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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - January 7, 1999 (Vol. 4, Issue 153)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog

=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. Doomsday cult in Japan faces tax investigation
2. Tax agency to probe Aum computer firms
3. Former Aum cult poster boy keeps authorities guessing
4. Yokohama ready to deny AUM's Joyu residency

=== Falun Gong
5. Sect ban hits
6. Overseas Falun Gong faithful 'blacklisted'
7. 'Re-education' to mark Zhongnanhai siege
8. China jails Falungong leaders for printing books and posters
9. Tracing Falun Gong's roots in the US

=== Scientology
10. France fined over missing Scientology files
11. Crusade legally sound
12. Scientology's strange tax morals
13. Scientology foe sets up office close to church
14. Homage paid

=== Mormonism
15. LDS Church Asked to Review Anti-Gay Marriage Position

=== Doomsday Calendar
16. Family maintains millennium doomwatch
17. Feeling doomless? Try this

=== "Attleboro Cult"
18. New search fails to find missing boys
19. Ex-cult member helping officials in search for boys

=== Other News
20. Inquiry sheds light on the life of a 'queen'
21. Indian Sect Leader Omkarananda Dies
22. 100 People Injured In Religious Dispute In S Korea
23. O'Hair case statements inconsistent
24. Authorities break up psychic fraud scam
25. UFOs lure Japanese TV firm
26. Fonda becomes born-again Christian
27. Pastor told to vacate church
28. Minister who hired hit man gets slightly longer prison term
29. Rifts creator doubts game inspired murder plot

30. The quiet practice of Buddhism grows as people seek to satisfy their
spiritual hunger

=== Aberrant Christian Movements
31. It is heaven to be rich

=== Interfaith
32. As sun sets, spirit of unity dawns

=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. Doomsday cult in Japan faces tax investigation
Straits Times/AFP (Singapore), Jan. 6, 2000
Japan's Aum Shinrikyo cult, already in the grip of tough new legislation, now
faces a wide tax investigation into its lucrative computer businesses, a
report said yesterday.

Accountants for the two firms -- personal computer retailer Poseidon and
computer parts importer SBR -- had made detailed financial reports to the
cult's leadership, said the report, quoting informed sources.

But investigations of the two computer companies had failed to discover a
single piece of evidence such as account books or dockets at the firms'
premises, the newspaper said.

They did find that accountants had drawn up financial reports on computers
and later destroyed all data, according to the daily.

Profit from computer sales is believed to be the largest source of income for
the cult, accused of killing 12 people and injuring thousands in the gas
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Tax agency to probe Aum computer firms
Japan Times, Jan. 6, 2000
(...) The National Tax Administration Agency is planning to launch a
full-scale investigation and interrogate Aum members in the near future.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, additional taxes may be
imposed on the cult, which authorities believe effectively runs the firms,
the sources said.

They have also searched Aum-related offices in Tokyo's Adachi Ward on
suspicion that the cult destroyed evidence linked to its alleged PC
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Former Aum cult poster boy keeps authorities guessing
South China Morning Post, Jan. 5, 2000
(...) Since his release from prison last week, the Aum poster boy has kept
the authorities guessing as to his next move.

He was expected to return as head of the cult, which has lacked proper
leadership since most of its senior priests were arrested after the 1995
nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. But instead he has reportedly
renounced the title of seitaishi - Great Teacher - "to take responsibility
for wrongdoing and convey his deep sense of regret for the sins he had
committed", according to the Kyodo News agency, which received a fax from the
cult. Mr Joyu is still in seclusion at Aum Shinri Kyo's Yokohama branch.

His low profile had been anticipated by Tatsuko Muraoka, Aum Shinri Kyo's
acting representative.

Mr Joyu's biographer - who called him a "Man of Darkness" because of his
alleged links to Aum's anthrax research programme - says Mr Joyu is likely to
dissolve Aum Shinri Kyo and re-form it under a different name in order to
avoid the new law.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Yokohama ready to deny AUM's Joyu residency
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 6, 2000
The Yokohama Municipal Government on Wednesday decided not to accept a
notification of intent to move to the city expected to be filed by Fumihiro
Joyu, an executive member of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult.

