Up-to-date news on cults, sects, religions, and related issues
Searchable news archive
Links to research resources
ReligionNewsBlog.com, Jan. 28-30, 2004
Fri, Jan. 30, 2004
[Falun Gong] Taiwanese Falun Gong slam Paris police
Members of Taiwan's Falun Gong group Friday claimed French police had
harassed and arrested practitioners as they mounted a peaceful demonstration
in Paris during the visit there this week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.
[The Body] Witness pleaded for her nephew's life
Renee Horton testifies in the murder trial of Karen E. Robidoux that she was
threatened by sect leader Jacques Robidoux after she protested the
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Cult aims at kids' shows
Scientologists are using fronts called "Drug Free Ambassadors" and "Kids For
A Drug Free Future" to dupe councils into giving them information stalls and
stage time at family events. [...] The Church of Scientology has previously
come under fire for using deceptive recruitment methods.
[Islam] Some 1.7 million Muslims prepare to start Hajj rituals
Before dawn on Saturday, the faithful will move towards Mount Arafat, a
revered place in Islam, for the culmination of the hajj, symbolising the
Final Judgement at the scene of the Prophet Mohammed's last sermon 14
centuries ago. The pilgrims will then return to Mina to sacrifice an
animal, generally sheep, marking Eid al-Adha, or feast of the sacrifice,
celebrated on Sunday. They will spend two more days in Mina to take part in
a symbolic stoning of the devil. [... The hajj, one of the five pillars of
Islam, is required of able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime,
if they have the financial means.
[USA] Truth catching up to Bush
Regardless of who emerges as the Democratic presidential nominee, the race
has already served its greater democratic purpose: It has blown away George
W. Bush's wartime aura of patriotic infallibility. Not only Howard Dean,
the passionate truth-teller about Iraq, but Senator John Kerry, Gen. Wesley
Clark and others have found their voices to question almost all aspects of
Bush's post-Sept. 11 performance. They are bringing home to Americans the
worldwide debates about their president's penchant for exploiting and
fanning fears by exaggerating dangers, taking unilateral actions abroad, and
squandering U.S. credibility.
[USA] Teenagers Freed From Guantanamo
Three teenage boys from Afghanistan whose detention at the U.S. prison camp
for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, stirred an international outcry
were freed on Thursday, military officials said.
[Religion Trends] New Book Explores Transformation of Religion in America
Over the last two years, Professor Wolfe visited different religious
communities to discover how Americans actually live their faith. [...] Those
conversations resulted in a book titled The Transformation of American
Religion. In it, Professor Wolfe explains that religion in America is moving
in new directions. [...] Religion, like culture, is a powerful force that
influences how people think and act. When religion and culture come into
conflict, Professor Wolfe says, culture wins.
[Hate Groups] Task Force Thwarts Prison Gang's Growing Reach
White prison inmates calling themselves the Nazi Low Riders, or NLR for
short, had begun to fill a power vacuum created in a bid by the Department
of Corrections to break up and isolate a more entrenched white supremacist
gang, the Aryan Brotherhood. [...] As the gang's senior leaders were
released from prison, they were "given the keys" to regions law
enforcement parlance for controlling drug profits generated by junior
members. Most of the money and drugs were funneled back into the prisons for
use by Nazi Low Rider felons. [...] After four years, the task force has
made a total of 263 arrests on state-related charges in the Ontario area and
13 federal arrests. It has obtained 28 federal indictments, 41 state
convictions and 20 federal convictions.
[Cannibalism] Court in Germany sentences Armin Meiwes for killing and eating
A German who confessed to killing, dismembering and eating another man who
allegedly agreed to the arrangement over the Internet was convicted Friday
of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison. A state court ruled
that Armin Meiwes, a 42-year-old computer expert, had no base motives in
the crime sparing him a murder conviction.
