ReligionNewsBlog.com, 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 Jeremiahs 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
[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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