Apologetics Index: Information about cults, sects, movements, doctrines, apologetics and counter-cult ministry.  Also: daily religion news, articles on Christian life and ministry, editorials, daily cartoon.
News about cults, sects, and alternative religions
An Apologetics Index research resource

 

Religion News Report

Religion News Report - January 27, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 160)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. ATF, military deny shots in final Waco siege
2. Prosecutor in Waco to resign
3. Attorneys say they acted in good faith in Davidian case
4. FBI employees: Video shows 'glint' not gunfire

=== Aum Shinrikyo / Aleph
5. Victims of Japan Cult Gassing Hide
6. Panel likely to approve Aum watch
7. Security commission planning to apply anti-Aum law
8. Abduction spurs fears about cult
9. Japan Cops Raid Cult Facilities
10. AUM exec busted for bank threat
11. Board of education refuses to send Aum child school enrollment notice

=== Kaeda-Juku
12. Cult boss likely denied aid to boy

=== Falun Gong
13. Sect man dies in custody
14. Another sect member dies in custody
15. Priority given to clamp on cult

=== Karmapa
16. Teenage lama 'unlikely to return to Tibet'

=== Mormonism
17. LDS Church Can Join Main Street Lawsuit

=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes
18. FBI Watches for Rudolph in N.Carolina Mountains
19. Hate site distorts King's dream
20. Turkey in shock over the torture death of woman

=== Wicca / Neo-Paganism
21. World Pagan Leaders Call for Papal Apology

=== God's Army
22. Twins' mystique a reflection of a superstitious people in crisis
23. Inside Myanmar's ‘God's Army'

=== Other News
24. Doomsday cult leader arrested (Heaven's Gathering)
25. Diseases, not 'ring of fire,' descend on cultists (Romano Kotoliko)
26. No charges for false prophet (Friends of the Eucharist)
27. Man arrested in cemetery vandalism

=== Controversial Christian Movements
28. Struck by 'Golden Miracles'
29. Bakker is interested in reviving former PTL site
30. Jim Bakker, 'Born Again' (Larry King Live transcript)

=== UFOs
31. Recent UFO sightings in area lack credibility to scientists

=== Noted
32. Salon.com: Got God?


=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. ATF, military deny shots in final Waco siege
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 26, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/22529_WACO26.html
Government lawyers formally denied Tuesday that anyone in federal law
enforcement or the U.S. military shot at the Branch Davidian compound at the
end of the deadly 1993 siege.

Their four-page federal court filing, including sworn statements by Defense
Department and U.S. Treasury Department lawyers, came a week after lawyers
for the Branch Davidians complained to a federal judge in Waco about the
government's refusal to answer that key question.

Treasury lawyers, writing on behalf of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms, stated that no one under the agency's supervision or control
shot at the sect's building on the last day of the 51-day standoff.

A separate Department of Defense statement said that no one from the military
or under its control fired that day "based on currently available
information."

The issue is central to an ongoing wrongful-death lawsuit filed in Waco by
surviving members of the sect and families of Branch Davidians who died on
April 19.
(...)

Under federal civil court rules, government lawyers were supposed to respond
under oath months ago to questions about gunfire and other issues raised by
lawyers to the sect.

But while the government filed a pleading in September stating that no one
from the FBI or under its control shot guns at the compound, its lawyers
failed to produce similar sworn statements from the Defense Department and
Treasury until sect lawyers complained to the court last week.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


2. Prosecutor in Waco to resign
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 25, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/22042_WACO25.html
Veteran federal prosecutor Bill Johnston says he is quitting the Justice
Department, a move that comes five months after he warned Attorney General
Janet Reno of a possible cover-up of key information on government actions in
the 1993 Branch Davidian siege.
(...)

He said he was not being forced out and was not leaving as an act of protest
but needed "a breather" after almost two decades of prosecuting state and
federal cases. He acknowledged that the strain of the last six months, a
period in which federal colleagues outside Waco have ostracized him, was a
major reason behind his decision to leave the office he opened for the
Justice Department in 1987.
(...)

Friends, colleagues and even some government critics say they believe that
Mr. Johnston, a Dallas native and second-generation prosecutor, is trying to
be gracious about leaving a job that he had intended to make his career.

Congressional investigators also expressed regret Tuesday for Mr. Johnston's
decision.

"Bill Johnston has given the Congress his full cooperation. We have a very
high regard for him," said Kevin Binger, chief of staff for the House
Government Reform Committee, which called Mr. Johnston as a witness in 1995
hearings and sent investigators to talk with him again last fall when the
committee began a new inquiry.

"It's a shame that good people who feel strongly about public service no
longer feel comfortable in this Justice Department," Mr. Binger said.
(...)

