ReligionNewsBlog.com, Aug. 26-28, 2004
Sat, Aug. 28, 2004
[Witchcraft] Witches hold conference
Half a millennium after witch-burning reached its peak across Europe, the first ever witch conference got under way on Friday in in northern Norway, where a disproportionately large number of women lost their lives to the flames.
[Ahmadiyya] Ahmadiyya complex capture plan foiled
Police action and civil society resistance kept at bay religious fanatics who threatened to capture the Ahmadiyya headquarters in Bakshibazar yesterday to the relief of Dhaka residents reeling from deadly grenade attacks on an Awami League rally. The fanatics under the banner of Aamra Dhakabashi failed to gather at any point in the capital, but threatened to take the Ahmadiyya base soon after the release of their four top leaders arrested overnight.
[Peyote] Feds may weigh in on peyote case
Though the Utah Supreme Court has approved peyote use for Native American Church members regardless of race, Utah's federal prosecutors may not. In June, the Utah Supreme Court OK'd religious peyote use for any member of the Native American Church. As a result, state drug charges were dropped against local medicine man James Mooney and his wife, Linda. But federal prosecutors are now going after the couple. Prosecutors may challenge James Mooney's assertion that he is part American Indian.
[Leroy Jenkins] What's lure of traveling faith healer?
I've always wondered why, in this world of honest, loving churches, some Christians still find hope in a traveling faith healer who sells miracle water. My curiosity carried me last weekend to the Charlotte Convention Center uptown for the first night of evangelist Leroy Jenkins' revival.
[Word of Faith Fellowship] Children gain emancipation from mother
Sarah and Rachael Almanie got what they wanted Thursday, the freedom to return to the Word of Faith Fellowship. The two girls, ages 17 and 16, were emancipated after a Rutherford County District Court hearing and are now considered adults in the eyes of the legal system. It was clear that they intended to return to the WOFF immediately as they exchanged hugs and tears with church members including co-founder Jane Whaley and the couple they call mom and dad, WOFF ministers Kent and Brooke Covington. The girls, the daughters of former WOFF member Shana Muse, were removed from the Covington's home and placed in the custody of the Rutherford County Department of Social Services after an October 2003 court ruling that found the WOFF environment abusive. [...] Previous court rulings, including the one in October 2003, were not considered in the decision as Judge Robert Cilley was obligated by the law to only consider a list of factors required to be set forth for emancipation. Cilley said he also could not consider the specific religious practices of the WOFF in making his ruling. Muse said she knew this result was likely, but said she is saddened by the whole ordeal. "To me, they (the WOFF) are the losers in this," said Muse. "That they would have to stoop to these levels to buy children. They have to live with that on their conscience."
[Religion Trends] Study: Protestant pastors often unfamiliar with such religions as Hinduism, Buddhism
Protestant ministers in the United States often have moderate familiarity with the core beliefs of Islam but little familiarity with religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Scientology or Wicca, according to a recent study. Protestant clergy tend to be most familiar with Roman Catholicism and Judaism among non-Protestant faith groups, the study found. [...] Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, expressed surprise at the findings about Pentecostal and charismatic clergy. "Evangelism and conversion are very strong influences in Pentecostal theology and practice, and Pentecostal clergy tend to have particularly strong beliefs that Christianity is the only path to salvation," Sellers said. "Trying to reach people who hold other beliefs is more likely if you understand what those beliefs are. Yet the study demonstrated that Pentecostal and charismatic clergy are often below average in their familiarity with the beliefs of non-Protestant faith groups. Given the importance these pastors often place on evangelism, one might expect just the opposite, so this is a surprise."
[Gilbert Deya Ministries] Why Gilbert Deya's curses are cries in the wilderness
Deya should face the facts: If he is in deed truthful in his mission, he shall be eventually vindicated. If he is not, he shall be condemned, irrespective of the curses he issues upon this nation. Even the Bible that he so liberally quotes says that no wrong shall go unpunished. He should come home, face these facts and clear his name instead of shouting from thousands of kilometres away and casting himself in the mould of an aggrieved innocent. In any case what makes him think that God can only be on his side and not ours?
[Gilbert Deya Ministries] 'Miracle' boy identifies parents
It was immense joy and an emotional moment for a Meru couple yesterday after their long lost son, who is one of the "miracle babies," identified them. [...] The four-year-old - now named Simon Odera - is one of the 13 children that an elderly couple, Eddah and Michael Odera, claims to have borne miraculously. [...] Meanwhile, more than 40 couples claiming to be the real parents of the "miracle babies" have given their blood samples for DNA testing. The parents, who claimed they had positively identified their children at the home, have also recorded statements, as detectives said they expected the number to increase in the next two weeks. [...] The menopausal Eddah Odera, who claims to have given birth to the 13 children in a span of five years, was proved wrong by DNA tests that showed neither she nor her husband is genetically linked to the children. The couple claimed they had received the "miracle" after prayers by Mary Deya, the wife of UK-based evangelist Archbishop Gilbert Deya.
