ReligionNewsBlog.com, Jan. 12, 2005
ReligionNewsBlog.com, Jan. 12, 2005
[Interfaith] Rabbis and imams unite against religious extremism
A few minutes before Europe observed three minutes of silence last Wednesday in memory of the tsunami victims, Jewish and Muslim clergy who had convened at Egmont Palace decided to join them. Two days earlier, the clergy had come together to seek means of greater involvement for religion in quietening the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
[Fraud] Spain police crack witchcraft con
Police in Spain have arrested seven Brazilians suspected of cheating people out of thousands of euros by claiming to be clairvoyants and witch doctors.
[Islam] Turkish imams' EU peace move
More than 1,000 moderate clerics have been dispatched to European countries by Turkey, the only Muslim candidate member of the EU, in a drive to promote modern and peaceful interpretations of Islam.
[Abraham Kennard] Preacher calls charges 'theory' as trial opens
"It's not a law against riding in a Cadillac if you don't want to ride in a Volkswagen," said Abraham Kennard in his opening remarks as he began defending himself against 132 criminal counts brought against him by the United States government.
The 46-year-old charismatic preacher is charged with swindling more than 1,600 churches out of more than $8.7 million. The criminal charges include mail fraud, income tax evasion and money laundering.
[Abraham Kennard] Defendant: A dream, not scheme
With pointing fingers, sweeping gestures and an impassioned intonation, defendant Abraham Kennard told jurors Tuesday that federal prosecutors charging him with fraud mistook “a dream for a scheme.”
In a 91-count indictment, the government alleges that Kennard headed up a multi-million-dollar advance-fee fraud scheme from May 2001 to October 2002 through the sale of memberships in the Network International Investment Corporation’s “Church Funding Project.”
[Religion, General] Scientologists, Jews, Quakers, flock to give tsunami aid
The Church of Scientology is applying its mind-over-matter healing techniques to injured tsunami survivors in Aceh. Jews and Quakers are sending humanitarian aid. Radical Islamic groups are providing "spiritual guidance".
Scores of religious and humanitarian groups have, quite literally, pitched their tents in Indonesia's Aceh, after the province of 4 million people was pulverised by the strongest quake in 40 years and unprecedented tsunami.
[Free Speech] Nation's eyes on Christian protesters
Four members of a local Christian group, Repent America, are facing felony charges in connection with their behavior in the fall during the gay and lesbian community's annual Outfest celebration in Center City.
For allegedly trying to disrupt the event with their bullhorn-amplified, Scripture-based denunciations of homosexuality, they have been accused of criminal conspiracy, incitement to riot, and violating the state's law against hate crimes.
[Children of God] Murder suspect, a suicide, raised by cult to lead
Richard Rodriguez was raised to be the spiritual leader of a tightly knit religious organization of 12,000 followers.
Instead, his life ended Saturday when he shot himself in the head hours after allegedly stabbing Angela Smith to death in Tucson.
Rodriguez left the Family International in 2000 but was still haunted by what he experienced growing up in its rigid structure, said Celeste Jones, a friend who also had left the Family and spoke to him the day before he took his and Smith's lives.
[Science and Religion] Scientists hunt the ghost in the machine
Scientists at Oxford University are to torture people in laboratories in an experiment to see whether a belief in God is effective at relieving pain.
The scientists will apply a chilli-based gel to the skin of volunteers and ask them to try different strategies to lessen the burning sensation, including asking people with strong religious beliefs to draw on their faith to cope with the pain.
The experiment is one in a series that sees scientists join forces with philosophers, theologians and brain surgeons to tackle some of the most profound questions of the human condition: what is the nature of consciousness and how do religious beliefs manifest themselves in our brains?
[Islam] 14 Islamic Extremists Arrested in Germany
Police arrested 14 people during raids of apartments and mosques in five German states Wednesday in a crackdown on an Islamic extremist organization suspected of aiding terrorists, authorities said.
[Children of God] Stabber's friends blame decades of abuse in sex cult
A man who police say committed a murder-suicide last weekend was acting in anger against a woman he claimed sexually abused him for decades as part of a sex cult, his friends said Tuesday.
Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, told family members he killed his former nanny, Angela M. Smith, 51, in Tucson before shooting himself in Blythe, Calif. Police said Rodriguez stabbed Smith to death.
The Tucson Police Department was not investigating Smith for any crime, said Officer Michelle Pickrom. But Rodriguez lived all over the world with a religious sect called The Family, and it wasn't known Tuesday whether the alleged abuse was ever reported in any of those locations.
[Netherlands] Ajax seek image change to stop anti-Semitic chants
Dutch giants Ajax are eager to discard their image as a Jewish club in a bid to end anti-Semitic chanting in the crowd at games, club chairman John Jaakke has announced in his new year's speech.
