Religion News Blog, June 18, 2003
- ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 18, 2003
[Magnificat Meal Movement] Magnificent Mercs and millions
Cult leader Debra Geileskey who claims she has visions of the Virgin
Mary has amassed a property empire worth more than $3.5 million.
The former school teacher whose Magnificat Meal Movement headquarters
are based at Helidon, 80km west of Brisbane, also owns four
Mercedes-Benz with matching number plates.
Land title searches show she owns or part owns at least 20 properties,
including homes, farms, offices, shops and units.
In the past 18 months, Ms Geileskey and companies in which she is the
sole director bought $2.3 million worth of property in the Gatton,
Laidley and Livingstone shires.
Among last year's purchases was a $950,000 orchard, a $590,000 cattle
property, $300,000 tropical fruit farm and a $285,000 house site.
Ms Geileskey is a director of 10 companies, and often uses the name
She owns or part owns about a dozen properties in Helidon's Railway
St, the town's main street.
Ms Geileskey attracted world-wide attention with claims she received
messages from Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
[Worldwide Church of God] Doctrinal Aftershocks
Ten years ago, leaders in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) began
denouncing the fringe beliefs of their founder and transforming their
church into an evangelical denomination. This revolutionary
theological shift caused congregations and families to splinter. It
also sparked a financial Armageddon in the highly visible movement of
Now church leaders propose a physical shift that they say will
determine the church's future. They want to turn their valuable
55-acre Ambassador College campus in upscale Pasadena into about 1,500
residential units. Church officials say selling the headquarters will
secure the church's financial foundation, provide pensions for its
pastors, and create much-needed housing for city residents.
[Hate Groups] Prosecutors don't want Hale trial moved
The government disagrees that media coverage has been pervasive and
rebutted the defense's suggestion that central Illinoisans are more
familiar with Hale and less likely to be shocked by bad press.
Prosecutors doubt the long history of Hale coverage in the U.S.
Central District would somehow "dull the senses of prospective
"Understandably, defendant cites no legal authority to support the
notion that some media coverage can create so much prejudice that a
change of venue is warranted, but an extreme amount of media coverage
can somehow 'cure' any potential prejudice," Assistant U.S. Attorney
David Weisman wrote in a 19-page response filed Monday.
In addition, prosecutors contend that before his arrest in Chicago,
"the defendant's own penchant for media coverage has been the driving
factor in his repeated appearances in the media."
[Obituary] Robert Vaughn Young. Death of a Hero.
From: grahameb@... (Graham Berry)
Subject: ROBERT VAUGHN YOUNG. DEATH OF A HERO.
Date: 15 Jun 2003 20:28:59 -0700
Robert Vaughn Young
It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Robert
Vaughn Young. He died early Sunday afternoon June 15, 2003 after a
In the late 1980s Vaughn "escaped" from Scientology with his then wife
Stacy Brooks. He was one of the highest level executives to have ever
defected from the church. In 1993 Vaughn and Stacy agreed to testify
as expert witnesses in litigation then being handled by Dan Leipold,
Esq. and myself. The rest of that story is also history.
[Falun Gong] Commission weighs Falun Gong stand
The Lohs and three other Falun Gong practitioners asked the city's
human relations commissioners Monday night to write a letter to the
Chinese government condemning its persecution of the movement.
After a 30-minute debate over the role of the commission, members
unanimously agreed to write a letter to U.S. Rep. Pete Stark, Sen.
Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer informing them that local
residents have been affected by China's Falun Gong crackdown.
"As a melting pot, we have to address issues like (Falun Gong),"
Commissioner Mohamad Rajabally said at the meeting.
[Judaism] Pre-teens reclaim Judaism
Rabbi Ari Korenblit, the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom, said that
this year alone, attendance at the synagogue's Hebrew school rose from
18 to more than 100. Many new students are from Russian families who
recently moved to Mill Basin or Bergen Beach.
"We are getting the children of the victims of communism," the rabbi
said. "Communism's theology was anti-religion. In their birthing
centers in some cities, there were signs that said, 'There is no god.'
That was their religion."
Korenblit said that while some Russian newcomers do not participate in
religious life because it is not part of their tradition, other
families are embracing Judaism.
[Harry Potter] Release of new Harry Potter book causes a marketing
This time, merchandisers are leaving nothing to the imagination. When
the next installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, goes
on sale at midnight Friday, fans can buy officially licensed
paraphernalia like a Harry Potter robe with built-in fiberoptic
lights, ($55.99), a battery-powered magic wand with flashing lights
and sound effects ($12.99) and forehead-scar makeup ($7.49).
