Apologetics Index
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Religion Items In The News

July 20, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 95)

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

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Religion Items in the News - July 20, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 95)

=== Main
1. Cultist's kin gains control (Concerned Christians)
2. Adachi Ward joins Aum ban
3. Asahara unintelligible in court testimony (Aum)
4. This church preaches love, loyalty--and hate (4 - 8 World Church
of the Creator)
5. The Church of the Almighty White Man
6. Hate group tied to slayings got its start in Florida
7. Top prosecutor seeks status of World Church of the Creator
8. Hate groups face sweeps by police
9. FBI Meets with Militia Groups
10. Court upholds machine gun, pipe bomb charges (Freemen)
11. FBI hate crime data is spotty
12. Protesters detour Aryan Nations parade
13. Sixth formers on cult alert
14. Church members wonder about Hensley cult claim
15. Nigerian students protest killing of seven students (Secret
16. Nigerian University Leader Fired (Secret Societies)
17. Sect Commissioner sees contradiction to Christian belief in the
Universal Church
18. Exorcist gets 42-month jail term for fraud
19. I was a hooker for heaven in an evil sex cult (CoG/The Family)
20. Farrakhan tells followers his health improving
21. Orthodox church asks prosecutors to probe missionary groups
22. Hindu temple in Schulykill County still under slow construction
23. [Maria Worship]
24. As Latinos leave Catholicism, other faiths flourish
25. Getting That Old-Time Religion (Catholic Charismatics)
26. Magdalene's disciples grow across nation
27. Hospital playing politics, critics say (Bloodless Surgery)
28. Messianic fever causes trepidation among some Jews
29. Officials report `dramatic' rise in Jewish exodus from Russia
30. Databases of the Dead (LDS)
31. Sunstone Covers New Territory: Common Ground (LDS)
32. Kingston Gets Maximum Term, Lecture on Incest (Polygamy)
33. Polygamy Foes May Be Tackling Another Nemesis: Renewed Public Apathy
34. Christian polygamists on the move

> Part 2
35. House Passes Religious Rights Bill
36. Judge rules against city's use of Christian fish symbol
37. Fla., Ala. School Prayer Cases on Collision Course
38. Lord's Prayer can harm kids, psychologist tells rights board
39. Debate flares over whether he was the embodiment of God or a wise
human teacher
40. Creationists Use New Tactic to Challenge Evolution

=== Noted
41. Alpha grabs attention
42. Apologizers embark on sorry crusade
43. Megachurch's new name reflects changes (Word-Faith)

=== Books
44. Christians embrace green movement
45. Growing genre (Christian Fiction)

=== The Church Around The Corner
46. Internet `saint' ain't so: church

=== Main

1. Cultist's kin gains control
Denver Post, July 10, 1999
Another relative of a Concerned Christians cult member has won a court
order preventing the cult member from giving money to leader Monte
"Kim'' Miller.

Chavez, who lives in the metro area, contended in Boulder District
Court that her sister is unduly influenced by Miller, and that she
therefore should not be in charge of her own money.

In October, Jennifer Cooper, daughter of John Cooper, successfully
asked the court to name a permanent conservator for the estate of her
father to prevent him from giving money to Concerned Christians or

Denver lawyer and legal analyst Andrew Cohen said judges don't make
decisions on conservatorships lightly. "It's not as if a person can
sneak in in the middle of the night and gain control of a relative's
money,'' he said.

2. Adachi Ward joins Aum ban
Japan Times, July 19, 1999
Tokyo's Adachi Ward will neither accept resident registration
applications from Aum Shinrikyo followers nor allow them to use
ward-run facilities, Adachi Mayor Tsunetoshi Suzuki said Monday.

Many followers are believed to be living in the ward because it is home
to the Tokyo Detention House, where Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose
real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is being held while on trial for various
heinous crimes, according to ward officials. Public security
authorities say currently about 180 Aum members live in the ward.

Suzuki made Adachi Ward a member of an anti-Aum liaison group made up
of other local governments throughout Japan.

3. Asahara unintelligible in court testimony
Japan Times, July 19, 1999
Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara refused to testify Monday before
the Tokyo District Court in a top cult figure's trial.

Yoshihiro Inoue, 29, looked depressed as the guru he had once admired
murmured unintelligibly in what sounded like English. Inoue stands
accused of 10 criminal counts, including playing a role in the March
1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack, which claimed 12 lives and injured

Inoue's counsel, in seeking Asahara's testimony, cited the guru's
remarks at the 13th session of his own trial in October 1996, when
Inoue took the witness stand. At that session, Asahara abruptly
leaned out from the defendant's seat and said he had decided to take
all the blame because Inoue was a great follower. However, he later in
the day claimed he was innocent. Asahara stands accused of
masterminding the gas attack as well as other heinous crimes.

When the presiding judge allowed Inoue to say a few words Monday to his
former guru, Inoue stood and criticized Asahara for trying to escape
from reality, noting this attitude was not going to save anyone.

4. This church preaches love, loyalty--and hate
Chicago Sun-Times, July 9, 1999
It calls itself a church but worships no gods. It claims members in 21
states and 22 countries, but its world headquarters are found in a
spare bedroom in a house its leader shares with his father.

"The World Church of the Creator has a record of violence that
surpasses every other hate group at this point," Harlan Loeb, Midwest
civil rights director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Thursday.

5. The Church of the Almighty White Man
US News & World Report, July 19, 1999
(...) It is here in this bright, red room that Hale utters a perverse
rallying cry: RAHOWA!--shorthand for Racial Holy War–and where he runs
the World Church of the Creator, one of the most sophisticated,
fastest-growing white supremacist groups in a movement whose virulence
is rising nationally.

