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Religion News Report

February 28, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 331) - 1/2

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


=== Falun Gong
1. China likens crackdown on Falun Gong to war on drugs, assails
2. China Hits Back After Rights Record Criticism
3. Agents sent to kill sect leader: followers
4. China Hosts U.N. Rights Chief, Vows to Wipe Out Sect

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

=== Unification Church
6. Rev. Moon's Unification Message Coming to Utah

=== Islam
7. Destroy ancient statues: Taliban leader
8. Taleban dismiss statue outcry

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
9. Court Hears Church Confession Case

=== Buddhism
10. Boomer Buddhism
11. Confused Tibetan Buddhists await Karmapa's visit
12. 'Allowing the boy-lama to travel has stirred a hornets nest'

=== Hate Groups
13. ADL: David Duke stirring antisemitism in Russia

» Part 2

=== Others
14. Holy man? Sex abuser? Both? (Sai Baba)
15. Former witness settles lawsuit in Wenatchee sex abuse case
16. High court case tests key church-state battle
17. China Police Unveil Software to ''Purify'' Internet

=== Alternative Healing / Medicine
18. Alternative Medicine (Homeopathy)
19. Moving Alternative Medicine into Evidence-Based Medicine in the 21st Century

=== Death Penalty
20. New bill would repeal death penalty in Illinois

=== Books
21. Underground
22. Amid the rush to science, a voice says: Hold on now
23. Zondervan Targets Niche Of Travelers Who Don't Care Where The Best Bars Are


=== Falun Gong

1. China likens crackdown on Falun Gong to war on drugs, assails
AP, Feb. 27, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

BEIJING (AP) -- In an unbending defense of China's widely criticized crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, a government anti-cult official said Tuesday that the group acts like a ``spiritual drug'' on its followers and that labor camp guards treat imprisoned practitioners as doctors would patients.

Liu Jing, head of a Cabinet office formed in September to coordinate the nationwide campaign against Falun Gong, also assailed U.S. officials for criticizing China's relentless 19-month crackdown on the group.

``They choose to turn a blind eye to the dangers and harm caused by the Falun Gong cult,'' Liu said at a news conference. ``This shows they are using this issue to make a fuss and using human rights as a pretense to interfere in other countries affairs.''

Liu did not directly address questions about whether practitioners have died in custody or about how many have been sent to labor camps.

But he dismissed as rumors the claims by Falun Gong and rights groups that more than 100 followers have been killed. He said followers are not sent to labor camps merely for practicing Falun Gong but for committing crimes such as protesting.

Labor camps have helped practitioners ``wake up from their addiction to the cult and return to a normal state of mind,'' he said. ``In reeducation through labor, we have the following saying: Act as teachers do with their students, as doctors do with patients, as parents do with their children.''
[...more...]


2. China Hits Back After Rights Record Criticism
Reuters, Feb. 27, 2001
http://www.insidechina.comOff-site Link

China clashed publicly with visiting UN human rights chief Mary Robinson on Tuesday over the Falun Gong, dismissed her call to scrap labor camps and called Washington hypocritical for saying Beijing's human rights record worsened last year.

Besieged by criticism on all fronts -- from Washington, the United Nations as well as many human rights groups as it bids to hold the 2008 Olympic Games -- China launched a multi-front counterattack.
(...)

It was scathing on the U.S. State Department annual human rights report and shot back with a long report on social ills in the United States.

''This is a typical action showing U.S. double standards on human rights,'' the Foreign Ministry said in a statement which accused Washington of ''going so far as to defend openly the anti-humanity evil cult Falun Gong''.
(...)

The U.S. report, an annual source of friction, summed up a year of tough curbs on religious freedom and political dissent by saying China's ''poor human rights record worsened and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses''.

It condemned China's crackdowns on underground Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong, as well as harsh treatment of political dissent.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry replied: ''Anyone can see that China's human rights situation is the best of any time in history.''

A Western diplomat said each side had a point.

''If you look at the broad trends over 20 years, things are clearly positive, but if you take a snapshot of 2000, many areas clearly went downhill,'' said the diplomat.
(...)

