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Religion News Report

August 14, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 243)

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Rainbow


=== Catholic God's Spirit / Tadtad
1. Slain cultists lost magic, says leader
2. Lacson orders probe into Bukidnon cult clash
3. Tadtad cult a deadly mix of Christian faith, ancient rites
4. Cult clash
5. Manhunt on for remnants of Philippine Christian cult

=== Governments and Cults
6. Geneva to host first public information centre on cults

=== Scientology
7. Scientology critic faces drug cultivation charge
8. [Battlefield Earth propaganda]

=== Islam
9. Violence by a Muslim Sect Stuns Malaysia

=== Other News
10. Russia Orthodox Church Plans Policy
11. Head of Russian church condemns attempts to split it

=== Religious Intolerance
12. 'Kum Ba Yah' Song Banned at Camp

=== Science
13. A Piece of Faith and History

=== Death Penalty
14. The USA's hour of shame

=== Noted
15. Englewood middle school based on self-help guru
16. In a Warring Mexican Town, God's Will Is the Issue
17. Peyote: When The Ancient Indian Way Collides With a New Age Craze


=== Catholic God's Spirit / Tadtad

1. Slain cultists lost magic, says leader
Philippine Daily Inquirer (Philippines), Aug. 14, 2000
http://www.inquirer.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
KALILANGAN, Bukidnon--Sixteen cultists who died in a fierce clash Friday with lawmen believed they were invincible against bullets, but their ''magical powers'' did not work because many of them were sinners, the leader of the Catholic God's Spirit cult said yesterday.

Alfredo Obsioma, 44, leader of the 300-member cult, said the 16 who were killed were disloyal followers who had ignored his advice not to fight the team of law enforcers who had come to arrest one of the cultists.

Four civilian militiamen also died in Friday's encounter at the cult's colony in Barangay Kimanait, Pangantucan town.
(...)

He protested reports identifying his group as one of the ''Tadtad (chop-chop)'' cults, fanatical Christian groups so named for their practice of hacking their enemies to death. ''We are not Tadtads. We are believers of the word of God. It's the only way to freedom,'' he said.

Obsioma, a former Army soldier, said amulets made of paper scribbled with Latin prayers would have been enough to make his followers invincible to bullets.

''But the amulets are only for the good. They are not supposed to be used for evil,'' he said.
(...)

''They were emboldened by the idea that bullets would not harm them. They were mistaken,'' Obsioma said in the vernacular.

''They lost their power when they disobeyed me,'' he said.
(...)

Those who died belong to a small group of cult members who called themselves ''Warriors.'' They supported Madrina, who was accepted as a member of the cult this year, Obsioma said.

''They thought they were only protecting Madrina who is their fellow member,'' he said, adding that they did not know Madrina faced frustrated murder charges.

Rules
He said the cult members were supposed to follow certain rules strictly--no adultery, no smoking, no drinking, no judging of others, no village dances and no gambling.

Obsioma said the Latin prayers on white bond paper, which members tie around their waists with belts of red cloth, were given by their founding father, Bobby Janobas.
(...)

Army forces yesterday scoured the town for remnants of the cult. Police in Pangantucan were also put on high alert as they launched an investigation into the cult, whose leaders had reportedly been recruiting local youths prior to the clash.

''The cultists have divided themselves into small units to elude military troops, but members of the army continued scouring nearby areas,'' an Army spokesman said.

''Police are also conducting their own investigation and have (set up) points in the province,'' he said. ''If they peacefully surrender that is better, but we are prepared for any eventuality.''

Many members of the cult have fled the colony for fear of government reprisal, according to local officials. Many fled on foot or on horseback starting Friday night, said Kimanait barangay chief Diosdado Ofngol.
(...)

''The remaining cult members are afraid that the government will crush them now,'' Ofngol told the INQUIRER.
(...)

But Mayor Garces said the government was not planning any attack on the colony.

Ofngol said many of his constituents were planning to petition Mayor Garces and the police to drive away the cult from Kimanait to avoid similar violence in the future.

He said the cult members had had frequent quarrels with residents in the past. ''Some of these quarrels led to violence,'' he said.

In June 1999, cult founder Janobas killed a Cafgu member and a nephew of a barangay council member in front of terrified townspeople.
(...)

