ReligionNewsBlog.com, July 29-30, 2004
Fri, Jul. 30, 2004
[Homeschooling] Religious freedom law used to challenge home-schooling requirements
The Newborns and another couple -- Thomas and Babette Hankin -- have filed lawsuits challenging the home-school reporting requirements under Pennsylvania's Religious Freedom Protection Act. The act allows people to challenge any laws they believe impose "substantial burdens upon the free exercise of religion without compelling justification."
[Witchcraft] Man sentenced to death for killing six people
Barik, 25, had killed three men and three women with a sharp weapon in January last year because he suspected that they were practising witchcraft, police said.
[Hate Groups] FBI Guard Accused of Aiding Neo-Nazi Gang
A former prison guard who allegedly held racist views was arrested Thursday after being indicted on charges of aiding a violent inmate gang known as the Nazi Low Riders.
[Satanism] Possession and the law
In 1981 Colonel Kobus Jonker joined a charismatic church and became a born-again Christian. At the time, he was a respected senior detective with the South African police. [...] He stopped investigating murder and robberies and began to devote himself to fighting Satanism full-time. In the course of his work, he says, he helped people possessed by demons to find Jesus. [...] Jonker's bosses remained steadfastly cynical; they rolled their eyes at his stories. But when he raided a house in 1991 and found a Bible bound in chains, the walls smeared with blood and a Chinese woman's head in a cupboard, his commanding officers were finally persuaded to start the Occult Related Crime Unit (ORCU), with Colonel Jonker at its helm. Last year, the unit claims, it made 70 successful prosecutions under the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act. I first heard of South Africa's occult unit while reading about the case of "Adam", the name given to a young, black boy whose torso was found floating in the Thames in London in 2001. Detectives from Scotland Yard had flown to South Africa to meet Jonker and his occult-crime-fighting team in the hope of coming up with some leads on Adam's death. It seemed incongruous that police work, usually based on the rational and empirical, could be coloured by reborn Christians and their worryingly literal, some would say ludicrous, take on the Bible. So, I went to South Africa to spend time with the occult unit and, I hoped, gain some insight into the apparently fervent activity of Satanic groups and the police officers who try to outwit them.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Class yields a surprise subject
When Sydney Dillmann, a 12-year-old from Fond du Lac, enrolled in five-day course called "Study Technology" at her local University of Wisconsin campus this summer, she and her mother thought it would be a good way for young Sydney to improve her study skills. Thanks to the course, she stumbled upon a surprise subject - the Church of Scientology. The Study Technology curriculum relies on the educational writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Scientology movement. [...] But according to some scholars who follow Scientology, the same Hubbard writings used to devise Study Technology are considered scriptures in the church. The point of sponsoring such courses is to promote Scientology methods and beliefs while burnishing Hubbard's image, skeptics say. Much of this Sydney and her mother, Mary, learned from scouring the Internet. And they haven't been shy about challenging UW-Fond du Lac or the session's teacher, Barbara Abler. "It's just such junk science," Mary Dillmann said. But that's one side. Study Technology has its defenders, and they adamantly deny trying to promote a religion in the classroom. UW-Fond du Lac officials, for the record, say they're comfortable with the summer enrichment offering.
[Helge Fossmo] Press 'M' for murder
A Swedish Lutheran pastor who faked cellphone text messages from God to get his nanny-lover to murder his wife and try to kill the husband of a second mistress, was sentenced to life in jail on Friday. The case has fascinated Sweden with its intoxicating mix of sex, death and the workings of an obscure religious sect.
[Polygamy] Suit accuses polygamist of sex abuse, cover-up
The head of the nation's largest polygamous community, headquartered along the Arizona-Utah line, was accused Thursday in a lawsuit of repeatedly sodomizing his nephew and for decades covering up wide-scale sexual abuse of children by fellow members of his sect. The allegations were the most serious and graphic to be brought against Warren Jeffs, 48, the embattled self-proclaimed prophet of a breakaway religious sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. [...] "I never would have expected a nephew of the prophet to have that kind of courage," said Sam Brower, a private investigator in southern Utah who has been following the FLDS for five years. "This is a landmark moment. "You can't begin to imagine the uproar this is going to cause. There are going to be people who say his nephew is a liar and speaking for the devil. And there are going to be others who'll just be floored."
