ReligionNewsBlog.com, Mar. 3-4, 2004
Thu, Mar. 04, 2004
[Prem Rawat] Cult Moves To Silence Australian Journalist
Yesterday a four-month gag order on NSW journalist John Macgregor was
lifted, and he can now talk about the below events. Macgregor (winner of the
2001 George Munster investigative journalism award, and interviewer of PMs
Hawke, Keating and Howard) was "raided" by lawyers and private detectives
acting for a religious cult, in Perth on October 24. According to the cult's
lawyers, the journalist had been covertly watched and filmed for several
days. He was ordered to hand over his computer for a search. [...] The
Ipswich-based cult - Ivory's Rock Conference Centre (IRCC) - had obtained a
secret Queensland Supreme Court order authorising the search of his laptop.
[...] The Ivory's Rock Conference Centre, is owned by a religious cult
headed by Maharaji, an Indian-born, multi-millionaire guru living in Malibu
Note: Maharaji currently goes by the name of Prem Rawat
[Transcendental Meditation] Maharishi University Had Suspended Murder
Authorities have charged Shuvender Sem, 24, with first degree murder and
also assault on another student. That attack happened earlier Monday.
University officials now admit they had suspended Sem from the school, and a
chaperone was with him at the time of the murder.
[Polygamy] Eviction effort by FLDS unresolved in court action
A church-based effort to evict a man from his home in the polygamist
community of Colorado City was not resolved after more than six hours of
testimony Tuesday in Superior Court. [...] Chatwin and his attorney had
attempted to subpoena three prominent figures in the Fundamentalist Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: church President Warren Jeffs, Fred
Jessop and Nephi Barlow. Jessop and Barlow were among a group of men Jeffs
asked to leave their homes and wives in January. The subpoenas apparently
never reached the recipients.
[Mormon Church] LDS Publishing Company Rejects Mormon Writer's Novel
Anita Stansfield considers herself a spiritual writer, and others have
called her a pioneer of Mormon fiction for her ability to construct chaste
but romantic novels that have moralistic lessons that appeal to conservative
readers. But her longtime publisher, Covenant Communications Inc., has
refused to pick up her latest book, arguing "The Captain of Her Heart"
includes offensive material inappropriate for a Christian audience.
[Word of Faith Fellowship] Church leader found guilty
Jane Whaley, the leader and co-founder of the controversial Word of Faith
Fellowship church, was found guilty Wednesday of misdemeanor criminal
assault. Lacy Wien, 20, a former WOFF member had accused Whaley of
assaulting her because of Wien's desire to leave the church and have a
relationship with her now husband, Ruben. [...] Wien has a pending civil
suit, seeking $2.8 million in damages for what she describes as years of
emotional and physical abuse at the hands of church leaders and other
members. [Judge Robert] Cilley said there was no doubt this case was just a
prelude to others to come. "This was a dress rehearsal for Superior Court
and a dress rehearsal for the civil trial," said Cilley. "We don't normally
spend this much time on a misdemeanor assault charge." The case is one of a
number of legal proceedings that have popped up over the past 10 years since
a Daily Courier investigation combined with an Inside Edition story exposed
the bizarre practices of the church in 1995.
[Karen Robidoux] Former sect member describes ordeal
A former member of a religious sect released last month after her trial for
starving her child said she ``suffered a lot'' at the hands of her fellow
sect members, and was pained by her child's slow death. Karen Robidoux, who
made the statements in interviews with WBZ-TV and the Boston Herald, said
she was only concerned with the well-being of her son Samuel. [...] Robidoux
also expressed fears that other children in the sect, to which members of
her family still belong, could be at risk.
[Brainwashing] Brainwash victims get help putting pieces back
Ex-cultist Karen Robidoux is just one of several mind-control group escapees
recovering from a life of brainwashing at a unique Lakeville deprogramming
center. ``It bothers me terribly that people are used and abused in the name
of God,'' said Robert Pardon, director of the nonprofit New England
Institute for Religious Research and the Meadow Haven safe house. Meadow
Haven has eight beds currently occupied by defectors from the Moonies, the
Twelve Tribes and Baruch Ha Shem.
