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Religion News Report

February 22, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 328) - 1/4

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

=== Falun Gong
1. EU presses China on falungong and human rights issues
2. Chinese Commentary Suggests Falun Gong Crackdown Has Gone Too Far
3. Religion chief brands Falun Gong as 'poisonous tumor'
4. Falun Gong follower arrested for posting online articles
5. Falun Gong Under Pressure Over Proposed Thailand Meeting
6. Thai Falun Gong Meeting Shelved After Pressure
7. Thai leader of Falun Gong not to change meeting plan

=== Falun Gong - China's Government-Controlled Media
8. Reports from China's government-controlled media

=== Scientology
9. Judge takes Scientology, critics to task
10. Church Of Scientology Secretive About Tests

» Part 2

=== International Churches of Christ
11. Cults' grip often invisible, but breaking it is possible

=== Buddhism
12. Tibetan Karmapa Lama Starts Cautious Trip in India
13. Chinese Anti-Buddhist Campaign Targets Tibetan Children

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
14. Infant Has 'Bloodless' Surgery

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
15. Pagans at peace

» Part 3

=== Hate Groups
16. U.S. anti-Semite asked to speak at health show
17. Health show stands by anti-Semite
18. 'Hate' e-mails to be outlawed
19. Aryan letter revealed as hoax

=== Other News
20. Church wins libel case against councillor (Peniel Pentecostal Church)
21. Missing Teen Found in Ohio
22. Faith-Based Welfare Puzzles Televangelist
23. Religious Groups Wary of Bush Plan
24. Return Of Campus Cultism
25. French Court Puts Cult Chief on Trial

» Part 4

=== Alternative Healing / Medicine
26. Colorado Children's Deaths Rekindle Debate on Religion
27. Death and Denial at Herbalife

=== Death Penalty & Other Human Rights Violations
28. Human rights head pushes to end death penalty

=== Noted
29. Poof! You're a Skeptic: The Amazing Randi's Vanishing Humbug
30. Public Favorable to Creationism

=== The Mufti Around The Corner
31. Mufti again denies Wall's Jewish link

=== Falun Gong

1. EU presses China on falungong and human rights issues
AFP, Feb. 22, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

The European Union will press China to respect the rights of followers of falungong and other religious and political movements in two days of EU-China talks that began here Thursday, Swedish officials said.

Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Bertil Jobeus told AFP the falungong issue would come up in the meetings which were to focus on human rights, freedom of expression and religion, the death penalty and torture.

He said the basis for the discussions was a list of top priorities drawn up by EU foreign ministers in Brussels in January.

Those priorities included the need to press China to show ''respect for the fundamental rights of all prisoners, including those arrested for membership of the political opposition, unofficial religious movements and other movements, such as the falungong.''

2. Chinese Commentary Suggests Falun Gong Crackdown Has Gone Too Far
AFP, Feb. 21, 2001
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link

China on Wednesday said members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement who repent should not be looked down upon or excluded from society, suggesting the harsh campaign against the group had gone too far.

In one of the most conciliatory official statements to be published since the ban on the Falun Gong in July 1999, the Xinhua news agency argued that a soft approach would be the best way to deal with ex-members of the Falun Gong.

''Former members of the cult who have woken up must not be looked down upon by their work units, society or their families,'' Xinhua said. ''They should be given assistance in life, employment and study.''

The agency also said students who have been expelled from school for practicing Falun Gong should be allowed to return.

The statement was published as a delegation of the International Olympic Committee was in Beijing to evaluate the city's bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

Some human rights advocates have questioned whether Beijing should be allowed to host the Games, given its appalling human rights record, highlighted by the harsh treatment of the Falun Gong over the past 19 months.

3. Religion chief brands Falun Gong as 'poisonous tumor'
AP, Feb. 21, 2001
http://www.timesofindia.com/Off-site Link

HONG KONG: Beijing escalated its campaign against Falun Gong's activities in Hong Kong, with the top Chinese religious affairs official calling the meditation sect an anti human ''poisonous tumor.''

Ye Xiaowen, the head of the State Administration's Religious Affairs Office, is the highest-ranking Chinese official to attack Falun Gong in Hong Kong, where the group remains legal and has been protesting Beijing's often-violent crackdown on the mainland.

Ye spoke on Monday at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and reiterated much of Beijing's line on Falun Gong, which is banned in mainland China as an ''evil cult'' that allegedly has cost 1,600 members their lives.

Ye suggested that Hong Kong could strip Falun Gong of its registration as a local organisation - a tactic being urged by pro-Beijing newspapers and politicians, although the Hong Kong government has not yet indicated it was willing to do so.

Ye's remarks, particularly his characterisation of Falun Gong as a ''poisonous tumor,'' were widely reported in Hong Kong's English-and Chinese-language newspapers, adding fuel to the major controversy over Falun Gong's activities here.

Hong Kong Falun Gong spokeswoman Hui Yee-han said Tuesday there was no need for China's religious affairs chief to get involved in the dispute, because Falun Gong is a ''method of cultivation'' and not a religion.

