ReligionNewsBlog.com, Nov. 24, 2003
Mon, Nov. 24, 2003
[John Allen Muhammad] Sniper Mastermind Receives Death Sentence
Jurors decided Monday that John Allen Muhammad should be executed for
masterminding the deadly sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington area
for three weeks last fall. As the verdict was read, Muhammad maintained the
same unflinching demeanor he had shown through most of his trial. The jury
deliberated five hours over two days before reaching the verdict against
Muhammad, a 42-year-old Army veteran who had asked police to "Call me God"
during the October 2002 spree.
[The Body] Trial Set For Sect Mother Accused Of Starving Baby
Prosecutors have a trial date for a member of an Attleboro religious sect
accused of starving her child to death. Police charge Karen Robidoux with
second-degree murder in the death of her 11-month-old son, Samuel. The
Bristol County District Attorney said she'll go on trial Jan. 20.
[Antisemitism] European report on anti-Semitism shelved due to "political"
A study on anti-Semitism in Europe was shelved because it concluded that
Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it
examined. The European Union 's racism monitor decided not to publish a
report on anti-Semitism because the study concluded that Muslims and
pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it examined, the
Financial Times reported on Saturday. ''An ever stronger Muslim presence in
Europe is certainly endangering the life of Jewish people,'' Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon said in an interview published today. News of the shelving of
the anti-Semitism study comes just two weeks after a European Commission
poll revealed that nearly 60% of European citizens believe that Israel is
the greatest threat to world peace, more than Iran, North Korea and
[Prahlad Jani] Man 'hasn't eaten' for 68 years
An Indian man who claims divine inspiration says he has survived 68 years
without eating, drinking or relieving himself, baffling doctors who are
unable to prove him an imposter. Prahlad Jani, a 76-year-old whose
extraordinary tale has won him a small band of devotees, took a dare and
underwent round-the-clock surveillance at a hospital in Ahmedabad, the
commercial capital of the western state of Gujarat. Clad in his trademark
red sari, bangles and earrings meant to fashion Hindu goddesses, Jani
managed to puzzle the Sterling Hospital's 400 doctors. Neurologist Sudhir
Shah said Jani was under watch for 10 days, with a closed-circuit camera
running, and that doctors were convinced he did not break any of his vows,
although there was no way of verifying whether Jani has pulled it off for 68
[Transcendental Meditation] Mind at peace
Carlos and Sylvia Ranalli weren't there for spiritual reasons. They were
hoping transcendental meditation, or TM, could help them calm, focus and
relieve stress. They're indicative of a nationwide trend, as meditation is
now taught in health clubs, schools, offices, even prisons. The technique
was featured in a recent Time magazine, which reported that 10 million
Americans practice some form of meditation. In South Florida, professors are
investigating the relationship between meditation and the ability to
negotiate. In contrast to its religious roots, today's meditation is buoyed
less by spiritual figures than by scientific studies documenting health
[Religious Freedom] Zurich's Right fears rise of "Koran schools"
Voters in Zurich are set to decide on controversial new laws that would lead
to the official recognition of non-Christian faiths, including Islam. But
the proposals are being challenged by politicians from the Right, who have
been accused of running an inflammatory campaign. One of the most
controversial parts of the new legislation, which is due to be voted on in a
referendum on November 30, is a move towards recognising faiths other than
the three official religions in the canton.
[Falun Gong] Pair brings attention to persecution in China
In January, Charles Lee, a resident of Menlo Park, Calif., was detained upon
arrival in China for his practice of Falun Gong, a meditation practice
currently outlawed in China. Ten months later, two UCLA students, who
practice the exercise and sympathize with Lee, are fighting for his freedom.