[Karen Robidoux] More kids will die: Cult mom breaks her silence
Breaking her silence for the first time, former Attleboro cult mom Karen
Robidoux yesterday said she was unable to save her starving son's life and
now fears for her relatives still in the high-control sect - and any future
children. [...] Since being acquitted of murdering her son and released from
jail last month, Robidoux has been living quietly in Lakeville's Meadow
Haven group home for former cult members, trying to piece together the
shattered pieces of a life gone tragically awry. [...] While still
``spiritual,'' she now shuns religion and said she's filing for divorce. She
dreams of moving away, perhaps studying to become a social worker, and hopes
to someday remarry and have a family.
[Islam] France Senate adopts law banning religious apparel
A law banning Islamic head scarves from France's public schools was
definitively adopted Wednesday with the Senate voting 276-20 in favor. The
overwhelming vote mirrored similar wide support by the National Assembly,
the lower chamber of parliament, which passed the measure Feb. 10 by a vote
of 494-36. President Jacques Chirac must now promulgate the measure, by
formally signing it into law, within 15 days. It was Chirac who said a law
was needed to protect the French principle of secularism. [...] The law is
to take effect with the start of the new school year in September.
[Israel] Christians stand for Israel in Holland
"Are we cowards?" asked an opinion piece which ran this Friday in Holland's
weekly Jewish newspaper, Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad. It took the community
to task for failing to arrive en mass to demonstrate in front of The Hague
last week, as the International Court of Justice spent three days listening
to arguments against Israel's security barrier now under construction. Jews
from Israel, the United States, and other parts of Europe flocked to the
triangular square in front of the Peace Palace in protest. A number of Dutch
rabbis and organizations, including the Center for Information and
Documentation on Israel, worked to organize demonstrations, but for the most
part the Dutch Jews were absent. Instead, marching with the international
Jewish contingent on Monday morning were 2,000 Dutch Christian supporters of
Israel, led by the international group, Christians for Israel, which started
in Holland 25 years ago.
[Transcendental Meditation] Authorities continue murder investigation
Authorities are still investigating the fatal stabbing of Levi Butler, 19, a
Maharishi University of Management student from LaQuinta, Calif. [...] After
the attack on Butler, police learned of another incident that occurred on
campus earlier in the day. Sem allegedly used a ball-point pen to stab
another student, John Killian, in the face. According to police reports, the
attack occurred between 2:30 and 3 p.m. during a class called Teaching for
[Islam] When legal absurdity is watched world-wide
In a case being closely followed around the world, the Victorian Government
has effectively placed Islam on trial under its controversial Racial and
Religious Tolerance Act 2001. It didn't mean to, of course. The legislation
was intended to shield religions - particularly Islam - from scrutiny and
was championed by the Islamic Council of Victoria and other Muslim
organisations before being passed by the Bracks Government in mid-2001.
[...] Consider the facts. The matter had its genesis in a seminar held under
the aegis of Catch the Fire Ministries, one of the major opponents of the
legislation. Three complainants, all Australian converts to Islam, were
encouraged to attend the seminar by contacts within the Victorian Islamic
Council. [...] The principal speakers at the seminar were Christian pastors
Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah and they were charged under Victoria's
appalling legislation with allegedly vilifying Islam. [...] Unfortunately
for both the EOC and the Victorian Islamic Council, the three complainants -
whose evidence is critical to the case - have scant knowledge of the Koran.
Pastor Scot, on the other hand, has testified to having read the Koran more
than 100 times and has made a study of Islam and Islamic scholars. Attempts
to discredit his knowledge of the topic have backfired embarrassingly for
the complainants' counsel, Brind Woinarski QC, and have highlighted some
crucial differences between Christian and Islamic teachings.
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Wed, Mar. 03, 2004
[Also Noted...] Notes, comments, and links
Miscellaneous notes, links and comments, including:
. A scientologist news paper owner has decided to publish only good news.
. Apologist Norman Geisler addresses Christians on postmodernism
. Bush's chief economic adviser manufacturers manufacturing jobs
[Hate Groups] Symbol banned at schools
Clothing and jewelry depicting an Iron Cross, a symbol of Nazi Germany that
has recently become a popular design with skateboard and clothing
manufacturers, has been banned at Simi Valley schools.
