Religion News Blog, Apr. 10 - 11, 2003
- ReligionNewsBlog.com, April 11, 2003
[Religious Freedom] Amnesty International says Vietnam cracking down
on religious dissidents
Vietnam is harshly cracking down on religious dissidents and their
family members by using vague laws to charge them with spying, which
carries a possible death penalty, Amnesty International said Friday.
In a report, the London-based human rights group focused on charges
brought against the niece and nephews of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly,
a Catholic priest sentenced to 15 years in jail in October 2001 for
advocating religious freedom.
[Word of Faith Fellowship] WOFF claims religious protection
The Word of Faith Fellowship has responded to a lawsuit filed by one
of the organization's former members alleging she was the victim of
false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In answers filed Monday with the Rutherford County Clerk of Superior
Court, attorneys for the WOFF, senior pastor Jane Whaley and church
member Kim Waites deny the allegations made by Holly Hamrick and ask a
judge to dismiss the suit on the grounds of religious freedom.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Group blames medication
As friends, family, and investigators searched for a possible motive
in Tuesday's slaying of a Massachusetts General Hospital cardiologist,
an antipsychiatry ''watchdog group'' said that Colleen Mitchell's
psychiatric medication had spurred her to shoot Dr. Brian McGovern and
then turn the gun on herself.
Members of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which is
affiliated with the Church of Scientology, planned a protest at the
hospital today against the use of antidepressants such as Zoloft,
which Mitchell had apparently been taking.
NOTE: The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is a particularly rabid
front group of the Scientology cult. Both organizations act like hate
[AUM Shinrikyo] Cult still a danger in Japan
The Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, responsible for a deadly
nerve-gas attack in Tokyo in 1995, could still massacre people and
required continued Government surveillance, Japan said today.
"To this day, there is still danger that they might commit random
massacres," said Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama, after presenting a
report to the Cabinet Office on the cult by the Public Security
"There is no change in the group's closed structure and deceptive
nature. Therefore we must continue monitoring its activities," she
[AUM Shinrikyo] Japan warning on doomsday cult
The latest report on the group, compiled by the Justice Ministry's
Public Security Investigation Agency, said that Aum had about 650
live-in followers and some 1,000 outside believers, as of the end of
[Warmongering / International Law] The moral decline of a superpower
No, it is not anti-Americanism that is damaging the image of the
United States; nor do the dictator Saddam Hussein and his extensively
disarmed country endanger the most powerful country in the world. It
is President Bush and his government that are diminishing democratic
values, bringing sure disaster to their own country, ignoring the
United Nations, and that are now terrifying the world with a war in
violation of international law.
NOTE: The author, Gunter Grass, was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize for
[Catholic Church] Aide Says Scope of Church Abuse Unknown
The extent of sex abuse cases among Roman Catholic clergy in America
is still unknown, a top aide to the U.S. bishops said Thursday.
"We still don't know how prevalent the cases are, or how prevalent
they are in other sectors of society," said Kathleen McChesney,
executive director of the U.S. bishops' Office of Child and Youth
McChesney, whose office was created last year in response to the
nationwide clerical sex abuse crisis, spoke at a conference of roughly
100 civil attorneys, prosecutors and molestation victims at the
Cardozo School of Law.
The meeting was believed to be the first large-scale gathering of the
groups to share information about the abuse crisis, which engulfed the
church last year. In 2002, at least 325 of the roughly 46,000 priests
in the United States either resigned or were removed from their duties
because of abuse allegations, many dating back decades.
[Science and Religion] Life: The battle for American science
Creationists, pro-lifers and conservatives now pose a serious threat
to research and science teaching in the US, report Oliver Burkeman and
[AUM Shinrikyo] Aum's Asahara silent during final questioning
Aum Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara on Thursday forfeited his
final chance to respond to questions by his lawyers on his role in Aum
crimes including the 1995 gassing of the Tokyo subway, maintaining his
silence as his seven-year trial at the Tokyo District Court drew
closer to a conclusion.
The court set April 24 as the date when prosecutors will demand a
sentence. The prosecutors, who concluded they have done their best to
prove that Asahara was the mastermind behind the sarin gas attack and
other Aum crimes, are widely expected to demand the death penalty.
The court will hand down a ruling after the defense counsel gives the
final arguments Oct 30 and 31.
[AUM Shinrikyo] A Strategy?: Ex-Aum leader silent to the end
At the next hearing April 24, prosecutors are expected to seek the
death penalty for Matsumoto, who adopted the name Shoko Asahara when
he ran Aum, sources said.
At Thursday's hearing, family members of those killed when Aum members
released sarin gas in two locations demanded the former guru and
alleged mastermind be given the ultimate sanction.
During his seven-year trial which began in April 1996, Matsumoto has
been indicted on 27 murder counts covering 13 separate cases.
The charges include two cases of indiscriminate mass murder using
sarin nerve gas.
[AUM Shinrikyo] Matsumoto silent as questioning ends
During Thursday's hearing at the Tokyo District Court, the 253rd in
the long trial, victims of the cult's crimes were allowed to present
Matsumoto was also questioned for the third time, but remained silent,
refusing to answer any of the questions posed by his defense lawyers,
as he has done in previous hearings. Presiding Judge Shoji Ogawa
decided to terminate the questioning session.
Prosecutors did not question him at all.