"The hate movement is more sophisticated today than two decades ago,"
says Brian Levin, a hate crimes expert at California State
University-San Bernardino. "They want more upwardly mobile, young
people who are computer literate and disenfranchised. Matt Hale is a
microcosm of the future of this movement."

The resurgence of the World Church of the Creator reflects an alarming
trend in the shadowy world of right-wing extremists: The "Patriot," or
militia, movement is declining, but the number of white supremacists is
increasing. "Hate groups, neo-Nazi, and Klan groups have been rising
markedly for two years," says Mark Potok, who tracks such groups for
the Southern Poverty Law Center. "At the same time, weekend warriors
who wanted to defend the Second Amendment have gotten sick of waiting
for the revolution that never came." He points to more than 500 hate
groups operating in the United States last year, notably the National
Alliance, the Ku Klux Klan, and the National Socialist White People's
Party. A neo-Nazi group, the Knights of Freedom Nationalist Party,
recently was given permission to march in downtown Washington, D.C.,
next month.

One reason the groups are rising: the Internet. At the time of the
Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, there was one Web site with a hate
message, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In February, there
were 1,400. Today, there are 2,000.

6. Hate group tied to slayings got its start in Florida
St. Petersburg Times, July 7, 1999
(...) The World Church of the Creator traces its start to Ben Klassen,
a former Florida legislator who was state chairman of George Wallace's
1968 American Independent Party presidential campaign.

In the months before Klassen's suicide, he was hastily divesting Church
of the Creator and his personal property because Mansfield's family,
represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was seeking financial
damages from his church.

Klassen, who moved his operation in 1981 to Otto, N.C., not far from
Asheville, appeared to anticipate the lawsuit and sold some of his
property there to William Pierce for $100,000, according to Teitelbaum.

Pierce, leader of the National Alliance, the country's most organized
and largest neo-Nazi group, wrote The Turner Diaries. The novel
describing an Aryan world takeover is considered "an explicit terrorism
manual," the bible of the far-right terrorist movement in America,
according to the Anti-Defamation League.

7. Top prosecutor seeks status of World Church of the Creator
Copley Newspapers, July 15, 1999
The state's top prosecutor wants a court to determine the legal status
of the World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group based in
East Peoria. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit
Court, the Illinois Attorney General's Office is asking a judge to
decide whether the World Church qualifies as a charitable organization
under state law.

Last week, the state Revenue Department revealed it was investigating
whether the church violated the law by not paying taxes on books and
other items it sells.

By filing a lawsuit to determine the World Church's legal status, the
attorney general insisted that the state was in no way trying to
legitimize Hale or his church.

8. Hate groups face sweeps by police
Sacramento Bee, July 12, 1999
Moving to deter any new hate crimes in the Sacramento area, local
sheriff's and police officials began a sweep of dozens of homes over
the weekend to visit people believed to be members or followers of
white supremacy groups.

"It was just to see if we can develop a sense of what we can expect
from them in the future," said sheriff's Lt. John McGinness, who
confirmed the visits but declined to comment further. But one source
said detectives and officers visited the homes of more than four dozen
local followers of hate groups and the message delivered was plain: "We
know what your beliefs are, and we are watching closely."

Much of the focus has been on members of the East Peoria, Ill.-based
World Church of the Creator. Sources said over the weekend that fliers
from the so-called church were among a large amount of hate literature
discovered after the arrests of brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams, 31,
and James Tyler Williams, 29.

The Williams brothers, both of the Redding area, are expected to be
charged soon in the July 1 double slayings of a prominent Redding area
gay couple and are being held on possession of stolen property charges.
They also have surfaced as the chief suspects in the synagogue arsons,
and federal agents spent much of the weekend in Redding searching for
evidence in the case.

The Williams brothers have been described as deeply devout Christians
who often preached and prayed in public. Such behavior appears to
contradict the notion that they had involvement in the World Church,
which takes anti-Semitic and anti-Christianity stands.

"These guys sound to me like Christian Identity followers," said
Michael Reynolds, executive director of the Intelligence Report, the
hate-group monitor operated by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "These
guys aren't going to be the Church of the Creator."

Both groups believe in white supremacy and are anti-Semitic, but
followers of the World Church believe Christianity "makes people weak,"
one Sacramento church member said, and that there is no afterlife.

9. FBI Meets with Militia Groups
ABC News, July 20, 1999
Born out of the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in
Oklahoma City, a little-noticed program has made strange bedfellows of
FBI agents and militia members. On the orders of FBI Director Louis
Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno, agents in the 56 FBI field
offices around the country have been finding ways to reach out to
members of militia groups in their local areas.

The program, established just weeks after the April 19, 1995, bombing
that killed 168 people, has been an open secret with positive
consequences for the nation’s top police agency and the militia

“The idea we’re pushing is that it’s not a crime to be a member of the
militia, or to be an FBI agent, for that matter.” The FBI has been
pleased that many members of the nation’s militias are in agreement.

Federal agents and militia members say the outreach program helps
distinguish true Constitutional militia members from hate groups and
changes the public perception that militias are “anti-government.”
“Christian Identity groups, Ku Klux Klan, Nazi groups, they claim to
be a militia. The media gets a hold of it, and that group is a
militia,” Smith said. “Once you break the law, you are no longer
militia. We don’t want Americans killing Americans.”

