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Religion Items In The News

August 9, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 102)

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Religion Items in the News - August 9, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 102)
[Main section only in this issue]

1. 'Parent of Year' award winner linked to child abuse and prostitution
2. `Parent of Year' returns award after questions about past arise
3. Longmont dad denies ties to 'happy hookers'
4. Parent of the year 'ran camp for cult'
5. Church is served court order in a show of force
6. Neo-Nazis cancel Washington march
7. ASDF sergeants dumped over AUM ties
8. China Sect Penetrated Military And Police (Falun Gong)
9. Hundreds of police show up for hearing, but Thai monk doesn't
10. Death Sentence for stealing Buddha Statue
11. Fears of mass suicide in Queensland sect (Manificat Meal Movement)
12. Cult leader set to die in ecstasy: disciple (MMM)
13. Cult leader refuses to comment on mass suicide claims (MMM)
14. Cult head denies suicide visions (MMM)
15. Police fear cult mass suicide (MMM)
16. Against the stigmatization of the psychically ill (Scientology)
17. Scientology Mobilizes
18. Justifiable attacks against slander or censorship? (Anthroposophist)
19. Manson Family Killings Won't Rest
20. Faithful to shine in the shadow of eclipse
21. Wiccans seek place on Fort Bragg
22. Blair Project Stirs Interest in Wiccans -- Stereotypes Frustrate
23. Devil worship exists in Kenya - commission says
24. Religion a possible factor in Underwood disappearance
25. Creationism Evolves

=== Main

1. 'Parent of Year' award winner linked to child abuse and prostitution
Evansville Courier & Press, Aug. 5, 1999
This year's winner of the Parent of the Year Award has returned the
prize because of his alleged links to a cult accused of child abuse and

But he also has been a leader of the Children of God cult, a group
started in California in the 1960s by the late David Berg, according to
former acquaintances interviewed by the Houston Chronicle.

Former members of the cult identified Prendergast as the leader of an
indoctrination camp for children in Italy in the 1980s.

2. `Parent of Year' returns award after questions about past arise
Nando Times, Aug. 6, 1999
(...) But the National Parents Day Foundation says it did not know that
Prendergast had connections to the Children of God cult, started in
California in the 1960s by the late David Berg, when it gave him the

Among other things, it has been accused of having female members work
as "happy hookers for Jesus," and has been linked to child pornography
in South America and physical abuse of members' children.

3. Longmont dad denies ties to 'happy hookers'
Denver Rocky Mountain News, Aug. 6, 1999
After returning the National Parent of the Year award, Zack Prendergast
Thursday denied allegations linking him to the "happy hookers for
Jesus" cult.

In a letter to the National Parent of the Year Foundation, Prendergast
denied he was ever a member of the Children of God cult which once
prostituted female members.

Former members of the Children of God -- which started almost 40 years
ago in California and spread worldwide -- claimed Prendergast, 50, and
his wife operated a camp in Italy in the 1980s, which was an
indoctrination site for children.

On July 22, the parent foundation recognized Prendergast and his wife,
Naomi, as model parents to their 12 children and for devoting their
lives to charity. National Parents Day, the fourth Sunday of July, was
created by Congress in 1994. The National Parents Day Foundation names
the award winners in conjunction with the holiday.

Some members of the foundation's award selection committee are
affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Robert
Grant, foundation president, was head of Moon's defunct American
Freedom Coalition.

4. Parent of the year 'ran camp for cult'
The Independent (England) Aug. 6, 1999
(...) Barry Prendergast had been chosen from hundreds of candidates
because of the home he and his wife, Naomi, had built for their 12
children in Colorado. He was, said the judges, an example for others to
follow and he and his wife had "epitomised committed parenting".

Or perhaps not. Mr Prendergast, it has now emerged, is not quite the
mild mannered teacher he had been portrayed to be.

