ReligionNewsBlog.com, Oct. 18-20, 2004
If you're a regular Religion News Blog reader, you may have noticed that
for the past two weeks we've been posting fewer stories than usual. This
is due to a serious computer melt-down (quite literally) that crashed our
We now have a new computer and a serious loan to pay back. A good time,
perhaps, to remind our regular readers that Religion News Blog is a
reader-supported website. Details at:
== Wed, Oct. 20, 2004 ==
[Holocaust] Holocaust diary discovered
A newly-discovered diary of a young Jewish woman has shed a haunting
glimpse on her life in a Dutch prison camp in World War II before she was
sent to her death, in an echo of the Anne Frank diaries.
[Al Quaeda] Iraq war 'helped al-Qaeda recruit'
The war in Iraq probably helped boost al-Qaeda recruitment, according to a
report from leading Western think-tank.
The report, the annual Military Balance by the International Institute for
Strategic Studies in London, does not dwell on the causes of the war.
But it does consider its effects and has some highly critical comments. It
says that the risks of terrorism to Westerners and Western assets in Arab
countries "appeared to increase after the Iraq war began in March 2003".
[Al Quaeda] Al-Qaeda threat growing in Western Europe
Al-Qaeda is present in more than 60 countries around the world and radical
Islam is increasing in Western Europe, where Muslims often feel
marginalised, a respected military and defence think tank in London said
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) also said that
Westerners and Western interests in the Arab world appeared to face
greater peril now than before the US-led war in Iraq.
The United States, through its military invasion and occupation of Iraq,
had shown a desire to change the political status quo in the Arab world to
advance its own strategic and political interests, it noted. "Al-Qaeda
seeks, among other things, to purge the Arab and larger Muslim world of US
influence," IISS said.
[Church and State] Gore assails Bush's use of religion
Former Vice President Al Gore has accused President George W. Bush of
using "the symbolism and body language of religion" to mask policies
intended to satisfy the ideology of the right and the financial needs of
wealthy campaign donors.
"The essential cruelty of Bush's game is that he takes an astonishingly
selfish and greedy collection of economic and political proposals, then
cloaks them with a phony moral authority, thus misleading many Americans
who have a deep and genuine desire to do good in the world," Gore said in
a speech on Monday at Georgetown University.
[Catholic Church] Vatican Is Alarmed by Political Trend In Europe
The Vatican is becoming increasingly alarmed at what it regards as
official anti-Roman Catholic sentiment and secular trends in Europe, as
government after government approves measures on abortion, family law and
scientific study that run counter to Catholic teaching.
[Islam] School expels girls for wearing headscarves
A French school yesterday expelled two girls for wearing Muslim
headscarves in the first such case since a ban on religious symbols was
imposed in state schools last month. [...]
France imposed the ban in September to reassert the neutrality of its
state schools and counter what teachers said was rising Islamist
radicalism reflected in the wearing of headscarves, denial of the
Holocaust and attacks on Jewish schoolmates.
[Hate Groups] The enemy within
This country’s internal enemies gather in the shadows as Americans find
themselves preoccupied on foreign terrorists. We don’t pay much attention
to the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and Aryanism.
Their rhetoric is far out on the fringes of reality, with absurd
observations about God’s will, “mud races” and the Holocaust. While the
Bill of Rights protects the speech, these people are anathema to the
And yet, hate groups are on the rise, according to the Southern Poverty
[Obituary] Bryan Wilson
Bryan Wilson, who has died aged 78, was one of the world's leading
sociologists of religion; his scholarly interests ranged over many fields,
and his studies of secularisation and religious sects have
already become classics.
[Mormon Church] Son of Osmond on gospel tour
The teenage son of Seventies pop idol Donny Osmond is finding it hard to
win over the audience on his very own tour of Scotland.
For the past eight months Brandon Osmond, a missionary, has been knocking
on doors the length and breadth of the country to preach the word of the
Mormon church, and has now moved to Elgin to continue his quest.
[Carl Drew] Former detective grilled at cult trial
Drew, formerly of Fall River, has been in prison serving a life sentence
since being convicted of Fall River prostitute Karen Marsden's macabre
slaying in 1981.
Murphy, his co-defendant in the Marsden case, is expected to be a crucial
witness in the case.
