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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - January 19, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 157)

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=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. Poison Gas Group in Japan Distances Itself From Guru
2. AUM blames Asahara
3. Aum admits Matsumoto may be linked to crimes
4. Victims skeptical of Aum's 'admission' of leader's guilt
5. Joyu says founder a god no more
6. Murderous sect changes name
7. Aum agrees to hand over 5 cult facilities / Aum: New law unconstitutional
8. Aum Cult's Joyu May Head New Religious Group, Sankei Says
9. Aum Cult to Use Believers' Salaries for Compensation, NHK Says
10. Up-to-date Aum Shinrikyo News

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
11. Government fails to meet evidence deadline in Branch Davidian case
12. Davidian lawyers demand answers in inquiry
13. Building on faith
14. Up-to-date Waco / Branch Davidians news

=== Zhong Gong
15. China jails qigong healer
16. China jails Qigong master, plans to widen crackdown

== Falun Gong
17. Security chief to continue blitz on sect

=== Tibet / Lamas
18. Dalai Lama Questions New Ordination
19. Control of Tibet a question of faith
20. Tibetan exile's CD of sacred chants released in UK

=== Scientology
21. Scientology Pied Piper making rounds of schools
22. Zwickau: CDU chief Seidel intends to sue Fliegerbauer

=== Mormonism
23. BYU Head Says Church Will Double by 2025

=== Other News
24. 'Queen' charged with commanding robberies
25. Deepak Chopra case gets its fourth judge
26. Quakers Lose Tax Fight Appeal
27. Quaker Vows to Withhold Taxes
28. God Channel is fined 20,000 for 'frightening' ad
29. Rabbi comes to Mick and Jerry's emotional rescue [Kabbalah]

=== UFOs
30. Alien notion: Unidentified object in Illinois grabs imaginations

=== Trends
31. Believers In God, if Not Church

=== The Believers Around The Corner
32. Ordinary Dutchman Is African King

=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. Poison Gas Group in Japan Distances Itself From Guru
New York Times, Jan. 19, 2000
The religious group responsible for a deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo
subway system in 1995 said for the first time today that its founder and
leader had probably been involved in the attack and that he would no longer
serve as the group's leader.

Distancing itself from the leader, Shoko Asahara, who is on trial on charges
of masterminding the sarin gas attack that killed 12 people and injured 5,000
others, the group, Aum Shinrikyo, said he was probably involved in other
crimes as well.

But it also said members would continue to follow his spiritual teachings.

"Although we cannot say for sure, since the trial is still going on, we have
come to a consensus that Asahara was likely involved in the series of crimes
he is charged with," the group's senior members said in a statement. "Asahara
is a genius in yoga and Buddhist meditation methods, and we will continue to
practice those methods inherited from him."

Many ordinary Japanese regarded the reorganization announced by the group
today as largely cosmetic and expressed skepticism that the group would be
any less dangerous. It was widely seen as trying to evade new legislation
that would allow the government to curb its activities.

While Mr. Joyu is widely seen as the de facto leader, the religious group
said today that its acting head, Tatsuko Muraoka, 49, would immediately
assume the leadership mantle.

Ms. Muraoka said in a statement today that the group considered Mr. Asahara
"a spiritual being" but that he no longer had the authority to give
directions to members. She said that all followers had been instructed to
abandon any dogma considered dangerous and that the group's main focus of
worship would be Buddhist deities. Ms. Muraoka said the new group would pose
"no threat to society."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. AUM blames Asahara
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 19, 2000
(...) The cult also said it has adopted a new name, "Aleph," to replace AUM
Shinrikyo. Cult members said that Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew
alphabet and the name represents a fresh beginning for the group.

Joyu went on to denounce the AUM crimes under Asahara, but praised the guru
as a "meditator supreme." Asahara is on trial for at least 17 major crimes,
including fatal sarin gas attacks in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture and in
Tokyo, as well as numerous murder charges.

Tatsuko Muraoka, deputy representative of AUM, said she would head the group
under the new name. "There will be no guru in the new group," Muraoka said
in the statement. "Asahara's position will be that of a 'spiritual being,'
but he is not going to be the absolute figure in our faith."

Muraoka stated that Aleph will base its religious practice on Asahara's
interpretation of ancient yoga, fundamental Buddhism and the Mahayana. An old
dogma that permitted murder and provided theoretical backings for crimes will
be ditched.

All current followers of the cult must sign an oath in line with the new

Muraoka said that the AUM executives pondered about dissolving the cult, but
decided against it because it would deny a means of providing compensation to
victims of AUM crimes.

Both Joyu and Muraoka offered their apologies to the victims.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Aum admits Matsumoto may be linked to crimes
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 19, 2000
(...) In a letter sent to the press under the name of its senior member,
Fumihiro Joyu, the cult apologized to the victims of the crimes and their

But a public safety official said, "It is a clumsy dodge coming before the
adoption of new (anti-Aum) laws and we don't see it as anything other than a
deception peculiar to Joyu."