In what has become an annual event, China's cabinet issued a lengthy denunciation of U.S. rights problems.

''Well-informed people know that the so-called democracy has been nothing more than a fairy tale since the United States was founded more than 200 years ago,'' it said.
[...more...]

China does have a point regarding the USA's double standards. Other countries, as well as human rights organizations have pointed out that the USA typically does not address America's documented human rights abuses. See, for example, Amnesty International's report on the USAOff-site Link

In addition, America is often chided by countries for its promotion of cults and other extremist groups (e.g. Scientology) - with U.S. lawmakers going as far as threathening what amounts to economic blackmailing should these countries not accept cults as ''legitimate religions.''


3. Agents sent to kill sect leader: followers
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Feb. 24, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

Chinese undercover agents are in the United States trying to curb Falun Gong's influence and kill its leader, Li Hongzhi, according to his supporters.

''We think a large group has been sent over here to assassinate him,'' said a spokesman, Xu Kangang. ''There are a lot of rumours. I know the Chinese Government is trying to find out where he is.''

Master Li, as his followers refer to him, has not given an interview for 18 months and is rumoured to be in hiding. ''I heard he is living in Queens,'' said Mr Xu, referring to a borough of New York.

''I don't think he is frightened, he is trying to stay out of trouble. It is safer if he is not exposed to the public.''

Mr Li's silence has prompted speculation about his actions and intentions. His spokesmen, often mainland Chinese living in the United States, now speak with venom about President Jiang Zemin and Luo Gan, the top official in charge of the campaign against the sect, but mildly about other leaders such as Premier Zhu Rongji. Despite the mystery surrounding Mr Li's whereabouts, his followers say he travels regularly around the United States and abroad, teaching large groups about his beliefs. He is said not to comment directly on what is happening in China and avoids political subjects.

Falun Gong Web sites list a series of his conventions held in America in the past six months. Mr Li has also visited Australia and Taiwan. ''We saw him give a talk to followers in a New Jersey hotel and most recently at Christmas,'' said one Beijing woman staying with relatives in New York, who wished to be known only as Mrs Wang. She and a friend have attended two study sessions with Falun Gong.

People who have recently met Mr Li said he looked relaxed and was dressed in a business suit and open-neck shirt. They said he did not have bodyguards with him.

Falun Gong supporters say they have often noticed Chinese attending study groups whom they suspect are plain-clothes agents.
[...more...]


4. China Hosts U.N. Rights Chief, Vows to Wipe Out Sect
Reuters, Feb. 26, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson Monday urged China at landmark talks on sensitive penal system reforms to scrap the ``re-education through labor'' system it has used to lock away dissidents.

But only hours later the Communist Party called for the ''complete elimination'' of the Falun Gong spiritual movement which it banned as a cult in 1999 and against which ''re-education through labor'' has been a key weapon.

``If the cult is not removed...the process of China's reform, opening-up and socialist modernization drive will be affected,'' said an editorial in Tuesday's People's Daily, issued through Xinhua news agency.

Xinhua said the government gave citations to 110 organizations and 271 individuals for anti-Falun Gong work in a move underscoring national resolve ``to wipe out the cancer of Falun Gong from society.''

The official media statements did not unveil new policies in China's 19-month-long battle against Falun Gong, a ruthless campaign which has provoked strong international concern about violations of religious freedom and civil rights.
[...more...]


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

5. 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


=== Unification Church

6. Rev. Moon's Unification Message Coming to Utah
The Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 24, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, controversial founder of the Unification Church, will be in Utah next month to promote religious harmony, racial reconciliation and family renewal.

The visit is part of a 50-state tour, entitled, ''We Will Stand! Rebuild the Family, Restore the Community, Renew the Nation'' and will involve clergy from a variety of faiths, said Wendy Stovall, state director for Utah's Unification Church, which has held steady over the years at nine families.
(...)

Today the church, which goes by the name, ''Family Federation for World Peace and Unification,'' is working in 190 countries, with about 50,000 members in the U.S., Stovall said.
[...more...]


