Religion News Blog, May 14, 2003
May 14, 2003
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Hearing slated for suit against church
A hearing will be held this week in the case of two sisters who have
sued the Jehovahs Witnesses and their former congregation in Wilton,
charging that church elders ignored complaints of sexual abuse.
Filed in August 2001 in Hillsborough County Superior Court, the case
has spawned six files worth of court documents without coming close to
being ready for trial.
On Monday and Tuesday, Judge William Groff is scheduled to hear
evidence and arguments on whether Jehovahs Witness elders are akin to
ministers, so their communications would be covered by the states
religious privilege confidentiality rule.
Groff previously ruled against the church on a number of requests for
summary judgment, seeking to have the case thrown out on purely
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Ex-church elders get prison for bilking elderly
Jehovah's Witnesses church elders who fleeced a 100-year-old Deer
Lodge woman out of more than $6 million were remanded to Montana State
Prison after a sentencing hearing in Powell County District Court
Darryl Willis, 64, Helena, and Dale Erickson, 54, Missoula, were
sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison with four years suspended each
for felony charges of conspiracy and theft; three years with one
suspended for felony conspiracy, and two years with one suspended for
securities fraud, also a felony. That amounts to an aggregate 25 years
in prison with 10 suspended.
[Offbeat News] 'Jedi' religion of choice for 20,000 Canadians
"Jedi" is the religion of choice for 20,000 Canadians, according to
2001 census data released yesterday by Statistics Canada. About half
of all Canadian Jedis live in B.C., a Statistics Canada official said
yesterday, while Alberta and Ontario have 4,000 each.
About 2,000 Jedi followers are scattered throughout the rest of the
country, including Manitoba.
[Occultism] Chinese embrace occult over science in SARS fight
Hiring sorcerers. Lighting firecrackers. Following advice reputed to
be from a mystical talking baby. While China's government promotes
science, thousands of its people are turning to the supernatural to
The resort to tradition has prompted efforts by China's state press
and the officially atheist communist government to discourage it.
But multiple reports of what Chinese leaders consider dangerous
superstition in widely scattered areas illustrate the scale of fear of
a disease the Health Ministry said Tuesday has killed at least 262
people on China's mainland. More than 5,000 others are infected.
[Panawave] Pana Wave Cult Raises Concern Among Japanese Authorities
Japanese police are conducting searches and seizing vehicles at a
dozen sites linked to a cult that has become a media obsession in the
country. The Pana Wave group has been traveling the Japanese
countryside clad in white from head to toe - even swathing their
vehicles in white sheets. There is growing concern about this group,
which bears similarities to a cult that released poison gas in a
deadly attack in the mid-1990's.
[Panawave] Antenna tower sabotage follows cult-related threat
Several bolts were found removed from a 30-meter-tall antenna tower
here Wednesday after the local bureau of a national daily received a
letter threatening to knock down the structure unless it stopped
covering the bizarre "white cult," police said.
[Islamism] Saudi Religious Police Launch Website
The Al-Madina regional branch of the Saudi religious and morality
police, formally known as "The Authority for the Promotion of Virtue
and Prevention of Vices," recently launched its new website.  The
site posts news items, citizens' violations, and includes a section
that allows citizens to inform anonymously on persons they suspect of
violating religious and moral laws. The following is a summary of the
website's recent content:
[Religion Trends] Canadians losing their religion
A growing number of Canadians are losing their religion.
In fact, 4.8 million Canadians, 16 per cent of the population,
declared themselves as having no religion, Statistics Canada reported
Tuesday in the latest and final report to come from the 2001 census.
That's roughly the same number of Canadians that identified themselves
as Anglican and United Church combined.
A decade ago only 12 per cent of Canadians said they had no religion.
The increase represents a staggering 44 per cent jump.
[Success Coaches] Here's Sound Advice: Write Book, Become Rich
When the Rev. Eric Butterworth, once a wildly popular preacher of
self-improvement, died last month, his New York Times obituary quoted
a 1987 Forbes story in summarizing his message: "That we alone have
the power within us to solve our problems, relieve our anxieties and
pain, heal our illnesses, improve our golf game or get a promotion."
It was a thought that resonated then--and now more than ever. The 1987
story noted the huge size of the self-help market. But it turns out
that that market had hardly been tapped. Butterworth's successors have
moved into publishing's big leagues: Our new list of the top ten
self-help stars includes authors whose books often outsell even
[Hate Groups] After 6 years away, reformed white supremacist remains
Six years ago, she broke away from her husband and the National
Alliance. She lost her children, her home, and her identity.