But Mayor Garces said he could not simply drive away the cult members without breaking the law. ''I cannot do that. These people have the right to live here like any Filipino,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Lacson orders probe into Bukidnon cult clash
The Philippine Star (Philippines), Aug. 14, 2000
http://www.philstar.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Panfilo Lacson ordered yesterday an investigation into last Friday's clash in Bukidnon between a composite military-police-militia team and religious cultists that left at least 20 people dead and two others wounded.

PNP spokesman Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome said the probe is spearheaded by Bukidnon provincial police director Superintendent Edgardo Villamayor.

Bartolome said Villamayor was instructed by Lacson to prevent any ''spillover'' of the incident.

The fighting erupted as the law enforcers tried to serve an arrest warrant against Roberto Madrina Jr., a member of the Catholic God's Spirit, also referred to as Tadtad, in Barangay Kimanait in Pangantocan town, Bukidnon.
(...)

Makati Rep. Joker Arroyo said the policemen and soldiers involved in the bloody incident should have withdrawn to avoid bloodshed.

''While the law allows warrant officers to use reasonable force to effect the arrest of one who resists arrests, the law does not contemplate a situation where lawmen should unnecessarily kill in the process,'' Arroyo said.

He added that it was senseless to kill 16 men just to serve an arrest warrant on one person.

Noting that the fatalities were mostly armed only with bolos, Arroyo said it would not have been dishonorable for the government troops if they had withdrawn and instead figured out how to effect the arrest without bloodshed.

Meanwhile, the military and the police intensified their pursuit operations against members of the cult who fled their village following the bloody clash.

The Army's 403rd Brigade reported that cult leader Alfredo Opsiona and his followers individually fled to elude arrest by the pursuing lawmen.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Tadtad cult a deadly mix of Christian faith, ancient rites
The Philippin Star (Philippines), Aug. 14, 2000
http://www.philstar.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Steeped in ancient tribal rituals, the Sagrado Corazon Señor or Sacred Heart of Jesus - more popularly known Tadtad - believes that the ultimate sacrifice is to die for God.

Since its formation in the early 1980s as an anti-communist cult, the Tadtad, whose name means ''to chop to pieces,'' has attracted thousands of followers in Mindanao.

The group's founding members included women and children who armed themselves with bolos and other bladed weapons to fight who they perceived to be the enemies of God.

Datu Inta, a Tadtad chieftain in Bukidnon, said that their members have grown to over 50,000 all over Mindanao.

''Our ultimate mission is to eliminate all the enemies of God. We will attain this by becoming pure and invulnerable to bullets,'' he said.
(...)

They are classified into two groups -- the Pulahan (red) and Putian (white) warriors. The Pulahan wear red turbans while the Putian wear all-white attires. Both groups carry bolos and knives as their basic weapon, which is used to chop victims to pieces to prevent them from attaining a ''second life.''

Aside from the bladed weapons, a lana or holy oil is always carried by Tadtad warriors to prepare them for battle.

Because of its members' supposed invulnerability to bullets, the Tadtad group has attracted many followers from the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Units. Many CAFGU members joined Tadtad and participated in paramilitary operations against communist rebels.

These operations made Tadtad villagers a favorite target of attacks by the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
(...)

The attacks forced Tadtad members to evacuate to more populated areas where they could seek immediate police and military assistance. Yet they continue to practice their belief which is a mix of Catholicism and paganism.

History is replete with cases similar to Tadtad.
(...)

Historians say that cult groups in Mindanao were a mix of the Catholic faith and the animist religion of tribal communities. Tribal leaders embraced the new faith introduced to them by Augustinian missionaries in the late 1800s, yet many of them retained their ancient rituals such as the pangayao, a revenge killing that employs tadtad or chopping of victims.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Cult clash
The Manila Times (Philippines`), Aug. 14, 2000 (Editorial)
http://www.manilatimes.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Ominously, the armed cult is back in the headlines. Last Friday, 20 persons were killed in a clash between government forces and cultists in a small town in Bukidnon. According to reports, a group composed of policemen, militiamen and soldiers had paid a visit to a colony of the Catholic God’s Spirit Cult in an effort to serve a warrant of arrest on one of the cult members.

The cultists reportedly resisted arrest. Four of them were said to have charged the government forces, ignoring a warning shot in the air. At the same time other members of the cult attacked the government’s men from behind, prompting them to fire back.

The circumstances of the shoot-out are disputed by some witnesses. But the outcome was the same any which way: 16 cultists, three government men and one civilian, all dead.

The violence may have been averted had the cultists only surrendered the wanted man to government authority. But four hours worth of negotiations between both parties failed to achieve this end.