=== Islam

7. Destroy ancient statues: Taliban leader
AFP, Feb. 27, 2001
http://www.timesofindia.com/Off-site Link

KABUL: Taliban militia supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar on Monday issued a decree ordering the destruction of all statues in Afghanistan including ancient pre-Islamic figures.

''Based on the verdict of the clergymen and the decision of the supreme court of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) all the statues around Afghanistan must be destroyed,'' said the decree.

The decree was issued as a team of western diplomats is visiting the Afghan capital to check reports that senior Taliban officials destroyed over a dozen pre-Islamic artefacts in the national museum.
(...)

Taliban supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar has issued several decrees to protect non-Islamic artefacts, which have in the past been targeted by the militia's zealous commanders.

However there is concern that some hardline officials still see the relics as idols which are forbidden under Islamic law.
(...)

The Taliban, or movement of religious students, seized Kabul in 1996 and have imposed a very strict version of Sharia law.
[...more...]


8. Taleban dismiss statue outcry
BBC, Feb. 27, 2001
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link

Afghanistan's ruling Taleban have dismissed an international outcry over an order to destroy the country's statues, including priceless archaeological treasures.

The edict by the hardline Islamic militia has drawn protests from historical, cultural and religious groups around the world.

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar gave the order on Monday, declaring the statues were insulting to Islam and should be destroyed.
(...)

Afghanistan was a Buddhist centre before the arrival of Islam in the ninth century.

But some mullahs believe, mistakenly, that Buddhists worship the Buddha and that the statues are therefore idols.
(...)

There are also a number of Hindu shrines in Bakhtiar province.
[...more...]


=== Jehovah's Witnesses

9. Court Hears Church Confession Case
AP, Feb. 27, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A prosecutor asked the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to allow him to subpoena religious leaders who listened to a man who allegedly confessed to sexually abusing two children.
(...)

A judge previously quashed subpoenas against the two Jehovah's Witness church officials, saying the state law that Gaston relied upon violates the federal Constitution's First Amendment protection of freedom of religion.

The law says that any legal shield for communication -- except that between an attorney and client -- does not apply to situations involving suspected child abuse or neglect.

But Gaston asked the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.

``If we compel the elders of the church to testify against the church members, doesn't that in some way affect the exercise of their religious beliefs?'' Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff said.

``It absolutely does,'' Gaston replied, but he said it is a permissible infringement because the intent of the state law is to protect children.
[...more...]


=== Buddhism

10. Boomer Buddhism
Salon, Feb. 26, 2001
http://www.salon.com/Off-site Link

Feb. 26, 2001 | As anyone who hasn't spent the last few years meditating in a cave in Asia knows, American Buddhism is booming.
(...)

Typically these sympathizers get their Buddhism, as beat author Jack Kerouac did, from books.
(...)

Demand for Buddhist books has turned many teachers into stand-alone brands with remarkable marketing muscle. The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh are the Coke and Pepsi of this Buddhist generation, but homegrown brands such as Jack Kornfield and Lama Surya Das can also move 100,000 tomes without getting off their zafus.

James William Coleman is not a major brand, and his ''The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition''Off-site Link is not destined for the bestseller list. It does shed light, however, on today's oddly bookish Buddhist vogue. Coleman is a sociologist and a Buddhist, so it's not surprising that he supports his sympathy for American Buddhism with a survey. His book focuses on a small minority of American-born converts and sympathizers rather than the immigrants and their children who make up three-quarters of American Buddhists.

These ''new Buddhists,'' as he calls them, patronize four types of Buddhist groups: Zen centers, Tibetan Buddhist centers, vipassana (''insight meditation'') centers and unaffiliated, nonsectarian centers. Most are baby boomers, almost all are white and all practice meditation, which sets them apart from the members of Sokka Gakkai International-USA (a group that prefers chanting to meditation), the largest Buddhist organization in the United States and the only Buddhist group that attracts significant numbers of blacks and Hispanics.