10. Court upholds machine gun, pipe bomb charges
The Oregonian, July 16, 1999
Weapons convictions for two members of anti-government militias in
Washington state have been upheld by a federal appeals court.

John Lloyd Kirk of Tukwila, Wash., a member of the Freemen, was
convicted in 1997 of possessing a pipe bomb and conspiring to make
destructive devices. Gary Kuehnoel of Bellingham, Wash., a member of
the Washington State Militia, was convicted of two counts of illegal
possession of a machine gun.

11. FBI hate crime data is spotty
Detroit News, July 16, 1999
(...) But by all accounts, the FBI's annual report on hate crimes, the
definitive data for news media and lawmakers, has been spotty. Even
misleading. The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act of 1994 allows
for stiffer sentences for hate crimes committed on federal property,
but each state decides how it will define and prosecute hate crimes.

"A lot of times it is not as simple as filling out a form and
declaring something as a hate crime," said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.
"There's a certain methodology ... and some (agencies) have not adopted
the methodology."

12. Protesters detour Aryan Nations parade
St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press, July 11, 1999
Members of the Aryan Nations paraded through downtown streets Saturday
under the protection of a federal court order, but were outshouted by
protesters who forced the marchers to detour.

Aryan Nations, based in nearby Hayden Lake, is the political arm of the
Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, which holds that God has ordained the
formation of a whites-only homeland in the Pacific Northwest.

13. Sixth formers on cult alert
BBC News, July 16, 1999
As if sixth formers leaving school and about to embark on college life
do not have enough to worry about, it seems they also have to guard
against cults. On the principle that forewarned is forearmed, several
schools around the UK have already invited the London-based Cult
Information Centre (CIC) to give talks to sixth formers on the issue.

Its founder, Ian Haworth, is a former cult member himself and performs
around 100 lectures a year, mainly to independent schools like Harrow,
Eton and Charterhouse. He says that around a third of those youngsters
he talks to have already been approached by dubious 'religious'

However some of the new religions which have been criticised are none
too happy about Mr Haworth's talks. "He's talking absolute nonsense,"
says John Campbell of the evangelical Christian group, The Jesus Army.

The Church of Scientology, founded by American science fiction writer
Ron Hubbard in 1950, also feels its message has been misrepresented.

He adds: "I think we should let the schools know that we're available
to give the other side of the coin and we're happy to come and do
lectures just to give them the truth," he says "That way they can take
it or leave it and decide for themselves."

* The news item links to this BBC "E-cyclopedia" article:

Cult or religion: What's the difference?


14. Church members wonder about Hensley cult claim
Cleveland Live, July 15, 1999
A man charged with killing four people last week told police in May
that he was assaulted by members of a devil-worshiping cult who
were harassing him because he was trying to leave the group.

But authorities, and now church members who say Lawrence Michael
Hensley came to them for help, doubt Hensley's claim.

Hensley's report in May was not the first time he went to authorities
with a story about a Satanic cult involved in a crime. The Darke County
sheriff's office said Wednesday that Hensley, acting as a tipster,
tried in 1998 to pin the murder of a jogger on Satanists.

15. Nigerian students protest killing of seven students
CNN, July 13, 1999
Students at a Nigerian university have demanded that a top
administrator be dismissed after a savage assault by members of campus
secret societies left seven students dead.

The bloody attack Saturday shattered the calm at Obafemi Awolowo
University, located in the city of Ile Ife, 160 miles northeast of
Lagos. It also raised fears about a resurgence of cult-related violence
on the nation's university campuses.

The secret societies have been blamed for dozens of murders, rapes,
extortion, assaults and arson attacks and are widely considered the
most serious problem facing Africa's largest university system.

16. Nigerian University Leader Fired
Las Vegas Sun, July 15, 1999
A top administrator at a Nigerian university has been fired in
connection with the killings of seven students, allegedly by members of
campus secret societies.

The students killed are believed to have been targeted for their strong
stand against the secret groups, which wield enormous power on some
Nigerian campuses and are known here as cults.

The groups, which first formed in the 1950s to lobby for academic and
political freedom, eventually turned into what were effectively
organized crime societies, using threats and violence to wield power
over students and sometimes administrators.

While authorities regularly crack down on the cults, prosecution often
fails because witnesses are afraid to testify in court.

17. Sect Commissioner sees contradiction to Christian belief in the
Universal Church
Boeblinger Bote (Germany), July12, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
A subject which moves many residents of Oeschelbronn is the upcoming
establishment of the Universal Church on Kappel Street. Numerous
visitors came last Friday to an informational evening at the
evangelical community building in which Walter Schmid, sect
commissioner of the state church, stated a view.

In regard to content, Schmid presented the Universal Church as a
collection of various philosophies founded in 1981 by William
Leech-Lews, with elements of Christian teachings, mysticism and
theosophy. Among its esoteric-type world of beliefs were concepts such
as reincarnation, masters, angels, new revelations, the Wassermann
Evangelium - all in all a world about which the sect commissioner would
say that if the central object (God) were no longer the central point,
then there would be a lot of intermediate work.

Schmid found extremely questionable the position that the founder of
the Universal Church claimed to be a divine representative of the
master as a born-again Christian. Schmid, however, did approve of
several positive characteristics of the Universal Church such as the
ethical, Franciscan concepts of its members and their efforts to reap
rather than to proselytize.

18. Exorcist gets 42-month jail term for fraud
Mainichi Daily News, July 14, 1999
A former religious foundation bigwig who made people pay to be
exorcised from ghosts he said were haunting them was Tuesday sentenced
to serve 42 months in jail for fraud.

