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ReligionNewsBlog.com, Feb. 25, 2004

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  • Anton Hein
    ReligionNewsBlog.com, Feb. 25, 2004 Wed, Feb. 25, 2004 [Caritas of Birmingham] Judge weighs contempt filing in Caritas suit
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2004
      ReligionNewsBlog.com, Feb. 25, 2004

      Wed, Feb. 25, 2004
      [Caritas of Birmingham] Judge weighs contempt filing in Caritas suit
      The community of Caritas grew out of purported visions of the Virgin Mary in
      a former cow pasture near Sterrett. The community is an outgrowth of Caritas
      of Birmingham, established in the 1980s. [...] Followers began giving up
      their worldly lives to move into Caritas and support the ministry.
      The lawsuit followed the eventual disillusionment of some of those
      followers. As the case slowly moves toward either settlement or jury trial,
      it also has changed shape and volume. Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner is
      considering a motion from Colafrancesco and Caritas to cite Phillip Kronzer
      of the California-based Kronzer Foundation for Religious Research with
      contempt. The motion by Caritas lawyer Daniel J. Burnick accuses Kronzer of
      saying during a guest appearance on a radio program that the plaintiffs have
      "overwhelming evidence of money laundering," with Colafrancesco "facing
      potential charges of charity fraud." According to Burnick's motion, Kronzer
      also said "Colafrancesco could have a cash flow of $30 million."
      The motion asserts that those statements violated Joiner's December order
      sealing some items obtained in the discovery process, particularly checks on
      bank accounts other than those of Colafrancesco and Caritas. Plaintiffs'
      lawyers said they wanted checks and bank records to document money

      [Polygamy] Smith seeks Colorado City probe
      Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said he plans to ask the county to hire a
      special investigator for the Colorado City area. An investigator will
      follow up on allegations of child abuse within the polygamous Colorado City
      community, Smith said.

      [Polygamy] Bill targeting polygamy involving minors advances
      The Arizona Senate approved a proposal intended to combat the forced
      marriages of teenage girls in polygamist enclaves. The full Senate voted
      29-0 Monday to create the crime of child bigamy. The bill (SB1335) now moves
      to the House.

      [Polygamy] FLDS towns in turmoil
      Holm, 51, is the latest among a growing list of men recently excommunicated
      by Jeffs, who is accused by some of being a dictator unnecessarily
      disrupting families and putting a community of about 6,000 that shuns
      attention into the public spotlight. Evictions usually follow
      excommunications, but former members are starting to fight back in court.
      [...] The excommunications are signs of internal pressures being manifested
      by external forces such as law enforcement, legislators and anti-polygamy
      groups that are bringing worldwide media attention.

      [Lyndon LaRouche] Germans Must Reopen Student Death Case - Family
      The family of a British student who died mysteriously after allegedly
      becoming involved with a mysterious right-wing cult in Germany met the
      Government today to demand help in investigating his death. Erica and Hugo
      Duggan want the Foreign Office to put pressure on the German authorities to
      reopen the investigation into their son Jeremiah’s death in March 2003. The
      family, from Golders Green, north London, believes that the Schiller
      Institute, which is led by Lyndon La Rouche, an American right wing
      conspiracy theorist, might hold the key.

      [The Passion of The Christ] Do You Recognize This Jesus?
      Watching "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's new movie, I kept
      thinking the following: it is Christians, not Jews, who should be shocked by
      this film. Mr. Gibson's raw images invade our religious comfort zone, which
      has long since been cleansed of the Gospels' harsher edges. Most Americans
      worship in churches where the bloodied body of Jesus is absent from
      sanctuary crosses or else styled in ways so abstract that there is no hint
      of suffering. In sermons, too, the emphasis all too often is on the smoothly
      therapeutic: what Jesus can do for me. [...] Were we a nation of Bible
      readers, not just Bible owners, I don't think a film like Mr. Gibson's would
      cause much fuss. While I do not think that "The Passion of the Christ" is
      anti-Semitic, I do think it presents Christians with a "teaching moment."
      But the lessons have more to do with forgotten Christian basics than with
      who killed Jesus.