Details are sketchy as to the crime allegedly committed by the cult member who tried to elude arrest (he too was killed). The information on the warrant was for frustrated murder. Was this alleged crime committed with the sanction of, or on the orders of, the cult? Is this why they tried to protect him so tenaciously?

The bloodbath last Friday calls up many of the problems associated with the quasi-religious, but fully armed, groups that by the 1970s were already a potent force in Mindanao and other areas around the country.
(...)

What doctrine they have is a loose, if not skewed, interpretation of Judeo-Christian teachings in an amalgamation with pagan, animistic beliefs. Their religious convictions were exploited by the military, which gave them an object of hatred, communism, and encouraged them to root out and kill suspected NPA rebels and sympathizers who they were told anathematic to their faith.

It is hard to argue with people who operate under such a powerful mandate. Under the notion that they are heaven’s warriors, it would not be difficult for them to ignore government authority, believing themselves exempt from, and above, the law of man.

But even among the less fanatical cults, members would be united, by a strong sense of community and family, against interlopers of all sorts. Loyalty to one’s social unit is an essential characteristic in Filipino culture.
(...)

But whether more cultists than troops died is not the point. All those deaths last Friday were needless. The problem now is how to rein in a force that could well go out of control. On top of its problems with the MILF and the New People’s Army, the military is now faced with the task of controlling scattered groups of people with their own laws, a predisposition for violence, and proven experience in the grotesque art of killing.¨
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Manhunt on for remnants of Philippine Christian cult
Miami Herald/AFP, Aug. 13, 2000
http://www.miamiherald.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, Aug 13 -- (AFP) -- Army forces were Sunday scouring a southern Philippine town for remnants of a fanatical Christian cult after a fierce clash with authorities that left 20 people dead, officials said.

Police in Pangantukan town, Bukidnon province were also put on high alert as they launched an investigation into the Catholic God's Spirit cult, whose leaders had reportedly been recruiting local youths prior to the clash.

The sect, whose ranks according to initial police and military reports number fewer than a hundred, on Sunday splintered into smaller groups as members attempted to evade arrest and consolidate forces elsewhere, an army spokesman said.

``The cultists have divided themselves into small units to elude military troops, but members of the army continued scouring nearby areas,'' the spokesman said.
(...)

The Catholic God's Spirit group is one among dozens of ``tad-tad,'' or ``chop-chop,'' fanatical Christian groups in the southern Philippines, so named for their practice of hacking their enemies to death.

The cults mix Christian teaching with folklore, and believe in pagan rituals and amulets that supposedly protect them from all harm, including even bullet wounds.

Members' shirts carry magical inscriptions, and they chant prayers over their machetes to make them powerful.

Others steal kneecaps from graveyards to wear as protective amulets.

Tad-tad cults, known for their ferocity, first rose to prominence in the 1970s when they were used by the military to join offensives against Muslim separatist guerrillas in the south.

Many of their original members were Christian settlers from the central Philippines who migrated to the southern region of Mindanao, coming into conflict with the original Muslim inhabitants.

The Catholic God's Spirit sect was notorious for squatting on large parcels of farmland in Pangantukan and violently resisting attempts by owners and officials to expel them, officials said.

Many of the ``tad-tad'' sects have in recent years evolved into criminal gangs that engage in cattle rustling and illegal logging.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Governments and Cults

6. Geneva to host first public information centre on cults
Swiss Radio International/Swissinfo (Switzerland), Aug. 13, 2000
http://www.swissinfo.org/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The first public information centre on religious cults, set up by eight Swiss cantons, is to open in Geneva in January 2001. By providing neutral information to the public about different beliefs the centre hopes to prevent tragedies and improve public awareness, an official said. The following is the text of a report in English by Swiss Radio International's Swissinfo web site on 13th August:
Six years after 48 members of the Solar temple cult were killed or committed suicide in western Switzerland, the authorities in Geneva are to open the first public information centre on religious groups.

Eight cantons, most of them French-speaking, have been involved in the creation of the Geneva-based Centre for Information on Beliefs, which is due to open its doors next January.

The new body, which will be the first independent and publicly funded centre of its kind, is the result of cooperation between Geneva, Neuchatel, Jura, Fribourg, Valais, Vaud, Ticino and Bern.

On the night of 4th October, 1994, 48 people were murdered or killed themselves in the belief they were being transferred to another planet. Twenty-five died at the small skiing resort of Granges-sur-Salvan in canton Valais. Another 23 perished in the village of Cheiry, in canton Fribourg. Some had been shot in the head several times.