Yano was convicted of conspiring with priests at one of the group's
temples in Nagoya to defraud people. Saying they had psychic powers,
Yano would tell people they were being haunted by aborted children or
people who'd died a horrible death.

He would tell them the only way they could exorcise the evil spirits
was to hand over money.

19. I was a hooker for heaven in an evil sex cult
National Enquirer, July 5, 1999
Miriam Williams spent 15 years as a member of a bizarre sex cult called
Children of God, sleeping with countless men in the twisted notion that
it "would show them God's love."

"I bought into the whole thing," Miriam, 45, told The ENQUIRER in an
exclusive interview. "I didn't see anything wrong with having sex with
men because I viewed it as showing them God's love. I considered myself
a sacred prostitute."

Miriam is now living in Georgia with her five children. She has married
for the third time and is working on a Ph.D. in sociology. She has
written a shocking book about her experiences called "Heaven's

20. Farrakhan tells followers his health improving
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said Saturday night that he is
nearly rid of cancer and recovering from an ulcer caused by radiation

Farrakhan said he hopes to publish the newspaper, which he started in
his cousin's Washington, D.C., apartment before moving it to Chicago,
in Spanish, Arabic and French on the African continent.

21. Orthodox church asks prosecutors to probe missionary groups
Star-Telegram, July 15, 1999
The Russian Orthodox Church asked prosecutors in Russia's Far East on
Wednesday to investigate the methods used by three religious groups to
recruit converts. The church accused the Jehovah's Witnesses,
Seventh-day Adventists and a splinter group of Hare Krishnas based in
the Far Eastern region of Primorye of recruiting potential converts

The groups are "aggressive churches that harvest souls in the region by
using deception and totalitarian methods," the Orthodox Church said in
a statement.

22. Hindu temple in Schulykill County still under slow construction
The Morning Call, July 15, 1999
Building the largest Hindu temple in North America is turning out to be
a slower job than planners realized. With money trickling in slowly
but steadily, usually $25 at a time, the Hindu sect building the huge
Haveli at Vraj in rural Schuylkill County was unable to open the
building in the spring as planned.

And it will be at least a year before sect members introduce their god,
Shri Nathji, to his new home near Summit Hill.

Ram Amin recently traveled to India to consult with those leaders about
progress at the temple and to discuss the planned visit by sect guru
Shree Dauji (Rajivji) Maharaj next year to officially install their god
in his new home. The group has tentatively scheduled that visit for
May or June and is expecting thousands of Hindus from different sects
across the country to attend.

23. [Maria Worship]
Washington Post, July 15, 1999
Ramonita Belen can still smell the roses at the well where, as a
schoolgirl in 1953, she caused a sensation by insisting she saw the
Virgin Mary, standing on a cloud.

``Other people also could smell the scent of roses that filled the air
when she appeared,'' said Belen, whose 33 days of visions drew tens of
thousands of people to the farming town of Sabana Grande.

Puerto Rico's Catholic church never recognized Belen's visions, which
she shared with two other children. But word spread throughout Latin
America. Soon a shrine was built for what came to be known as Our Lady
of the Rosary. It draws 100,000 pilgrims each year.

Now, believers have upset church leaders by planning a tourism complex,
called Mystical City. It's centerpiece is to be a towering, 305-foot
statue of the Virgin -- about the height of the Statue of Liberty.

24. As Latinos leave Catholicism, other faiths flourish
Sacramento Bee, July 12, 1999
It is becoming one of the biggest religious revolutions in the
Americas. And as many Latinos move away from their Catholic roots, it
is transforming the spiritual landscape in the Sacramento region.
The changing demographics are seen in the thriving rosters of Mormons
and Jehovah's Witnesses to the proliferation of Spanish-language
evangelical Protestant churches.

Pentecostalism -- founded on a belief in miraculous healing and other
"gifts" of the Holy Spirit -- is the biggest magnet for Latinos seeking
an alternative to the Catholic tradition that has anchored Latin
America since the Spanish conquests of the 1500s.

But Pentecostalism isn't the only religion gaining ground among
Latinos. Baptist, Mormon and other missionaries have been making
inroads into the Catholic count in South and Central America for
several decades, according to official church records.

There is notable growth among Latinos in other faith groups. The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims 60 percent of its Southern
California newcomers are Latino, though Sacramento area Mormon figures
are much lower.

And nearly one-fifth of all U.S. Jehovah's Witnesses are Latino,
according to James Pellechia, a spokesman at the denomination's
Brooklyn headquarters. The numbers are growing at more than twice the
rate of Anglo converts, he said.

25. Getting That Old-Time Religion
Los Angeles Times, July 11, 1999
(...) To the casual observer, the gathering at St. Thomas is
reminiscent of a Spanish-language, Protestant Pentecostal-style
revival. But this is a meeting of Roman Catholic charismatics, one of
the most important and most misunderstood religious movements in the
church today.

Charismatic celebrations, including one taking place this weekend at
the Los Angeles Sports Arena and another next month, are among the
largest Latino religious gatherings in the nation.

While the movement remains controversial among some in the Catholic
hierarchy, who see it as overly emotional, it now embraces about 10
million Catholics nationwide, including 300 prayer groups in the Los
Angeles archdiocese.

26. Magdalene's disciples grow across nation
Dallas Morning News, July 17, 1999
A prayer service honoring Mary Magdalene not as a repentant prostitute
but as a full-fledged apostle of Jesus is catching on so fast in some
Catholic circles that it will have grown at least threefold by its
first anniversary Thursday.

