ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 19 - 20, 2003
June 20, 2003
[Humanistic Judaism] Creator of Humanistic Judaism Set To Leave Pulpit
When Rabbi Sherwin Wine steps down from his pulpit next week, he'll thank his
colleagues, his family and his friends. But he won't be thanking God.
Wine caused eyes to roll 40 years ago when he created Humanistic Judaism, a
movement that celebrates Judaism as a culture rather than a religion, and places
its faith in people rather than a supreme being.
On June 27, Wine, 75, will retire from the Birmingham Temple the Humanistic
congregation he launched outside Detroit that pioneered what has become a viable
"fifth denomination" of Judaism.
Wine took secular notions and gave them the trappings of religion
congregations, rabbis, services, structure. When he founded the Birmingham
Temple in 1963, such a combination was "a novel idea," he said.
[Religious Insanity] Girl weds dog to break 'evil spell'
The girl, Karnamoni Handsa, had to be married quickly because she had a tooth
rooted to her upper gum, which is considered a bad omen by her Santhal tribe in
the remote village of Khanyhan, about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Calcutta.
"Members of the village jury asked us to get her married to a dog or to face the
bad omen," the girl's father was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
The tribe elders said the marriage would not affect the girl's life, and that
she would be free to marry again later and did not need to divorce the dog.
[Prem Rawat / Elan Vital, Inc.] Spiritual body faces inquiry
An inquiry has been launched into the organisation linked with controversial
speaker Prem Rawat, who led The Charity Commission has confirmed that it is
investigating Elan Vital, the UK-registered charity which was set up in 1997.
The Indian-born icon Mr Rawat was billed as a motivational speaker when he
addressed two sell-out crowds at the Colston Hall on Saturday and Sunday.
But up until just a few years ago, Mr Rawat was known as the Guru Maharaj Ji,
head of the Divine Light Mission and who was once called Lord of the Universe by
followers who lined up to kiss his feet.
Andrew Carpenter, a former follower of Mr Rawat, spent three months
investigating Elan Vital before making a submission to the Charity Commission
Mr Carpenter claims that between 1996 and 2002, Elan Vital gifted more than £4.5
million in grant aid to organisations in Switzerland, America and Australia, all
exempt from providing public statements on their activities and spending.
[Rainbow Family] Utah Prepares for Rainbow People
The so-called Rainbow Family, up to 20-thousand strong, is heading for its
annual gathering, this year, in Utah's Uinta Mountains.
[Rainbow Family] 20,000 People Expected in The Uintas For The "Rainbow Family"
In the next 2 weeks, some 20 thousand people are expected in Utah's Uinta
Mountains for a counter- culture event called the Rainbow Family's annual
These scenes are from the gathering 2- years ago in Central Idaho. And what's
billed as a celebration of peace and love always turns out to be a giant
headache for government agencies.
John Hollenhorst just returned from Central Idaho. John, are there any lessons
for us in Idaho's experience?
Yes, it didn't turn out too badly, even though it generated plenty of worry.
Some Idahoans now say the Forest Service worried way too much.
[Falun Gong] Falun Gong supporters seek aid for imprisoned doctor
Three Falun Gong practitioners held a banner in front of Geneva City Hall
Thursday, seeking help to rescue a California doctor being held in China.
"SOS: Urgent Rescue of U.S. Citizen Dr. Li Persecuted in China," read the banner
held by Chen Hou and his wife, Sara Effner of Missouri, and Jiwu Wang, of
Li is from China but is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He returned to China to
challenge the country's stand on Falun Gong and intended to tap into the
state-run cable broadcast to prove his case. He was arrested Jan. 22 at
Guangzhou airport and sentenced to three years in the Nanjin Prison.
[Witchcraft] Group to open school for Wicca in Hoopeston
The world of Wicca will become more accessible in East Central Illinois because
Chicago-based Telepathic Media has purchased the former town hall building in
Hoopeston for use as a school to teach Wiccan principles, which include a belief
in a god and goddess of nature.
The school will begin hosting only seminars before branching into night classes,
and then full-time instruction. The facility will be the technological center of
the online school Witchschool.com.