Mr. Johnston went public in late August, shortly after warning Ms. Reno that
she had been misled about the use of pyrotechnics in Waco. He said he felt
compelled to speak out after being shown 6-year-old documents documenting how
FBI agents fired at least two military gas grenades capable of sparking
fires.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


3. Attorneys say they acted in good faith in Davidian case
Star-Telegram, Jan. 25, 2000
[URL removed because it currently refers to inappropriate content]/news/doc/1047/1:STATE22/1:STATE220125100.html
Government attorneys say that they acted in good faith in turning over
documents in the Branch Davidian civil suit and that a Waco court shouldn't
penalize them.

In a filing yesterday in federal court, Justice Department attorney Marie
Louise Hagen said the government opposes a $50,000 sanction requested by
lawyers for surviving Branch Davidians who have sued the government for
wrongful death.

She said plaintiffs' attorneys caused part of the delay in turning over
evidence by insisting on taking 24 depositions in December, which took
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* (...)
But Mr. Caddell said he plans to tell the court that the "three-quarters"
of the government documents sent to his office arrived late. He had filed
an earlier motion seeking sanctions and $50,000 in fines, telling Judge
Smith that even before the Jan. 15 deadline, he feared a last-minute
"dump" of records.

"I think that the arguments that our depositions interfered is also a
significant misrepresentation to the court," he said. "That didn't have
anything to do with their failure to produce. They continue to lie to the
court."
- ATF, military deny shots in final Waco siege
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 26, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/22529_WACO26.html


4. FBI employees: Video shows 'glint' not gunfire
Waco Tribune-Herald, Jan. 24, 2000
http://www.accesswaco.com/auto/feed/news/local/2000/01/24/948775839.08003.1122.0076.html
Although most admit never seeing as many multiple flashes before, FBI agents
and technicians are adamant that the flashes seen on an infrared video of
Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993, are "glint" and not gunfire, according to
depositions for the upcoming wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the
government by surviving Branch Davidians.

The Tribune-Herald reviewed the depositions of 20 FBI employees, including
technicians, pilots and Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) operators. None of
the FBI employees were members of the Hostage Rescue Team, the tactical unit
accused by some critics of firing shots at the Davidians on the final day of
the 51-day siege, which ended in a fire that led to the deaths of David
Koresh and 75 followers.

FBI employee No. 15 — the identities of the agents are sealed on the order of
U.S. Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco — testified during his deposition that
he reviewed at least 10 FLIR tapes looking for flashes similar to those on
the Waco FLIR tape.

He told plaintiffs' attorney Mike Caddell of Houston that he found examples
of flashes on other FLIR tapes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Aum Shinrikyo / Aleph

5. Victims of Japan Cult Gassing Hide
AOL/AP, Jan. 25, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=2000012509380454
Most victims of the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing, in which members of a doomsday
cult have been convicted, hide the fact that they are victims for fear of
social stigma, their lawyers said Tuesday.

Victims of the sarin gassing by Aum Shinri Kyo, which has recently changed
its name to Aleph, are believed to number some 5,500. But only about 1,136
people have come forward to claim compensation, the lawyers said.

Sympathy for crime victims is hard to come by in relatively safe Japan, where
it is rare to see random attacks like the subway gassing that left 12 people
dead. The need for counseling, for example, is a relatively novel area in
this society, where conformity and social harmony are highly valued.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


6. Panel likely to approve Aum watch
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 26, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0126cr10.htm
The Public Security Examination Commission is expected to approve placing the
Aum Supreme Truth cult under supervision, as empowered by a law recently
passed to regulate dangerous organizations, government sources said Monday.

The commission considers it significant that Chizuo Matsumoto, 44, also known
as Shoko Asahara, still holds influence over the cult, which has changed its
name to Aleph, the sources said.
(...)

The commission plans to publish its decision to put the cult under
supervision in an official gazette early next month. It will determine the
period of supervision, which could last up to three years, and decide what
matters the cult should be obliged to report to security authorities.
(...)

In its Dec. 27 request to have the law applied to the cult, the agency
maintained that:

-- Matsumoto is still influencing cult activities.

-- The cult has not abandoned dogmas that condone murder.

-- The cult's organizational structure is effectively the same as that at the
times of the two sarin gas attacks and there is a danger that the cult
will commit indiscriminate mass murder again.

In its counterargument, the cult said:

-- Matsumoto has stepped down from his status as guru, representative and
organizer, and thus no longer holds sway over the organization.

-- The group has abandoned dogmas that could be interpreted as dangerous.

-- There is no danger of the cult committing indiscriminate mass murder.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


7. Security commission planning to apply anti-Aum law
Asahi News (Japan), Jan. 25, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/enews/enews.html#enews_27401
(...) On Monday, the commission discussed a session held last week to hear
Aum's reaction to a Public Security Investigation Agency request that the law
be applied to the cult. Most commission members said the request should be
granted and that it would be difficult to deny the danger of the cult, which
they considered still under Matsumoto's influence, the sources said.
(...)

The commission rejected Aum's insistence that authorities seeking to use the
law would have to provide detailed evidence that the cult still poses a
menace to the public.

