ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 18, 2004
- ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 18, 2004
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Antidrug program with Scientology links to be probed
California's schools superintendent has ordered an investigation into a school antidrug program with ties to the Church of Scientology. The popular program, called Narconon Drug Prevention and Education, has been used by schools nationwide for the past two decades. Hollywood-based Narconon has provided instruction in at least 20 school districts in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. Many teachers and students have praised the program. But leading drug addiction experts say some of Narconon's medical theories are irresponsible and have no basis in fact. [...] O'Connell said Wednesday that the state's investigation could lead to an order barring Narconon from providing instruction in California schools. ``We have an obligation to inform school districts of potentially inaccurate and misleading information being distributed,'' O'Connell said.
[Hate Groups] Target: Hate groups using the Internet
International experts met Wednesday in Paris to tackle the tricky task of fighting anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic propaganda on the Internet -- seen as a chief factor in a rise in hate crime. [...] France, which is leading the effort, has faced a surge in anti-Semitic violence. Some fault the growth of Internet use among hate groups. But differing views about the limits of free speech and the ease of public access to the nebulous, anonymous Web largely stymied officials hoping to find common ground in Wednesday's talks.
[Al Quaeda] Al-Qaeda group says it has killed American hostage
An al-Qaeda group said Friday it killed American hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr, posting three photos on the Internet showing his body and severed head. [...] He was the latest victim of an escalating campaign targeting Westerners that Saudi and U.S. officials say aims to drive foreign workers from the kingdom and undermine the ruling royal family, hated by al-Qaeda.
[Mungiki] Police - 'Mungiki' Ties Chilling
Elements within the Police Force are allegedly supporting the Mungiki sect members in their nefarious acts. That chilling revelation from the Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Francis Sigei, in his capacity as the provincial security committee chairman. Consequently, "rogue officers" have been given the "last warning" to decide where their loyalties lie. [...] Instead of the PC asking the police to repent their sins, he should institute investigations and prosecute those guilty of abetting Mungiki activities. Retaining such policemen is postponing a disaster.
[Hare Krishna] Former Hare Krishna spiritual leader released from prison
The former leader of a Hare Krishna splinter group accused of using the murder of two dissidents to protect a multimillion-dollar business enterprise has been released from federal prison nearly four years early. Swami Bhaktipada, who also is known as Kirtanananda Swami and was born Keith Ham in Peekskill, N.Y., was released Wednesday from the federal correctional facility in Butner, N.C., a spokesman at the facility confirmed. Details of his release were unavailable late Wednesday. Bhaktipada, 66, was arrested in 1987, charged with racketeering and accused of ordering the murders of two devotees who had threatened his control of the New Vrindaban Krishna community in Marshall County.
[Catholic Church] Catholics urged to fight off New Age religions
Catholics from more than 25 countries have been in Rome this week to hammer out a strategy for combating the threat posed to Christianity by "New Age" religions and fads. "Astrologers believe that the Age of Pisces - known to them as the Christian age - is drawing to a close," explained an exhaustive report on the New Age produced by the Catholic Church last year. And as priests around the world watch their congregations die out and dwindle away through boredom or plain disbelief, the church believes the moment has come to fight back.
[USA] U.S. has secret jails, report says
The United States is holding terrorism suspects in more than two dozen detention centres worldwide and about half of these operate in total secrecy, said a human rights report released yesterday. Human Rights First, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said in the report that secrecy around these places made "inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely but inevitable."
[USA] Rights Group Blasts America's 'Secret Detention Centres'
The United States has at least a dozen secretive detention centres around the world, holding suspects in the "war on terror", a human rights group reported tonight. Known sites like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Bagram air base in Afghanistan are complemented by a network of jails in Jordan and Pakistan and by prison ships at sea, according to Human Rights First. [...] The group, previously known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the detention centres were "beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law". [...] "The United States' practices in its global network of detention facilities also has a deeply negative effect on the US ability to combat the threat of terrorism which depends critically on a visible demonstration that US deeds match its words in supporting democracy and human rights," the report said.
[Raelians] Woman 'pregnant with South Africa's first cloned baby'
A company founded by a religious sect has claimed that a Pretoria woman is three months pregnant with South Africa's first cloned baby. According to reports in Beeld, the announcement was made on Monday at the University of the Witwatersrand by Dr Brigitte Boisselier, president of an American cloning company, Clonaid. Boisselier declined to identify the pregnant woman, saying only that the baby will be black and has been cloned from its mother.
[Mungiki] Police Arrest 8 Over Girl's Murder
Police in Nairobi have arrested eight people in connection with the killing of a primary school girl in Mlango Kubwa estate. The suspects, who are being held in different police stations within Kasarani division, are assisting the officers with information that could lead to the arrest of Evelyn Mumbua's killers. Mumbua was slashed to death on Monday night.