Critics say such a rejection of residency by local governments would infringe
on his freedom to choose and change residency, protected in Article No. 22 of
the Constitution.

Yet Yokohama City officials justify their planned rejection, citing a
condition stipulated in the same article that people are free to reside in
any location unless "it does not interfere with public welfare."

"Unless he completely leaves AUM, or the cult fulfills its social
responsibility - such as paying enough damages to the victims of a series of
cult-related incidents - there would be no local-governing bodies that would
accept their followers (as residents)," another municipal official was quoted
as saying.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

5. Sect ban hits
Yahoo! Asia/Wise News, Jan. 3, 2000
A Falun Gong sect member hoping to visit his sick grandmother in Macau has
been turned back by the enclave's immigration officials at the border.

Li Kwok-man said he was not given any reasons for being denied entry,
although he suspects it was probably because he joined other sect members in
a protest at the enclave during its handover last month.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Overseas Falun Gong faithful 'blacklisted'
South China Morning Post/AFP, Jan. 6, 2000
Beijing has drawn up a blacklist of 1,000 Chinese followers of the banned
Falun Gong sect living abroad, a human rights group reported yesterday.

Names had been supplied by overseas "secret agents" and handed over to the
service, which was made up of officials from the state security ministry or
secret police, the national police and border police, the Hong Kong-based
centre said.

On New Year's Eve, 12 members of the Falun Gong named on the list were
stopped at Beijing airport as they arrived from Japan.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. 'Re-education' to mark Zhongnanhai siege
Yahoo! Asia/South China Morning Post, Jan. 4, 2000
Beijing is to launch a national ideological campaign ahead of the first
anniversary of the Zhongnanhai Communist Party headquarters siege by Falun

On April 25 last year, more than 10,000 affiliates of the quasi-Buddhist sect
surrounded Zhongnanhai in a show of force that prompted President Jiang Zemin
to launch a ruthless crackdown.

A security source in Beijing said yesterday that the aim of the
"re-education" campaign was to "purge the residual poison of the Falun Gong".

"Party authorities specifically want to ensure the purity of medium- to
senior-level cadres. Officials are encouraged to expose the Falun Gong
affiliation of those of their colleagues who have not voluntarily admitted
their mistakes."

Diplomatic analysts said security departments had dossiers on many cadres
nationwide who were Falun Gong converts. They said more would probably be
brought to trial or otherwise penalised in coming months.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. China jails Falungong leaders for printing books and posters
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Jan. 6, 2000
China on Thursday sentenced a husband and wife team to six and eight years in
prison for printing millions of Falungong books and posters, a human rights
group said.

They are accused of publishing five million volumes of Falungong books from
July 1996 to April 1999, and 1.3 million posters, raking in a profit of 10
million dollars, the information centre quoted the court as saying.

State media reported it was the biggest collection of Falungong material and
said the couple, who managed the printing company Shenshen Group in Wuhan,
also made 580,000 video products and more than 40,000 practitioners uniforms,
earning a combined profit of 27 million yuan.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Tracing Falun Gong's roots in the US
Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 6, 2000
(...) In the US, much of its growth is still within the Chinese immigrant
community. At the same time, Falun Gong - Chinese for "cultivation of the
Buddhist Wheel of Law" - is becoming another contribution to American
religious diversity and benefiting from increasing religious tolerance among

"As far as Falun Gong goes..., Li's kind of a latecomer in the world of
qigong, and you have to understand him in the context of the popularity of
qigong in China in the 1980s," says Mr. Wu. He describes Falun Gong as
utilizing qigong exercise but concentrating mostly on the spiritual aspect.

