Apologetics Index
News about cults, sects, alternative religions...

Religion Items In The News

April 24, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 81)

About Religion Items In The News      More Religion Items In The News

NOTE: Unlike the edition posted to the AR-talk list, items in the archived newsletters will, time-permitting, link back to entries in the Apologetics Index.

If links have not yet been provided, check the Apologetics Index for further information.

=== Main
1. Sect members charged with assault (Infinite Love)
2. 9 children removed from Quebec cult returned to U.S. (Inf. Love)
3. SA Senator alleges bizarre food cult harming families ("VIP")
4. Health fears as food cult spreads ("VIP")
5. We're not a cult, say diet duo ("VIP")
6. Pregnant women cult 'target' ("VIP")
7. Cult welcomes investigation ("VIP")
8. Alleged cult renting public schools (ICC)
9. Cult’ enlists members for fee to build ark
10. Camp draws children from all walks of life
11. Grand Jury indicts man in federal witness protection program
12. Believer In Satanism Charged In More Church Fires
13. Waco (Branch Davidians)
14. States bar sales on detergent alternatives (linked to Scientology)
15. The Moral Compass: A Plea for Plaintiff Protection (Scientology)
16. Reformed Klan member now preaches against hate
17. Buddhist sect, computer maker share acronym, karma (Soka Gakkai)
18. Trinity's minority station a sham, FCC rules
19. FCC chastens Trinity for flouting rules
20. Prominent polygamist pleads no contest to beating daughter
21. Does Main Street Sale Mean the Vaticanization of Downtown? (LDS)
22. Judge orders treatment for girl (Amish)
23. Mayor proclaims Alabama town as `City of Prayer'
24. German Court Orders Crucifix Removed
25. Pagans ponder their bruising encounter with notoriety
26. Wicca in Detroit
27. Indian women fall prey to the witch-hunters
28. Fears Of Witchcraft After Six Pupils Die In Four Months
29. 'Too old to be sacrificed' (Witchcraft)
30. Reformed witch hunters act out the error of their ways
31. Forced to go to AA, he wins a dollar in damages
32. American Atheists Choose Garden State for New Home
33. Botanica combines faith, health (Alternative Medicine)
34. White House Statement on Imprisonment of Baha'is in Iran
35. ... Thurman makes the Tibetan path accessible ... (Buddhism)
36. 300th anniversary of Sikhism celebrated

=== Noted
37. Lucas: Star Wars Awakens Kids' Spirituality
38. Religion Becoming A Big Deal On Campus
39. Campus Bible studies are booming...
40. Psychology Research Rarely Recognizes Religion
41. An Old Testament 'minimalist' attacks Bible history

=== Main

1. Sect members charged with assault
Canoe News (Canada), Apr. 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Two members of the Apostles of Infinite Love appeared in court Friday,
nine days after police issued arrest warrants for them. Lise Garand,
57, and Ruth-Ann Guzal, 47, were each arraigned on four assault charges
and were then set free, pending another court appearance May 28.

Youth protection officials removed 14 children, ranging from four years
old to 15, from the sprawling compound for an evaluation on whether
they had been abused.

Police are still seeking Jean-Gaston Tremblay, the sect's 70-year-old
leader whose followers believe he's the real pope, and Reynard Huot,
alias Pere Andre. The charges against Tremblay and Huot arise from
alleged sexual abuse of children between 1966 and 1985.

2. 9 children removed from Quebec cult returned to U.S.
National Post (Canada), Apr, 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) The children are part of a group of 20 minors removed last
Wednesday after provincial police raided the compound seeking to arrest
four members on charges of physically and sexually abusing children
between 1966 and 1985.

It was later found that the parents of the nine American children --
all from two families -- were in Quebec illegally.

The immigration officials assured them they will alert U.S.
youth-protection authorities, Mr. Gagnon said. But he said there is
nothing Quebec youth-protection officials can do to stop the parents
from sending the children back to the cult's compound.