[Racism] Racist cop will not escape punishment
A North Wales cop who dressed in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and threatened to
beat up a rookie Asian officer will not escape prosecution because of a
legal loophole. Lawyers said weekend speculation that ex-North Wales Police
trainee policeman Rob Pulling, who was caught on camera in a BBC
documentary, would avoid prosecution because time had run out was "an
[Al Ma'unah] Malaysia frees students, cult members detained as terror
Malaysian police freed four students Monday who had been extradited from
Pakistan on suspicion of involvement with the al-Qaida-linked terrorist
group Jemaah Islamiyah, but kept nine others in custody, the national police
chief said. [...] Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities freed 15 members of the
Muslim cult al-Ma'unah who had been held under the Internal Security Act at
a prison camp in northern Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
[Sathya Sai Baba] Preaching the message of love
Followers of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba around the world celebrate his
birthday today, November 23. Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born on this day in
1926 in a tiny, hilly, isolated village called Puttaparthi in the Anantapur
District of the present Andhra Pradesh state of India.
[Da Vinci Code] Was Jesus married? Network tapped fiction
Imagine a major TV news organization reporting in respectful tones on the
scientific merits of phrenology (the study of human skulls to determine
intelligence) or alchemy (medieval experiments to turn base metals into
gold). That's akin to what ABC News did in "Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci,"
which was broadcast Nov. 3. With a straight face, correspondent Elizabeth
Vargas examined whether Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and sired
children who moved with Mom to France and established a royal bloodline that
exists to this day. Huh? [...] ABC might have avoided embarrassment by
scanning the article "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code" in Crisis, a
conservative Catholic magazine. Free-lance writer Sandra Miesel provided
one of the few serious historical analyses of this pop culture phenomenon.
That's important because Brown's novel purports to draw upon historical
research, though much of it came from Gnostic fans
[Fraud] Misplaced faith stings evangelists
If you pledge enough money to Greenwood Village-based Marilyn Hickey
Ministries, you will receive a vial of oil. It's not just any oil. Marilyn
and her daughter, Sarah, have prayed over it with two more famous
televangelists. There's even a photo of this ritual on the group's website.
"I asked Brother Oral Roberts and his son Richard to join Sarah and me in
believing God to place a 'MIRACLE OVERFLOW' anointing into some special
anointing oil," Marilyn Hickey explains on her website. "NOW, the first
thing we want to get into your hands is a personal quantity of this very
special anointing oil." [...] Like Roberts, Hickey pursues a relentless
campaign for dollars. Two years ago, this quest led her to a man named
Gregory Earl Setser, 47, a businessman in Texas who turned out to be quite a
fundraiser himself. He claimed he was a former minister and promised
miraculous investment returns without risking principal. Last week, Setser
was in federal custody, charged with fraud.
NOTE: By investing with Setser, Hickey proves that her own snakeoil does not
work. On the subject of money, she used to teach the following nonense
(just minutes before asking her TV audience to fork over money so she could
stay on the air): "What do you need? Start creating it. Start speaking about
it. Start speaking it into being. Speak to your billfold. Say, "You big,
thick billfold full of money." Speak to your checkbook. Say, "You,
checkbook, you. You've never been so prosperous since I owned you. You're
just crammed full of money."
[USA] F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on
the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has
advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at
protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a
confidential bureau memorandum.
[Hate Crimes] FBI joins probe into museum fire
The FBI has joined the investigation into the fire this week that destroyed
a Holocaust museum founded by an Auschwitz survivor, classifying it act as
an act of domestic terrorism. Doug Garrison, a spokesman for the FBI's
Indianapolis office, said today that investigators chose that description
because of the words "Remember Timmy McVeigh" that were spraypainted on the
side of the CANDLES Museum. McVeigh, the Oklahoma City federal building
bomber who shared sympathies with white supremacists, was executed at a
federal prison outside Terre Haute in 2001.
[Hate Groups] Inmates charged with slashing associate's tattoo
Saying he had "disgraced the swastika," three jailed white supremacists
allegedly cut off a fellow inmate's swastika tattoo after learning he had
sex with a black woman.
