Religion News Blog, Mar. 18 - 19, 2003
- Religion News Blog, March 19, 2003
[Brian Mitchell] Smart's alleged abductors arraigned
Brian David Mitchell was charged with four first-degree felonies --
one count each of aggravated burglary and aggravated kidnapping and
two counts of aggravated sexual assault.
He also has been charged with two felony counts of aggravated burglary
and attempted aggravated kidnapping for allegedly trying to break into
the home of Smart's cousin, Jessica Wright, on July 24.
Mitchell's wife and alleged accomplice, Wanda Ilene Barzee, faces the
same six charges. Barzee also appeared Wednesday on closed-circuit TV
from the jail where the pair is being held.
Each of the counts carries a life sentence. Neither suspect entered a
[Brian Mitchell] 'Divine Revelation' Unlikely to Influence Court
Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee may believe God ordered them to
kidnap Elizabeth Smart, but legal experts say divine revelation will
be little help to them in the courtroom.
"Being egged on by another is not a defense," said Assistant Utah
Attorney General Michael Wims. "It is not a defense that God urged
them to do it."
But Utah's insanity law -- the strictest in the nation -- focuses on a
defendant's intent to commit a crime, leaving little room for
theological explanations or excuses.
"You've got a defense only if, as a result of mental defect or
disease, you cannot form the intent necessary to commit the crime,"
A mentally ill defendant can be held accountable in a kidnapping case
if he intentionally detained a victim and understood the victim was
human, defense attorney Mark Moffat said.
[Interfaith] Relations Among U.S. Religions at a Low
Some Christians say Islam promotes violence. Jews feel they are being
scapegoated by opponents of a U.S. war on Iraq. A Muslim leader
wonders if there's a divine message in the breakup of the shuttle
carrying an Israeli astronaut.
In the buildup to war, religious leaders say, interfaith relations in
America have been poisoned, causing damage it may take years to heal.
While some efforts to find common ground continue, observers say
mistrust is high - at a level that would have been unthinkable before
the Sept. 11 attacks - and has worsened with the move toward an Iraq
[Religious Freedom] 'Religious Candy' Students Win Case
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a high school cannot suspend
students for handing out candy canes with religious messages.
U.S. District Court Judge Frank Freedman said a policy at Westfield
High School that prohibits the distribution of printed material on
school grounds without permission violated the students' First
[Human Rights Violations, USA] US chides Belgium over rights law
Washington has berated Brussels after several Iraqi families announced
they were suing former US President George Bush and other US
politicians for human rights violations in a Belgian court.
Families of those who died in the US attack on the Amiriyah air raid
shelter in Baghdad, which took place in the 1991 Gulf War, are to file
a case against the former president under a law enabling Belgian
courts to hear human rights cases.
[Human Rights Violations, USA] Iraqis sue over first Gulf War
The lawsuit cites Bush senior, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary
of State Colin Powell and retired US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf,
who led operation Desert Storm against Baghdad, said deputy Patrick
Cheney was US defence secretary at the time of the first Gulf War,
while Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The action was brought under Belgium's universal competence law, which
allows legal proceedings against people accused of war crimes, crimes
against humanity, or genocide, regardless of their nationality or
[Falun Gong] China Frees Activist After Serving Time
A Chinese-born New York City woman imprisoned for publicizing details
of China's crackdown on Falun Gong was released Wednesday after
serving almost three years.
Teng Chunyan, 40, walked out of a women's prison on the southern
outskirts of Beijing after being released a month early due to good
behavior, according to authorities.
``Falun Gong is purely an evil cult,'' Teng told reporters, echoing
the communist government's description of the group. ``It has a
definite political aspect.''
[Hare Krishna] Airport solicitations barred
Hare Krishna solicitors are again being restricted at Los Angeles
A federal judge refused to continue blocking the airport from
enforcing its new anti-solicitation law, which went into effect Dec.
16 and requires charity representatives to remain in small, cordoned
off "booths" in all nine passenger terminals.
[Brian Mitchell] Woman Rebuffed Mitchell's Proposal to Be Plural Wife
Accused Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Brian David Mitchell proposed
marriage to a 20-year-old woman two years ago, telling her God wanted
her to become his plural wife and join him and wife Wanda Barzee in
the rugged foothills east of Salt Lake City.