3. SA Senator alleges bizarre food cult harming families
Australian Broadcasting Corp., Apr. 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A South Liberal Australian Senator has told parliament a bizarre food
cult operating in his state has harmed more than 450 families.

Grant Chapman says the cult operates under the guise of the
"Vibrational Individuation Program" which is based on the use and
control of food.

Senator Chapman says the cult has been operating for at least ten
years. "As the person gets more involved in the program, every time
they want to do something, anything, the body must be asked if it is
okay," he said.

"Every facet of the person's life is controlled by how the body's
muscles respond to the question and in turn how that response is
interpreted by Joan Phillips and Maree Stenky.

"Children born into the cult are fed the most bizarre food from birth
and reports have come to my attention of undernourished underweight
babies," Senator Chapman said.

4. Health fears as food cult spreads
Herald Sun (Australia), Apr. 24, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A BIZARRE cult forcing members to eat offal and wear pink and white
underwear has spread to Victoria. Pregnant women are a key target of
the South Australian-based group, which promotes an anti-medical
philosophy, including refusing ultrasound testing, immunisations and
baby health checks.

The cult leaders develop diets for followers – some consisting of
steamed liver to be eaten hourly for days or boiled tommy ruff fish six
times a day for eight weeks.

But Mrs Stienke last night said the program, which had been operating
for 10 years, had never engaged in cult-like activity and they were a
group of Christians who cared for the sick and needy.

5. We're not a cult, say diet duo
The Advertiser (Australia), Apr. 24, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
TWO leaders of an Adelaide organisation accused in the Senate of being
a cult promoting bizarre diets have "rigorously denied" the

The Vibrational Individuation Program (VIP) issued a statement
yesterday in response to the allegations made by SA Liberal Senator
Grant Chapman in Parliament on Thursday night.

One former member of the group, who does not want to be named, gave The
Advertiser a copy of one of her food programs. It included items such
as drinking 756 glasses of water a day and eating brains and tongue 30
times a day.

The statement issued by Mrs Phillips and Mrs Steinke yesterday said VIP
was a "registered self-help group based on Christian principles". "It
is not a cult targeted at pregnant women," the statement said.

6. Pregnant women cult 'target'
The Advertiser, Apr. 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
PREGNANT women were the prime target of a cult operating in the
Adelaide Hills, SA Liberal Senator Grant Chapman told Federal
Parliament last night.

Calling on federal and State ministers to launch an investigation,
Senator Chapman said the group had an anti-medical philosophy and
advocated families break up if a follower's spouse resisted the
program. And the organisers were making up to $25,000 a month from
their followers, Senator Chapman said in Parliament.

"The Vibrational Individuation Program is a personality cult operated
by Joan Phillips, of Inglewood, and Marie Steinke, of Upper Sturt,
South Australia," he said.

7. Cult welcomes investigation
Australian Broadcasting Corp., Apr. 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
An Adelaide-based organisation, Vibrational Individuation Program
Incorported, named in the Senate last night as a bizarre food cult,
says it welcomes any investigation into its activities.

8. Alleged cult renting public schools
Cambridge Town Online, Apr. 15, 1999

(Story no longer online? Read this)
News that a group considered a cult by many and banned from most
college campuses is holding services at three Cambridge public schools
has prompted the City Council to order an inquiry into the school
department's screening practices.

"They are a very destructive religious group," said Robert Watts
Thornburg, dean at Boston University's Marsh Chapel, speaking of the
Boston Church of Christ, which rents space at the Harrington and Tobin
schools, as well as at the high school. "They lie and cheat and they
really destroy kids," he went on. "Mind control is the methodology and
they do mind control by the way they recruit and the way they hold on
to kids and the way they turn them into zombies."

Because of his experience with the Boston Church of Christ at BU,
Thornburg said, he has "tragically" become an expert on their
activities. He has published papers on the subject and is often used as
a source for news stories on the organization.

"Dean Thornburg has been a very vocal opponent of the church for a long
time," said a BCC official who wanted to remain anonymous. "I don't
know that Dean Thornburg has ever been to one of our services, yet he
is constantly quoted talking about us. I don't know how you become an
expert on something you've never seen."