[USA] War crime shield may end for U.S.
Defying the United States, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to stop shielding American peacekeepers from international prosecution for war crimes. Annan cited the U.S. prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq in opposing a U.S. resolution calling for the blanket exemption for a third straight year. The United States introduced the resolution last month but has delayed calling for a vote. Despite intensive lobbying, Washington does not have the minimum nine "yes" votes on the 15-member council to approve a new exemption, council diplomats said. [...] This year, human-rights groups argue that another U.S. exemption is unjustified in the wake of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. And council nations that support the court say nobody should be exempt. Annan supported both arguments.
[USA] Annan slams US bid to limit criminal court
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sharply criticized the United States on Thursday for for seeking another exemption from the International Criminal Court, particularly in light of the Iraqi prisoner scandal. "The blanket exemption is wrong. It is of dubious judicial value and I don't think it should be encouraged by the council," Annan told reporters. The Bush administration, for the third year, is seeking to renew a Security Council resolution that would exempt from the court's prosecution military and civilian personnel "related to a UN-authorized operation" such as that in Iraq.
[Polygamy] Kingston children get new birth certificates with father's name
John Daniel Kingston's 10 children with Heidi Foster have been given new birth certificates bearing the family name of their polygamist father. Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez had ordered the birth certificates be reissued to ensure inheritance rights and ending a purported effort to hide Kingston's ties to the children. Changing the names will allow child welfare and police to begin connecting some of Kingston's 14 different wives and his estimated 120 children. Until now, only the 12 children of his first wife, Rachael Ann, carried the Kingston name.
[Falun Gong] Ottawa urged to sway China on Falun Gong policy
Followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement say Canada could be doing more to stop China's persecution of those who follow the group. Three Vancouver residents held a news conference Thursday to say Chinese police have arrested their relatives. Two years ago Michelle Zhang's sister vanished when she was picked up by Chinese police after handing out flyers about the Falun Gong. "The Canadian government has adopted a behind-closed-doors policy when talking about human rights in China," she said. "It's not that effective." Zhang said the Canadian government is more worried about trade with Chinese than talking about human rights violations.
[Kabbalah] A Jewish Madonna? Is That a Mystery?
"What the Kabbalah Centre is, is equal parts of nonmystical and traditional Jewish wisdom and one part snake oil and hokum," said Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, chairman of Jewish law and ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and an Orthodox rabbi who has taught classes in cabala. "The infatuation with it is L.A. at its worst - the tendency to want it now, to want it without effort and to want it by right rather than doing the hard work." Rabbi Adlerstein said that he respected the search for meaning of those who join the Kabbalah Centre but that many exhibited "the laziness of people wanting fast-food answers to gourmet questions." He said that Mr. Berg was not a genuine cabalist because he tells his acolytes that if they don't understand the Zohar - the central cabalistic text written in Aramaic - they can absorb its meaning simply by scanning the text with their fingertips.
[Kabbalah] It's Esther: Wanna make something of it?
Call her Esther: That's the Hebrew name Madonna has chosen for herself as a follower of Kabbalah. ''I was named after my mother. My mother died when she was very young, of cancer, and ... I wanted to attach myself to another name,'' the singer says in an interview on ABC's ''20/20,'' airing at 9 tonight on WLS-Channel 7. ''This is in no way a negation of who my mother is ... I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name.'' During the interview, Madonna wears the red string around her wrist that's a symbol of Jewish mysticism, but says she's sensitive when critics suggest her interest in Kabbalah is just a trend.
[Sathya Sai Baba] Secret Swami
It has been estimated that Sri Satya Sai Baba, India's biggest spiritual leader, has up to 30 million devotees around the world. But increasing numbers of former followers are alleging he has sexually abused them or their families. This World investigates.
[Sathya Sai Baba] Sai Baba: God-man or con man?
Basava Premanand is India's leading guru-buster. He believes that the country's biggest spiritual leader, Sri Satya Sai Baba, is a charlatan and must be exposed. Basava Premanand has been burgled... again. It is the third time in just one month. But he is in no doubt of the thieves' motives. He suspects they were looking for evidence that he has collected for over 30 years against India's leading spiritual guru, Sri Satya Sai Baba. Mr Premanand believes this evidence proves the self-proclaimed "God-man", Sai Baba, is not just a fraud, but a dangerous sexual abuser. "Sai Baba is nothing but a mafia man, conning the people and making himself rich", he says of his bete noire. As India's leading guru-buster, Basava Premanand is the scourge of all miracle-makers. He is the founder of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations and the editor of a monthly periodical called The Indian Sceptic.