Coleman identifies some key tendencies among boomer Buddhists, including efforts to make Buddhism more egalitarian, more feminist and more socially conscious. The most audacious of these trends is a drift toward a secularized Buddhism that author Stephen Batchelor calls ''Buddhism Without Beliefs'' and Coleman dubs ''bare-bones Buddhism.''

This supposedly revolutionary concept is actually rather old, even hackneyed.

The idea is this: Strip Buddhism of what Coleman describes as its ''traditional religious trappings -- robed priests, elaborate rituals, sacred images of supermundane figures, devotional practices.'' What remains is a demythologized practice that is both new and (supposedly) improved: no chanting, no incense, no monks and certainly no bowing. This stealth approach leaves Buddhists with little to do except meditate and read books like ''The New Buddhism.''

Coleman's book concludes that the new Buddhism is ''a profoundly subversive force'' in contemporary American society. But what exactly is this kind of Buddhism subverting? Is ''Zen and the Art of Poker'' subverting American obsessions with money? Is ''Zen Sex'' subverting American obsessions with sexuality?

Recently critics have suggested that the ''new Buddhism'' is subverting Buddhism itself. In Time magazine's 1997 cover story on ''America's Fascination With Buddhism,''Off-site Link Robert Thurman (friend of the Dalai Lama, father of Uma and Buddhist studies professor at Columbia -- in that order) derided Batchelor and his ilk as ''non-Buddhists'' preaching humanism but marketing it as Buddhism. In ''Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain,'' (http://www.damtsig.org/articles/traktung.htmlOff-site Link) Ngakpa Traktung Yeshe Dorje and A'dzom Rinpoche blasted Lama Surya Das as a faker in an American Buddhist Oz. ''Mr. Surya Das is therefore a Buddhist with 'no Buddhist beliefs' in a world where there is 'really no Buddhism,''' they wrote. ''This should perhaps cause anyone who would learn Buddhism from Mr. Surya Das to stop and ponder.''

I am not a Buddhist myself, but I have taught American Buddhism for about a decade, and I must admit I share a certain disquiet about the direction boomer Buddhism is going.
(...)

Virtually every ''new Buddhist,'' including Coleman himself, seems to be carrying around a laundry list of the ways America is making Buddhism better. To take just one example, Lama Surya Das -- who, despite the name, is a white guy -- has a list of ''Ten Emerging Trends'' [http://www.americanbuddha.org/article_trends.htmlOff-site Link] in American Buddhism.
(...)

What seems to be lost on the new Buddhists who populate Coleman's book is the possibility that it may be America's destiny not to make Buddhism perfect but to make it banal. It is, of course, far too early to determine what America's effects on Buddhism will be. The religion has been in Asia for two-and-a-half millenniums; it has been a force in the United States for only a century or so. So far, however, things do not look good.
(...)

Unfortunately, as ''The New Buddhism'' indicates, boomer Buddhists now have the stage. Lama Surya Das sells his books by the gross. Thanissaro Bhikkhu sells his by the unit. Only he doesn't actually sell them. They are available for free (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/modern/thanissaro/Off-site Link) on the Web -- a gift from the old Buddhism to the new.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About the writer
Stephen Prothero is a professor in the department of religion at Boston University. He is the author of ''Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America.''Off-site Link
[...more...]


11. Confused Tibetan Buddhists await Karmapa's visit
The Times of India, Feb. 25, 2001
http://www.timesofindia.com/Off-site Link

GAYA: Confusion reins supreme in Bodh Gaya on the eve of Karmapa's visit, tentatively scheduled for March 6, to the seat of Buddha's Enlightenment. There are at least two claimants for the holy position and the spiritual leadership of the Karmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

About eight years back, precisely on February 25, 1993, about three and half years old Yangsi was installed as the Karmapa or spiritual leader of the sect. The religious coronation of the Karmapa-I was presided over by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama himself.

Even Pemba Lama, the head of the Bodh Gaya based Karma temple, is confused on the matter. When contacted by The Times of India on Friday afternoon, Pemba Lama said that he was not in a position to say as to who was the real Karmapa. He said, ''It is a matter of transfer of souls and you can't be sure as to which soul got transferred into which body.'' To play it safe and to avoid controversy, Pemba Lama said that he, in the absence of confirmed soul transfer, accepted both the claimants as the sect leader. Pemba's approach, however, is not likely to put the controversy to rest.
(...)