9. Cult’ enlists members for fee to build ark
Sun Star Daily (Philippines), Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A RELIGIOUS cult, which allegedly asks new recruits for a substantial
amount of money, is reportedly operating in Danao city. However, local
officials have yet to determine whether the solicitation is a scam
since the money (P20,000) allegedly serves as a membership fee.

A source said the cult is said to be raising a huge sum to build an
ark, as it believes Judgement Day will come this June.

Sun Star Daily learned from another source that the cult is allegedly
ran by an American nun and priest.

10. Camp draws children from all walks of life
Bangkok Post, Apr. 19, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The popular religious cult Pathom Asoke is attracting increasing
numbers of students to its children's camp, which is free of charge.

"Children of farmers, businessmen, lawyers and doctors are all treated
equally here. The main objective is to enable them to adhere to the
five precepts of Buddhism and to spend their holidays doing
constructive work without having to spend any money," said Samana

11. Grand Jury indicts man in federal witness protection program
San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 17, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Rozier had pleaded guilty to four murders and confessed to three
others in Florida in a plea bargain for testifying against a Miami cult
leader, Yahweh Ben Yahweh, and a religious sect blamed for at least 23
killings and a series of firebombings in the 1980s.

With his identity revealed after he allegedly bounced numerous checks
for pizza, brake shoes and his bar tab at a Coloma tavern, Rozier faces
a new murder charge -- from a 15-year-old case in New Jersey.

Rozier, who is being held in lieu of $10 million bail on the bad check
charge, has said he believes the El Dorado prosecution has put his life
in danger from former associates who want him dead for his testimony
against the Yahweh Ben Yahweh sect.

12. Believer In Satanism Charged In More Church Fires
Yahoo/Reuters, Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A believer in Satanism, already charged with setting fire to seven
Indiana churches, could face the death penalty after being indicted
Tuesday for allegedly burning three Georgia churches, federal officials

In the New Year's Eve fire at the New Salem Baptist Church in Commerce,
Georgia, a volunteer firefighter died when the ceiling caved in on him.
Three other firefighters were injured.

Asked at a Justice Department news conference whether Ballinger hated
organized religion and practiced devil worship, Lee noted that federal
agents did find Satanic materials where be lived.

13. Waco
Detroit Free Press, Apr. 19, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Clive Doyle survived the fire by jumping through a hole in the
chapel made by a government tank comes almost daily to the site to drop
of his mother, Edna, who works in the visitors center.

"I've walked around here and seen all the dead," says Doyle, 49,
stepping gingerly through debris while other visitors stroll the
grounds reading the plaques. "It's still my home."

* Note: Doyle is pastor and spokesman of the largest of the Branch
factions. Unlike the late David Koresh, or Renos Avraam,
leader of another faction, Doyle does not call himself a prophet -

14. States bar sales on detergent alternatives
Boston Globe, Apr. 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
New York and 10 other states have barred the sale of plastic balls
marketed as an alternative to laundry detergent.

The states claim two Dunedin, Fla., companies involved in the sale and
marketing of ''The Laundry Solution'' and ''The Super Globe'' failed to
substantiate their claims of selling an environmentally-superior
alternative to detergent. The states also alleged the companies failed
to tell consumers of reports that refuted the makers' claims, New York
state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said Thursday.

The two companies, TradeNet Marketing Inc., and Top Marketing Business
Consulting Inc., admitted to no wrongdoing in the mutli-state

* Note: TradeNet has been linked to Scientology. See:

15. The Moral Compass: A Plea for Plaintiff Protection
American Lawyer Media, Apr. 23, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) So-called SLAPPs, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public
Participation, are designed to intimidate people from seeking their day
in court, requesting relief from a government agency or simply
protesting and speaking out publicly about their concerns. In those
few states like California with strong anti-SLAPP laws, SLAPP
victims can bring a motion early in the case, before expenses go
through the roof, to force the "SLAPPer" to present evidence that it
has a reasonable chance to win.

