, published by the Marianum Press of Kisubi and written by Gerard Banura, Chris Tuhirirwe, and Joseph Begumanya - established that the cult's core leaders were Joseph Kibwetere, 68, Credonia Mwerinde, 48, and Fr Dominic Kataribabo, 64.

Kibwetere is regarded as the founder of the cult and was addressed as Omukuru w'entumwa (chief apostle/prophet).

At one point, he is said to have developed a ''mental problem'' and claimed to have died and been resurrected. He was treated at Butabika Psychiatric Hospital.
''Joseph Kibwetere became very faithful to the Movement oath of silence. Whenever he was consulted, he would put his response in writing or use sign language. Most local people rarely saw him,'' say the researchers.

Mwerinde claimed to talk directly with the Virgin Mary and was the co- ordinator of all activities at the movement's camps. The researchers found that ''nothing could be done without consulting her. She in turn would claim that she had to consult with the Virgin Mary. Her word was usually final and binding.'' Aptly, she was popularly referred to as the 'programmer.''

Fr Dominic Kataribabo was one of the ''bishops'' administering sacraments, teaching, leading worship and related religious functions.

Before joining the cult, the ''arrogant, introverted'' prelate served as Rector at Katabi seminary and Diocesan Youth Chaplain in Mbarara.

While the cult traced its origins to Mwerinde and Kibwetere, its founder is probably Gauda Kamusha, who lived in Nyakishenyi, Rukungiri district. In the 1980s, she claimed that a rock formation at Nyabugoto caves had once been transformed into the Virgin Mary before her eyes, and that the vision had instructed her to preach repentance and win converts to Christianity.

It was her crusade that brought Mwerinde and Kibwetere to the camp in 1998. After visiting the caves, Kibwetere began attracting a following and developed a close relationship with Mwerinde.

In 1990, Kibwetere officially launched the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. At first, the cult was headquartered at his home in Ntungamo district, with 27 followers. Later, it was moved to Kakoba, Mbarara.

Against opposition from the mainstream Catholic church, the cult moved in 1993 to Kanungu, after Kibwetere visited Mwerinde's home and liked the area.

Mwerinde's ailing father, Paul Kashaku, donated 10 acres of land to the cult.
The same year, it was registered as a religious NGO and was permitted by the Uganda government to carry out its activities throughout the country.

The site where the group settled was locally called Katate but the cult renamed it Ishayuuriro rya Maria, meaning ''where Mary comes to the rescue of the spiritually stranded.'' There were branches in Rutoma, Rubirizi and Rugazi, Kyaka, Kabarole and Buziga, Kampala.

Women and children formed the bulk of the members but, contrary to reports that most were illiterate peasants, teachers, carpenters, masons, businessmen, ex-soldiers and former catechists were part of its laity. They also included not only Catholics but also Protestants, Muslims and others.

Members observed a strict code of conduct that forbade private ownership of property. Converts therefore surrendered all personal clothing and even academic qualifications to the cult.

Men and women were separated, except for Kibwetere and Mwerinde. Sexual intercourse between members, including married couples, was forbidden. A rigid timetable was followed with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as days of fasting, which started with prayers called ''The Way of the Cross'' from 3am to 5am. From 5am to 7am, members would go back to sleep. Upon waking up, they would work till 1pm. followed by another prayer session until 2pm. Free time was 3pm to 4pm and thereafter, there would more work followed by supper at 8.00 pm and night prayers at 11pm.

On non-fasting days, the schedule was basically the same, but members had to clean the compound before breakfast. They also held a short prayer, the Angelus, from 12pm to 3pm. ''Lunch was usually light and could be a piece of sugarcane or a cup of porridge. Supper was better qualitatively,'' says the study. Members were taught that light meals were part of sacrifice. But their leaders enjoyed lavish meals, which included meat, on a regular basis.

Members lived a life of prayer and meditation. Sunday was a 'Day of the Lord' when no work or activity was permitted. During the week, however, it was ''like a labour camp,'' the researchers say.

Ordinary dress was prohibited. Members surrendered their clothes on entering the camp and were issued with uniforms black for recruits, green for those ''who had seen the commandments'' and green and white for ''those who were ready to die in the ark.''