In the letter, Muraoka also cites the following organizational and leadership
reforms. The religious organization will:

-- Change its name to Aleph with Muraoka as the new leader.

-- Demand that followers reapply for membership and sign declarations that
they will obey the law.

-- Completely review its branch activities.

-- Set up a new executive body comprised of members of various sections to
decentralize the power structure.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Victims skeptical of Aum's 'admission' of leader's guilt
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 19, 2000
Victims and bereaved families of victims of the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas
attack and other crimes allegedly perpetrated by the Aum Supreme Truth cult
reacted with skepticism to a cult admission that cult guru Chizuo Matsumoto,
also known as Shoko Asahara, possibly was involved in the crimes.

The Public Safety Investigation Agency was also skeptical about Aum's
motives, suspecting that the release of the document was a calculated measure
designed to sidestep a new law aimed at curtailing the cult's activities.

However, the cult has never denied its veneration of Matsumoto as a religious
icon at a press conference, something that has intensified the distrust in
the cult on the part of victims and their families.

Victims and families also said the document admitting the possibility of
Matsumoto's involvement was too little, too late, especially because it was
released in the name of Joyu, who has totally denied Aum's involvement in the

Public safety officials believe Aum decided to apologize to the victims and
offer them compensation because it had no other choice.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Joyu says founder a god no more
Asahi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 19, 2000
Fumihiro Joyu, Aum Shinrikyo's charismatic former spokesman, said Tuesday he
no longer considers cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto a god. In an interview
with Asahi Shimbun, Joyu said his mind is now independent of, but has not
parted with, Matsumoto, who is also known as Shoko Asahara.

However, Joyu still referred to Matsumoto as sonshi (holy guru), a title of

Q: Do you still believe in Matsumoto?
A: My feelings changed when I was imprisoned. We had considered
Asahara-sonshi a god because he was a savior according to the doctrines of
his prophecies. The prophecies should have become real in 1997 and 1999,
but we are now in 2000.

I no longer feel that I can rely on sonshi. That's why we can now make a
total reform.

Q: You call Matsumoto "sonshi.'' Have you really parted with him?
A: I have become independent, but have not parted with him. I call him
sonshi because I respect him as a meditator (and not as a god).

Q: Aum said the new organization will be operated by a board of about 10
members. Where do you fit in?
A: I will not be involved directly. My role will be to advise when consulted.
In the former Aum, those who were in the high religious stages had the
supreme authority and the absolute power. This may have been the
background of the crimes. So I want to provide a key to make the
organization more democratic.

Q: Considering your previous position in the cult, aren't you going to play a
virtual leadership role?
A: I returned my status of seitaishi (Aum's second-highest stage) as a symbol
of decentralizing power. It was not simply for show.

Now is not the time when we can seek something 'of sonshi, by sonshi, for
sonshi.' The new organization should not have its power concentrated in
one leader. It should be a group 'of us, by us, for us.'''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Murderous sect changes name
South China Morning Post, Jan. 19, 2000
(...) The first tentative steps towards helping victims came earlier this
week when the cult handed over five properties that housed followers across
the country.

The properties had been bought for 171 million yen (HK$12.65 million), but
cash raised from their sale would be insufficient for the 2,100 victims who
have demanded compensation for being poisoned or for losing a relative.

Since that morning in March 1995 when commuters heading to work were overcome
by sarin fumes, the maximum paid to any one person has been 750,000 yen. The
average payment for the thousands of victims has been only 10,000 yen. The
compensation paid has been very small," said Saburo Abe, a lawyer
administering Aum's bankruptcy.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Aum agrees to hand over 5 cult facilities / Aum: New law unconstitutional
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 18, 2000
Executives of the Aum Supreme Truth cult have expressed their willingness to
hand over five of its facilities to Saburo Abe, its bankruptcy administrator
and lawyer, in partial compliance with his request, it was learned Monday.
Abe plans to sell the facilities and use their proceeds to compensate Aum
victims and their families.

Abe had requested that Aum hand over nine facilities across the country.
However, the cult refused to give up four buildings, claiming that two
facilities in Shiga Prefecture were private property and unrelated to the
cult, and that two others in Gifu Prefecture were not under the cult's

In preparation for a hearing scheduled for Thursday, Aum on Monday issued a
written statement to the Public Security Examination Commission. In the
statement, the cult argues that a recently enacted law aimed to curtail its
activities is unconstitutional.