In considering whether to apply the new law to Aum, the agency, which is
affiliated with the Justice Ministry, said that Aum was still a threat to
society. The cult denied that it posed a danger of indiscriminate mass
murder.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


8. Abduction spurs fears about cult
Asahi News (Japan), Jan. 27, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/enews/enews.html#enews_27428
The abduction of the son of Chizuo Matsumoto, a founder of Aum Shinrikyo, now
called Aleph, demonstrates the continuing danger of the cult, sources close
to the the Public Security Examination Commission said Wednesday.

The abduction has spurred the commission to use recently enacted legislation
to begin monitoring the cult's activities, the sources said.
(...)

The commission also believes that Aum, renamed as Aleph, is still under
Matsumoto's influence, citing the presence of note-taking cult members as his
trial, sources said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


9. Japan Cops Raid Cult Facilities
AOL/AP, Jan. 26, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=2000012609035731
Police on Wednesday raided four facilities of the doomsday cult accused in
the 1995 fatal gassing on Tokyo subways as part of an investigation into the
kidnapping of the former guru's son.

Several intruders suspected of being cult followers broke into a cult
facility last week and kidnapped the 7-year-old son of Shoko Asahara.
(...)

Police found the boy on Sunday. Three members of Aum Shinri Kyo, which has
changed its name to Aleph, were arrested in the kidnapping. The kidnapping
likely reflects brewing infighting in the cult centered on Asahara's
children, who are believed by followers to possess spiritual powers.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


10. AUM exec busted for bank threat
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 25, 2000
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news02.html
A top-ranking member of the doomsday cult formerly known as AUM Shinrikyo was
arrested Monday morning on suspicion of intimidating a bank.
(...)

Noda visited the Senju branch of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank in Adachi-ku last
Wednesday in order to open an account in the name of Aleph, the cult's new
name, the Metropolitan Police Department said.

After a clerk at the bank rejected his request, he threatened to cause
trouble for the bank by calling an ultrarightist group to launch a smear
campaign against it.
(...)

Even though Noda quit as the cult's No. 3 official late last year prior to
the enactment of the new anti-AUM law, he continued to wield enormous
influence over the cult's operations due to his position as chief accountant.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


11. Board of education refuses to send Aum child school enrollment notice
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 27, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0128so09.htm
The Tokigawamura Board of Education in Saitama Prefecture did not send
primary school admission notices to two 6-year-old twins who are the
daughters of the former leader and a former executive of the Aum Supreme
Truth cult
, it was learned Thursday.

The board is required by the School Education Law to send primary school
admission notices to all children of school age under its jurisdiction. The
board argued that the twin sisters of mother Hisako Ishii, 39, who is serving
time in prison, should be omitted from the school roll on the grounds that
local people's anti-Aum feelings and the education needs of others take
precedence over normal legal requirements.

The twin sisters, who are required to enter school this spring, are living in
a cult facility in Tokigawamura village. The Education Ministry said that it
is unprecedented for a board of education to fail to send school admission
notices to resident children whose parents want them to be enrolled in
school.
(...)

People in various parts of the country are organizing campaigns to keep
children of Aum members away from school, but this is the first time a board
of education refused to mail admission notices to cult members' children.
(...)

Journalist Shoko Egawa said it is essential for children of Aum members to
have a chance to enter society. "If we force Aum children to remain in the
cult and let them grow up there, it means we carry the problem of Aum into
the next century," she said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Kaeda-Juku

12. Cult boss likely denied aid to boy
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Jan. 25, 2000
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news04.html
The leader of a commune where the mummified bodies of two boys were found
here last week may have instructed a follower to deny medical attention to a
boy who became seriously ill in January 1998, police sources said Monday.
Police said that the commune, referred to as the Kaeda Cram School, called an
ambulance on Jan. 13 for a 6-year-old boy whom police believe was one of
those found dead last week.

The boy had begun convulsing due to a high fever. Once the paramedics
arrived, however, the commune refused to hand over the boy so that he could
be sent to a hospital.

Police said Junichiro Higashi, the 55-year-old head of the commune, may have
been responsible for the refusal, which possibly resulted in the boy's death.
Higashi was arrested last week on suspicion of abandoning the two bodies.
(...)

Investigators said Higashi has admitted that the boy died, but said, "I was
sending [the body] energy in order to revive it."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Falun Gong

13. Sect man dies in custody
Hong Kong Standard, Jan. 25, 2000
http://online.hkstandard.com/today/default.asp?PageType=afr2
A healthy Falun Gong follower has died in police custody in Guangzhou from
circulation and breathing failure while on a hunger strike.
(...)

Gao is believed to be the fourth member of the banned sect to have died
during the government crackdown in the past five months.
(...)

The latest criticism, a reprimand from the European Parliament, was flatly
rejected by Beijing yesterday.
(...)

