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ReligionNewsBlog.com, Nov. 24, 2003

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  • Anton Hein
    ReligionNewsBlog.com, Nov. 24, 2003 Mon, Nov. 24, 2003 [John Allen Muhammad] Sniper Mastermind Receives Death Sentence
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 24, 2003
      ReligionNewsBlog.com, Nov. 24, 2003

      Mon, Nov. 24, 2003
      [John Allen Muhammad] Sniper Mastermind Receives Death Sentence
      Jurors decided Monday that John Allen Muhammad should be executed for
      masterminding the deadly sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington area
      for three weeks last fall. As the verdict was read, Muhammad maintained the
      same unflinching demeanor he had shown through most of his trial. The jury
      deliberated five hours over two days before reaching the verdict against
      Muhammad, a 42-year-old Army veteran who had asked police to "Call me God"
      during the October 2002 spree.

      [The Body] Trial Set For Sect Mother Accused Of Starving Baby
      Prosecutors have a trial date for a member of an Attleboro religious sect
      accused of starving her child to death. Police charge Karen Robidoux with
      second-degree murder in the death of her 11-month-old son, Samuel. The
      Bristol County District Attorney said she'll go on trial Jan. 20.

      [Antisemitism] European report on anti-Semitism shelved due to "political"
      A study on anti-Semitism in Europe was shelved because it concluded that
      Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it
      examined. The European Union 's racism monitor decided not to publish a
      report on anti-Semitism because the study concluded that Muslims and
      pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it examined, the
      Financial Times reported on Saturday. ''An ever stronger Muslim presence in
      Europe is certainly endangering the life of Jewish people,'' Prime Minister
      Ariel Sharon said in an interview published today. News of the shelving of
      the anti-Semitism study comes just two weeks after a European Commission
      poll revealed that nearly 60% of European citizens believe that Israel is
      the greatest threat to world peace, more than Iran, North Korea and

      [Prahlad Jani] Man 'hasn't eaten' for 68 years
      An Indian man who claims divine inspiration says he has survived 68 years
      without eating, drinking or relieving himself, baffling doctors who are
      unable to prove him an imposter. Prahlad Jani, a 76-year-old whose
      extraordinary tale has won him a small band of devotees, took a dare and
      underwent round-the-clock surveillance at a hospital in Ahmedabad, the
      commercial capital of the western state of Gujarat. Clad in his trademark
      red sari, bangles and earrings meant to fashion Hindu goddesses, Jani
      managed to puzzle the Sterling Hospital's 400 doctors. Neurologist Sudhir
      Shah said Jani was under watch for 10 days, with a closed-circuit camera
      running, and that doctors were convinced he did not break any of his vows,
      although there was no way of verifying whether Jani has pulled it off for 68

      [Transcendental Meditation] Mind at peace
      Carlos and Sylvia Ranalli weren't there for spiritual reasons. They were
      hoping transcendental meditation, or TM, could help them calm, focus and
      relieve stress. They're indicative of a nationwide trend, as meditation is
      now taught in health clubs, schools, offices, even prisons. The technique
      was featured in a recent Time magazine, which reported that 10 million
      Americans practice some form of meditation. In South Florida, professors are
      investigating the relationship between meditation and the ability to
      negotiate. In contrast to its religious roots, today's meditation is buoyed
      less by spiritual figures than by scientific studies documenting health

      [Religious Freedom] Zurich's Right fears rise of "Koran schools"
      Voters in Zurich are set to decide on controversial new laws that would lead
      to the official recognition of non-Christian faiths, including Islam. But
      the proposals are being challenged by politicians from the Right, who have
      been accused of running an inflammatory campaign. One of the most
      controversial parts of the new legislation, which is due to be voted on in a
      referendum on November 30, is a move towards recognising faiths other than
      the three official religions in the canton.

      [Falun Gong] Pair brings attention to persecution in China
      In January, Charles Lee, a resident of Menlo Park, Calif., was detained upon
      arrival in China for his practice of Falun Gong, a meditation practice
      currently outlawed in China. Ten months later, two UCLA students, who
      practice the exercise and sympathize with Lee, are fighting for his freedom.

      [Racism] Racist cop will not escape punishment
      A North Wales cop who dressed in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and threatened to
      beat up a rookie Asian officer will not escape prosecution because of a
      legal loophole. Lawyers said weekend speculation that ex-North Wales Police
      trainee policeman Rob Pulling, who was caught on camera in a BBC
      documentary, would avoid prosecution because time had run out was "an
      unlikely situation".