[Hate Groups] FBI watching supremacist fliers in Gilbert
A White supremacist organization has been distributing fliers in the Gilbert
area and the FBI says it's monitoring the situation. The fliers from the
National Alliance state that "it's open season on white women" and picture
NBA player Kobe Bryant and former NFL star O.J. Simpson, saying the two
"represent only the tip of the iceberg of black on white crime."
[Marc Dutroux] Defence raise satanic cult
Lawyers for alleged Belgian child killer Marc Dutroux on Tuesday evoked
satanic cults, unreliable or missing witnesses and troubling forensic
evidence in their defence of the serial rapist. [...] Police in August 1996
found a note at the home of Bernard Weinstein, an accomplice who Dutroux has
admitted murdering, which led them to investigate the "Abrasax" organisation
led by "high priestess" Dominique Kindermans. The Belgian press at the time
speculated that the organisation was a devil-worshipping sect that procured
young girls for human sacrifices at black masses.
[Christianity] China touts new churches, but rules crimp faithful
Government officials and local Christian leaders showed off plans Tuesday
for the first new churches being built in the capital in more than 50
years--evidence, they said, of the freedom of worship that exists in China.
The full picture, however, is far more complex. While the government
architect in charge of the projects spoke proudly of the sense of religious
"aspiration" he hoped to evoke in his designs, there are many Christians in
China who face harassment or persecution.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Recess Announced In Jehovah's Witnesses' Court
Moscow's Golovinsky District Court announced a recess in hearings on the
liquidation of the Moscow Jehovah's Witnesses community. [...] The
proceedings against the Moscow community of the Jehovah's Witnesses was
opened in September 1998.
Note: Cult apologist Eileen Barker recently testified in this case:
[Aum Shinrikyo] High court upholds AUM cultist's prison sentence for murder
The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld a ruling on a former senior AUM
Shinrikyo cult member that sentenced him to 10 years in prison for crimes
including the murder of a fellow believer, in which AUM founder Shoko
Asahara was also found guilty. The ruling on Shinichi Koshikawa wraps up
high court judgments on crimes by AUM members who were given fixed prison
terms at the lower court level.
[United Pentecostal Church] Pastor whose sign ignited furor apologizes
A pastor who outraged Jews and Christians with a sign reading "Jews Killed
The Lord Jesus" said Tuesday he hopes his replacement sign of apology will
calm the fury, but a new comment he made about the Holocaust drew fresh
[Michael Jackson] Islamic leader jumps to Jacko's defence
Washington: 'Nation Of Islam' leader Louis Farrakhan has rushed to pop icon
Michael Jackson's defence, as the troubled pop star continues his fight
against nine counts of child molestation charges. [...] Meanwhile, Jackson's
aides have insisted that the pop star has not converted to Islam and is
still a Jehovah's Witness.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Baby born 15 weeks early comes home from Houston
The Castillos returned with their son, Conner, to Waco last week, more than
two months after the child was transferred from a Waco hospital to a Houston
facility so he could receive specialized treatment more in line with the
family's beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses.
[The Passion of The Christ] Passion Without Perspective
For some Protestants, including evangelicals, it is puzzling that "The
Passion of the Christ" devotes more than two hours to the trial, beating and
crucifixion of Jesus but only 20 seconds or so to the Resurrection.
Historically, Catholics have emphasized the suffering and death of Jesus,
while Protestants have focused on the Resurrection. That's one of the
reasons Catholics most often use crucifixes -- crosses with Jesus on them --
while Protestants prefer empty crosses. The death of Jesus is "profoundly
important, but if I were to imagine Holy Week finishing on Good Friday, it
would be a crushing vision," Nelson said. Jesus's suffering "is vindicated
by the victory of the Resurrection" and gives suffering Christians the hope
that they, too, will be resurrected. At the same time, Nelson said that
Gibson's choice to focus on the death of Jesus for his film is as valid as a
scholar's decision to write only about Jesus's death or resurrection. It's
not the entire story, but it represents a starting point for discussion
about the life of Jesus and its 2,000-year impact on the history of the
world, Nelson said.
