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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - Feb. 9, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 164)

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=== Aum Shinrikyo / Aleph
1. Inoue says Joyu knew about sarin gas production
2. Japan's doomsday sect launches court battle against crackdown
3. Tomita murder case opened at Shoko Asahara's trial
4. Keeping a sane head in use of new anti-Aum powers

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
5. Judge seeks final plan for Davidian field tests
6. Waco Protesters Greet Reno in Texas

=== Falun Gong
7. Security crushes Falun Gong rally
8. Sect man jailed for 12 years
9. Foreigners unaccounted for

=== Scientology
10. French official body slams US over sects
11. French report calls for dissolution of Church of Scientology
12. France urged to ban Scientology
13. Parisian Agency classifies Scientology as "totalitarian"
14. Church of Scientology demands retraction of report

=== Mormonism
15. New Structure Symbolizes Mormon Growth

=== Other News
16. Police try to unravel mummified kids case (Kaeda-Juku)
17. Ala. Religious Commune Investigated (Holyland)
18. Missing children reveals insular sect in Attleboro
19. No signs, no crosses: Prophecy is unfulfilled (Ronald "O'Brien" / Friends
of the Eucharist)
20. Human Skulls Retrieved From Tanzanian Rain Maker
21. Magic curse stalks India's poorest states
22. Experts Assess Risk of 'New Terrorism' Threat
23. Key SLA Trial Defense Witness Dies (Hearst)

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Persecution
24. Forum eyes religious persecution
25. Inmates' rosaries confiscated as gang symbol

=== Human Rights / Death Penalty
26. Reno skirts Branch Davidian questions during Austin visit

=== Noted
27. Barefoot Nomad Lifts Town's Heart
28. Pollster Gallup sees a 'pick-and-choose' religion
29. Harmony and the Bottom Line: Hmm . . . (Feng Shui)

=== Internet
30. Speaking From a Digital Dais (Saddleback)

=== Aum Shinrikyo / Aleph

1. Inoue says Joyu knew about sarin gas production
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Feb. 9, 2000
Yoshihiro Inoue, "intelligence minister" of the Aum Supreme Truth cult, has
testified in court that Fumihiro Joyu, a senior member of Aum who was
recently released from prison after serving out a criminal sentence, knew in
1993 that the group had produced sarin.

According to his testimony, Inoue visited Moscow in 1993 as the bodyguard of
the cult's founder, Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, who gave a
series of lectures in Russia. During the trip, Matsumoto told Joyu, then head
of the Russian branch, that the group had succeeded in synthesizing sarin,
Inoue said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Japan's doomsday sect launches court battle against crackdown
Yahoo/AFP, Feb. 8, 2000
Japan's Aleph doomsday cult, formerly named Aum Supreme Truth, on Tuesday
launched a court battle against a security crackdown on its activities.

A female cult disciple declined to comment on the suit when contacted by
telephone. But according to Jiji Press news agency, the cult claimed that
the new anti-cult legislation "violates the principle of equality under law
as it solely targets the sect. "It also violates the constitution as it
violates freedom of religion and privacy of followers."

While the law did not identify the sect by name, it referred to organisations
that had committed indiscriminate mass murder and was widely understood to be
targetted at Aleph, or Aum Supreme Truth.

But "even on the hypothesis that the law is regarded as constitutional, the
sect does not meet conditions for the authorities to resort to use of the
law," the cult's suit reportedly said. "There is no specified danger that
the sect will carry out random mass murder," it claimed.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Tomita murder case opened at Shoko Asahara's trial
Japan Times, Feb. 9, 2000
The trial of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara on Wednesday turned to the
killing of follower Toshio Tomita, bringing the number of cases the court has
dealt with to 10, out of the 17 for which Asahara stands accused.

At the day's session before the Tokyo District Court, former follower Shigeo
Sugimoto testified in detail how he and three other cult members tortured and
killed Tomita in July 1994.

Sugimoto, who was Asahara's bodyguard and chauffeur, said the cult suspected
someone had poisoned water at an Aum facility in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi
Prefecture, when a female follower got a mysterious burn in July 1994.

Since Tomita had driven a truck transporting water from another Aum facility,
Asahara fingered him as a suspect and ordered Tomomitsu Niimi, a senior cult
member, to force Tomita to confess, Sugimoto said.

After Tomita repeatedly denied the accusation, Asahara, who was in another
room, ordered Sugimoto to kill Tomita, he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Keeping a sane head in use of new anti-Aum powers
Asahi News (Japan), Feb. 7, 2000 (Editorial)
(...) Since last autumn Aum has made a flurry of moves apparently aimed at
improving its image. It has acknowledged that Matsumoto was in fact involved
in the crimes. It has also expressed a willingness to pay compensation to
victims. And, in a symbolic gesture, it has changed its name to ''Aleph.''