[Vampirism] Vampirism linked to suspect
A how-to book for vampires. Another book titled "The Satanic Rituals, A Companion to the Satanic Bible." Two leather masks. Three thongs. An opened box of sterile scalpel blades.
Six days after finding a 13-year-old Northampton County runaway in Charles Matthew Blair's Newport News home on New Year's Day, police seized more than 42 items from his home - ranging from occult books to leather sex toys - according to court documents filed Monday.
[USA] U.S. to Free Five Guantanamo Inmates
The United States has agreed to release the four remaining British citizens who have been held as suspected terrorists without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the House of Commons Tuesday.
[Opus Dei] Controversial Catholic group is given care of parish church
Opus Dei, the conservative Roman Catholic organisation that counts Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, among its members, has been given its first parish in Britain since it was founded in 1928.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, is to hand over pastoral care of St Thomas More church, Swiss Cottage, to Father Gerard Sheehan, an Opus Dei priest.
[Children of God] Murder-suicide case in desert evangelical sex cult
Police in Arizona and California said they are investigating an apparent murder-suicide involving the son of Maria David, the prophet and spiritual leader of the Family, an international evangelical sex cult previously known as the Children of God.
[Abraham Kennard] Alleged defrauder to defend himself
The man who the federal government has charged with bilking more than 1,600 churches out of more than $8 million had a surprise for U.S. District Court on Monday, the day his trial was to begin.
Abraham Kennard, 46, told his attorney, Michael Trost, that he no longer required his services and notified federal Judge Harold Murphy of the same only minutes before jury selection was to begin.
[Polygamy] Source: Jeffs dedicates FLDS temple site at YFZ Ranch
Jon Krakauer came to Eldorado last weekend, not to celebrate the new year, but to be nearby the YFZ Ranch where Prophet Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ are said to be building a temple. Of particular interest to Krakauer was a recent spate of rumors that Jeffs was predicting the end the world and that he had ordered his followers in Utah, Arizona and Canada to stay in their homes throughout the weekend.
[Islam] In Pakistan's tribal areas, women throw off the Hijab
When [Taliban] the regime was toppled in late 2001 it was partly billed as a victory for Afghan women, who could finally cast off the restrictive garments and show their faces to the world.
Now with the spread of education and exposure to the media, observers have also detected a sharp decline in the numbers of Pakistanis choosing to wear it in the last few years.
[Taize] Taize makes worship palpable
I spoke not long ago with the Rev. George W. Westlake Jr. of Kansas City, pastor of a large Assembly of God Church in which the worship style is expressive of the active presence of God. He explained why he thought that worship experience is so attractive to people: “The previous generations you could reach with apologetics. You can't do that with this generation. The newer generation wants an experience of God.”
“Apologetics” is a term referring to the rational defense and explanation of theological doctrine. It's what mainline Christians often — but not always — get in sermons. And it has an honored place in most religions because of the need to explain belief and practices in a reasonable way.
But Westlake is right that apologetics is not enough. My colleague's experience at the Taize service was evidence of the desire many of us have to feel the divine in a palpable way, a way that words cannot exhaust.
[Gentle Wind Project] Judge: Web site can't be sued for 'cult' comment
The operator of a Web site based in New Jersey should be dismissed from a lawsuit that he faced for publishing articles comparing the Kittery-based Gentle Wind Project to a "mind-control cult," a U.S. Magistrate judge ruled Monday.
Judge David Cohen wrote that a court in Maine has no jurisdiction over Rick A. Ross and his Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements.
Cohen said that because Ross has no connection to Maine, he cannot be sued here for alleged defamation.
[Offbeat News] Preacher Dies During Sermon About Heaven
A Presbyterian minister collapsed and died in mid-sentence of a sermon after saying "And when I go to heaven ...," his colleague said Monday.
[Ananda] East meets West: A US guru in India
It is hard to miss the reversal of roles between the East and the West, when you meet J. Donald Walter a.k.a. Swami Kriyananda, the 78-year-old yogi and guru from the US.
At a time when religion equals fundamentalism and "men of god" increasingly come under the scrutiny of law in this land of spiritualism, Kriyananda shifted to Delhi two years ago from the US to spread the word of his guru — Paramhansa Yogananda.
The latter was, perhaps, India's first spiritual ambassador to the US, who settled in the US way back in 1920.
[Hate Groups] Klan can clean road, court says
For the second time in four years, the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Ku Klux Klan to participate in Missouri's Adopt-A-Highway Program.
The high court on Monday declined to hear the state's appeal of a lower court ruling siding with the Klan, meaning that picking up litter along Missouri 21 heading into Potosi can remain the responsibility of the Klan.
In 2001, the court did the same thing in a case relating to another stretch of highway in Missouri, I-55 south of St. Louis — now known as the Rosa Parks Memorial Highway in honor of the civil rights heroine.
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