[Hate Groups] Federal Inmate Says He Will Name Bombing Conspirators
A federal inmate who is expected to testify at bombing conspirator Terry
Nichols' murder trial will name other suspects in the Oklahoma City bombing,
according to a published report. [...] In a telephone interview from a
federal facility in Jonesville, Va., Langan told the newspaper he will tie
bombing coconspirator Timothy McVeigh and the bomb plot to several men
associated with Elohim City, a white supremacist enclave in eastern
[Bob Larson] Hold Your Demons
Satan is alive and well in the Pasadena Sheratons Magnolia Room. We got
some seats right up front where the good stuff is, offers Bob Larson, who
is about to demonstrate a live exorcism before 150 people. You can see the
whites of the demons eyeballs up here. Once the king of the Christian
airwaves with his nationally syndicated radio show Talk Back With Bob Larson
and his TV program In the Name of Satan, the holy warrior currently focuses
his energies on casting out demons and raising DWJD (Do What Jesus Did)
spiritual freedom teams. (Not What Would Jesus Do? but do what he did,
says Larson, on the difference between his DWJD and the more famous WWJD.)
[Aum Shinrikyo] Aum nerve-gas cult chemist sentenced to death
Masami Tsuchiya, 39, became the 11th Aum member to receive a death sentence
in court of first instance. A ruling in the trial of Aum guru Shoko Asahara
is scheduled for February 27 at the district court.
[Aum Shinrikyo] Japan Cult Member Sentenced to Death
Tsuchiya, convicted on charges of murder and attempted murder in the subway
gassing and other attacks, was accused of heading the cult's drive to
develop an arsenal of chemical weapons including VX, mustard and sarin gases
intended to trigger Armageddon.
[Aum Shinrikyo] Key AUM cultist Tsuchiya gets death for subway gassing
The court concluded that Tsuchiya had developed all chemical weapons used in
the crimes he was charged with under the instruction of Asahara.
''It is not an exaggeration to say that without him, the AUM-related crimes
in which chemical weapons were used could not have taken place,'' the judge
said. ''He played a major role in a series of crimes.'' Tsuchiya was
accused of murder and attempted murder in the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo
subway in March 1995 that killed 12 people and left thousands injured. He
was also charged in six other cases, including three incidents in which VX
nerve gas was used to kill or harm people.
[Da Vinci Code] Eight surprising fictions in Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code'
Besides several art-history quibbles (the big one: Brown insists on calling
the artist Da Vinci, not Leonardo - "It's like calling Jesus `Of Nazareth,'
" Younger says), "The Da Vinci Code" has riled up religious scholars as
well. The Internet is full of lengthy treatises about the book's many errors
and assumptions. Here's a look at some of the burning questions brought up
by "The Da Vinci Code" - and the real religious history "behind" those
[Abraham Kennard] Trading Latte for a Maté
Organic vegan carob brownies helped feed a steady stream of customers at
yesterday's ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of the Maté Factor
Café. Run by the religious group known as the Twelve Tribes, the café
occupies the former site of the Home Dairy on the Commons. [...] The Twelve
Tribes' beliefs on issues of race and disapproval of homosexuality are
frequently cited by those advocating a consumer boycott. Several of the
patrons said they were still making up their minds about the group.
[Transcendental Meditation] Meditating on a lost party
A lot of bounce has gone out of the next federal election campaign, even
before it begins. The Natural Law party has disbanded -- its candidates will
no longer be yogic flying above the heads of a startled electorate. As a
political device, buttock-bounding has taken a prat-fall. No NLP candidate
has ever been elected. The party gained more laughs than votes. [...] Now
the followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi say they're going to pursue their
objective through colleges that teach transcendental meditation and on the
[Cannibalism] German cannibal trial verdict due
Mr Meiwes, a 42-year-old computer expert, admits killing and then eating
another man three years ago, after placing an advert on the internet. It
was, he told the court, the realisation of a dream he had nurtured ever
since having schoolboy fantasies about consuming his classmates. Despite
this, psychologists said he was mentally fit to stand trial.
[Cannibalism] The challenge of the 'cannibal consensus'
Armin Meiwes is, on the surface of things, an attractive, well-dressed, and
amiable 42-year-old German. He is also, by his own admission, a cannibal,
who three years ago ate an engineer he had found through the internet. On
Friday, a court will decide whether Mr Meiwes should spend just a couple of
months behind bars or much of the rest of his life for his activities. At
stake is whether a person can be tried and imprisoned for murder when his
victim had consented to be slaughtered.
[Cannibalism] Germans aghast over cannibal trial
A five-judge panel is expected to rule on Friday in the murder trial of a
German who confessed to killing and eating a man he met over the Internet.
CNN's Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers explains the
background to the case.
