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Religion News Report

August 31, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 254)

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=== Aryan Nations Trial
1. Ex-aide kept shooting quiet
2. ATF, FBI agents pose as journalists

=== Attleboro Cult
3. Judge Orders Sect Member to Custody
4. Court action planned against cult member

=== Bruderhof
5. Bruderhof sues vocal critic
6. Gaithersburg Man Crosses the Bruderhof

=== Occult
7. Psychic's guess is as good as no guess at all

=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes
8. German State Official Fired
9. A Look at Recent Neo-Nazi Violence

=== Other News
10. Divine-rule idea for holy sites in Jerusalem gains
11. Azeri God's Army cult trial opens in Baku
12. Group seeks reports of crop circles

=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance
13. ACLJ Offers to Defend School Districts and Spontaneous Prayer
at High School Football Games
14. Bible Class

=== Science
15. Killers caught by victim's memory

=== Human Rights / Faith Healing
16. Guess which pair lost their child
17. Human Sacrifice: Is It Legal?

=== Human Rights
18. Almost 1.5 million U.S. children have a parent in prison, study shows

=== Noted
19. Roo the day (John Hagelin/TM)
20. Dead Air

=== Books / Films / Internet
21. Deception by Design
22. 'Who's Who in Hell': Book reveals who's hot
23. 'God's Army' preaches to converted Mormon director's film makes
good material for recruits

=== The Statue Around The Corner
24. Seeking Jesus? Look on your doorstep


=== Aryan Nations Trial

1. Ex-aide kept shooting quiet
The Spokesman Review, Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Coeur d'Alene _ Former Aryan Nations staff director Michael Teague testified Wednesday that he didn't tell authorities when he found out three of his guards were involved in an unsolved shooting.

Teague told a jury that he didn't kick Aryan guards John Yeager and Jesse Warfield out of the white supremacy compound for firing an assault rifle at Victoria and Jason Keenan's car near the compound.
(...)

The plaintiffs' attorneys contend Teague and Butler concocted a cover-up, drafting and back-dating security rules and getting rid of an SKS assault rifle used in the assault.

Teague testified that he did draft the security rules, but said they were written before the Keenans' suit was filed in January 1999.

The rules only authorize self-defense work and say guards are on their own if they leave the compound.

Under questioning from Dees, Teague admitted that he chased Aryan member Lotah Tanaach off the church grounds in 1998 after he was seen spitting in his shirt pocket during a Butler white supremacy sermon.

But when he learned Warfield and Yeager were involved in the shooting, Teague said he didn't disclose the matter to Kootenai County sheriff's detectives.

Detective Sgt. Gerald Weidenhoff, called to testify next, said Teague professed to have no knowledge of the shooting when questioned by detectives in December 1998.

After the Keenan shooting, Warfield was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant and made security chief for the Aryan Nations Congress and its 1998 parade in downtown Coeur d'Alene, Teague testified.

''So, you said you kicked a man off (the Aryan compound) for spitting in his pocket but not for shooting at a car down on the road?'' Dees asked.

Teague acknowledged that had occurred.
(...)

After the jury was sent home, 1st District Judge Charles Hosack admonished the attorneys about the pace of the trial.

''We're going more slowly than we should,'' Hosack told Dees and Butler's attorney, Edgar Steele. Yeager and Warfield are acting as their own attorneys. Shane Wright, the third guard allegedly involved in the shooting, is a fugitive.

The judge said he hoped the plaintiffs would end their case by Friday.

Yeager, a former skinhead who lived in Spokane, fled the Aryan compound after the 1998 parade, and eventually was arrested in California.

He confessed to the crime and is serving prison time. Now he says he was so drunk that he can't recall his involvement in the shooting, but remembers bragging about it later to other skinheads and Aryans.
(...)

Dees earlier called two witnesses in an attempt to show that there have been other instances in which Aryan guards have committed crimes off the compound.
(...)

Teague told the jury that he was a Hammerskin -- a type of neo-Nazi skinhead -- in Arizona before moving to the Aryan Nations in October 1996.

By early 1997, Teague testified, he was promoted to staff leader by Butler and took charge of day-to-day operations.

He rewrote the Aryan Nations handbook, Teague told the jury.

The handbook, introduced as evidence, describes the Aryan Nations as a ''disciplined, coordinated, monolithic hierarchy with all authority emanating from leader-pastor Richard Butler.''