It added that the new law aimed at restricting the cult's activities is
unconstitutional and violates human rights.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Aum Cult's Joyu May Head New Religious Group, Sankei Says
AOL/Bloomberg, Jan. 18, 2000
Fumihiro Joyu, former spokesman of Japan's Aum Supreme Truth cult, may lead a
new religious organization excluding family members of Aum cult founder Shoko
Asahara, to avoid police monitoring under a law aimed at the cut, the Sankei
Newspaper reported, citing people close to the cult. The new organization
will exclude Asahara's six children, claiming they should bear responsibility
for a series of crimes, including the March 1995 Tokyo subway system nerve
gas attack.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Aum Cult to Use Believers' Salaries for Compensation, NHK Says
AOL/Bloomberg, Jan. 19, 2000
Aum Shinri Kyo, the doomsday cult behind the 1995 attack on Tokyo's subways,
said it plans to use the salaries of its believers to pay 30 million yen
($283,000) to 60 million annually to victims of the attack, NHK television
news said, citing a statement from the cult. The group, which is changing its
name to "Aleph,'' said it hopes to collect 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen from each
of its 500 believers every month.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Up-to-date Aum Shinrikyo News

For the latest news regarding Aum Shinrikyo, use these predefined searches:


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

11. Government fails to meet evidence deadline in Branch Davidian case
CNN/AP, Jan. 18, 2000
Government attorneys failed to meet a federal judge's Tuesday deadline to
turn over all evidence sought by relatives suing for wrongful death in the
Branch Davidian inferno.

U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford said although the government sent 50 boxes of
materials to plaintiffs' attorneys over the holiday weekend, an additional
2,500 pages of documents must be declassified before being sent.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Caddell said last week that he had "zero
sympathy" for the government's argument that it cannot meet court-imposed
deadlines because it has limited resources to cull through the requested

"There are over 9,000 lawyers in the Justice Department," he said. "They can
put as many lawyers on this project as they feel appropriate. If this were
something that were important to the Justice Department, they would man up
and get the job done."

Also Tuesday, Caddell filed a request for Smith to compel the government's
lawyers to answer more completely the question of whether any government
personnel -- military or civilian -- fired shots during the deadly siege's
final hours.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Davidian lawyers demand answers in inquiry
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 19, 2000
It is the key question in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death suit against
the federal government: Did anyone under U.S. control shoot at the sect's
compound during the fiery ending of the 1993 standoff?

Lawyers for the sect told a federal judge Tuesday that Justice Department
lawyers must be forced to provide complete written answers because they have
dodged the question for months, failing to make good on promises to fully

In a caustic five-page pleading, Mike Caddell of Houston, lead lawyer for the
sect, asked U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. to force the government
to provide complete sworn answers to his questions about government gunfire.

He argued that a full answer is even more crucial in light of recent sworn
admissions by two U.S. Army Delta Force technicians that a Delta colleague
trained in close-quarter combat could not be accounted for after the Branch
Davidian compound burned.

When asked late last summer in pleadings known as interrogatories whether
anyone from the government or under its control fired, Justice Department
lawyers responded that no one from the FBI or under FBI control shot on that

Only lawyers for the FBI provided signatures, as required by court rules,
swearing that the government's responses about gunfire were true, Mr. Caddell

He added that lawyers from the Defense Department, the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms and the Justice Department have failed to do so, despite
having sworn to the veracity of other government interrogatory responses.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Building on faith
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 16, 2000
(...) It's a new church. The Branch Davidians are rebuilding. More properly,
volunteers are rebuilding on behalf of the Davidians. Because only about 12
Davidians remain in the Waco area, and not all of them agree on how and where
the sect should worship, it's unclear exactly whom the church is designed to
serve. Still, every Sunday for the last three months people have driven to
Waco from around the state to offer lumber, labor and time.

Support has flagged recently. The volunteers originally planned to open the
church Feb. 28, the anniversary of the initial raid by the U.S. Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Weekly donations have dwindled to a few
hundred dollars from as much as $6,000 at the beginning, and the opening date
was pushed to April 19.

Among the minivans, Igloo coolers and children playing in the mud, there are
T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of machine guns and slogans such as "Death
to the New World Order." The Michigan Militia has donated about $500 to the

"There are a lot of people who don't want to see that church built," said
Charles Pace, who lives in a double-wide trailer on the northern end of the
property and was the first Davidian to move permanently to the site after
1993. He was not in Texas when the compound burned and, unlike most Waco
Davidians, does not consider himself a follower of David Koresh.

Amo Roden, who professes a brand of Davidianism different from Mr. Koresh's
followers, spends part of the year in a tent-shaped wooden shack near the
entrance to the property. She is in a property-ownership dispute with Clive
and Edna Doyle
, who live about 50 feet from Ms. Roden's shack.

None of the three people living on the property agrees about exactly how the
new church should be used. Ms. Roden said that if the courts grant her
ownership of the property, she would make the church into a "Davidian
Holocaust Museum." Mr. Doyle said he would use the church for Bible study.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Up-to-date Waco / Branch Davidians news

For the latest news regarding the Branch Davidians, use these predefined


=== Zhong Gong

15. China jails qigong healer
AOL/Reuters, Jan. 19, 2000
A Chinese court has sentenced a man who claimed healing powers similar to the
banned Falun Gong spiritual movement to two years in prison for practising
medicine without a licence, a court official said on Wednesday.