[Polygamy] 6 young men sue polygamous sect
Six young men filed suit Friday claiming they were among several hundred forced from their homes and cut off from their families so leaders of the nation's largest polygamous community could have easier access to multiple wives. The suit, filed in Utah's 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City, accuses the two top leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of assault, extortion, making "terroristic threats" and encouraging or engaging in child kidnapping.
[USA] Time For Rumsfeld To Resign
The time has come for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave his Pentagon post, either by dismissal or resignation. Two separate reports this week make it clear that Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon officials were ultimately responsible for the sadistic abuse of prisoners in Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib. A report by four-member panel headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger traced the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq to failures that went all the way up the chain of command in the Pentagon.
[Mormon Church] Mormons to expand ASU center
As Arizona State University expands, the university's student center operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making plans to do the same. The church is planning to add on to its LDS Institute.
[Lord's Resistance Army] Children abducted by Uganda's LRA rebels flown home
Forty-eight children abducted by shadowy Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in northern Uganda were flown home on Friday from neighbouring southern Sudan, the United Nations children's charity said. The LRA, led by self-proclaimed mystic Joseph Kony, has kidnapped tens of thousands of children during its 18-year-old insurgency, forcing them to serve the cult-like group as fighters, porters and sex slaves. UNICEF said the 48 children should be sent straight to centres run by non-governmental organisations where they could receive medical care and then be reunited with their families. The charity's Uganda representative, Martin Mogwanja, said the continued targeting of children by the LRA rebels remained a cause of great distress.
[Philippines] Cannibalism case leaves a pall over Narra town
The prosperous town of Narra was planning to promote itself as an ecotourism destination but instead has gained notoreity for a grisly cannibalism case that has shocked the Philippines. Four men now languish in the Narra town jail, awaiting trial for allegedly killing a guest at a wedding party and eating parts of their victim. [...] "Mayor Lucena Demaala has been trying to explain to the public that this is an isolated case and there are no other cases of violence in the town." But the sensational nature of the case and continuing mystery over the circumstances have fuelled speculation. There are questions over whether a cult was implicated or if the group had claimed other victims.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Dead girl's dad sues Jehovah's Witnesses
A Calgary man suing the Jehovah's Witnesses, claiming they contributed to his daughter's death by encouraging her to avoid life-saving blood transfusions, said today his lawsuit is for her and for his family. "The Jehovah's Witness church stole away my family, friends and 20 years of my life," Lawrence Hughes said outside Calgary's Court of Queen's Bench, where he filed the lawsuit. "I paid a high price to give my daughter a chance to live. "This lawsuit is for Bethany and if Bethany's listening, I want her to know I love her," he added as he choked back tears. Bethany Hughes died at age 17 on Sept. 5, 2002, after being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer seven months earlier.
[Falun Gong] Falun Gong Japan Branch Granted Non-Profit Organization Status
The Tokyo metropolitan government on Friday granted the Japan branch of China's outlawed Falun Gong movement the status of a tax-free non-profit organization [NPO] following two earlier rejections, metropolitan government officials said. The metropolitan government this time accepted an application for NPO status from Japan Falun Dafa, based in the capital's Adachi Ward, saying the local government no longer views the group as religious.
[more news below]
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Fri, Aug. 27, 2004
[Polygamy] Polygamist wins parole from Utah State Prison
A polygamist serving up to a life term for having sex with his first wife when she was 13 years old will be granted parole from the Utah State Prison. Tom Green will be freed Aug. 7, 2007, after spending six years behind bars, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole said Thursday.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Father sues church, docs over daughter's treatment
A man who waged a bitter battle to have his daughter receive a blood transfusion - against her wishes - is suing his former church bretheren and doctors at an Edmonton cancer centre. Bethany Hughes died of leukemia two years ago, after making a public stand for her Jehovah's Witness faith, which prohibits blood transfusions.Her father Lawrence broke with his church and his wife over treatment for the 16 year old. He fought a lengthy court battle, trying to have Bethany given blood, which she finally received after being made a temporary ward of the province. Now he is suing his former wife, the Watchtower Society of Canada and doctors at the Cross Cancer Institute. In a statement of claim, Hughes alleges that Bethany's mother and other Jehovah's Witnesses misled his daughter about the merits of blood transfusions. He claims they exerted undue influence by telling the teen she would be eternally damned if she agreed to the transfusions.