The service, called simply "Mary of Magdala" - Magdala being the
village the first-century Hebrew woman is believed to have come from -
will be celebrated on or near the saint's feast day in at least 76
Catholic parishes, educational centers and home prayer gatherings
across the nation. An additional two dozen groups are expected to
finalize plans for the service to bring the total number of observances
to about 100, organizers say.

The service's creator, a Cleveland nun and midwife, attributes its
popularity to a growing demand in the Catholic Church for greater
recognition of women. "I would say there is a hunger for this kind of
witness," said Christine Schenk. "Women need to see the women disciples
of Jesus as role models, and so do men."

The purpose of the service is two-fold, organizers say: to erase the
image of Mary Magdalene as a whore - a label that many scholars believe
was inflicted by fifth-century church leaders in an attempt to
subjugate women - and to restore her to her place as a well-respected
spiritual leader and member of Christ's inner circle. They also hope to
endow participants with a sense of their own status as much-loved
followers of Christ.

27. Hospital playing politics, critics say
Bergen Record, July 15, 1999
Bloodless heart surgery may sound like an oxymoron, but it could be the
key for Englewood Hospital and Medical Center to win permission to
start the cardiac surgery program it has long coveted.

The bloodless demonstration project is intended to study ways to
minimize the use of transfusions in surgery and determine if the state
should set standards in the field, said Anne Weiss, a senior assistant
commissioner of health. Englewood was an early entry in the bloodless
arena in New Jersey five years ago, and its program has grown from
serving Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse transfusions on religious
grounds, to hospitalwide use.

But it's precisely because bloodless surgery is becoming more common
that a demonstration project is not needed, said officials from some of
the 17 hospitals opposing the proposal.

Even the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which helps identify
doctors and hospitals for Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, is concerned
that the proposal "may actually limit or restrict access to appropriate
medical care for Witness patients" by confining bloodless procedures to
the demonstration sites, said Philip Wilcox, director of the society's
hospital information services.

But state officials say the purpose of the demonstration project is
broader than serving Jehovah's Witnesses.

28. Messianic fever causes trepidation among some Jews
Columbus Dispatch, July 9, 1999
At best, the turn of the century may turn out to be a massive display
of Christmas consumerism and media extrava ganzas. At worst, some
American Jews fear, an eruption of Christian messianic urges could
boomerang on them.

"There are responsible Christian approaches to the year 2000 and these
approaches aren't getting much publicity because of the groups that are
waiting for the end of times,'' Signer said.

Many Jews still shudder at the memory of the persecutions of Jewish
communities that marked the years near 1000, when the fever of some
Christians expecting the return of the Messiah inspired the Crusades
and a wave of European persecution of Jews, Signer said.

29. Officials report `dramatic' rise in Jewish exodus from Russia
The exodus of Jews from Russia has increased dramatically and could
bring the largest number of Russian Jews to Israel this year since the
early 1990s, Israeli immigration officials said Wednesday.

Russian Jews are pushed to emigrate by concerns about their homeland's
weak economy, political fears and anti-Semitism, officials said.

30. Databases of the Dead
WIRED, July 1999
[Feature-length article]

(...) With its FamilySearch Web site, the LDS Church is now
distributing much of its information at the speed of light. But before
FamilySearch could get off the ground, a number of church heavyweights
voiced serious worries about the idea. Some feared that hackers would
manhandle their electronic treasures, a problem the church solved by
keeping the Web servers and the computers that store the original IGI
and Ancestral File on different networks. Others within the LDS power
structure wondered whether the church had any business being online in
the first place.

Alan Mann, the Family History Department librarian responsible for
electronic media, told me that the decision to go ahead with the site
was ultimately unanimous - and made at the highest level. Sitting in
his library office, I asked him whether this meant President Hinckley,
the apostolic Quorum of Twelve, or the larger ecclesiastical body known
simply as the Seventy. Mann let out a dry chuckle. "I'm not saying this
facetiously, but it may be a little hard to swallow for those not of
our faith," he said. "The answer is that ultimately the decision was
made by the Lord."

Erik Davis (figment@sirius.com) is the author of Techgnosis: Myth,
Magic + Mysticism in the Age of Information (Harmony Books, 1998).

31. Sunstone Covers New Territory: Common Ground
Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 1999
(...) For the past eight years Sunstone magazine has struggled -- in
the lingering shade of official church disfavor -- to survive as a
thriving marketplace of ideas and opinions about the Mormon experience.
And while the chairman of the Sunstone Foundation has recently opened a
conciliatory dialogue with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, his efforts to make Sunstone more palatable to the
faith's hierarchy are seen by some as a threat to the magazine's
prickly independence.

As Sunstone prepares to mark its 25th anniversary at its annual
symposium July 14-17 at the Salt Palace Convention Center, there is a
gloomy consensus among many longtime participants: The organization has
never fully recovered from a 1991 statement from the church leadership
deploring "the bad taste and insensitivity of these public discussions
of things we hold sacred."

"The effect has been to some extent a marginalizing of the Sunstone
community," said Elbert Peck, Sunstone editor and publisher. "It took
several years of really heavy-handed policing at BYU, but after
professors had their jobs and promotions threatened, they stopped
coming to Sunstone.

Stack, now a religion writer for The Salt Lake Tribune, sees the stigma
now attached to Sunstone as unfair but somewhat understandable.
"In the Catholic tradition, discussion and debate are sort of part of
their intellectual history and tradition, whereas for the Mormons --
perhaps because it's a young church -- debate and discussion even from
the beginning were somewhat unwelcome. And so the very nature of
Sunstone for some people will always carry a stigma," she said.