Practitioners say Americans from non-Chinese backgrounds have joined the
movement in steadily increasing numbers since the English edition of Li
Hongzhi's teachings came out two years ago. Now, it is possible to download
the book from the Internet.

The added benefit of Falun Gong is that practicing it requires little effort,
Wu says. "It has a very wide appeal because for other forms of qigong, the
question is, what happens if you don't do the exercises? Li says, 'If I plant
the wheel in you, you don't have to worry.' "

Wu has some reservations about such an approach, which he says moves the
focus from the practitioner to the master. Also of concern to Wu is Li's
claim that he talks of the truth of the entire galaxy and places himself
above all other ancient Buddhist and Taoist sages.

"I myself feel [Falun Gong] has cult tendencies in that when the master says
I am going to plant something in you, and it's me protecting you, it's
actually encouraging a worship of him, a dependence on him. He has an
organization. I've seen the constitution of the organization, and he's the
only leader who can teach the principles of Falun Gong," Wu says.

Overall, practitioners' reasons for following Falun Gong are similar to the
reasons Americans from other backgrounds adopt Eastern religions and
practices - a search for a different philosophy, a freer way to express
spirituality, and a healthy exercise routine. Indeed, many practitioners
interviewed said they had a prior interest in Buddhism, Taoism, qigong, or
martial arts. And while most said they no longer strictly adhered to the
religious background they came from, they did not see any inherent conflict
between their religious heritage and their new practice.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

10. France fined over missing Scientology files
Infoseek/Reuters, Jan. 5, 2000
A French court on Wednesday ordered the state to pay 20,000 francs ($3,070)
in damages to two plaintiffs over the mysterious disappearance of legal
evidence in a probe into the Church of Scientology.

The court said Paris investigating magistrate Marie-Paule Moracchini was at
fault for failing to make copies of the 44 documents whose disappearance in
1998 has never been explained.

The plaintiffs, both former Scientology members, had launched legal action
against other former members of the Church, accusing them of fraud and
illegally practising medicine.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said foul play was involved in the disappearance
of the files.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Crusade legally sound
Taz (Germany), Jan. 6, 2000
Translation: CISAR
At the moment Hamburg sees no possibility of taking legal measures against
the Scientology organization. That was the Senate's reply to an inquiry by
SPD Representative Walter Zuckerer. Zuckerer was upset primarily because of
the promotional banner and the video camera which Scientology had mounted at
its residence on Dom Street. The promotional banner, which hung on the
building's outside wall in November and December, was taken down without
notice. In the matter of the video camera, the Senate is still waiting for
Scientology's response to a request made of the organization by data security
commissioner Hans-Hermann Schrader.

So the most the video camera pointed at the street could mean is a violation
of the data security law. That agency, however, was still in the process of
assessing the legal aspects of the procedure.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Scientology's strange tax morals
Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland), Jan. 5, 2000
Translation: CISAR
Scientology's tax returns are blank. Although the organization's sales are in
the millions, for years it has not listed a Swiss frank in either proceeds or
capital. Nevertheless, the psychosect now wants to be officially exempt from
the obligation to pay tax.

There is hardly another organization which is run as efficiently as
Scientology. Therefore it is surprising that the organization lists no
income. It requires exorbitant fees from its members for services and

What is the money used for? Scientology performs a considerable amount of
advertising and proselytizing, but since it hardly has any wage expenses,
there would still have to be a profit. In regard to that, sect founder
Hubbard said, "The costs we have to cover to defend ourselves in court in a
dozen countries are not small."

In the USA, for example, the Scientologists conducted a "war" (their words)
for forty years against the American revenue office which cost the sect
millions. It hired private detectives which spied on revenue officials and
placed advertisements for persons or companies who had had negative
experiences with the IRS. Then the pseudochurch put top agency members on
public display in large newspaper advertisements and filed 2,500 law suits to
wear down the officials. "Making public the names of the criminals inside the
IRS brought about the desired effect," wrote the sect in a report.