Surprisingly, the Pacific Legal Foundation's Zumbrun, a Sacramento
attorney, cites Church of Scientology of California v. Wollersheim, 42
Cal.App. 4th 628, as the main source of trouble in California. But if
there was ever a SLAPP suit, Wollersheim is it.

The case began when Wollersheim, a former member of the Church of
Scientology, sued the church in 1980. He claimed that the church
inflicted severe emotional distress on him through its "auditing"
procedures and other church practices. His five-month trial in 1986
resulted in a verdict of $5 million in compensatory damages and $25
million in punitive damages, which was reduced by a California appeals
court to a total of $2.5 million. But Wollersheim didn't finally
prevail until 1994, fourteen years after he had begun -- after trial,
appeal, reversal by the United States Supreme Court, reinstatement of
the judgment by a second appeals court, the granting and subsequent
vacating of a hearing by the California Supreme Court and, ultimately,
the denial of a second petition for certiorari.

In 1993, while the church's final appeal was still pending in the state
supreme court, the church sued Wollersheim in a new action, seeking to
set aside the original judgment based on "newly discovered evidence."
The court of appeal ruled that the suit "clearly" fell within the
anti-SLAPP statute: Given "the entire litigation history between the
parties," the church had acted "in retaliation, ... to punish
[Wollersheim] economically, ... and to obliterate the value of [his]

16. Reformed Klan member now preaches against hate
Philadelpha Daily News, Apr. 22, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Today, Cochran, who lives in the central Pennsylvania town of
Moshannon, is a reformed hate-group member who works full-time
preaching against the organizations. He travels to high schools across
Pennsylvania and beyond to prevent kids from becoming trapped in groups
like the Klan.

Cochran's transformation from Klan member to national spokesman for the
Aryan Nations to anti-hate group preacher took three decades and an
inner strength that he now wants to share.

He became a spokesman for the Aryan Nation. Then, on July 9, 1992, his
life swerved. His collegues discovered Cochran's 4-year-old son had a
cleft lip. "They told me my son would have to be euthanized because he
was a genetic defect," Cochran said. It took him three months to
gather the courage to leave the compound. He never looked back.

"I remembered that's what Hitler did to people with physical
disabilities," Cochran said. "How could I justify it being wrong to
kill my son but OK to kill Jewish people . . .without being a

17. Buddhist sect, computer maker share acronym, karma
Arizona Daily Star, Apr. 24, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
More than 700 years after Nichiren Daishonin, the son of a fisherman in
Awa, Japan, established a new sect of Buddhism, his disciples are
suddenly being deluged with phone calls.

That's because last week, Silicon Graphics Inc., a computer maker in
Mountain View, Calif., officially changed its name to SGI, trumpeting
the shift in a series of newspaper ads. The problem is, that acronym
already belongs to Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist organization
that promulgates Daishonin's teachings.

Both SGIs are global organizations. Soka Gakkai, Japanese for
``value-creation society,'' was founded in Tokyo in 1930 and has 65
branches in the United States. Silicon Graphics was founded in
California in 1982 and boasts offices in more than 60 countries.

18. Trinity's minority station a sham, FCC rules
Orange County Register, Apr. 16, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday deemed Trinity
Broadcasting Network
unfit to hold a license for a Miami television
station because the Tustin-based TBN created a "sham"
minority-controlled company to skirt FCC ownership limits. The decision
scuttled a $57 million settlement deal that would have allowed TBN
affiliate National Minority Television Inc. to renew its operating

The good news for the world's largest religious broadcaster is that
Thursday's ruling affects only the Miami license but not others in
TBN's worldwide network of 800 broadcast and cable outlets.

"The bad news is that the network must continue to litigate and to
vindicate itself, and eventually win the renewal of its Miami station,"
said TBN lawyer Colby May.

19. FCC chastens Trinity for flouting rules
Orange County Register, Apr. 16, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) But FCC commissioners ruled 3-2 on Thursday that TBN and its
Florida affiliate are not fit to operate WHFT-TV.

