Religion News Blog, March 8, 2003 (thus far...)
[Polygamy] Utah Legislature adds new polygamy offense to crime books
The Utah Legislature approved a tougher criminal sanction Wednesday
for men who take young girls as their polygamist wives.
[Human Rights Violations, USA] US Assurances to UN on Torture
Press reports have attributed statements to US officials that the US
is using "all appropriate pressure," that "prisoners are sometimes
kept on their feet for lengthy periods," and that "stress and duress"
techniques are acceptable.
The techniques reportedly employed - including hooding, holding in
prolonged painful positions, and denial of food and sleep - were cited
and condemned as torture in the 2002 Department of State Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices. This year's report, mandated to be
released to Congress by February 28, has yet to be released.
[House of Prayer] Arrest warrants issued for pastor, 2 church members
A Fulton County judge ordered authorities to arrest the pastor of the
House of Prayer and two of his church members because they skipped a
court hearing this afternoon.
Probation officers asked the court to revoke the probation of the Rev.
Arthur Allen and David and Sharon Duncan because they have refused to
go to anger-management counseling.
Their lawyer, Manny Arora, said he has not been able to find his
[Human Rights Violations, USA] Group Points Out Religious Oppression
The State Department seeks advice on which countries to designate from
the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent
In a statement, the commission acknowledged problems in the six
countries named by the State Department but said India, Laos,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam also deserved
March 7, 2003
[Human Rights Violations, USA] Alleged torture in terror war imperils
U.S. standards of humanity
In Afghanistan, it is hardly surprising to find two dead bodies with
signs of torture. This week, however, a shocking U.S. military
coroner's report also suggested that the most likely suspect in the
homicides was the U.S. government. Even more disturbing is emerging
evidence that the United States may be operating something that would
have seemed unimaginable only two years ago: an American torture
Instead of continuing our long fight against torture, we now seek to
adopt more narrow definitions to satisfy our own acquired appetite for
coercive interrogations. If the U.S. is responsible for the deaths of
the two men in Afghanistan, it is more than homicide. It would be
suicide for a nation once viewed as the very embodiment of human
NOTE: It should be noted that America's alleged "long fight against
torture" is belied by its ongoing fight against an international
[Human Rights Violations, USA] America admits suspects died in
American military officials acknowledged yesterday that two prisoners
captured in Afghanistan in December had been killed while under
interrogation at Bagram air base north of Kabul reviving concerns
that the US is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban
fighters and suspected al-Qa'ida operatives.
President Bush appeared to encourage extra-judicial solutions in his
State of the Union address in January when he talked of al-Qa'ida
members being arrested or meeting "a different fate". "Let's put it
this way," he said in a tone that appalled many, "they are no longer a
problem to the United States and our friends and allies."
[Human Rights Violations, Marocco] Court Jails 'Satanist' Heavy Metal
The trial followed articles in some newspapers which described the
accused as "Satanists" who recruited for an international cult of
The 14 men aged between 22 and 35 years were found guilty of
"possessing objects which infringe morals" and of "acts capable of
undermining the faith of a Muslim."
[Hate Groups] Attack at prison receives criticism
Federal prison officials were criticized Thursday for placing American
Taliban John Walker Lindh at risk in the general population because of
Walker Lindh was attacked during prayer by one or more white
supremacists Monday night at the Federal Correctional Institution in
Victorville where he has been imprisoned since January.
[Hate Groups] Group wants Germany to suspend Zundel charges
A Toronto organization is calling on Germany to suspend charges
against Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel to make it easier for Canada to
Mr. Zundel is being held in custody in Canada by the federal
immigration department after applying for refugee status on the basis
that he would be persecuted for his beliefs if he returned to his
native Germany. There, he is wanted on a warrant accusing him of
[Hate Groups] Legislator under fire for helping 'hate group'
A state lawmaker is being criticized by a civil rights group for
reserving a room at the state Capitol for what the Southern Poverty
Law Center calls a white supremacist hate group.
Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, said he reserved the Capitol
auditorium for a League of the South conference on Saturday because he
made a promise to a constituent who is a member of the group.
[Mel Gibson] Actor Mel Gibson Takes Up Traditional Catholicism
Gibson, a follower of traditional Catholicism with its Latin mass and
rejection of Vatican II reforms, helped finance construction of a new
traditionalist church near Malibu and is completing a self-financed
film in two dead languages -- Aramaic and Latin -- on the last 12
hours in the life of Christ, the article said.
[Mel Gibson] Mel's mad at cult slur
Noxon's article claims Gibson embraces "a strain of Catholicism rooted
in the dictates of a 16th-century papal council and nurtured by a
splinter group of conspiracy-minded Catholics, mystics, monarchists
and disaffected conservatives".
The group hates the Pope, celebrates mass in Latin, fasts on Fridays
and requires women to wear hats in church.
[Falun Gong] Group's parade ban to stay
Spiritual group Falun Dafa has failed to overturn a Melbourne City
Council decision banning members from taking part in Monday's Moomba
The council recently rejected an application by the group to take part
in the event, citing concerns over its "strong political
[Censorship] China censorship slows net
Beijing has essentially built an online barrier around China,
requiring traffic in and out to pass through just eight gateways a
step that heightens official control. Banned topics include human
rights and the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group.
Problems emerged in October after the installation of "packet-sniffer"
software that briefly holds chunks of data for screening.
[Falun Gong] Local Falun Gong practitioners to rally for Charles Li's
Forty-four days after his arrest, Lis friends and fellow Falun Gong
practitioners are gathering today outside the U.S. State Department in
Washington, D.C., to rally for his release.