Is the Zurich agency threatened with a similar "war"? Probably not. Since the
Scientology Church does not pay taxes anyway, they are limited by expenses.
Nevertheless the tax officials have to prepare for some hard times because
when the Scientologists go into "battle," they arm themselves to the teeth,
to use their figure of speech.

The Zurich Scientologists are motivated to apply for tax exemption because of
Scientology's success in Sweden. In England, however, they suffered a
setback. What are the chances in Zurich? According to the new tax
harmonization law, exempt organizations will include those who exclusively
pursue cultural goals, perform public functions or are for the common good.

In view of the expensive seminars, the two latter criteria probably do not
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Scientology foe sets up office close to church
St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 6, 2000
An organization that says it wants to reform the Church of Scientology has
followed through with its plans to open a headquarters at the epicenter of
the Scientology world.

The group, led by New England millionaire Robert S. Minton, on Wednesday
purchased a small office building at 33 N Fort Harrison Ave., just 30 feet
from a major Scientology building downtown. Minton and a five-member staff
say they plan to educate local residents -- including existing Scientologists
-- about abuses within the church.

Scientology reacted Wednesday with strong words.

"These guys are nobodies," said church official Marty Rathbun. "They bring
absolutely nothing to this community." He compared it to the Ku Klux Klan
opening an office in North Greenwood, a Clearwater neighborhood with mostly
black residents.

"The reason they're here is to harass people," he said. "They know better
than anybody that any existing Scientologist isn't interested in their

Minton's group has a different view. He and a staff that includes four former
Scientologists say they have been embraced by locals, including some current
church members.

"Everywhere I go I've met people in the community saying, "Thank God you're
here,' " said Stacy Brooks, a former Scientologist who will help Minton lead
the new group. "People are starved for information about Scientology: "What
are they doing? Why do they act so secretive?' "

The new headquarters is two doors north of Scientology's Clearwater Building,
a renovated bank facing Cleveland Street that was one of the church's first
land purchases in the mid-1970s. It is home to the church's public affairs
offices and two large dining halls that feed more than 1,000 uniformed
Scientology staffers every day.

On Tuesday, the church offered to buy the building out from under Minton, but
the seller, CPA Scott Brauer, declined.

Minton, a 53-year-old retired investment banker, is financing the lawsuit and
says he has donated $2.5-million to anti-Scientology efforts. He said the
trust has no quarrel with Scientology's beliefs. "What we are opposed to,"
Minton said, "is the way they handle criticism."

He also said the church's ethics system is abusive and harmful to members.

Rathbun rejected that claim, saying the church's ethics system is the
"foundation for a clean, happy spiritual life" that no Scientologist would
think of abandoning. The system is so fundamental to the practice of
Scientology that it could never be separated out, he said.

Rathbun and other church officials also allege that Minton and his staff are
in Clearwater to violently "deprogram" Scientologists.

Minton and his staff say the church is exaggerating. They say they want to
provide information and "exit counseling" for church members who come to

Minton said he hopes to prod Scientology into "acting like a church."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Homage paid
NY Post, Jan. 5, 2000
Many people consider the Church of Scientology to be a cult rather than a
religion, but not Bill Clinton. In a recent press release, the star-studded
organization lists Clinton as being "among those sending congratulations" for
a "half-century of spiritual leadership," reports the Washington Post. It was
under the Clinton Administration that the IRS reversed 20 years of rulings to
recognize Scientology as a tax-exempt church. The Prez sent a letter thanking
the followers of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard for "all your efforts
to promote [religious freedom] and to build communities united in
understanding, compassion and mutual respect."
[...entire item...]

=== Mormonism

15. LDS Church Asked to Review Anti-Gay Marriage Position
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 5, 2000
Religious leaders from more than 70 California churches are asking The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to reconsider its support for an
anti-gay marriage initiative.

Proposition 22, titled the "Limit on Marriage" act, won't solve problems
facing families, said the church leaders, who planned to release a copy of
their letter to the LDS church today.