[USA] Rumsfeld Bears Share Of Blame
So it wasn't just a bunch of renegade soldiers after all. This should come as no surprise. Two reports issued this week conclude that responsibility for the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison extends beyond the soldiers who committed the abuses. The reports back what the accused soldiers have said all along, despite the Bush administration's efforts to portray them as having acted entirely on their own. One report finds that military intelligence officers either participated in the abuse, which sometimes included out-and-out torture, or solicited military police to do so. The other report assigns indirect responsibility to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and top military commanders in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
[Mormon Church] Mormon lads saving souls, losing faith in Amsterdam
Movies about Mormon missionaries have almost become a new genre. Some are made by Mormons ("God's Army"), some are outrageously anti-Mormon ("Orgazmo") and some are more moderately critical ("Latter Days"). The latest to appear in theaters, "The Best Two Years," is closest to "God's Army" in spirit, though it isn't as preachy or as juvenile. While it's still speaking to the choir, it does so in a less gung-ho, more realistic, even pessimistic way. Indeed, rejection is the true subject. Not only do four young missionaries to Holland get doors slammed in their faces; they get dumped by their formerly faithful girlfriends. Homesick and feeling abandoned, they grouse about their romantic follies and lack of success in making converts; the most cynical of them wears a sweatshirt that proclaims "Good Boys Go to Heaven, Bad Boys Go to Amsterdam."
[Gilbert Deya Ministries] Concern over Kenyan miracles
The general director of the Evangelical Alliance, Rev Joel Edwards, has published a statement commenting on an edition of BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts programme, broadcast on 13 August, which focused on an 'evangelical church' which is claiming infertile women are having 'miracle babies' in the slums of Kenya. Concerned that Christians may give money to a cause they know very little about, Rev Edwards writes: "I would like to point out that Gilbert Deya Ministries is not a member of the Alliance. "I worry about the damage Gilbert Deya is doing to vulnerable members of his congregation, to the welfare of the babies and their mothers in Kenya and to the reputation of Christians who identify themselves as evangelical.
[Gilbert Deya Ministries] Grandmother accuses woman of baby theft
An elderly woman is accusing the 56-six-year-old mother at the centre of the "miracle babies" controversy of stealing her grandson seven years ago. Mrs Esther Arrum Ogola Onyango claims that Mrs Eddah Odera - the woman who claims she gave birth to 13 "miracle babies" in three years - stole the baby from a house in Nairobi's Mathare North. Onyango told journalists in Homa Bay that her grandson was stolen only three days after being born at Pumwani Maternity hospital.
[Gilbert Deya Ministries] Now Deya 'Curses' President And Attorney General
Embattled Archbishop Gilbert Deya yesterday cursed the families of President Kibaki and Attorney-General Amos Wako. In a rumbling and strongly-worded letter, but written in remarkably poor English, Deya warned the President and A-G of rough times ahead. He said their "children and grandchildren will die in the streets, the way you have left these holy children of Almighty God to suffer and be humiliated throughout the streets of Kenya."
[Gilbert Deya Ministries] DNA tests show it's a miracle con
DNA tests yesterday cracked the mystery of the so-called miracle babies: They are not related at all to the 56-year-old who claimed to have given birth to them at four-month intervals. A top government official yesterday revealed to the East African Standard that the 12 "miracle babies" had no genetic link with Mrs Eddah Odera. At the same time, the Criminal Investigation Department issued a public appeal to help identify the true parents of 21 "miracle" children - 13 taken from the Odera and nine picked up from the home of evangelist Gilbert Deya.
[USA] America's problem
It was only last month that the US army formally asserted that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison consisted of "aberrations" that could not be put down to systemic problems. This week, however, two official reports have painted a more disturbing picture. The reports, one for the Pentagon chaired by the former defence secretary James Schlesinger, and the other for the US army by Generals George Fay and Anthony Jones, describe a situation in which the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners was more extensive than previously acknowledged and in which military leadership was found seriously wanting. [...] Those who are in charge of that system cannot escape responsibility for abuses that debase not just the US but its allies, including Britain. But it is not just Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush who need to look into their souls. The same goes for a lot of Americans, and a lot of American men in particular. A Pew Center poll last week showed that 43% of all Americans, 48% of American men, 54% of American men aged under 50, and 58% of people intending to vote for Mr Bush in November believe that torture of suspected terrorists can "often or sometimes" be justified. The things that happened in Abu Ghraib happened because individual Americans broke the law. But they also happened because too many Americans are prepared to look in the other direction or even actively support such abuses. America is a society with a problem. That problem erupted in Abu Ghraib. America has begun to address it. But it must not slacken off now.
Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
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