The FCC's subsequent inquiry focused in part on whether Phil Aguilar,
then pastor of Set Free Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, had played an
active role in National Minority. TBN contended that Aguilar had
participated in corporate goal-setting and in decision-making.

However, in a 1991 interview with The Orange County Register, Aguilar
said he was just "a figurehead" in the corporation and received no

20. Prominent polygamist pleads no contest to beating daughter
CNN, Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A man accused of beating his daughter after she ran away from an
arranged marriage to his brother pleaded no contest Wednesday in a
trial that had many calling for a crackdown on Utah polygamy.

The case had generated enormous interest in a state with an estimated
25,000 polygamists. Although plural marriage was abandoned by the
predominant Mormon church in 1890, numerous sects with Mormon roots
continue the practice in defiance of a state bigamy law that
prosecutors say is nearly impossible to enforce.

The clan led by patriarch Merlin Kingston goes by the name of the
"Latter-day Church of Christ" and has about 1,000 members. The brothers
are the sons of the clan's leader, who died in 1987. Though not the
largest polygamous group, the Kingstons are the most affluent, with
assets estimated around $150 million.

21. Does Main Street Sale Mean the Vaticanization of Downtown?
Salt Lake City, Apr. 18, 1999 (Opinion)
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Salt Lake City Council on a 5-2 vote has changed forever the
complexion, access and configuration of downtown Salt Lake City by its
approval of the sale of a section of Main Street, between North and
South Temple, to the LDS Church.

Now we find out that this "city park" will be patrolled by LDS Church
security with full authority to eject anyone who violates a narrow and
nebulous set of rules that seems to mirror conduct permitted inside the
confines of Temple Square.

You will be ejected for smoking, assembling, picketing, sunbathing,
engaging in illegal, offensive, indecent, obscene, vulgar, lewd or
disorderly speech, dress or conduct or if you have a boombox on.

This isn't a religious issue. It is an issue of public policy by the
City Council and how the policy will benefit the residents of Utah. The
LDS Church maintains its goal is to add to the beautification of
downtown Salt Lake City.

In fact, it looks more like the Vaticanization of downtown.

22. Judge orders treatment for girl
Michigan Live, Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
An Amish couple is trying to block Hurley Medical Center from
continuing chemotherapy treatments on their leukemia-stricken daughter,
contending it goes against their religious beliefs.

In the past week, Hurley has received permission from a local judge to
perform a bone marrow test on Mary Stutzman, 3, and to do a spinal tap
on her and begin chemotherapy.

Genesee Circuit Judge Bruce A. Newman, in a decision Monday, cited
testimony that the child had a 65 percent chance of long-term survival
with standard treatment. But in the meantime, he said, the family can
seek a second opinion from a homeopathic doctor in Indiana.

23. Mayor proclaims Alabama town as `City of Prayer'
AP, Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A town already at the heart of a dispute over the role of religion in
government has a new nickname, courtesy of the Christian mayor: "The
City of Prayer."

Mayor Steve Means issued a proclamation naming the northeast Alabama
community "The City of Prayer" and stating Gadsden and Etowah County
are "consecrated grounds for the fulfilling of God's purpose, working
through the Holy Spirit" and "prayer warriors."

24. German Court Orders Crucifix Removed
Waco Tribune, Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A federal court ordered a Bavarian school to remove a classroom
crucifix Wednesday after a couple charged it violated their 10-year-old
daughter's rights.

But the Federal Administrative Court also upheld as constitutional a
1995 Bavarian law that requires the Roman Catholic symbol in classrooms
unless a parent raises ``serious and reasonable'' objections.

The complaint was filed by a German-Chinese couple living in
overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Bavaria. The father had argued that Jesus
on the cross was a male symbol degrading to his daughter.

25. Pagans ponder their bruising encounter with notoriety
News & Observer, Apr. 18, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) Last week, days before the state's largest pagan festival, the
YMCA of Greater Durham backed out of an agreement to lease its Wake
Forest campground to the group. Although the pagans were able to
reserve the old boarding school grounds called Shelter Neck in Pender
County, news accounts of the incident -- some critical, others comical
-- left many feeling vulnerable.