[AUM Shinrikyo] Aum cult man flies to Moscow
The new figurehead of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult left Japan
for Russia on Thursday in an apparent bid to shore up the loyalty of
The trip came amid expectations that prosecutors would demand death
for Aum founder Shoko Asahara, 48, at his seven-year-old trial in two
Fumihiro Joyu, the 40-year-old former telegenic spokesman for the cult
responsible for the 1995 deadly gas attacks on Tokyo subways, left on
a Aeroflot plane from Narita airport, a public safety source in Tokyo
The Russia visit, expected to last for about a week, is his first
overseas trip since Joyu was released from Japanese jail in December
1999 after serving a three-year jail sentence for perjury.
[Islam] Can Islam, democracy coexist?
The American model of democracy and the separation of church and state
isn't an easy fit in a Muslim country, experts and local Muslims say.
The ideal government, according to the Quran, is a theocracy, where
society is governed by the values of Islam.
Badat said Iraq's culture and way of life are completely different
than the United States'. Her husband, Ismail, is president of the
Islamic Center of Southern New Jersey, a Palmyra mosque.
"They (the United States) say they are going to impose democracy,"
said Badat, a native of India. "But Islam itself is an ideology. It is
very complex and doesn't differentiate between spiritual and mundane
"Democracy is the antithesis of Islam," said Badat, a native of India.
"Islam is neither democracy, communism or any of that. It emphasizes
both communal and individual rights, not at the cost of each other.
How will western democracy align with that?"
[Cloning] Human cloning 'flawed'
Human cloning may never be possible because of a quirk of biology.
Scientists in the United States say hundreds of attempts to clone
monkeys have ended in failure.
They think the biological make-up of the eggs of primates, including
humans, makes cloning almost impossible.
April 10, 2003
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Neighbors Worry As Scientology Moves In
Along with purchasing the building, the church acquired an adjacent
parking lot. It is considering purchasing more property in West Tampa
to make room for their community outreach programs, Tirabassi said,
including drug awareness programs, cleanup projects and literacy
Earl Haugabook, president of the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said
he is concerned if the church plans to grow in West Tampa.
``They could easily buy a whole bunch of property,'' Haugabook said.
``We want a diversified community with businesses who are going to
come in and offer jobs and keep the West Tampa mystique. We don't want
West Tampa known as the Scientology capital.''
NOTE: The Scientology organization is one of the most unethical cults
around. Promoting and condoning unethical behavior is part and parcel
of the organization's 'scriptures.'
[AUM Shinrikyo] Gas attack victims demand death for Asahara
Angry families of people who died in the 1995 Tokyo subway gassings
carried out by AUM-Shinrikyo cult members heaped abuse at cult guru
Shoko Asahara and demanded the death sentence for him Thursday at the
253rd hearing of his trial.
Testifying at the Tokyo District Court under the revised code of
criminal procedure, families accused Asahara, whose real name is
Chizuo Matsumoto, of directing subordinates in the AUM-Shinrikyo cult
to carry out the sarin gas attacks on Tokyo's subways that killed 12
and injured thousands.
[Cloning] Cloned human embryo reported
A Kentucky fertility specialist says he has created a cloned human
embryo that he plans to implant in a woman in the next month if
genetic tests show that the embryo is healthy. Scientists say it could
be the most credible human cloning experiment to date.
Unlike other supposed cloning efforts that have been cloaked in
secrecy, Dr. Panayiotis Zavos is about to report his results in a
scientific journal published by one of the world's most respected
scientists, in-vitro fertilization pioneer Dr. Robert Edwards.
[War] Church Leaders' Anti-War Message Fails in the Pews
It has been called organized religion's most unified anti-war stance
since the latter days of the Vietnam conflict.
But public opinion polls show the spiritual movement opposing war in
Iraq has had little impact on churchgoers, much less on the American
public, both of which overwhelmingly support both the U.S.-led
invasion and President Bush.
"The mainline churches have suffered a blow to their relevancy in
America that will take them more than a generation to recover from,"
said Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a conservative radio talk-show host from
Mercer Island, Wash., who speaks frequently at Christian Coalition
But the Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council
of Churches, could hardly disagree more. In his view, the council,
representing 36 denominations, is playing a prophetic role -- much as
it did in the 1960s when it took a stand for civil rights.
"None of the Old Testament prophets had a majority," said Edgar, a
former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. "My position is that
prophetic voices are always way out ahead of the congregation. Those
willing to speak out should not expect automatic enthusiasm. They
should understand pretty clearly that the rank and file take a little
longer to focus and to follow."
[Catholic Church] Church to Pay $323,000 and Apologize in Irish Sex
One of Ireland's prominent campaigners for the rights of victims of
clerical sexual abuse settled a five-year-old case against the Roman
Catholic diocese where he was abused more than 20 years ago for
300,000 euros ($323,000), in a deal that included a public apology and
sets a precedent for how the Catholic Church here relates to abuse
[Elizabeth Loftus] UCI Professor Faces Pending Lawsuit
UCIs Distinguished Professor in Social Ecology Elizabeth Loftus,
widely known for her studies in false memory research, is currently
facing an impending lawsuit filed against her by Nicole Taus in Solano
No stranger to controversy, Loftus has come to the defense of some of
the nations most high-profile individuals, among them Ted Bundy, the
Menendez Brothers and Michael Jackson.
Although Taus could not be reached for comment, a plaintiff report
filed at the superior court of California in Solano County accused
Loftus and several other parties of invasion of privacy, defamation,
libel per se, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional
distress and damages.
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