[Satanism] Satanists Accused of Ordering Serial Killings
Police in northern Italy say they have smashed a vicious gang of satanists, following the arrest this week of three men accused of ordering the murder of at least five young people in the Milan area since 1998.
[Polygamy] Caution urged in cult case
Tread carefully or you may be touching off an explosive powderkeg. That's the advice a B.C. human rights advocate is offering as that province's attorney general prepares to probe alleged sexual misconduct at an East Kootenay religious commune. [...] "People who are observing these kinds of communities from the outside indicate that there is a cult dynamic and it's unpredictable what the response of these individuals will be," said John Russell, president of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA). "In light of that, and in light of the history of places like Waco, you have to be cautious about what the implications of your actions will be," Russell said. He was referring to the fiery death of 80 Branch Davidian sect members in April 1993, when their compound exploded after a 51-day standoff with U.S. authorities.
[Archeology] Archeologists claim Essenes never wrote Dead Sea Scrolls
Located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, Qumran is famous throughout the world as the place where the Essenes, who have been widely described in studies, conferences and exhibitions as a type of Jewish "monk," are said to have lived and written the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, based on findings soon to be published, Israeli archaeologists now argue that Qumran "lacks any uniqueness." The latest research joins a growing school of thought attempting to explode the "Qumran myth" by stating that not only did the residents of Qumran live lives of comfort, they did not write the scrolls at all.
[Falun Gong] Lawsuit victor wants money
The man at the centre of a successful libel suit against a Chinese diplomat who described the Falun Gong spiritual movement as a "sinister cult" says he has yet to see a penny in damages. An Ontario court had ordered Pan Xinchun, China's deputy consul-general in Canada, to pay $11,000 to Joel Chipkar after describing the Falun Gong practitioner as a member of a "sinister cult" in a letter to a Toronto newspaper. But Chipkar, 36, still hasn't received any money despite another court order earlier this month that Pan's bank account be garnisheed to cover the costs -- a sign, he said, that the Chinese government doesn't want to co-operate.
[Ahmadiyya] Islamic sect debates public image
Thousands of members of an Islamic sect, rejected by other Muslims, are gathering for a major UK convention. Ahmadi Muslims say they want to redefine the public image of Islam in the western world. But the majority of Muslims object to the community describing themselves as followers of Islam, saying they are even banned from its holy sites. But up to 30,000 adherents of the faith will debate their future at the event in Surrey, say community leaders. Ahmadi Muslims, who originally hailed from the northern India area of Punjab, believe that Mohammed was not the final prophet sent to guide mankind.
[Mariology] Believers reject church findings on 'weeping' statues
The Catholic Church has officially declared the oil-seeping and "bleeding" artefacts at the Inala Vietnamese Catholic Centre as fakes. Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby yesterday apologised to all those deceived. He released an investigative report and issued instructions for the principal statue and other objects to be removed from public veneration. Archbishop Bathersby said he had asked for a full accounting of any money received "during the time of these pilgrimages". [...] Many parishioners said they still believed the weeping and bleeding were miracles.
[Lori Hacking] Report: Police Have Solid Evidence In Hacking Case
Police are being credited with collecting evidence that could solve the disappearance of Lori Hacking -- the pregnant Utah woman reported missing by her husband. The head of Utah's crime lab says much of the evidence consists of every-day items taken from the couple's apartment that shows no obvious connection to foul play. But Major Stuart Smith says that evidence -- including scissors, knives, tape and rope -- may be needed later to match evidence uncovered from other places.
[Lord's Resistance Army] The mystic and his brutal army of child soldiers
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, has terrorised Uganda for 18 years with a vicious campaign of murder, rape and kidnap. But the army is finally closing in on him, reports Meera Selva. In the villages of northern Uganda, Joseph Kony is the stuff of nightmares. A self-proclaimed mystic with a garbled pseudo-Christian ideology, this is a man who spirits children away from their parents at the dead of night and steals their innocence forever. Kony is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that has fought the Ugandan government for 18 years in a war that has killed more than 23,000 people and forced 1.5 million people to flee their homes.
