ReligionNewsBlog.com, Oct. 26-28, 2003
Tue, Oct. 28, 2003
[Vampirism] Celebrity cult of vampires can turn into real-life evil
Stirling University's Dr Glenice Byron lectures on the UK's only
postgraduate course in Gothic imagination. She said: 'We are moving towards
another high point in vampirism. I don't think the general public are aware
of the extent to which it permeates our culture. On the internet it's an
entire culture: people write their own vampire stories as hobbies' But for
some it is not enough merely to fantasise.
[USA] Novelist Turow and journalist Cohen make the case against capital
The evidence from two very different new books leads inexorably to the same
conclusion: The criminal justice system in most states works less well than
generally believed. The author of one book is Stanley Cohen, a journalist
known primarily as a sportswriter. The author of the other book is Scott
Turow, a lawyer known primarily as a best-selling novelist. From their
divergent vantage points, they both argue that the death penalty cannot be
justified because the risk of executing innocent defendants is too high.
[USA] Bile, guile and the American way
Michael Moore may be too caught up in his own personality cult, says
Stephanie Merritt, but Dude, Where's my Country? proves the need for his
voice to be heard. [...] If it takes a lick of Moore's hyperbolic sarcasm,
painful punning and rash of exclamation points to make that many people
aware of how spurious Bush's arguments for war have been, or how many
civilians have died in Iraq, or quite how far-reaching the implications of
the Orwellian Patriot Act have already proven, good liberals should find it
in their hearts to forgive him in the interests of spreading the word.
(That said, Bush's America can sometimes be so daft that cartoonish
incomprehension is the only possible response - what kind of democracy
allows the monitoring of public library records as part of a crackdown on
terrorism, but not gun purchase records, lest law-abidin', gun-totin'
Americans feel their liberties have been compromised?)
[Church and State] Italian Muslims fear 'crucifix' fallout
This week Italy is hosting an EU conference on inter-religious dialogue to
promote peace between religions in Europe. But a story of religious
conflict is dominating the Italian press. A radical Muslim leader has won a
court battle to remove the crucifix from a state school where his children
attend - a decision which has shocked political and public opinion and
caused deep concern within Italy's Muslim community.
[Aum Shinrikyo] Japan cult guru trial nears end
After a seven-and-a-half-year trial, the chief lawyer defending doomsday
cult guru Shoko Asahara, charged with masterminding the deadly 1995 nerve
gas attack on Tokyo's subway, is about to wrap up his case and wait for a
verdict. If convicted, Asahara could be hanged. But lawyer Osamu Watanabe
says he would appeal if a death sentence is handed down, and that could add
additional years before the case is concluded. Watanabe said he will claim
in his final argument on Thursday that the prosecution has failed to prove
Asahara was directly responsible for the rush-hour attack, which left a
dozen people dead and sickened thousands.
[Branch Davidians] Return to Waco
In 1993, 80 members of the Branch Davidian sect died when US agents stormed
their compound in Waco. Ten years on, the Davidians have regrouped, rebuilt
their church and, as Alex Hannaford reports, are still in the thrall of
their dead leader.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Jacko Charity Single Raising Money for
A lot of big name stars are unwittingly about to start raising money for
Scientology, thanks to Michael Jackson. At 3 p.m. PST Monday, Jackson is
launching a worldwide Internet download of his charity single, "What More
Can I Give?" For $2 a shot, Jackson fans will be able to hear this record,
made two years ago but never released. The record features Celine Dion,
Mariah Carey, members of 'N Sync, The Backstreet Boys and others. But what
fans - and the two dozen participating artists - probably don't know is that
proceeds from the single download are going, in part, to Scientology.
Jackson has designated The HELP Organization, which uses study techniques
developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, as one of the beneficiaries
of his largesse.
Mon, Oct. 27, 2003
[Church and State] Vatican denounces Italian judge's ruling to remove
crucifix from school
An Italian judge's order that the crucifix be removed from a public school
drew a rebuke Monday from the Vatican and set off outrage across a country
that officially separates church and state but appears unwilling to abandon
its Catholic roots. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano printed a
front-page illustration of Christ juxtaposed with a 1998 comment from Pope
John Paul II. "Many things can be removed from us Christians. But the cross
as a sign of salvation we will not let them take," the pope's quote said.
"We will not allow it to be excluded from public life." The controversy
erupted after Islamic activist Adel Smith won a court ruling last week to
have a crucifix removed from his sons' elementary school in the small town
of Ofena, 90 miles northeast of Rome.
[Islam] A hidden voice of Islam
In the midst of an impoverished East Oakland neighborhood as concerned with
the war on drugs as the war in Iraq lie answers to a question roiling the
country since Sept. 11, 2001: Can Islam and the United States co-exist?
They can, say members of a largely African-American mosque there, offering
their decades-old history as proof. But that history is often ignored and
misconstrued. Perhaps no group of Americans can speak about Islam and the
United States with the same intimacy or authority as African-American
Muslims. But their voice -- and story -- frequently is missing in the
national conversation about Islam after Sept. 11, 2001.