[Hate Groups] Parole denied for supremacist tied to Berg killing
Richard Joseph Scutari, one of the leaders of The Order, the
white-supremacist group that assassinated Denver talk- show host Alan Berg,
cannot apply for parole until January 2016, Senior U.S. District Judge
Richard Matsch ruled Friday. Matsch, who presided over the 1987 trial of
The Order members accused of killing Berg, slammed shut Scutari's bid for
freedom in a tersely worded nine-page opinion. Scutari had applied for
parole on July 30, 2000. His bid was rejected by the U.S. Parole Commission,
which said Scutari couldn't reapply until 2016. Matsch upheld that finding
Friday. Scutari, chief of security for The Order and known as "Mr. Black"
within the neo-Nazi clan, had sought parole in a case in which he was
sentenced to 60 years for his activities with The Order, not for his alleged
role in Berg's death.
[Racism] Let-off for Ku Klux Klan row cop
A racist Welsh cop who dressed in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and threatened
to beat up a rookie Asian officer may get away with it because of a legal
[Books] Author tracks lives of spiritual seekers and their children
What do Esalen Institute, the Catholic church, A Course in Miracles, Spirit
Rock Meditation Center, Burning Man, the Children of God, Berkeley's
Graduate Theological Union, the Hog Farm, the Native American Church, the
Reverend Sun Moon, Scientology, EST training and The Farm have in common?
For one thing, they all show up (along with many others) in Don Lattin's
book, "Following Our Bliss, How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape
Our Lives Today." Lattin, 50, is an award-winning religion writer and
co-author of another book about spirituality, "Shopping for Faith: American
Religion in the New Millennium."
[Mormon Church] Russians fume as Mormons 'buy souls'
The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed its outrage at what it claims is a
Mormon scheme to buy up the names of dead Russians in order to baptise 'dead
souls' in their faith. In one archive, in the town of Nizhni Novgorod, east
of Moscow, the Church of the Latter Day Saints has paid ten US cents for
each page of thousands of names of dead people dating mainly from the late
eighteenth century to be put on a microfilm. The idea, the last-ditch
attempt of a cash-strapped archive to fund urgent preservation work, has
caused fury among the predominantly Orthodox nation. The Mormon Church is
angry at what it sees as an obstruction to its religious practices. Father
Igor Pchelintsov, spokesman for the local Orthodox Church, said: 'The
teaching of the Mormons about the conversion of the dead contradicts reason
and naturally causes concern among the faithful and creates a tense
The work in the archive has been temporarily called off while a local
government commission studies it.
[Religious Persecution] 125 Christian Meeting Halls in China Shut
Authorities in an east China province have sealed off 125 Christian
gathering places since July, cutting off 3,000 believers from their places
of worship, a human rights organization said Thursday. The makeshift
churches in Jiangsu province were ordered closed by local officials seeking
to crack down on what they deem to be underground religious activity, the
Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
[Mormon Church] Mormon church will be added as defendant in ACLU Main Street
The Mormon church, as it wanted, has been named a co-defendant with the city
in the American Civil Liberties Union's Main Street plaza lawsuit
challenging a church-city land swap. U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball made
the ruling Wednesday. New York City-based ACLU national staff attorney Mark
Lopez had no objection, and said he would like to interview The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Presiding Bishop H. David Burton and Mayor
Rocky Anderson for his case. [...] The August lawsuit, filed by both the
national and Utah ACLU, asked the court to return control of the Main Street
block to the city. The lawsuit named Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and
the city but not the church. The ACLU has since agreed to drop Anderson as a
[Falun Gong] Refugees' identical tales suspicious
Cases of persecution almost identical in their detail have been presented to
the Refugee Review Tribunal, raising concerns a migration agent is using the
same story for multiple clients.
The tribunal expressed concern when two identical cases were presented on
the same day of a Falun Gong practitioner seeking refugee status after
fleeing China to Australia.
[Church and State] A nation 'under God,' divided
Forty-one years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down school prayer, the
classroom again is becoming a battleground over the phrase "under God" in
the Pledge of Allegiance. Once again, Americans are squaring off over the
meaning of the First Amendment as the high court prepares to decide whether
to uphold a California appellate court ruling striking the religious
reference from the oath. One side wants the freedom to voice religion in
school. The other wants a freedom from religion.
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