The grisly scenes at the Solar Temple cult's hideouts were proof of the hold that religious groups can exert on their followers.

In the wake of the deaths, the justice department in Geneva invited the other cantons to join it in exchanging information on cult activities.

''We realized there was a need for adequate information concerning cults, both to prevent tragedies and to improve the awareness of the public,'' says Francois Bellanger, the Geneva's justice department's expert on cults, who conducted the report.

''The aim of the centre is to provide neutral information to the public about different beliefs,'' he told Swissinfo. The centre will obtain information from religious groups willing to cooperate, as well as from private groups which help victims of sects and from university researchers.

Ironically, canton Fribourg, the scene of one of the Solar Temple's mass-killings, has decided to opt out of the scheme. It believed the centre should have been a national body, and set up within a university, with a greater research mandate.

''The purpose of the centre is to provide information and to work with the public and for the public,'' Bellanger says. ''Universities have a different function. They may provide useful information, but it's not geared towards the public.''

Some cantons, such as Fribourg and Vaud, are also concerned about how the centre will be funded. Geneva has agreed to provide the bulk of the money over an initial three-year trial period.

There are no official statistics on the number of cults in Switzerland because keeping groups under surveillance would infringe civil liberties. But Bellanger estimates there are around 180 fringe groups in French-speaking Switzerland, which can be divided into three categories.

''First there is a huge number of groups which have esoteric religious or philosophical beliefs that pose no danger whatsoever,'' Bellanger explains.

''Then there are the small fanatical groups that are organized around one leader - like the Solar Temple cult. With these groups, anything could happen, and even if we provide information, it may be impossible to prevent another tragedy.

''The third category is probably just as dangerous. These are commercial groups operating under the cover of religious beliefs. They are more open and additional information on these groups could certainly help the public.''

Bellanger is keen to stress that Geneva is not preparing a major crackdown against religious cults. The law states clearly that everyone has a right to their own beliefs.

''The group's beliefs are irrelevant. What we are concerned about are its activities. The authorities only intervene when an illegal act has taken place,'' Bellanger says.

Nevertheless, Geneva is one of the cantons which is subtly tightening legislation in this area. The local parliament is considering two laws, one designed to help the victims of cults and another which would crack down on the commercial activities of religious organizations.

For now the centre will operate primarily in French-speaking Switzerland. ''It is to be hoped that one day the federal government will change its mind and we will have a centre for the whole of Switzerland,'' Bellanger says.

As a prelude to the creation of the centre, the Geneva authorities will this autumn publish a booklet, aimed at potential victims and parents, outlining the dangers of cults.
[...entire item...]

* Audio report, in English:
Roy Probert has more on the cults centre
Swiss Radio International

Geneva Justice Department - Sects (French)


=== Scientology

7. Scientology critic faces drug cultivation charge
St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 12, 2000
http://www.sptimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CLEARWATER -- Jesse Prince, executive vice president of the Lisa McPherson
Trust
, an anti-Scientology group based in Clearwater, was arrested and charged
Thursday with cultivation of marijuana, jail records show.

Prince is accused of having one marijuana plant growing at his Largo-area house,
said Largo police Lt. Carla Boudrot, whose department made the arrest.

Prince could not be reached for comment.

But McPherson Trust leader Robert Minton questioned whether Prince had been
unfairly targeted and charged.

''There appears to have been a several-months effort to have an undercover agent
of the . . . Police Department monitoring Jesse,'' Minton said. ''I know that
Prince is not a drug user of any kind, and I think he's not that stupid to be
growing marijuana plants in his house.''

Minton said the trust will work to exonerate Prince.

Mike Rinder, a top Scientology official, said the charge confirmed Scientology
suspicions about the anti-church group's members.

''We've been saying that these people, since they arrived, were just a pack of
criminals,'' Rinder said.

Prince, 46, of 1949 Belleair Road is a former Scientologist who broke away from
the church.

He was released from the county jail Thursday after posting $5,000 bail.
[...entire item...]

Comments:
The Church of Scientology increasingly behaves like a hate group. This is
evident from statement like those of Mike Rinder, quoted above, and from the
cult's documented harassment practices

Naturally, there are plenty of people who *speculate* that Jesse Prince is among
the people who have been targeted by elements associated with the Church of
Scientology. After all, Prince - a vocal critic of the cult - at one time was
the second highest-ranking official of Scientology (see
(http://www.offlines.org/jesse.htmlOff-site Link). You may want to keep these things in mind
should you hear the inevitable spin Scientology's OSA department will put on
this. (Also see this information on Scientology's Dead Agenting practices)

Below, in its entirety, is the announcement Bob Minton posted to
alt.religion.scientologyOff-site Link.

