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Religion News Report

February 14, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 324) - 2/2

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


» Continued from Part 1

=== Other News
17. Indiana church seized for back taxes
18. Infection death ruled homicide (Gen. Assembly Church...)
19. 'Candace' bill advances (Rebirthing)
20. Life for occult child killer
21. The Beast's satanic legacy lives on (Aleister Crowley)
22. 'Prosperity Theology' Pulls on Purse Strings (Universal Church...)
23. Allegations of past child abuse threaten Hare Krishnas' existence
24. Growing Up in the Hare Krishnas
25 Saddam praises Sabaeans, pledges to build temple

=== Death Penalty and other Human Rights Abuses
26. Virginia man free after 9.5 years on death row


=== Other News

17. Indiana church seized for back taxes
February 13, 2001
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (CNN) -- Federal marshals seized an Indianapolis church Tuesday, carrying out a judge's order to confiscate the property because of $6 million in years of back taxes and penalties.

Dozens of marshals swarmed the Indianapolis Baptist Temple around 8:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m. ET) and a helicopter hovered overhead during the peaceful seizure.

The Rev. Greg Dixon was holding a prayer service with about five members of the congregation -- including some who had been holding a vigil for nearly three months -- when the raid began.

Dixon and the others refused to walk away from the church, so the officers carried them out on stretchers.

''The purge has started,'' said Dixon, the church's founder, as he was wheeled away on a gurney. ''Forgive them, oh God, for what they have done today.''

Dixon, who in the 1980s began the church's fight with the Internal Revenue Service, placed blame on the Bush administration, which he said had agreed to ''dismiss the case. We had a deal.''

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis ordered the confiscation because the church owes $6 million in taxes, penalties and interest for its failure to withhold employee income taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes.
(...)

As news of the raid spread, dozens of congregation members, many crying and holding hands, gathered outside the sealed off perimeter of the church.

''This is a great, devastating blow to religious freedom in America,'' said one church member. ''Our children and grandchildren will never know the same religious freedom that we've known.''
(...)

Rev. Greg Dixon Jr., who was taking his daughter to school when he learned of the raid, said the church is still ''unified preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. ... Our building has been seized and we've been kicked out. Jesus Christ is still Lord.''
[...more...]

Memo to Greg Dixon and other law breakers:

javascript popup window They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ''Teacher,'' they said, ''we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. {17} Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'' {18} But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ''You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? {19} Show me the coin used for paying the tax.'' They brought him a denarius, {20} and he asked them, ''Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?'' {21} ''Caesar's,'' they replied. Then he said to them, ''Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.''


18. Infection death ruled homicide
Denver Post, Feb. 13, 2001
http://www.denverpost.com/Off-site Link

Feb. 13, 2001 - GRAND JUNCTION - Amanda Bates' death of complications from diabetes last week has been classified a homicide because the 13-year-old died as a direct result of medical treatment being withheld by her parents.

The determination Monday by the Mesa County coroner, Dr. Rob Kurtzman, opens the door to the possible prosecution of her parents, Randy and Colleen Bates, and other members of General Assembly Church of the First Born, a centuries-old Christian sect that does not believe in medical treatments. A homicide is when a person directly or indirectly causes the death of another person.
(...)

As the investigation into Amanda Bates' death continues, Kurtzman and others are hoping get a law passed that would deter parents from withholding medical treatment from their children. A Colorado legislative committee today will discuss a bill that would eliminate a confusing exemption in the child-abuse law. The exemption states that parents or guardians who withhold medical treatment on religious grounds can't be held liable for harm to a child as long as the faith-healing treatments used are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service and by major insurers. Christian Science treatments have that recognition.

Since 1990, similar exemptions have been repealed in five states - Oregon, South Dakota, Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts. Child deaths attributed to the withholding of medical treatment have dropped in those states after the change was made.
[...more...]


19. 'Candace' bill advances
Denver Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 13, 2001
http://www.insidedenver.com/Off-site Link

The proposed ''Candace's Law,'' which would outlaw the ''rebirthing'' therapy that killed 10-year-old Candace Newmaker, has taken its first step through the Colorado legislature.

The House Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions Committee approved the bill 8-3 on Monday.

Two Evergreen therapists and their assistants are charged in Candace's rebirthing therapy death. The North Carolina girl was being treated for attachment disorder, the perceived inability to bond with her adoptive mother.

Rebirthing is an unscientific, experimental therapy that is ''cruel'' and ''sadistic,'' said Larry Sarner of the National Council for Reliable Health Information, who said he was testifying in favor of the bill.

But Sarner criticized the proposal for not going far enough.

He suggested banning all private practice restraint techniques done on children.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Debbie Stafford, R-Aurora, said adding the extra restraining provision would take much more study and work. She wants the bill enacted soon to protect other kids who might be forced to undergo the rebirthing procedure.

