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ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 20, 2004

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  • Anton Hein
    ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 20, 2004 Thu, May. 20, 2004 [Gwen Shamblin] Faith-based weight loss headquarters raided for possible role in boy s death
    Message 1 of 1 , May 20, 2004
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      ReligionNewsBlog.com, May 20, 2004

      Thu, May. 20, 2004
      [Gwen Shamblin] Faith-based weight loss headquarters raided for possible role in boy's death
      Law enforcement officers descended on Franklin's Weigh Down Workshop on Wednesday, reportedly as part of a continuing investigation into the role the teachings of an affiliated church played in the death of a Georgia boy. Joseph Smith, 44, and Sonya Smith, 36, were charged in December with felony murder, cruelty to a child and contributing to the deprivation of a minor in the death of their 8-year-old son, Josef Mykel Smith, who died Oct. 9, 2003.

      [Gwen Shamblin] Ministry's offices searched for clues in boy's death
      A Georgia detective says he believes he has tied the death of an 8-year-old boy to a Williamson County-based ministry, but the organization has issued a statement saying it has done nothing wrong and believes the death was accidental. Cobb County Police detective David Schweizer and a group of Franklin police detectives searched the office and warehouses of Weigh Down Ministries in Cool Springs yesterday, collecting files and computer disks.

      [Da Vinci Code] 'Da Vinci' author: I left out even more
      Though "The Da Vinci Code" was contentious enough to produce 10 books attempting to discredit it, its author said he left out what likely would have been the most controversial part. Dan Brown said that when he wrote the best seller that dissects the origins of Jesus Christ and disputes long-held beliefs about Catholicism, he considered including material alleging that Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion.

      [Islam] Muslim girl can wear head scarf to school
      A sixth-grade Muslim girl in Oklahoma can wear a head scarf to school under a settlement between the school district and the Justice Department, officials announced Wednesday. The six-year agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma, also requires the Muskogee Public School District to change its dress code to allow exceptions for religious reasons.

      [Lord's Resistance Army] Ugandan troops rescue Anglican bishop from rebels
      Ugandan troops rescued an Anglican bishop hours after he was kidnapped from his home in the early hours of Wednesday by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, an army spokesman said. Officials said Benjamin Ojwang's abduction appeared to be the first of a bishop by the cult-like LRA, which is notorious for targeting civilians, slicing off its victims lips and ears, and snatching tens of thousands of children to be fighters, porters and sex slaves.

      [USA] 'They made us break law'
      A US army infantryman who grew morally opposed to the war after six months of fierce combat in Iraq was brought before a court martial for desertion yesterday, in a case that has become a talisman for America's peace movement. To his supporters, Sergeant Camilo Mejia is the antithesis of those soldiers facing trial in Baghdad for the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail. He was the soldier with a conscience, no longer willing to follow orders he believed to be illegal or immoral. He pleaded not guilty to desertion yesterday. His defence team introduced experts on war crimes and the elder statesman of the anti-war movement, Ramsey Clark, to try to construct a case that Sgt Mejia's decision to leave his unit arose from a desire to avoid committing atrocities.

      [USA] The other prisoners
      Most of the coverage of abuse at Abu Ghraib has focused on male detainees. But what of the five women held in the jail, and the scores elsewhere in Iraq? Luke Harding reports. [...] Astonishingly, the secret inquiry launched by the US military in January, headed by Major General Antonio Taguba, has confirmed that the letter smuggled out of Abu Ghraib by a woman known only as "Noor" was entirely and devastatingly accurate. While most of the focus since the scandal broke three weeks ago has been on the abuse of men, and on their sexual humilation in front of US women soldiers, there is now incontrovertible proof that women detainees - who form a small but unknown proportion of the 40,000 people in US custody since last year's invasion - have also been abused. [...] Taguba discovered that guards have also videotaped and photographed naked female detainees. The Bush administration has refused to release other photographs of Iraqi women forced at gunpoint to bare their breasts (although it has shown them to Congress) - ostensibly to prevent attacks on US soldiers in Iraq, but in reality, one suspects, to prevent further domestic embarrassment. Earlier this month it emerged that an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib and another coalition detention centre after being arrested last July. Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who investigated the case and found it to be true, said, "She was held for about six w eeks without charge. During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey." In Iraq, the existence of photographs of women detainees being abused has provoked revulsion and outrage, but little surprise. Some of the women involved may since have disappeared, according to human rights activists.

      [Helge Fossmo] Murder case unveils town secret
      The shadowy underside of small-town Sweden will be exposed to public gaze this week in an extraordinary murder trial involving a nanny and an adulterous minister. The trial, in Uppsala, about 100km north of Stockholm, could break legal ground in Europe because the prosecutor will try to prove, for the first time, that a man brainwashed a young woman and effectively made her pull the trigger on a murder victim. In the dock is a Pentecostal minister, Helge Fossmo, 32, who is charged with murdering his first wife, inciting the murder of his second wife and masterminding the attempted murder of his neighbour.

      [Gwen Shamblin] Faith based group under investigation
      A Franklin church group that embraces a controversial weight loss philosophy is under investigation. The Weigh Down Workshop, Remnant Fellowship Church and its founder Gwen Shamblin are being questioned about possible ties to the murder of a small child in Georgia.