Not so, believes Stan Christensen, who two years ago became president
of the board of trustees of the Sunstone Foundation. A Harvard-trained
international negotiation adviser and mediator, Christensen has an
agenda: To mend the rift between church leaders and Sunstone.
To that end, he is behind a decision to ban discussion of Mormon temple
worship from the magazine and symposiums and is seeking to establish
criteria that would ensure no forum is provided for attacking the
church, criticizing its leaders or "otherwise contributing to

Christensen conceded that not everyone within the Sunstone community is
thrilled by his initiatives. And Peck, whose differences with
Christensen were apparent in an excerpted discussion between the two in
the December 1997 issue of Sunstone, has made it clear that temples
will be the only out-of-bounds topic.

32. Kingston Gets Maximum Term, Lecture on Incest
Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 1999
(...) Kingston, convicted of having sex with his 16-year-old niece who
was also his 15th wife, was ordered to serve two consecutive terms of 0
to 5 years in Utah State Prison. He also was fined $10,000 and ordered
to pay the girl's counseling expenses.

Imposing the maximum penalty, 3rd District Judge David S. Young raised
the issue of polygamy but particularly condemned the incestuous
practices of the Kingston clan. "You have been taught in some way
that relationships with nieces as plural wives are acceptable, and
that's flat-out not true," Young said.

But the judge also implied the defendant was a product of his
environment. Kingston, a 33-year-old accountant, grew up in the
1,000-member clan, officially known as the Latter Day Church of Christ,
and is the younger brother of its leader, Paul Kingston.

33. Polygamy Foes May Be Tackling Another Nemesis: Renewed Public Apathy
Salt Lake Tribune, July 12, 1999
(...) Now that the trials have concluded, opponents of plural marriage
have a new foe -- apathy. Their task is clear: keep polygamy in the
spotlight or risk it slinking back into the shadows, where it had lain
unfettered since the last big government crackdown more than 45 years

Tapestry and NOW believe David Ortell's severe sentence -- the
maximum allowed for his two third-degree felony convictions -- will be
a watershed event for the anti-polygamy movement.

34. Christian polygamists on the move
Arizona Republic, July 19, 1999
Stephen Butt didn't set out to be a polygamist. A decade ago, he was
happily married to one wife, busy with his church and working as a
cult-exit counselor in Maine. Then he met a young woman who had been so
abused by a cult that he saw only one way to gain her trust for
treatment. He married her.

Now Butt lives in Utah with three wives and five children, ministering
to a group of nearly 1,000 around the country who call themselves
Christian polygamists. Unlike the estimated 25,000-35,000 polygamists
living in the West who trace their roots to historical Mormonism, Butt
and his Protestant peers say plural marriage comes straight from the
Old Testament.

To spread the word, Butt and his three wives moved to southern Utah
about a month ago and bought Circleville's original Mormon chapel. They
plan to start the first Be Free Patriarchal Christian Church here - in
a town of about 300 settled by Mormon pioneers in 1864.

They intend to take their message to the plural families living in
southern Utah and expand into California, the Southeast and then abroad
to countries with polygamous cultures. It will be easier to convert
cultural polygamists to Christianity, Butt figures, than to persuade
mainstream Christian churches to accept plural marriage.

And many practitioners, rejected by their churches for abandoning
monogamy, are trying to reconcile their lifestyle and their faith, said
Dave Hutchison, who organizes a Phoenix-based group called Liberated

* A sidebar contains a number of links to pro-polygamy sites,

God's Free Men and Women, Stephen Butt's group.

35. House Passes Religious Rights Bill
36. Judge rules against city's use of Christian fish symbol
37. Fla., Ala. School Prayer Cases on Collision Course
38. Lord's Prayer can harm kids, psychologist tells rights board
39. Debate flares over whether he was the embodiment of God or a wise
human teacher
40. Creationists Use New Tactic to Challenge Evolution

=== Noted
41. Alpha grabs attention
42. Apologizers embark on sorry crusade
43. Megachurch's new name reflects changes (Word-Faith)

=== Books
44. Christians embrace green movement
45. Growing genre (Christian Fiction)

=== The Church Around The Corner
46. Internet `saint' ain't so: church

35. House Passes Religious Rights Bill
Washington Post, July 16, 1999
The House yesterday overwhelmingly passed a bill designed to protect
religious practices from government interference, affirming the right
to exercise faith even in cases where it might conflict with state or
local laws.

The bill is a slightly narrower version of a law the Supreme Court
deemed unconstitutional in 1997.

Supporters of the bill -- including a broad coalition of religious
groups ranging from the National Sikh Center to the Peyote Way Church
of God to the Campus Crusade for Christ -- called it a much-needed
correction to government infringements on religious freedom. The vote
was a particularly sweet victory for Christian conservatives, a
landmark in their 10-year struggle to convince Americans that they are
an embattled minority in need of additional legal protection.

36. Judge rules against city's use of Christian fish symbol
CNN, July 14, 1999
A federal judge has ruled that Republic's use of a fish symbol on its
municipal seal violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on establishment of
an official religion.

Former Republic resident Jean Webb, represented by the American Civil
Liberties Union, sued the city last year claiming that the symbol --
known as an ichthus -- blurred the separation of church and state and
created an uncomfortable environment for non-Christians.

Webb is a practitioner of Wicca, or witchcraft. She moved to Republic
in southwestern Missouri in 1995 and wrote an opinion piece in the city
newspaper opposing the seal, saying the symbol suggested her religious
practices would not be tolerated.