Hui said Ye was just repeating what Beijing has said, instead of rationally and objectively discussing the issue.

4. Falun Gong follower arrested for posting online articles
AP, Feb. 21, 2001
http://thestar.com.my/Off-site Link

China arrested a Macau-based follower of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement for posting essays defending the sect on the Internet, a rights group said Tuesday.

Zhang Yuhui was arrested in December in Zhuhai, just across the border from the former Portuguese colony, and his family was told on Feb 7 that he was being charged with ''incitement to subvert the government,'' the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

The Hong Kong-based centre said the charge derives from articles that Zhang posted on the Internet refuting China's labeling of Falun Gong as an ''evil cult.''

Falun Gong remains legal in Macau and the nearby former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999 and 1997 under arrangements ensuring them considerable autonomy.

However, recent attacks on the sect by pro-Beijing figures in Hong Kong have prompted fears that it could be banned there too.

Zhang's case underscores China's efforts to muzzle free speech on the Internet while exploiting the medium's commercial uses.

5. Falun Gong Under Pressure Over Proposed Thailand Meeting
AFP, Feb. 21, 2001
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link

Falun Gong followers in Thailand have come under pressure after the authorities warned the group that they must respect Thai law if they wish to hold a meeting here, organizers said Wednesday.

''At first we didn't know we had to ask for permission, and now that we know, there is some pressure,'' said local Falun Gong spokesman Nappadol Eakabutr.

The group had planned a meeting of some 500 Falun Gong practitioners for April before Thailand's foreign ministry urged caution Tuesday.

Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said the government would consider a request by members of the spiritual sect to meet here on the condition that they do not use it as an opportunity to attack China.

''We will tell them what kind of activities they can undertake and which ones they cannot,'' he told reporters Tuesday.

''But legal action will be taken if they violate the agreement,'' Surakiart added.

The Falun Gong has yet to make a formal request for permission to gather in Bangkok, he said.

The Thai-Chinese community and Buddhist associations recently called on the government to prevent such a meeting from going ahead here.

The Thai foreign ministry said last week that China had lodged an official protest over the planned conference, which would be attended by both Thai and overseas Falun Gong practitioners.

6. Thai Falun Gong Meeting Shelved After Pressure
Reuters, Feb. 20, 2001
http://www.insidechina.com/tOff-site Link

A group of Falun Gong practitioners in Thailand said on Tuesday they were postponing a proposed meeting in Bangkok in April because of opposition from Thai officials and Beijing.

Falun Gong practitioners from around the world had been invited to the two-day meeting from April 21-22.

But Nopphdol Eakabuse, one of the meeting's organizers, told Reuters the gathering was being postponed due to ''a lot of pressure''.

Thailand said on Tuesday it had not received any official request for permission to hold the meeting, but hinted that permission would anyway be withheld.

Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters he would not allow any
activities directed against Thailand's neighbors to take place in the country.

A senior foreign ministry official told Reuters the comments amounted to a rejection of the meeting.

''If you read between the lines of what minister Surakiart said, the answer is a red right, not a green light,'' he said.

Asked whether the group had planned to protest against the Chinese government during the meeting, Nopphdol said: ''We didn't have such intentions.''

7. Thai leader of Falun Gong not to change meeting plan
AP, Feb. 22, 2001
http://www.timesofindia.com/Off-site Link

BANGKOK, Thailand: The Falun Gong sect has no plans to abandon its scheduled international meeting here in April despite opposition by the Thai government, a sect leader said on Wednesday.

Falun Gong's Thai organizer, Noppadol Ekabutr, said he was confident that Thai authorities would change their minds once they realize that the meeting had nothing to do with politics.

He denied media reports that the meeting was postponed, saying the sect has decided to ''put the matter on hold'' until it receives a direct reply from the authorities.

But until then, he said, the group will work on the assumption that it is going to host the April 21-22 in Bangkok for Falun Gong practitioners from around the world.

=== Falun Gong - China's Government-Controlled Media

8. Reports from China's government-controlled media

* China's government-controlled media has, in recent days, published dozens
of items denouncing Falun Gong. As these items are essentially press
releases meant as propaganda rather than news reporting, there is little
to be gained by including them in RNR. Those interested may access the
reports via this Falun Gong news page

=== Scientology

9. Judge takes Scientology, critics to task
St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 22, 2001
http://www.sptimes.com/NlOff-site Link

After listening for eight long days to allegations between the Church of Scientology and its chief critics, Circuit Court Judge Thomas E. Penick spent nearly 90 minutes Wednesday admonishing the church, its adversaries and even the Clearwater Police Department.

To the church, Penick said there is no need for Scientology agents to continually stick cameras in critics' faces.

To the keepers of the Lisa McPherson Trust, he demanded they stop taunting Scientologists and fined two of them. To the Clearwater police, Penick said he sympathizes with their struggle to maintain order in downtown Clearwater but warned, ''They are coming very dangerously close to becoming a private security force for the Church of Scientology.''