Religious leaders who oppose the ban, which include Catholics, Unitarians,
Jews, Episcopalians and Methodists, want to hold a round-table discussion
with LDS church officials to discuss their support for it.

"If they are really concerned about supporting marriage and families, there
are many other things that are a threat to marriage and families," said the
Rev. Ed Hansen, pastor of the Hollywood United Methodist Church.

"That includes wages too low to enable both parents to be home as much as
they need to be. It includes a lack of good child care, a lack of a support
system for troubled families and many others," he said. "Why spend all this
time and money to support an initiative that does literally nothing?"
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Doomsday Calendar

16. Family maintains millennium doomwatch
The Guardian (England), Jan. 5, 2000
(...) Yesterday, as utilities functioned normally and the stock market got
back to work with no apparent problems, the family admitted their worst fears
had not been realised. But Mrs Perron said she would not be fully confident
the world had been spared millennial chaos until April.

Although the Perrons were the first British family to head for the hills, in
the States survivalists had been heading for the mountains of Montana since
the mid 80s. In various locations across Scotland, other families also sought
refuge from the millennium bug.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Feeling doomless? Try this
Montreal Gazette, Jan. 4, 2000 (Column)
[End-time predictions]
(...) It's still a good year. Check out the some of the prophesies on
about.com. On April 4, according to a prophet named Ola Ilori, the Jewish
Jubilee Year will end resulting in the Rapture and that pole-shift thing
people are talking about (which could put the South Pole somewhere around
South America).

And let's not forget that on May 5, the planets will be in relative
alignment, resulting in earthquakes, tidal waves, erupting volcanoes and the
shifting of ice caps! Yay!

And check this out. If you're in Japan, New York or Connecticut, you're
really in luck because, according to Edgar Cayce, sometime about now, those
regions are all going to be submerged into the sea! If the tribulation is
more up your alley, Marilyn J. Agee, who hails from a site called the Bible
Prophecy Corner, has set July 10 as the date.

The second coming has been reset for Sept. 21 by someone named Daniel Miller,
and the end of the world has been put back to Rosh Hashanah, which is Sept.
29, thanks to one Jim Searcy. There are more. Check 'em out

[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== "Attleboro Cult"

18. New search fails to find missing boys
Boston.com/AP, Jan. 5, 2000
A two-day search for a 10-month old boy and his newborn cousin who
disappeared from a Christian sect in Attleboro failed to turn up new
evidence, an official said Wednesday.

Authorities believe 10-month-old Samuel Robidoux died of malnutrition and his
body was buried. They are also investigating whether his cousin, Jeremiah
Corneau, believed to be stillborn, was also buried.

The boys' parents are members of a strict Christian sect that rejects
doctors, schools and outsiders. The group frequented a farmhouse in Seekonk
about a half-mile from the site of the search.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Ex-cult member helping officials in search for boys
Boston Herald, Jan. 6, 2000
An ex-member of an Attleboro religious cult is working with frustrated
investigators searching for the remains of two boys allegedly buried by the

Mingo, who sources say has been deprogrammed since fleeing the cult earlier
this year, left with his five children while his wife, Michelle Mingo, stayed
with the group.

Mingo was to appear in Taunton District Court today to request an extension
of a restraining order he took out against 13 members, including his wife,
who he claims have been spying on him and his children.

Samuel, the son of 26-year-old cult leader Jacques Robidoux and his wife,
Karen, 24, allegedly wouldn't breast-feed and starved to death because the
group believed it was "God's will'' the child die.

The Christian fundamentalist group shuns doctors, home schools their children
and isolates themselves from society.

Jacques Robidoux has been behind bars for the past two months for refusing to
talk to investigators, while his wife was set free after invoking her Fifth
Amendment right against self-incrimination.

This week's excavation follows previous unsuccessful searches at cult
members' homes in Attleboro and Seekonk, as well as sections of Maine's
enormous Baxter State Park, which cult members traveled to in October.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

20. Inquiry sheds light on the life of a 'queen'
St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 6, 2000
According to "Queen Shahmia," the woman who says she's God's daughter and
Christ's sister, her troubles are the result of religious discrimination.