The fact remains, however, that over the past decade Aum Shinrikyo has
repeatedly played a game of deception and trickery, sowing deep distrust and
anxiety in our society. Eliminating such feelings will require tremendous
efforts on the part of Aum.

What is the current status of Aum Shinrikyo? How will it respond to
surveillance? How will it pay compensation to its victims?

We should wait and see how the cult will address these and other questions.
Driven into a corner, Aum may be trying desperately to survive. But if it
really wants to live peacefully in society, its efforts should not be
rejected outright. Rejection will only further alienate its followers and
delay the resolution of its problems.

In this regard, the attitude of the surveillance authorities-the Public
Security Investigation Agency and the police-is cause for concern. In the
past, for instance, they have gathered information even from innocent
citizens' groups; they have also illegally wiretapped the home of a Communist
Party official. Public confidence in their activities is anything but high.

It is also necessary to urgently establish a broad program of social
rehabilitation for Aum followers. Just setting up hot lines is not effective,
as experience has shown. There is also a need to draw on the wisdom of
counselors, lawyers and other knowledgeable people acquainted with cult

Cultists cultivate a strange way of life in a cloistered environment.
Unwinding their rigid minds is going to take a lot of patient effort.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Waco / Branch Davidians

5. Judge seeks final plan for Davidian field tests
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 9, 2000
Both sides in the Branch Davidian lawsuit and the federal judge hearing the
case will gather in St. Louis next week to finalize plans for field tests
aimed at resolving key questions about government gunfire.

The judge dictated that specifics of the test, outlined by a court-appointed
expert, must be kept secret, and he threatened to impose sanctions against
anyone who revealed them ''to the press or the public.''

Two lawyers representing the sect said Tuesday that they are concerned that
the imposition of strict secrecy will be extended to the test. They predicted
Tuesday that such a move would further inflame public doubts about the
controversial Branch Davidian case.

''I'm sure that the Justice Department opposes any participation by the press
in the demonstration,'' said Mike Caddell, lead lawyer for the sect. ''Our
concern is, rightly or wrongly, by excluding the press, you're confirming the
fears of some people about the integrity of the test.''

He and other lawyers for the sect said they plan to argue for media coverage
of the test ''so there can be an independent report back to the American
people about how thorough and fair this demonstration is.''

Officials with the special counsel's office and the Justice Department have
declined to comment on the matter.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Waco Protesters Greet Reno in Texas
Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2000
Attorney General Janet Reno fought off angry questions Monday night from a
small group of Branch Davidian supporters who labeled her the "Butcher of
Waco." Reno was visiting the University of Texas to lecture about community
problem solving.

Led by Austin talk show host Alex Jones, fewer than a dozen protesters
carried signs bashing Reno and the Clinton administration outside the Lyndon
B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum before Reno's speech.

Reno never mentioned the Waco raid during her 45-minute speech, which touched
on topics ranging from crime and education to technology and volunteerism.
During the question and answer session, Jones and others were heckled by the
audience of several hundred as they asked Reno about the April 19, 1993, fire
at the Davidian compound.

Reno refused to comment about most of the Waco-related questions, citing the
investigation by former Sen. John Danforth, the independent counsel who is
looking into whether federal personnel fired into the retreat as it burned to
the ground. Congress also continues to investigate.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

7. Security crushes Falun Gong rally
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Feb. 7, 2000
Members of the outlawed Falun Gong sect were beaten and detained after they
tried to unfurl banners in Tiananmen Square at the weekend in a protest
marking the lunar new year.

A first group of protesters were detained late on Friday night. More entered
the square early on Saturday, before police closed the area to the public. At
least 50 were arrested on Friday and a handful more on Saturday. Some reports
put the figure as high as 300.

However, one woman said: "A friend of mine was arrested last night and ...
she called me on her cellular phone and told me she was detained with between
2,000 and 3,000 [others]."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Sect man jailed for 12 years
Yahoo/Wise News, Feb. 7, 2000
China has jailed the organiser of a clandestine Falun Gong press conference _
held under the nose of Beijing _ for 12 years the group said yesterday.
The news came yesterday, a day after another protest by the sect in Tiananmen
Square was forcefully broken up by police, with up to 3,000 people said to
have been detained.

Jiang Zhaohui, 35, was secretly sentenced to 12 years imprisonment by a
Beijing court after being arrested on 22 November, less than a month after
the press conference, sect member Chen Dan said by telephone from the United

The latest clash took place amid decorations for the Lunar New Year, China's
most important holiday and a time of family reunions and feasting. Trees
around Tiananmen Square were strung with colorful lights, and a sign in the
centre said ''Welcome Spring Festival,'' another name for the holiday.