In the end, Penick said, the ongoing feud burdens taxpayers and the public.

Pinellas County sheriff's bailiffs were paid overtime to be at the St. Petersburg Judicial Building the weekend of Feb. 10, when the hearing began.

The judge found no evidence to rule on dozens of individual allegations. The injunction orders church members and critics to stay 10 feet from each other and delineates where each can picket. But he said two critics crossed the line.

Robert Minton, founder of the Lisa McPherson Trust, was fined $500 and given six months' probation for waving a 10-foot retractable pole with a copy of the injunction hanging at the end outside the windows of a Scientology building.

Former Scientologist Tory Bezazian, who left the church in July, was fined $100 for walking in a no-picket zone Dec. 7 carrying two protest signs.

Using the phrase ''spy cameras,'' Penick expressed bewilderment at the level of surveillance that goes on in downtown Clearwater. Church members and critics regularly can be seen on public sidewalks toting video cameras. And the church has more than 100 cameras trained on its properties, all of which feed live into a room in the Fort Harrison Hotel, where they are monitored by church security staffers.

''I'm missing the point here,'' Penick said. ''I hope someone will let us know when the great invasion is coming.''

The judge said all of this gave him a greater understanding of what Clearwater police officers face every day as they try to mediate the tension. But, he said, officers also confused people by giving conflicting information about the injunction.

''There was far too much street justice being meted out by either off-duty or on-duty Clearwater police officers,'' Penick said.

He went on to address the off-duty work officers have been doing for the church. The church pays the officers.

''Something that's good for the masses, the chance for the officers off-duty to make some extra money -- and they're trying to do their job,'' Penick said. ''But it's become obvious to me they're getting a little more help than they need from the people that are paying their bills.''

Merrett said the hearing was worthwhile.
''Scientology came in here believing they could finally create their little corner of the world where their rules can silence the law,'' Merrett said. ''Judge Penick is in their way.''

Clearwater lawyer F. Wallace Pope, who represents the church, said the hearing showed that the injunction has numerous holes that will be addressed as a permanent injunction is drafted.

''If they're going to picket, do it peacefully. Don't do it with a lot of ridicule,'' Pope said. ''Just follow the orders provided in the injunction.''

While it claims to promote high ethical standards, the Church of Scientology is well-known for its harrassment of critics. In fact, the Scientology organization is increasingly acting like a hate group. Documentation.

The Lisa McPherson Trust provides research resources on the Scientology cult, and thus is a frequent target of Scientology harassment.

10. Church Of Scientology Secretive About Tests
KMBC, Feb 20, 2001
http://www.thekansascitychannel.com/Off-site Link

Kansas City's Church of Scientology is one of the fastest-growing Scientology churches in the entire country, KMBC 9 News' Jeremy Hubbard reported.

Although the church wants potential members to know them inside and out, they were somewhat reluctant to be probed by KMBC 9 News.

Many cheered the opening of the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation in Westport earlier this month. The church promised free IQ, personality and aptitude tests that can improve lives, raise IQs and even determine success and the future, Hubbard reported.

When KMBC asked Scientology spokeswoman Bennette Seaman if reporters could take the tests, she said, ''No.''

Seaman said that media have been critical of the tests because they are based on the controversial self-help book ''Dianetics.''

The book was written nearly 50 years ago by science-fiction writer Lafayette Ronald Hubbard. Hubbard claimed that his ideas could cure insanity, compulsions and obsessions by erasing bad memories.

''I don't buy it at all. I'm not attracted to it,'' said Tim Miller, head of religious studies at the University of Kansas.

He said that Scientology is more of a corporate-like self-help movement than a traditional religion.

''Ultimately, you will be in total control over matter, energy, space and time ... That's the promise,'' Miller said.

The promise is one that many converts have bought into after taking tests at places such as the Westport Hubbard Dianetics Foundation.

KMBC News sent an undercover producer to pick up a copy.

The test -- called the Oxford Capacity Analysis -- supposedly provides the test-taker with a profile of her or his personality, Hubbard reported.

Miller said that no matter what your answers are, the results are often used to recruit you to join the church.

''And, in fact, they will always tell you ... that this demonstrates that you would profit wonderfully from scientological auditing,'' Miller said.

When the testing center found out that a producer from KMBC had taken the test, they declined to discuss the results with him.

''I went to the church. I took the course, and immediately I changed my life,'' Seaman said.

Religious experts said that this may well be true, but they suggest learning more about Scientology before joining.

Miller said that there are two things that people should know before becoming involved in the church: Joining the church can be expensive, and the group has a history of being hostile and litigious with members who quit and then speak out against the church.

Seaman said that members do not have to spend a lot to be a part of the church, and they sue only ex-members who misuse copyrighted material.

To learn more about Scientology's litigious nature, see:

» Scientology Court FilesOff-site Link

» Take the so-called Off-site Link''Oxford Capacity Analysis'' (OCA) test without having contact with the commercial cult.

» Learn more about the OCA scamOff-site Link (See alsoOff-site Link)

» Part 2

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