ReligionNewsBlog.com, Apr. 27-28, 2004
Wed, Apr. 28, 2004
[Symbionese Liberation Army] Former SLA member sentenced to four years
Former Symbionese Liberation Army member James Kilgore, who dodged authorities on bomb and murder charges for decades, was sentenced Monday to 41/2 years in prison on federal explosives and passport fraud convictions. Kilgore, who was extradited from South Africa in 2002 after living there as a professor, was a member of the 1970s radical group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. Authorities say he was the last unaccounted-for member of the revolutionary group to face justice.
[Polygamy] Arizona governor sent bill that targets child bigamy
The Arizona Legislature approved a proposal intended to combat the forced marriages of teenage girls in polygamist enclaves. The bill creating the crime of child bigamy now goes to Gov. Janet Napolitano. It was approved Tuesday in a 25-0 vote by the Senate.
[Kim Il-sung] Many died saving Kims' portraits from Korea blast
Many North Koreans died a "heroic death" after last week's train explosion by running into burning buildings to rescue portraits of leader Kim Jong-il and his father, according to the North's official media. Portraits of Kim and his late father, national founder Kim Il-sung, are mandatory fixtures in every home, office and factory in the hardline communist state of 23 million. All adults are required to wear lapel pins bearing images of one or both Kims. [...] The prison diaries of North Korean defectors refer to people imprisoned for accidentally defacing portraits of the Kims.
[New Order of the Latter Rain] Cult banned from K-State sues Minnesota
A cult that was banned at K-State over 20 years ago has shown its face again on a different campus. The group is commonly known as Maranatha, and it has re-emerged at the University of Minnesota. It is suing Minnesota because the university is not allowing it to become a student group. Bill Macinstad, former member of Maranatha at Minnesota from 1998-2000, said the group still is a cult. Some things the pastor, Bruce Harpel, was telling them to do led him to believe this. [...] "They are going against what the Bible says," he said. "They are not Christian. They are practicing theosophy, which is the merging of science, religion and philosophy." [...] The most known before Macinstad's investigation was that Maranatha is affiliated with the New Order of the Latter Rain and was started by Robert Weiner in 1972.
[UCKG] Church makes its second bid for ex-cinema
Campaigners are vowing to fight a church's second application to take over a former cinema. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) plans to turn the ABC Cinema building, in Bromley Road, Catford, into a worship and conference centre. This is the second planning application for the dilapidated site by the group, which rose to prominence after a pastor reportedly told the aunt of abused Victoria Climbie the child had spiritual problems.
[Netherlands] Netherlands to crack down on cannabis tourism
The Dutch government is working on an action plan to combat 'cannabis tourism' from abroad and cannabis plantations in the Netherlands. [...] Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has instructed his department to concentrate on tackling drug tourism from abroad and eliminating large-scale cannabis cultivation in the Netherlands. [...] Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst has ordered research into the possible risks of the high levels of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. Dutch-grown cannabis is said to have particularly high levels of THC. The results of this research and the findings of a second study into the possible link between cannabis use and psychiatric illness will be incorporated into future government policy on cannabis, Hoogervorst said.
[Marcus Wesson] Fresno mass murder suspect pleads innocent again
A June 21 trial date was set Tuesday for a man accused of killing nine of his children, but an attorney said it's not clear a trial can begin at that time. Marcus Wesson, 57, also pleaded innocent Tuesday to nine counts of murder and 13 counts of sexual assault, all of which had to be refiled after authorities consolidated 33 previous counts of sexual assault. Investigators think the victims, who ranged from a 25-year-old woman to a 1-year-old, were all Wesson's children. Police said Wesson engaged in incest and polygamy, fathering children with his daughters and nieces. Testimony from officers who interviewed Wesson's daughters and nieces after the killings said he exerted extreme control over his family, preaching to them daily and telling them salvation would come only through him.
[Mormon Church] Mormons building temple in San Antonio, Texas
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will open its most sacred building in San Antonio later this year. [...] Church President Gordon B. Hinckley whom Mormons consider a prophet like Moses and others mentioned in the Old Testament has quickened the pace for building temples. "The factors he considers are proximity and LDS Church population in a given area. The idea is to bring the temple to the people so it's convenient for them to visit," said church communication director Gary Gomm. The San Antonio metropolitan area has 16,584 Mormons, less than 1 percent of the population. The total number grew by 33.7 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to the American Religion Data Archive.