Chen Jinlong, leader of the Zhong Gong in the eastern coastal province on
Zhejiang, was convicted in Sanmen county court on January 10, the day he
turned 51, the official said by telephone. He has 10 days to appeal.

Zhong Gong is a form of qigong -- an array of meditation and breathing
exercises designed to harness energy in the human body and heal oneself or

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic
Movement in China said Chen's conviction was a sign the Communist Party was
prepared to label all qigong groups "evil cults.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. China jails Qigong master, plans to widen crackdown
Nando Times, Jan. 19, 2000
China's government is preparing to extend a crackdown on cults to another
popular health and meditation group, after a court sentenced one of the
group's leaders to two years in jail on charges of illegally practicing
medicine, a rights group said Wednesday.

Chen was the provincial organizer of Zhong Gong, a popular type of
traditional breathing, meditation and health exercises known as Qigong that
are practiced by millions of Chinese.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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== Falun Gong

17. Security chief to continue blitz on sect
South China Morning Post/AFP, Jan. 19, 2000
The top security official has vowed to push ahead with the crackdown on the
Falun Gong spiritual movement and to give priority to fighting official
corruption, state press reported yesterday.

"We will continue to deepen the work on ideological education of the
practitioners of Falun Gong and strike against, in accordance with law, the
key organisers and die-hard followers of the sect and the illegal criminal
activities of other sects," he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Tibet / Lamas

18. Dalai Lama Questions New Ordination
Washington Post/AP Stream, Jan. 18, 2000
The Reting Lama, an important monk in Tibetan Buddhism, has not yet been
reborn, and the 2-year-old boy installed by China cannot be the true
reincarnation, the Dalai Lama's office reported Tuesday.

The Dalai Lama told followers of the Reting Lama last month his mystical
powers of divination have produced no clues indicating that the soul of the
abbot has been reborn, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama said.

On Sunday, members of the Buddhist clergy ordained Soinam Puncog as the 7th
Reting Lama at a ceremony in Tibet's holiest shrine, the Jokhang Temple in
Lhasa. An official from the Chinese government attended, and a certificate
approving the ordination was issued.

The line of Reting Lamas traditionally has been recognized by the Dalai
Lamas, and in turn helps in the search for the incarnation of the Dalai
Lamas. By naming the 7th Reting Lama, Beijing would gain a key foothold in
the process of identifying a successor to the current 14th Dalai Lama, the
paramount Tibetan religious leader.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Control of Tibet a question of faith
South China Morning Post, Jan. 19, 2000
(...) When Beijing, just two days after one of its own appointed and
politically groomed reincarnations, the Karmapa, had fled to India, announced
that it had anointed the latest, seventh, Reting Lama, the announcement had
many scratching their heads and wondering just who the boy - born Soinam
Runcog - was a reincarnation of.

Despite having officially abolished the regency when it took over Tibet in
1950, Beijing always has a keen eye for historical precedent, and conceivably
a Beijing-groomed Reting Lama could be an asset when the inevitable happens
and the quest begins for an heir to the current Dalai Lama, particularly
given that the mainland's reserves of "politically correct" senior Tibetan
lamas are running low.

The importance of reincarnate lamas and whose side they are on is not to be
underestimated in Tibet. Prior to the Chinese invasion of 1950, Tibet was a
theocracy. Spiritual and economic power lay in the hands of reincarnate
lamas, the most powerful of whom was the Dalai Lama, who resided in the
soaring Potala Palace, the administrative seat of the U. Second in power, and
historically often a rival, was the Panchen Lama, who resided in Tashilhunpo
Monastery in Shigatse, administrative seat of Tsang. But there were many more
- around 3,000 - reincarnate lamas, or trulku as they are known in Tibetan,
most of them presiding over tiny village monasteries with no more than a
handful of monks in attendance.

The authority of such lamas can be traced through a lineage of rebirths back
to the founder of the monastery they preside over, an authority that is
guaranteed because the founder is believed to be a manifestation of a
Buddhist deity. The Dalai Lama, for example, is a reincarnation of
Avalokiteshvara, the boddhisattva of compassion; the Panchen Lama is a
manifestation of Manjushri, the boddhisattva of insight.

All of these reincarnate lamas were allied in one way or another with the
various orders of Tibetan Buddhism.

So the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama belong to historically opposed orders of
Tibetan Buddhism. The Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama belong to the same
Gelug order, but historically were often pitted against each other over turf
conflicts involving the regional power of Shigatse versus Lhasa.

But if Chinese rule since 1950 has achieved nothing else, it has forced
Tibetan religious leaders to unite to ensure the continued existence of
Tibetan culture, and one of the keys to that is maintaining the integrity of
reincarnation lineages.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. Tibetan exile's CD of sacred chants released in UK
News Wire (England), Jan. 19, 2000
The teenage Tibetan spiritual leader who crossed the Himalayas to join the
Dalai Lama in exile has become a recording star - after appearing in a
producer's dream.