In 1997, the cult started a primary school, which was officially opened by District Commissioner Kita Gawera. Later, education authorities closed it down due to poor sanitation, low academic standards and violation of children's rights. There were no health facilities at the Kanungu camp, which should have alerted the authorities to the fatalistic creed of the cult.

The cult's theology and teaching were based on messages the leaders claimed to receive on a regular basis from the Virgin Mary and Jesus. They emphasised the restoration of the Ten Commandments as God's guidelines to humanity and urged members to confess their sins in preparation for the end of the world on December 31, 1999.

The leaders wrote a sacred book -A Timely Message from Heaven, The End of the Present Times (1996), which detailed their philosophy. Members were told to read the book 20 times, after which they would receive anything they prayed for.
''During baptism, the candidate would be shaved everywhere and nails cut. Later the nails and hair would be burnt and the ashes dissolved in tea or water which the candidate would drink. Part of the ash was mixed with the anointing oils and smeared over the candidate's body, after which he or she was considered clean.''

Members moved around with three rosaries -two worn around the neck, one facing the front and another the back. The third was carried around in the hand. At times, a fourth would be hidden under the garments.

=== Islam

21. Iranian Hard-liners Renew Death Sentence on Rushdie
Reuters, Feb. 12, 2001
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Hard-line Iranian bodies Monday renewed a death sentence on Salman Rushdie ahead of the 12th anniversary of the ''fatwa'' against the British author issued by former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

''We ask world Muslims to carry out this divine edict and cleanse the world of such mercenary Satans,'' the Islamic Propagation Organization said in a statement quoted by the official news agency IRNA.

The Propagation Organization was created after the 1979 Islamic revolution to promote radical Islamic views around the world.

The calls came despite a 1998 pledge by the Iranian government not to seek to carry out the fatwa, a move that led to warmer ties with Britain.

Ignoring the pledge, a hard-line Iranian foundation last year offered to add interest to its $2.8 million bounty on Rushdie's head.

=== Buddhism

22. Buddhists In Central Vietnam Claim Government Harassment
AP, Feb. 10, 2001
http://asia.biz.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

HANOI (AP)--Police and government officials have been harassing and intimidating Vietnamese Buddhists during a week of special prayers in the central city of Hue, monks said Saturday.

Communist authorities have sought to prevent people from attending a weeklong prayer service, said Thich Thai Hoa, head of the Thua Thien Hue Order of Buddhist monks, which is part of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, or UBCV.

''Police have gone from home to home warning people not to come, and intimidating them,'' Hoa said.

Students from primary to university level were ordered to attend classes Saturday and Sunday and forbidden to attend prayer services, he said, and police checkpoints were set up around the city. Buddhist followers reported being questioned after attending services.

Police have also been deployed around Tu Hieu Temple trying to prevent people from attending the weeklong prayer service, another monk said on condition of anonymity. No arrests have been reported so far.

Despite the threats, more than 1,000 people have attended services at the temple since the event began on Wednesday, said Hoa.

International human rights groups, along with the U.S. State Department, have consistently criticized Vietnam for its restrictions on religion and free expression.

Leaders and members of the UBCV, the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect, Cao Dai believers, along with Catholics and Protestants have been harassed, detained without charges, placed under house arrest, and even imprisoned.

=== Mormonism

23. LDS Church Will Not Oppose Polygamy Bill
Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 9, 2001
http://www.sltrib.com/Off-site Link

An LDS Church official carried an endorsed message from church leaders to the Utah Capitol on Wednesday: The Mormon church ''does not oppose passage'' of a bill designed to thwart polygamy.

The unusual move followed what church spokesman and lobbyist William Evans told lawmakers was a false rumor that the Mormon church opposed the measure, which unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday.

Evans' hands-on involvement fueled further speculation that leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were interested in a portion of Sen. Ron Allen's bill dealing with gay marriage, which the LDS Church opposes.

''I hadn't heard that [rumor], but the church was concerned I had,'' said House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West.

Under Senate Bill 146, people who officiate at polygamous or gay marriages could be charged with a third-degree felony.

''The church learned that a rumor was circulating that it opposes Senate Bill 146,'' church spokesman Dale Bills told The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday. ''Because of the potential for misunderstanding on this issue, William Evans, the church's registered lobbyist, visited leaders of both parties to inform them personally that the church does not oppose passage of the bill.