37. Fla., Ala. School Prayer Cases on Collision Course
Law News Network, July 15, 1999
Supporters of religion in public schools are rallying around a federal
appeals court ruling in an Alabama case that says prayer is a protected

But whether Tuesday's decision is case-specific or establishes judicial
liturgy for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on prayer could
hinge on a Florida case in which a three-judge federal panel barred
religious activity at school graduations.

That Florida case is up for review, as early as this fall, before the
entire circuit court. A ruling in that case could establish precedent
for who can and cannot pray in the public school systems of the circuit
(Georgia, Florida and Alabama).

38. Lord's Prayer can harm kids, psychologist tells rights board
National Post, July 15, 1999
Non-Christian children who are forced to recite the Lord's Prayer in
school -- or who have to excuse themselves from the daily routine --
may begin to hate themselves because they feel inferior to their
Christian classmates, a human-rights board was told yesterday.

Dr. Karen Mock, a psychologist and former professor at Toronto's York
University, testified the ritual is psychologically inappropriate for
small children because it can interfere with normal cognitive

39. Debate flares over whether he was the embodiment of God or a wise
human teacher
Star-Telegram, July 9, 1999
(...) "There's a god-shaped hole in everybody's life these days -- but
a lot of people don't know what to put there anymore," says New Jersey
Episcopal Bishop John Spong, who is the author of the new book, `Why
Christianity Must Change or Die' (Harper San Francisco, $14). "This is
a time when we need to offer people a chance to think about Jesus in
new and different ways," Spong says.

The spiritual battle rages on bookstore shelves and has contributed to
a boom in religious publishing.

Skirmishes are fought in the pages of national magazines. The latest
volley was fired in the current issue of `Christianity Today,' a news
magazine for evangelical Christians. More than 125 evangelical leaders,
including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, have signed a 3,400-word
manifesto reaffirming Jesus as the only source of human salvation.

"What's at stake is both the nature of the Bible and the future of
Christianity," says Marcus Borg, a liberal Bible scholar who toured the
country this year debating Jesus' life with the Rev. N.T. Wright, a
more orthodox Anglican scholar. Their arguments also appear in their
new book, `The Meaning of Jesus' (Harper San Francisco, $24), in which
Borg argues that Jesus' body may never have been raised from the dead
-- and Wright defends Jesus' resurrection.

In his controversial new book about Christianity, Bishop Spong claims
that it is unlikely that Jesus' body was physically resuscitated. Spong
refers to Jesus as a "spirit person": a human being with a deep sense
that God was guiding his life.

The bishop acknowledges that his interpretation of Jesus' life is a
radical departure from traditional Christian teachings but says he
believes this is the direction in which many Christians are heading.

"The fastest-growing organization in Christianity is Christian alumni,"
Spong says. "I'm not interested in upsetting fundamentalists or
evangelicals with what I'm saying. I'm speaking to Christian alumni
about a new way of understanding Jesus."

40. Creationists Use New Tactic to Challenge Evolution
Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1999
The Bible says God created man in His image. Biologists say man evolved
from primordial muck. Steve Abrams, a member of the Kansas Board of
Education, considers both versions and then asks: Why is one more
scientific than the other? True, we can't prove God created us. But
neither can we prove that monkeys became men. Neither theory can be
tested in the lab. Neither can be directly observed. So neither, he
concludes, should be taught in school.

This is the new creationist crusade: Instead of trying to push the
Bible into biology class, they're working to kick Charles Darwin out.

This new creationist strategy is making some headway, raising serious
debates about what to teach kids in states as diverse as Tennessee and
Michigan, Arizona and Alabama, New Mexico and Nebraska. Kansas is
just the latest, and perhaps the loudest, battleground, as the state
Board of Education weighs what students here should learn about why we
are who we are and why the world is as it is.

=== Noted

41. Alpha grabs attention
Christian Science Monitor, July 15, 1999
(...) The Porters' experience and enthusiasm are so widely shared that
this course - which began at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) church in
London - has sprouted into a force for renewal and evangelism reaching
90 countries. Some 650,000 have taken it in England alone. But what
has surprised even its originators is how it crosses denominations and
cultures. In the United States, 48 denominations are represented in the
2,000 churches that have given Alpha courses. Materials have been
translated into 24 languages.

Alistair Hanna, head of Alpha North America in New York, has an
ambitious marketing strategy to get 50,000 churches, or nearly 20
percent of the 310,000 in the US, doing Alpha. "Once we get good
national coverage, we'd like to do what we call an Alpha Initiative, a
national advertising program with each church delivering personal
invitations in their area." (An initiative in England last year using
1,800 billboards doubled course attendance.)

42. Apologizers embark on sorry crusade
Boston Herald, July 19, 1999 (Editorial)
The latest example of the historical apology craze comes from
Jerusalem, where a group of evangelical Christians is getting all weepy
over something that happened almost a millennium ago.

Forgiveness was asked of Muslims, Jews and Eastern Orthodox, whose
forebears suffered at the hands of Europeans fighting for the Holy

Muslims don't want apologies for the crusades but for what they
consider more recent Western sins - first and foremost, creation of the
state of Israel. Their goal is the same today as a millennium ago, a
Mideast free of Christian or Jewish influence. Revisionists call the
Crusades an invasion and the first instance of European colonialism.
But the Arabs were themselves invaders who had conquered the region
only a few centuries earlier, destroying ancient Christian communities
in the process. The Crusades started when Christian pilgrims were
denied access to their faith's holiest shrines.

