ReligionNewsBlog.com May 18-19, 2004
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Wed, May. 19, 2004
[Hate Groups] Opposition to 'fascist' rock gig growing
Anti-fascist activists in Ulster are urging venues in the north Antrim area not to host a "neo Nazi" rock concert. White Nationalist Party supporters are planning to hold a "Blood & Honour" gig in the area to boost support for their ongoing campaign of organisation in Northern Ireland, according to opponents. [...] A spokesperson for the Fascists Out! campaign said on the website: "For some time we have been monitoring the activities of the White Nazi Party in the Coleraine, Ballymoney, Bushmills and Ballymena areas. These people are spreading racist filth and encouraging cowardly attacks, including petrol bomb attacks, against members of minority communities."
[Hate Groups] Aryan Nations member arrested after shot fired at police
An Aryan Nations member who ran for public office last year has been arrested in southwestern Washington after a shot was fired at a police officer during a standoff. Zachary Loren Beck is also awaiting trial on hate-crime charges in Kootenai County, Idaho.
[House of Prayer] Arthur Allen, center of church abuse case, denied parole
The Rev. Arthur Allen, serving a two-year sentence for publicly whipping boys in his church, was denied parole Tuesday. Allen was convicted in 2002 for the whippings, where boys in his independent church were held aloft by two adults and then beaten with a belt strap by Allen.
[Internet] Cyber-church forced to close e-pulpit
The world's first cyber church has had to close its pulpit to ordinary worshippers after people logged in and used swear words on the site. The Church of Fools said it had tightened security, including withdrawing the ``preach button`` and putting in more wardens to stop people using abusive language. [...] `Wardens` struggled to oversee 60,000 visits to the church during the first two days of opening. It has attracted an average of between 5000 and 10,000 visits a day since then. A ``smite`` button is used to eliminate troublemakers but the UK-based wardens have encountered particular difficulties at night when they are asleep and people have logged on from the US and Australia. Stephen Goddard, spokesman for the church, said the abuse was ``disappointing`` but was a sign the establishment was reaching thousands of people who had no normal contact with the church.
[Islam] Wife-beating row imam allowed back into France
A radical Islamic cleric, Abdelkader Bouziane, on Monday said he had been given a visa allowing him to return to France, which expelled him on April 21 after he publicly justified wife-beating. [...] A French administrative tribunal that reviewed Bouziane's case after his forced departure ruled that the government had acted illegally by not formally charging the imam with any crime and failing to give him an opportunity to defend himself.
[Sikhism] French law means Sikhs cannot wear turbans
Sikh school boys must exchange their turbans for hair nets when a new law banning religious apparel in public schools takes effect in September, France's education minister said Monday, shocking representatives of the Sikh community.
[Archeology] Professor Yearned to Find Noah's Ark
Somewhere in the great beyond, if Aaron J. Smith isn't smiling, he must at least feel satisfaction that so many have followed him up that mountain. "We have paved the way for other expeditions," Smith wrote in 1949 after his return to Greensboro - "home sweet home," as he called it - from remote northeast Turkey. Sure enough, another expedition will go in search this summer of the ultimate archaeological prize, Noah's Ark. [...] The search team will use satellite photos and other high-tech gear to search for remains of a vessel that the biblical scholars calculate measured 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall.
[Worldwide Church of God] Ambassador Auditorium Is Sold
The Ambassador Auditorium and other key structures on the former Ambassador College campus in Pasadena have been purchased by a church and school, which plan to turn the vacant facilities into a private high school and concert venue. Harvest Rock Church and Maranatha High School, both based in Pasadena, bought the 13-acre site with five buildings from Worldwide Church of God last week for an undisclosed amount.
[USA] Beware the self-fulfilling prophesies of millenarians
An important aspect of fundamentalist resurgence in America is its belief in divine deliverance at the hands of an avenging messiah. A set of beliefs, known as "Bible prophecies," based on a relatively recent interpretation of the New Testament's Book of Revelations, predicts a chain of events leading to a bloody end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. To gauge the reach of this creed one need only note that the works of two of its advocates, Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins, enjoy a staggering circulation of more than 20 million copies in the US. Why should the rest of us care about religious views of a few million Christians in America? Because Bible prophecy may very well become self-fulfilling prophecy. Religious predictions of the end of the world are not exclusive to Christianity; nor are they always self-fulfilling - or else we wouldn't be here to question them. Only under certain conditions are such beliefs likely to affect the actual course of history. The danger is that those conditions obtain in the case of American millenarians. Millions of politically organized and single-minded believers have come to expect that the world will end in a devastating global war within their lifetime. They do not merely attempt to read political developments around the world as signs of the fulfillment of their end-of-time scenario. They also try to stir these events in the direction of their chiliastic scenario of an impending Armageddon using their considerable political influence in US. Hence there is cause to fear that eager and resourceful "end-of-timers" may, indeed, "will" worldwide strife into existence.