What he had forgotten to mention when accepting the honour is that he
was a leader of the Children of God, a cult started by the late David
Berg, which has been repeatedly accused of child abuse and prostitution
and whose female members work as "happy hookers for Jesus". Zach, as Mr
Prendergast liked to be called, is remembered as leader of an
indoctrination camp for children in Italy.

Yesterday, there was no answer at their home in Longmont, Colorado. But
back in Merseyside, Mr Prendergast's mother, Betty, 69, would not hear
a word said against her son. "Never in a million years would he be
involved in anything like that. Maybe because he was in the Children of
God made him give back the award rather than have any trouble.

Mrs Prendergast said she knew little about the cult. "I remember some
people being thrown out of the organisation. That was in the Seventies
and Eighties, but I don't really know anything about it."

5. Church is served court order in a show of force
St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 7, 1999
Securities regulators with the states of Alabama and Ohio obtained a
federal court order Friday freezing the assets and property of Greater
Ministries International Church, which stands accused of operating a
religious Ponzi scheme nationwide.

Concern about the possibility of violent resistance by members of the
church led to the order being served Friday evening by several armed
U.S. marshals at the church's headquarters at 715 E Bird St.

In seeking the court order, lawyers representing the Alabama Securities
Commission and the Ohio Division of Securities repeated allegations
that have already been lodged against Greater Ministries by a federal
grand jury in Tampa and authorities in Pennsylvania.

They accused the church and its officers of operating a fraudulent
"Double Your Money Gift Exchange Program," which promised Christians
that their contributions would be doubled in 17 months. Church
officials said the generous returns came from overseas gold mines and
other investments.

Investors were quoted the passage from Luke 6:38: "Give, and it shall
be given unto you." Church officials said state or federal securities
laws didn't apply to them because they treated all the transactions as
gifts. But federal prosecutors and securities regulators characterized
the program as a fraudulent investment scheme.

6. Neo-Nazis cancel Washington march
CNN, Aug. 7, 1999
A neo-Nazi group abruptly canceled its planned rally Saturday in the
nation's capital even though the city closed a number of streets and
spent an estimated $1 million on police to protect them, Metropolitan
Police Chief Charles Ramsey said.

The march was canceled because of huge counter demonstrations were
planned and "the media worked this thing up into a frenzy," said Jeff
Krause, executive vice president of the group that has recently started
calling itself the American Nationalist Party. "We did not want any of
our people hurt," he said.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department said Ramsey will ask
the district's legal staff to sue the American Nationalist Party, a
name recently taken by the small group formerly known the Knights of
Freedom, to recover the costs incurred for providing security for the
march and several counter protests.

Since the media is to blame, Krause said, a suit against the party
would be unfair.

7. ASDF sergeants dumped over AUM ties
Mainichi Daily News, Aug. 8, 1999
Two Air Self-Defense Force staff sergeants have been forced to resign
because they are members of the doomsday cult AUM Shinrikyo, ASDF
officials said.

The pair, whose names have not been disclosed, were given the option of
remaining with the military if they left the cult, but elected to
remain faithful to AUM.

8. China Sect Penetrated Military And Police
Washington Post, Aug. 7, 1999
One of the most remarkable elements of China's crackdown on the banned
Falun Gong spiritual movement is the large number of military officers
and police officials who are being unmasked as members--a development
that is causing deep concern within the ruling Communist Party.

Several thousand soldiers and officers are also believed to have
participated in the Falun Gong movement around the northern coastal
city of Dalian, among other areas. And the movement is also known to
have strong support among junior officers and foot soldiers near the
garrison city of Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, 150 miles
south of Beijing, sources said.

"It's not just that millions of Falun Gong practitioners are party
members," said one Chinese source, "it's that many of them work for the
security services. That's the really scary phenomenon."

Western analysts say the party's main concern is not with grass-roots
members. Its overarching goal is a party-, army- and police-wide
campaign aimed at rooting out senior officials who belong to the

Western sources predicted that the extent of Falun Gong's penetration
into the military would prompt a shake-up at least in its general
political department, currently led by Gen. Yu Yongbo. Heads are also
expected to roll in the Ministry of Public Security, which is being
held responsible for allowing the April 25 demonstration to occur.