J.K. Rowling, the author of the series, has often said she wanted to
protect her stories from becoming encrusted with marketing pitches and
merchandising plugs, but she may have finally lost the battle.
[Hate Groups] Rightwing religions: where do they come from?
South Africa's rightwing religions originated historically from a
British movement dating from the nineteenth century, says Free State
University theologian Sybrand Strauss.
The British Israel movement expounded the theory that the British were
the real descendants of Biblical Israel and thus God's only chosen
people, says Strauss.
They argued that the 10 so-called lost tribes of Israel, who vanished
from history after being conquered in 720 before Christ, eventually
settled in Britain.
Strauss, who earlier studied South Africa's rightwing sects for the
Dutch Reformed Church, says it is not clear how Afrikaners became
involved in this movement.
However, a variation of the classic British Israel theory states that
not only the British are descendants of Israel's 10 lost tribes, but
all the white peoples of the world.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Blainville won't back down from Jehovah's
The city of Blainville, Que. is appealing a ruling that struck down a
bylaw that restricted door-to-door solicitation by Jehovah's
The Quebec Superior Court ruled the bylaw violated their basic
religious freedoms, but the city isn't giving up. It says
municipalities have a right to limit religious freedoms.
Blainville enacted the bylaw in 1996 after some residents complained
they were being woken up by Jehovah's Witnesses on the weekends.
It forbids all door-to-door solicitation on weekends and after 7:30
p.m. And those who want to canvass at all can only do so for two
months of the year, with a permit.
[Father Divine] For the faithful, Father Divine is still God
Since his death, his widow and other believers have done their best to
preserve Father Divine's presence and sustain the religious movement
he founded in New York during the first half of the 20th century.
The International Peace Mission still maintains its stunning hilltop
estate in Gladwyne, outside Philadelphia, church offices in downtown
Philadelphia and a budget hotel - the Divine Tracy - near the
University of Pennsylvania campus.
Believers, most of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, still gather
regularly to sing religious and patriotic songs and listen to
recordings of Father Divine's sermons.
But there are signs the movement is in its twilight.
[Ruben Ecleo] Ecleo case crawls on a year after
They were promised immortality by the man they called the Divine
Master. And on that night of June 18, 2002, the promise was brought
to the test on Dinagat Island off Surigao del Norte16 members of the
Philippine Benevolent Missionary Association (PBMA) lay dead for the
cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr., whose family holds awesome religious and
political power on the island.
Ecleo faces parricide charges before the Cebu City Regional Trial
Court Branch 23 for allegedly murdering his third wife, Alona Bacolod,
on January 6 last year.
Much may be puzzling about Alonas death, but accusations by her
family point to Ecleo as the suspect. Alonas constant nagging about
Ecleos addiction to methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, had
reportedly led him to murder her.
That incident tested even more the faith of PBMA members on Dinagat
when Ecleos armed men fought authorities in a fierce battle to
prevent their Divine Master and Supreme President from being
[Hate Groups] 'Politics is not for us, God already chose us'
They believe God created an elect group of whites to rule the peoples
of the world. They also believe the Bible forbids racial
Yet Jaco van der Merwe, spiritual leader of the Lewende Hoop (Living
Hope) congregation in Kroonstad, denies their message is political.
"There are no political elements in our preaching. We are simply
relaying what God says in his word," Van der Merwe says, sitting in
his home office on a smallholding outside Kroonstad.
His church building is a converted workshop on the same property.
Police and intelligence officers do not seem to agree that the Lewende
Hoop teachings are a-political.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Quebec municipality tries again in court to
restrict Jehovah's Witnesses
"If these aren't restrictions on religious freedoms, I don't know what
are," said Justice Pierre Dalphond.
Dalphond also said the City of Blainville has been "paternalistic" in
its treatment of residents by not allowing them the right to not
answer the door, or the option of discussing their views with the
In April 2001, a Quebec Superior Court justice ruled that to lump the
religious group in with peddlers was "insulting, degrading, hurtful
However, the judge refused the Jehovah's Witnesses request for $3,500
in damages for each of the 14 people fined under the bylaw since 1997.
The City of Blainville appealed the ruling, while the Witnesses are
appealing the question of damages.