Today, Kaiser has rebuilt her life. She regained custody of her three
children, she is taking classes at a community college in Rochester,
Minn., and shes remarried a man whom she calls kind and gentle.
But Kaiser still feels angry. Shes furious at the years of lies and
brainwashing she endured from the National Alliance, which is
headquartered in Pocahontas County.
So she speaks out in media interviews with 20/20 and Good
Housekeeping; with a new book, Bondage of Self; and to groups like
the West Virginia Hate Crimes Task Force, which she is scheduled to
address Thursday afternoon. (The meeting is not open to the public.)
I feel these people raped my soul, Kaiser said. They took away
everything that made Kirsten, Kirsten.
[Islamism] Editorial: The Enemy Within
Those responsible are the new fascists. Merciless, cold and full of
hate, with a demented vision of Islam, they declared war on humanity
for the thoroughly un-Islamic goal of separating and insulating the
Muslim world from the rest of humanity, as part of which they hope to
terrorize Westerners into leaving the Kingdom.
We cannot say that suicide bombings in Israel and Russia are
acceptable but not in Saudi Arabia. The cult of suicide bombings has
to stop. So too has the chattering, malicious, vindictive hate
propaganda. It has provided a fertile ground for ignorance and hatred
[Falun Gong] Swede held for China cult links
A Swedish housewife who is a follower of the Falungong religious sect
has been detained by the police at the Immigration Department for the
past two weeks without any charge, according to an informed source.
Pirjo Svensson, who is in her fifties, was arrested at her residence
on April 29 in Bangkok by policemen because she possessed literature
related to the Falungong, the religious sect outlawed by Chinese
[Panawave] Japanese Cult Vows to Save a Seal and the World
Although Pana Wave has been a harmless oddity so far, one community
after another has chased it away, forcing its all-white motorcade back
onto the highways, where the cortege of journalists who follow has
grown by the week.
It has not helped its image that wherever the group has stopped, the
local police have recalled that the Aum sect which killed 12 people
and injured 5,500 in March 1995 in a poison gas attack on the Tokyo
subway system had similarly benign-seeming origins.
[Panawave] Police raid bizarre "white cult"
Police raided locations connected to the bizarre "white cult"
Wednesday for minor offenses amid persistent resistance from its
members, investigators said.
Law enforcers are determined to take the opportunity with Wednesday's
raids to launch full-scale investigations in a bid to get to the
bottom of the activities of the mysterious cult.
A 66-year-old man, who is believed to be the second-in-command of the
Panawave Laboratory, said the cult is poised to respond by taking
legal action against law enforcement authorities.
"We're no harm to society, and regularly report our activities to
police. We'll take legal action. We only grow stronger and more
powerful whenever we are bashed. Our group will never disband," he
said in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.
The high-ranking cultist corrected a prediction that a major disaster
will devastate the Earth on Thursday. "I think it will be delayed till
around May 22."
[Panawave] Police to search Pana Wave facilities
The police suspect the group systematically used other persons' names
in registering some of the 20 or so white vehicles which about 60
members used while traveling through central Japan.
[Panawave] So, will the world end tomorrow?
The Earth is about to be zapped by deadly waves, according to members
of Japan's Panawave cult. But even if doomsday doesn't happen, should
we be worried by the nation's proliferation of bizarre sects?
May 13, 2003 (Continued)
[Aum Shinrikyo] Trial of Sarin attack cult member ends, verdict 29
Defence lawyers for former senior Aum Shinrikyo cult member Tomomasa
Nakagawa urged the Tokyo District Court on Monday [12 May] not to
sentence him to death if it finds him guilty of involvement in the
killings of 24 people in 11 cases, including the 1995 Tokyo subway
sarin gas attack.
In his final statement, Nakagawa, 40, said, "As a human being, a
doctor and a religious person, I was a failure. I apologize for
everything in my life."
[Falun Gong] Falun Gong marks 11th anniversary of its founding with
protests in Hong Kong
Falun Gong followers marked the 11th anniversary of the meditation
sect's founding Tuesday with peaceful protests in Hong Kong against
mainland China's efforts to stamp out the group.
About 200 Falun Gong followers wearing trademark yellow T-shirts
gathered in a downtown park and formed the Chinese characters for the
group's slogan, ``Truth, compassion and forbearance,'' said local
Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung.
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