:===Begin Quote===
From: Bob Minton <bob@minton.org>
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Subject: Jesse Prince arrested in Clearwater
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 20:40:21 -0400
Message-ID: <i179psgmlopmm8mvq7h61ld9tf62h8l2i3@4ax.com>
Reply-To: bob@minton.orgOff-site Link

Today, 12 Clearwater Police officers arrested Jesse Prince at his Clearwater
residence at about 8:00am. 4 officers had shotguns, 2 had automatic weapons and
4 had automatic handguns trained on Jesse while 2 officers arrested and
handcuffed Jesse. The police were armed with a search warrant authorizing the
search of his home for evidence of unlawful manufacturing of a controlled
substance, marijuana.

While executing a house and garden search, the police officers found a single
marijuana plant (about 15'' in height) in a single pot growing on the screen
porch of his residence along with 47 other house/garden plants. No materials of
any sort were found anywhere in or outside of the residence that could be
associated with the manufacture or use of any type of controlled substance. The
search included wall banging (my term) even in the room of 2 sleeping children.

Based on the court authorized search and undercover police allegations, a
felony charge of unlawful manufacturer of a certain controlled substance, to
wit, marijuana was levied against Jesse and he was incarcerated for several
hours until the $5,000 bail was posted by Jesse's girlfriend for his release.

About 6 months ago, a couple, the male now being described by Clearwater police
as a confidential informant (CI) whose name is allegedly Rensey Trinidad,
befriended Jesse and his girlfriend in a bar and several social encounters have
occurred over the last few months at Jesse's home and elsewhere. The last
encounter was Sunday morning, August 6th, when CI, accompanied by an undercover
Clearwater Police officer named Det. Howard M. Crosby, stopped by Jesse's home
early as they were ''on their way to Key West'' for some fun. CI brought gifts
for Jesse---cookies, rum, wine and macadamia nuts. Before leaving, CI asked
Jesse if he had any marijuana they could take to the Keys. Jesse said that he
did not have any marijuana.

Contrary to Jesse's recollection of events on the morning of August 6th, the
undercover police officer alleges in the criminal charging document that on
the Sunday morning in question, Jesse admitted that it was his marijuana plant
and it had been moved outside (meaning to the screen porch) to get more light.

The law offices of Denis deVlaming have been retained to defend Jesse in this
matter.

Jesse is my friend and I will do whatever I can to help him defend himself
against these charges.

Bob Minton
:===End Quote===


8. [Battlefield Earth propaganda]
Pandora pandora@independent.co.uk
The Independent - London, Aug. 14, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/pages/newsreal/Story.nsp?story_id=12844881&ID=newsreal&scategory=AP+Top+HeadlinesOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, starring John Travolta, has been ''cheered and enjoyed by fans and critics alike'', according to an over-excited press release sent in bulk to numerous publications and radio stations this week. Four pages of publicity celebrate this pinnacle of filmic achievement in a flood of purple prose. The book on which the film was based - an 8-million-copy bestseller - has been on recommended reading lists in New York for eight months, apparently, and received popular acclaim and literary awards across Europe. Magazine editors are offered five copies each of this glittering prize to give away to their readers, and competition questions are suggested. All that is missing from this heartfelt endorsement is a description of what the film is actually about. ''A combination of engaging heroes and villains,'' reads the PR guff, ''an intriguing scenario and a driving plot''. Well, yes, but a plot about what? What the film's publicists are neglecting to mention is that the movie is a promotion of Scientology. The cult, once described by a US judge as ''corrupt, sinister and dangerous'', is currently campaigning to be recognised in this country as a genuine religion. Its tactic? To emphasise the open, frank nature of its methods and a complete lack of secrecy in all its dealings.
[...entire item...]

* About Battlefield Earth

* The Judge who described Scientology as corrupt, sinister and dangerous was
Judge Latey, ruling in the High Court of London. But legal professionals
around the world have accurately portrayed Scientology for what it isOff-site Link


=== Islam

9. Violence by a Muslim Sect Stuns Malaysia
New York Times, Aug. 13, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug. 12 -- It was the trial of the century in Malaysia. But on the morning after this country's former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, was found guilty of sodomy last Tuesday, the newspapers here gave more ink to another hearing, held in a court up country.