Meanwhile, a top law official in Guangdong yesterday vowed to intensify the
crackdown on the sect.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


14. Another sect member dies in custody
Hong Kong Standard/DPA, Jan. 26, 2000
http://online.hkstandard.com/today/default.asp?PageType=ach3
One more adherent of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement died this month
while in police custody, a Hong Kong-based human rights monitoring group has
said.

Liu Zhilan, a female practitioner from Beijing's suburban Fangshan district,
was found dead in the basement boiler room of the local Zhoukoudian police
station on 14 January, the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic
Movement in China said.
(...)

She was sent back to Fangshan and ordered to do janitorial work at the police
station. She apparently was killed by poisonous coal gas while she rested in
the station's boiler room, the centre said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


15. Priority given to clamp on cult
Hong Kong Standard, Jan. 26, 2000
http://online.hkstandard.com/FulStory/20000126/ach0326A.htm
The crackdown on the Falun Gong sect was the top item on the Guangdong
procuratorate's annual working report.
(...)

It pledged ''to criticise, arrest and indict key members, organisers as well
others held responsible for the Falun Gong, who have committed criminal
offences''.
(...)

Mr Zhang pledged to continue the campaign against the Falun Gong's ''key and
stubborn members'' and to crack down on the ''criminal activities of the
devil cult''.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Karmapa

16. Teenage lama 'unlikely to return to Tibet'
ITN (England), Jan. 26, 2000
http://www.itn.co.uk/World/world20000126/012607w.htm
The teenage Tibetan Buddhist lama who fled to India is unlikely to return to
Tibet after he collects a sacred black crown and musical instruments - the
stated mission of his trip.
(...)

Hong Kong-based magazine Asiaweek reported details of the Karmapa's
meticulously planned eight-day flight across the snowy Himalayans to India in
its February 4 issue, including the opinion of exiles that he is unlikely to
return to Chinese-controlled Tibet.
(...)

The Dalai Lama appears not to have known about the Karmapa's trip until he
arrived in Dharamsala, Asiaweek said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Mormonism

17. LDS Church Can Join Main Street Lawsuit
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 26, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/2000/jan/01262000/utah/20695.htm
A federal judge will allow the LDS Church to intervene in the American Civil
Liberties Union's lawsuit challenging free-speech restrictions on a
church-owned block of Main Street.

Last month, ACLU attorney Stephen Clark tried to block The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints from joining the suit as a defendant, arguing
that Salt Lake City's attorneys could handle the constitutional challenge.
But Clark changed his mind after City Attorney Roger Cutler said he would not
mind the church joining and, in fact, welcomed the property owner to the
fight.

In April 1999, city leaders sold a block of Main Street between North Temple
and South Temple to the LDS Church in exchange for $8.1 million and 24-hour
access to the two acres. City and church attorneys together drafted rules of
decorum -- including no smoking, offensive speech or indecent dress -- for
the plaza that will replace the road in October.

Last November, the ACLU of Utah -- representing the First Unitarian Church,
Utahns for Fairness and Utah's National Organization for Women -- sued Salt
Lake City, challenging the rules for past, present and future protesters who
will not be able to picket or march on the block.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes

18. FBI Watches for Rudolph in N.Carolina Mountains
Yahoo/Reuters, Jan. 25, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20000125/ts/crime_fugitive_1.html
Nearly two years after Eric Robert Rudolph allegedly carried out the first
fatal U.S. abortion clinic bombing, federal agents are patiently laying in
wait for the suspected serial bomber in the rugged mountains near his western
North Carolina home.
(...)

Federal agents have even helped George Nordmann, the last person known to
have seen Rudolph alive, keep his battered pick-up truck running in hopes of
snaring their man. Six months after Rudolph disappeared, he emerged from a
mountain hideaway to buy provisions from the health food store owner and
borrowed his truck to haul them away.
(...)

Nordmann, 73, harbors a deep distrust of the federal government and its
motives in mounting such an extensive search for Rudolph. Nordmann says the
FBI originally came to search for Rudolph, but has remained to monitor local
religious and militia groups.

Rudolph was believed to be a follower of the late Nord Davis and Christian
Identity
, a white supremacist religion that denounces abortion and
homosexuality.

Davis' widow maintains a complex here where Davis established an Identity
militia, the Northpoint Tactical Teams, but has denied Rudolph could be
hiding there. ''The FBI chased Rudolph here, but stayed for surveillance,''
Nordmann said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


19. Hate site distorts King's dream
Excite/ZDNet News, Jan. 26, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/zd/000126/04/hate-site-distorts
It's a new tactic for white supremacist groups on the Net -- capitalizing on
the name of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to preach
bigotry and hatred to unsuspecting Web surfers.

MartinLutherKing.org appears to be a benign site dedicated to the life and
writings of the man who gave the famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the
1963 March on Washington. It's actually hosted by Stormfront.org, one of the
oldest and largest white supremacist sites on the Internet.