[Ruben Ecleo] Ecleo freed on bail
Cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. is now a free man, at least temporarily. The
Regional Trial Court in Cebu yesterday freed Ecleo, the divine master of the
Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, on a one-million-peso bail.
Aside from requiring bail, Judge Generosa Labra, who is trying Ecleo as the
principal suspect in the killing of his wife Alona, also took custody of his
passport to prevent possible flight. Labra earlier denied bail for Ecleo but
set aside her own ruling on humanitarian grounds after being convinced Ecleo
was suffering from serious ailments for which he had been confined at the
Chong Hua Hospital.
[Religion Trends] A time for prayer - up to eight times a day
The prayer book contained the Liturgy of the Hours - traditional Christian
prayers recited at fixed hours up to eight times a day. Mr. Bonomi, a
Catholic, set aside 15 minutes every morning and evening to say the prayers,
and soon was hooked. [...] Mr. Bonomi is among a growing number of
Christians who are discovering a practice that, for centuries, was largely
relegated to Catholic monasteries. Now it's showing up in popular books, in
Protestant evangelical churches and, of course, on the Internet. The Hours
consist of specific Scripture passages - drawing heavily on the Psalms -
combined with hymns and traditional prayers for each time of day and each
day of the year. (While there are eight specific times for prayer, most lay
practitioners pray less often, maybe once or twice a day.) The Hours
predate Christianity, having evolved out of the Jewish practice described in
Psalm 119:164: "Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws." St.
Benedict wrote a manual for monks in 525 A.D. that explained the practice of
praying the Hours. When the Vatican wrote the first official breviary, or
prayer book, in the 11th century, the Hours became popular among literate
[Mormon Church] Latter-day Saints building church
"The Latter-day Saints are building a new church every day in the world
because the church is growing so rapidly."
[Alternative Healing] Alternative therapists to face new controls in
Rogue practitioners of alternative medicine who try to exploit patients will
be driven out of business under plans announced by the Government yesterday.
One in five people uses alternative medicine regularly, and there are more
therapists than orthodox doctors but no control on standards of training,
ministers said. A disciplinary board to regulate two areas, acupuncture and
herbal medicine, should be established to monitor ethical standards and
performance, the Department of Health said in a consultation paper. [...]
The consultation paper proposes setting up a Complementary and Alternative
Medicine Council, which would have similar powers to the General Medical
Council in assessing the performance of doctors.
[Catholic Church] Skip fund, abuse victims told
As a special tribunal began taking applications Monday for awards from a $3
million "claim resolution fund," an advocacy group urged victims of child
sexual abuse to take their claims against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of
Cincinnati to court instead. The Survivors Network of those Abused by
Priests, or SNAP, said victims should boycott the application process
because they are required to drop any lawsuits and forfeit their rights to
bring lawsuits stemming from their abuse, even though there's no guarantee
they'll get any money from the fund. "There are 11 places on the first two
pages (of the claim form) where we give up specific rights," said Christy
Miller, who heads SNAP's Cincinnati chapter. "We're giving up all the
rights, they're giving up nothing.
[Transcendental Meditation] Investigators Work Murder Case at Maharishi
Police say the stabbing happened during mealtime in a dining hall at the
Maharishi University of Management. Authorities found Levi Butler, 19, of La
Guinta, California bleeding from multiple stab wounds. He died an hour later
at the Jefferson County Hospital. Police say Shuvender Sem, 24, was still in
the dining hall and was arrested and charged with murder.
[Transcendental Meditation] Murder At Maharishi University Of Management
The Maharishi University of Management campus in Vedic City, Iowa was somber
Tuesday, as students and faculty mourned the loss of a student and classmate
who police say was murdered by a peer. According to police, the suspect,
24-year-old Shuvender Sem, a student, was being detained by MUM faculty
members and appeared calm when police arrived Monday evening. They say he
wasn't aggressive and didn't show a lot of emotion. And sources say
witnesses reported no exchange before the stabbing.
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