Now his voice will be heard by Britons on a new CD, Sacred Buddha, to be
released in the UK next month. Composer and producer Sina Vodjani, a German
devotee of the Karmapa, says he made a pilgrimage to meet his idol in Tibet
after a dream in which the boy blessed his DAT recorder and said he would
help him make records.

Vdjani said: "I experienced the voice and the prayers of the Karmapa as a
true blessing. They possess an impressive power and they also touch one

Much of the proceeds from the sale of the recording will go towards a
Buddhist monastery building programme.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

21. Scientology Pied Piper making rounds of schools
Fraenkischer Tag (Germany), Jan. 19, 2000
Translation: CISAR
Extreme caution is advised for parents in Herzogenaurach and outlying areas
whose children are having problems in school. The Scientology organization is
trying to introduce the teachings of founder L. Ron Hubbard to children
through tutoring courses.

Therefore there was a continuing education class offered in Liebfrauenhaus on
Monday on the theme of "Scientology Structure, Goals and Influence in
Society," which discussed matters including how to deal with the dangers of
these front companies.

Ludwig Lanzhammer, sect commissioner of the Catholic city church in
Nuernberg, informed the approximately 140 participants of the names of the
companies who offered tutoring. One of them was the "HELP" institute (help
for training and learning problems) out of Fuerth, behind which in turn,
Lanzhammer said, stood the "ABLE" front company. The "Association for Better
Living and Education" was said to be managed by Andreas Weigmann, a jeweler
who is also from Fuerth and who has been a distinguished member of
Scientology for a long time, even if he disputes it.

Besides "HELP" and "ABLE" in the area of training, there are also "ASI"
(Applied Scholastics International), the "Elternverein zur Foerderung der
Anwendung der Studiertechnologie" (FAST) ["Parents Association to advance the
application of Study Technology"] and the "Zentrum fuer Individuelles und
Effektives Lernen" (ZIEL) ["Center for Individual and Effective Learning"].

Gerd Tauber, lead doctor of the Erlangen District Hospital, attempted to
explain how one comes into the clutches of Scientology from the
medical-psychological standpoint.

Dr. Juergen Keltsch from the Bavarian Interior State Ministry described
Scientologists' training as an "alteration of people through strict learning
drills. One is trained like a dog." He said that the person is made into a
machine, that that has to be justified in retrospect as the case may be, and
finally be made into a valuable final product by a "trainer." Books which
Hubbard himself wrote clearly show that Scientology has a "strong cybernetic

This was confirmed by a former Scientologist who was also a guest speaker,
but whom did not wish to be mentioned by name. Mr. Z. said he frequently
received strange telephone calls and saw someone going through his trash.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Scientology is trying the same approach elsewhere. I have the following
article available :

Scientology wants city's kids
NOW (Toronto, Canada), Dec. 10-16, 1998

22. Zwickau: CDU chief Seidel intends to sue Fliegerbauer
Freie Presse (Germany), Jan. 18, 2000
Translation: CISAR
CDU faction chairman in the Zwickau city council, Frank Seidel, was said to
be the "Julius Streicher from Zwickau, an irresponsible demagogue and
fascist": by making this comparison, Kurt Fliegerbauer, professed
Scientologist and business manager for Osterstein Castle Management
Association, has made for some unrest in the city and beyond. While Seidel
intends on suing the construction magnate, the CDU city association and the
regional association of Buendnis 90/The Greens reacted by sharply criticizing
this use of the Nazi comparison.

"By comparing a democratically elected city council with the worst,
anti-Semitic, Nazi Germany, the diligent Scientologist, as he calls himself,
is acting outside humane norms," Martin Boettger, spokesman for the regional
association of the Buendnis/Greens, rated the situation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Fliegerbauer's comparison is ironic. For one thing, Germany keeps tabs
on the Scientology organization in part because the country does not want
history to repeat itself by allowing the totalitarian organization free

* Further info:
http://cisar.org/000107d.htmOff-site Link

=== Mormonism

23. BYU Head Says Church Will Double by 2025
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 13, 2000
Brigham Young University President Merrill Bateman says the LDS Church will
double its missionary program and church membership in 25 years.

He said that by 2025, the number of missionaries converting people to the
Mormon faith will more than double, rising from about 60,000 to 125,000.

"The missionary program likely will be in every country with missionaries
teaching every kindred, tongue and people," Bateman said. "The key variable
which will determine the presence or absence of missionaries will be a
nation's policies regarding religious freedom."

Missionaries now proselytize in more than 150 countries. Bateman said church
membership, now estimated at 11 million people, could reach as high as 30
million -- and even more if China removes prohibitions against missionary

He said two other signs indicate the LDS Church is progressing in taking its
gospel to all corners of the Earth: the impact of its genealogy Web site and
a quickening pace of temple construction.

The Family Search Web site (www.familysearch.org), launched last May,
recorded 2 billion hits by the end of 1999, Bateman said. It is now getting
about 7 million hits per day. More than 300,000 people have downloaded a free
version of genealogy software from the site during the past few months.
He said that 5 million names have been added to the genealogy database, which
now contains 600 million names.