It appears to be a clear case of cybersquatting, but legal experts agree
there is little that can be done to return the name to the King family.
Unlike living celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Kenny Rogers, who have
recently filed lawsuits under the U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection
Act passed by Congress last November, Martin Luther King's name is not
protected because he is deceased.
(...)

Attempting to seize the domain through the Internet Corporation for Names and
Numbers (ICANN), the organization charged with overseeing the Internet, would
also be unsuccessful, according to ICANN spokesperson Pam Brewster.
(...)

That's fine with the site's Webmaster, Vincent Breeding, who also owns
MLKing.org. Breeding, a former regional coordinator of the white supremacist
National Alliance organization and editor of the Nationalist News Agency,
claims the purpose of the site is to spread another point of view. He is
quick to point out that much of the information on the site comes from
declassified FBI documents.

During the 1960s, the FBI organized a smear campaign against King which has
been largely discredited.

Unlike Stormfront's Web site, which clearly identifies itself as a "White
Pride" site, the King site is designed specifically to mislead people into
thinking it's a legitimate research tool, something Breeding doesn't deny.
(...)

Meta tag information included in the site's source code, which is used by
search engines to categorize Web sites, lists words like "civil rights",
"Jesse Jackson", "Rosa Parks", and "NAACP" in an attempt to appear during
searches for those words. To some degree, the meta tags work.
(...)

Breeding says that, while search engines help, much of the site's traffic
comes from people directly typing the URL into their browser to see what's
there. It's that tactic that Breeding hopes to capitalize on in the future.
He says he plans to buy up other civil rights related domain names in
addition to tripling the size of the King site.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


20. Turkey in shock over the torture death of woman
Seattle Post-Intelligencer/New York Times, Jan. 26, 2000
http://www.seattlep-i.com/national/turk26.shtml
With Turkey in a state of shock over the discovery of dozens of savagely
tortured bodies beneath hide-outs of a religious terror group, much of the
outrage and grief has been focused on the case of the only female victim.
(...)

Her body was one of 33 that have been found so far at properties used by
Hezbollah, or the Party of God, a group dedicated to overthrowing the secular
Turkish state and establishing an Islamic republic in its place. Police
investigators are searching for more corpses.

Hezbollah is not believed to be connected to the similarly named group that
has fought against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Both groups,
however, proclaim loyalty to fundamentalist Islam.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Wicca / Neo-Paganism

21. World Pagan Leaders Call for Papal Apology
Pagans in Action/US Newswires, Jan. 24, 2000 (Press Release)
http://www.usnewswire.com/topnews/Current_Releases/0124-139.htm
Leaders of the international Pagan community have sent a letter to Pope John
Paul II calling for the inclusion of Pagans in the Vatican's upcoming
Millennial Apology for the Inquisition.

Leaders point to the two-millennia history of Roman Catholic oppression of
Pagan (i.e. indigenous nature-worshipping) peoples, including forced
conversions, desecration of sacred sites, perpetration of false propaganda
concerning Pagan beliefs and practices, and collaboration with the state in
persecuting and executing Pagans during the Inquisition.
(...)

Composed by an international committee of 25 members from 10 countries, the
letter represents an unprecedented cooperative effort among a wide variety of
Pagan religious traditions.

It contains 1,641 signatures, including 239 Pagan leaders, 91 Pagan
organizations, 14 Christian clergy, 41 academic scholars, and 1,256 other
members of the worldwide Pagan community, as well as non-Pagan supporters. 26
countries are represented.
(...)

For more information, including translations of the letter, complete list of
signatories, documentation of the Church's historical persecution of Pagans,
regional contacts, relevant news clippings, and frequently-asked questions,
see: http://www2.bc.edu/~lafond/Papal_Letters.htmOff-site Link, and
http://www.circlesanctuary.org/libertyOff-site Link.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* Among the signatories is cult apologist

Rev. J. Gordon Melton: Methodist; Institute for the Study of American
Religions (ISAR), Santa Barbara, CA


=== God's Army

22. Twins' mystique a reflection of a superstitious people in crisis
South China Morning Post, Jan. 25, 2000
http://www.scmp.com/News/Asia/Article/FullText_asp_ArticleID-20000125035914377.asp
God's Army has in recent years featured in the odd Thai Sunday newspaper
colour magazine as an exotic band of guerillas ruled by two 12-year-old
children.

True - up to a point. Two twin brothers - Luther and Johnny Htoo - do appear
to possess unusual power over the army's 100 to 200 fighters after what their
followers claim are uncanny tactical prophecies.

This is, in essence, merely a more flowery example of the deep superstition
that many hill people steep themselves in to try to cope with a difficult,
unpredictable and often irrational world.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


23. Inside Myanmars 'God's Army'
MSNBC/AP, Jan. 25, 2000
http://www.msnbc.com/news/361562.asp?cp1=1
The leaders of God's Army, 12-year-old twins Luther and Johnny Htoo, are
believed to offer their fighters divine protection in a crusade that blends
elements of the Old Testament with ''Lord of the Flies.''
(...)

