ReligionNewsBlog.com, Apr. 20-21, 2004
Wed, Apr. 21, 2004
[Amish] Judge denies Amish man's request to stay in country during appeal
A federal judge on Wednesday refused a request to keep an Old Order Amish man in the United States while he challenges an immigration law requiring his photo be taken for entrance into the country. [...] Zehr is a Canadian citizen and a member of the Old Order Amish, a sect that takes literally the Bible's prohibition of graven images. His wife, who is also Amish, is an American citizen.
[Buddhism] Documentary explores role of Tibetan Buddhism in western spiritual life
Some 30 minutes into John Halpern's documentary film Refuge, one can't help but feel drawn toward Tibetan Buddhism amid the numerous images of westerners embracing the faith in spiritually adrift North America. That is, until the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of the ancient eastern practice, provides a frank piece of advice for Christians, Jews and Muslims flirting with Buddhism. Stick with your own beliefs. If you're confused about the tradition in which you've been raised, he suggests, then you're headed toward greater turmoil by jumping on the Buddhist bandwagon. It's a message that the revered leader repeated to thousands in Vancouver this past weekend as he began his Canadian visit. "He's just saying 'Be careful, don't leave too soon, stay where you are, and come to Buddhism with some responsibility,' " said Halpern at a recent screening of his film in Toronto.
[Ravi Shankar] Spiritual leader has crowd breathing easier
"You are peace. You are peace," Sri Sri Ravi Shankar whispered to the silent crowd of more than 600 people in CSU-Monterey Bay's Student Center. Not to be confused with the prominent musician of the same name, Shankar is a spiritual leader and international humanitarian from Bangalore, India. He visited CSU-Monterey Bay as part of his North American tour that will continue on to Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Mexico City, New York and Washington, D.C. [...] The developer of a powerful breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya that is supposed to detoxify the body and bring clarity to the mind, Shankar travels the world teaching his technique and bringing messages of peace and love. He is also founder of the Art of Living Foundation, which has established educational, vocational and social programs around the world.
[Hate Groups] Hale defense urges jury to look beyond hateful rhetoric
Defense attorneys in the trial of white supremacist Matthew Hale urged jurors Wednesday to look beyond Hale's hateful rhetoric and closely examine the government's evidence, particularly the secretly recorded tapes that prosecutors say show Hale tried to have a federal judge murdered. [...] Hale, 32, is charged with obstruction of justice and soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who had ordered him in a trademark lawsuit to stop using the name World Church of the Creator.
[Hate Groups] Residents confront anti-gay protesters
James Adkins held a sign reading "Jesus taught love" Monday as he faced a small band of anti-gay demonstrators from Kansas. [...] The South Salem High School student said his message provided a necessary counterpoint to the pickets, protesting outside the Oregon Supreme Court building in Salem. Among the slogans on their signs: "Thank God for Sept. 11" and "Fags doom nations." [...] Members of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church travel around the country to protest homosexuality. In Salem, they displayed their usual tactics: vitriolic words and trampling on the U.S. flag. With his feet planted on the flag, Jonathan Phelps said it symbolized his contempt for the country's growing tolerance of homosexuality. "I'd be burning it, but I didn't get a burn permit," he said.
[Ram Dass] Tune In, Turn On
In 1997, the then 65-year-old Ram Dass had a stroke that left him partly paralyzed and with vastly diminished speech capacities. A new documentary, Ram Dass Fierce Grace (PBS, April 20, 10 p.m. EST; consult your local listings), tells his story and claims that this phase may actually be the most spiritually enriching and valuable one of his eventful life. Ram Dass, the film asserts, can now help people deal with aging, infirmity, and disability by pointing the way to a higher understanding of these mysteries. The film uses extensive footage from the 1960s, as well as interviews with Ram Dass, his family, and disciples to show his life's arc: from precocious child to brilliant academic, from countercultural guru to the physically broken but still lively man he is today. The documentary professes the worthy aim of illustrating how Ram Dass' own pain has lifted him to a new level of awareness and increased his compassion (after all, if anyone is going to learn a great lesson about suffering from physical ailments, wouldn't it be Ram Dass?), but this notion isn't illustrated in any concrete way for the viewer. Educating the audience, either by providing practical techniques of the sort Ram Dass employs for transcending illness and aging or by placing his message and spiritual work in a historical context, takes a back seat to showcasing the guru's considerable charisma and the pathos of his situation. The end result, sadly, is a moving portrait of an old, ill man, but little else.
