ReligionNewsBlog.com, Dec. 11, 2003
[Hate Groups] Southern California prison gang leader sentenced
Bridges, 36, is a "senior" in the Nazi Low Riders, a gang committed to
spreading a white supremacist philosophy and which tried to control drug
trafficking activities of white inmates through violence and intimidation,
according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
[Hate Groups] Leaflets Spreading Message Of Hate
Shocked by a rash of racist fliers dropped on their doorsteps, Anne Arundel
County residents and political leaders are struggling to come up with a
defense against what appears to be the message of white supremacy. The
leaflets -- which usually have been enclosed in plastic, weighted with
pebbles and distributed at night by members of a white supremacist group
called the National Alliance -- advertise politics of total racial
[Internet] Surfing the Web gets spiritual
The results of a survey of 2,600 U.S. teens released today indicate that far
more teens visit religious Web sites than pornographic sites. Or at least
say they do.
[Joshua and Caleb Thompson] Brothers Guilty in Beating at Bible Study
A pastor and his brother were convicted Wednesday in the beating of a Bible
student, who was struck repeatedly with a tree branch after acting up during
a summer church program. Joshua Thompson and his twin brother, Caleb, 23,
were convicted of felony charges of injury to a child and aggravated assault
with a deadly weapon in the beating of Louie Guerrero, who was 11 at the
time. Prosecutors say the beating caused injuries so severe that Guerrero
spent a week in intensive care under the threat of kidney failure and needed
a blood transfusion.
[Unification Church] Church urges Christian unity
''Sometimes, people will wonder what happened to Rev. Moon's people,'' said
Michael Mickler, vice president and professor of church history at the
seminary. ''We're still here. It's just that the majority of our students
are international and the church has moved more of its focus toward
international peace initiatives.'' [...] Although there are no hard numbers
for membership, Carlson estimated that there are about 50,000 devout
followers, associate members and other various people connected to the
church. The Red Hook church draws more than 100 families who live between
Newburgh and Albany, he said. Attendance for the church, which convenes
inside the seminary, also fluctuates depending on the number of seminary
students in a given semester. The seminary usually hosts about 120 students
from all over the world, with the majority coming from Japan and Korea,
where Unification has large bases.
[Islam] French headscarf ban recommended
Muslim girls in France could be barred from wearing headscarves in schools
after an expert commission recommended a ban on "conspicuous" religious
signs. The official commission headed by former minister Bernard Stasi has
released its findings on issues relating to religion and the state.
French President Jacques Chirac will announce next week whether he supports
the commission's recommendation. The ban would also include the Jewish
skull-cap and large Christian crosses.
[Mormon Church] Strip club owner asks court to toss LDS suit against city
The LDS Church might think a sexually oriented business in downtown Salt
Lake City harms its business interests. But the man behind a planned strip
club says it is the church that is harming him by turning downtown into what
he calls its version of "Vatican City." The church sued Salt Lake City in
October over its granting the Dead Goat Saloon an SOB license, and Dead Goat
owner Daniel Darger has intervened in the case. This week, in his latest
response to the suit, Darger asked 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg to
throw out the case. He also said the church shouldn't be allowed to sue
because of a doctrine called "unclean hands." The legal argument is the
equivalent of accusing the pot of calling the kettle black. It also sets the
stage for Darger to countersue the church, which he says he intends to do.
[Mormon Church] ACLU can depose SLC mayor, LDS church leader in plaza case
Salt Lake City's power players -- Mayor Rocky Anderson and LDS Presiding
Bishop H. David Burton --have agreed to make themselves available for
depositions in the Main Street Plaza case.
[Mormon Church] ACLU to talk to LDS official
In a rare move, attorneys for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints will allow a top church leader to be questioned as part of an ongoing
lawsuit. [...] The ACLU has sued the city, contending the Main Street Plaza
deal that eliminated a public easement on the church-owned plaza violates
the U.S. Constitution. The church was later added as a defendant in the
case, which is the second lawsuit the ACLU has filed over the city's sale of
Main Street to the church.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] 60,000 Jehovah's Witnesses together
Let the news ring throughout the land - for the next four days, it's safe to
answer the doorbell. The nation's entire population of 60,000 Jehovah's
Witnesses have suspended their door-knocking activities to descend on
Sydney's Telstra Stadium for a five-yearly international convention to
celebrate their faith. That leaves only 50,000 Mormons to contend with.