Many pagans said they came to their newfound faith on college
campuses, in occult bookstores or while cruising the Internet. But
almost all said discovering it was a kind of homecoming -- an
opportunity to be themselves.

But some pagans said it will take years to convince people that their
religion is worthwhile.

26. Wicca in Detroit
Akron Beacon, Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) ``There are thousands and thousands (of pagans) in the Detroit
area. I know, I've met them,'' said John Adelmann, an engineer from Ann
Arbor who also heads the largest North American group of Druids --
followers of the ancient Irish tradition of the same name.

Religious experts estimate there are about 400,000 people nationwide
who identify themselves as followers of one of the neopagan faiths,
predominantly Wiccans.

27. Indian women fall prey to the witch-hunters
The Telegraph (England), Apr. 18, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
IN SCENES reminiscent of medieval Europe, hundreds of women are being
hunted down as witches and then persecuted, tortured or killed in
remote tribal areas of eastern India.

More than 400 alleged witches have been stoned, strangled or hacked to
death in Bihar, the country's poorest state, in the past six years, a
conference aimed at eradicating witch-hunting was told last week.

With no hospitals and little health care, most villagers in Bihar turn
to the local witchdoctor for cures. These priests-cum-exorcists may
sacrifice an animal or sometimes even a child. When these measures
fail, the ojha will often point to a lone woman in the village,
branding her as the witch who has caused a family's problems.

28. Fears Of Witchcraft After Six Pupils Die In Four Months
African Eye News Service, Apr. 19, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Pupils at a rural high school in Mpumalanga are threatening to hire a
witch sniffer after six of their fellow classmates died in the past
four months. Secretary of the Learner's Representative Council at
KaMhola Secondary School, Glen Hlophe, said on Monday that the
surviving school children had become frightened for their lives. "So we
are preparing to go a sangoma to sniff out the witches," he said.

Mpumalanga education department spokesperson, Pat Zwane, urged the
pupils not to jump to conclusions and go on a witch hunt. "My advice is
that we should not point fingers, accusing people of witchcraft, but
understand that this has been divined by God," he explained.

29. 'Too old to be sacrificed'
Zimbabwe Standard, Apr. 18, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
An Epworth man who was kidnapped to be used in a witchcraft ritual was
lucky to escape with his life after he was declared "too old" to be
killed for his body parts, and was dumped in the bush.

30. Reformed witch hunters act out the error of their ways
Sunday Times (South Africa), Apr. 18, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
SIX young men who helped burn an old woman's home at Zangoma village
near Tzaneen last year because they suspected she was a witch are now
putting on a play discouraging others from doing the same.

The young men joined creative forces with another nine youths after a
conference on witchcraft at Thohoyandou in the Northern Province in
September. They formed the Zangoma Youth Development Group and the
result was a play, Witchcraft and Violence, which has been performed
several times at Zangoma.

The provincial Commission for Gender Equality is supporting the
initiative to reconcile surviving victims and their attackers. The play
portrays the way the men helped others burn the woman's house.

She said that since the play began in December there had not been any
incidents related to witchcraft in the village. The commission's
statistics show that 24 people in the Northern Province were murdered
for being suspected of witchcraft in 1995, 17 were murdered in 1996 and
18 in 1997. Two-thirds were women aged between 50 and 60 years.

31. Forced to go to AA, he wins a dollar in damages
Philadelphia Daily News, Apr. 20, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
A federal appeals court agreed yesterday that an atheist cannot be
forced to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, but said a $1
damages award was "just about right."

32. American Atheists Choose Garden State for New Home
Salt Lake Tribune, Apr. 18, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
On Easter Sunday, as FBI agents searched a Texas cattle ranch for clues
in the disappearance of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the organization
she founded was celebrating the opening of its new headquarters in
North Jersey.

Political Activism: Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists and a
resident of Morris County, said the group hopes soon to have an office
in Washington, D.C. "We're trying to establish a beachhead on the
Potomac," said Johnson, who said the group needed to become a more
active political presence. "We're not going to sit back and talk to
ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for being atheists."