''I believe it's an atrocity and I believe we should not allow it to continue in our state,'' she said.

The committee changed the bill's original definition of rebirthing to include any similar therapy and deleting a reference to ''psychodrama,'' a technique in which a patient re-enacts a significant life experience. Supporters feared using ''psychodrama'' would allow practitioners to continue to do rebirthing under another name.

The bill's critics said it shouldn't be so concerned with defining rebirthing as placing further prohibitions on the use of restraining techniques on children. People will always seek out crazy therapies, no matter how many laws are enacted, said Rep. John Witwer, R-Evergreen.
[...more...]


20 Life for occult child killer
BBC, Feb. 12, 2001
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link

An obsessed fan of occult writer Aleister Crowley has been sentenced to life imprisonment after murdering a 12-year-old boy in central London.

Edward Crowley, 53, was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Monday for stabbing Diego Piniera-Villar in Covent Garden last year.

The boy's step-brother Roberto, 15, was also injured in the attack as he tried to fight off the attacker.

Crowley carried out the killing after becoming obsessed with the boy and with the works of his own namesake, mystic and writer Aleister Edward Crowley, once dubbed the ''wickedest man in the world''.

Police arresting Crowley, after he stabbed the boy 20 times, found he was carrying an inscription in Latin which read ''Diego must die'' and diagrams relating to sacrifices.
[...more...]


21. The Beast's satanic legacy lives on
The Daily Telegraph (England), Feb. 13, 2001
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Off-site Link

The original Aleister Crowley is now enjoying cult status on the internet, more than 50 years after his death.

He was known in his lifetime as ''the Beast'' and ''the wickedest man alive'' for his satanic beliefs and practices. He was expelled from Italy early last century after rumours of his involvement in drug fuelled orgies and the sacrifice of babies. His motto was ''do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law''.

He had written ''for the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force, a male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim''.

Diego was innocent and intelligent and after Edward Crowley killed him, possibly as a sacrifice to his namesake, police found in his scruffy holdall a sinister piece of paper.

It was covered in references to Aleister Crowley's teachings and symbols used in his Book of Thoth. Alongside were drawings of Aztec sacrifices and temples, and allusions to biblical and ancient Greek sacrifices. He had headed the plan delendus est Pineiro - Latin for ''Pineiro is to be destroyed''.

Diego's surname was Pineiro Villar. There was also a reference to Diego's Spanish birthplace. Gulles de R, notorious in the 15th century for conjuring up demons, who was executed for killing children, was also mentioned.
(...)

In recent years the works of Crowley have seen a revival with one of the most popular satanic sites on the internet. New biographies have also been published and a foundation in his name propagates his beliefs. Crowley, who became addicted to opium, died in Hastings. Believers in the occult think that the South Coast town, which is now plagued with paedophiles, has been cursed ever since.
[...more...]


22. 'Prosperity Theology' Pulls on Purse Strings
Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2001
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link

Three years ago, Daisy dos Santos would spend all night on her knees before her television set, a small glass of water at her side, weeping and wailing to God. Her husband's adultery had all but crushed their marriage. Her dressmaking business teetered. Depression tormented her.

She finally decided to visit a church whose broadcasts she had watched so avidly during those lonesome hours, the Universal Church of God's Kingdom, one of Brazil's most popular Protestant movements. Dos Santos, who lives in a Rio slum, said the pastor told worshipers, ''The more you give, the more God will bless you.'' And she believed him. She started giving the church half her income.

Yet nearly a year later, her marriage was still in pieces. Her business remained feeble. And she was still depressed. Disillusioned and defeated, she left the Universal Church.

''You think that if you give, everything in your life will be resolved,'' dos Santos said. ''But it resolved nothing for me.''
(...)

Unlike some mainstream Protestant churches, which teach that righteousness brings rewards in this life and the next, prosperity churches emphasize the giving of money to God as a way to win those blessings. Prosperity theology holds that a wise and abundant giver will enjoy a life free of sickness, stress and vices, such as alcohol, and will be flush with material goods -- a new car, a fine house, a big bank account.

''It's a spiritual version of Wall Street,'' said Hector Avalos, a former faith healer who now is an associate professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. ''They're basically playing on people's greed.''

Brazilian churches within the Pentecostal movement, which stresses the power of the Holy Spirit in Christian daily life, in particular have promoted the teaching, which also says that many types of earthly suffering result from disobedience to God or demonic oppression.
(...)

''It's the most dangerous phenomenon in Brazilian Christianity today,'' said Ariovaldo Ramos, president of the Brazilian Evangelical Association, which has been a fierce critic of the doctrine.

The most popular of the prosperity churches is the Universal Church of God's Kingdom. It began 24 years ago, holding services in a funeral parlor. Today, it counts 3 million members in Brazil and another 3 million in 70 countries, including the United States.