[Zhong Gong] Chinese guru's hearing begins
A Chinese spiritual guru who reportedly once had 38 million followers says
the criminal charges against him are false and the result of a continuing
campaign of persecution by the communist Chinese government. Hong Bao
Zhang, 49, was in Pasadena Superior Court on Wednesday for his preliminary
hearing, where he was represented by celebrity attorney Mark Geragos.
[Zhong Gong] Zhang preliminary hearing begins
Nan Fang He, 49, cried as she described the extensive beating she allegedly
received at the hands of Hong Bao Zhang, 49, founder of the Zhong Gong
spiritual movement. Zhong Gong was founded in China in 1987 and has
reportedly had as many as 38 million followers. [...] If convicted of a
felony, Zhang could be deported to China where he would "certainly be
executed,' according to John Kusumi, executive director of the China Support
Network, a Connecticut-based organization that supports the Chinese
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Spendy dating service has Scientology ties
Apparently, the group's services don't always come cheap. In fact, an
Australian farmer has filed a lawsuit, claiming that he paid Affinity
International of Queensland more than $230,000 - and he still hasn't found
love. [...] Affinity, notes the paper, "has ties to Scientology." A
spokeswoman for Scientology in the U.S. tells the Scoop that she has never
heard of Affinity International, or of a group called Affinity Exchange that
has operated in the U.S. and other countries, touting itself as a dating
service catering to followers of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.
[Joshua and Caleb Thompson] Pastor says he hit boy at Bible study, but not
A church pastor admitted today that he struck a Bible studies student
several times across the back with a stick, but denied he delivered the 100
blows the victim said he suffered. [...] Thompson, 23, and his twin brother,
Caleb, are on trial in the beating of Louie Guerrero. The boy, now 12, spent
a week in intensive care with kidney failure and needed a blood transfusion.
[Faith Healing] Miracle healer heals himself at hospital
His has been the most notable face among the Christian gospelers. He has
presided over several thousand 'miracle healing' meetings wherein countless
'sufferers' have had their illness or afflictions, ranging from common cold
to blindness, 'cured' through prayers. But when it came to healing his own
troublesome knee, D G S Dinakaran, the well-known evangelist in question,
seems to have reposed faith with a team of doctors at a local hospital
rather than hobble around and wait for divine help.
[Witchcraft] Owner to give Wiccans land if he loses in court
The founder of a Wiccan church said her coven will use land off Stanzione
Drive for ceremonies whether the town lets them build on it or not. [...]
The land is owned by Dr. Richard Cohen, a veterinarian with a practice on
Route 44 and a director of the church. He donated a portion of his 50-acre
parcel to the church several years ago. His intention was to build his dream
house with a small farm on his portion of the property, he said. But he has
insufficient frontage on Stanzione Drive and his frontage on Wheeler Street
is wetlands. [...] Cohen has appealed the ZBA decision and has a court date
set for January. The church returned the land to Cohen during the legal
wrangle with the town, but he said he intends to give the Wiccans the entire
parcel if he is not allowed to build his house. [...] "If they deny me a
house, they won't make any taxes because I'll give it all to the church,"
[Witchcraft] Relic hunter arrested after witchcraft claim
Mahbub Mian, an Indian Moslem from Guntur district in the southern state of
Andhra Pradesh, hired a sorcerer to help him find a treasure apparently
buried decades ago by a Hindu king. [...] The sorcerer planned elaborate
prayers and rituals over 24 days. Mian provided him with a girl from the
village, who was stripped naked, made to pray for two hours and walk along
the outskirts of the village at midnight. Police accused Parthasarathi of
performing witchcraft on her.
[Witchcraft] Brothers kill sister-in-law for practising 'witchcraft'
The Jamshedpur police have arrested one Gurucharan Das for allegedly killing
his sister-in-law charging her with practising black magic. [...] Gurucharan
Das' daughter died a few days back under mysterious circumstances. The
murder of Sushila Sardar is latest in a series of witchcraft-related
killings which are rampant in Jharkhand. According to available official
data, as many as 261 case have been registered under Anti-witchcraft Act,
2001 so far.
[Lee Boyd Malvo] Prosecution challenges psychologist's testimony in Malvo's
Psychologist Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia has testified that
Malvo has a dissociative disorder that has given him a distorted view of
reality and that he was brainwashed by Muhammad. But prosecutor Robert F.
Horan Jr. noted Malvo ran away twice from his mother Una James -- in late
October 2001 and in January 2002 -- and chose to be with Muhammad.