9. Hundreds of police show up for hearing, but Thai monk doesn't
San Francisco Gate, Aug. 6, 1999
Hundreds of riot police ringed a Buddhist temple Friday where a monk
who has thrown Thailand's national religion into crisis was to be
charged with heresy and fraud. But Phra Dhammachayo, 55, never
appeared, again frustrating religious and political officials who have
been trying to drive him out of business for months.

The panel was to read charges against Dhammachayo, accusing him of
amassing wealth, lying about having supernatural powers and giving
misleading teachings about life after death.

Officials have been frustrated in their attempts to get Dhammachayo to
step down as head of his temple and surrender what they maintain is a
suspiciously acquired fortune estimated at $110 million.

The authorities have been forced to tread warily. Dhammachayo's
followers have at times numbered more than 100,000 at mass meditation
ceremonies and his sect has several branches in the provinces and at
least 10 foreign countries, including the United States.

Followers claim their leader can fly and swear they've seen miracles,
like a giant crystal ball in the sky. The sect's growing numbers,
evangelical fervor, aggressive fundraising and unorthodox beliefs are
turning many people against them.

10. Death Sentence for stealing Buddha Statue
Buddhayana Quarterly, August 1999
A Chinese farmer has been sentenced to death for stealing the oldest
statue of the Buddha in China. His two accomplices were sentenced to
life imprisonment. The statue, which was badly damaged and broken
during the theft, has been found, restored and now stands in a museum
in Beijing.

According to Jan van der Putten (reporter for the Dutch newspaper the
"Volkskrant") this is a result of a large increase in crime in China
"as the Chinese communists discover money to be of the highest value".

11. Fears of mass suicide in Queensland sect
Australian Broadcasting Company, Aug. 6, 1999
The Catholic Church in Queensland is warning followers of the cult,
Magnificat Meal Movement, to leave the group as police fear cult
members may be preparing for a mass suicide.

There is concern over reports that cult leader Debra Geileskey has
claimed she and her followers will die in a fire on September 9.

12. Cult leader set to die in ecstasy: disciple
The Australian, Aug. 7, 1999
HELIDON cult leader Debra Geileskey would die in a vision of ecstasy
and not feel any pain, one of her followers said yesterday. Terry
O'Brien said the leader of the Magnificat Meal Movement had had a
vision that she would die, and he believed it would come true.

Police, fire and ambulance crews said earlier this week that they would
be on alert next month after reports Mrs Geileskey would die on
September 9 and that her followers would die with her.

Mrs Geileskey claimed in a published diary that she saw a vision in
1996 that she would be dragged from a wooden two-storey building and
tied to a pile of sticks, which would then be set on fire by a priest.

In her latest newsletter published on the Internet and subsequently
removed, Mrs Geileskey claimed to be a modern-day Joan of Arc,
referring to the young Frenchwoman burned at the stake as a heretic but
later canonised.

Late yesterday, Mrs Geileskey issued a statement denying she had ever
received a prophecy about September 9, 1999.

She said the prophecy was a rumour spread by her estranged husband,
Gordon Geileskey, to disrupt an event in Helidon on September 8, when
overseas visitors will converge on the Shrine of Mary for an annual

13. Cult leader refuses to comment on mass suicide claims
Australian Broadcasting Company, Aug. 6, 1999
The leader of the religious cult, the Magnificat Meal Movement, has
refused to comment on claims of a mass suicide at her group's
headquarters at Helidon, west of Brisbane, next month.

Deborah Geileski would not comment in detail today but shrugged off the
claims and invited the media to return on September 9.

14. Cult head denies suicide visions
Australian Broadcasting Company, Aug. 6, 1999
The leader of the religious cult, the Magnificat Meal Movement, has
denied having visions of a mass suicide at her group's headquarters at
Helidon, west of Brisbane, next month.