It would be entirely fitting for the mea-culpa strollers to say,
``Look, killing innocent people in Christ's name is a total denial of
His teachings'' and leave it at that. But to apologize for the evil of
your ``physical and cultural'' ancestors is fatuous and self-serving.

My friend Michael Pakaluk, a lay Catholic scholar who teaches
philosophy at Clark University, says of the contrition crowd, ``These
people can't see the evil in themselves'' so they seek it everywhere

Historical apologies are based on the same racist premise - that the
burden of guilt is in the blood. For what your ancestors did, you must
abase yourself. Christianity and Judaism, which are based on
individual responsibility, utterly reject the notion of collective
guilt, which liberals today (including the religious left) so fervently

43. Megachurch's new name reflects changes
Daily Southtown, July 18, 1999
(...) But some observers say the fresh title may signal a significant
change in the way Family Harvest and other independent charismatic
churches around the world will approach ministry in the next

The name change, which took effect June 13, also marked the formation
of Family Harvest International, a loose alliance between the Tinley
Park church and three other megachurches in South Africa, the
Philippines and the former Soviet Union, said Pastor Doug Boettcher,
Family Harvest Church's chief steward.

Joining Thompson are Theo Wolmarans, pastor of the 13,000-member
Christian Family Church in Johannesburg, South Africa; David Sumrall,
nephew of the late evangelist Lester Sumrall and pastor of the
20,000-member Cathedral of Praise in Manila, Philippines; and Rick
Renner, pastor of the 1,500-member Good News Church in Riga, Latvia,
whose weekly television program is broadcast throughout Europe and the
former Soviet Union.

Boettcher was quick to point out that Family Harvest is not a new

While Family Harvest officials may eschew the title of "denomination"
for its connotations of governance and rules, others say it is a
fitting designation for the new "association." "What you could have
here are the seedlings of a network that could be equivalent to what is
known as a denomination," said John Vaughan, director of the Megachurch
Research Institute in Bolivar, Mo.

"When they begin to name the churches with the same name, that looks
like and smells like what God has done historically through other
groups who still do not consider themselves a denomination," such as
the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard churches, he said.

The wall of a meeting room nestled among Family Harvest's many
administrative offices is festooned with framed color photographs of
Thompson and various well-known ministers, preachers and

Oral Roberts. Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. Marilyn Hickey and John
Avanzini. Luis Palau. Oliver North.

They are the faces of friendships and alliances Thompson has built in
the 18 years since he started the 70-person Bible study group that has
blossomed into today's 3,000-strong Tinley Park megachurch.

"They are going to be like the apostles of this organization,"
Boettcher said, referring to Roberts, Copeland and many other
evangelists grinning beside Thompson in the photographs.

=== Books

44. Christians embrace green movement
Cincinnati Post, July 15, 1999
(...) Hill's book ''Christian Faith and the Environment'' (Orbis, $22),
one of only a handful on the subject, has been out a year and already
being used as a textbook for college courses on religious faith and

Hill, chair of the theology department at Xavier University, is sort of
a pioneer in this field. About 10 years ago, he started teaching a
course on theology and ecology. Three years ago, Xavier added an
environmental minor. Now comes Hill's book, which the Catholic Press
Association recently named one of 1998's books of the year.

''I didn't feel that anybody had sat down and done an overview of all
the possibilities in all the areas of doctrine and Scripture,'' he

Hill believes it's high time Christians start pressing their theology
into service to improve the environment. He said it's not enough to
affirm the traditional Christian notions of creation and stewardship -
especially while remaining apathetic about environmentalism.

Hill's environmental theology shows the influence of Jesuit thinkers
such as Karl Rahner and Teilhard de Chardin.

Harvard University is planning release of 10 volumes on religious
environmentalism based on a series of conferences held there in 1997.
In May, more than 270 church leaders attended a conference in Chicago
titled ''Christ is in Our Midst: Environmental Ministries in the Church
in the 21st Century.''

45. Growing genre
Spokane.net, July 17, 1999
(...) Combined sales of the six books by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
have topped 7.4 million. "Apollyon," the latest in the series, has been
on The New York Times fiction best-seller list for months. It is the
first Christian fiction book to crack a secular best-seller list.

The success of the series is indicative of the booming market for
romance, mystery, historical fiction, juvenile novels and even science
fiction books with a spiritual bent.

While there are no figures on sales of Christian fiction, Phyllis
Tickle, a contributing religion editor at Publishers Weekly, said book
distributors have posted huge increases in sales of religious books.
Ingram Book Group, the largest book distributor in the country, has
seen a 500 percent increase in such sales since 1994, Tickle said.
"Since they're the largest, it's a bellwether," she said.

=== The Church Around The Corner

46. Internet `saint' ain't so: church
Chicago Sun-Times, July 10, 1999
The Roman Catholic church has designated St. Isidore of Seville as
patron saint of the Internet, the story goes.

It's another example of a rumor racing across the Internet assuming a
life of its own.

"No request is even being made for such a designation," said David
Early, spokesman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The
rumors have been floating since the first of the year, but how it got
started is anybody's guess. A lot of people have bought into it."

But Web-savvy Catholics probably will not wait for formal approval
before looking to St. Isidore as their protector.

"I don't know that it's official but these things don't have to be
official," said Bruce Miller, coordinator of religious studies and
humanities libraries at Catholic University in Washington.

St. Isidore would be an ideal choice because he compiled the ponderous
work Etymologiae, an encyclopedia of universal knowledge that seems
like an early data base, Miller said.

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