33. Botanica combines faith, health
(Story no longer online? Read this)
Chicago Sun-Times, Apr. 18, 1999
(...) Rodriguez and the Quizhpes are patrons of a Humboldt Park
herbalist called Botanica Victoria. The store at 2510 W. Division is
one of many botanicas in Chicago where customers can buy natural
remedies and religious articles, feeding both their health and
spiritual needs.

``Hispanics do not separate their world in material and spiritual; it
is all one world for them,'' said the Rev. William Spine of Loyola
University's Instituto Hispano.

The importance of training doctors and medical students in the field of
cultural competence is growing in acceptance, said Dr. Elena Rios,
president of the National Hispanic Medical Association.

The National Institutes of Health have created the first center for
alternative medicine.

``Botanicas are just going to be more critically looked at in the
bigger picture of the health system, because the federal government
recognizes that it needs to understand the spiritual role of the
folklore-type remedies,'' Rios said.

34. White House Statement on Imprisonment of Baha'is in Iran
U.S. Newswire, Apr. 20, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(... ) Imprisoning people for the practice of their religious faith is
contrary to the most fundamental international human rights

We condemn the Iranian government's persecution of the followers
of the Baha'i faith, and we urge President Khatemi to ensure the
immediate release of all Baha'is who have been imprisoned for the
observance and expression of their religion. We will continue to
monitor closely the treatment of all minority religions in Iran.

35. Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman makes the Tibetan path accessible to Westerners
Star-Telegram, Apr. 21, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
(...) To get a hint of Buddhism's new stardom, one need look no further
than the best-seller lists: The Dalai Lama himself, the spiritual
leader of Tibetan Buddhism and Thurman's longtime friend, is jockeying
for position in the nonfiction ranks with the inspirational likes of
Suze Orman. (Caveat emptor: Although the cover of the Dalai Lama's
book, "The Art of Happiness," is dominated by a portrait of His
Holiness, it actually was written by his co-author, a Phoenix
psychiatrist named Howard C. Cutler.)

In his long teaching career -- he is currently professor of
Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University -- and in earlier
books such as Essential Tibetan Buddhism, an anthology of important
texts, Thurman became one of those responsible for raising the profile
of Tibetan Buddhism in America.

Yet much of Buddhism's appeal in America's fast-paced culture stems
from its flexibility, its anti-authoritarian tradition and its lack of
insistence on institutions and membership. ("People jokingly call me
the Billy Graham of Buddhism," Thurman said, "but I'm not, because I'm
not trying to sign up people.")

"You know, Jesus was a buddha, as far as I'm concerned. So you might as
well do Buddhism as Christianity. . . . Buddhism wants to be useful,
and it doesn't insist on wanting to be Buddhism."

36. 300th anniversary of Sikhism celebrated
Sun Sentinel, Apr. 18, 1999
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(...) Although Sikhism was founded in the 15th century, this month
marks the 300th anniversary of the time Sikhs swore to uphold the
values set to them by Guru Gobind Singh.

Across the world they celebrated on Sunday, noting that while they
are a minority in their native India, there are substantial numbers in
England; in the United States, particularly in California and New York;
and in Canada.

=== Noted

37. Lucas: Star Wars Awakens Kids' Spirituality
Mr. Showbiz, Apr. 19, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
The Star Wars series has inspired something akin to religious devotion;
however, director George Lucas tells the April 26 issue of Time that he
really intends for Star Wars and its imminent prequel The Phantom
Menace to make kids think about God.

"I put the Force into the movie to try to awaken a certain kind of
spirituality in young people," Lucas says, "more a belief in God than a
belief in any particular religious system."

38. Religion Becoming A Big Deal On Campus
Washington Post, Apr. 22, 1999
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[Note: additional items on religion in America]
(...) Campus religious groups are multiplying. Enrollment in religion
classes has mushroomed. And as interest in Eastern religions grows,
meditation groups are thriving.