      [Gwen Shamblin] Police Raid Weigh Down Workshop
      Detectives with search warrants in hand entered the Weigh Down Workshop, which is run by Gwen Shamblin, the head of Remnant Fellowship. Two members of the church, Joseph and Sonya Smith, were arrested in Atlanta for allegedly beating their 8-year-old son to death. Detectives testified that the couple admitted to using glue sticks to beat their son. It's an idea that a NewsChannel Five Investigation discovered, originated inside Remnant Fellowship, a church that preaches strict discipline of children.

      [Asatru] Execution date set for cult high priest who killed fellow inmate
      A July 1 execution date has been set for a self-professed Nordic high priest who killed a fellow inmate at the Augusta Correctional Center.
      Michael W. Lenz, 40, was sentenced to die for plunging a homemade knife into Brent Parker 68 times four years ago. [...] Lenz, then serving a seven-year sentence for a string of burglaries in Prince William County, said he was the high priest of a Nordic cult called Asatru. Parker was trying to bully him out of the cult, Lenz testified.

      [Transcendental Meditation] Future of Heavenly Mountain disputed
      The man who, along with his twin brother, owns most of the land at Heavenly Mountain Resort, has disavowed the spiritual movement that helped establish the retreat. David Kaplan, who owns the largest privately-owned land tract in Watauga County, publicly repudiated the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in a letter released Tuesday to Heavenly Mountain residents and the public. In the letter, Kaplan said he and his brother, Earl, investigated Maharishi and the TM movement closely, and subsequently could "no longer support or be associated with Maharishi, his ideas, his knowledge or any of his organizations in any way whatsoever."

      [Hate Groups : Scientology] OBIE Winner Pageant Gets L.A. Run and CD
      Following its sold-out Off-Off-Broadway run and subsequent Off-Broadway transfer this winter, the newly Obie Award-honored musical A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant has announced a run in Los Angeles as well as a cast recording.

      Plus items posted after yesterday's newsletter was mailed:

      Wed, May. 19, 2004
      [Mark J. Malvitz] Former Lodi pastor assaulted in Sacramento County
      Mark Malvitz, a pastor throughout the 1990s in Lodi, Morada and Stockton who is being sued in Sacramento County on allegations of spiritual abuse, fraud and using church members' account numbers, was assaulted after a service last week, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department said.

      [Islam] Court approves radical Islamic leader's expulsion
      Cologne's administrative court Wednesday approved a city application to expel radical Islamic figure Metin Kaplan to Turkey.

      [Marcus Wesson] City won't buy Wesson land
      The house on Hammond Avenue was the scene of one of Fresno's most gruesome murder cases. On March 12, police entered the home and found a stack of nine bodies, most of them children. Marcus Wesson is accused of killing all nine. He has pleaded not guilty. Council Member Jerry Duncan proposed in the weeks after the slayings to purchase the property and demolish the building to prevent the scene from becoming a macabre tourist destination.

      [USA] Texas Puts Mentally Ill Killer to Death
      A convicted killer diagnosed as mentally ill was put to death despite a highly unusual recommendation from the state parole board that he be spared. Kelsey Patterson, a 50-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, jabbered about being innocent and demanded his rights just before receiving a lethal injection Tuesday evening. His last words were a plea: "Give me my life back." [...] Patterson's execution renewed the legal quandary of whether it is proper to execute an inmate who is mentally ill after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded. The high court has also said an inmate may not be executed if he doesn't know why he's on death row and the punishment he faces.

      Note: Blinded by its own hypocrisy, America recently issued its annual report of what it considers to be human rights violations around the world:

      [USA] Iraq War Weakens Bond Between Bush, Evangelicals
      Concern among evangelical Christians over the course of the war in Iraq is opening a crack in their strong bond with President Bush and the Republican Party, political analysts who track this powerful voting group said. But they caution there are doubts over whether John Kerry can lure evangelicals into the Democratic camp in November's presidential election. "I know there are a lot of evangelicals who are disillusioned with the war and worried about a lot of things, the Woodward book, the Clarke book ... (and) how we got into this thing," said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., referring to recent books on the al Qaeda threat and the Iraqi war and occupation. Compounding that is the growing scandal about prisoner abuses by U.S. troops in Iraq. Evangelical Christians are still expected to vote overwhelmingly for Bush, but the erosion of support could reduce their turnout on election day, a potentially ominous development for the incumbent president.

      [USA] U.S. Cardinal Accuses Bush of Moral Failure in Iraq
      A senior American cardinal in the Vatican has accused the U.S. administration of "moral failure" and deception in Iraq and warned the war had severely compromised future relations with the Arab world. In an interview due to be published in the June edition of "Inside the Vatican" magazine, Cardinal James Francis Stafford also said the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was the work of "barbarians." An advance copy was made available to Reuters.

      [Religion Trends] We believe but not in church
      A new Home Office report has found that four out of five people in England and Wales say they feel an affiliation with an organised religion. The largest number - 74% - say they are Christians. However with church attendance on the decline and only 7% of Christians in the UK attending church, the figure seems remarkably high. Why do so many people who have no formal contact with a religious organisation still claim to believe in some form of higher power? Hanne Stinson, director of the British Humanist Association, says she thinks many of them are "cultural Christians". They see themselves as being Christian in the same way as they are British, almost in a tribal way. "People label themselves with what they were brought up with," said Hanne.

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