Hong Kong Falun Gong spokesman Kan Hung-cheung expressed regret over the
arrests saying: ''We hope the suppressive policy will not continue. Members
who tried to practice or unfurl banners at Tiananmen Square were only trying
to express what Falun Gong was about.''

Falun Gong spokeswoman Sophie Xiao, also in Hong Kong, said she did not think
defiance was the best way for practitioners to express their beliefs.
"That's not what the master taught us,'' she said, referring to the group's
leader Li Hongzhi, who lives in exile in the United States.

''But in another sense, it gives us international attention and leads more
people to pay attention to the human rights issue. It makes people conscious
of what is happening and keeps them lobbying on these issues in China,'' she
added. Agencies
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Foreigners unaccounted for
Yahoo/Wise News, Feb. 8, 2000
At least two foreign members of the banned Falun Gong sect, an American and
an Australian, are unaccounted for after being detained by police during a
Tiananmen Square weekend protest, a sect member claims.

American Tracy Zhao and Australian Shelley Jiang were among about 100 people
taken away in several buses in the early hours of Saturday, said the member
of the spiritual movement who witnessed the detentions.

In a second incident, she said, a 14-year-old Chinese-born holder of a US
''green card'' (resident permit) was grabbed by police on Saturday and
dragged and beaten for defending the sect leader from police insults.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

10. French official body slams US over sects
A French government mission criticised the United States on Monday for being
too lax on cults and unfairly blaming France for its harsher stance.

The Interministerial Mission for the Fight Against Sects said in a report
delivered to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin that Washington, in the name of
religious freedom, was giving excessive protection to cults.

''The confusion maintained across the Atlantic between religious
freedom...and prevention, even repression, of punishable sectarian excesses
does not make dialogue any easier,'' the report said.

Monday's report said there were some 200 sects in France, most of them well
organised. It said those that reject democracy and spread racist ideas must
be banned, and called for new legislation against those that violate human

The report called for states in Europe and elsewhere to prevent the
development of sects and urged new legislation to fight attacks on national
security such as the use of computer viruses.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. French report calls for dissolution of Church of Scientology
Yahoo/AFP, Feb. 8, 2000
A French government report has described the Church of Scientology as a
dangerous organization that "threatens public order" and "human dignity" and
has called for its dissolution.

The 60-page report, submitted Monday to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin,
described the US-based group as a "totalitarian" sect that keeps files
containing personal information about its members.

French deputy Alain Vivien, head of a sect-busting government committee set
up two years ago, said the committee had determined that the church's leaders
in France were manipulated by their headquarters in Los Angeles.

"The actions carried out by Scientologists chosen to operate within the
Office of Special Affairs (the organization's intelligence service) seem to
be controlled by the sect's headquarters in the United States and can be
qualified as underground activities led from abroad," the report said.

Vivien said that while the committee opposed a blanket ban on sects, it
favoured dissolving "extremely dangerous" organisations including the Church
of Scientology. "When such organizations disrupt public order and violate
human dignity, measures should be taken to disolve them," the report states.

Daniele Gounord, a spokeswoman for the sect in Paris, denounced the
government report describing it as a "slap-dash Mickey Mouse job in which
facts are pulled out of a hat." "With this report, France has joined the
ranks of banana republics," she said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. France urged to ban Scientology
BBC News, Feb. 8, 2000
A government committee in France has recommended dissolving the Church of
Scientology there, on the grounds that its activities threatens public order.

The report rejected US criticism of the French Government's hostility to
Scientology. The church has come under attack several times in France in
recent years, with some of its 30,000 members there tried for fraud.

Last year, a US Government report raised questions about freedom of
expression for new religious groups in France and several other European
countries, including Germany.

But this concern was dismissed by the French report which said Washington's
protection of sects was "exorbitant". It also said American criticisms of
France's conduct were based on "inexact and unfriendly allegations."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Parisian Agency classifies Scientology as "totalitarian"
AFP, Feb. 7, 2000
Translation: CISAR
(...) Scientology was said to propagate religious goals, but it was an
organization with "totalitarian structure," said a report by the Executive
Agency to Control Sects (MILS) which was submitted on Monday in Paris to
Premier Minister Lionel Jospin.

The MILS study did name possibilities for the Justice Department and the
Administration to take action against Scientology, but left the decision up
to politicians as to whether the organization should be forbidden. The state
may not take action against "the content of religious conviction or
ideology," but must take care that "laws are not violated under the guise of
personal convictions," the agency emphasized in the report.

Sects were said to frequently make use of a "religious mask."