Comprising perhaps 200 fighters, God's Army is the oddest of the dozens of
rebel groups that have battled Myanmar's government for autonomy since the
country gained independence in 1948, under the name Burma.
(...)

Followers believe the twins offer them divine protection in battle, keeping
bullets from hitting them and mines from exploding under their feet. Like
most Karens, God's Army rebels are Christians in a predominantly Buddhist
country. The twins have a fundamentalist bent, barring fighting, swearing,
drugs and alcohol.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Other News

24. Doomsday cult leader arrested
BBC News, Jan. 25, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/asia-pacific/newsid_618000/618064.stm
Real Audio report:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/615000/audio/_618064_woodxn.ram
The leader of a South Korean doomsday cult has been arrested after
allegations that he swindled nearly $90m from his followers by promising them
eternal life.

The man, Mo Haeng-Ryong, is said to have told them that the world would end
on 19 February, but that they would be spared if they donated money to build
a shrine where they would be able to strengthen their own mystical energy.
Prosecutors arrested Mr Mo, 66, and his wife as he was preparing to leave the
country. The police are looking for at least 10 other people.

Known as Chun Jon Hoe - Heaven's Gathering - the cult was based in Hongchun,
200km north-east of the capital, Seoul.

A BBC correspondent in Seoul, Andrew Wood, says South Korea is fertile ground
for religions new and old. It is the most Christian country on the mainland
of East Asia, with hundreds of new sects.

It is also well known as home of the Unification Church, whose followers are
often nicknamed Moonies, after the church's founder the Reverend Moon. Some
experts say there were up to 70 self- proclaimed Messiahs operating in
South Korea in the 1960s.

The authorities say that the Chun Jon Hoe movement has 100,000-150,000
members. It is said to incorporate traditional shamanistic thinking with
Confucion elements.
[...entire item...]


25. Diseases, not 'ring of fire,' descend on cultists
The Philippine Star, Jan. 26 2000
http://www.philstar.com/datedata/c26_jan26/gen22.htm
They left their homes as early as two years ago and joined hundreds of other
cultists here in digging up tunnels to save themselves from the "ring of
fire" the cult leader, Seferino Quinte, claimed would descend at the turn of
the new century.

But the ring of fire never came. Instead, illnesses struck them, for which
Quinte could offer no comfort. In fact, three members of the Romano Katoliko
cult died recently, among them a 12-year-old boy and Quinte's granddaughter
herself.

"The deaths have alarmed us at the local government," said Wilma Combate,
this town's information officer. Combate said they learned about the deaths
when the cultists failed to secure death certificates from the mayor's
office.
(...)

All three died inside Quinte's four-hectare property here where he and his
followers dug up tunnels since early 1997. The STAR learned that the cultists
never occupied the tunnels because no "ring of fire" came, as Quinte had
predicted.
(...)

Pededa's team found out that from an initial 120 families in the first week
of November, the cult has increased to 160 families, with many infants and
pre-schoolers. "There are many infants there," she said.
(...)

For his part, this town's mayor, James Arnold Ysidoro, said they have
extended support to the cultists after the reported deaths and outbreak of
diseases.

Ysidoro has requested the agriculture department to provide seedlings to the
cultists to help them start a "new life." "We don't want to neglect them," he
said. At least two deep wells have also been installed in the area.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


26. No charges for false prophet
Concord Monitor/The Keene Sentinel, Jan. 27, 2000
http://www.concordmonitor.com/stories/news/local/hds_prophet.shtml
Authorities say a man who claimed that thousands of blood-stained communion
wafers appeared miraculously in his home was a fraud - but that he apparently
committed no crimes.

Ronald O'Brien has gained thousands of followers and contributors since
September 1998, when he first began claiming that miracles were occurring in
his Victoria Street home. O'Brien has held numerous tours and gatherings at
his home. He claims his religious statues and paintings weep oily tears and
thousands of communion wafers, stained with the blood of Christ, have
appeared.

O'Brien's year-old organization, Friends of the Eucharist, reportedly has
received more than $100,000 in donations, prompting authorities to
investigate whether O'Brien committed the crime of theft by deception.

On Monday, the state police laboratory concluded in its report that the red
"blood" stains actually were dye. And The Keene Sentinel has reported that
O'Brien ordered thousands of communion wafers from two mail-order companies.

Despite that, Keene Police Sgt. Frederick Parsells said there is no evidence
that a crime was committed.