      [UFOs] Aliens exist, say researchers, abducted audience members
      Alien abductees and university professors who specialize in extraterrestrial
      research gathered last night at University Medical Center to share their
      out-of-this-world experiences. UA professor Gary Schwartz emceed a free
      lecture titled “Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life?” More than 50 people
      attended the event, which featured two documentaries and a
      question-and-answer session with two doctors who believe that
      extraterrestrial life exists in some form.

      [The Passion of The Christ] Truth and fiction of 'Passion'
      It is true that Gibson's screenplay draws its basic story and key lines of
      dialogue from the four gospel stories about the last day and night of Jesus'
      life. [...] Gibson's screenplay, however, goes way beyond the Bible in its
      depiction of the Jewish authorities as the bad guys. While the Roman
      soldiers are depicted as inhuman brutes, Pilate and his wife (who is not
      even mentioned in the Bible) come off as sympathetic characters just trying
      to do the right thing. Caiphas and his cohorts are seen as the cunning,
      ruthless manipulators who pull the strings and, ultimately, control the
      whips. Does that stereotype sound familiar? That depiction -- along with
      Gibson's almost pornographic obsession with the physical torture of Jesus --
      come, not from scripture, but from a controversial, nonbiblical source.
      While it's not mentioned in the press handouts, Gibson has told interviewers
      that he was heavily influenced by a 19th century book of visions, "The
      Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ," by Anne Catherine Emmerich, a
      German nun and mystic. Emmerich's visions about the torture of Jesus are
      known for their extremely negative depiction of Caiphas and the Jewish

      [False Memory Syndrome] Convicted Child Molester May Be Set Free
      A convicted child molester may have his conviction reversed after five
      people said they lied 20 years ago, KERO reported. A new hearing is under
      way for John Stoll, a man who was convicted 20 years ago of child
      molestation. According to KERO, Stoll could be a free man in a few weeks.
      Stoll, who has always maintained his innocence, was one of the 46 people
      convicted in the 80s during the so-called child molestation witch hunts in
      Kern County. [...] During a new trial, the five alleged victims testified
      that as children, investigators pressured them to lie on the stand. One
      person has no memory of being molested and will not stand by his childhood
      testimony. But one of the alleged victims, a relative of Stoll's, has not
      recanted. Innocence Project Attorneys is representing Stoll. They, and
      expert witnesses, said the relative likely had false memories implanted
      because of adults repeatedly telling him he was molested.

      [Aum Shinrikyo] Day of Judgment: Teachings of guru still drive Aum
      This is the 12th and final installment of a series on Chizuo Matsumoto, the
      founder of the Aum Supreme Truth cult.

      [Atheism] Newdow Tries To End Presidential Inauguration Prayer
      The atheist who persuaded a federal appeals court to strike down the Pledge
      of Allegiance because of the words "under God" has lost a separate bid to
      abolish prayer at presidential inaugurations.

      [Allen Harrod, et. al.] Self-proclaimed prophet sentenced to two life terms
      plus 62 years
      Self-proclaimed prophet Allen Harrod was sentenced to two life terms in
      prison plus 62 years for molesting four children -- three of them his own.
      Harrod, 56, will be eligible for parole in 92 years. His wife, Irene Hunt,
      was sentenced to 20 years and eight months in state prison or her role in
      the molestations. Harrod addressed the court Monday, warning that those who
      did not follow him would be subject to his "sword of justice" and damned by
      the "angels of my wrath." But his sermon appeared to have no effect on
      Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roland Candee, who sentenced him to the
      maximum term for his conviction on 32 counts of child molestation.

      [Death Penalty] Bin Laden Top for U.S. Pay-Per-View Execution?
      One in five Americans would likely pay to watch a televised execution of al
      Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden if he were found guilty and sentenced to death
      but more than a third said executions should not be televised, a poll
      released on Monday said.