[Rainbow Family] Rainbow Reunion's Size Raises Eyebrows
Hundreds of members of the 30-year-old, loosely organized clan of flower
children, hippies and others of the countercultural persuasion already are
assembling on approximately 4,000 acres of the north slope of the Uinta
Mountains. Thousands more are expected to arrive in the next two weeks.
The U.S. Forest Service this week approved a "noncommercial group special-use
permit" for the gathering, which will occur by the Little West Fork of the
Blacks Fork of the Bear River, near the Utah-Wyoming border and about 20 miles
northeast of Mirror Lake.
Unlike most of the Rainbow Family's previous gatherings over the past three
decades, this one will be legitimate, at least in the eyes of the Forest
Service, which has activated its "National Incident Management Team" to monitor
the group's reunion.
[Rainbow Family] Rainbow Family begins gathering in Utah
With a carefully worded permit in hand, the Rainbow Family is looking forward to
its first legal gathering in six years.
"We're going to do our very, very best to protect the resources of the area and
work with state, county and local officials for health and safety," said Garrick
Beck, a longtime gathering participant.
"We have moved the gathering into the legal arena and I think everybody should
be congratulated for this," he said.
The group regularly runs afoul of the Forest Service's permit rule for the
gatherings because it has no official leaders to take responsibility for the
[Catholic Church] Church Sex Abuse Study to Proceed
Roman Catholic bishops from California and several other states agreed today to
provide information on the extent of child sexual abuse in the church after
researchers promised to make "purely technical" changes in the way the data are
collected, organizers of the study said.
The agreement by the holdout bishops, reached behind closed doors at a meeting
of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops here, clears the way for the $250,000
study to proceed without changing its goals, Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett
[Hate Crimes] Pinellas doctor gets 12½ years for bomb plot targeting Muslims
A Pinellas County podiatrist who amassed weapons and a list of 50 Islamic
centers throughout Florida was sentenced on Thursday to 121/2 years for plotting
to bomb a mosque in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks and ongoing suicide
bombings in Israel.
June 19, 2003
[Falun Gong] Falun Gong follower from Hong Kong released from Myanmar prison
A follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement from Hong Kong has been released
from a Myanmar prison after a year and a half, having been detained for
demonstrating during a visit by China's then-president Jiang Zemin, a Falun Gong
spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Chan Wing-yuen, 71, was freed June 9 and deported to Hong Kong, said the
spokeswoman, Carol Chan.
The Hong Kong man had been sentenced to seven years for attempted subversion
after he unfurled a banner with the words ``Truthfulness, Compassion,
Tolerance'' at Yangon's airport shortly before Jiang's arrival on Dec. 12, 2001,
the spokeswoman said.
It was unclear why he was released early, she said. Myanmar authorities did not
immediately respond to a faxed query from The Associated Press.
[Media / Christianity] 'Nightline' examines evangelicals
Now 18, Stanley lives in Odessa, Mo., and is one of three young evangelical
Christian ministers featured in the program. Documentary makers followed the
youths from their schoolyards through the state trials to the final rounds of
the National Evangelical Preaching Competition at Bob Jones University in
In many ways, the show resembles a religious version of Spellbound, the recently
released documentary film about spelling bees. It is also a form of journalistic
penance. "We looked at this this way: This is a great story. And this is
something we don't do a lot of," says Leroy Sievers, Nightline's executive
Andrew Tyndall, a media analyst who publishes the Tyndall Report, says that the
three nightly network newscasts typically dedicate fewer than five minutes
weekly to religion. None of the three major broadcast networks have a person
devoted solely to the subject. (During much of the 1990s, ABC employed a
reporter with that assignment. She no longer works for the network.) "As a beat,
you'd say that religion is down at the bottom end," Tyndall says. "It gets large
coverage only when there's a scandal - or when it's flaky."
[Catholic Church] Church's progress on sex-abuse cases remains under scrutiny
As some 270 U.S. Roman Catholic bishops gather in St. Louis today for their
annual spring conference, questions still loom about just how much the church is
doing to address the clergy sexual-abuse scandal that has buffeted the church
for the last 18 months.