Li was arrested for allegedly disrupting the transmissions of radio
and TV facilities during a previous trip to China, said Zhijian Jin,
spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in Chicago. Many people, however,
believe Li was arrested because of his spiritual practice, Falun Gong
or Falun Dafa.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Free will a crucial issue in case against
Scientology, court is told
A fundamental issue in the legal action by a woman against the Church
of Scientology is whether her free will was overborne or compromised
in her decision to take up certain courses run by the church, the High
Court heard yesterday.
If the court finds Ms Mary Johnston's free will was affected, it must
then decide whether that has any legal consequences entitling her to
damages, Mr Michael Collins, for the church said.
The fundamental point was whether Ms Johnston's free will was
compromised to an extent that was unacceptable in law, counsel added.
His side would be arguing free will is a concept that cannot be
[Unification Church] Rev. Moon's Napa resort sold to developer
From 1976 to the mid-90s, devoted members of Moon's Unification Church
occupied the crumbling Aetna Springs resort, where by varying accounts
they communed with God or brainwashed legions of recruits, some
against their will.
Over the past decade, church activities faded until the 672-acre
facility with 34 Mission-style buildings and a nine-hole golf course
was leased to a Southern California theme park developer with
Then, in a quiet deal late last month, Aetna Springs was sold.
[Anthony Fernwalt] Sleepy village shaken up
The man who drew national attention when he discovered a weeping
portrait of the Virgin Mary and claimed to have conversed with Christ
was arrested Tuesday after authorities swept in on his wooded hillside
home and defunct Christ in the Hills shrine, which was a mecca three
years ago for those who thought the world would end with the century.
Fernwalt had claimed he was using birth certificates of dead Canadians
to bring Pakistani and Indian nationals into the country for a
terrorist attack using sarin gas.
[Anthony Fernwalt] Priest backs mans claims of seeing Virgin Mary
A Kilgore mans purported visions of the Virgin Mary have never been
substantiated by the Catholic Church, but that hasnt stopped one
priest from believing that they are true.
In 1992, Fernwalt gained national attention by claiming to have
discovered a weeping painting of the Virgin Mary at St. Judes
Orthodox Catholic Church in Barberton, where he was the custodian.
[Anthony Fernwalt] Suspect faces federal charges
FBI agents descended on his property Tuesday after CNN and the Fox
News Network forwarded them e-mails from a man identifying himself as
Tony Black, a Muslim who had converted to Christianity.
Black claimed Fernwalt, under the alias Waine Coxall, brought him into
this country and was smuggling in other terrorists for a planned
chemical attack using sarin gas.
[Alistah Laishkochav] Polygamist guru faces new child sex charges
A sect leader with nine wives who was jailed in Victoria for child sex
crimes has been extradited to NSW to face new charges.
[Islamism] Hate preaching cleric jailed
During the trial el-Faisal argued that his words were taken from the
Koran, the Muslim holy book, and that he had been misrepresented.
But the judge said that while Britain prided itself on its freedom of
speech, it could not accept it when other people's rights were
He told el-Faisal: "As the jury found, you not only preached hate, but
the words you uttered in those meetings were recorded to reach a wider
"You urged those who listened and watched to kill those who did not
share your faith."
[Raelians] Cult may be alien to some, but it's down to earth for
The Raelian movement is thought to be among the last of a dozen or so
left. "What they've done is melded together what is probably the
single-best known religious mythology in the Western world, which is
Christianity, with UFOs," said Douglas Cowan, a religious studies
professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
NOTE: Douglas Cowan is known for, among other things, his avid support
of cult apologists.
[House of Prayer] House of Prayer arrest warrants on hold until Friday
A judge has put on hold arrest warrants for three House of Prayer
church members, including the pastor, until 1 p.m. Friday.
That's when they're due in Fulton County Superior Court for a hearing,
a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections said today.
[Ritual Killing] New leads in torso murder
Detectives investigating the murder of a young boy whose mutilated
body was found in the River Thames in London are following up new
leads in Nigeria.
Officers believe the boy, who they have named Adam, may have come from
They fear the unidentified child, aged between four and six, was the
victim of a sacrificial killing.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Professor says Scientology church tried to
A professor of sociology who has written books and articles critical
of the Church of Scientology and other organisations told the High
Court yesterday the church was attempting to isolate him within the
Prof Stephen Kent, who is based in Canada, made the claim in the
ongoing action for damages by Ms Mary Johnston (40), who operates a
sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, and who is a
former member of the church.
Stephen Kent is being subjected to an extended hate campaign by the
Scientology organization. Hate and harassment activities, along with
other unethical behavior, is encouraged and condoned in the cult's
March 6, 2003
[Hate Groups] Man sentenced for plot against McVeigh judge
A man already serving time for murder was convicted of plotting to
kill the federal judge in the Oklahoma City bombing trials, allegedly
in the hopes that the judge's death would help the white supremacist
[Religious Freedom] U.S. Concerned About Religious Freedom
The United States expressed concern Wednesday over what it termed
severe violations of religious freedom in six countries: Burma, China,
Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan.
NOTE: Saudi Arabia, which is needed as an ally right now, was of
course not criticized. The U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom has criticized the State Department's report:
[House of Prayer] Reprieve Issued for Church Members
Allen, as well as Sharon and David Duncan, were deemed fugitives from
justice when they failed to turn themselves into police at 4:30 p.m.
Monday for allegedly violating the terms of their probation.
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