[USA] Reuters, NBC Staff Abused by U.S. Troops in Iraq
U.S. forces beat three Iraqis working for Reuters and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts and humiliation during their detention last January in a military camp near Falluja, the three said Tuesday. The three first told Reuters of the ordeal after their release but only decided to make it public when the U.S. military said there was no evidence they had been abused, and following the exposure of similar mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
[Kabbalah] Fan Predicts Flood of New Followers of the Trendy Belief System
Irish student Matthew Keehan has told of his complete conversion to a trendy way of life - thanks to hearing superstar Madonna talk about it. And the 20-year-old artist says thousands more people throughout Ireland will turn to the newly-fashionable ancient Jewish principles this year when his heroine and Britney Spears both play in Ireland. Both of the stars are committed to the Kabbalah...
[Islam] Court Sentences Student to 10 Years in Jail for Insulting Mohammad's companions
A court sentenced a student to 10 years imprisonment Tuesday for issuing an audio tape that insulted the companions of the Prophet Mohammad, his lawyer said. Yasser al-Habib, 21, caused an uproar in Kuwait last year when he recorded and distributed a tape that was widely regarded as defaming the Prophet's disciples, including the caliphs Abu Baker al-Sedeeq and Omar bin al-Khattab. Al-Habib is a Muslim Shiite and most Kuwaitis belong to the Sunni sect of Islam, which revers the Prophet's companions. On Tuesday, a criminal court convicted al-Habib in absentia of ``insulting the companions of the Prophet,'' his lawyer, Khaled al-Shatti, told The Associated Press. The sentence could not be immediately confirmed with court officials.
[Aum Shinrikyo] AUM's Asahara Refuses to See Lawyer
AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara has refused to see his lawyer who will defend him in his appeal against his death sentence handed down by the Tokyo District Court in February, the lawyer told Kyodo News on Wednesday. Takeshi Matsui, who belongs to the Tokyo No. 2 Bar Association, said he cannot form a defense strategy in the appeal at the Tokyo High Court because of Asahara's refusal to cooperate. The appeal trial was expected to begin as early as next year but it may be delayed, he said.
[Word of Faith Fellowship] Muse not guilty in assault case
Former Word of Faith Fellowship member Shana Muse was found not guilty of two misdemeanor assault charges on Monday. Ricky Cooper and Lena Cooper, Muse's brother-in-law and niece, filed separate charges against Muse regarding an argument in March of 2002, mainly as a response to a false imprisonment charge leveled by Muse against the Coopers and two other individuals concerning the same night. The Coopers, along with Lena Cooper and Carol Smith, who were living in the same home with Muse and several others at the time, were cleared of the false imprisonment charges in April.
[Falun Gong] Chinese Falun Gong Members Seek Refugee Status in Japan
Several Chinese members of Falun Gong, a sect outlawed in China, on Tuesday [18 May] called on Japanese immigration authorities not to detain them amid fears they will be deported to China where they face possible persecution. The call by the Falun Gong members and their supporters was made in the wake of moves by the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau starting this month to detain Falun Gong followers or instruct them to present themselves to bureau officials - moves seen as a possible precursor to their detention or deportation.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Lure of the celebrity sect
During an exclusive tour of Scientology's Celebrity Centre, Jamie Doward quizzed personnel about the church's teachings. [...] And then there is Hubbard's vacant office. Every Scientology Celebrity Centre across the world has a sealed room devoted to Hubbard, kept vacant as a mark of respect. In London, a sturdy walnut desk, on which stands Hubbard's name-plate, takes centre stage. But what you won't see on the office walls, or any other Scientology building for that matter, is Hubbard's FBI file. You won't see the letters Hubbard wrote to the US secret services offering his help in the battle against communism. You won't read the letters he wrote denouncing associates as communists, and you won't see the file in which one agent referred to him as a 'mental case'.
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Tue, May. 18, 2004
[Polygamy] Texas sheriff pays visit to Colorado City
A day's visit to Colorado City discounted "a lot of rumors" about polygamy, a Texas county sheriff said Monday evening. "There wasn't anything we didn't see -- very hospitable, very open," said Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran. "It was very eye-opening. I was humbled by what I've seen. I got to see a community that works." Along with his Chief Deputy George Arispe, Doran is on a fact-finding trip about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest polygamist group in America. Based in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, the church is building what members say is a retreat for the faithful near Eldorado in Schleicher County.