Twenty-nine members of an Islamic sect were charged with treason for looting two army camps last month in the northern state of Perak. The attackers made off with rocket launchers, more than 100 assault rifles, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. They seized four hostages -- torturing and killing two -- before surrendering to security forces after a siege at their jungle hideout.

The violence stunned this normally tranquil country, awakening fears of Islamic terrorism in a nation where 40 percent of the people are non-Muslim. Malaysia, with its large Chinese and Indian minorities, is a model of multiethnic harmony in Asia. But people here believe the peace is fragile. They look in fear at neighboring Indonesia and the Philippines, which are battling Muslim insurgencies.

While Mr. Anwar evokes sympathy, he has been consigned to history -- the victim of ruthless political infighting in the turbulence of the Asian economic crisis. The sect's attack, on the other hand, augurs a stormy future for Malaysia as a whole, in which Islam is a rising political force.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

10. Russia Orthodox Church Plans Policy
The Associated Press, Aug. 13, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
MOSCOW (AP) - The head of Russia's Orthodox Church criticized challenges to the church, particularly breakaway factions and Catholic missionaries, as he opened a key synod Sunday that will chart church policy for the new millennium.
(...)

The first crucial document debated by the council will detail a new social concept covering everything from the church's relations with the government to its thoughts on homosexuality, sports and culture.

The second sets out relations with other faiths. Both have been kept secret.

Opening the council in Moscow's giant Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Alexy criticized independence efforts by Orthodox leaders in Ukraine and Estonia, and among the Russian diaspora, the Interfax news agency reported.

He called for more cooperation with the Catholic church, but said he regards ``as inadmissible Catholic expansionism'' among the traditionally Orthodox population of Russia and the former Soviet republics, Interfax said.

The Orthodox church played a key role in the passage of a 1997 law that gives precedence to Orthodoxy and restricts nontraditional faiths in Russia. It has strongly opposed missionary work by foreign churches.

The social doctrine to be adopted at the synod is expected to declare that freedom of conscience is incompatible with Orthodoxy, said Geraldine Fagan of the Keston Institute, a British-based group which monitors religious freedoms.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Head of Russian church condemns attempts to split it
BBC Monitoring/Interfax, Aug. 13, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Excerpts from report in English by Russian news agency Interfax
Moscow, 13th August: Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II has protested against ''attempts by external forces to split the Russian Orthodox Church and shatter its unity''.

Addressing the participants of the Bishops' Assembly currently being held in Moscow, the patriarch recalled that ''even the disintegration of the Soviet Union was not able to destroy the multiethnic nature of the Moscow patriarchy''. It is no surprise that ''efforts to confine the church to the limits of the Russian Federation have also been fruitless'', he added.

The patriarch made these comments in relation to the intentions of the Ukrainian and Estonian state leadership and a number of religious figures to set up independent churches in these countries despite the fact that Orthodox believers living there have been ''fed by the Moscow patriarchy'' for many centuries.

''The Russian church also opposes a state forcefully thrusting its will on other countries and nations,'' Aleksiy II stressed and said that, in his view, the recent tragic events in the Balkans are an ominous warning.

Speaking of ''pseudo-missionaries and totalitarian sects'' whose emissaries are working in Russia, the patriarch asserted that their activity ''has subsided'' today. ''They tried to lure our congregation, but this audacity has now been discredited and rejected by our people,'' he noted.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Religious Intolerance

12. 'Kum Ba Yah' Song Banned at Camp
New York Times/AP, Aug. 13, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/a/AP-BRF-Song-Flap.htmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[Religious intolerance]
NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) -- An 8-year-old girl was banned from singing the campfire favorite ``Kum Ba Yah'' at her day-camp after talent show organizers said it violated their ban on religious songs because it repeats the word ``Lord.''

Samantha Schultz had practiced the song for a week but was banned from singing it Friday at the North Port Boys & Girls Club talent show.

Bill Sadlo, director of operations for the club, about 50 miles south of Tampa, said he was concerned parents would complain if children went home and said they heard a religious song at the nonsectarian camp.

``We don't want to take the chance of a child offending another child's religion,'' Sadlo said.
(...)

``We just can't allow any religious songs,'' said Randy Bouck, the local club's director. ``You have to check your religion at the door.''

