ReligionNewsBlog.com, Nov. 19, 2003
- ReligionNewsBlog.com, Nov. 19, 2003
Wed, Nov. 19, 2003
[Peoples Temple] Relatives, survivors remember Jonestown
The thousands of people who followed Jones, many of them black, were drawn
by his preaching of interracial harmony and caring for the poor. Politicians
liked him too - Jones became chair of the San Francisco Housing Authority in
1976. But reports persisted of problems in the temple - fake healings,
beatings - and by 1978 Jones had moved his operations to the South American
country of Guyana, where workers were building an agricultural paradise in
the jungle. It turned out to be more like a prison camp, with poor food,
horrible conditions and Jones' voice, live and taped, going round-the-clock,
said Yulanda Williams, another speaker at the memorial.
[Peoples Temple] In Guyana, Jonestown massacre distant U.S. tragedy
The government of this former British colony said it would support restoring
the remote outpost as a memorial. Vines and trees now cover the area where
Jones called for mass suicide, near a rusted flour mill and two wooden
buildings in ruin. "Developing the site would serve as a reminder to people
about the insanity of others," Tourism and Industry Minister Manzoor Nadir
said. "It was more of an American problem than anything else." [...] The
official Guyana Information News Agency released an unsigned column Monday
faulting the government of then-Prime Minister Forbes Burnham for what it
said was recklessly lax monitoring. "We tend to defend ourselves by saying
it was an American tragedy played out in the Guyana jungle," the government
statement said. "But we cannot escape the fact that the whole tragedy was
facilitated by a government so bent on taking care of itself that it pulled
a veil of secrecy tight around Jonestown and allowed the cancer to fester
until the eruption."
[Peoples Temple] Hell's 25-Year Echo: The Jonestown Mass Suicide
Jones identified with the underdogs and the oppressed since his Indiana
childhood, where he felt the pain of parental neglect and adopted churches
as his extended family. But the seeds of his madness took root there too.
At an early age, he conducted cruel experiments on barnyard animals and
tried to control his playmates, locking them up in a barn and later
threatening his best friend with a gun. These tendencies to control and
manipulate people were marks of his adulthood, along with a creeping
paranoia, drug abuse and a repertoire of faked attacks on himself.
NOTE: According to cult defender J. Gordon Melton, "Jones became a cult
leader and the Peoples Temple became a cult, literally overnight. And what
was forgotten was that this was actually a church in a mainstream
religion.... He was about as mainstream as you could get."
- J. Gordon Melton, The Sacramento Bee, Nov. 15, 1998, as quoted in the Cult
[Peoples Temple] Jonestown Survivors Recall Cult Suicide-Murder 25 Years
In November of 1978, Ryan, concerned family members, a small team of
reporters and congressional aide Jackie Speier headed to Jonestown. Speier
said she expected they would make some troubling discoveries, but she never
expected they would be in immediate danger. "He [Ryan] knew that I had fears
and concerns about the trip. I thought we were moving too quickly." Once at
the camp, TV reporter Don Harris was handed desperate messages from Jones'
followers begging for help. Jones told Harris that the messages meant
nothing to him. "People play games, friend. They lie. They lie. What can I
do about lies? Will you people leave us? I just beg you please leave us,"
Jones said to Harris. Ryan's group took rising tensions at Jonestown as an
indication that they should head back to the United States while they could.
But the congressman's group and some escaping cult members were ambushed by
Jones' gunmen at the airstrip they planned to depart from.
[Prosperity Teaching] Summary: The prosperity gospel
The prosperity gospel also has been called the ``name it and claim it''
theology. God wants His people to prosper, evangelists like Meyer maintain.
Those who follow God and give generously to his ministries can have
anything, and everything, they want. But critics, from Bible-quoting
theologians to groups devoted to preserving the separation of church and
state, abound. At best, they say, such a theology is a simplistic and
misguided way of living. At worst, they say, it is dangerous. Michael Scott
Horton, who teaches historical theology at the Westminister Theological
Seminary in Escondido, Ca., calls the message a twisted interpretation of
the Bible -- a ``wild and wacky theology. ``Some of these people are
charlatans,'' Horton said. ``Others are honestly dedicated to one of the
most abhorrent errors in religious theology. `` I often think of these
folks as the religious equivalent to a combination of a National Enquirer ad
and professional wrestling. It's part entertainment and very large part
[Joyce Meyer] Summary: From Fenton to fame
Joyce Meyer says God has made her rich. Everything she has came from Him:
the $10 million corporate jet, her husband's $107,000 silver-gray Mercedes
sedan, her $2 million home and houses worth another $2 million for her four
children -- all blessings, she says, straight from the hand of God. [...]