It was her dark tale of Satanism, sex, prostitution and power that
eventually led to Drew's conviction. And thanks to that story, she was
offered a second-degree murder plea bargain in the Marsden case, while
also being granted immunity for the murders of two other Spindle City
prostitutes in 1979 and 1980.
[Obituary] Woman Who Claimed Alien Abduction Dies
Betty Hill, whose tale of being abducted by aliens launched her to fame
and became the subject of a best-selling book and television movie, has
died. She was 85.
Hill died at her home Sunday after a battle with lung cancer.
Hill claimed that she and her husband, Barney, were abducted by
extraterrestrials in New Hampshire's White Mountains on a trip home from
Canada in 1961.
[Antisemitism] 'Muslims, neo-Nazis not to blame for French anti-Semitism'
Disaffected youth and marginalized individuals are more likely to
perpetrate anti-Semitic attacks than those with ties to the Palestinian
cause or neo-Nazi groups, as Jewish groups have charged, according to an
anti-Semitism report France released Tuesday.
The study "shows that the link with the Middle East conflict is the most
misleading or is constructed through false reasoning or exaggerated
representation," according to remarks made by Interior Minister Dominique
de Villepin released with the report he commissioned.
[Islam] Scholar Tells AP of 9/11 Manual's Promise
A handwritten document in Arabic apparently used as inspiration by the
Sept. 11 suicide hijackers assures them about a dozen times that they
would go to paradise as Islamic martyrs, a German scholar said Monday.
The four-page document, found by the FBI after the attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, urged the hijackers to view the
people they were about to kill as "sacrificial victims," said Tilman
Seidensticker, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of
In an interview with The Associated Press, Seidensticker said he examined
the document in detail and published the results in a new book because he
felt it received too little attention in investigations of the Sept. 11
plot. Most of the missive, whose author has not been determined, is
devoted to religious exhortation, including calls to pray.
[Carl Drew] 'Cult killer' seeking new trial
The attorney for convicted "cult killer" Carl Drew began to piece together
his client’s case for a new trial by asking retired Fall River Detective
Paul Carey a litany of questions pertaining to his initial investigation
into the grisly 1980 slaying of Karen Marsden.
Drew, 48, of Fall River, was convicted of the first degree murder of
Marsden in 1981 after an investigation into a string of similar slayings
which were apparently connected to a satanic cult operating in and around
the Spindle City.
[Buddhism] Dalai Lama says Tibet is better off within China
Tibet would be better off to remain within China rather than regain its
independence, the Dalai Lama has told an interviewer. "Tibet is backward,"
the exiled spiritual leader said. "It's a big land, rich in natural
resources, but we lack the technology or expertise [to exploit them]. So,
if we remain in China, we might get a greater benefit, provided it
respects our culture and environment and gives us some kind of guarantee."
[Pakistan] Life sentence for burning Koran
A Pakistani man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for burning a copy
of the Koran.
A court in Lahore found Mehdi Hassan, 36, guilty under Pakistani laws
covering offences against Islam, the prophet Mohammed or the Koran.
The defendant had denied the charge, which can carry the death penalty,
saying the case had arisen from a property dispute.
[Cloning] Bush aide attacks Britain for liberal law on cloning
Britain's liberal policies on cloning will assist maverick doctors’
efforts to create a cloned human baby, according to President Bush’s most
senior bioethics adviser.
By allowing scientists to clone human embryos for research, countries such
as Britain that have permissive regulatory regimes are promoting the
perfection of technology that will one day be abused for reproduction,
Leon Kass, chairman of Mr Bush’s Council on Bioethics, said.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Father faces off against Jehovah's Witnesses
The father of a teen who died after refusing a blood transfusion was back
in a Calgary court Tuesday.
Lawrence Hughes has filed a lawsuit claiming that Jehovah Witnesses
members influenced his daughter to turn down potentially life-saving blood
Hughes' ex-wife is a member of the religion.
The Jehovah's Witnesses want the judge to dismiss the suit.
[Mormon Church] LDS Leaders Issue Statement Regarding Same-Sex Marriage
A statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is
fueling the emotional debate over same-gender marriage going beyond what
the Church has said in the past.
The church clarifies its position on same sex civil unions, and of
election-year measures that define male-female relationships.