MILS has distanced itself from the assessment of the Scientology Organization
in the USA. There, it was said, "sects enjoy an extraordinary protection, as
long as they proclaim themselves to be sects." MILS was founded in 1996 and
expanded under the Jospin administration. The Scientologists' operations in
France are as precisely scrutinized as they are in Germany by Constitutional
Security. There is apprehension that key political and commercial positions
will be infiltrated. Because of this, Berlin and Paris are regularly heavily
criticized by the United States, in which Scientology is recognized as a
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Church of Scientology demands retraction of report
AOL/Reuters, Feb. 8, 2000
The Church of Scientology Tuesday called for the withdrawal of a French
government- sponsored report that described the United States as too lax on
cults, saying the document ignores ''all modern scholarship'' into religion.

''This shameful and dishonest report will be condemned by human rights
organizations throughout Europe and the United States,'' the Church of
Scientology said in a statement. The church said the report was based on
''falsehoods'' about minority religions and demanded it ''be withdrawn
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Scientology is one of several cults that, supported by cult apologists,
react to any criticism by alleging "human rights" violations.

=== Mormonism

15. New Structure Symbolizes Mormon Growth
New York Times, Feb. 6, 2000
(...) In two months, in a historically resonant move, the church will open a
vast new Conference Center to replace the venerable Tabernacle as a site for
the semiannual church conferences. The new building's great size and
technological sophistication offer symbolic testimony to how far Mormonism
has come from being a frontier faith to a global religion. The church is
entering its third century with nearly 11 million members, more of them
outside the United States than within, the result in large part of the
proselytizing of 60,000 young missionaries.

But the most impressive dimension lies within the 1.4 million-square-foot
interior, where an auditorium of 21,000 seats makes the center one of the
world's largest enclosed religious spaces.

The conference center caps the church's extraordinary growth in the 1990's,
when membership increased by more than a third. Of 10.7 million Mormons on
church rolls, 5.6 million, or 53 percent, live outside the United States,
mostly in Latin America.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Mormonism is a pseudo-Christian religion. While it claims to be
"Christian" its teachings and practices fall outside orthodox

=== Other News

16. Police try to unravel mummified kids case
Mainichi Daily News, Feb. 7, 2000
Police, investigating a commune on suspicion that members of the Kaeda-juku
group have illegally abandoned the mummified bodies of two children, searched
its facility over the weekend and examined how the bodies were kept.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Ala. Religious Commune Investigated
Excite/Reuters, Feb. 5, 2000
A state investigation begun last month into possible child neglect at a
sprawling west Alabama religious commune has resulted in the arrest of a
deacon who allegedly used a piece of lumber to beat a boy.

The continuing probe started after claims were made that children at the
Sumter County commune known as Holyland were also and forced to sleep outside
in subfreezing weather, police said on Friday.

Five children have died in fires at Holyland, the heart of a
multimillion-dollar business. For years, opponents have accused founder Luke
Edwards of mistreating the poor blacks who live there.

Until now, state regulators have largely ignored the commune, saying they
lack jurisdiction because it is tied to a church pastored by Edwards in
Meridian, Miss.

Children at the Holyland are separated from their parents, who live elsewhere
in motel-style rooms.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Missing children reveals insular sect in Attleboro
Boston.com/AP, Feb. 7, 2000
It began more than 20 years ago as a bible study group, formed by a group of
community-oriented people who were ''great role models.'' But philosophical
differences caused a rift, and one small faction went on its own to become a
tiny self-sufficient church unwilling to recognize laws made or enforced by a
secular society.

The group of several extended families lived together in a duplex here,
following Old Testament scripture and advocating faith healing over modern
medicine, viewing themselves as a bastion of biblical faith in an evil world.

The commune might have gone unnoticed indefinitely if two disaffected group
members had not gone to authorities late last year with a horrific story: two
baby boys born to members of the group were dead and buried in the wilderness
of Maine's Baxter State Park.

Since then, investigators have searched areas of Attleboro, Rhode Island and
Maine looking for 10-month-old Samuel Robidoux and his infant cousin,
Jeremiah Corneau.

They haven't found the boys. But investigators did uncover journals authored
by an unidentified group member that claim Jeremiah was stillborn and that
Samuel was denied food for weeks before dying in the early spring.

The journal claimed group members viewed Samuel's death as the will of God,
and that the sight of the hungry and crying child was used by Satan to test
the faith of his 24-year-old mother, Karen Robidoux.

One journal entry said Karen Robidoux was instructed to drink only almond
milk and nurse Samuel. Neither Karen nor Samuel was to eat any food. The
diary didn't say who issued the edict.

Local pastor Brian Weeks, who in the 1970s co-founded a church with Roland
Robidoux, Samuel's grandfather, said he was disturbed at the accusations
against his former friend. ''They really believe God is in charge, and that
God is speaking to them,'' said Weeks, who now serves as a pastor at the
Jericho Christian Fellowship in Middleboro.