[Lee Boyd Malvo] Psychiatrist testifies teen sniper suspect was legally
Sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo "displayed a pathological loyalty" to John
Allen Muhammad and was so brainwashed by him that he no longer knew right
from wrong, a defense psychiatrist testified Wednesday. Malvo "was merged
with Mr. Muhammad," Diane Schetky said at Malvo's capital murder trial. "He
was acting as his proxy ... He was like a puppet in his hands." Asked by
defense lawyer Craig Cooley if Malvo was able to distinquish right from
wrong -- the legal standard for insanity in Virginia -- Schetky said, "I
believe he was not." Schetky was the second defense witness to diagnose
Malvo with a dissociative disorder, a mental illness that involves a
distorted view of reality.
[Faith Healing] Baby's tragic death 'god's will'
The parents of a Northland baby who died from a kidney infection believe
their eighth child died as the result of "God's will". [...] Police are
investigating the circumstances of his death. [...] Caleb's grandfather John
Tribble said that, in the fortnight before his death, Caleb had suffered
from a flu virus which had also infected Caleb's five sisters and two
brothers. Mr Tribble, who is a faith-healer, prayed for Caleb and felt he
was improving. "Caleb had lost a lot of weight, but on Monday he'd stopped
vomiting and was chortling and laughing".
[Faith Healing] Police probe death of 'healed' baby
Police are investigating the death of a baby whose family had tried to heal
him with prayer. [...] The baby's father, David Tribble, said the family had
strong Baptist beliefs and believed in the healing power of God, but were
not part of any extremist sect or cult. [...] Last year, Jan and Deborah
Moorhead were jailed for five years for the manslaughter of their
six-month-old son, Caleb. Mr Tribble said the families knew each other.
Strict vegans and devout Seventh-day Adventists, the Moorheads would not
allow Caleb to be treated for a vitamin deficiency caused by his mother's
diet. Mr Tribble said there was no comparison between the Moorheads' beliefs
and his own Baptist faith, which had no such restrictions.
"Just so everybody in the world knows, I don't put my faith in a cabbage or
turnip or anything like that. They put their faith in herbs or vegetables. I
put my faith directly in the Holy Spirit." John Tribble said he had used the
power of God to heal people who went to him for help. "Some have been healed
and some haven't, but don't ask me why."
[Transcendental Meditation] 'Twin Peaks' Director Urges $1 Bln for
As director of such dark films as "Blue Velvet" and "Mulholland Drive" and
the television series "Twin Peaks," David Lynch seems an unlikely leader for
a world peace campaign based on mass meditation. As director of such dark
films as "Blue Velvet" and "Mulholland Drive" and the television series
"Twin Peaks," David Lynch seems an unlikely leader for a world peace
campaign based on mass meditation. But for Lynch, life is bliss, and he
says he wants to spread it around. So he has joined a Washington real estate
developer and a former magazine executive to try to raise $1 billion to
bankroll a foundation meant to supply instructors in Transcendental
Meditation to ease the planet's stress.
[Books] Author discusses religious zealots
Some of the most destructive acts committed throughout the centuries have
been done in the name of religion, says writer Charles Kimball. Kimball,
author of When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs
(HarperSanFrancisco, $22.95), was the featured speaker Wednesday at a
reception for the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews held at Palm
Beach Day School. [...] Some of the warning signs of religious extremists
include claims of absolute truth, blind obedience and the idea of living in
an ideal time, Kimball said. He explained that absolute truth claims deal
with someone who to know what God is thinking. "I'm not saying there's no
such thing as absolute truth," Kimball said. "I just believe it rests with
God and not with us. Be very careful of absolutist claims, particularly when
it's linked to violent behavior."
[Word of Faith Fellowship] Controversial church sues Rutherford County DSS
A Rutherford County church known for its controversial use of "blasting
prayer" has sued the county Department of Social Services, alleging
violation of its freedom of religion. The lawsuit, filed Dec. 5 in U.S.
District Court by lawyers for Spindale-based Word of Faith Fellowship,
accuses Rutherford DSS of unconstitutional harassment of church members. It
says that harassment results "from defendants' disapproval of, dislike for
and class-based animus towards plaintiffs' lawful religious beliefs and
practices." [...] At the heart of the controversy are two church practices
and their application to children. One is "strong" or "blasting" prayer, a
high-volume form of prayer that Word of Faith members say is based on
numerous biblical references. Former church members have described blasting
as a practice in which church members stand in a circle around an individual
while praying loudly in an effort to drive demonic spirits from the subject.
The other is "discipleship," in which church members and children spend time
in isolation, praying, reading Scriptures and listening to tapes of
religious teachings. Critics of the church and its practices argue that
blasting prayer is a form of abuse and that discipleship training involves
isolating children from friends and family.
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