[Ruben Ecleo] Cebu judge frees cult master Ecleo on P1-million bail bond
A Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge here, who was recently tasked to handle the case of Ruben Ecleo Jr. following the inhibition of the previous judge, granted yesterday a motion for bail filed by the parricide suspect and cult leader. [...] Earlier, Judge Labra allowed Ecleo Jr. to post bail, set at P1 million, some 20 months after he was locked behind bars. Labra cited Ecleo's "serious ailments and a worsening health condition" as grounds for granting the former mayor's motion for bail.
[Religion Trends] Religion surges in pop culture
Nearly 40 years after Time magazine posed the question "Is God Dead?" signs of His resurrection are everywhere: Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing independent film of all time, while the apocalyptic "Left Behind" novels, based on the Book of Revelations, have sold 58 million copies, a publishing jackpot. Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code," a theological whodunit with a new spin on Jesus and Mary Magdalene, leads the fiction best-seller list, and Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life," a 40-day spiritual workout, is outselling "The South Beach Diet." "God talk is ubiquitous today. You might even say we're drowning in it," said Phyllis Tickle, author of more than a dozen books about religion in America.
[Kabbalah] Celebrities embrace Kabbalah, irritating longtime followers
If you seek spiritual guidance from Hollywood, then Jewish mysticism is hot. As Madonna, Britney, Demi and Paris pop up on magazine pages donning red string bracelets and talking about the wonders of Kabbalah, more people are turning to the 13th Century tradition--even as critics trash the pop-culture version as little more than the latest self-help fad.
[Media] TV channel sued by Christian
A pensioner is taking legal action against Channel Seven over the use of the name "Jesus Christ" as a swear word, saying it is time for Christians to be awarded the same respect as other religions. Andre van der Linden has claimed the use of the name in the British-made series Prime Suspect was insulting and disrespectful to Christians. He has lodged a complaint with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), alleging Channel Seven had breached new racial and religious vilification laws. He said he wanted to do something to ensure Christians were afforded the same respect in the media as Muslims and Aborigines.
[Islam] Russian Muslim leader suggests punishing terrorists' families
Deputy leader of the Central Muslim spiritual directorate of Russia, Muhammadghali Khuzin, has suggested introducing punishment for the relatives of terrorists, Interfax news agency reported Wednesday. [...] Khuzin also greeted the idea to ban the ideology of Wahhabism proposed earlier by Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov. "Wahhabism must be forbidden in Russia, and wahhabites and their accomplices must be called to strict account," Khuzin was quoted by the agency as saying.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Australia Refuses Asylum for Ukrainian Jehovah's Witness
Australia's highest court on Wednesday rejected an asylum bid by a Ukrainian couple who said they faced persecution because the husband was a Jehovah's Witness. The High Court was told the couple, who cannot be identified, arrived in Australia in 1998 and sought refugee status on the grounds that the Ukrainian government encouraged persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, and that police condoned such violence.
[Religious Merchandising] Thailand Blasts Victoria's Secret for New Buddha Swimsuit
Victoria's Secret -- the American company known for its racy lingerie -- may have gone too far with its new bikini featuring images of Buddha. The swimsuit has angered government officials and clergy in this mainly Buddhist country, who plan to ask the company to suspend worldwide sales of the offending item and are considering banning its import into Thailand. The swimsuit, with pictures of a seated Buddha on the breast areas of the halter, ``is a major insult to Buddhism,'' said Gen. Amnuay Phetsiri, the deputy chief of the national police of Thailand.