== Tue, Oct. 19, 2004 ==
[Anglican / Episcopal Church] Unity plea as church seeks way forward
The report by the commission headed by Ireland's Archbishop Robin Eames -
now called the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission - strives across
76 pages of text and 50 more of appendices to persuade men and women of
goodwill in the 78 million strong worldwide Anglican communion to find
ways of living together in unity and charity.
[Anglican / Episcopal Church] Anglicans Hover on the Brink Over Gays
A high-level commission of the worldwide Anglican Communion on Monday
called on the American Episcopal Church to express regret for consecrating
an openly gay bishop and to stop blessings of same-sex unions.
But the much-anticipated report does not seek to expel the Episcopal
Church from the international communion or demand the removal of the gay
bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, as some
conservatives had sought.
[Santa Muerte] Catholic Church upset by Mexico's St. Death
Deep in the heart of Mexico City's toughest neighborhood, in streets
plagued by drugs and prostitution, faithful Catholics are praying to a new
and fearsome saint: death itself.
They come by the dozens to the Mercy Church, a former house in the Tepito
neighborhood stuffed with statues and posters of the Grim Reaper, known
among the devotees as St. Death.
[Bitner Family] Family demands apology from state officials for farm search
The attorney for a southwestern Kansas family whose farm was the object of
a 10-day search is demanding an apology from state officials for the
“unwarranted public attention” directed upon the family.
[Bitner Family] Authorities leave Kansas farm
Authorities searching a Morton County, Kan., farm for evidence, possibly
bodies, pulled out Monday, a spokesman for Kansas Attorney General Phill
Kline said late Monday.
Testimony by Rebecca Galaviz, now a New Mexico resident, could be what
sparked the search.
Galaviz, a Bitner family relative, spilled a tale of alleged murder,
incest, occult practices and prostitution the Morton County, Kan., farm
when being cross-examined in a June 3 child custody hearing in Amarillo's
320th District Court.
[Bitner Family] Search for Bodies on Kansas Farm Ends
Investigators used heavy machinery to comb a Kansas farm for more than a
week, after a woman involved in a divorce case testified she witnessed a
killing and that there are several bodies buried on the property.
[Mormon Church] Nauvoo transformed into movie set
History is being re-enacted, starting last Thursday and continuing through
today, as a film crew from Utah films a portion of an upcoming movie about
the life of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ -- Latter
[Mormon Church] Clean-Song Download Site Offers Mormon Music
A new MP3 and iTunes-type business is gearing itself toward members of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Responding to the growing
popularity of music produced just for LDS audiences, Richard and Sandy
Teraci of Provo, Utah, are about to launch an LDS-oriented Web site that
will allow users to download LDS-oriented music.
"This will be the iTunes for saints," Richard Teraci said. "It will be all
[Ruben Ecleo] Cult member charged
Task Force Arbet and a team of 16 lawyers from the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) filed yesterday afternoon a murder case against Michel
Favila Sr. and a companion for the death of lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco.
[Islam] Europe Struggling to Train New Breed of Muslim Clerics
The goal of the European Institute for Human Sciences, as the
coeducational school is known, is an urgent one shared by political
leaders and intelligence and law enforcement authorities across the
They believe that the growing Muslim population of Europe must stanch the
migration of Muslim clerics who often are self-appointed, unfamiliar with
the West, beholden to foreign interests and in the most extreme cases,
full of hate and capable of terrorist acts. To that end, they say, a
homegrown breed of imams must be created.
[Psychics] Police: Psychic Never Returned 'Cleansed' Money
A 36-year-old woman described as a psychic adviser has been charged with
misdemeanor theft for allegedly bilking more than $4,000 from a client in
a spiritual cleansing ritual.
[Meditation] Meditate and cut crime
Will the citizens of the country ever enjoy a crime-free environment? Will
this world ever find peace?
These are some of the questions that drove the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga
Centre to publicly launch World Peace Hour recently at its Chaguanas
The centre hopes to spread, through prayer and meditation, a peaceful
attitude that will help reduce crime.
[Islam] Radical cleric in Britain charged
Radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri appeared in British court
Tuesday and was charged with urging followers to kill non-Muslims, a move
that pre-empted a U.S. extradition bid.
British prosecutors read out a 16-count indictment that includes 10
charges of soliciting or encouraging others to murder people who do not
believe in the Islamic faith.
Al-Masri faces 11 terrorist charges in the United States. The British
charges pre-empt a U.S. extradition bid.