Weeks said he and Robidoux broke from a California branch of the
fundamentalist group, Worldwide Church of God, and established their own
small churches in Mansfield and Mendon, R.I.

A few years later, Weeks left the group over philosophical differences and
joined another congregation. It was in the decades following, Weeks said,
that the Robidouxes joined with a few other families and cut themselves off
from society, living frugally off money earned through masonry work,
carpentry and a chimney sweep business.

The church cut themselves off entirely from outside society, he said. Some
sect members intermarried, including Jacques, who wed Karen, the daughter of
another group member.

A local cult expert speculated the loss of the children, as well as the
resulting legal maelstrom, may seem like a giant test of faith to the
devoutly religious congregation.

''They're probably trying to figure out what God is trying to tell them,''
said Bob Pardon, head of the New England Institute of Religious Research.
''They view themselves as people of God experiencing persecution.''

In late January, the state appointed Pardon a guardian of the sect's
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. No signs, no crosses: Prophecy is unfulfilled
The Keene Sentinel, Feb. 6, 2000
Nothing happened. God's worldwide warning, as prophesied by Keene resident
Ronald O'Brien, was a washout.

There was no heavenly sign in the sky between Jan. 19 and 31. There was no
dark cross suspended in the stratosphere, as O'Brien had said there would be.
No one reported seeing his soul "as God does."

But followers of O'Brien, 55, a self-proclaimed prophet, couldn't care less
about his failed prophecy.

Recently, it was revealed that, until 1995, Ronald O'Brien was Ronald
Woodruff, who served 13 months in a federal prison for credit-card fraud,
stealing $300,000.

Last year, O'Brien claimed thousands of hosts - the bread wafers Catholics
use in Holy Communion - miraculously appeared in his Victoria Street home,
sent straight from God. But documents obtained by The Sentinel show the
hosts, 9,225 of them, were sent through the mail from two church-supply
companies, where O'Brien bought them with a Discover credit card.

Furthermore, O'Brien claimed the red that was marking his miraculous hosts
was blood from Jesus Christ. But a state police laboratory analysis concluded
it was a water-soluble red dye.

Since then, two experts, after reviewing O'Brien's case, called him a cult
leader who happens to have raised more than $100,000.

O'Brien's next prophecy is for April 13 in Garabandal, Spain. All gathered
there on that day will be healed of all infirmity and disability, the
prophecy goes.

After April will come Armageddon, according to O'Brien. He says that, if the
world does not turn to God and follow true Catholicism, which O'Brien asserts
is the only true religion, 4 billion people will die.

O'Brien is now living in Kiltimagh, Ireland, with his wife and two
stepchildren. He was unavailable for comment.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. Human Skulls Retrieved From Tanzanian Rain Maker
Panafrican News Agency, Feb. 8, 2000
Tanzanian police in Dodoma are holding a traditional witchdoctor found in
possession of three human skulls, in the latest series of witchcraft-related
incidents. The witchdoctor, identified as Mienzeli Silipi, 70, is suspected
by fellow villagers of having orchestrated a drought in Nzuguni village.

Tanzania has been witnessing a rising number of witchcraft cases, including
the brutalising of old men and women who have been put to death by marauding
villagers on suspicion of practising the craft.

In the past three years, over 399 old people have been killed in Shinyanga
region, where witchcraft is rife due to paganism and a high level of
illiteracy among residents.

The nation surged with grief in 1999 when a strange business in human skin
emerged in the south-western region of Mbeya. Human beings were being
butchered by their assailants who later skinned their corpses to sell the
'commodity' in Malawi and Zambia for 5,000 US dollars.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. Magic curse stalks India's poorest states
AOL/Reuters, Feb. 7, 2000
When a man died suddenly one day at Choura village in India's eastern state
of Bihar, the local ojha, or shaman, told everyone a witch had killed him by
casting a spell on him.

The ojha dropped thinly veiled hints that Tepi Devi was to blame and
villagers were swift to exact retribution. ''They locked me in the room
where the corpse lay and asked me to either make it alive or eat its flesh,''
said Devi, 28, trembling as she recounted her ordeal to reporters in the
state's capital, Patna. ''I fainted there and then they took me out of the
room and forced me to eat human excreta instead as punishment.''

In remote villages of Bihar, one of India's poorest states, a growing number
of women are being ostracized, tortured or even murdered by neighbors and
relatives after being labeled as witches by the village ojha.

Police say that between 1990 and 1997 409 so-called witch killings were
reported in southern Bihar alone. But Prem Chand, president of local
nongovernmental organization Free Legal Aid Committee, which rehabilitates
tormented women, believes the actual figure could be more than 1,000.