"I see a number of things; sometimes they are prophecies and visions of
things that will occur," Ms Geileskey said.

"But regarding the latest story in the newspaper about me receiving a
message or a vision or anything about the '9th of the 9th, '99', there
is no truth in that. I haven't received any messages about that date.

"My husband is making up a prophecy about that, but that's his prophecy
and his prophecies never come true, so I am not at all concerned about
the prophecies he makes up," he said.

15. Police fear cult mass suicide
The Age (Australia), Aug. 7, 1999
The leader of a Catholic cult has accused the media and the Catholic
Church of conspiring to destroy her group after police revealed they
are treating seriously claims that its members may be preparing for a
mass suicide.

Mrs Debra Geileskey dismissed as a joke police plans to use the
Catholic church in Helidon, west of Brisbane, as a command centre to
monitor her group, the Magnificat Meal Movement (MMM).

The movement has several hundred members in Helidon and thousands of
followers around the world. Its headquarters is a former Catholic
seminary near the church, where Mrs Geileskey claims to regularly see
and be given messages by Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

Mrs Geileskey's estranged husband, Gordon, claims his wife had
prophesied she would be burned to death on 9 September - the ninth day
of the ninth month of 1999 - and that the movement's headquarters would
be consumed by fire.

Mr Geileskey, who is locked in a legal battle with his wife over
control of the company that owns the movement, said he fears a
Jonestown-style mass suicide could unfold in Helidon.

The Catholic priest in Helidon, Father John Ryan, said he had agreed
his church could be used by police. Father Ryan said while he did not
think a mass suicide likely, ``the ingredients for a tragedy are
there'' because Mrs Geileskey's followers had a ``blind allegiance'' to

16. Against the stigmatization of the psychically ill
Suedeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Aug. 6, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
The World Psychiatric Association met for the first time in Germany -
Presentation in Hamburg recalls Nazi Euthanasia

A modest counter event to the huge congress was arranged by the
"Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener (BPE)" together with the Israeli
Association against Psychiatric Abuse (IAAPA) in the academic institute
of the university. These organizations criticized the world congress as
a "purely expert event," which degraded the sick to "objects." Besides
that they regarded the decision to meet in Germany for the first time
as "fatal." It was said that this was an attempt "to cleanse German
psychiatry from systematic mass murder of people who were alleged to be
mentally ill." Also, a "Commission for Violations of Psychiatry against
Human Rights" (KVPM) called for a demonstration in Hamburg over the
weekend. The Hamburg Interior agency warned, however, "They are not
backed up by any human rights movement, but by the Scientology

17. Scientology Mobilizes
Hamburger Morgenpost (Germany), Aug. 6, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
The "Work Group on Scientology" of the Hamburg Interior Agency has
warned of disturbances at the World Psychiatry Congress by sect
members. The organization wants to raise sentiment against the event
with a leafletting operation, explained the Scientology Commissioner,
Ursula Caberta, yesterday as the Congress was opening.

The organizer of the counter-demonstration was the so-called
"Commission for Violations of Psychiatry against Human Rights" - an
association founded by Scientology members, according to Caberta.

In its own statement, Scientology said the distribution of leaflets was
to support the protest of "various human rights associations" against
the World Congress.

Insiders judge the activity by the sect as an attempt to recruit new
members. Apparently Scientology is strongly on the defensive
financially and personnel-wise. The group's sales are said to be the
lowest in years. In Hamburg, former Scientology fortress, the number of
members has plummeted down to about one thousand.

18. Justifiable attacks against slander or censorship?
Main-Echo (Germany), Aug. 5, 1999
Translation: German Scientology News
Anthroposophists repeatedly sue Aschaffenburger Alibra Publishers, but
deny an intentional attack

"The Anthroposophist are trying to sue my little publishing company out
of business," Gunnar has become convinced. The reason for the
Aschaffenburg publisher's concern is that fact that, for the third time
within six months, adherent Rudolf Steiners has taken legal action
against Alibri publishers and is trying to keep from the market books
which critically discuss Steiners' world picture. "No special attack
against Alibri publishers," counters Birgit Ruland, Anthroposophist
from Johannesberg, "but we don't like slanderous and factually false
publications. If the Alibri publishers tinkle on our leg, then we are
going to make them pay for it."