[Kabbalah] Stroke hits Madonna's rabbi guru
Madonna's personal kabbalah guru Rabbi Philip Berg has suffered a stroke
and is now wheelchair-bound, raising fears the controversial spiritual
leader may not have long to live.
[Da Vinci Code] Fearing Repeat of Past, Lebanon Bans a Book
The international blockbuster was pulled from shelves last month by
Lebanon's domestic security agency at the request of the Catholic Church.
Church leaders claimed the murder mystery's use of controversial theories
regarding the life of Jesus defamed Christianity and warned that it could
ignite Lebanon's old sectarian tensions in the process.
In doing so, a country celebrated as the most progressive in the Middle
East became the only one in the world to forbid the book, according to the
book's agent and publishers in the region. After selling more than 17
million copies in at least 43 countries, "The Da Vinci Code" has fallen
victim here to the unresolved questions over Lebanon's religious identity
as well as its own commercial success
[Sikhism] Sikhs in court over religious ban
Three Sikh boys in France have gone to court after being excluded from
school under a law banning conspicuous religious symbols and clothing.
[Hare Krishna] Remaining vigilant against child abuse
The ISKCON of Philadelphia has a temple on Allen's Lane in the Mt. Airy
section. The Philadelphia Inquirer did a story on March 10, 2002, which
notes that the Mt. Airy temple is not named in the suit, and also that E.
Burke Rochford Jr., a sociologist who wrote a 1998 report published by
ISKCON documenting some of the abuse, said of the Mt. Airy temple's
temporary school that "there was no indication of anything untoward there."
== Mon, Oct. 18, 2004 ==
[Hinduism] Indian deities, western products: Ignorance or crass marketing?
Is it crass marketing or the West's enchantment for our religious symbols
or simply ignorance which is finding a bizarre expression in the form of
this latest fad?
Be it doormats, toiletries or beachwear, the moment these products have
sketches of Indian idols, they become a rage in western markets.
[Mormon Church] Three Women Report Assaults From Men They Met on LDS
Online dating services geared to LDS church members are popular places for
Mormons to meet. But some officials are cautioning women not to be lured
into a false sense of security because of the connection of these sites to
the LDS faith.
That warning comes after three Utah County women in the last month have
reported they were assaulted by men they met men on LDS dating service
[Anglican / Episcopal Church] Church report 'set to fuel gay row'
The row over homosexuality that is threatening to split the Anglican
Church is set to erupt again with the release of a key report.
[Cults] Sectarians inundate grieving Beslan, seek new members
Various sects have become rather active recently in Beslan, North Ossetia.
Sectarians try to attract Beslan residents to their sects, as former
hostages and their relatives recover from the recent horrible hostage
[USA] Prisoner abuse detailed at U.S. camp
Many detainees at Guantanamo Bay were regularly subjected to harsh and
coercive treatment, several people who worked in the prison said in recent
interviews, despite longstanding assertions by military officials that
such treatment had not occurred except in some isolated cases.
Military guards, intelligence agents and others described a range of
procedures that included treatment they said was highly abusive occurring
over a long period of time, as well as rewards for prisoners who
cooperated with interrogators.
[Netherlands] The Dutch aren't buying into medical marijuana
There's a whiff of crisis in the air at the Dutch Health Ministry: It's
sitting on a pile of pot that it just can't sell.
The Netherlands rolled out a program last year that allows patients to buy
prescription marijuana at any pharmacy.
Some medical insurance policies cover at least part of the cost, but often
not enough to offset the pharmacy price.
In a country where any adult can walk into a "coffee shop" and smoke a
joint for much less than the government price, many say the experiment is
[Trinity Broadcasting Network] Crouch Flouts Christian Tradition
rom an Oklahoma reader: "Thanks for your column. I'm an evangelical
Christian [and a charismatic, no less] but the Crouches are beyond the
pale. They are truly an embarrassment. Here's hoping The Times news
stories, columns, etc., will bear fruit."
An Orange County pastor wrote: "In my opinion, you could have hit 'em much
harder and still been fair, but there was a certain kindness in your
Referring to the "prosperity gospel" that Crouch preaches to his viewers
as a reason they should give, the pastor added: "The perversion of the
gospel perpetuated by the likes of TBN makes me want to puke, though I do
find solace in the hope of the coming day when the record will be set
Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
ApologeticsIndex.org: Research resources on religions, cults, sects, and
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