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ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 21, 2004

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  • Anton Hein
    . Religion News Blog is a reader-supported service that alerts Christian apologetics- and counter-cult professionals - as well as other academic and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 21 4:18 PM
      . Religion News Blog is a reader-supported service that alerts Christian apologetics- and counter-cult professionals - as well as other academic and professional communities - to relevant religion-, apologetics-, human rights-, and ethics news from around the world.
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      ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 21, 2004

      [USA] When Ofra Bikel's camera rolls, injustice crumbles
      By my conservative count, at least 11 innocent men and women have been freed from prison because of Ofra Bikel. [...] Bikel makes documentaries for "Frontline," a 21-year-old series that is one of a dwindling number of jewels in public television's national schedule. Although she has produced films on international affairs, family dynamics, pseudo psychoscience and clashes between and within cultures, Bikel's specialty is justice. [...] Like most of Bikel's films, "The Plea" is infuriating. Peeling apart the layers of three cases in Texas and New York, Bikel finds innocent people rotting in jail or scavenging for food and shelter on the street, all thanks to plea bargains coerced from them by sneaky prosecutors, inept and overworked public defenders and arrogant judges.

      SEE ALSO:
      Plea bargaining comes under a judicious eye

      [Hate Groups : Scientology] Dianetics technology may find way into Botswana
      Dianetics, a technology of the mind, could find its way into Botswana if the efforts of Warren Bruckamann and his team succeed.

      [Deeper Life Christian Church] Deeper Life Church: Ministry or money machine?
      Few nonmembers ever see inside Deeper Life Church, not even the church's primary financial source - drivers at busy intersections who drop spare change into white buckets held by Deeper Life members. [...] Although it prefers to be called a fund-raising entity, according to an investigative series conducted by the Tampa Tribune in 2003, Deeper Life files with the Internal Revenue Service as a church.

      [Mungiki] Police Raid Mungiki Brewery
      The swoop, in which 122 suspected Mungiki members were arrested in Dandora, Kayole and other parts of Buruburu division, comes barely 72 hours after a provincial security meeting was held in Nyayo House where war was declared on the sect.

      [Church and State] Evangelicals draft political guidelines
      The National Association of Evangelicals is circulating a draft of a groundbreaking framework for political action that strongly endorses social and economic justice and warns against close alignment with any political party. Steeped in biblical morality and evangelical scholarship, the framework for public engagement could change how the estimated 30 million evangelicals in the United States are viewed by liberals and conservatives alike.

      [Church and State] Politics and the Church
      Under Internal Revenue Service laws, churches and other religious organizations can lose their tax exempt status if they endorse political candidates. Enforcement of that provision, however, is complicated by the fact that churches are free to speak out on political issues -- such as whether the government should outlaw abortion or gay marriage. And clergy are able to speak out for candidates if they do it as private individuals, not as representatives of their church. "What's different this year is the Bush/Cheney campaign are initiating efforts to get churches to break the law by becoming centers of Bush campaign activity,'' said Lynn, noting that the campaign has not repudiated the "friendly congregations" effort in Pennsylvania.

      [Witchcraft] Witchcraft's Innocent Victims
      A deep-rooted belief in witchcraft by many Zimbabweans continues to cause untold suffering to the innocent, with grievous assault and even murder unleashed against those irrationally thought to be witches.

      [USA] Most Guantanamo Detainees Pose No Threat -NYTimes
      Bush administration and U.S. military officials have repeatedly exaggerated the intelligence value of detainees at Guantanamo Bay as well as the danger they pose, The New York Times reported on Monday. Contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, none of the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba ranked as leaders or senior operatives of al Qaeda, the newspaper reported, citing interviews with high-level military, intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

      [Hate Groups] Fire destroys Bay County site of meetings held by a hate group
      A Bay County furniture store that once was the site of meetings held by an anti-Semitic hate group was destroyed by a fire early Monday, officials said. The hate group, organized by Christian Identity teacher James P. Wickstrom, met at the Marquiss Quality Furniture store for about three years. Wickstrom moved to Tennessee in June 2003, but returned to the area a few months ago.

      [Raelians] Cult plans first Scots baby clone
      A controversial religious sect is tonight expected to tell an Edinburgh audience that it attempting to produce the first Scottish cloned baby. Dr Brigitte Boisellier, a French scientist at the heart of Clonaid, a company which claims it has produced cloned humans, was tonight due to join Raelian sect leader Rael to address a conference at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Clonaid, which claims to be behind 13 cloned babies worldwide, was expected to outline how they aim to produce a cloned baby in Dundee to help a couple who lost their daughter in an accident.

      [Paganism] Thousands gather at Stonehenge
      About 21,000 revellers gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire overnight to mark the summer solstice. The 5,000-year-old World Heritage site was open to the public, following earlier years in which it was closed amid fears of damage to the stones.

      [Islam] Irish outlaw Muslim second wives
      Muslims who marry Irish women have to make a formal declaration that they will not take more than one wife on being granted citizenship. The Irish government confirmed yesterday that it has ordered all men from Islamic countries seeking residency to sign a sworn affidavit rejecting polygamy.

      [Hate Groups] French neo-Nazis turn on Muslim graves attacks
      Anxiety is growing in France about a series of neo-Nazi attacks on Jewish, and now Muslim, sites especially in the Strasbourg and Colmar areas of Alsace. There have been five serious incidents in or near the Alsatian cities in the past seven weeks, culminating in the desecration of a Muslim cemetery in Meinau last week. Local politicians and police have mostly dismissed the attacks as the work of children or adolescents but community leaders insist that they are part of an entrenched pattern of racist abuse.