Lawyers representing the Witnesses argued that awarding damages sends
a message to all publicly elected officials.
"To put it in simple English, you can not license freedom of
expression," said lawyer Glen How, who is also a Witness.
[Human Rights Violations, USA] Op-ed: America and war crimes
The US has bribed and bullied over thirty countries to help it cripple
and if possible destroy the ICC, but the great majority of nations
(including many of the bullied ones) consider it a major advance in
international cooperation. In humanitarian terms it is a practical
step forward for global maturity and decency. The only circumstances
in which the Court would have a case referred to it would be if
individuals alleged to have committed war crimes had not been subject
to their own national judicial process. What could be fairer than
But it isnt a matter of being fair. It is a matter of America being
above the law. No American citizen is ever going to be charged with
committing a war crime. The US will ride roughshod over international
law and treat with disdain and contempt those nations trying to
construct a system of egalitarian international justice. Bush is
determined to destroy internationalism. Thats the way it goes, and
there is nothing we can do about it. Little wonder that terrorists
[Stigmata] In apparent stigmata, a question of belief
Bernas first began to experience her wounds during Easter in 1992. She
also claims to have had visions of Jesus, who addresses her as "my
sweet petal" or "my suffering soul." She has written about these
experiences in two self-published books.
The Archdiocese of Ottawa, where Bernas lived prior to
Niagara-on-the-Lake, set up a special commission to investigate her
claims, but diocesan officials are reluctant to talk about it.
"It doesn't really concern the general public. It just creates
propaganda," said Gabrielle Tasse, spokeswoman for the Ottawa
In the foreword to her books, Bernas maintains that the commission
concluded she was neither lying nor crazy.
Nickell, a former detective and magician, investigates claims of the
supernatural and paranormal for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, based in
Amherst. In 1993, he wrote a book on the topic, called "Looking for a
Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures."
Nickell met Bernas on a Friday evening in March 2002 in
Niagara-on-the-Lake. He was one of about 100 people who gathered in a
social hall to see Bernas, whose appearance was advertised earlier on
a church billboard.
Nickell can demonstrate how to fake stigmata with tiny incisions in
his hands and feet that create plenty of blood, and he believes
Bernas' wounds were self-inflicted.
[People's Temple] Former People's Temple building is open to
A church that was once home to cult leader Jim Jones is up for sale on
the Old Northside.
Jones had been a street preacher before founding the People's Temple
Full Gospel Church in 1956.
Today, the building at 15th and North New Jersey streets is home to
Abundant Faith Apostolic Church, which is moving to the suburbs.
The congregation has no members left over from the People's Temple
Pastor Larry Glass says people doing historical research sometimes
visit but that the Jones connection isn't talked about in the pews.
Local lore has it that Jones in his early days was different from the
man who led more than 900 followers to their deaths in Guyana 25 years
[Polygamy] Green Can Hold, Not Practice, Polygamist Beliefs
Polygamist Tom Green can hold religious beliefs regarding plural
marriage, but cannot put them into practice, the state argued in a
brief supporting his bigamy conviction.
The brief was filed with the Utah Supreme Court on Wednesday in
response to Green's appeal. Attorneys for both sides expect the case
ultimately to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We're saying you can believe whatever you want. We do believe people
have an important right to practice their religion," Assistant
Attorney General Laura Dupaix said. "But there's a point where
religious beliefs do not justify you engaging in socially harmful
"In this case, the socially harmful conduct was enticing and seducing
young girls into becoming polygamist wives."
[Polygamy] Polygamist with secretive Mormon sect released from Utah
Polygamist David Ortell Kingston was released from prison Tuesday
after serving four years of a potential 10-year sentence for incest
with his underage niece, who testified she was forced to become his
Rather than parole him, the state Board of Pardons and Parole opted to
terminate his sentence. As a result, the prison has no responsibility
to follow up on Kingston.
