ReligionNewsBlog.com, Mar. 19-20, 2004
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Sat, Mar. 20, 2004
[Opus Dei] Does Opus Dei help or hinder Catholicism?
In Dan Brown's best-selling fiction thriller, "The DaVinci Code," two of the book's characters are members of Opus Dei, a Catholic lay organization.
It's an unflattering portrait. It's also a wildly inaccurate one, the group's supporters say. Opus Dei critics aren't so sure, calling it an extreme, power-hungry and manipulative group that could have a say in picking the next pope. What is Opus Dei, and why has it generated such controversy?
[Falun Gong] Falun Gong persecution spreads to Canada
Falun Gong is targeted not only in China, it is also the subject of a propaganda campaign in Canada, one that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned Ottawa about years ago. It is waged by China's diplomatic and consular officials, who rely on help from some quarters of the Canadian Chinese media, which serve roughly one million ethnically Chinese Canadians.
[Religion Trends] Church may end up as sect, warns bishop
Figures published in The UK Christian Handbook: Religious Trends show that, at the current rate of decline, total Church membership will have fallen to 5,598,000 by 2005, down by more than a million people in 15 years. Over the same period, the number of church buildings will have fallen by 1,400 to 48,600 and the number of ministers by 1,000 to 35,400. Even if there is no further decline, by the turn of the next century, there will still be thousands of churches and ministers, but they will have no Christians to minister to.
[Hare Krishna] The changing face of Krishna
Leaders and scholars of the movement describe a religion that is maturing, one that is part of, rather than apart from, mainstream American life. Once known for their enthusiastic - many would say annoying - proselytizing, Hare Krishnas today speak of tending to the needs of existing members. Once a haven for the anti-establishment, the movement today trains temple leaders in such worldly concerns as fiscal management and administration.
[Islam] Charges Dropped Against Yousef Yee
Citing national security concerns, the Army on Friday dropped all charges against a Muslim chaplain accused of mishandling classified documents at Guantanamo Bay, which houses suspected terrorists. Capt. James Yee will be allowed to return to his previous duty station at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, Wash., said the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the detention center in Cuba. In dismissing the charges, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which operates the detention center, cited "national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence" if the case proceeded.
[Mungiki] AG intends to terminate Mungiki case
Attorney-General Amos Wako has declared his intention to terminate a case in which immediate former Nakuru town member of parliament, David Manyara Njuki and 13 suspected members of the outlawed Mungiki sect are charged with ten counts of murder and have fresh charges preferred against them.
[Michael Hernandez] Journal shows fixation with cults
A 14-year-old accused of killing a classmate recorded his violent obsessions, fixations on prayer and detailed plans for self-improvement in a journal made public by prosecutors on Friday. At the bottom of a printout on mass murderers, Michael Hernandez scrawled this message: "Will become a serial killer." The journal -- released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office following public records requests -- offers a glimpse into the conflicted mind of an eighth-grader who dwelled on common teenage problems such as acne and homework, but also fixated on cults and murder. It also might shed light on how a straight-A student allegedly could murder his best friend, then confess to detectives but offer no explanation.
[Aum Shinrikyo] Japan marks gas attack 9yrs on
Japan marked the ninth anniversary today of the Tokyo underground Sarin gas attack masterminded by doomsday cult Aum Supreme Truth guru Shoko Asahara, sentenced to death last month.
[Word of Faith Fellowship] Coopers' day in court delayed
Shane Muse, her sister Suzanne Cooper and Cooper's family made a brief appearance in court Friday to confirm the continuance of Muse's case.
The case which alleges false imprisonment will be heard April 2 at the same time counter charges of assault filed by Cooper's husband Rick and daughter Lena will be heard. Muse, a former member of the Word of Faith Fellowship, has accused the Coopers and Carol Smith of falsely imprisoning her in March 2002 when Muse says she was trying to leave the Spindale-based church. Rick and Lena Cooper have countered that Muse assaulted them during the same incident. Friday's delay was expected as courts generally prefer to adjudicate cases with counter charges at the same time.
Fri, Mar. 19, 2004
[Fraud] Ponzi scheme snared pastor, others
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel also lost money. Ron Williams, spokesman for the organization, said the church's lawyers working with authorities to recover $14 million it invested in this and another Ponzi scheme over 18 months. According to estimates in court records, Financial Advisory Consultants owes investors about $169.5 million. The company was in business for more than 20 years before the Securities and Exchange Commission shut it down in December and froze Lewis' assets.
[Televangelists] Tammy Faye faces lung cancer battle
Former televangelist Tammy Faye Messner, of Matthews, announced Thursday on national television that she has inoperable lung cancer. Messner, 62, said she "believes in miracles" and that she is considering holistic medicine in addition to chemotherapy to treat her cancer.