[Islam] Islamic call to prayer over loudspeaker closer to approval
Only an mayoral veto could stand between a mosque and its bid to issue a five-times-daily call to prayer over a loudspeaker. The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to amend the Detroit enclave's noise ordinance to allow the Bangladeshi al-Islah mosque to carry the call to prayer between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The amendment will take effect 20 days after it is officially published unless vetoed by Mayor Thomas Jankowski, who has indicated he will not do so, WJBK-TV reported. The loudspeaker-borne prayers have caused ethnic and religious friction in Hamtramck, a blue-collar city of 23,000 that once was overwhelmingly Polish.
[Schools and Religion] Schools to teach UK's six main religions
Children should begin to learn about another religion alongside Christianity from the age of five, according to new government guidelines on teaching religious education published yesterday. By the time they have finished compulsory education, they should have learnt about the six principal religions represented in the UK - Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. A report drawn up by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) - the government's curriculum and examinations watchdog, says: "It is important that schools make every effort to ensure that during their school life pupils encounter the principal religions." The report also calls on young people to study other minority religious traditions, singling out the Baha'i faith, Jainism and Zoroastrianism, in particular.
[Church and State] Supreme Court Rejects Appeal on VMI Supper Prayers
A divided U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Monday a ruling that reading a prayer before supper to Virginia Military Institute cadets violated the constitutionally required separation of church and state.
[Islam] Australia preparing to outlaw Palestinian group Islamic Jihad
Australia is preparing to outlaw the Palestinian radical group Islamic Jihad under tough new counter-terrorism laws, officials said on Wednesday. [...] Under counter-terrorism laws that came into effect recently, anyone belonging to, training or recruiting members for a banned terrorist group can be imprisoned for up to 25 years.
[Islam] Computer Student on Trial for Aid to Muslim Web Sites
Not long after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Muslim students led by a Saudi Arabian doctoral candidate held a candlelight vigil in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, and condemned the attacks as an affront to Islam. Today, that graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, is on trial in a heavily guarded courtroom here, accused of plotting to aid and to maintain Islamic Web sites that promote jihad. As a Web master to several Islamic organizations, Mr. Hussayen helped to maintain Internet sites with links to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel. But he himself does not hold those views, his lawyers said. His role was like that of a technical editor, they said, arguing that he could not be held criminally liable for what others wrote. Civil libertarians say the case poses a landmark test of what people can do or whom they can associate with in the age of terror alerts. It is one of the few times anyone has been prosecuted under language in the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, which makes it a crime to provide "expert guidance or assistance" to groups deemed terrorist. "Somebody who fixes a fax machine that is owned by a group that may advocate terrorism could be liable," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who argued against the expert guidance part of the antiterrorism law this year, in a case where it was struck down by a federal judge.
[Religion Trends] Profs study race, religion
White Americans think racial discrimination is increasing although black Americans think its decreasing, a recent nationwide telephone survey of more than 2,000 Americans found. The findings are the first phase of a three-year study called the American Mosaic Project, which examines race and religion in the United States. Three University professors and others designed the survey, which the University of Wisconsin Survey Center conducted last summer. It includes 120 questions about the respondents views on race, religion intolerance and prejudice. [...] Hartmann said the group also found competition drives anti-Semitism not religious intolerance.
[Christianity] Christian churches growing in Russia
In St. Petersburg, home to 4.5million people, there are only about 8,000 who regularly attend evangelical or Protestant churches. A larger number identify themselves as Russian Orthodox, but most are atheists or agnostics, he said. Among young people, however, interest in Christianity is growing, said Baranov, 31. Most of the people in his church are his age or younger, and many are children, he said. St. Petersburg has some 80 Protestant or evangelical churches, but most have fewer than 50 members. Of 35 Baptist congregations in the St.Petersburg area, only eight have church buildings. The rest meet in offices, homes or commercial buildings, such as the beauty shop.
[Amish] Ejected by U.S., Amish man back in Canada
An Amish man who had been living in Pennsylvania is back in Canada while he continues challenging a law requiring his photo be taken for legal residence in the United States. Daniel Zehr, 29, of Kitchener, Ont., returned Saturday after a judge last week refused to allow him to stay in the country during his challenge.