      [USA] Groups Protest Exclusion From Guantanamo Trials
      Leading human rights groups say the United States plans to block them from
      attending trials of prisoners being held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in
      Cuba as part of the U.S. "war on terrorism". According to the groups, the
      Pentagon said it intends to reserve seating at the hearings only for
      selected members of the press and the International Committee of the Red
      Cross (ICRC). [...] The groups said that the decision to exclude them, like
      many other decisions surrounding plans for the military commission, will
      likely prove embarrassing and fuel concerns the defendants are not being
      treated fairly. In that sense it will exacerbate concerns generated by the
      prolonged detention without charges of more than 600 foreigners detained in
      Afghanistan and several other countries on suspicion of terrorism or
      membership in the al-Qaeda terrorist group or the Taliban -- the former
      ruling regime of Afghanistan. [...] "The U.S., in the State Department's
      Country Reports on Human Rights, annually criticises other governments for
      failing to accommodate trial monitors," said Alex Arriaga of Amnesty
      International USA. "Allowing media coverage while pleading insufficient
      space for human rights groups smacks of fear of informed criticism, and will
      only fuel the perception that tribunals will be show trials," he added in a

      [USA] U.S.: No rights groups at tribunals
      The Department of Defense has rejected a request from three human-rights
      organizations to monitor any military trials of terrorist suspects to be
      held at Guantánamo. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Human
      Rights First, which have criticized the system of detention at the prison
      camp at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, said the lack of independent
      monitors will undermine the credibility of the process. Two Pentagon legal
      officials told the groups that ''limited courtroom seating and other
      logistical issues'' will restrict attendance at the trials. The
      International Committee of the Red Cross will be allowed access, though.
      [...] The State Department's human-rights report for 2002 criticized Saudi
      Arabia, Belarus, Egypt and China for barring independent monitors from
      trials that involve human-rights issues.

      NOTE: For more documentation of America's double standards on human rights
      issues, see:

      [Islam] MP's anger at Muslim cleric case
      Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri should be thrown out of Britain,
      Labour MP Andrew Dismore has said. Mr Abu Hamza is appealing against
      deportation and continues to preach in the road outside Finsbury Park
      mosque, north London.

      [USA] First two detainees selected to face trials at Guantánamo
      The Pentagon on Tuesday for the first time charged captives in the war on
      terrorism with war crimes, accusing two men of being Osama bin Laden's
      bodyguards and inner-circle operatives of al Qaeda. The conspiracy charges
      set the stage for the first U.S. war-crimes tribunals since World War II.
      [...] International human-rights groups did not address the specific charges
      but responded to Tuesday's announcement with criticism of the Bush
      administration's tribunal system. "'Prisoners facing these courts after
      years of detention and interrogation will, among other things, be denied any
      meaningful right of appeal,'' said William Schulz, executive director of
      Amnesty International USA.

      [Reina y Señora de Todo lo Creado] Former Priest Faces $20 Million Dollar
      Father Alfredo Prado, a former San Antonio priest on the run from the church
      now he faces a $20-million dollar lawsuit from a man who says Prado molested
      him years ago. News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Brian Collister has this follow
      up on the investigation.

      [Hate Groups : Scientology] County budget lost in Scientology
      The head of a county in the Far Eastern Amur region has been accused of
      using over 600,000 rubles ($20,000) from the local budget to train officials
      in administrative techniques designed by the founder of Scientology, Ron
      Hubbard, Interfax reported Tuesday. [...] If found guilty Shalimov could
      face a fine of 300,000 rubles ($10,000), or imprisonment for up to seven

      NOTE: L. Ron Hubbard promoted and condoned unethical behavior, and himself
      did not know how to separate truth from (science) fiction.

      [The Passion of The Christ] Critics Pan and Praise Gibson's 'Passion'
      Is it the Gospel according to the Marquis de Sade, a sickening death trip
      that twists Jesus's message from love to hate, the Goriest Story Ever Told
      or the Greatest Bible Movie ever made? First reviews of Mel Gibson's
      controversial new film on the last 12 hours of Jesus's life, "The Passion of
      the Christ," indicated on Monday that it will be a film debated for years to
      come with critics deeply and passionately split over whether the intense
      violence of the movie is redemptive or destructive to Christianity's message
      of peace and brotherly love.