      [Islam] It's an uneasy time for Britain and its rising Muslim population
      Just down the way from the Whitechapel underground stop in the heart of Britain's largest Muslim neighborhood, the young men of the Al-Muhajiroun movement had set up a campaign stand. The message, referring to the June 10 elections for local government and the European Parliament, was blunt: "Stay Muslim. Don't vote." "Democracy is an act of apostasy. Integration is a failure for Muslims," one of the pamphleteers said, declining to give his name. The group's leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, has called the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "a magnificent operation in every way." Most paid little attention as women in burqas and men in skullcaps streamed through, shopping in the main market in what has become known as Banglatown. Islamic extremism is nothing new here, and these views don't represent the thinking of most of Britain's 1.6 million Muslims any more than the neo-Fascist British National Party, which wants to "resettle" nonwhites, speaks for most Christians. But opinion polls indicate that sympathy for both strains of thought is on the rise. A feeling of mutual alienation has come to pervade the debate over how Britain can best accommodate its growing Muslim minority, Europe's third-largest. And it's not only about politics: Law-enforcement officials worry that the young, disaffected Muslim population is fertile recruiting ground for terrorism. A similar dilemma confronts France, Germany and much of the rest of Western Europe...

      [Anglican Church] Child abuse arrests hit Aussie church
      The Anglican Church in Australia has been engulfed in a child sex abuse scandal with nine people, including two former ministers, arrested or ordered to appear in court on sexual abuse offences, police said on Monday. Police made arrests across Australia between Thursday and Sunday after investigating 200 claims of sex abuses against children by former members of the Anglican Church in the state of South Australia.

      [Buffy, the Vampire Slayer] The gospel of Buffy
      It started out as a joke. Two academic women were laughing over the absurdity of writing a book about the spirituality of the teen TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in May 2002. But by fall of that year, Jana Riess, religion book review editor at Publishers Weekly, was writing a book proposal. [...] And "What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide" (Jossey-Bass, $14.95) is the result.

      [Mungiki] War on Mungiki sect 'still on'
      The war on the outlawed Mungiki sect is still on, Internal Security minister Chris Murungaru, has said. He assured the public that the Government had not relented in its crackdown against the sect and other organised criminal groups. While addressing the Press at Karundas Secondary School in his Kieni constituency, Dr Murungaru said the Government would "wipe out" the sect, as the amnesty extended to its members early last year had long expired.

      [Koreshans] Koreshan appeal heats up for summer
      Spend some time this summer at the Koreshan State Historic Site campground and you'll find yourself sharing the nature trail with grazing gopher tortoises. Take along a canoe, small boat or kayak and thread your way down the meandering Estero River to Estero Bay and Mound Key. Spend a weekend and take a narrated tour of the historic site where members of the Koreshan religious sect built their community in the wilderness in the late 1890s.

      See also: Just who were the Koreshans? http://www.religionnewsblog.com/4479-.html

      [India] Buried Indian mystic suffocates
      An Indian mystic who undertook to be buried for the weekend as a penance to bring world peace has suffocated in his pit, police say. Ananda Swami, in his early 20s, had his followers bury him in a deep pit near Madras, saying he would come back at the appointed hour to bless them all.
      He apparently went underground in the hamlet of Vadipatti last Friday evening. The pit was covered with five wooden planks and then fires, which play a key role in all Hindu rituals, were lit close by. Ananda Swami's followers were so convinced their swami, or godman, would come out with redoubled spiritual vigour, that they arranged to feed over 1,000 poor people to mark his emergence from the samadhi, or underground trance.

      [Hare Krishna] Hare Krishna Community Survives Struggle, Scandal
      After 36 years of struggling to build a community and survive scandal within its ranks, the New Vrindaban Community is living a peaceful existence among the hills of Marshall County. [...] New Vrindaban General Manager Kuladri dasa said things have changed at the community in the recent years since it was under the leadership of Swami Bhaktipada, who went to prison on federal mail and racketeering charges. Bhaktipada, also known as Keith Gordon Ham, 66, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 1996. He was granted early release last week. He is believed to have relocated to New York City.

      [Ralph A. Wilkerson] Evangelist Won't Help Receiver in Ponzi Case
      Several high-profile evangelists entangled in an alleged investment scam targeting born-again Christians are helping authorities unravel the operation. One prominent pastor, however, has declined to assist: the Rev. Ralph A. Wilkerson, founder of Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim, according to the court-appointed receiver whose job it is to salvage the remains of what federal prosecutors allege was a Ponzi scheme. Wilkerson's failure to cooperate is hampering the effort to recover the millions of dollars some investors lost with Ontario-based IPIC International Inc., receiver Dennis L. Roossien Jr. said last week. "He could help a lot if he wanted to," Roossien said. IPIC was headed by Gregory Earl Setser, with whom Wilkerson last year wrote an unpublished book titled "Making Million$ for Ministry: The Biblical Philosophy of Prosperity of Greg Setser."

      [Kabbalah] How Madonna's Sect Snared My Daughter
      This week, Madonna revealed that she has changed her name to 'Esther' as part of her involvement in the Kabbalah sect. Here, in an open letter to the star, another Esther - Esther Rantzen - describes how her own daughter was drawn into Kabbalah, and makes a heartfelt plea for caution.

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