In a bid to solve the problem, the state government is about to introduce
legislation called the Prevention of Witch Practices Act under which people
who practice witchcraft, declare women as witches or participate in torture
will be fined up to $46 or imprisoned for up to a year without bail.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Experts Assess Risk of 'New Terrorism' Threat
Los Angeles Times, Feb. 7, 2000
They called it the "new terrorism:" a virulent strain of anti-American
aggression in which enemies without scruples would use germs and toxic gases,
not guns and bombs, to kill tens of thousands of civilians at a stroke.

Yet two years after the Clinton administration made this threat a top
priority and the fastest-growing major category of defense spending, many
experts are questioning whether the risk of such mass-casualty attacks has
been overstated and whether the dire warnings could prove counterproductive
to U.S. security.

Administration aides insisted that they have not exaggerated the perils and
that they need to prepare for a full range of civil defense threats.

The most powerful catalyst came in 1995, when an apocalyptic Japanese cult,
Aum Supreme Truth, a group that since has changed its name to Aleph, attacked
a Tokyo subway with sarin poison gas. The attack, which killed 12 and
sickened thousands, overnight became the foremost example of the "new

Aum counted several graduate chemists among its members. Yet, with $1 billion
in assets and four years of trying, it could not make germ weapons work, so
it turned to sarin gas for its subway attack.

In the United States, no one has died from a germ attack. Only one person has
been killed by what could be loosely termed a chemical warfare attack: an
Oakland school superintendent who was hit in 1973 by a cyanide-coated bullet
fired by a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the small terrorist cult
that kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst.

The most significant germ-warfare attack in U.S. history came in 1984, when
members of the Rajneeshee cult in Oregon sprayed a salad bar with salmonella
to try to keep people from voting in a local election. The attack gave
diarrhea to 751 people.

Some analysts forecast that the arrival of the new century could give rise
to apocalyptic cults bearing chemical and germ weapons. But so far, none has
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Key SLA Trial Defense Witness Dies
New York Times/AP stream, Feb. 8, 2000
Jack Scott, who gained fame by helping Patty Hearst flee from the FBI, died
of cancer just days after lawyers tried to get his testimony for the trial of
a former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive.

Lawyers for Sara Jane Olson had warned the judge that Scott was near death
and asked Friday for an emergency order to take his testimony. But
prosecutors opposed the move, and resolution of it was postponed until today.

Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Ann Soliah, was one of those he contacted
in his quest to meet Hearst.

Hearst, the newspaper heiress who was kidnapped by the SLA and later robbed a
bank with her captors, was expected to testify for the prosecution about her
fear of the organization.

Defense lawyers hoped Scott would be able to impeach her credibility by
testifying that she told him she had arranged her own kidnapping in order to
escape her impending marriage and that she stayed with the SLA because the
group treated her so well.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Freedom / Religious Persecution

24. Forum eyes religious persecution
San Antonio Express-News, Feb. 6, 2000
Christians must be concerned for all victims of religious persecution, not
just for other Christians, says William Schulz, the president of Amnesty

"I don't know whether religious persecution is increasing throughout the
world right now or not, but it's getting a lot more attention than it's ever
gotten before from religious leaders, the media and even the United States
government," Schulz said in an interview.

Campaigns against religious persecution are relatively new, Schulz said, and
still need more public support to get such persecution stopped.

"Religious groups from outside a given country often make government
authorities nervous just because they give their allegiance to a different
authority," Schulz said.

He added, "It's important for Christians to be concerned about other
religious groups that are victims of persecution."

Schulz said the U.S. government's interest has led to passage of the Freedom
from Religious Persecution Act, which provided for a commission to
investigate human rights abuses in other countries and how the U.S.
government should respond to them.

Schulz said the United States needs to deal with its own human rights abuses,
but it still can be effective in defending human rights abroad where abuses
are much more widespread.

"We've had some human rights abuses of our own, involving police brutality
and the mistreatment and even torture of prisoners by prison guards. But that
doesn't mean our government shouldn't be outspoken against violence around
the world. We have a responsibility to speak out against it wherever it
happens," Schulz said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* It is also important for Christians and non-Christian alike to see through
the spin-doctoring of destructive and/or fraudulent cults that tend to
counter criticism or legal procedures by alleging "human rights"

25. Inmates' rosaries confiscated as gang symbol
EWTN/CWnews, Feb. 8, 2000
Inmates in Massachusetts' state prisons are not allowed to have rosaries
because prison officials say they are used as gang symbols, prompting one
inmate to file suit saying his First Amendment rights have been violated.

Department spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Kane can have rosary beads -- as
long as they are only one color. His were black and white. A lower court
said the inmates' rights "may be curtailed in order to achieve legitimate
correctional goals or to maintain prison security." Kane's attorney, John
Reinstein of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the message officials
are sending is: "If you want to pray, pray our way."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Human Rights / Death Penalty

26. Reno skirts Branch Davidian questions during Austin visit
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 8, 2000
Attorney General Janet Reno fended off numerous questions Monday night about
the government's role in the Branch Davidian tragedy, saying that special
counsel John C. Danforth's investigation will provide the needed answers.