One issue of the Aryan newsletter, Calling Our Nation, referred to Butler as ''der Fuhrer.'' Dees asked Teague about that.

Teague said that title was used by C.W. Nelson, who edited one edition of the newsletter before leaving. Butler then asked that he no longer be called ''der Fuhrer.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. ATF, FBI agents pose as journalists
The Spokesman Review, Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.spokane.net/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Coeur d'Alene _ Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson ordered media credentials revoked late Wednesday from seven photographers after he learned they actually are undercover federal agents.

The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents obtained the media credentials early this week and posed as photographers at the civil trial attempting to bankrupt Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler.
(...)

Sheriff's Capt. Ben Wolfinger said he approached the agents -- who were decked out in photographer vests, glasses and hats and had new camera equipment -- early in the week to determine what news agency they represented.

''They said they were FBI,'' Wolfinger said.

He then instructed them to get the same photo ID badges from the county that all legitimate media representatives had obtained for security purposes.

''I didn't think it would become an issue,'' Wolfinger said.

However, federal agents posing as journalists presents a huge credibility problem, said Kyle Niederpruem, national president of the Society of Professional JournalistsOff-site Link.
(...)

''The reason is you cannot pose as someone you are not. It is a difficult job to be a reporter without people wondering if that person is an FBI agent,'' she said. ''They should be ashamed of themselves.''

Oren Campbell, director of SPJ's Region 10, which covers the Northwest and Alaska, said undercover agents posing as media can destroy the public's trust.

''Any members of the public might view with suspicion any gathering of news media, wondering how many are legitimate and how many are fake,'' Campbell said. ''It's an issue too important to ignore.''

FBI special agent Robbie Burroughs, of the agency's Seattle office, said she was checking into the report late Wednesday.

''It sounds ridiculous to me,'' Burroughs said.
(...)

A similar case in 1996 in the Spokane Valley led to an SPJ letter to FBI Director Louis Freeh.

In that case, an FBI informer posing as a reporter for a Spokane Valley newspaper tried to run a sting operation on a Gypsy leader being investigated for witness intimidation.

Later that year, G. Kelly Hawes, former national SPJ president, sent a letter to Freeh urging him to ''take the steps necessary to forbid such practices in the future.''

''It is imperative that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies be able to do their jobs,'' Hawes wrote Freeh in 1996. ''But it is also imperative that journalists be able to do their jobs, acting as the watchdogs on government and the criminal justice system.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Attleboro Cult

3. Judge Orders Sect Member to Custody
Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) -- A pregnant member of a fundamentalist sect who is suspected of covering up the death of her last child was ordered into custody Thursday after she refused to submit to a court-ordered medical exam.

The exam will evaluate the health of Rebecca Corneau and her unborn baby and determine how far she is into the pregnancy, said Gerald FitzGerald, an assistant district attorney for Bristol County.

Prosecutors believe Corneau, 32, is 81/2 months pregnant.
(...)

Corneau was escorted from the courthouse by state troopers after the judge issued his order. Walsh said he didn't expect her to be released until after she gave birth.

Judge Kenneth P. Nasif ruled two weeks ago that Corneau, whose sect preaches against medical care, is an unfit mother, and placed her three children in state custody.

He denied Walsh's request Tuesday to lock Corneau up until the baby is born, instead ordering daily checks by a nurse. But the nurse was barred Wednesday and again Thursday from examining Corneau at the home she shares with several other sect members. That led to the judge's new order Thursday.
(...)

Prosecutors believe another of the sect's members is pregnant, but at an earlier stage than Corneau. Walsh wouldn't say what action might be taken.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Court action planned against cult member
Boston Globe, Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.boston.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ATTLEBORO - Angry and frustrated, Bristol County's chief prosecutor planned to return to court today after a pregnant cult member suspected of covering up the death of her last baby refused to talk about her medical condition with a court-appointed nurse, calling medicine a false god.

Rebecca Corneau, who is 81/2 months pregnant, kept her courtroom vow and would not allow public health nurse Beth Collins into the sect's house yesterday. But she conceded to talk privately with Collins behind a screen of grapevines in the backyard.

However, during the 20-minute discussion, prosecutors said, Corneau would not answer questions about her health or the unborn baby. Instead, Corneau talked about her religious beliefs, and called modern medicine a false god, said Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh.
(...)