"People contributed money based on faith," Parsells said. "If I can't prove
that O'Brien did not believe that what he was presenting was the body and
blood of Christ, I'm without a case."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


27. Man arrested in cemetery vandalism; authorities call 22-year-old parolee a
devil worshipper
Star-Telegram, Jan. 24, 2000
[URL removed because it currently refers to inappropriate content]/news/doc/1047/1:METRO21A/1:METRO21A0124100.html
A 22-year-old Johnson County man who authorities say took part in vandalizing
the historic Caddo Cemetery this month was arrested early yesterday at a Fort
Worth home.

Charles "Chuck-Satan" Nealy Young, whom authorities say is a devil worshipper
known to wear a necklace with the insignia "666," was found inside a bedroom
closet at a home in the 6400 block of Trail Lake Drive. At the time of his
arrest, Young was carrying a knife and pepper spray, Johnson County Sheriff
Bob Alford said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Controversial Christian Movements

28. Struck by 'Golden Miracles'
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25, 2000
http://www.latimes.com/print/20000125/t000007947.html
In the heart of the Sacramento Valley, where 49ers flocked to mine a mother
lode of riches 150 years ago, Christian believers are proclaiming a new and
godly gold rush: The Holy Spirit, they claim, is miraculously transforming
porcelain crowns and silver fillings into gold
.

Never mind that they can't seem to prove it. Disregard the dental records
that contradict some of their claims. The reports of divine dentistry have
taken on a life of their own as they rapidly spread on the Internet and in
evangelical media, stirring up a frenzy of excitement through revival
churches in California and worldwide.
(...)

Here at the Family Christian Center, Pastor Rich Oliver draws back his lip
and displays a glittering gold crown he says God gave him in March. Actually,
dental records show his previous dentist put the crown in on April 29, 1991.
When confronted with those records, Oliver says: "I'd have to say I was
absolutely wrong . . . [but] none of it distracts from the fact that I know
God is a healer."

Nonetheless, Oliver touts his congregation's 'gold rush' on the Internet and
lines up other church members to witness about how God changed their
teeth--and lives.
(...)

Family Christian Center is the locus of an expanding California Revival
Network that, in the last two years, has attracted nearly 100 churches as
members. Co-pastors Rich and Lindy Oliver started the network after switching
to a revival focus in 1996; now, among other things, they run a school to
teach people how to minister in miracles.
(...)

The expanding use of miracle ministries, however, is also drawing fire. To
Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute in Rancho
Santa Margarita, the reports of gold teeth underscore the alarming depths to
which evangelical leaders have fallen in turning to supernatural phenomena to
overcome religious ennui and build congregations. He describes revivalist
practices with a choice list of withering phrases: from a "National Enquirer
gospel of cheap sensationalism" to "occult Christianity" to "two-bit,
sleight-of-hand, sleight-of-mind cons."
(...)

He argued that Christians need to "get back to the basics" of service to the
poor and needy, rather than dwell in exotica that open the faith to
skepticism and ridicule.

Indeed, the gold-teeth reports have already drawn the attention of Michael
Shermer
, president of the Skeptics Society, who dismisses them as a "classic
urban legend" and raises the pugnacious question: "Of all the things going
on--cancer, war, disease--God is busy changing fillings? That's the best he
can do?"
(...)

Three years ago, their spiritual lives were shaken when they ran into an old
friend just back from a long-running revival meeting in Pensacola, Fla. After
watching videos of people shaking, collapsing and reportedly being healed by
the Holy Spirit in Pensacola, the Olivers headed to Florida themselves. On
their return, they turned their ministry upside down.

Their new approach is apparent in their services, where they have radically
loosened the reins. During a recent visit, a rock band belted out a song
praising the virtues of "dancing undignified" for the Lord. The aisles were
filled with people boinging about like pogo sticks, barefoot, singing. Oliver
choreographed showy moves, first blowing a shofar, then brandishing a sword
to pray for his members to succeed as spiritual warriors.
(...)

Other Christians believe in some miracles but not reports of others. The
Anaheim-based Association of Vineyard Churches-USA, for instance, was
developed by a man, John Wimber, who preached that the key to church growth
was a ministry based on such miracles as physical healings and demon
expulsions. But reports of gold teeth and uncontrollable "holy laughter" have
no biblical basis, argued association president Todd Hunter.
(...)

Family Christian Center distributes documentation forms for the claimed
miracles, and has received about 80 back. But none of several cases referred
by senior associate pastor Don Quattlebum could be confirmed--either because
the claimants did not return phone calls, declined to speak or failed to
provide conclusive evidence.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


29. Bakker is interested in reviving former PTL site
Charlotte Observer, Jan. 26, 2000
http://www.charlotte.com/observer/local/pub/bakker0126.htm
Jim Bakker told a national TV audience Tuesday night that he wants to get
back on television and that under the right circumstances he'd like to help
reopen the PTL complex he once ran in Fort Mill, S.C.

Appearing for an hour on CNN's "Larry King Live," Bakker said he's working
with retired NFL star Reggie White on a 24-hour religious TV network.
Echoing comments he has made in sermons in churches around the country,
Bakker said he'd like to start a network that wouldn't have to raise money.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


30. Jim Bakker, 'Born Again'
Larry King Live, Jan. 25, 2000
http://cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0001/25/lkl.00.html
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM
AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(...)