In other matters, she reiterated the reasons that she opposes the death
and defended her decision not to appoint a special prosecutor to
investigate campaign contributions linked to foreign governments.

Asked about a national moratorium on the death penalty, similar to one just
announced in Illinois, Ms. Reno said, "I think it's time this country speaks
out on the subject of innocence."

She said that if 19 men convicted of capital murder since 1992 in Illinois
can subsequently be found innocent, then Americans need to better ensure that
the right offenders receive the ultimate penalty.

"All punishment is arbitrary" and can be mitigated, except the death penalty
once carried out, she said. "I think the ultimate purpose of the law is to
prize human life," she said, adding that the death penalty is the antithesis
of that theory,
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

27. Barefoot Nomad Lifts Town's Heart
Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2000
Since the day the prophet appeared at the bottom of their hill three months
ago, barefoot and wearing a long white robe, the gloom has lifted off this
old Pennsylvania coal-mining town.

One by one, the residents here awoke. The priests in this mostly Catholic
enclave say the pews are suddenly full, sometimes with people they haven't
seen in 20 years. Two local doctors say their patients heal more quickly
after this nomad prophet visits the hospital. "I've never felt so good," said
Marietta, one of the hundreds of callers who flooded a local TV talk show to
discuss the stranger's impact. "He's given me more than anyone in my life."

"Man Who Looks Like Jesus Arrives," the local paper announced the day after
the man arrived. And indeed he does look like the textbook Jesus, with a
childlike face and a sandy beard and his head cocked always at an angle.
Since then they have taken to calling him the Prophet, the Messenger, the
Mystery, the Angel.

His real name is Carl J. Joseph, and in the last nine years he has wandered
through 13 countries and 47 states. He walks, usually on bare feet, and
occasionally hitchhikes. He owns nothing but the robe and blanket he wears on
his back and never takes money for any reason. For food and shelter, he
relies on the goodwill of people he meets along the way. Somehow, he is
always immaculate, down to the fingernails.

He models his life on Jesus and the apostles, he says, though he never claims
to be the son of God. His message is deeply traditional, almost pre-Vatican
II, urging people to go back to church, follow strict rituals, respect the

"We tend to highlight the moral abuses of the church. But the good news is
far better than the bad," he said. "The church has always had a single
leader, and that's the pope."

When he speaks at town meetings, sometimes 2,000 people show up. They listen
to him preach for hours on his standard subject of love and God's grace, then
raise their hands and ask the questions they should be asking their priests:
Why do children die? Can divorced Catholics go to heaven? Are angels real?
How can we be happy?

His answers are simple and reflect traditional Catholic teaching. "Everybody
wants to be happy," he said at a town meeting. "But we believe false things
about what we need to be happy. Happiness is not the love of one person and
it's not having all we want. True happiness is the great mystery of God's

The town's reaction has prompted some soul searching in the collared class.
Whether they're suspicious or welcoming of the holy man, traditional priests
here realize his success at connecting with their parishioners is sending the
established church a message.

Figuring they will be part of the annals of saints, Muir, a devout Roman
Catholic, has kept almost everything he has touched: the rosaries nuns have
given him, his original blanket, even the prescription he got after his
wisdom tooth was removed.

The prophet stayed with Muir and her family for 66 of his 71 days in
Hazleton, she says proudly. "Your human intuition said you should be freaking
out, but I had no fear at all, none," she recalled. "That's how I knew he was
the Prophet." Plus, the normally persnickety cat jumped right into his lap,
Muir recalled.

Over the weeks, Muir learned some details of his recent past. His actual
name, his age--39--and something about his background. He has a mother and
father and brother, all from Ohio. He went to parochial school but
experimented with other religions.

Beyond that, he deflects questions about himself. When people ask him his
name, he responds "What's your name?" and after a while the town has come to
call him that: Whatsyourname.

The myths grow. Some in town say when he walks barefoot in the snow he
doesn't leave footprints. Others say mysterious lights appear in photos of
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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28. Pollster Gallup sees a 'pick-and-choose' religion
Star-Telegram/Religion News Service, Feb. 7, 2000
The nation's premier pollster says the spiritual quest percolating among
Americans today might best be described as "religion a la carte." Although a
Canadian sociologist, Reginald Bibby, coined the term, it has been pollster
George Gallup Jr. who has most thoroughly researched its application in the
United States.

At the dawn of a new century, Gallup concludes Americans "pick and choose"
what they want to believe, often mixing differing ideas from within one
religion or blending two or more different religions into a personal belief
system. "Substantial portions of traditional Christians, for instance,
subscribe to non-Christian beliefs and practices, such as reincarnation," he
said in a telephone interview.