As a result, Walsh said he intends to force Corneau's hand by asking the court to put specific medical questions before Corneau. If she then refuses to answer, the prosecutor said, she can be held in contempt, taken into custody, and brought to a secure medical facility and monitored until the baby is born.
(...)

Corneau, 32, who will not answer questions about the death of her son, Jeremiah, has been declared unfit to care for her other two children. Officials from the state Department of Social Services, who do not have jurisdiction until the child is born, are expected to take custody of Corneau's baby.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Bruderhof

5. Bruderhof sues vocal critic
The Times Herald Record, Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.th-record.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
What started out as a custody case is now snowballing into a battle between the Bruderhof religious community and a loosely knit group of former members and opponents.

The developments came in the wake of the dismissal of one of three custody cases yesterday after an Ulster County Family Court judge determined the court does not have jurisdiction.
(...)

In an unusual news conference yesterday, Bruderhof leadership said they will not tolerate what they dubbed a ''smear campaign'' by a ''disgruntled group of folks.''

The religious group, based in Rifton, is pressing a defamation case against one man who has been critical of the group in a newsletterOff-site Link circulated among former Bruderhof members.

Christian Domer, president of Bruderhof Communities of New York Inc., said the newsletter reported one mother and her children involved in the Ulster custody cases were whisked away in the middle of the night by current group members.

Domer said that claim was completely false.

Three Nigerian men, former members of the Bruderhof, had filed a custody case in the Ulster County Family Court in late July seeking access to their children, who are still part of the community.

''It's not so much the issue of the three fathers; it is a concerted agenda on the part of a group of disgruntled folks, some of them former members of the Bruderhof,'' Domer said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Gaithersburg Man Crosses the Bruderhof
The Daily Record, Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.mddailyrecord.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A family court hearing yesterday in upstate New York may seem far removed from a federal lawsuit filed last week in Baltimore, but the two are inextricably linked by bonds of emotion, blood and faith.

In the New York case, a Nigerian man is seeking visitation rights to children he fears he may never see again, after being kicked out of a religious group called the Bruderhof. Two other cases involving Nigerians excommunicated from the Bruderhof also are pending.

In the Baltimore lawsuit, an air charter service with ties to the Bruderhof is suing a Gaithersburg man for defamation for publicly speculating that the air service spirited the four children and their mothers to Pennsylvania and Great Britain to prevent them from appearing in the Ulster County, N.Y., Family Court.

''Speculation continues to mount today in regards to whether Rifton Aviation Services…may have flown four children and their mothers out of the country in order to prevent them from appearing'' in court, the Gaithersburg man, S. Blair Purcell, wrote in a self-styled ''press release'' posted on the Internet Aug. 16.

Rifton Aviation filed the defamation action eight days later. It claims the release was posted where its clients could see it and had caused the company to become an object of public wrath and ridicule.

Purcell said in an interview that he has never been a Bruderhof member, but his wife left the community in her teens, and his in-laws are still members.

Purcell and his attorney, James C. Strouse, declined to comment on the matter, but a lawyer for one of the Nigerian men said Purcell's statements were true.

The Bruderhof ''is what it is and the tentacles are just getting bigger and bigger,'' said Cappy Weiner, the lawyer for Joseph Idiong.

But Christian P. Domer, president and CEO of Rifton Aviation as well as president of the Bruderhof Communities of New York Inc., denies there is anything sinister about the group - a Hutterite sect with a 300-acre commune, known as Woodcrest, as its home base in Rifton, N.Y.

''We are a religious group originally incorporated in the U.S.A. in 1954 as an apostolic, communal group that pools resources and runs businesses for the benefit of the group and its interests,'' Domer said.

He characterized Purcell's statements as part of a crusade by former members and outsiders to disparage the Bruderhof and its business interests.
(...)

The one thing everyone familiar with the case can agree on is that it is emotionally charged.

The three Nigerian men are cousins. Joseph Idiong, Basil Ebong and Ebong Ebong, all in their 30s, married and had children with Bruderhof mission women at the group's Palm Grove mission in Nigeria, jointly established by the Rifton Bruderhof and a traditional Hutterite group in South Dakota called the Schmiedeleut.

But the Nigerian mission failed, and the men were expelled when they came to live in the Rifton, N.Y., community.

According to Weiner, the Bruderhof has kept the men from seeing their wives and children in the three years since the expulsion.
(...)