[Polygamy] Polygamist leaders accused of sexual assault in lawsuit
A former member of a polygamous sect on the Utah-Arizona border on Thursday accused three of his uncles, one of them considered the group's prophet, of sexually assaulting him when he was a child and referring to the abuse as "God's work." Salt Lake County resident Brent Jeffs also claims in a lawsuit that the trio of leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) - president Warren Steed Jeffs and his brothers, Blaine Balmforth Jeffs and Leslie Balmforth Jeffs - described the offense as a way to make him a man.
Thu, Jul. 29, 2004
[Mind Control] Mind control: More than just a plot point?
Psychosurgery. Brain implants. Mind control. The stuff of movies - as in The Manchurian Candidate, which opens Friday - or a glimpse of the future? Maybe both, says neurologist Jay Lombard of the Brain Behavior Center in Nyack, N.Y., who was science adviser for the film. [...] "If you look at where things are heading in neuroscience," Lombard says, "it's not that far a stretch." [...] From a psychologist's viewpoint, The Manchurian Candidate's implant scenario sounds far off and reminiscent of some often-reported delusions, says Steven Hassan of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center in Somerville, Mass. [...] "If you polled psychologists about whether people can exert psychological influence over others, most would likely say yes," Hassan says. Cults, for example, typically impose gradually increasing limits on behavior, information, emotions and thinking in members to control their lives. "What we now know is it doesn't take a lot of effort," Hassan says. "The movie is a chance to have a dialogue about mind control. The truth is in our face. With terrorism, we see people can be made into killers."
[Book Review] What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew About Judaism
In our multi-cultural society who among us has not had to explain Jewish law and customs to non-Jews or to non-observant Jews? Dr. Robert Schoen (his degree is in optometry) and his wife reside in Northern California and have been active in the efforts of promoting Judaeo-Christian understanding. His book explains the significance of many of our laws and customs and how they - and we - are viewed by our non-Jewish neighbors.
[Lord's Resistance Army] Uganda says more than 100 rebels killed in raid
Ugandan troops killed more than 100 Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in an attack in southern Sudan, but the leader of the shadowy cult-like group apparently escaped with his life, the army said on Thursday.
[Israel] In wake of anti-Semitism row, PM welcomes French immigrants
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon welcomed some 200 French Jews to Israel on Wednesday, less than two weeks after angering the French with his call for the country's 600,000 or so Jews to emigrate to escape what he called the "wildest anti-Semitism."
[Norma Khouri] Her Life As A Fake
As Khouri's star rose higher, a few people began to ask questions. [...] The Herald launched its own investigation, with astonishing results. Khouri had been born in Jordan, spent the first three years of her life there and had visited the country since-but she seems to have been in America during the years she claims to have spent growing up with Dalia in Jordan. [...] She reminds me of Binyamin Wilkormiski. In 1995, Wilkormiski published Fragments, a memoir of growing up in a Nazi concentration camp. [...] Three years later, he was exposed: Wilkormiski wasn't Jewish at all, but a Swiss man called Bruno Grosjean, who had grown up in an orphanage, not a concentration camp. The funny thing about Wilkormiski is that he wasn't lying, if you understand a lie as a deliberate attempt to falsify the truth. He genuinely seemed to believe that his stories were true. [...] A recent experiment demonstrates that it's perilously easy to "create" genuine memories of events that had never occurred. With enough suggestion and preparation, many people were prepared to accept even something that had never happened as part of their cache of "true" memories. Perhaps that's what happens in the case of writers like Wilkormiski or, to a lesser degree, Khouri.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] 'Unconventional' buyer eyes 'Loaf'
An "unconventional" potential buyer of Sugar Loaf Resort may end up throwing a monkey wrench into the plans of two Florida land developers who are considering buying two adjacent golf courses with the hope that skiing will return. Also hoping to become part of Sugar Loaf's future is a woman who operates a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Battle Creek based on methods outlined by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard - the founder of the "Church of Scientology." [...] She said she had no plans to turn Sugar Loaf Resort into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
[Lord's Resistance Army] World War Crimes Court Opens Uganda Probe
The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in northern Uganda after the country's government made charges against a rebel group, it said Thursday. Last December Uganda asked the Hague-based ICC, the first permanent world court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity, to investigate charges of abuses by the cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Uganda accuses the rebel group of systematically mutilating young Ugandans, forcing boys to become child soldiers and abducting girls as sex slaves.
