ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 21, 2004
[Transcendental Meditation] Heavenly Mountain's developer cuts ties with group
A developer of the more than 7,000 acre Heavenly Mountain resort in southeastern Watauga County says he is severing ties with the Transcendental Meditation movement and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Maharishi Spiritual Center of America has separate campuses for men and women at Heavenly Mountain. Hundreds of Transcendental Meditation practitioners meditate there in opulent surroundings. David Kaplan used to be one of them, but he said in a letter dated last Friday and released this week that he was kicked out of the movement in 1999 after getting married. That prompted him and his twin brother Earl Kaplan, the president of the Spiritual Center of America, to investigate the maharishi and the TM organization. "Due to our findings, I can no longer support or be associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his ideas, his knowledge, or any of this organizations, in any way whatsoever," he wrote.
[Hate Groups] Professor Wants KKK Named Terror Organization
University of Louisville professor Ede Warner has a unique plan to keep the Ku Klux Klan off his campus: He wants the school to ban the group, then argue in court that it's a terrorist organization. "Nobody has ever done that," Warner said. Klan members started posting fliers on campus early in the spring semester to protest diversity programs sponsored by the school. That stirred debate among faculty and administrators that has taken place on campuses around the country: how far the university can go to keep some groups off campus and how to best deal with unpopular ideas in the academic setting. What makes the Louisville situation so unusual is the presence of the KKK, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks the Klan and other hate groups. "I cannot think of another situation when the Klan has appeared on campus," Potok said. "The Klan is quite small, even within the contemporary radical right." Having the Klan banned as a terrorist organization based on its past would be legally difficult, especially given the Klan's inaction in recent years, and probably unnecessary, said Potok, whose organization has beat the Klan in court over other issues.
[USA] New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge
Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.
Why Apologetics Index and Religion News Blog Address U.S. Human Rights Issues:
[USA] Justice Memos Explained How to Skip Prisoner Rights
A series of Justice Department memorandums written in late 2001 and the first few months of 2002 were crucial in building a legal framework for United States officials to avoid complying with international laws and treaties on handling prisoners, lawyers and former officials say. The confidential memorandums, several of which were written or co-written by John C. Yoo, a University of California law professor who was serving in the department, provided arguments to keep United States officials from being charged with war crimes for the way prisoners were detained and interrogated. They were endorsed by top lawyers in the White House, the Pentagon and the vice president's office but drew dissents from the State Department.
See "One Rule for them...."
[Islam] France Deports Islamic Mosque Leader
France deported an Islamic mosque leader Thursday who was accused of leading a group that advocates terrorism, the Interior Ministry said. The expulsion of Midhat Guler is part of a growing French crackdown against radical Muslim clerics.
[Terry Nichols] Defense rests in Terry Nichols' murder trial
Defense attorneys rested their case Thursday at the trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, who faces state murder charges that could carry the death penalty. [...] Nichols, 49, is serving a life prison sentence after a federal jury in 1997 convicted him of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement agents in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. In Oklahoma, Nichols is charged with 161 counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of the other 160 victims and one victim's fetus.
[Cargo Cults] Culture clash in the South Seas
The mysterious John Frum movement has existed peacefully on an island in the South Pacific for decades; but a violent feud has now broken out between its followers and a new Christian movement. [...] The confrontation was between the members of a long-established cargo cult called the John Frum movement, and a breakaway faction which wants to move with the times and embrace Christianity.
[Falun Gong] Chinese Falun Gong Practitioners Detained in Japan
Chinese Falun Gong practitioners living in Japan are considering leaving the country after two sect members were taken into custody and face deportation to the mainland. "If the Japanese government won't protect us, then we have to think about going to a third country," said Shao Xinli, a Falun Gong practitioner who has lived in Japan since the mid-1990s.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Seoul court allows Jehovah's Witnesses to skip military duty
A local court yesterday acquitted three conscientious objectors who refused to serve their compulsory military service, further tipping a debate over whether conscientious objection is justified or not. [...] The three objectors are all followers of Jehovah's Witnesses, a religion that scrupulously opposes military service. Amnesty International says most of the conscientious objectors in South Korea are Jehovah's Witnesses. As of December 2003, over 1,000 conscientious objectors were in prison for their refusal to serve in the military. The unprecedented court decision broke the past rulings that the freedom of conscience could be restricted when it contradicts the national security.
[Gwen Shamblin] Shocking New Information In Investigation Of Brentwood Church
Two members of the church in Atlanta, Joseph and Sonya Smith, were charged with beating their son to death. Gwen Shamblin, founder of the church, defended the Smiths and Remnant's emphasis on strict discipline. But, in an exclusive interview, Laura Boone said the discipline went too far. She worked as a babysitter for Remnant two years ago and remembers the Smith's young son Josef. Boone said the boy was crying one night when his father prepared to leave. She asked what she should do if the child didn't stop crying. According to her, the father said to hit Josef hard. Boone refused and quit.
[Christianity] Life's questions driving spiritual director demand
Cell phones, pagers, e-mail, television and other distractions sometimes make it hard to pray or hear God's answer. Worship leaders are often too busy with administrative duties to help people deepen their personal connections to the holy. So, some people are turning to spiritual directors to help them strengthen their relationships with God.
[Religion Trends] Pop culture gets religion
From tank tops to toe rings, secular fashion with a Christian message is pushing into the mainstream and grabbing the attention of finicky teens and others with a sixth sense for fads. [...] Some of the merchandise works on two levels: fun fashion for the faithful, irreverent commentary for others. Either way, Christian apparel is enjoying a moment of hip legitimacy. [...] Meanwhile, Thomas Nelson Inc., of Nashville, Tenn., has put a teen-marketing spin on the Bible. The company publishes a teen-targeted "BibleZine" edition of the New Testament. It looks a lot like teen magazine CosmoGirl! and, besides the biblical text, offers reviews of popular Christian bands and pop quizzes such as "Are you dating a Godly guy?" While a new edition of a Bible may sell 40,000 copies a year, Thomas Nelson said its first BibleZine sold more than 300,000 copies since July -- which, at $16.99 a pop, is the largest sell-through in the company's 200-year history.