The church owns Brazil's third-most popular television network, dozens of radio stations, several newspapers, a bank and scores of other properties. The church is notoriously secretive about its finances, but published reports estimate that it takes in $1 billion annually. Universal Church founder Edir Macedo has been the target of several lawsuits and prosecutions on fraud and embezzlement charges, but courts repeatedly have exonerated him.
(...)

Even critics of such churches concede that they have broken through to a portion of Brazil's population that historically was ignored by the dominant Roman Catholic Church and mainstream politicians. Their pastors may be known for their smart clothes and sparkling, well-appointed cars, but the churches, especially Universal, have won a reputation for their work in Brazil's slums, donating food, providing health services and otherwise caring for the less fortunate.

These churches generally also tend to have greater socioeconomic and racial diversity among their members and are quicker to elevate women to important positions. They draw in and engage young people. They encourage political involvement. They give classes on how to open small businesses. ''They give people the feeling that they can contribute,'' said Brazilian sociologist Paul Freston.
(...)

At a spartan Universal church in Rio's Vidigal slum, where Daisy dos Santos lives, 15 congregants gathered last Tuesday for a 3 p.m. service. There were old women and young men. Worshipers wore jeans and simple dresses. The women wore no makeup and little jewelry. A poster at the back of the church read, ''Run after your prosperity.''
(...)

At offering time, the minister told worshipers that they were not obliged to give. He then spent 20 minutes exhorting, cajoling, pleading with his congregation to do just that. ''Who has the courage and the faith to give 50 dollars or more?'' he said. ''What about 25 dollars? Fifteen dollars?'' Down to 50 cents.
(...)


23. Allegations of past child abuse threaten Hare Krishnas' existence
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 13, 2001
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link

In 1975, Swami Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna movement, was visiting his Berkeley temple when a disciple asked him the $64,000 question.

''What will happen when you die?''

His answer is enshrined on a plaque inside the ornate East Bay temple, between a life-size replica of Prabhupada and flower-bedecked statues of Hindu deities.

''I will never die,'' the India-born guru replied. ''I shall live through my books.''

Two years later, Prabhupada was dead. And while his books survive, the Hindu sect he built is foundering, mired in power struggles and legal troubles.

One of the tests facing any spiritual cult or religious sect is surviving the death of its charismatic founder.

For the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, the founding guru's decision to pass the flame to 11 separate disciples may have been a fatal error.

Years of infighting among Prabhupada's successors - along with a huge sexual abuse lawsuit filed against them by the children of Hare Krishna parents - may soon bankrupt the movement.
(...)

Last summer, a Texas lawyer filed a $400 million lawsuit alleging widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse of more than 40 Krishna kids at the Dallas ashram, at the Krishna temple in West Virginia, and at other schools, called gurukulas, around the country.

At least five of Prabhupada's anointed successors have been named in the child abuse suit, including one who already sits in a North Carolina prison, convicted of racketeering.

''There has been a raging political struggle over the movement's leadership, '' said E. Burke Rochford, a professor of sociology and religion at Middlebury College in Vermont.
(...)

One of the most damaging allegations in the lawsuit, Rochford said, is that Prabhupada himself was informed of extensive child abuse back in 1972, but ''concealed the wrongdoing from the public, parents and a handful of close advisers.''
(...)

Some experts say the risk for child abuse is higher in certain new religious movements, especially when cult leaders are more interested in building spiritual empires than raising healthy children.

''Parents in intense groups can become like middle managers in the raising of their own children,'' said Michael Langone, executive director of the American Family Foundation and editor of the Cultic Studies Journal.

When children are involved, he said, there can be a fine line between religious practice and spiritual abuse.

Many children raised in fundamentalist sects and new religious movements were forced to live like little monks, subjected to long days of work and religious study, getting up in the middle of the night for hours of chanting.

''That was a problem with the Hare Krishnas,'' said Langone. ''They were trying to turn the kids into little Krishna saints. You've got isolation, centralization of power and an ideology that is unrealistically demanding. There's a much higher potential for abuse.''

Anuttama Dasa, director of North American communications for the Hare Krishna society, acknowledged that ''many of our children suffered abuse at some of our boarding schools.''

In 1996, he said, the movement established the Children of Krishna, to provide money for the education and counseling of victims. In 1998, they set up their own Office of Child Protection to investigate all allegations. They also have closed their Indian-style boarding schools.
(...)

Rochford's study of child care - and child abuse - at the New Vrindaban commune in West Virginia uncovered a saying used in the community to refer to expectant Hare Krishna mothers:

''Dump the load and hit the road.''

Professor Rochford said the ''renunciate climate'' at Hare Krishna communes was not a healthy one for raising children.