Meanwhile, preparations are being made for the Karmapa's visit to the most important religious sect of the Buddhists. In a rare gesture, the first of its kind, the Dalai Lama's personal suite in the Tibetan monastery at Bodh Gaya is being made ready for the special occasion. Tenzing, the head of the Tibetan monastery, confirmed that the monastery would host Karmapa.

To avoid controversy during Karmapa's visit, official agencies, including the law and order machinery and intelligence network, have been put on alert and the Karma temple near great Buddha statue is learnt to have been put under close observation as the other claimant of the holy sect has his centre and support base there.
[...more...]


12. 'Allowing the boy-lama to travel has stirred a hornets nest'
The Times of India, Feb. 25, 2001
http://www.timesofindia.com/Off-site Link

SHIMLA: With the government having given permission to 15-year-old Ugyen Trinley Dorje to leave Dharamshala and visit the Buddhist places of pilgrimage in India, Tibetan politics, particularly of the Karma Kagyu sect, have become active once again. Infact, those opposing Ugyen's ordination and recognition as the 17th Karmapa feel that it is now a mere matter of time that he will be allowed to visit his headquarters at the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, which will once again start a bitter feud.
(...)

The Kagyu sect of Tibetans, a majority of whom live in Sikkim, feel that the Indian government, in allowing Ugyen Trinley Dorje to leave Dharamshala and undertake a pilgrimage, may have stirred a hornet's nest. The reason is the previous head of the order, the 16th Karmapa, who died of cancer in Chicago in 1981, leaving behind property worth about US $ 1.2 billion, a network of more than 430 centres worldwide and a money-spinning machine where donations pour in incessantly.

Strength-wise, it is said, that of the four orders of Tibetan Buddhism - Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug (to which the Dalai Lama belongs) - Kagyu has the largest following in the West with over 3,00,000 being a conservative estimate. The number of followers in Tibet is estimated at over one million.

According to Tibetan sources, only the reincarnation of the Karmapa could inherit the title and with it the wealth left behind by the 16th Karmapa. It is because of this that the issue of reincarnation of the Karmapa has the main regents of the Kagyu order at loggerheads, obvious from the fact that there are at least two claimants to the throne at Rumtek - Ugyen and Trinley Thaye Dorje, residing in Kalimpong and recognised as the Karmapa by Shamar Rinpoche, said to be second in the Kagyu hierarchy.
[...more...]


=== Hate Groups

13. ADL: David Duke stirring antisemitism in Russia
The Jerusalem Post (Israel), Feb. 28, 2001
http://www.jpost.com/Off-site Link

NEW YORK (February 28) - White supremacist leader David Duke is conducting an antisemitic campaign in Russia, says an Anti-Defamation League report released Monday, entitled ''David Duke in Russia.''

The ADL report says that Duke has traveled to Russia several times recently to meet with nationalist leaders, including former Communist lawmaker Albert Makashov, and to promote his book, My Awakening, entitled The Jewish Question Through the Eyes of An American in Russian.

''There is an underbelly of antisemitism in Russia which David Duke is hoping to add to and exploit,'' said the ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a press release. ''Duke has detected an opportunity to spread his hatred of Jews and other minority groups among like-minded bigots,'' said Foxman.

On his official Web site, Duke describes Russia as the ''the key to white survival,'' and describes the ADL as an ''organization that supports Jewish ethnic and religious supremacy.''

According to Reuters, Duke's personal assistant Roy Armstrong called the ADL report ''bulls--'' and ''pure defamation,'' and said Monday that Duke was in Russia to expose ''Zionist Jewish figures involved in Mafia activities, organized crime, and prostitution.''
(...)

Russian antisemitism on the Internet is up, says the report, with racist and hate propaganda being disseminated by at least 64 Russian Web sites and three large Web portals.
[...more...]


» Part 2

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