[Polygamy] Judge Won't Evict Man from Church Property
A Mohave County (Arizona) judge has refused to evict a Colorado City man from a home on land owned by the polygamist church that dominates the town. Superior Court Judge James Chavez denied a request by the United Effort Plan trust to evict Ross Chatwin from property owned by the trust. The trust is controlled by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Chatwin publicly criticized the church in January.
[Soka Gakkai] Universsity considers selling property in Santa Monica Mountains
Zev Yaroslavsky met with officials from Soka University of America and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy earlier this week after learning the university would consider a sale. Yaroslavsky called the land the "most important unprotected property in the Santa Monica Mountains." [...] Soka bought the land in 1986 from the Church Universal and Triumphant's Summit University and opened a nonprofit independent school.
[Gwen Shamblin] Franklin officials finish search at Weigh Down Workshop
Franklin police investigators finished a two-day search of the Weigh Down Workshop headquarters in Cool Springs yesterday, but released few details of their investigation of the faith-based weight loss ministry. The investigation began this week after detectives from Cobb County, Ga., asked Franklin police for help in their investigation into the death of an 8-year-old Georgia boy last October, said Franklin Deputy Chief Al Segal.
[Gwen Shamblin] Weigh Down Workshop will be back in business following raid
Franklin Police removed file boxes and flattened boxes after executing several search warrants in the 29-hour takeover of the Weigh Down Workshop headquarters. "We did leave two police officers in the facility [Wednesday] night so that the building remained in our control," Deputy Chief Al Segal said. "We are finished now, and [Weigh Down] will be back to business shortly."
[Jerusalem Syndrome] No sects, please
The decline of Jerusalem Syndrome raises the question whether the phenomenon ever posed a threat. As the new millennium approached, fears arose that Christian doomsday groups and sufferers of the much-vaunted "Jerusalem Syndrome" could spark religiously inspired violence in the city. [...] People afflicted by the so-called Jerusalem Syndrome suddenly imagine themselves to be biblical figures or feel compelled to start preaching on the streets of the city. [...] "The media exaggerated the syndrome. The issue was blown out of all proportions. A minimal number of tourists have been affected - it passes within a few days. It's nothing," says Amnon Ramon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. "The perception was that thousands come down with this syndrome every year, [but] the [International Christian Embassy] has encountered only three cases in 20 years, I have heard of about a dozen cases in two decades - it's that rare," says Parsons.
[Gwen Shamblin] Faith-based weight loss center searched in Georgia boy's death
Authorities raided the headquarters of a Christian weight loss program and church looking for evidence connected to the suspected child abuse death of an 8-year-old Georgia boy. Officials with Weigh Down Ministries and its affiliated Remnant Fellowship Church said they have done nothing wrong and believe the October death of Josef Mykel Smith was an accident.
[UCKG] Building of Cathedral for Brazilian Sect Suspended
The Maputo municipal authorities have ordered the suspension of work to build a cathedral for the wealthy Brazilian evangelical sect, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), on one of the city's main thoroughfares, Julius Nyerere Avenue, in the plush suburb of Sommerschield. [...] The City Council ordered its embargo on the grounds that granting the license was contrary to the city's master plan, since the area concerned has been designated a residential one. [...] A legal battle may be looming - for the IURD spent about a million US dollars on obtaining the rights to the land on which the cathedral was to be built. The IURD has been spectacularly successful, establishing churches all over Maputo, and in most other Mozambican cities.
And a few items posted after yesterday's newsletter was mailed:
Thu, May. 20, 2004
[Gwen Shamblin] Child's death prompts investigation of Franklin religious movement
Investigators want to know if the teachings of the Remnant Fellowship in some way led to the murder of an 8-year-old boy. Investigators removed boxes of evidence from the Weigh-Down Workshop in Cool Springs on Wednesday. What they found could be a link to a child murder investigation in Georgia.
[Bible] Bible Typos
Thank the Lord - and the proofreaders at Peachtree Editorial and Proofreading - that the Bible refers to "our ancestors" instead of "sour ancestors," and calls for an end to "factions" - not "fractions." The proofreading service caught those typos and others before the latest edition of the Holy Book went to press. At Peachtree, attention to detail is more than a job description. It's a calling. [...] Peachtree Editorial and Proofreading Service is believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation - and one of only a few in the world - to specialize in proofreading Bibles. [...] The best-selling book of all time has reached even greater heights in recent years, with Bible sales accounting for almost $140 million last year, an 8 percent increase over 2002, according to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, which tracks sales at Christian stores.
[Hate Groups] Hale Changes Attorneys
White supremacist Matthew Hale has dropped his attorneys and hired a new one, his cousin. [...] Murphy won't say why Hale made the decision. Hale faces up to 50 years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for August 23rd.
[Internet] The Christian Porn Website - A Special Report
Millions of people spend hours each day on Internet porn websites. Some racy, some dangerous, and some are downright illegal. But if you search for these sites, you'll find one that holds a real surprise. It's a XXX Christian website.
[Offbeat News] Woman Who Claimed God Sent Her Gets Jail Time
A Mount Vernon woman who kept showing up at a car dealership - claiming that God had ordered them to give her a free vehicle - is going to jail. A Prince William County judge sentenced 41-year-old Marilyn Cole to one year in jail for trespassing on the lot in March.
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