"Can you imagine the progress that will be made during the next 25 years as
members and non-members from almost every nation use the Internet to build
family files and to add to the names available for temple work?" Bateman

While it is linked to the LDS Church's Internet page, there is no notice on
the FamilySearch site advising genealogy hobbyists that names added to the
database may be used in temple work, including posthumous baptisms, which
Mormons believe give dead people a second chance to join the faith in the
spirit world.

The LDS Church will dedicate its 70th temple in Kona, Hawaii, Jan. 23-24.
Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley has vowed to have 100 temples,
designed on a smaller scale than previous buildings, operating by next year.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a pseudo-Christian

=== Other News

24. 'Queen' charged with commanding robberies
St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 19, 2000
The woman who calls herself Queen Shahmia told her followers last month that
God was angry with the skimpy donations they were collecting. She lowered the
boom on her servants: Take the money, don't ask for it politely anymore.

They obeyed and deposited cash -- sometimes as much as $1,000 daily -- and
stolen restaurant gift certificates into a red box that was kept on an altar
in the posh hotel rooms where the queen and her traveling group stayed.

That's the scenario investigators described Tuesday as they arrested the
33-year-old woman, whose real name is Richell Denise Bradshaw. She was
charged with five counts of being a principal to strong-arm robbery, meaning
that she knew of the crimes and benefitted from them. She was booked into the
Lee County Jail.

Within a month of what police said was Bradshaw's order to "take finances,"
four of her followers had been jailed on robbery charges. Eight children
traveling with the group were put in foster care.

Bradshaw said she never questioned the source of the offerings. But two of
the children now in foster care -- Elijah Ramirez, 13, and Michael Ramirez,
12 -- say otherwise. Elijah Ramirez was the group's "keeper of the
finances." Police said he told them the queen ordered her servants to steal
and that the money was to be used only for her pleasure.

In a telephone interview Tuesday from the Lee County Jail, Menendez admitted
to the robberies -- even the ones he hasn't been charged with -- but he
defended Queen Shahmia. She wasn't present during the robberies and shouldn't
be punished, he said.

He claimed they were ordered by God to steal. "I know that we plundered the
earth, but we plundered the earth with permission."

Relatives of Bradshaw's followers consider Bradshaw an unscrupulous cult
leader. They were excited that the self-proclaimed queen had been arrested.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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25. Deepak Chopra case gets its fourth judge
San Diego Union-Tribune, Jan. 19, 2000
The tortuous saga of a lawsuit between New Age writer and lecturer Deepak
Chopra and a former employee took another twist yesterday when an appellate
court justice was placed in charge of hearing the case.

Richard Huffman, a justice with the 4th District Court of Appeal, was
assigned to the case after Superior Court Judge John Einhorn became the third
judge to remove himself from presiding over the trial.

Chopra attorney Philip Stillman said he was pleased that Huffman would hear
the case. He has claimed in court that the FBI is investigating the way the
case has been handled by San Diego judges. However, a well-placed source said
no FBI investigation is under way.

Huffman briefly met with lawyers in the case yesterday and set a date of Feb.
22 for trial of a lawsuit in which Joyce Weaver, who worked for an
institution associated with Chopra, claimed she lost her job after she
complained of sexual harassment by one of Chopra's colleagues.

Chopra, who lives in La Jolla, is internationally known for his books and
lectures espousing his theories that awareness of the mind-body connection
can lead to healing and inner peace.

Weaver's lawsuit against Chopra was supposed to be heard by the same jury
that decided against Chopra in a lawsuit against Weaver. The jury rejected
Chopra's claim that Weaver tried to blackmail him by threatening to reveal
allegations that he had sex with a prostitute. Huffman dismissed that jury,
and a new one will be selected to hear Weaver's case.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Quakers Lose Tax Fight Appeal
Excite/AP, Jan. 18, 2000
The Supreme Court today rejected appeals by Quakers who say the Internal
Revenue Service violates their religious freedom by charging fees and
interest for delays in paying the portion of their federal tax that funds the

The justices, turning away arguments by three Religious Society of Friends
members from New England and Pennsylvania, let the tax agency impose the late
fees and interest in addition to the back taxes. The court, without comment,
let stand rulings that had gone against the Quakers.

Their appeals did not contest having to pay 100 percent of their tax bill
when the IRS forces their hand. Instead, the Quakers cited a "religious
hardship" and argued they should be able to pay the back taxes without any
penalties or interest.

In rejecting that argument, two federal appeals courts relied on a 1982
decision in which the Supreme Court said, "The tax system could not function
if denominations were allowed to challenge (it) because tax payments were
spent in a manner that violates their religious belief."

Gordon and Edith Browne have homes in New Hampshire and Vermont. Like other
Quakers, they refuse to participate in war-related activities.