"You are the only woman that God sent us to . . . We are one, even as
I am one with the Father," Mitchell said in a four-page handwritten
marriage proffer to Julie Adkison dated March 1, 2001.
[Superstition] Prospect of war 'making us more superstitious'
The prospect of war may have triggered a significant increase in
superstitious rituals, according to a nationwide survey.
Of those questioned, 77 per cent indicated that they were at least a
little superstitious and/or carried out some form of superstitious
behaviour, and 42 per cent said that they were very/somewhat
[Brian Mitchell] Mitchell, wife charged with kidnapping, sexual
assault in Smart abduction
Prosecutors charged a self-proclaimed prophet and his wife Tuesday
with aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault in the abduction of
Elizabeth Smart, disclosing for the first time details of the girl's
Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee also were charged with burglary and
attempted aggravated kidnapping a charge stemming from what
prosecutors said was an attempt to later abduct Elizabeth's
March 18, 2003
[Brainwashing] Experts: Smart's brainwashing likely began at
knifepoint, reinforced continually
Hassan believes once Mitchell had Elizabeth he immediately began to
drive home his belief system, laid out in a dense 27-page manifesto in
which he declared himself a messenger of God. "He likely began saying
in a very fanatical way that he was a prophet, and that she was meant
to be his wife," he said. "He knew the right words to say because he
was a Mormon who was excommunicated and she was Mormon."
This connection between them, a shared knowledge of religious doctrine
and reference points, allowed the hold over her to become that much
stronger. "Someone who already believes in God and the revelation as a
respected religious experience is more ... vulnerable," he said.
[Archeology] Israeli police break ancient tablet
Experts at Israel's Geological Institute, which studied the stone at
the request of the collector, believe it is authentic and dates back
to the 9th century B.C. Microscopic flecks of gold burned into the
stone could mean it was located together with gold objects in a
building that burned - possibly the First Temple, which was destroyed
by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., officials at the institute said.
But experts on ancient script at the Israel Museum, who also studied
the tablet, believe the Hebrew inscription, which resembles passages
of Kings II, 12:1-6, 11-17, could be fake.
[Hate Groups] German neo-Nazi ban rejected (Updated)
Germany's constitutional court has rejected a request from the
goverment and parliament to outlaw the neo-Nazi National Democratic
Party (NPD) party.
"The proceedings have been dismissed," said presiding judge Winfried
The court suspended proceedings a year ago after it emerged that the
government's case against the NPD was based partly on provocative
speeches made by its informants.
The NPD said the government had told the informants to incite racial
hatred and recruit violent neo-Nazis to strengthen its case.
[Hate Groups] German neo-Nazi ban rejected
[Cultic Organizations] FBI breaks up cult-like San Diego-based
Harrell claimed to be in charge of an offshore trust created by Joseph
Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, worth $1.6 trillion,
according to the FBI. Investors were told that money would be
available to them if they gave him enough seed money to start an
insurance company called Good Samaritan.
Harrell, described as extremely charismatic, used religion to control
his enterprise, Caldwell said. He began investor meetings with a
prayer and attendees were told to hug each other.
"It was truly almost cult-like," Caldwell said. "He did not hesitate
to threaten to kill people if he found out they were working for the
[World Ministries Church] Diabetic man fasts 40 days before dying
Killeen was found dead in his home on Jan. 27. His wife, three adult
daughters and members of the World Ministries, with which they were
involved, reportedly prayed for three weeks that he would be
resurrected. Authorities discovered Killeen's body after concerned
relatives called asking that police check on him.
Killeen's family says the 50-year-old diabetic was encouraged to fast
and was convinced he was the group's next prophet.
[Warmongering] War in Iraq a crime, says Vatican
Military intervention against Iraq would be a crime against peace
demanding vengeance before God, the head of the Vatican's Pontifical
Council for Justice and Peace has said.
"War is a crime against peace which cries for vengeance before God,"
said Archbishop Renato Raffaele Martino, speaking on Vatican Radio.
He stressed the deeply unjust and immoral nature of war, saying it was
condemned by God because civilians were the worst sufferers.
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