24. U. theater department denies bias
Deseret News, Feb. 11, 2001
http://www.deseretnews.com/Off-site Link

Tired of being portrayed as the bad guys in a lawsuit against their actors training program, University of Utah administrators and students say allegations of religious discrimination against them are ''patently untrue.''

Former program member and LDS student Christina Axson-Flynn was never forced to modify her religious values, she was indeed allowed to change lines of dialogue and she was never told that if she didn't conform she would be forced out of the program, says David Dynak, U. theater department chairman.

''We don't disagree with their version of the chronology of events, but we have serious disputes with the details of the allegations made about those events,'' Dynak told the Deseret News.

The university has commented only in general terms about the year-old case. But officials have decided to speak out about it after Axson-Flynn's attorney sent a letter to 42 members of the Legislature Jan. 25 saying that the case is a prime example of how the U. ''legitimizes and fosters anti-Mormon sentiment'' on campus.

Fred Esplin, U. vice president for community relations, said the letter was an ''outrageous act intended to sway the court of public opinion to their side.''

Axson-Flynn left the theater department in January 1999 after one semester, saying she was being forced to take God's name in vain and repeat dialogue from stage scenes used as part of the program's curriculum that she felt, based on her religious beliefs, were vulgar.

25. Judge orders Mormons to provide sex-abuse records
The Oregonian, Feb. 9, 2001
http://www.oregonlive.com/Off-site Link

A Multnomah County judge has ordered the Mormon Church to turn over 25 years of internal records of sex-abuse complaints and discipline actions in the Portland area. The church is filing an emergency appeal of the order with the Oregon Supreme Court.

The ruling stems from a 1998 lawsuit by Jeremiah Scott, now 21, of Washington state. He accused a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints high priest of sexually abusing him repeatedly in 1990 and 1991, in Portland, when he was 11. The high priest was later convicted of the charges.

The high priest, Franklin Richard Curtis, was 87 at the time of the abuse and has since died. The Oregonian typically does not name sex-abuse victims, but in this case, Scott consented.

At issue is what the church knew about Curtis' past and when. Scott's lawsuit claims that the church knew of Curtis' past sex abuse when Curtis moved in with Scott's family but didn't warn them.

When he moved to Oregon, Curtis had been excommunicated from a ward in Pennsylvania for sex abuse. Curtis was rebaptized in 1984, according to court records. There are more than 20,000 wards in the world today, with an average of 300 to 500 members in each, more than 11 million in all.

The bishop and the church are named as defendants in the lawsuit. A summary judgment hearing is scheduled for next month, but the fight about the church's internal documents could set it back.

On Jan. 24, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Ellen F. Rosenblum ordered the church to produce not only all records of Curtis, but all records of reports of sex abuse made against anyone in the Portland or East Portland wards. The order includes third-person complaints, in which someone reported suspicions of abuse between two others.

The church has argued that the material is protected under the First Amendment and confidentiality laws between a church and a penitent.

=== Jehovah's Witnesses

26. Jehovah's Witnesses Tried in Moscow
Associated Press, Feb. 6, 2001
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link

MOSCOW -- A trial against the Moscow branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses resumed Tuesday, with the U.S.-based church trying to fight off a ban under a Russian law it says aims to restrict religious expression.

In the trial, which has been on recess for nearly two years, the Moscow city prosecutor has been trying to outlaw the church's Moscow branch under the Russian law on religion that allows courts to ban religious groups found guilty of inciting hatred or intolerant behavior.

The Jehovah's Witnesses say the law is being used to restrict churches other than Russia's biggest, long-established faiths that enjoy special status: Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Their case is a test that could determine the fate of many minority churches in Russia, they say.

''It is not for the state or courts to decide what's a good religion,'' said John Burns, a Canadian human rights lawyer on the Jehovah's Witnesses' legal team. He said the Russian Orthodox Church is being treated as ''the standard for determining what's true Christianity.''

The case was opened in September 1998 and recessed in March 1999, when the court ordered an expert panel to study the Jehovah's Witnesses' publications.
Theologically, Jehovah's Witnesses is a cult of Christianity. It does not represent historical, biblical Christianity in any way.

» Part 3