The trigger of the dispute, which the Munich state court has been
involved with for several months were the books published by Alibri
("Forum for Utopia and Skepticism") entitled "Waldorf Connection:
Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy," and "Savior, Fantacizer, Seducer and
Executioner." Journalists Guido and Michael Grant subject Anthroposophy
and Waldorf academics to extensive criticism and mentioned a "racist"
world picture of Steiners, which they proved with original quotes. The
book, "Savior" mentioned National Socialism, Scientology, but also the
Unification Church - "teachings of salvation," according to the Grandt
brothers, "which promise the simple path to salvation from the evils of
the world, where everything functions according to the same basic

19. Manson Family Killings Won't Rest
AOL/AP, Aug. 8, 1999
(...) Thirty years later, the ghosts of the Tate-La Bianca murders will
not rest. The Charles Manson cult that carried out the seven killings
haunts the Internet and a new generation is oddly fixated on a mass
murder that remains the nation's most bizarre and notorious.

An Internet search of the words ``Charles Manson'' comes up a long list
of references, including sites devoted to Manson's recorded sayings,
his music and reproductions of his scrawled notes and artwork.

The phenomenon is perhaps best summed up by a former reporter. Sandi
Gibbons, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Gil Garcetti, covered the
trial for City News Service.

``Charlie was always a con man,'' said Gibbons, ``and now he's managed
to con a whole new generation of people.''

20. Faithful to shine in the shadow of eclipse
The Telegraph (England), Aug. 7, 1999
PAGANS, Druids, Christians and Hindus will be celebrating next week's
total eclipse as a symbol of renewal at ceremonies in Cornwall and
Devon. With religious fervour heightened by the timing of the eclipse
at the close of the Millennium, events will include a Christian service
by the sea, a Pagan mask dance and a Druidic blessing of a standing

The lead singer of the pop group Kula Shaker, Crispian Mills, has
arranged for a replica of an ancient Hindu 30ft black deity called
Jaganath to be at the centre of celebrations at the Lizard in Cornwall.
At the time of the eclipse on Wednesday, a sadhu (holy man) from Vraj
in India will carry out a ritual which pre-dates Hinduism while Kula
Shaker and an Indian singer, Vidhu Mallik, perform mantras and

A Methodist minister, the Rev Steve Wild, is holding a service from
10.45am to 11.15 on the seafront at Penzance with a 40-strong gospel
choir. At the moment of darkness the congregation will reflect on
Christ's Crucifixion and death, and as the sun re-emerges, the liturgy
will turn to the joy of the Resurrection.

There is a debate as to whether there was an eclipse at the time of the

The Gospel of St Matthew tells of darkness coming over the land
"between the sixth hour and the ninth hour" after the Crucifixion.
There is also reference to the "sun turning into darkness" in the Acts
of the Apostles, and in Revelation the Day of Judgment is described
with the sun "turned black as sackcloth". Mr Wild said he did not
believe the eclipse portended the Day of Judgment, but added: 'I feel
the Holy Spirit is with us on this one."

However, most of the Christian churches are more concerned about the
risk of robbery over the eclipse. Eight hundred churches in the area
have been instructed to take extra precaution by the church insurers,
Ecclesiastical Direct.

21. Wiccans seek place on Fort Bragg
Fayetteville Online, Aug. 8, 1999
(...) The coven wants to hold similar ceremonies on Fort Bragg. The
notion has some pastors upset and has left Fort Bragg officials
choosing their words carefully when discussing the witches in their

There are about 10,000 pagans in the military and an estimated 200 to
400 at Fort Bragg, according to the Military Pagan Network, an
international support group for military pagans that is based in
Columbia, Md.