For the children of baby boomer parents, many of whom were raised in
secular households, religion has become something exotic and, in some
cases, may even be a form of rebellion, according to campus religious

Students on spiritual quests have more options than ever on most
campuses. At American University, the number of religious groups has
almost doubled during the last five years, adding eight new groups.
Recent additions have included everything from a Bahai group to the
California-based Blue Mountain Center for Meditation Group. Although
cultural diversity accounts for some of the new organizations, many
students with Western backgrounds also are attracted to New Age and
Eastern religions. Still others subscribe to a spirituality that
defies labeling.

39. Higher education -
Campus Bible studies are booming, allowing students to leave behind the
pressures of school - and to pursue Christian maturity
Dallas Morning News, Apr. 17, 1999
(Story no longer online? Read this)
[Note: additional items on religion in America]
(...) Tonight they're here for Breakaway, a nondenominational Bible
study that's packing in 3,500 students a week.

At least six Texas colleges have large Bible studies such as this
one - including Baylor, Texas Tech and Southwest Texas State
universities, the University of Texas and Abilene's three universities.
Several more are starting up.

Unlike other groups, these Bible studies are not affiliated with
denominations or with traditional college ministries such as Campus
Crusade for Christ or Intervarsity.

Dr. Phil Briggs, distinguished professor of student and youth
ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth,
says: "In Generation X, denominationalism is pretty much dead. Kids
aren't unaware of controversies that have taken place in nearly every
denomination the last 10 years."

Hardin-Simmons graduate student Steve Bezner says Gen-Xers "want to go
somewhere that the institution is de-emphasized and the bigger concept
- God - is emphasized."

But Chris Seay of Waco's University Baptist Church warns against an
overly optimistic view.

"When you look at statistics in terms of numbers of students involved
in campus ministries or churches, it's overwhelmingly devastating to
the church," he says. "There are some pockets of health, like these
Bibles studies, but we're seeing that college campuses are increasingly

These "pockets of health" are spreading. Younger, smaller studies, such
as the Gathering at the University of Texas, Paradigm at Texas Tech
University and a new study at Paul Quinn College, operate with a
similar vision, as do ministries on the campuses of Kansas State, Iowa
State and Nebraska universities. New ministries are being planned for
Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and the University of Texas at
Arlington. Denton Bible Church has planted one at the University of
North Texas.

40. Psychology Research Rarely Recognizes Religion
U.S. Newswire, Apr. 21, 1999
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While Gallup polls show at least 85 percent of Americans rank religion
as important in their lives, many researchers of the human mind appear
unmindful of this fact. Recent reviews found both psychologists and
psychiatrists include religion in less than 3 percent of their fields'

41. An Old Testament 'minimalist' attacks Bible history
Star Democrat, Apr. 16, 1999
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(...) One minimalist leader is Thomas L. Thompson, a Detroit-born
Catholic who began as a true believer but developed radical doubts
during graduate study in Germany.

Those interested in the scriptural squabble should take a look at
Thompson's "The Mythic Past" (Basic, $30). He writes that the Bible may
have "occasional tidbits of history here and there," but it's a big
mistake to read it as depicting actual events. He treats it as an
inspirational work that Jews devised around the third century B.C. to
buttress their national identity.

Thompson not only erases as mythological the biblical characters of the
dim past (Adam, Noah, Abraham) but also Moses, Joshua, Saul, David,
Solomon and the later kings and prophets.

What next, the King David Seminar?

Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine in
Washington, thinks archaeology raises problems for a literal,
Fundamentalist view of Old Testament history. But he says Thompson
builds his opinions "not on the basis of the archaeological evidence,
which really contradicts them, but on anthropological and sociological

University of Arizona archaeologist William Dever, no biblical
right-winger either, gives Thompson's book harsh treatment in a
forthcoming issue of Shanks' magazine. Dever complains that the book
fails to offer "reasoned and well-documented conclusions." He says
Thompson and his radical allies assert that the Old Testament was
written very late but "significantly, they never give any data to
support this claim."

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