[Media] Nigeria clamps down on bogus religious broadcasters
For years, televangelists have been projecting wild claims into Nigerian homes, uncensored and unhindered. But now a new law means all preachers making claims about miraculous healing are required to provide verifiable evidence that a miracle has taken place. Last week the embattled televangelists were handed a brief respite as a Lagos High Court directed authorities not to begin enforcing the new rules pending a legal challenge by two Christians. But if they lose the case, preachers face a tough test - they will be required to produce a doctor's report on the patient's condition before healing took place, as well as video evidence at the point of healing, and another doctor's report confirming that the earlier diagnosed condition was no longer present.
[USA] It May Be Harder To Say 'No' To Prisoner Abuse
From Auschwitz to My Lai to Abu Ghraib, the courageous few who stand up to moral transgression can be more perplexing than the brutalizers. For many psychologists, moral courage is as hard to define as physical bravery. Social science has scrutinized the face of evil but has tended to skip virtue. Yet the righteous abound in history: Christians who rescued Jews from the Nazis, pilot Hugh Thompson who swept down to stop fellow Americans from massacring My Lai villagers in Vietnam. And at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, at least a handful of American soldiers resisted or exposed the abuse of prisoners chronicled in photographs, according to military and news accounts. [...] Some experts in human behavior have found common threads among those who stand up to collective wrongdoing. Like the brutalizers, objectors take their cues from others. They are guided by values instilled through close and trusting social relationships in their youth. They have strong bonds with personal confidants or outsiders beyond the confines of the group that spawned the abusers. They are often encouraged by the chance presence of an ally within that group. It helps if their superiors make sure there are channels to report wrongs and people are trained to use them.
[Transcendental Meditation] Meditation controversy
It seems harmless enough: With eyes closed, you sit upright in a quiet room and mentally repeat a word for 10 to 20 minutes - a technique known as Transcendental Meditation. When young children practice it twice a day, according to research provided by the national Committee for Stress-Free Schools, it decreases their blood pressure, improves their grades and lowers their stress levels. Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is just one of many forms of meditation, a process in which a person narrowly focuses his attention to clear the mind. But some worry that the committee's claims about TM's benefits are overblown. Most of the research on TM is skewed toward positive results, critics say, and the TM movement has religious overtones. Still, at least four schools in the United States have implemented TM into their curriculum, and the committee has been aggressively promoting its program in major cities, including New York City.
[USA] U.S. Issues Report on Human Rights
The State Department, issuing its annual human rights report, acknowledged Monday that the U.S. military's prison scandal has raised legitimate questions about whether the United States can sit in judgment on other countries' moral records. In light of world outrage over abuses of Iraqi prisoners, it is reasonable to ask whether "Abu Ghraib robs us of our ability to talk about human rights abroad," said Lorne Craner, assistant secretary of State overseeing human rights. But he insisted that foreigners still wanted the United States to push for rights in their countries. [...] Craner's words were a sign of how difficult it has become for the United States to hold itself up as an advocate for human rights amid worldwide anger over the prison abuse scandal. The kind of mistreatment alleged at the prison, including sexual abuse and humiliation, constitutes the types of violations that the United States condemns in the reports, human rights advocates said.
[Islam] Dutch refuse entry to Islamic militant
The Netherlands will refuse entry to Pakistani Muslim militant Qazi Hussain Ahmed, who was controversially booked to speak at meeting organised by the Dutch-Belgian Arab European League (AEL) later this month. A Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed on Sunday that Hussain Ahmed will be denied entry to the Netherlands based on national security and public order reasons, news agency ANP reported.
[Deepak Chopra] New Age icon helps kids explore big questions
On his book tours, best-selling author and spiritual icon Deepak Chopra usually draws throngs of fans. But his most recent book tour through New York City drew just a few dozen readers to each store. He's not worried, though. Chopra is passionate about bringing his philosophy and spiritual ideas to a new audience. "Fire in the Heart: A Spiritual Guide for Teens" (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $14.95), released earlier this month, targets children 12 and older.
[Unitarian Universalism] Texas official says Unitarian church not a tax-exempt religion
Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone. But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Texas Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization - at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: The organization "does not have one system of belief." Never before - not in this state nor any other - has a government agency denied Unitarians tax-exempt status because of the group's religious philosophy, church officials say. Strayhorn's ruling clearly infringes upon religious liberties, said Dan Althoff, board president for the Denison, Texas, congregation that was rejected for tax exemption by the comptroller's office.
Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
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