      [Aum Shinrikyo] Asahara a social fiend or doting guru?
      Over the course of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara's eight-year criminal
      trial, Tokyo prosecutors have portrayed him as a religious charlatan who
      used his teachings only to feed his lust for power and fame. [...] Testimony
      by some of his key disciples would appear to back this up, but then they
      were on trial for their lives, accused of committing the crimes he allegedly
      masterminded. But Asahara's character appears less sinister, or at least
      more enigmatic, if not pragmatic, to other cultists and outsiders. In fact,
      he has been likened to a man with many faces

      [Aum Shinrikyo] Follower couldn't shake Aum's allure till its 1999 apology
      When Aum Shinrikyo officially acknowledged for the first time in December
      1999 that it was behind a spate of heinous crimes and apologized to the
      survivors, Hiroyuki Miyaguchi said he was relieved that suspicions he and
      other rank-and-file cultists harbored for years had finally been cleared up.
      [...] But he continued to wonder whether the heirs to Aum's helm were truly
      being sincere in their apology, because of the cult's mind-set of justifying
      everything its members did in the name of religion. "Every Aum follower
      always has an excuse ready. This prevented the cult from promptly owning up
      to its crimes and would probably prevent the group from ever being truly
      apologetic," Miyaguchi, who left the cult in May 2000, told The Japan Times
      in a recent interview.

      NOTE: Cult apologists claim that apostates can not be trusted. According to
      one of them, J. Gordon Melton, they invariably lie. But, as the record
      shows, it is the cult defenders themselves bear false witness:

      [Catholic Church] Experts Question U.S. Catholic Priest Abuse Policy
      The U.S. Catholic Church's "zero tolerance" on sexual abuse by priests could
      pose a danger to society because it could deter some clerics from seeking
      help, medical experts said in a study Monday. The "zero tolerance" charter
      was adopted by the Catholic Church in the United States after a crisis
      sparked by revelations of sexual abuse by priests exploded in 2002. The
      study, commissioned by the Vatican, said the U.S. policy, aimed at dealing
      with abuse allegations and preventing further cases, could deter sex
      offenders from seeking and receiving treatment and leave them without

      [Falun Gong] Why I never want to give up
      Five practitioners of the Falun Gong belief system were jailed for up to 14
      years last week. Why does the cult alarm the Chinese authorities?

      [Falun Gong] Falun Gong followers jam court for trial's end
      More than 250 practitioners of Falun Gong and their supporters jammed into a
      Montreal courtroom yesterday to hear the start of closing arguments in what
      one lawyer described as "a historic case." "This is a pivotal court case
      that could set a standard," lawyer Michael Bergman said after a full day of
      summations before Quebec Superior Court Justice Jeannine Rousseau. Bergman
      is representing 256 plaintiffs suing a local Chinese-language newspaper for
      $100,000 each, claiming in the civil case that they were defamed by hate
      literature against the traditional spiritual discipline.

      [Caritas of Birmingham] Catholic bishop defended group now accused as cult
      Roman Catholic bishop privately defended an Alabama religious community
      against claims it was a cult four years before ex-residents filed suit
      accusing the group of mind control and fraud. In a letter, Bishop David E.
      Foley described Caritas of Birmingham as a gathering of "devout Catholics,
      sharing a common interest in the spiritual life." "... I have found nothing
      that would lead me to believe that this group is in any way operating a
      cult," wrote Foley, who has long sought to publicly distance the church from
      Caritas. Foley's private assessment - which critics call ill-informed and
      flawed - came after a meeting with the founder of Caritas. It was recently
      disclosed in court files in a lawsuit accusing Caritas of luring in
      followers and using lies and deception to take millions from unsuspecting
      backers. Former residents contend Foley should have done more to find out
      what was going on at Caritas, located in rural Shelby County.

      [The Passion of The Christ] 'The Passion': A primer
      Are you curious about Gibson's film but behind on your bible studies? Here
      are a list of terms, people and places that are key to The Passion of the

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