On the Net:
Song lyrics: http://ingeb.org/spiritua/comebyhe.htmlOff-site Link
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Science

13. A Piece of Faith and History
ABC News, Aug. 12, 2000
http://abcnews.go.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
R O M E, Aug. 12 — Veiled in mystery, the Shroud of Turin, one of the world’s most famous religious relics, will go on display today for the longest time in history — 70 days in total.
(...)

The shroud, a piece of herringbone twilled linen cloth measuring 14.5 feet by 3.9 feet, is believed by many Roman Catholics to be the cloth in which Christ’s body was wrapped after his crucifixion. The Vatican, which now owns it, is not sure about its authenticity but regards it as a powerful aid to faith.
(...)

So far, 345,000 people from all over the world have reserved tickets to see it. The number of people visiting this year is expected to exceed the 2.5 million who came to see the shroud in 1998.

Imprint of a Man Crucified
Bearing the faint imprint of a man and the apparent signs of wound marks that correspond to those Christ suffered during his crucifixion, the shroud has been the focus of a great deal of debate over the centuries.

It has, however, never officially been a relic for the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II, who visited the shroud in 1998 for the second time, and prayed in silence in front of it for some time, called it “an icon of the suffering of the innocent of all time” and “an extraordinary witness to the suffering of Christ.”

On entering the Cathedral, however, he did first kneel and pray in front of the Eucharist — where, he said, the faithful find “ the real, true and substantial presence of Christ” — before kneeling in front of the shroud.

On that visit, he said no one can explain the shroud right now and that its authenticity was for scientists to decide.
(...)

In a new book, The Turn Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence, Briton Ian Wilson and American photographer Barrie Schwortz say that if the cloth did indeed once wrap the body of Christ, we may now know what his blood group was: AB, a type rare among Europeans but much more common among Middle Eastern Jews.

They say the Catholic Church should allow new tests.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Death Penalty

14. The USA's hour of shame
Amnesty International, Aug. 10, 2000 (Press Release)
http://www.amnesty.org/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The US death penalty continues to be one of the world's human rights scandals, Amnesty International said today condemning the two executions carried out in Texas yesterday.

''Texas is at the heart of that scandal,'' the organization continued, pointing to the fact that Texas now accounts for 28 of the 58 executions carried out in the USA this year, and 227 of the 656 since the USA resumed judicial killing in 1977.

Brian Roberson and Oliver Cruz were killed by lethal injection within an hour of each other despite serious concerns relating to racial discrimination and mental impairment, two issues that mark many capital cases in the USA.

''US contempt for international standards of justice and decency has once again been on display for the world to see,'' Amnesty International said.

The organization also refutes Governor George W. Bush's reported contention that Texas does not execute the mentally retarded, citing the examples of Terry Washington and Charles Boyd -- put to death in 1997 and 1999 -- two of the 140 men and women executed since Governor Bush took office in January 1995.

''The flawed nature of Texas justice was further exposed in the cases of Washington and Boyd as the juries that sentenced them to death were never told of the two men's mental impairment,'' Amnesty International said.

Governor Bush did not support a bill to ban the execution of the mentally retarded which failed to pass the Texas legislature in 1999. He also vetoed a bill in 1999 which sought to raise the standard of legal representation for low-income defendants.
(...)

International standards oppose the death penalty for the mentally impaired. In yet another blatant example of the lottery of US capital justice, Cruz's white co-defendant, charged with the same murder, received a prison term in exchange for testimony against Cruz.

Studies have repeatedly shown that the US capital justice system places a higher value on white life. Over 80 per cent of the more than 650 people executed in the USA since 1977 were convicted of crimes involving white victims.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

15. Englewood middle school based on self-help guru
Denver Rocky Mountain News, Aug. 13, 2000
http://www.insidedenver.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
At age 11, D'Jate Oliveri is already an experienced ballerina, with seven years of lessons behind her.

Thursday, she will start learning to be a highly effective teen when she starts at the Englewood Leadership Academy. The new middle school embraces the popular philosophies of self-help guru Stephen Covey and his son, Sean.
(...)

And each day, students will spend 40 minutes in a leadership class, where they will learn the importance of honesty, fairness and human dignity, using Sean Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens as a guide. These habits include defining and ranking life goals and working as a team.

Morning and afternoon, students will use the planning skills Covey emphasizes to plan and review their work for 15 minutes.