[Orthodox Church] Orthodox Church leader calls US embargo of Cuba a
The leader of the Orthodox Church branded the US embargo of Cuba a "historic
mistake" in a sermon Sunday during the full pomp inauguration of a new
cathedral in Havana with President Fidel Castro in attendance. Bartholomew
I, the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, made the statement
during a sermon that formed part of the five-hour ceremony to consecrate the
tiny San Nicolas Cathedral in the Cuban capital. "The blockading of peoples
and countries by society in general from other nations on earth is a
historic mistake," said the patriarch, who is spiritual leader of the 300
million strong orthodox community worldwide. "And the problems between
nations and countries, like those between people, are resolved through
dialogue," he added. [...] The United States has enforced an economic
embargo against Cuba since 1961. The patriarch also underlined the need for
free public worship in Cuba.
[Polygamy] Polygamist says leader ordered him from home
The excommunicated member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints who spoke out against the polygamist sect's leader has
been told to leave his home, he said Wednesday. Ross Chatwin, 35, was given
notice Tuesday to vacate his residence in Colorado City, Ariz., by a trustee
of the FLDS' United Effort Plan, which owns most of the homes in town, he
said. Chatwin, who is married with six children, has five days to give up
the home before eviction proceedings begin, according to the notice. "I'm
not going to leave," Chatwin said. "Otherwise I'll undo all the good I did
in the first place."
[Polygamy] Chatwin served eviction notice
On March 30, Chatwin was ousted from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints, which controls most the Colorado City area's
land and property through a trust, United Effort Plan. And on Tuesday, FLDS
church attorney Rod Parker ordered Chatwin to leave his house on church land
within five days. If he defies the order, Parker said, a lawsuit will be
filed "at any time" this week. Chatwin, who became the first apostate to
hold a press conference last Friday denouncing Jeffs as a "Hitler-like
dictator," said he won't leave his green house in Colorado City.
Thu, Jan. 29, 2004
[International Churches of Christ] Evangelical church's plans for Eugene
Banned from several college campuses back East and in Canada, the church has
lost thousands of members in recent years in the wake of controversy over
financial abuses and authoritarian control. The church's founder, Thomas
"Kip" McKean, resigned in 2002. But McKean is now senior minister at the
Portland church - and a catalyst behind the move to reach out into Eugene.
In a letter last November, he told parishioners that Eugene is home to the
UO "as well as nine other colleges with a combined enrollment of 30,000
students." (The Higher Education Directory lists four colleges in Eugene.)
At least 18 church members have moved to Eugene, from Portland, San Diego
and elsewhere, to get the new church off the ground.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Cruising to stardom
Christensen shrugs off Scientology's reputation as a cult, preferring
instead to focus on what she says she's learned from prolific science
fiction author L. Ron Hubbard's spiritual books, which her parents have
studied since before she was born.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Man who killed mother will get more treatment
A judge Tuesday ordered Jeremy M. Perkins, who killed his mother last
spring, to get another six months of psychiatric treatment at a secure state
mental health facility in Rochester. [...] Perkins stabbed his 54-year-old
mother, Ellie, 77 times in their home on Hopkins Road in Amherst on March
13. In July, he entered a plea of mentally not responsible. [...] Perkins'
schizophrenia was being treated with vitamins and herbs by his parents,
Church of Scientology "auditors" who rejected modern psychiatry. On Tuesday,
John R. Nuchereno, Perkins' attorney, told the judge that had his client
been given psychiatric treatment instead of being treated at a Church of
Scientology medical facility, "his mother would be alive today."
[Islam] French Cabinet adopts bill banning Muslim head scarves in public
French Cabinet ministers Wednesday adopted a bill banning conspicuous
religious symbols in public schools the first step in outlawing Islamic
head scarves in the classroom. The bill, containing three articles, goes to
the parliament for debate Tuesday.
[Twelve Tribes] Twelve Tribes cafe causes controversy
A religious sect known as the Twelve Tribes operates the cafe. Everyone that
works there is a member of the Twelve Tribes, a group that believes in
communal living and shared incomes. The past president of the "Cult
Awareness Network" and current Director of Education for the "American
Family Foundation" says the Twelve Tribes are a cult.