Their appeal said that as a result of religious faith and study, the Brownes
"came to believe that they could no longer voluntarily pay that portion of
their federal income taxes which they determined was dedicated to war or
related to participation in war."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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27. Quaker Vows to Withhold Taxes
Fox News, Jan. 19, 2000
A Quaker who refuses to pay part of her taxes in protest of the government's
military activities is standing fast despite a Supreme Court rejection of her

"I'm deeply saddened that they aren't going to hear the case, but they needed
to look at other ways that I could pay taxes without contributing to war
efforts," Priscilla Adams said after Tuesday's court's action. "I will
continue to refuse to pay until the government stops using my money for the
purpose of killing people," she said.

Ms. Adams said she will not pay the taxes, even if her beliefs land her in

Her resolve is not uncommon, according to Quakers and members of the War
Resisters League, a New York-based pacifist group. They say the rulings
against Ms. Adams and the Brownes will do little to deter those who do not
pay. "If people hadn't refused to respond to the draft, there wouldn't be
conscientious objection statutes like there are now," said Ruth Benn, the
league's director. "Someone has to have the courage to stand up for what they
believe in. Until that happens, there won't be any opportunity for change."

Peggy Morscheck, director of the Quaker Information Center in Philadelphia,
said only a "very small" percentage of the nation's 92,000 Quakers withhold
portions of their taxes.

"There are many, many ways to act on the peace testimony, and a lot of folks
do not feel they can bear witness to that testimony through war-tax
resistance," Morscheck said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. God Channel is fined 20,000 for 'frightening' ad
Electronic Telegraph (England), Jan. 16, 2000
A religious broadcaster has been fined 20,000 after screening an
advertisement for an evangelical conference which said that evil forces had
seized political power in Europe and controlled the media and education.
The 30-minute "Christian Warfare" commercial, broadcast by the God Channel a
dozen times last year, described homosexuality as "an abomination", and
suggested that social problems were caused by a lack of Christian standards.
The Gateshead-based channel, which can be viewed on digital and satellite
television, is watched in an estimated 250,000 homes.

The Independent Television Commission, which monitors the output of private
channels, decided the commercial breached four rules of the advertising code.
The criticisms of abortion and divorce laws and a statement that "satanic
hordes have occupied the principal palaces of power in Europe" amounted to
political partiality, said the ITC.

It considered the statement that "demonic forces have engineered control of
every source of communication from media and education" was potentially
frightening for viewers and implications that homosexuals should not hold
high office prejudiced respect for human dignity.

Rory Alec, the managing director of the channel, which employs more than 100
staff, complained that its freedom of speech and religion were being
infringed. He said: "All we are doing is proclaiming the Bible."

But the ITC said the station had been given formal warnings for breaching
programme codes twice before - for on-screen fund-raising and for featuring
exorcisms. A spokeswoman said: "We're not saying they can't preach the Bible,
but theirs is not the only interpretation of the Scriptures."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Rory and Wendy Alec are founders of The Christian Channel Europe, Europe's
version of America's The Trinity Broadcasting Network (known to many as
The Blasphemy Channel due to its support for and dissemination of
countless aberrancies and heresies).

29. Rabbi comes to Mick and Jerry's emotional rescue
South China Morning Post, Jan. 19, 2000
Rolling Stone Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall have turned to a mystical Jewish
sect in a bid to patch up their failed marriage.

The couple, who divorced last summer but remain close friends, are said to be
visiting a London rabbi who is a practitioner of the trendy sect Kabbalah,
whose Hollywood followers include Madonna, Roseanne Arnold, Liz Taylor and
Courtney Love.

Its classes have been attended by Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Gwyneth
Paltrow and Jeff Goldblum. Teachings include a belief in reincarnation and
that nothing happens by accident.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== UFOs

30. Alien notion: Unidentified object in Illinois grabs imaginations
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jan. 18, 2000
(...) Four police officers on patrol in four rural towns all saw it. So did
at least one civilian. Each witness independently described the object the
same way. Each was baffled.

Southwestern Illinois, it seems, has a genuine UFO mystery to chew on.

"It's going to be a long while before we determine what went on that night,"
said Colm Kelleher, who studies UFOs at the National Institute for Discovery
Science in Las Vegas.

Folks here don't seem too taken with the mystery.

But the sightings have electrified UFO researchers nationwide.

A team of Las Vegas investigators led by a former FBI agent spent several
days interviewing witnesses here. And at the National UFO Reporting Center in
Seattle, director Peter Davenport calls the case "a UFOlogist's dream"
because the officers make "excellent to unimpeachable" witnesses.

Based on his interviews so far, Davenport says the UFO "clearly does not
appear to be compatible with any conventional terrestrial aircraft that we
know of."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Trends

31. Believers In God, if Not Church
Washington Post, Jan. 18, 2000
[Cafeteria Religion]
(...) Years of Catholic school never taught either of them how to "cope;"
indeed, they said, it only made them more neurotic. By now, "there isn't a
church in all of America I want to go to," said Joanne, setting out dinner
plates in her Burke living room.