[Satanic and/or ritual abuse] Sex and satanic rituals claim as priest is accused of murdering nun
Depending on whom you believe, Gerald Robinson is either a quiet, somewhat remote, balding cleric who has faithfully served the Catholic Church for the past 40 years, or a sexual pervert and participant in bizarre Satanic rituals who killed a 71-year-old nun and covered up the crime. Either way, the 66-year-old priest is the talk of the Rust Belt town of Toledo, Ohio, where he has been arraigned on murder charges and imprisoned in the county jail after his arrest last weekend. His case is not only replete with details straight out of a Gothic melodrama, including one particularly lurid report of a ritual involving a teenage girl, a snake and a human eyeball. It is also once more throwing an unwelcome spotlight on the moral integrity of the Catholic hierarchy, which in this case supported Fr Robinson and allowed him to continue his pastoral duties even after he was formally placed under investigation for murder last year.
[Satanic and/or ritual abuse] Victims' group faults reaction by local diocese
A priest accused of killing a nun 24 years ago continued to serve until his arrest, and a local victims' group wants to know why the Toledo Catholic Diocese didn't place him on leave last year after a woman accused him of perpetrating sadomasochistic sex or when investigators reopened the murder investigation. Standing outside Toledo Municipal Court, the leaders of the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) raised the question yesterday after the Rev. Gerald Robinson was arraigned on murder charges. He is charged with the April 5, 1980 slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in the sacristy of a Mercy Hospital chapel.
[Deeper Life Christian Church] Shady fundraisers vanish from city
A group from Dallas, that`s been collecting donations for several weeks at a Wichita Falls intersection, is suddenly gone today, after we aired a report on their background yesterday. The solicitors say they are not members of the Deeper Life Christian Church out of Florida, but the church is helping them find shelter and get their lives straight. [...] A Florida newspaer describes the church as like a cult and says members are closely controled by the founding family.
[Deeper Life Christian Church] Shady fundraising
They said they`re with Deeper Life Christian Church and they were raising money for the homeless. [...] But what many of those donating yesterday didn`t know is that the church has been in trouble for fraud. According to newspaper reports, in 1999, four of the church`s pastors as well as the church itself, were convicted of receiving stolen goods and laundering almost $20,000 a month in food stamps. And at least 3 of these fundraising trips have proved fatal, including one last year when a 14 year old was crushed under a van carrying church members.
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Tue, Apr. 27, 2004
[Church and State] Trial to decide case of religious song
A federal judge said Monday that he will hear arguments that Isle of Wight County school officials hampered a student's First Amendment rights when they kept her from singing a religious song at her high school graduation ceremony. [...] Ashby, 18 at the time, volunteered last spring to sing at her Windsor High School commencement ceremony, as a few students usually do every year. But school officials balked at the lyrics of her chosen song, "The Prayer," which mentions God and faith and has religious undertones. School officials did not let Ashby or any other student sing.
[Buddhism] Dalai Lama can visit Russia only as religious figure
The Dalai Lama can visit Russia, but only as a religious figure not a politician, Igor Rogachyov, the ambassador of Russia to the People's Republic of China, said at a press conference in Moscow. According to him, Russian Buddhists made another request to allow the Dalai Lama to come to Russia. "The Dalai Lama has been knocking at our door for the umpteenth year asking to be let to come at the request of our believers," Mr. Rogachyov noted. He recalled that every year in late spring, Russian Buddhists from Kalmykia, Buryatia and Tuva make requests to let the Dalai Lama come to Russia. Until now, such requests were declined.
[Science and Religion] New ways of thinking move from New Age to science
Like many enterprising thinkers and scientists before her, Mayer is attempting to bridge the gap between intuitive, creative thinking and hard, rational science. Building such a bridge means changing the way the medical and scientific establishment thinks, she acknowledges, and that happens slowly. But, she insists, it does happen. And it is happening. Ideas that were formerly part of the New Age fringe - such as the connection between body and mind, between emotions and physical well-being - have been validated by advances in neuroscience and welcomed into mainstream medicine. The government is funding research into alternative and complementary medicine, and major universities are funneling funds and resources into research on - believe it or not - anomalous phenomena. The most recent Gallup Poll reports that more than half of Americans believe in anomalous phenomena such as ESP, unexplained coincidence or prayer healing. A common response to discussion of anomalous phenomena, however, is for certain New Age, kook or woo-woo alarms to go off, even in spiritually friendly Northern California. But Mayer is not from the New Age world of crystals, incense and past-life regressions.