A year after U.S. bishops met in Dallas to draft a historic charter to protect
minors from sexually abusive priests and punish offenders, the 195 U.S. dioceses
are displaying varying levels of commitment to that policy. And the resignation
this week of the head of a national board designated by the bishops to monitor
compliance has only increased the scrutiny.
[Paganism] Sabrina, Harry and the Web help Paganism grow
Paganism and the ancient art of witchcraft are on the rise, experts say, as the
summer's most celebrated Pagan festival approaches.
Television, the Internet, environmentalism and even feminism have all played a
role in the resurgence.
Soaring Pagan numbers have churches worrying and calling for stricter controls
on cult TV programmes and films that celebrate sorcery like "Harry Potter",
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch".
Record attendance is expected at dawn on Saturday morning at the mystical
megaliths of Stonehenge, where Pagans have celebrated the summer solstice for
thousands of years.
The trend has worried some of the Protestant church's more traditional elements.
"The rise of interest in Paganism is damaging because it normalises spiritual
evil by presenting it as mere fantasy and fiction," said Reverend Joel Edwards
of the Evangelical Alliance, a grouping of some one million UK Christians.
[Ethics / Human Rights] What would Jesus do on death row?
Last week Dennis Halstead, John Kogut and John Restivo were released from prison
after having spent 18 years in the big house for the 1985 rape and murder of
16-year-old Theresa Fusco.
The prosecution's case relied heavily on a videotaped confession by Kogut. Kogut
later recanted his confession, having "admitted" to the crime after more than 18
hours of interrogation and sleep deprivation.
But with the help of Centurion Ministries, a Princeton, N.J.-based organization
that represents people wrongly convicted, and The Innocence Project, Kogut,
Halstead and Restivo gained their freedom.
It's just the latest case of a wrongful conviction where the innocent have been
freed after DNA analysis.
Now, having been nurtured in a prophetic religious tradition that worships a man
who consorted with social outcasts, announced the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand
by proclaiming "liberty to the captives" (see Luke 4:18), and who implored His
followers to be like God "who makes the sun shine on both the good and evil," I
can't understand why supporting organizations like the Innocence Project isn't a
high priority for church folks.
Sure, plenty of preachers go into the jails to evangelize. But what will it take
to get the church body to move beyond prison charity to inmate solidarity?
[Psychics] Fortunes falling for psychics
A City Council ordinance passed last month forces fortunetellers and some street
performers into more isolated parts of historic Jackson Square, leaving the most
accessible areas along the shady wrought iron fence for about 200 artists who
"There used to be 130 readers out here, but now there are only about 14 per
shift, and we have to compete for this small area on the sidewalk under the
sun," said Krikkett, 32, who has been reading palms in the French Quarter for
five years. "Look at that shady beautiful area along the fence. It's only for
the artists, and they aren't even using it."
The new law, officials said, is an effort to return the French Quarter, the
tourist magnet that has given this city a decadent charm found nowhere else in
America, to the splendor it enjoyed in the late 20th Century. It also appeases
New Orleans residents--88 percent of whom backed the campaign in a poll--who
have complained for years about the city's deteriorating quality of life.
[Archeology] Dead Sea Scrolls on display for the first time outside Israel
Fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, considered one of the greatest archeological
discoveries of the 20th Century, went on display in a Montreal museum Tuesday,
the first time they have been out of Israel.
[Mariology] Virgin Mary 'seen in US hospital'
A US hospital has asked the Catholic Church for help after being swamped by
thousands of people seeking to view what they believe is an image of the Virgin
Mary in a third-floor window.
More than 25,000 people visited the Milton Hospital near Boston, Massachusetts,
at the weekend as word of the likeness began to spread.
Attention is focused on a medical office building where the likeness is
reportedly formed by a leaking chemical deposit inside a sealed window.
[Transcendental Meditation] Vedic City drops bid for sales tax money
Vedic City officials submitted a petition May 30 to enact a local option sales
tax in the city and withdrew it Monday after discovering state law would not
allow them to get any money from the tax without a new census.