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[Church and State] Storm over Italy crucifix ruling
A controversy has erupted in Italy over a court ruling ordering a state
kindergarten to remove crucifixes from its classrooms. A judge in the
central town of L'Aquila upheld a complaint by an Italian Muslim leader,
Adel Smith. The ruling has re-opened a bitter debate about religious
symbols. Italy's Justice Minister said he would order an inquiry into
whether the decision conformed with Italian law.
[Hate Groups] Harold Ray Redfeairn, Aryan Leader, Dies
Harold Ray Redfeairn, who led a schism in the Aryan Nations white
supremacist group died Sunday, a year after restoring leadership to the
group's founder to end months of infighting. [...] Aryan Nations founder
Richard Butler named Redfeairn as his successor in September 2001, a year
after a civil rights lawsuit forced Butler to forfeit the group's Idaho
compound. Three months later, Redfeairn and propaganda minister August
Kreis announced they were forming a splinter group but keeping the Aryan
Nations' name and moving it to a remote corner of Pennsylvania, where Kreis
lives. But Redfeairn later renounced the move and the ensuing split among
members nationwide. He fired Kreis in May 2002 and returned command to
Butler, who said afterward he thought Kreis was behind the power grab.
Sun, Oct. 26, 2003
[Nuwaubians] Lawyer withdraws guilty plea for York
A federal court judge determined Friday that Nuwaubian leader Malachi York
withdrew his previous guilty plea to financial and child sex charges. York
did not directly answer questions from the court about his plea, but U.S.
District Court Judge Ashley Royal determined through York's attorney that
he wished to change his plea to "not guilty." York faces federal charges of
transporting children across state lines for sex and evading financial
reporting requirements. Also Friday, York's defense attorneys said they
have been put on notice by the government that York will likely face a new
round of indictments that include racketeering charges. York's trial is
scheduled for early January.
[Polygamy] Polygamy critic arrested by Colorado City police
Lenore Timpson Holm, a polygamy critic, former plural wife and successful
plaintiff in a suit against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints, has been arrested by Colorado City police on a domestic
[Transcendental Meditation] $ 2m NIH Grant for Maharishi varsity
US Government's National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant of $ 2
million to medical researchers at the Maharishi University's Institute for
Natural Medicine and Prevention, a part of the College of Maharishi Vedic
Medicine in the United States. The grant would help finance a study on how
the Transcendental Meditation technique and Maharishi's Consciousness-based
health programmes were useful for both prevention and treatment of heart
disease and other chronic disorders in African-Americans, the University
said. The University has been awarded more than $ 20 million in federal
funds for medical research since 1988.
[Religion Trends] 'Emergent church' evokes past to attract youths
Almost 20 years later, Bennett's desire to connect to the past has found a
home in what's known as the "emergent church," a small but growing movement
nationwide. Consisting largely of younger Christians, emergent churches cut
across denominational lines in an effort to reclaim the sense of mystery
found in the ritual and symbols of the faith's ancient past. But they're
also dedicated to engaging modern culture, often in small communities that
draw from various traditions to seek an experience of God in many ways from
painting during services to meditating on a forgotten Celtic prayer.
Leaders cite the apostle Paul as their guide, noting he used the culture of
his time to spread Christianity. Some call emergent churches the "ancient
future faith." "We're trying to be authentic," Bennett said. "We're not
trying to be cool, but be real." The movement's growth has been fueled
largely by Christians meeting on the Internet, or word of mouth. Some
emergent communities are growing within existing churches, but others have
started from scratch. Their members hold to orthodox Christianity, but
reject what they feel is a corporate, overly simplified presentation of the
faith in today's evangelical churches, said Robert Webber, a professor
emeritus at Wheaton College in Illinois who wrote a book about the emergent
church, "The Younger Evangelicals."
[Archeology] Archaeology's great hoax
In a storeroom of the Michigan Historical Museum, state archaeologist John
Halsey examined the newly acquired artifacts purported to be the remnants of
an ancient Middle Eastern civilization that settled in Michigan thousands of
years ago. [...] "It's the physical evidence of the largest archaeological
fraud in the state's history," Halsey said, then, on further reflection, he
added: "It is arguably the largest archaeological fraud ever in this
country, and the longest running." [...] More than a century after the first
relics were discovered, some people still believe them to be authentic. Some
influential members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the
Mormons) once considered them evidence of the church's connection to a Near
Eastern culture in ancient America. The Mormon Church for decades kept a
large collection of the artifacts in its Salt Lake City museum, but never
formally claimed them to be genuine. This past summer, after scholars
examined the relics and declared them fakes, the church donated the 797
objects to the Michigan Historical Museum, which plans to exhibit them
beginning next month.
[General Assembly CotFB] Death pits law against church
The death of a 10-year-old Tulare girl is at the center of a court case that
pits religion against the law. Wesley and Laronda Hamm are facing
involuntary manslaughter and child-abuse charges in connection with the
March death of their daughter Jessica. The charges were filed in September.
The Hamms belong to the Church of the Firstborn, whose members refuse
medical treatment and shun manmade medicine. According to their members,
they believe in faith healing and placing their health in God's hands.
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