      [Al Ma'unah] Malaysia frees students, cult members detained as terror
      Malaysian police freed four students Monday who had been extradited from
      Pakistan on suspicion of involvement with the al-Qaida-linked terrorist
      group Jemaah Islamiyah, but kept nine others in custody, the national police
      chief said. [...] Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities freed 15 members of the
      Muslim cult al-Ma'unah who had been held under the Internal Security Act at
      a prison camp in northern Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

      [Sathya Sai Baba] Preaching the message of love
      Followers of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba around the world celebrate his
      birthday today, November 23. Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born on this day in
      1926 in a tiny, hilly, isolated village called Puttaparthi in the Anantapur
      District of the present Andhra Pradesh state of India.

      [Da Vinci Code] Was Jesus married? Network tapped fiction
      Imagine a major TV news organization reporting in respectful tones on the
      scientific merits of phrenology (the study of human skulls to determine
      intelligence) or alchemy (medieval experiments to turn base metals into
      gold). That's akin to what ABC News did in "Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci,"
      which was broadcast Nov. 3. With a straight face, correspondent Elizabeth
      Vargas examined whether Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and sired
      children who moved with Mom to France and established a royal bloodline that
      exists to this day. Huh? [...] ABC might have avoided embarrassment by
      scanning the article "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code" in Crisis, a
      conservative Catholic magazine. Free-lance writer Sandra Miesel provided
      one of the few serious historical analyses of this pop culture phenomenon.
      That's important because Brown's novel purports to draw upon historical
      research, though much of it came from Gnostic fans

      [Fraud] Misplaced faith stings evangelists
      If you pledge enough money to Greenwood Village-based Marilyn Hickey
      Ministries, you will receive a vial of oil. It's not just any oil. Marilyn
      and her daughter, Sarah, have prayed over it with two more famous
      televangelists. There's even a photo of this ritual on the group's website.
      "I asked Brother Oral Roberts and his son Richard to join Sarah and me in
      believing God to place a 'MIRACLE OVERFLOW' anointing into some special
      anointing oil," Marilyn Hickey explains on her website. "NOW, the first
      thing we want to get into your hands is a personal quantity of this very
      special anointing oil." [...] Like Roberts, Hickey pursues a relentless
      campaign for dollars. Two years ago, this quest led her to a man named
      Gregory Earl Setser, 47, a businessman in Texas who turned out to be quite a
      fundraiser himself. He claimed he was a former minister and promised
      miraculous investment returns without risking principal. Last week, Setser
      was in federal custody, charged with fraud.

      NOTE: By investing with Setser, Hickey proves that her own snakeoil does not
      work. On the subject of money, she used to teach the following nonense
      (just minutes before asking her TV audience to fork over money so she could
      stay on the air): "What do you need? Start creating it. Start speaking about
      it. Start speaking it into being. Speak to your billfold. Say, "You big,
      thick billfold full of money." Speak to your checkbook. Say, "You,
      checkbook, you. You've never been so prosperous since I owned you. You're
      just crammed full of money."

      [USA] F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies
      The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on
      the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has
      advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at
      protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a
      confidential bureau memorandum.

      [Hate Crimes] FBI joins probe into museum fire
      The FBI has joined the investigation into the fire this week that destroyed
      a Holocaust museum founded by an Auschwitz survivor, classifying it act as
      an act of domestic terrorism. Doug Garrison, a spokesman for the FBI's
      Indianapolis office, said today that investigators chose that description
      because of the words "Remember Timmy McVeigh" that were spraypainted on the
      side of the CANDLES Museum. McVeigh, the Oklahoma City federal building
      bomber who shared sympathies with white supremacists, was executed at a
      federal prison outside Terre Haute in 2001.

      [Hate Groups] Inmates charged with slashing associate's tattoo
      Saying he had "disgraced the swastika," three jailed white supremacists
      allegedly cut off a fellow inmate's swastika tattoo after learning he had
      sex with a black woman.