In his research, resulting from a number of statistical surveys and recounted
in the new book, "Surveying the Religious Landscape" (Morehouse Publishing),
Gallup reports that one cannot understand America without acknowledging the
influence and impact of religion.

Written with D. Michael Lindsay, a consultant on theology, religion and
culture, the book shows:

-- There is a glaring lack of knowledge about the Bible, basic doctrines and
the traditions of one's own religion.

-- Too often the faith professed is superficial, with people not knowing what
they believe or why.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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29. Harmony and the Bottom Line: Hmm . . .
New York Times, Feb. 9, 2000
Last spring, everything seemed to go wrong at Lunch at the Ritz Earwear Inc.,
a maker of custom jewelry in Lake Katrine, N.Y., about 100 miles north of New
York City.

So they brought in a consultant, Sophia Tang Shaul, for advice. She offered
this prescription: position a couple of boulders outside the front doors of
the company's 15,000-square-foot plant to "protect" the organization; install
a water fountain near the boulders to attract positive energy; move the
office of Watts, the company president, from the southeast end of the
building to the "wealth quadrant" on the south side to improve the bottom
line, but keep Hecht, a vice president and designer, in the west end, or
"creativity sector." Almost immediately, the company's fortunes improved.

Just what management medicine did Shaul dole out, anyway? Actually, it may be
better described as alternative therapy. It is called feng shui, the ancient
Chinese principles of creating a harmonious environment.

In many parts of Asia, it is routine for businesses and government agencies
to call a feng shui specialist, or practitioner, to ensure that the lighting,
furniture, doors and windows make up a harmonious whole, enabling chi, or
cosmic energy, to flow freely and bring good fortune and high morale among
employees. Lately, the practice has fast been finding its way into America's
cubicles, factories and boardrooms.

The American Feng Shui Institute in Monterey Park, Calif., says enrollment in
its training classes reached 140 students last year from just a handful in
1991. The number of consultants listed in FengShuiDirectory.com has grown to
more than 250 since it went online in 1998. And several books aimed at
showing managers and workers how to harness its force have been published,
including "Feng Shui at Work," by Kirsten M. Lagatree (Newleaf, 1998).

Because feng shui (pronounced "fung shway") combines elements from astronomy,
astrology, geology, mathematics and philosophy, there is some debate on
exactly what it is. To inspect and suggest rearrangements of work sites, for
example, traditional practitioners use compasses, but the Black Hat Sect
School of Berkeley, Calif., regarded as the catalyst for the movement's
growth in the United States, uses a bagua, an octagonal chart.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Internet

30. Speaking From a Digital Dais
LA Times, Feb. 4, 2000
When Pastor Rick Warren talks about serving God these days, he's talking
hardware--his new 128-bit, high-security Internet server. The founding
pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest--billed as
California's largest church, and an emblem of the megachurch phenomenon that
has transformed American religion--has gone online.

Since 1980, Warren has sold sermon transcripts, books and Bible lessons to
church leaders across the globe through a company called The Encouraging
Word. Now the 45-year-old pastor, already known as much for his
entrepreneurial spirit as his evangelism, has taken his company to the
Internet at www.pastors.comOff-site Link.

Patterning his effort on Web successes such as the Internet portal Yahoo,
Warren offers free e-mail, chat rooms, classified ads and even auctions to
draw church leaders and missionaries to his site. There he sells sermons,
songs, videos and church fund-raising plans--an exercise in religious
entrepreneurship, he says, that goes well beyond anything else on the

But critics say the site could represent something more threatening than
just another ripple in a sea of electronic commerce: the commercialization of

Warren concedes that The Encouraging Word--financed through royalties from
his popular book "The Purpose-Driven Church"--is a profit-making venture,
though he says he has no plans to reap millions in the stock market by taking
it public. And although he draws a salary as president of the company, he
says revenues will be plunged into spreading Saddleback's ministry, for free,
to new countries.

But, as with all of Saddleback's pursuits, Warren wants to make Pastors.com
the biggest and the best, and is already billing the site as the "largest
online community of pastors and church leaders."

"To a degree, all he's doing is ratcheting up the game one more notch by
getting everything online," said Benjamin J. Hubbard, chairman of Cal State
Fullerton's comparative religion department. "But Rick Warren and his
ministry ought to proceed with great caution," Hubbard said. "How far do you
want to go into the mass marketing of religion? How much is enough? . . . I
think that this kind of profit-making is not in the best tradition of Jewish
and Christian ethics. It smacks of commercialism gone mad."

But that's what it takes to make an impact, said Falwell, who sits on
Pastors.com's advisory board.