Todd Utzinger, one of Kingston's former attorneys, said the parole
board's decision to not supervise Kingston recognizes that "he has
taken full responsibility and is prepared to go on and live a
Kingston was an accountant for The Latter Day Church of Christ, one of
Utah's most secretive polygamous sects. It is believed to have about
1,000 members and a $150 million business empire in six Western
states. Marriages of half-sisters, first cousins, nieces and aunts are
part of their religious beliefs
[Human Rights] First day of justice
Even as the first prosecutor of the new International Criminal Court
got down to work on Tuesday, Washington continued its push to exempt
US citizens from the court's scope. Wire news services reported that
up to six nations had agreed to exemption deals, in addition to the 39
countries already openly cooperating with the US in side-stepping ICC
jurisdiction. Despite the US evasion, however, morale at the new Hague
court is high after the inauguration of Argentinean litigator Luis
At Luis Moreno Ocampo's swearing-in on Monday, the 50-year-old lawyer
promised to do his unprecedented job honourably, faithfully and
impartially. As the first prosecutor of the new International Criminal
Court (ICC), Mr Moreno Ocampo's powers are those feared most by
opponents of the court, such as the US.
The experienced Argentinean prosecutor, who made a name for himself
pursuing leaders of Argentina's former military dictatorship, will
have the power to investigate and prosecute the world's most serious
crimes, from crimes against humanity to genocide.
[Human Rights] International crime court gets prosecutor
Mr Ocampo will establish the court's prosecution policy and decide
which cases should go to trial.
His work will influence perceptions around the world of whether the
court is seen as being fair and impartial.
Mr Ocampo - renowned for prosecuting members of the former military
dictatorship of his country in the 1980s - made a solemn undertaking
on Monday committing himself to 'serve right and justice', the ICC
said in a statement.
[Human Rights] EU Strengthens ICC Support
By adopting a revised Common Position on the International Criminal
Court (ICC), the European Union (EU) reinforced its support for
international justice, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Common Position is the legally binding instrument of the EU Common
Foreign and Security Policy. It expresses all EU Member States'
willingness to support the ICC and cooperate to increase its
effectiveness. The EU's bolstering of international justice comes as
the ICC Prosecutor takes office today in The Hague, while the Bush
administration steps up its efforts to exempt American citizens from
the court's jurisdiction.
"The European Union's commitment to take a more active role will help
to safeguard the ICC as it begins its vital work," said Lotte Leicht,
director of Human Rights Watch's Brussels office. "The new EU Common
Position is an eloquent rejoinder to U.S. pressure on weaker states."
Because the ICC treaty entered into force a year ago, the EU resolved
to adapt its Common Position in order to meet the new challenges
confronting the ICC. Now that the court has elected its eighteen
judges and Prosecutor, the EU has decided to take measures to
strengthen its effective cooperation with the ICC. At the same time,
the EU is responding to recent efforts by the Bush administration to
weaken the court.
[Human Rights Violations, USA] Egypt, Tunisia sign secret agreements
to exempt the American from International criminal Trial
The US Department Of State announced yesterday that other five
countries approved to exempt American soldiers from being subject to
the International Criminal Court. This came in the day when this
court's power came to effect with the appointment of its first
attorney general in his post of office yesterday.
Among the countries which signed a bilateral exemption with Washington
are two states. They are Egypt and Tunisia in addition to Mongolia,
Nicaragua and Seashell islands.
[Human Rights Violations, USA] U.S. averts another battle over
International Criminal Court
The United Nations averted a battle over the U.S. demand that American
peacekeepers be exempt from prosecution by the new international war
crimes tribunal -- but the battle lines were drawn for another
showdown next year.
The Bush administration got the quick approval it wanted Thursday for
another yearlong exemption, but without the unanimous Security Council
support that it had over the same issue last year.
The United States wants a permanent exemption, but the European Union
opposes that. The 90 countries that ratified the 1998 Rome Treaty,
which created the court, say there are safeguards against such
NOTE: Benjamin Ferencz, one of the original Nuremberg prosecutors, has
stated that the U.S. government deceives the American people regarding
the nature and scope of the ICC:
[Mormon Church] Land Deal Seems to Resolve Salt Lake City Plaza
After a four-year battle between free-speech advocates and the Mormon
Church, Salt Lake City has agreed to a plan that gives the church the
right to restrict behavior on a downtown plaza that has been a public
easement in exchange for giving the city two acres of land for a new
The plan also includes $5 million in private donations toward
construction of the center. The agreement goes into effect in 35 days
if no further legal challenges emerge.
[Worldwide Church of God] Church Sells Armstrong's Works
Reversing course, the financially struggling Worldwide Church of God
has agreed to sell the rights to 19 books by church founder Herbert W.
Armstrong to a splinter group. Announced March 12, the $3 million
settlement ends a costly round of litigation. It also allows the
Philadelphia Church of God (PCG) to reproduce Armstrong's teachings.
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