[Religious Merchandising] Thais upset by Buddha image on bikinis
A multi-coloured Victoria's Secret swimsuit with an image of the Buddha on the bikini top is upsetting many deeply traditional Thais who want its U.S. makers to take it off the shelves. The mass-circulation Thai Rath newspaper splashed a picture of a buxom blonde beauty wearing the offending bikini on its front page on Wednesday, provoking outcries from politicians in the predominantly Buddhist country.
[Islam] France To Boot Wife-Beat Imam
An Algerian-born Muslim cleric who said wife-beating was justified in cases of adultery has been detained and will be expelled from France, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. The announcement about Chirane Abdelkader Bouziane, an imam in the Lyon suburb of Venissieux, came after France deported another Algerian-born imam who was accused of preaching radical Islam.
[Islam] Russian court bans book on Islam
A Russian court has banned as "extremist" a book described as a credo for the Wahhabi form of Islam, often accused by authorities for inciting separatist insurrection in Chechnya.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Woman's family blames doctor in her death
Because of her religious beliefs, Linda Grissom, a Jehovah's Witness, refused blood transfusions in November 2001 that might have saved her life.
Instead, Grissom, 64, of Imperial, a supervisor at a drug company, died at St. Anthony's Medical Center, about 24 hours after complications from surgery to remove her gallbladder. In a medical malpractice case in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Grissom's family is now blaming the surgeon, Dr. Ronald Gaskin.
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Tue, Apr. 20, 2004
[Hate Groups] Defense rests in white supremacist case, calls no witnesses
Defense attorneys for white supremacist leader Matthew Hale rested their case Tuesday without calling a single witness, saying the prosecution had just presented the weakest case they had ever seen in a major trial. Hale, charged with two counts of soliciting the murder of a federal judge and three counts of obstruction of justice, never testified.
[Catholic Church] Former priest accused of abuse files suit
A former New Orleans Catholic priest took the rare step Monday of suing the archbishop, saying Archbishop Alfred Hughes humiliated him when the church announced that the man may have sexually molested a child while serving as a priest at a Metairie parish 30 years ago. Denying it ever occurred, Bernard Schmaltz sued Hughes for defamation and invasion of privacy
[Kabbalah] Madonna dumps friend on religious grounds
Slane-bound Madonna has dumped her best friend Debi Mazar because she isn't a follower of the teachings of Kabbalah.
[Hate Groups] Prosecution rests in case of white supremacist Matt Hale
Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday in the trial of white supremacist leader Matthew Hale after a former CNN field producer testified about an interview in which Hale talked about a follower's deadly shooting spree. Hale, 32, is charged with two counts of soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who had ruled against him in a trademark lawsuit, and three counts of obstruction of justice.
[Witchcraft] Occult in new church? Protesters charge witchcraft
Nearly 100 people gathered Monday to protest a new North Avenue church they claim is practicing the occult. Ministers and pastors from more than a dozen city Hispanic churches gathered on the steps of El Buen Pastor Christian Church on Hancock Avenue, along with dozens of churchgoers, to denounce the Pare de Sufrir Igreja Universal Church. The Rev. Moses Mercedes of Prince of Peace Church, the president of the Association of Hispanic Ministers, claimed the new congregation is attempting to lure parishioners of other churches through witchcraft.
[Australia] Policemen sacked for KKK prank
As a force struggling to shake off a racist image, the Western Australia police hardly needed a speed camera catching two officers racing through a town centre wearing Ku Klux Klan-style hoods. The incident in August 2001 was condemned by officers, before it was discovered that the culprits driving at more than twice the speed limit were colleagues in an unmarked police car. Yesterday the state police commissioner, Barry Matthews, sacked the two perpetrators of the 75mph "prank" in the rural town of Bunbury, south of Perth.