So sometime in the last 10 years the Liveranis began to build their own
church, salvaging bits of their old religion they liked and chucking the
rest. The first to go were an angry, vengeful God and Hell--"That's just
something they say to scare you," Ed said. They kept Jesus, "because Jesus is
big on love."

From the local bookstore, in a bulging section called "Private Spirituality,"
they found wisdom in places they had never before searched, or even heard of:
In Zen masters, in New Age chestnuts such as "A Course in Miracles," in their
latest find, a bestseller called "Conversations With God."

Now they commune with a new God, a gentle twin of the one they grew up with.
He is wise but soft-spoken, cheers them up when they're sad, laughs at their
quirks. He is, most essentially, validating, like the greatest of friends.

Traditionalists worried the '60s might kill off God. Instead, the era seems
to have uncorked a free-floating ether of spirituality. Americans have
responded to the question on Time magazine's 1966 cover: "Is God Dead?" More
than 30 years later, a steady 95 percent of Americans say they believe in
God, more than in any other Western country. And they believe with urgency;
about half of all Americans think the nation is in the midst of a religious

But in the last decade or so, even as that revival spreads, many have stopped
believing so strongly in church. Seven in 10 Americans say they can be
religious without going to one, and every year fewer and fewer do. Since 1992
alone, church attendance is down 12 percent, according to the Barna group,
which tracks religious trends.

"In the new millennium, there will be a growing gap between personal
spirituality and religious institutions," write Richard Cimino and Don Lattin
in their new book, "Shopping for Faith," which is filled with portraits of
such home-brewed religions. "Spirituality and religious faith are
increasingly viewed as individual private matters with few ties to
congregation and community."

Publishers call the phenomenon "private spirituality." Beyond that, they
don't distinguish. New Age, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian--they're all on the
same bookstore shelf.

"It's an eclectic approach," said Lynn Garrett, who tracks religious books
for Publishers Weekly. "People borrow ideas from different traditions, then
add them to whatever religion they're used to. But they don't want anything
to do with organized religion."

Churches survive, obviously. But the ones that thrive do so by trying to tune
into this rootless questing and harness it, as advertisers tried to co-opt
the '60s counterculture. In a recent survey, according to Barna, six out of
10 pastors described their churches as "seeker-sensitive," meaning that they
are open to those who are still just looking and are not yet entrenched in
any belief.

For many churches, surviving means adopting some of the drifters' lingo.
These days, the strictest evangelical church overflows with 12-step classes.
Hidebound institutions bubble with self-help. Even religions imported by
waves of immigrants eventually succumb to the therapeutic fever.

At a school for Catholic priests in Omaha, seminarians learn to "discover the
feminine" as they meditate to cassettes of "Blowin' in the Wind." At a
synagogue in Washington, an Orthodox Jewish woman wonders why Isaac never
"communicated" with his dad. At a mosque outside Chicago, Muslim students
practice Native American meditation techniques to help them commune with

Americans write their own Bible. They fashion their own God, then talk
incessantly with Him. (Think here of President Clinton's possessive pronoun:
It's between me, my wife and "our" God.) More often than not, the God they
choose is more like a best friend who has endless time for their needs, no
matter how trivial.

Scholars call this "domesticating God," turning him into a social planner,
therapist or guardian angel.

"We've trivialized God," said Larry Crabb, a Christian psychologist and
popular author. "Most of these books assume God is the butler who serves you
for one reason," he says of the list of current bestsellers. "To give you a
happy life. We've turned Him into a divine Prozac."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== The Believers Around The Corner

32. Ordinary Dutchman Is African King
Excite/AP, Jan. 17, 2000
(...) Meet King Togbe Korsi Ferdinand Gakpetor II of Ghana. In Holland, the
king is Henk Otte, a Dutch construction worker on welfare. In West Africa, he
rules part of the lush Volta Region, home to tens of thousands of Ewes who
revere him as Togbe, or king.

Otte, 43, is as Dutch as the Dutch come, born and raised in Amsterdam like
his parents. He lives in an Amsterdam housing project with his wife and two
children, and an ordinary life would have suited him just fine. But, while
visiting the hometown of his Ghanaian-born wife in 1995, he was identified as
the reincarnation of the late chief, his wife's grandfather.

Now, when his brothers accompany him to Ghana, Otte is carried by
throne-bearers and surrounded by cheering crowds. Drummers pound and dancers
swirl in a surreal procession that has been shown on several Dutch television

Unlike the scores of foreigners, mostly aid workers, who have been named
"development chiefs" in Ghana and undergo a purely ceremonial coronation,
Otte's is a position with authority. He will undergo a traditional
installment ceremony on the fifth anniversary of his crowning this August, a
ritual that can last for weeks.

Otte doesn't believe in reincarnation, myths or spiritual healing. But over
the years, he has overcome his Western skepticism and now agrees with his
subjects that his appointment was predetermined by a higher being.