Wed, Jan. 28, 2004
[Polygamy] Polygamy enclaves stonewall officials
But there is no such billboard along the lonely highway between Hurricane
and the twin towns. The hot line, 1-800-897-LINK, operates only during
daylight hours. After that, callers are told to hang up and dial 911. But if
women in Hildale and Colorado City do that, the call would ring straight to
local law enforcement -- part of the same religious group they would be
trying to flee. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he has tried
unsuccessfully to subpoena information about purported underage marriages
within the FLDS, whose members constitute all of the twin communities' 8,000
residents. Shurtleff said attempts to get information from Jeffs, who lives
within a walled compound the size of a city block in Hildale, have failed.
[Meditation] Mindful therapy
More doctors have opened their minds to the idea of meditation as
complementary therapy as more studies emerge linking better health and
meditation, said Dr. Roger Walsh, professor of psychiatry at UC Irvine.
Walsh has published research on meditation and teaches the practice as an
elective to medical students.
[Transcendental Meditation] Meditate On This
After some years of transcontinental vegetation, the maharishi's developers
are starting to move some of their hotel properties. The asking price for
the Clarion was an unrealistic $14 million three years ago, but now it is
down to $7 million, and that may be negotiable. The 397-room Hilton, also in
need of thorough reconstruction and repair, sold for $6 million. As the
price on the Clarion has come down, buyer interest has increased.
[Falun Gong] Falun Gong sues China minister
Four members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement have filed a lawsuit in
Paris against visiting Chinese Culture Minister Sun Jiazheng. The members
said Mr Sun was responsible for "crimes of torture" against the group, which
is banned in China. Mr Sun is accompanying President Hu Jintao on a state
visit to France.
[Nabbi Haza Alzaman] Egypt jails 19 for joining sect
Tulba, a civil servant with the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, had
declared himself "prophet of our time" and said he had powers to cure
incurable diseases. He claimed to have received letters signed by God and to
be able to speak to the angels. The presiding judge, Gamal Badran said the
19 were guilty of "having adhered to the doctrine of the sect leader,
supported him and together practiced his extremist ideas."
[Nabbi Haza Alzaman] 19 Egyptians jailed for joining religious sect
A court here Wednesday sentenced 19 Egyptians to one year in prison each for
having joined an extremist religious sect, overturning a previous ruling of
suspended jail terms.
[Polygamy] Supervisors meet to discuss tension in polygamist community
Due to continuing tension in Colorado City, the Mohave County supervisors
will hold a special meeting this afternoon to discuss the situation.
District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson is asking to set aside $50,000 in
county contingency funds to assist the state in transporting and finding
temporary housing in case a large group of women and children flee the
[USA] The Only Superbad Power
Though I have lived abroad for many years and regard myself as hardened to
anti-Americanism, I confess I was taken aback to have my country depicted,
page after page, book after book, as a dangerous empire in its last throes,
as a failure of democracy, as militaristic, violent, hegemonic, evil,
callous, arrogant, imperial and cruel. Daalder and Lindsay may be
constrained by an American sense of respect for the White House, but they
too proclaim Bush's foreign policy fundamentally wrong. It is not only
Bush's ''imperious style,'' they write; ''The deeper problem was that the
fundamental premise of the Bush revolution -- that America's security rested
on an America unbound -- was mistaken.'' The more moving judgment comes from
Soros, a Jew from Hungary who lived through both German and Soviet
occupation: ''This is not the America I chose as my home.'' (Serge Schmemann
is the editorial page editor of The International Herald Tribune.)
[Neale Donald Walsch] Conversations With God?
Ashland, Oregon is home to author Neale Walsh whose "Conversations with God"
has been phenomenally successful, staying on the New York Times Bestseller
list for 137 weeks. His book, and its sequels, along with the Conversations
With God Foundation have found acolytes world wide, with a 10,000 member
"Humanity Team" fostering Walsh's concept of God, and view of how life
should be lived. I recently interviewed Walsh at his home in the hills East
[The Body] Testimony postponed in Attleboro sect murder trial
The fourth day of testimony in the murder trial of former Attleboro
religious sect member Karen E. Robidoux was postponed this morning because
defense lawyer Joseph F. Krowski fell sick. And tomorrow's court session
could be iffy because of an expected snowstorm.
Research resources on religions, cults, sects, doctrines, and related
(News and news archives)
(Other research resources)