[Lori Hacking] Husband's 'perfect' past keeps crumbling
Small amounts of blood are among the evidence taken last week from the apartment of Lori Hacking, according to a source familiar with the investigation. [...] Mark Hacking's comments, including those he made in his initial call, are now being questioned by police, who no longer consider him cooperative. [...] The son of a respected Orem doctor and fifth of seven children, Hacking was known in the Winnipeg, Canada, district where he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid-1990s as a person with extremely bright prospects who also talked often of his girlfriend Lori, whom he had met while in high school, according to some fellow missionaries. But at least one former missionary said Hacking was also prone to breaking the rules - and claims that resulted in a "worthiness hearing" and a premature trip back to Utah.
[Lori Hacking] Lessons from Smart case have police sources staying mum
The Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case and surrounding media circus two years ago produced a striking difference in how the Salt Lake City Police Department is handling the news media in the Lori Hacking disappearance. "Absolutely we are applying lessons we learned in the Smart case," police spokesman Dwayne Baird said Wednesday. "We have one mouthpiece for this Police Department. They know what to say and how to say it and they don't deviate from our position. You don't have lots of people saying lots of things."
[Lori Hacking] Missing Jogger: Police Say Husband Lived Life of Lies
Police labeled Lori Hacking's disappearance a criminal investigation two days after she vanished, using that term to obtain a court order sealing details of a search warrant in the case. [...] Police have named Mark Hacking a "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance, but not a suspect. [...] Police said Hacking lived a life of various lies for at least four of the five years he has been married. [...]
[Polygamy] The Marriage Debate and Polygamy
Several prosecutions and lawsuits against polygamists, now pending in Utah, are notable for the constitutional defenses that have been - or could be -- raised. Polygamy is the practice (usually religious) of having multiple spouses (usually wives). There are two possible lines of constitutional attack on anti-polygamy statutes. One derives from the First Amendment's religion clauses. The other derives from Due Process "right to privacy" concepts - and in particular, from the Supreme Court's recent holding in Lawrence v. Texas that adults have a privacy right that extends to private, consensual sex acts. In the end, neither of these lines of attack will - or should - be successful. Still, it is worth taking a close look at each to examine the extent to which the Constitution allows states to shape - or forbids them from shaping - the definition of marriage, and regulating who can marry whom.
[Mormon Church] Mormon Renewal Creates a Stir in an Illinois Town
NAUVOO, Ill. - High upon a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River stands a soaring Mormon temple, the biggest building for many miles around. Closed to non-Mormons, it symbolizes the tension that has reshaped life in what was until recently a typical Midwestern town. [...] But at the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center, Colleen Ralson, a former Mormon, spends her days telling everyone who drops in that the Mormon faith is based on lies. "If they're following Joseph Smith, they're not following the God of the Bible," Ms. Ralson said. Mormons, whose church is officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, use Christian iconography and say that they follow the biblical God, but with additional revelations not included in the Bible.
[Polygamy] Sect wives defend lives
As many as 80 women of Bountiful -- a more than half-century old polygamist community of about 1,000 just south of Creston, some 520 km southwest of Calgary -- said they plan to hold a massive press conference next week to talk about their lives. [...] The unprecedented move was prompted by B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant's announcement he intends to form a special law enforcement task force comprised of Mounties, a special prosecutor and a social worker. The task force will look into allegations of sexual exploitation, child abuse and forced marriage in Bountiful -- but they'll find nothing wrong, say the wives.
[Lord's Resistance Army] Ugandan army says may have killed LRA rebel chief
Ugandan troops killed more than 30 Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in an attack in southern Sudan that may also have killed the leader of the cult-like group, the army said on Wednesday.
Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
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