The police beg to differ. The self-proclaimed queen, also known as Richell
Denise Bradshaw, says she'll stay in Fort Myers until criminal charges
against her three manservants are resolved and her group's eight children are

The three men are in jail, charged with robbing five Fort Myers businesses
over the weekend and suspected of at least a dozen recent robberies around
St. Petersburg and Bradenton. The traveling religious group was staying at a
St. Pete Beach resort as recently as a week ago.

The children, ranging in age from infancy to 13, are in the custody of
child-welfare officials who want to know whether they've been brainwashed
into believing "Shahmia" is a deity.

Fort Myers-area police say the children would bow down before Bradshaw, feed
her peeled fruit, rub her feet with lotion and carry a Persian rug and pillow
for her. Lee County Sheriff John McDougall likened it to "child slavery."

A judge ruled Tuesday that the eight children will stay in foster care at
least two weeks. After that hearing, Bradshaw said her group was facing
religious discrimination. Bradshaw says she talks to God daily and her
followers should be likened to Christ's disciples. She says she was born in
Denver, but her lineage can be traced to the Asaba tribe of Nigeria, where
she's considered royalty.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. Indian Sect Leader Omkarananda Dies
AOL /AP, Jan 6, 2000
Swami Omkarananda, a Hindu monk and sect leader who was imprisoned in
Switzerland for attempted murder, is dead. He was 70. Omkarananda died of
the flu on Tuesday at his home near Bregenz, Austria, Erhard Finger, a
spokesman for the Divine Light Center in Winterthur said Thursday.

Born in India, Omkarananda left home at 16 to study in a Himalayan retreat.
He moved to Switzerland in the 1960s and founded the center for meditation
and study in 1966.

But relations between the Divine Light Center and its neighbors were rocky
and in 1975 followers of Omkarananda were accused of being behind a bomb
attack at the home of Jakob Stucki, a lawmaker and Zurich police chief.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. 100 People Injured In Religious Dispute In S Korea
Yahoo! Asia/Dow Jones, Jan. 6, 2000
More than 100 people were injured during a clash between rival factions of an
indigenous religious cult of South Korea in a leadership dispute.

The clash occurred when some 2,000 members of Daesoon Jinri Hoe tried to
enter their headquarters in Yoju, south of Seoul, before dawn Thursday.

The cult was founded in the 19th century by a Korean man named Kang Jung-san
who called himself a messiah. It is a mixture of various religions and
Confucianism. It now claims about 1 million followers. Believers say the
majority of the world's population will be wiped out by a plague while
believers will create a heaven on earth.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. O'Hair case statements inconsistent
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 5, 2000
Gary P. Karr gave authorities two statements shortly after his arrest last
year that contradict FBI testimony concerning his role in the 1995
disappearance of noted American atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her son and
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Authorities break up psychic fraud scam
Star-Telegram, Jan. 5, 2000
[URL removed because it currently refers to inappropriate content]/news/doc/1047/1:METRO31/1:METRO310105100.html
(...) Gross is one of at least 22 victims from across the country who were
cheated out of more than $300,000 by seven area residents claiming to be
psychics, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Schattman said. Such scams flourish
across the country, but these cases are unusual because all of the defendants
were members of two Fort Worth-Dallas families.

After a four-year investigation, five women and two men have been convicted
in separate cases involving psychic fraud. Six have been sentenced.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. UFOs lure Japanese TV firm
BBC, Jan. 4, 2000
Cynics could be forgiven for attributing the high incidence of UFO sightings
in Scotland to the country's reputed fondness for a drop of the hard stuff.
But a Japanese TV company is hoping to prove there is more to the mysteries
of the Scottish skies.

The unnamed firm is to train a camera on the East Lothian sky for six months
this coming summer. The camera will run 24 hours a day, every day, in the
hope of picking up extra-terrestrial spacecraft.