Good evening. A great pleasure to welcome Jim Bakker back to LARRY KING LIVE.
He's got a forthcoming book coming soon called "The Refuge," one out now
called "The Coming Apocalypse." Mr. Bakker is actively back with us. It's
always good to see him again. And later his wife, Lori Beth Bakker, will be
joining us, as well.
(...)

BAKKER: And I believed in a prosperity gospel then. I really believed that
God...

KING: God wanted you to have money.

BAKKER: ... wanted everyone to be rich. Above all, God wanted you to prosper.
I quoted the scripture.

KING: What do you say when you see still a lot of that on Sunday morning in
America, by flicking a switch? "Send me this, and I'll send you a
gold-embossed Bible with your name on the back for an extra $37.50."

BAKKER: Yeah. I don't want to judge anybody, but my dream is that there could
be a network to help people. One of my big dreams is to do a live network
just there with people...
(...)

BAKKER: Totally different life. We live half the time -- in fact, the last
two years, we lived in the inner city most of the time.

KING: Now where?

BAKKER: And we're in Charlotte with -- we have a big, old house that Maureen
Starr Joiner (ph) has given to use to use, 17,000 square feet.
(...)

[Note: that's Morningstar's Rick Joyner - awh]

BAKKER: But, like the Bible says, "Joy comes in the morning." And it's a
place for restoration of pastors, people who have fallen, people who have
just...
(...)

KING: How do you explain a loving God and the Holocaust? Or you just say it's
man's will?

BAKKER: (...) I believe personally that every person who died in the
Holocaust is in heaven. This -- I can hear the people screaming out at me all
over...
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* Bakker, like countless other Christians, appears to be enamored with Rick
Joyner and his peculiar theology. I believe that if Bakker - who appears
to lacks the ability to discern between orthodoxy and heresy - succeeds in
putting another "Christian" network on the air, it will be as much of a
theological wasteland as the Trinity Broadcasting Network is.


=== UFOs

31. Recent UFO sightings in area lack credibility to scientists
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 25, 2000
http://www.stlnet.com/postnet/stories.nsf/ByDocId/AAA6FDCCF72810A586256871003E46AF
(...) McKenna and dozens of St. Louis-area residents have seen what they
thought was an alien spacecraft since the first UFO report Jan. 5 by a
Highland man and four police officers in the Metro East area.
(...)

Experts say movies and television shows such as "X-Files" have created a
culture in which people are quicker to suppose some unusual object in the sky
is an alien craft.
(...)

McKenna may have seen an extraterrestrial aircraft. But scientists say it was
more likely an episode of a "social-psychological phenomenon," in which
people believe they see a UFO because they are looking for one.

"I've often said that if anyone will spend one hour looking in the sky on a
clear night, he or she will see a UFO," said Phillip Klass, founder of the
Committee of the Scientific Investigations of Claims of the Paranormal, in
Washington.
(...)

"All its takes is one sighting report, and within days you will have
thousands more," said Robert Baker, a professor emeritus of psychology at the
University of Kentucky. "Everybody starts looking up in the sky and seeing
things, too."

This pattern is called a "social-psychological phenomenon," said Baker, who
has interviewed thousands of witnesses who claimed to have seen UFOs.
(...)

In a study of about 1,000 UFO sightings in the 1970s, the Center for UFO
Studies concluded that about 90 percent of the reports were actually stars,
planets, planes, meteors or the moon.
(...)

Excerpts from a seven-minute recording of the St. Clair County police
dispatcher talking to officers, beginning about 4:11 a.m. Jan. 5.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Noted

32. Got God?
Salon, Jan. 27, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/r/000127/11/net-salon
Money may be the root of all evil, but two religion start-ups are hoping to
make bundles of it -- and they may not need a loaves-and-fishes miracle to do
it.
(...)

The sites stand on different sides of the religious aisle -- Beliefnet is
multidenominational, iBelieve.com is evangelical Christian -- but both are
hoping to capitalize on the American culture's Puritan roots and current
interest in spirituality.
(...)

Most of iBelieve.com's products are drawn from FCS distributors, and they
range from books like "When Christ Comes" by Max Lucado to John 3:16
T-shirts. They recruit writers from churches and Christian magazines, Fite
says.

Beliefnet, on the other hand, has cast a wider net. Listing a half-dozen
religions, 50 contributing writers of all clerical cloths including some big
names like James Fallows and Andrew Greeley and stories that spin off of
mainstream news, the site aims to be a tent under which all religions can be
discussed.

"We want to be the America Online for the soul, the Yahoo for the internal
life," says co-founder Bob Nylen, a former CEO of the New England Monthly.
"We think we will be a powerful destination for people to find answers to
questions and goods to purchase."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top