[Lord's Resistance Army] Rebuilding Innocent's life
Innocent is surrounded by children who know what it is like to lose a family. Beside him, 10-year-old Violet is busy feeding her baby brother, Ivan. Their parents were also killed in a recent massacre by the Lord's Resistance Army, a crazed militia which specialises in kidnapping and brainwashing children.
[Marcus Wesson] Family Tries to Fathom Killings in Fresno
The man accused of killing nine of his children and grandchildren in a mass murder involving polygamy and incest grew up in a sheltered world shaped by two hard-working parents and the strict ways of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. People searching for clues to Marcus Wesson's alleged crimes need not look at his childhood, his elderly mother said Thursday. "The Marcus Wesson on TV I don't recognize. That's not my son," Carrie Wesson told The Times from her home in Washington state. "The Marcus Wesson I raised was a brilliant, loving, God-fearing child." One week after the worst mass murder in Fresno's history, as the image of the stout man with a face full of bushy hair and dreadlocks to his knees found its way across the globe, members of his family tried to fathom what forces might have pushed him over the edge.
[Alternative Healing] Chiropractor sentenced in death
Dauphin County Judge John F. Cherry imposed the maximum term of 3-6 months in prison and a $500 fine on Joanne Gallagher for violating the state's chiropractic regulations in the death of Kimberly Strohecker. [...] Gallagher claimed to Strohecker and other patients that she could cure epilepsy and Down syndrome by waving her hands around their heads and necks, what she termed "balancing the meninges." Strohecker began seeing Gallagher with her fiancee, a Jehovah's Witness who wanted her to get off her medication, authorities said. Strohecker, who had lived fairly normally on medication, arrived at her last appointment with Gallagher the day before she died in a wheelchair, wearing adult diapers, choking on vomit, with her tongue nearly bitten through. At the outset of her federal trial this summer, the mother of Strohecker's fiancee produced a tape recording of a telephone call in which Gallagher assured her the continuous grand mal seizures Strohecker was suffering was the anti-seizure medicine working its way out of her body. Strohecker died hours after the phone call. The tape led Gallagher to plead guilty to the fraud charge.
[Homosexuality / Lesbianism] Methodists try minister for lesbian relationship
A minister being tried by the United Methodist Church for being a lesbian said Thursday that her case could be a turning point for the church. As she entered a church in this Seattle suburb for the start of the second day of her trial, the Rev. Karen Dammann said she feels no animosity toward her church or her jury of fellow pastors, who will determine whether she should continue her ministry. [...] "I feel hopeful," said Dammann, who has pleaded innocent. "It's possible that this will be a prophetic moment for the church." [...] Dammann, 47, is charged with "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible to Christian teachings." Church law prohibits ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals, although the church's social principles support rights and liberties for homosexuals.
[Polygamy] Jeffs won't testify in Chatwin eviction case
An Arizona State Court judge ruled Thursday not to call Warren Jeffs, the reclusive prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to testify in an eviction case that the polygamist church filed against an excommunicated member.
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[Transcendental Meditation] Judge delays murder suspect ruling
The results of Monday afternoon's competency hearing for Shuvender Sem, the 24-year-old Maharishi University of Management student charged with killing fellow student Levi Butler March 1, have been sealed and a judge has delayed a ruling while he seeks more information.
[Brainwashing] Suit accuses congregation of 'brainwashing'
One day a process server showed up at the door of the Sunset Presbyterian Church, a redevelopment congregation on the edge of Fort Lauderdale's inner city, and handed the church secretary a summons. That was surprising enough, but the real mind-boggler was the nature of the complaint: Sunset Presbyterian is accused of brainwashing people with Jesus. Why Sunset Pres? Walton has no idea. "I wish I knew," he says, in a Scottish brogue purring with r's. "I try very hard every Sunday to convince people that Jesus is Lord and Savior; if that's brainwashing, so be it. I knew nothing about this a-tall."
[Islam] U.S. scholar claims anti-Semitism is entrenched in teachings
Anti-Semitism has become an entrenched tenet of Muslim theology, taught to 95 per cent of the religion's adherents in the Islamic world, a Muslim U.S. scholar said Monday at an international conference. Muslim leaders immediately dismissed the comments as false and racist and accused Khaleel Mohammed of destroying efforts at relationship building between Jews and Muslims.
[Foursquare] Executives at L.A.-based church resign after losses in alleged investment scams
The president and treasurer of a Pentecostal church resigned following the loss of $14 million in two allegedly fraudulent investment schemes. Paul Risser and the treasurer, Brent Morgan, stepped down last week, said Ron Williams, spokesman for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. The Los Angeles-based church, founded in 1918 by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, which claims more than 3 million members worldwide. It earned about $250 million when it sold radio station KFSG-FM in 2000. Risser invested $14 million of that money without approval from the church board, Williams said Wednesday. The money went to Financial Advisory Consultants, Inc. of Lake Forest and Ontario-based IPIC International, he said.
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