[Unification Church] Tension of the Times
It's a sign of the times when even the people who bankroll Washington's leading conservative newspaper are said to be uneasy with Bush administration foreign policy. But in that heretical spirit, a revolt is reportedly brewing at the Unification Church, which owns the Washington Times and is pushing for changes at the paper. Insiders say the church's new line is that with the end of the Cold War, it's important to support international organizations such as the United Nations and to campaign for world peace and interfaith understanding. That stance would be awkward for the Times's hard-line editor in chief, Wesley Pruden, and its stable of neoconservative columnists. The only public sign of ferment was an announcement in April by News World Communications, a Unification Church subsidiary that owns the Times, that it would no longer print three related publications. [...] The real battles have been taking place out of public view, and rumors about a high-level power struggle have been swirling around the Times offices. Sources say that the dominant church official overseeing the publications is now the Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, a close adviser to the church's founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Probe of antidrug program ordered
California's top educator said Wednesday that he has ordered the state Department of Education to investigate an antidrug program used by schools around the state whose teachings have been linked with the Church of Scientology. State schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell said the investigation could lead to an order barring schools from using the program, called Narconon Drug Prevention and Education. The popular program, based in Hollywood, has provided antidrug instruction in schools around the country for more than two decades. Narconon has made presentations in at least 20 school districts in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. Leading addiction experts, however, have labeled some of the medical theories advanced by Narconon as "irresponsible" and "pseudoscience."
[Glenn and Justin Helzer] Helzer guilty of five murders
An emotional jury convicted Justin Alan Helzer of five murders Wednesday, rejecting defense arguments that he knew about only three of them. [...] Helzer was accused in an elaborate scheme to prepare the Earth for the Second Coming of Christ. [...] Wednesday's verdicts mean jurors believed either that Justin knew beforehand that Villarin was going to die or that the murders were a foreseeable result of the trio's scheme, which they called "Children of Thunder." Beginning with next week's opening statements in the sanity phase, Helzer's attorneys will have to prove a mental illness or disorder rendered him incapable of knowing right from wrong. Cook has said Justin and Godman thought Taylor Helzer, the architect of the murder plot, was a "prophet of God."
[Word of Faith Fellowship] Muse teens file for emancipation
Two of the four children at the center of a custody battle involving a former Word of Faith Fellowship member have filed for emancipation. In October 2003, a judge found the WOFF environment abusive to children and order the four children of former WOFF member Shana Muse placed in the custody of the Rutherford County Department of Social Services. Muse had left the children with WOFF ministers, Kent and Brooke Covington, while Muse left the controversial church. Muse eventually sought counseling at a treatment center in Ohio specializing in ex-cult members. She returned to Rutherford County in December of 2002 to attempt to get her children back. A custody dispute arose, leading to a DSS-led proceeding and October's ruling by Judge Randy Pool.
[Hate Groups : Scientology] Scientology settlement
The settlement of the Lisa McPherson wrongful-death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology leaves many questions about the case open to speculation. [...] Secrecy has been one of the hallmarks of the Church of Scientology and its dealings in Clearwater, where it maintains its spiritual headquarters. A trial, or even a settlement with terms disclosed, would have pulled aside a curtain that the church keeps firmly shut. [...] The McPherson case and the avalanche of negative publicity it brought down on Scientology may be over, but the questions her death raised remain. How did she die? Was she kept in the Fort Harrison against her will? Why wasn't she in a hospital? What doctrines and procedures of the Church of Scientology came into play during those 17 days?
NOTE: The Lisa McPherson case provides a highly educational look at the polices and practices of the Scientology cult: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/s04h.html#lisa
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Moscow court bars Jehovah's Witnesses from religious activity
Reflecting increased pressure on religious minorities in a country dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church, a Moscow court Wednesday upheld a ban on activities by Jehovah's Witnesses in the capital. The ruling by the Moscow City Court upholds a lower court decision earlier this year that prohibited Jehovah's Witnesses from engaging in religious activity. The ruling arose from a Russian law that allows courts to ban religious groups that are considered to be inciting hatred or intolerant behavior.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Sect defeated in challenge to Moscow's ban
An appellate court in Moscow on Wednesday upheld a ban on Jehovah's Witnesses activities in the city, a ruling the group's leaders said reflected mounting pressure on some faiths in Russia. The decision culminated six years of legal proceedings that began when prosecutors sought to halt the group's activities on the ground that they posed a threat to Russian society. Under Russia's complex laws governing religious minorities, the Jehovah's Witnesses are registered on the national level and in nearly 400 other cities in Russia, though not in Moscow itself. The ban affects only the group's activities here, but its leaders expressed fear that the ruling could presage similar efforts in other cities, where adherents have faced harassment.
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