Admittedly, the Covey ideas are trendy, as are the pricey planners and pictures sold at Covey seminars and upscale stores.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Steven Covey, a Mormon, in his writings promotes Mormonism - a
pseudo-Christian religion


16. In a Warring Mexican Town, God's Will Is the Issue
New York Times, Aug. 13, 2000
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SAN JUAN CHAMULA, Mexico -- This rugged part of Chiapas State has been the eye of a human storm that has raged on much longer than the better-known struggle surrounding the Zapatista rebels who have been fighting Mexican authorities for six years.

It has been ground zero in Mexico's lingering conflict between Catholics and evangelical Christians. The battles -- often pitting Indians determined to preserve traditional customs against those who want change -- have blazed on for 30 years, dividing fathers from their sons, turning violent, and leaving hundreds dead and at least 30,000 displaced in Chiapas alone.

But that may be changing. Nestled in a field turned green with young cabbage and corn is an extraordinary monument of determination -- perhaps even tolerance -- signaling what could be a beginning to the end of those religious tensions.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Peyote: When The Ancient Indian Way Collides With a New Age Craze
The Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 12, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
To Clifford Duncan, the buttons of the hallucinogenic peyote cactus he and other American Indians eat and brew as tea are sacraments every bit as holy as the bread and wine of the Christian Eucharist.

Indeed, tribal use of peyote as both a spiritual and medicinal aid predates Jesus by millennia, with Indians from northern Mexico and southern Texas believed to have ingested the cactus for the past 6,000 to 10,000 years.

That is why Duncan, the 67-year-old Northern Ute ''head man'' of the Native American Church on eastern Utah's Uintah and Ouray Reservation, bristles when he hears about non-Indians appropriating peyote as part of the latest New Age craze. Duncan's group is one of several chapters of the church operating independently in Utah.
(...)

Duncan points to one recent example: An Ogden man, Nick Stark, allegedly charged $200 per person for peyote ceremonies attended mostly by non-Indians. He was arrested July 8, with police confiscating 3,500 peyote buttons and $11,000 in cash. Stark, who claims to be one-quarter Iroquois and a medicine man, was charged with felony possession of peyote with intent to distribute.
(...)

Under federal law, peyote use is restricted to the Native American Church's 250,000 adherents, including approximately 2,000 in Utah. There also is a requirement that participants prove, to the satisfaction of their congregational leaders, that they have at least 25 percent American Indian heritage. There is no procedure in place for federal monitoring of the bloodline requirement.

But the issue of who can legally use peyote is clouded by state laws that conflict with federal statutes. Some state laws are less restrictive; others, including Utah's, ban use of peyote -- which statute equates with heroin or LSD -- entirely and without exception.
(...)

Further complicating the picture: While the majority of the church's members are from federally recognized tribes, some peyotists have broken away, forming new groups that allow non-Indians into the fold.

That is the case with Stark, whose medicine-man credentials stem from his membership in the Benjamin, Utah-based Oklevueha Earth Walks chapter of the Native American Church, led by James Mooney.

Two years ago, Mooney, who claims Seminole ancestry, resigned from the traditionalist A-Shii-Be-To chapter of the Native American Church in Salt Lake City after a dispute over his Oklevueha Earth Walk church's inclusion of non-Indians in peyote ceremonies. Mooney is not the only one advocating wider use of peyote.

Matthew Kent of the Peyote Way Church of God near Klondyke, Ariz., is one of those whites who claims to have found enlightenment in the cactus Duncan and other American Indians hold so dear.

''I understand where they are coming from -- 400 years of racial discrimination. Peyote is one of the few things left that connects them to their past,'' Kent said. ''But that's not my relationship to peyote. . . . We are open to all races here.''

Indeed, the church located on 160 acres in remote southeastern Arizona owes its existence to an unlikely trio: Kent, a former Philadelphia rock 'n roll musician; his wife, Anne Zapf, a zoologist and ex-Mormon; and Immanuel Pardeahtan Trujillo, a half-Apache medicine man and Native American Church dissident.

If the origins of the church's co-founders are eclectic, then so are the sect's tenets. Peyote Way's Articles of Faith are an amalgam of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' ''Word of Wisdom'' restrictions (no coffee, tea, alcohol or tobacco), tribal beliefs in peyote's spiritual and healing properties, and insistence that the plant ''is given by Mother Earth for all people.''
(...)

Whether peyote or other sacred concoctions, use of mood- and mind- altering plants and brews have gone hand-in-hand since the dawn of humankind, said Robert Fuller, professor of Religious Studies at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and author of Stairways to Heaven: Drugs in American Religious History.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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