[Satanic and/or ritual abuse] Area authorities no strangers to cult, ritual probes
The recent investigation into the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl wasn't the first time authorities have come across the possibility of satanic rituals in northwest Ohio. Five years after the Mercy Hospital nun was strangled and stabbed, tips, surveillance, and an infrared aerial sweep of Spencer Township prompted Lucas County Sheriff James Telb and investigators to spend two days excavating a woody area in western Lucas County. They were looking for the bodies of 50 to 60 babies and children who reportedly had been sacrificed over several years during cult rituals. [...] Investigators found nothing of substance, and the dig was abandoned. But nearly two decades later, the allegations then loosely echo those of a woman who told local authorities last year that, as a child, she was an unwilling participant in rituals in which other children and animals were sacrificed or mutilated. [...] The woman's claims have not been confirmed by local investigators, but they were enough to lead authorities to reopen the murder investigation.
[Da Vinci Code] Defenders of Christianity Rush to Debunk 'The Da Vinci Code'
Fearing that the best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code" may be sowing doubt about basic Christian beliefs, a host of Christian churches, clergy members and Bible scholars are rushing to rebut it. [...] Word that the director Ron Howard is making a movie based on the book has intensified the critics' urgency. More than 10 books are being released, most in April and May, with titles that promise to break, crack, unlock or decode "The Da Vinci Code." Churches are offering pamphlets and study guides for readers who may have been prompted by the novel to question their faith. Large audiences are showing up for Da Vinci Code lectures and sermons. "Because this book is such a direct attack against the foundation of the Christian faith, it's important that we speak out," said the Rev. Erwin W. Lutzer, author of "The Da Vinci Deception" and senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, an influential evangelical pulpit.
[Antisemitism] Survey: European anti-Jewish sentiment decreases
Negative attitudes toward Israel are on the rise in most Western European countries even as anti-Jewish sentiment decreases across the continent, according to a new survey by the Anti-Defamation League. The survey, Attitudes Toward Jews, Israel, and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict in Ten European Countries, was released Monday in Berlin ahead of an international conference on anti-Semitism sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It found that since 2002, anti-Semitism has decreased in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland while anti-Israel sentiment has increased almost across the board.
[Islam] Muslim 'rock star' on terrorism
A leading American Islamic cleric is visiting Wales to examine the fight against terrorism. Sheik Hamza Yusuf addressed 100 invited guests in a speech at Cardiff Castle on Monday called "Extinguishing the fire: Our war on terrorism". His 45-minute talk looked at the problems facing Islam, terrorism and community unity. [...] Sheik Yusuf, aged 45, is one of the world's top Muslim academics and was one of the first Islamic figures that President George Bush turned to for advice following the 11 September attacks. Born Mark Hanson, the son of two US academics, he converted to Islam when he was 17 following a car crash. He has been dubbed "the rock star of the new Muslim generation" and is on a three-week tour of the UK and the event in Cardiff is the second in a series of talks across the country.
[Polygamy] Utah filing targets ban on polygamy
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer against a Texas law that forbade private homosexual activities, Justice Antonin Scalia ominously predicted the decision would spell the end to laws against a list of other taboos, including polygamy. The ruling, Scalia said, "effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation" and would likely require laws against "fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity" to be subsequently declared unconstitutional. Using that train of thought, a Utah civil rights attorney has now asked U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart to pick up where Scalia left off and strike down the state's century-old ban on polygamy.
[The Passion of The Christ] 'The Passion' puts some believers on the outside
With Mel Gibson's blockbuster earning more than $355 million Sunday at the box office and energizing evangelicals and conservative Catholics across the United States, some devout Christians have found themselves facing a dilemma. They prefer not to view the film, because of its violent and gory nature or its traditionalist orientation, but feel pressure from pastors and other Christians to go. Some even say they are made to feel anti-Christian for not joining in the "buzz" surrounding the film at their Sunday services. Since the debut of "The Passion" on Feb. 27, churches of many denominations have virtually made viewing it an act of religious faith. Some have rented cinemas and bused members to showings. Special study groups have been organized to discuss the film and Jesus Christ's life and crucifixion, while "Passion" Web sites and chat rooms flourish. But for some Christians the violence in the film, which depicts in gruesome detail Christ being beaten with nail-studded whips until his skin is caked in blood, is too much to tolerate. Many fear the visceral images could leave them more traumatized than spiritually transformed.
[Islam] French imam row goes to top court
The French interior ministry has said it will appeal against a court decision to cancel the deportation of a controversial Muslim preacher. A regional court in the city of Lyon on Monday upheld Friday's ruling that Abdelkader Bouziane, who was deported on Wednesday, could return to France. The government had promised to supply evidence to justify the deportation. Mr Bouziane, 52, was criticised over an interview in which he condoned beating and stoning unfaithful wives. The remarks drew criticism from local politicians and moderate Muslims, who described the preachings as "medieval". Correspondents say the decision is a setback for the new Interior Minister, Dominique de Villepin, who had argued that the deportation was legal on the grounds that the imam used his mosque to advocate violence.