Berwick Law and Traprain Law, two extinct volcanoes which rise dramatically
from the flat land on the south bank of the Firth of Forth, have gained a
reputation among UFO enthusiasts.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Fonda becomes born-again Christian
Split with Ted has spiritual roots, say friends
WorldNetDaily, Jan. 6, 2000
The separation between media mogul Ted Turner and his wife, Jane Fonda, was
prompted in part by Fonda's stunning embrace of "born-again" evangelical
, sources close to the couple tell WorldNetDaily.

The split was announced yesterday in a statement, which indicated the couple
remains "committed to the long-term success of our marriage." The two have
been married since Dec. 21, 1991.

Friends say the path of Fonda's spiritual conversion began two years ago when
her chauffeur began witnessing to the actress about his faith in Jesus
Christ. At first, Fonda was reportedly troubled by those conversations.
Later, she began to welcome them and attend church with her chauffeur.

"Her faith is very real, very deep," said one insider. "Of course, with any
celebrity conversion, the pressures can be enormous, But she is serious about
her faith and regularly attends Bible study and church."

The idea of radical political activist Jane Fonda embracing Christianity is
sure to create a stir. Fonda has been a high-profile political target because
of her open support in the 1970s of Communist North Vietnam. She has been an
outspoken supporter of abortion on demand, and Turner once attacked
Christianity as a "religion for losers."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Pastor told to vacate church
The Birmingham News, Jan. 5, 2000
A judge has ordered a controversial pastor accused of recruiting
pro-secession Southerners to his Sumter County congregation to vacate the

The ruling filed Wednesday by Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway of Livingston
gives control of the York Presbyterian Church building and the church's bank
accounts to a veteran group of church members that split with the Rev. Martin
Murphy and his followers. A leader of the old guard said they plan to hold
services in the church Sunday.

The bitter dispute revolves around Murphy's past affiliation with the League
of the South, a national organization based in Tuscaloosa that supports a
peaceful secession of the Southern states from the Union. The group also says
it supports Southern culture and Christian values.

Although Murphy, who has preached at the church seven years, has resigned
from the league, his critics say he has turned the 120-year-old institution
into a platform for the group. Many of the church's newer members hold
offices with the league.

In September, the Tennessee-Alabama Associated Reform Presbytery removed
Murphy as pastor of York Presbyterian. The vote also dismissed the church
from the organization.

But the next day, the pastor's supporters voted to keep him anyway - a
decision challenged by the old guard. Both sides claim a majority of the
church's membership.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Minister who hired hit man gets slightly longer prison term
Naples News, Jan. 5, 2000
A former radio evangelist convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his lover's
ex-husband was resentenced Tuesday to a slightly longer term after an
appellate court ruled the original four-year sentence was too lenient.

George Crossley, 60, must now spend more than five years in prison after a
judge added a year and two months to the original sentence. He must also
serve three years of probation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Rifts creator doubts game inspired murder plot
National Post, Jan. 5, 2000
The creator of a popular fantasy role-playing game says he doubts that his
futuristic battle scenarios could have inspired three Brockville youths to
plot to kill a police officer on the eve of the millennium.

The three were allegedly plotting to kill a Brockville police officer during
the city's New Year's Eve celebrations, steal a police cruiser and embark on
a cross-border robbery spree. The accused, who made a brief court appearance
yesterday for a bail hearing, have been charged with conspiracy to commit
murder. Mr. Williams and Mr. Langlands also face charges of conspiring to
commit bodily harm.

Mr. Langlands' mother, Wendy Langlands, told a local newspaper that she
believes police have mistaken a harmless fantasy game for something sinister.