Describing herself as sexually abused when she was a girl and neglected and
abandoned as a young wife, Meyer has remade herself into one of the nation's
best-known and best-paid TV preachers. She has taken her ``prosperity
through faith'' message to millions. ``If you stay in your faith, you are
going to get paid,'' Meyer told an audience in Detroit in September. ``I'm
living now in my reward.'' [...] But the way Meyer spends her ministry's
money on herself and her family may violate federal law, legal and tax
experts say. That law bars leaders of non-profits -- religious groups and
other charities -- from privately benefiting from the tax-free money they
raise. Last month, Wall Watchers, a watchdog group that monitors the
finances of large Christian groups, called on the Internal Revenue Service
to investigate Meyer and six other TV preachers to find out whether their
tax-exempt status should be revoked.
[Falun Gong] Falun Gong seeks Hong Kong's help in securing release of two
The Falun Gong meditation group said Wednesday that two of its followers --
a British businessman and a Hong Kong housewife -- had been detained in
mainland China, and it urged Hong Kong to help get them released.
[Falun Gong] US cosmetics group acts over Falungong claims
A high-powered US congressional trio is warning Texas-based cosmetics giant
Mary Kay Inc. to stand up to China's demands that sales associates swear not
to join the banned Falungong spiritual group. Representatives Tom Lantos,
Chris Smith and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all well known human rights advocates,
wrote to Mary Kay CEO Richard Rogers to demand action. Lantos said he had
established that Chinese authorities had ordered the Mary Kay sales force to
sign a "behavioral standards" statement in August or face being fired. But
a company spokesman told AFP that the statement was already being changed,
and that the firm had been a pathbreaker for women's rights in China.
[Vampirism] Woman says partner ran off to become vampire
A young mother says her partner has dumped her to become a vampire. Rebecca
Roberts, from Burnham, Somerset said Matthew Barratt fell for a blood
worshipping woman in a US cult.
[Lord's Resistance Army] Bloodied Ugandans recall night of terror
The raiders belonged to the cult-like Lord's Resistance Army (LRA),
notorious for slicing off the lips and limbs of their victims. They killed
17 people in the attack by bludgeoning their heads with wooden sticks,
government officials said. But witnesses said up to 53 villagers had been
killed in the raid on several villages. For 17 years the LRA has waged war
against the government, snatching tens of thousands of children from
villages and forcing them to work as frontline soldiers, cooks and sex
slaves. The movement numbers at least 3,000 fighters, the bulk of them
children. It has never spelt out its demands in public.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Getting blunt with Razor
Razor's story, headlined "The Curse of Scientology - Lawsuits, Death, and
Finance," chronicles the strange death of church member Lisa McPherson, and
was written by David S. Touretzky and Peter Alexander, a disaffected former
Scientologist. "Imagine a church so dangerous you must sign a release form
before you can receive its spiritual assistance," the authors assert. This
week, Scientology spokeswoman Linda Simmons Hight left several urgent
messages with Razor publisher Richard Botto and sent a tough E-mail to
editor in chief Craig Knight. The Los Angeles-based Hight, communications
director for Scientology International, made what a Razor spokeswoman tells
me are "veiled threats of legal action." Hight's message: "You and your
magazine do not understand the agenda of the people who wrote this article
... I suggest you return my call immediately." Razor is "treading on
serious ground," she added.
NOTE: Scientology's scriptures encourage and endorse hate- and harassment
activities, as well as other unethical behavior. The hate group attacks
critics with its so-called "dead-agenting" approach: the pracitce of
spreading malicious lies and rumors about those who opposes the cult.
Needless to say, it is always highly beneficial to read any and all material
the cult does not want people to read.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] A Church's Lethal Contract
Imagine a church so dangerous, you must sign a release form before you can
receive its "spiritual assistance." This assistance might involve holding
you against your will for an indefinite period, isolating you from friends
and family, and denying you access to appropriate medical care. You will of
course be billed for this treatment - assuming you survive it. If not, the
release form absolves your caretakers of all responsibility for your
suffering and death. Welcome to the Church of Scientology.