[Islam] Firebrand Muslim cleric bids to stay in UK
Abu Hamza, 44, whose appeal will cost taxpayers a reported £250,000, will go before a panel of judges at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in central London next January. Hamza is appealing against Home Secretary David Blunkett's attempt to strip him of UK citizenship and send him back to the Yemen. The hook-handed preacher from north London has caused outrage with a string of firebrand statements about Iraq and September 11.
[Islam] Rally by Muslims knocks terrorism
Hundreds of residents from across the Valley gathered Sunday night at Phoenix's Patriots Square Park to join what is believed to be the nation's first Muslim rally against terrorism. "The killing of innocent people out of revenge, out of hate or out of retribution is against the absolute laws of Islam," said Zuhdi Jasser, a physician who organized the rally. "Suicide is against the absolute laws of Islam. "People can justify their actions all day long, but we as Muslims are here to say clearly their actions are against everything we believe." Jasser said he was motivated to organize the rally by ongoing claims that moderate Muslims in the United States have not voiced a "groundswell of condemnation" against the terrorist activity that destroyed the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
[Islam] Soccer player sent off for wearing Islamic head scarf in Australia
female soccer player was told she could not play for her local team unless she removed her Islamic head scarf, officials said Monday. Afifa Saad, who has tried out for the Victorian state team, played for the South Melbourne Women's Soccer Club wearing her white head scarf, or hijab, and long track pants, in accordance with her religion. On Sunday, at a game between South Melbourne and local club Keilor Park, the referee told her she had to remove her scarf or she could not play. The girl, whose age was not released, refused and after a delay the game was called off. The Victorian Soccer Federation said it will investigate the incident. Referee development manager Chris Bambridge said the referee could face disciplinary action. Bambridge said the referee, who had about 12 years of experience, had possibly breached anti-discrimination laws.
[Mormon Church] Mormons open temple doors to share beliefs
One of the hottest tickets in New York right now is just off Broadway: a tour of a new Mormon temple. It's a rare glimpse of the architecture of a unique, often-misunderstood religion, a sense of the sacred expressed in light and mirrors and enveloping silence. [...] It surprises even New Yorkers that 42,000 Mormons live in the metro area. [...] Expect those numbers to soar. Temples and converts, like chickens and eggs, each prompt the other. In 2000, there were only 50 temples worldwide. [...] Christians who say the Bible is God's final revelation object to the Mormon belief that founding prophet Joseph Smith received a third testament from Christ, the Book of Mormon, transcribed in 1830 for the Latter-day Saints.
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Mon, Apr. 26, 2004
[Islam] Militants in Europe Openly Call for Jihad and the Rule of Islam
The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe, and is being answered, counterterrorism officials say. In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families' new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street. They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the "Magnificent 19" and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe. On Thursday evening, at a tennis center community hall in Slough, west of London, their leader, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammad, spoke of his adherence to Osama bin Laden. If Europe fails to heed Mr. bin Laden's offer of a truce provided that all foreign troops are withdrawn from Iraq in three months Muslims will no longer be restrained from attacking the Western countries that play host to them, the sheik said. "All Muslims of the West will be obliged," he said, to "become his sword" in a new battle. Europeans take heed, he added, saying, "It is foolish to fight people who want death that is what they are looking for."
[Nuwaubians] Macon officers step down over York case
Eight Macon law enforcement and emergency officials resigned Monday after they said Mayor Jack Ellis failed to listen to new evidence in the federal case about cult leader Malachi York. But city officials said there is nothing they could do about the federal case against York, who was sentenced to 135 years in federal prison last week on charges of child molestation and racketeering.
[Hate Groups] White supremacist guilty of plotting to kill judge
White supremacist leader Matthew Hale, whose gospel of "racial holy war" was linked to a follower's deadly shooting rampage five years ago, was found guilty Monday of trying to have a federal judge killed. Hale, 32, was found guilty of four of the five charges against him. He was found innocent of one of two counts of soliciting the murder of a federal judge. The judge was not attacked. [...] U.S. District Judge James T. Moody did not immediately set a sentencing date. Solicitation of murder carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Hale could also get a maximum of 10 years on each of three counts of obstruction of justice.
Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
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