      [Hate Groups] Parole denied for supremacist tied to Berg killing
      Richard Joseph Scutari, one of the leaders of The Order, the
      white-supremacist group that assassinated Denver talk- show host Alan Berg,
      cannot apply for parole until January 2016, Senior U.S. District Judge
      Richard Matsch ruled Friday. Matsch, who presided over the 1987 trial of
      The Order members accused of killing Berg, slammed shut Scutari's bid for
      freedom in a tersely worded nine-page opinion. Scutari had applied for
      parole on July 30, 2000. His bid was rejected by the U.S. Parole Commission,
      which said Scutari couldn't reapply until 2016. Matsch upheld that finding
      Friday. Scutari, chief of security for The Order and known as "Mr. Black"
      within the neo-Nazi clan, had sought parole in a case in which he was
      sentenced to 60 years for his activities with The Order, not for his alleged
      role in Berg's death.

      [Racism] Let-off for Ku Klux Klan row cop
      A racist Welsh cop who dressed in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and threatened
      to beat up a rookie Asian officer may get away with it because of a legal

      [Books] Author tracks lives of spiritual seekers and their children
      What do Esalen Institute, the Catholic church, A Course in Miracles, Spirit
      Rock Meditation Center, Burning Man, the Children of God, Berkeley's
      Graduate Theological Union, the Hog Farm, the Native American Church, the
      Reverend Sun Moon, Scientology, EST training and The Farm have in common?
      For one thing, they all show up (along with many others) in Don Lattin's
      book, "Following Our Bliss, How the Spiritual Ideals of the Sixties Shape
      Our Lives Today." Lattin, 50, is an award-winning religion writer and
      co-author of another book about spirituality, "Shopping for Faith: American
      Religion in the New Millennium."

      [Mormon Church] Russians fume as Mormons 'buy souls'
      The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed its outrage at what it claims is a
      Mormon scheme to buy up the names of dead Russians in order to baptise 'dead
      souls' in their faith. In one archive, in the town of Nizhni Novgorod, east
      of Moscow, the Church of the Latter Day Saints has paid ten US cents for
      each page of thousands of names of dead people dating mainly from the late
      eighteenth century to be put on a microfilm. The idea, the last-ditch
      attempt of a cash-strapped archive to fund urgent preservation work, has
      caused fury among the predominantly Orthodox nation. The Mormon Church is
      angry at what it sees as an obstruction to its religious practices. Father
      Igor Pchelintsov, spokesman for the local Orthodox Church, said: 'The
      teaching of the Mormons about the conversion of the dead contradicts reason
      and naturally causes concern among the faithful and creates a tense

      The work in the archive has been temporarily called off while a local
      government commission studies it.

      [Religious Persecution] 125 Christian Meeting Halls in China Shut
      Authorities in an east China province have sealed off 125 Christian
      gathering places since July, cutting off 3,000 believers from their places
      of worship, a human rights organization said Thursday. The makeshift
      churches in Jiangsu province were ordered closed by local officials seeking
      to crack down on what they deem to be underground religious activity, the
      Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

      [Mormon Church] Mormon church will be added as defendant in ACLU Main Street
      plaza lawsuit
      The Mormon church, as it wanted, has been named a co-defendant with the city
      in the American Civil Liberties Union's Main Street plaza lawsuit
      challenging a church-city land swap. U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball made
      the ruling Wednesday. New York City-based ACLU national staff attorney Mark
      Lopez had no objection, and said he would like to interview The Church of
      Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Presiding Bishop H. David Burton and Mayor
      Rocky Anderson for his case. [...] The August lawsuit, filed by both the
      national and Utah ACLU, asked the court to return control of the Main Street
      block to the city. The lawsuit named Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and
      the city but not the church. The ACLU has since agreed to drop Anderson as a

      [Falun Gong] Refugees' identical tales suspicious
      Cases of persecution almost identical in their detail have been presented to
      the Refugee Review Tribunal, raising concerns a migration agent is using the
      same story for multiple clients.

      The tribunal expressed concern when two identical cases were presented on
      the same day of a Falun Gong practitioner seeking refugee status after
      fleeing China to Australia.

      [Church and State] A nation 'under God,' divided
      Forty-one years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down school prayer, the
      classroom again is becoming a battleground over the phrase "under God" in
      the Pledge of Allegiance. Once again, Americans are squaring off over the
      meaning of the First Amendment as the high court prepares to decide whether
      to uphold a California appellate court ruling striking the religious
      reference from the oath. One side wants the freedom to voice religion in
      school. The other wants a freedom from religion.

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