[Polygamy] House OKs bill targeting polygamy
The House unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that is intended to help combat forced marriages of teenage girls in polygamist enclaves. The bill (SB1335), approved 56-0 and modeled after a Utah law, would make it a felony for a married adult to marry a child. Other provisions are aimed at holding parents responsible for forced marriages of their children
[Hate Groups] Jury hears Hale taped with dad
Prosecutors played a tape Monday at the trial of white supremacist Matthew Hale in which Hale, already in prison on charges of soliciting the murder of a federal judge, appeared to coach his father on how to testify before a grand jury in April 2003
[Islam] Islamic doctrine that enthroned Saudi royals is proving hard to control
"Wahhabism is like an octopus, shiny and smooth from outside but from the inside, it strangles you," said Hasan Malki, an Islamic scholar who was among the first Saudis to speak out against extremism before the Sept. 11 attacks. Wahhabism follows a literal interpretation of the Quran, revealed to Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, and has left no room for more flexible strands that would have eased the kingdom's fast transition from desert wilderness to modern, technologically advanced nation of 19 million citizens. As a result, the kingdom today has a 21st century infrastructure but 18th century mores, particularly where the sexes are concerned.
[Polyamory] Committed to marriage for the masses
Unitarians from Boston to Berkeley have opened another front in the liberal crusade to expand the definition of marriage and family in America. It's the new polygamy, and according to the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, their relationships are at least as ethical as other marriages -- gay or straight. "Polyamory is never having to say you've broken up,'' said Sally Amsbury of Oakland, whose sex and love life openly includes her husband and two "other significant others," known in polyamory parlance as "OSOs." Amsbury serves on the national board of directors of the Unitarian Universalist organization, which defines polyamory as "the philosophy and practice of loving or relating intimately to more than one other person at a time with honesty and integrity.''
[Hate Groups] Racists target US-Scots' festivals
White supremacists are targeting Scottish cultural festivals in the United States in an attempt to recruit new members, The Scotsman has learned. The National Alliance, a far-right group that wants to create a whites-only "living space", set up a stall to sell books and hand out racist leaflets at a major Scottish festival in New Hampshire earlier this month. The white supremacists believe that the romantic form of Scottish culture which is promoted at such heritage events ties in with their desire for a whites-only society.
[Nuwaubians] York claims trial was not fair
Convicted child molester and cult leader Malachi York said Monday he didn't receive a fair trial and blamed a federal judge and prosecutors. The statement was made in a hearing to decide whether York's main attorney, Adrian Patrick, could withdraw from the case. Judge Ashley Royal said he would rule on the motion during York's sentencing on Thursday.
[Alternative Healing] They Call It Meditation in Motion, but Does Tai Chi Heal Ills?
Mr. Morris is not alone in attributing healing value to what is often called meditation in motion. But as with acupuncture and other non-Western healing arts, determining just how well this ancient discipline works challenges researchers. Tai chi first gained adherents in the United States in the late 1960's. The practice is said to enhance balance, flexibility, gait, posture, digestion, concentration, memory and overall physical and mental well-being. Its proponents say it is especially beneficial for the elderly and for people with chronic medical disorders.
[Unification Church] Noticias to close; Moonies axing 86
The publishing arm of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church is shutting down Noticias del Mundo, a Spanish-language newspaper that circulates in New York City, and laying off staffers across the company. News World Communications, the owner of The Washington Times, UPI and other publications, said it was firing 86 people, about 6.3 percent of its worldwide workforce of 1,200. [...] A Washington, D.C.-based monthly magazine, The World & I, will also close, with 31 people to be let go. The biweekly Insight on the News is firing 17 people - about 77 percent of its staff - and dropping back to a five-person skeleton crew. The Washington Times, the UPI news service and The Washington Times National Weekly Edition were not hit by the cutbacks, a spokeswoman said.
Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
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