The Rev. Michael Fletcher of Manna Church, a nondenominational
congregation, says Wicca is not just a sin but an abomination.

‘‘The Christian church sees Wicca as part of one large circle that is
inherently demonic and condemned by scripture because it seeks to find
power in a source other than God,’’ Fletcher said. ‘‘I hope Fort Bragg
makes the right choice and does not give them access as a religion.’’

22. Blair Project Stirs Interest in Wiccans -- Stereotypes Frustrate
The Oklahoman, Aug. 8, 1999
(...) Judging by the images eminating from Hollywood in recent years,
it's now cool to be a witch. But Wiccans -- the real-life
practitioners of magick -- in the metro area say the attention being
drawn to their religion isn't entirely good -- and is often completely

The idea that witches worship the devil is probably the most common
misconception about Wicca, says the Rev. Riche Bright, president of the
Norman chapter of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans

Wicca is like most other nature-based religions in that its group of
devotees is as complex as its practices. But despite the many twisting,
gnarled branches of the religion that have sprouted over centuries,
Johnston says some basic beliefs unite all Wiccans at its core.

23. Devil worship exists in Kenya - commission says
The Nation (Nairobi), Aug. 4, 1999
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the cult of Devil Worship
in Kenya has established that devil worship does exist in the country.
The commission therefore recommended the setting up of a special police
force to investigate occultic crimes.

The report also added that there was a lot of convergence in the
details given by devil worshippers.

"The witnesses had unshakable confidence in what they said despite the
mind control techniques applied in initiating them to devil worship,"
the report said.

The commission concluded that because of the minute details in the
stories (of devil worship) and their consistency, they must have been

"The people who made the allegations were from all the provinces of
Kenya and, they could not, therefore, have colluded to make the same
allegations," they said.

24. Religion a possible factor in Underwood disappearance
AOL/AP, Aug. 8, 1999
Dimitrius Underwood, the Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman who left
training camp after one practice and has not returned, acted
differently in the weeks before camp, people close to him said.

The newspaper also reported Sunday that religion might have played a
role in Underwood's changing behavior and his decision to leave the

The 22-year-old rookie repeatedly called his family's minister in North
Carolina to talk about a deep religious experience he had had, the
newspaper said. While attending Michigan State University in Lansing,
he joined a nondenominational church.

Underwood had become a parishioner at Immanuel's Temple Community
church, said its pastor, Phillip E. Owens, who also goes by prophet.

When asked Saturday whether he had spoken to Underwood and whether
Underwood was all right, Owens said: ``I don't know if we can be at
liberty (to say). I'd like to withhold anything at this time. The
situation is a very delicate one now.'' Initially, Owens said Underwood
``was under our care,'' but then said that didn't mean anything more
than that he was a parishioner.

25. Creationism Evolves
Washington Post, Aug. 8, 1999
For biology teacher Al Frisby, teaching evolution to the many students
who take the Bible literally is like "banging his face against a brick
wall." More than a third of the students at his suburban high school in
Shawnee Mission, Kan., wrote in a final evaluation last year that they
did not believe a thing their teacher had to say on the subject.

The challenge Frisby faces is apt to get tougher next year. On
Wednesday, a majority of the Kansas Board of Education may vote to pass
a new statewide science curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade
that wipes out virtually all mention of evolution and related concepts:
natural selection, common ancestors and the origins of the universe.

If the conservative majority on the school board prevails as expected,
it will mark the most decisive victory in recent years for the
creationist movement: Christians who read the book of Genesis literally
and believe that God created human beings and animals fully formed.

"This is the most explicit censorship of evolution I have ever seen,"
said Molleen Matsumura of the National Center for Science Education.

In the past two decades, creationists have undergone their own process
of evolution. After a series of court decisions from 1968 to 1987
barred the movement's efforts to have biblical creationism taught in
the schools, activists changed their strategy. They began to focus
instead on attacking evolution as an unproven theory, picking apart
such basic building blocks as fossil records and geological dating.

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