[Fraud] Businessman Charged in Religious Scam
A businessman was charged Tuesday with exploiting his connections to
evangelical Christians to create a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded
religious organizations and their leaders out of more than $160 million,
federal officials said. [...] ``IPIC's CEO, Gregory Setser, a self-styled
former minister and apostle of the Christian faith, is robbing Peter to pay
Paul -- but only after taking a massive cut for himself, his family and his
affiliates,'' Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Toby M. Galloway
said in a complaint.
[Transcendental Meditation] Vedic City formally gets new name
Iowa's newest city and Fairfield's neighbor to the north has a new name.
The city council in Vedic City, incorporated in July 2001 by followers of
Transcendental Meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, decided about two
years ago to add "Maharishi" to their city's name. Under state law, any
change to a city's name must be approved by the voters at a regular city
election, so the new name didn't become official until the results of the
Nov. 4 election were delivered to the Iowa Secretary of State's office
[Lord's Resistance Army] Villagers say Ugandan rebels kill up to 53
Rebels hacked at least 17 people to death in northern Uganda, a senior
government official said on Tuesday, as residents reported the deaths of up
to 53 villagers in the same district. Egou Engwau, district commissioner of
Lira, said rebels struck Ngetta and Okodi late on Monday and early Tuesday.
He told Reuters he had sent security officers to verify reports of other
killings around Lira town some 300 km (190 miles) north of the capital,
Kampala. Earlier, a Catholic priest living in Lira said residents he had
contacted counted 53 dead after rebels went on a rampage across villages in
the Lira district. He said rebels had hacked to death 14 people in Akangi,
16 people in Ongura, 10 people in Iwal and 13 in Ngetta. ''The rate of
killing is incredible'' the priest told Reuters.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Cruise 'converts' Cruz to Scientology
Scientology is what Penelope Cruz is following nowadays. According to rate
the music.com, the actress is embracing the teachings of the Church of
Scientology, having been converted to the religion by devoted follower Tom
[Cults] "Cult" is a loaded word
Systems of belief in America that fall outside the Christian-Judeo tradition
are now referred to as ``new religious movements'' - a term scholars coined
to avoid the sinister baggage often associated with the word ``cult.'' Many
of these movements, however, are hardly new - and 99.9 percent of them do
not pose danger, scholars say.
NOTE: A small number of sociologists and religion scholars have gained a
reputation as cult apologists (cult defenders). They play semantics games,
ignore eye-witness testimonies (or, like J. Gordon Melton, call ex-members
liars), and at times collaborate with - or get paid by - the very cults they
claim to study. See: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c11.html
[Peoples Temple] Erin Ryan wants father to be appreciated
Erin Ryan was a 21-year-old student at Georgetown University when her
father, Democratic Rep. Leo J. Ryan, was murdered on an isolated airstrip in
Guyana by followers of the Rev. Jim Jones. [...] Ryan's family underwent
years of turmoil after her father's death. Her sister Shannon changed her
name to Jasmine and joined a cult - which baffled many in the family. Her
other sister, Patricia, became a leader in the anti-cult movement as
president of the Cult Awareness Network.
NOTE: The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) mentioned is the erstwhile,
legitimate organization. CAN was attacked and eventually taken over by the
Scientology organization, which has turned it into a sinister operation.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Catching up with Tom Cruise
Couric: "Do you think Scientology is misunderstood by the general public?"
Cruise: "Well I think Scientology is misunderstood by some people. But I
think also you look at Scientology it is the fastest growing religion. It's
helped so many people. I know it, because I use it and I am a Scientologist.
And it's extraordinary, is what it is."
NOTE: Even if Scientology were indeed a religion instead of a commercial
enterprise, it still would not be anywhere near the fastest growing
religion. Like pretty much everything else in Scientology, the
"fastest-growing" claim is based entirely on fantasy. It should be noted
that lying is a Scientology sacrament.
[Falun Gong] Suing for Falun Gong
They are often seen sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, in silent protest
of human-rights abuses against brothers and sisters halfway around the
world. But hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners are now speaking up in
Quebec Superior Court against what they claim are abuses in Montreal by a
local Chinese-language newspaper. About 250 plaintiffs from Montreal,
Toronto and Ottawa are suing Les Presses Chinoises for defamation and
producing hate literature against them. They are asking for $100,000 each
in damages, and an injunction against the newspaper, said their lawyer,
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