She added that the two citizens who alerted police overreacted. The two
overheard conversations between the young men -- one picked up by a cellphone

The Michigan man behind the Rifts empire said he fails to understand how
anyone could pervert his game into an imaginary exercise that would involve
killing a police officer.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. The quiet practice of Buddhism grows as people seek to satisfy their
spiritual hunger
Star-Telegram/Orange County Register, Jan. 5, 2000
(...) More and more Americans are lighting incense and sitting in zazen,
especially in Southern California, where increasing numbers of
Internet-cruising, cell phone-toting, world-weary people are finding the
peace they seek in the quiet practice of Buddhism.

Buddhism and Zen, once seen as foreign and cult-like, draw followers who may
risk scorn from friends and family as they question their own Christian

Many use Buddhism, which emphasizes the mind, to gird their own traditional
religious practice.

Buddhism by design has no hierarchy, so few numbers are available. But signs
of growth are clear:

--The number of English-language Buddhist teaching centers nationwide has
grown from 429 to more than 1,166 in the past decade. New York-based Tricycle
has grown from 5,000 readers in 1991 to 65,000 today. The number of
practicing Buddhists is small compared with other religions, but sociologists
estimate that as many as 1 million Americans who grew up Jewish or Christian
use Buddhist practices.

--Hsi Lai Temple, in Hacienda Heights, Calif., draws predominantly
Chinese-speaking people, but classes in English have grown from six in 1997
to 100 today. The Zen Center of Orange County in Costa Mesa has grown every
year since it was established in 1995, and the largely Japanese-American
Orange County Buddhist Church adds Western worshippers every year.

Certainly, a rash of celebrity Buddhists, such as actor Richard Gere, have
helped place the religion in Americans' field of vision. Newly practicing
Buddhists say they crave community and inner peace and are reaching for
spirituality that's new to them.

Many are stirred by Buddhism's insistence that individuals are responsible
for their own bliss. "People talk about dysfunctional families or
victimization; that won't work with Buddhism," Wheeler-Gibb said. "People
find it tremendously empowering, knowing they themselves are responsible."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Aberrant Christian Movements

31. It is heaven to be rich
BBC, Jan. 4, 2000
[prosperity teaching]
At Miami's Metro Life Worship Centre, the disciples do not have the slightest
qualm about asking for a piece of the action. The idea that the poor and
meek would inherit the earth is scorned.

The band whips the congregation into the right mood to hear Pastor Steve
Alessi's message: "Show me the money." He tells his congregation: "I know
that some of you in the house are not millionaires just yet. I said 'just

Pastor Alessi has been called the prophet of profit. He is more Mr Motivator
than missionary.

The Gospel according to Pastor Alessi dictates that before God can show you
the money, you have to put your hand in your pocket.

The philosophy is unremitting: the more seeds you plant, the bigger the
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Interfaith

32. As sun sets, spirit of unity dawns
Chicago Tribune, Jan. 6, 2000
(...) This was interfaith exploration as it goes in the Chicago area in the
Christian year 2000 and the Muslim year 1420--not an effort to erase
differences, but to observe them respectfully.

"For sure, we have our differences," Talal Sunbulli, chairman of the Council
of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said Tuesday evening. "I am not
going to minimize them. Nobody would. But there are so many things we can
work on together."

In that spirit, Catholics and Muslims seized a double occasion Tuesday--the
Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Christian millennium--to spotlight an
effort to build understanding between the faiths.

"The dialogue between Christians and Muslims promises to be the most
significant conversation as we look to the future of the human race," said
Cardinal Francis George, who has made several similar overtures since
becoming Chicago's Catholic leader in 1997.

Ultimately, leaders of both faiths say, they hope the talk of ideas can yield
tangible results. Already, there are plans to send Catholic and Muslim
teachers, paired, into each faith's schools. And Kareem Irfan, a spokesman
for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said the group
is working on a pamphlet spotlighting the faiths' similarities. Muslims
consider the messages of the Bible to be precursors to revelations delivered
to the Muslim prophet Muhammad, enshrined in the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

The Islamic council estimates that the Chicago area has at least 500,000
Muslims, making Islam the most prevalent religion after Christianity.