[Maharishi Vedic Construction Company] Divine intervention fails to get back
Heard of Maharishi Vedic Construction Company or Golden Glades? Not unless you
are one of those unfortunate investors who put money into this company named
after Maharishi Mahesh Yogipopularly known as The Flying Swami.
It is another of those plantation companies which mopped up money from the
market with clueless investors falling for their tall claims on high interest
returns ranging anywhere between 18 to 24 per cent, and left their investors
high and dry.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Jehovah's Witnesses lawyer cites 1959 landmark ruling
A veteran of legal battles for the Jehovah's Witnesses was in a Montreal
courtroom yesterday, revisiting his landmark civil-liberties victories of
However, Glen How, 84, and other members of a Jehovah's Witnesses legal team
received a skeptical hearing from three Quebec Court of Appeal judges for some
of their arguments.
The town and the Witnesses are appealing against different parts of an April
2001 decision by Quebec Superior Court Judge André Crépeau.
Blainville is appealing against Crépeau's decision to quash the 1996 bylaw as it
applies to the Witnesses, as a violation of democratic freedoms. The Witnesses
are appealing against Crépeau's refusal to order the mayor to pay $3,500 in
"moral" and "exemplary" damages to each of the 14 Witnesses summonsed.
[Underground Church, China] China arrests eight in crackdown on unofficial
Eight members of an underground Christian church in China's southwest have been
charged with violating anti-cult laws, a police official said Thursday.
A human rights group that announced the arrests said they were part of a
crackdown on unauthorized worship.
[Sikhism] Claims of 'guru' enrage Sikhs
Grewal has been under scrutiny in Toronto's Punjabi language media because he
has made statements that have disturbed fundamentalist Sikhs. He believes he is
on his own path to cosmic consciousness and has said he is above the Guru Granth
Sahib, the Sikh holy book. His congregation he is careful never to use the
word followers is about 40 or 50 people, half of them relatives.
He believes he is a Sant, or enlightened being, and must share his wisdom.
"I am the only path for me for now, do you understand what I'm saying?" he asks.
"The others that are in my company have experienced these exalted states where
they see the heavens above and even talk to the saints and prophets of before."
These are the types of statements that have enraged the Sikh community. Grewal's
actions conflict with one of the core strictures of the faith.
"He is breaching one of the fundamental tenets of Sikhism because the last Guru,
just before his death, ordained the Guru Granth Sahib as the final and the only
Guru partly for this very reason, so there would not be any confusion as to
the divine message and you get away from the practice of all kinds of people
propping themselves up as the appointed Gurus," said Satwinder Singh Gosal, a
lawyer and founding member of the Centennial Foundation, an organization
dedicated to promoting knowledge about Sikhism.
[Harry Potter] Religious attacks muted as new Potter arrives
Harry Potter can breathe a bit easier these days -- the evil Lord Voldemort may
still have it in for the boy wizard, but the lawyers, preachers and family
groups seem ready to give it a rest.
With the arrival of author J.K. Rowling's fifth novel, "Harry Potter and the
Order of the Phoenix," set for Saturday, opposition to the orphan with the
lightning-bolt scar and the high-performance broomstick is muted.
Evangelical writer Richard Abanes' 2001 book "Harry Potter and the Bible" sold
more than 100,000 copies and established him as one of the leading critics of
the novels. Two years later, he thinks the momentum has run out on Potter
"I've moved on. I have other things to do," Abanes said.
"Within the Christian media and the Christian community there is much less vocal
response to this new book. I don't particularly think we're going to see any
more huge book burnings and demonstrations and lawsuits and things like this. I
think everybody already knows where they stand on Harry Potter," he said.
Many conservative Christians have come to embrace the books, in part drawn by a
portrayal of evil that has grown increasingly sophisticated, almost Biblical,
with each book.
Richard Burke, chairman of the English department at Lynchburg College in
Virginia, is among the academics who have begun to track the rise of evil in the
Potter books as a dominant theme.
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