''Children weren't terribly valued,'' the religion scholar said. ''Early on, they were seen as 'special souls,' so you really didn't have to do much for them.''

Similar attitudes have been noted by experts studying other new religious movements, such as the Unification Church. Members believe that children born to marriages arranged by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon are ''blessed children,'' born without ''original sin.''

But Rochford and other observers say the neglect and abuse of children was worse in the Hare Krishna movement, where some of the least responsible members were put in charge of raising kids.
(...)

Nevertheless, Rochford predicts that the Krishna faith ''will live on in a weakened way.''

''They have thousands of sincere and dedicated followers who will find another way to practice their faith.''
[...more...]


24. Growing Up in the Hare Krishnas
San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 13, 2001
http://www.sfgate.com/Off-site Link

(...) Briones and Smith both wound up in Hare Krishna schools - one in Dallas and the other in the Sierra foothills - and both drifted away from the Hindu sect once they were out on their own.

Six years ago, they crossed paths at a festival at the Krishna temple in Los Angeles, a kind of reunion for kids who grew up in the movement.

''My friends convinced me to go to the festival in L.A. I went with an open heart, to be with Krishna,'' said Briones, who had recently moved from Texas to Southern California.

''I met Subal,'' she said, ''and knew he was my husband.''

Briones hadn't been to a Hare Krishna temple since she was 11 years old. But she never really stopped being a believer.
(...)

Smith has good memories of growing up with the Krishnas.

In the mid-1970s, his parents wound up at the Hare Krishna temple in Los Angeles, where his mother taught at the ashram school. Later, he was sent to a Krishna boarding school in the Sierra foothills.

''For me, it was incredible to be living on the land, and being a farmhand. I was 10 or 11 and had a great experience. My trip there happened to be very sweet. The person who took care of us was a super nice soul.''

At age 13, Smith went back to Los Angeles, attended a public high school, and lost interest in the Hare Krishnas.

Today, the young Smith family lives in a small cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

There's an altar with Buddha next to the TV, and one with Krishna in the hall leading to the kitchen.

Despite his good times as a Krishna kid, Smith doesn't consider himself a believer.

''I'm happy with the way I was raised,'' he said. ''I really am. It gave me a different way to live my life. But I'm not hung up on any sort of philosophy. There's some truth in every religion, but I'm nervous about attaching myself to one thing.''

Neither he nor his wife makes a point of trying to visit the Berkeley temple.
Nevertheless, it's a part of their lives.
[...more...]


25. Saddam praises Sabaeans, pledges to build temple
Gulf News (United Arab Emirates) / Reuters, Feb. 12, 2001
http://www.gulf-news.com/Off-site Link

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has praised the Sabaean religious sect and pledged to build a temple in Baghdad for its followers, Iraqi newspapers said yesterday. During a rare meeting with the head and prominent members of the sect on Saturday night, Saddam also promised the Sabaeans they would keep their equality with Muslims and Christians.

The Sabaeans believe in God but are neither Muslims nor Christians. In Iraq they are officially recognised as a separate religion. The head of the sect, Sattar Jabbar Hilo, presented Saddam with a translated version of their holy book, Kanza Raba (great treasurer). Newspapers said it was the first time their holy book had been translated into Arabic.
(...)

Members of the sect say that around 80,000 Sabaeans live in Iraq, and some 15,000 still live in southern Iran. They speak a distinct language, Mandaean, and their religious books are written in Sabaean script.
[...more...]


=== Death Penalty and other Human Rights Abuses

26. Virginia man free after 9.5 years on death row
AP, Feb. 12, 2001
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (AP) -- Earl Washington Jr. walked out of prison Monday after spending 9.5 years on Virginia's death row for a murder he didn't commit.

Largely illiterate and with an IQ of 69, Washington confessed to the 1982 rape and slaying of Rebecca Lynn Williams even though no fingerprints or biological evidence tied him to the crime.

However, DNA tests showed he was wrongly convicted. He was moved off death row in 1994 after his sentence was commuted to life.

He was released from Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt at about 6:45 a.m. Monday and taken to Virginia Beach, where he had been assigned to live in an apartment building run by a support center for mentally disabled people, state officials said.
(...)

Washington has six months of parole to serve on an unrelated assault conviction.
Washington, 40, came within nine days of being executed in the electric chair in 1985 but was granted a stay.
(...)

Six states -- Illinois, Nebraska, Arizona, North Carolina, Maryland and Indiana -- have launched capital punishment studies looking at issues ranging from the quality of defense lawyers to the overall functioning of the death penalty, said Paula Bernstein of the Death Penalty Information Center.

In Illinois, Republican Gov. George Ryan imposed an indefinite moratorium on executions last year after several men were released from death row because they had been wrongly convicted or received unfair trials.
[...more...]

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