To one expert on the Bruderhof, the fact that they would engage in litigation at all, let alone initiate a defamation suit, is a ''remarkable'' departure from their Hutterite roots.

Like the Mennonites and Amish, the Hutterites are Anabaptists: ''rebaptizers'' who repudiated infant baptism in conceiving a voluntary church free of state control

''The Anabaptist faith commitment prevents them from using the state or courts of law to sue - or even to defend themselves,'' says Julius H. Rubin, a sociology professor at St. Joseph's College in West Hartford, Conn.

Rubin is the author of ''The Other Side Of Joy: Religious Melancholy Among the BruderhofOff-site Link,'' a book published earlier this year by Oxford University Press - only after a $15.5 million defamation suit against him by the Bruderhof's corporate arm was dismissed and the book had been vetted by Oxford's English and American lawyers.
(...)

Among other suits filed by the sect have been a federal trademark action that led to the disbanding of an opposition group called Children of the Bruderhof International, and a state suit against CBS seeking a reporter's notes, unedited video tapes and materials used in a report critical of the Bruderhof. The report aired on ''48 Hours'' in March 1997. That case was dismissed the following August.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Occult

7. Psychic's guess is as good as no guess at all
Chicago Tribune, Aug. 31, 2000 (Opinion)
http://www.chicago.tribune.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Since Carol Pate is willing to go out on a limb, I am too.

Pate, who claims to have psychic powers, says she has a strong, specific and accurate vision in her mind's eye of exactly where Dr. Xu ''Sue'' Wang of suburban Darien was buried after she disappeared just over a year ago.

And I, who claim there is no such thing as psychic powers, say she's guessing.
(...)

It's just the kind of case that often brings police and self-styled psychics together. Remember Brian Welzien, the Northern Illinois University student who vanished on the Gold Coast after drinking heavily New Year's Eve? Numerous ''psychics'' contacted authorities: He's being held hostage at Cabrini-Green, they said. He's tied up in a basement somewhere. I see trees. Check Grant Park...

But ''no one came remotely close'' to describing the beach in Gary where Welzien's body washed ashore March 17, said Chicago Detective John DeBartolo, who ran the investigation.

No surprise there. Since opening in 1984, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has solved 53,581 missing-child cases, officials said, but so-called psychics haven't proved helpful even once.

Since 1968, magician James Randi has offered a sizable cash award--it's now $1 million--to anyone who ''can demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability of any kind under satisfactory observing conditions'' (see http://www.randi.org/research/challenge/challtxt.htmlOff-site Link for details). Several hundred hopefuls have applied. All have failed.

Every last one has turned out to be either deluded or dishonest, just as every ''psychic'' investigated in editor Joe Nickell's 1994 book ''Psychic SleuthsOff-site Link'' turned out to have no special powers when investigative reporters examined their careers. ''They count their lucky guesses and ignore all their misses,'' said Nickell, a senior research fellow at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal who has never studied Carol Pate. ''Their claims are often scandalously false.''

Usually, the would-be psychics offer vague generalities on the order of ''I see a wooded area, I see water, I see a bridge, I see a church, I see the number 7'' that can be made to match a variety of scenarios in retrospect, especially when both the ''psychic'' and the police officers--who don't want to look like credulous dupes--are motivated to make the consultation seem worthwhile.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups / Hate Crimes

8. German State Official Fired
Excite/AP, Aug. 31, 2000
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
ERFURT, Germany (AP) - The head of a state office for monitoring neo-Nazis has been fired following criticism over the revelation that he paid $11,500 to a known neo-Nazi for information on radical rightists, the Thuringia state interior minister said Friday.

Interior Minister Christian Koeckert said at a news conference that he had relieved Helmut Roewer, head of the state Office for Protection of the Constitution, of his job.

The minister did not give his reasons for firing the interior intelligence chief because a report on an investigation of Roewer still has to be presented to the Thuringia state's parliamentary security committee.

Roewer was suspended June 8 after neo-Nazi Thomas Dienel revealed that he had been told he would receive a reduced sentence if he would provide the Office for Protection of the Constitution information on the far-right scene.

Koeckert confirmed at that time that Dienel, who had been convicted of inciting the public by preaching banned Nazi slogans, had been paid for information he had provided from 1996-97.

But he said then the more important reason for suspending Roewer was because his office had repeated personnel problems and indiscretions that made the headlines.
[..more...]


9. A Look at Recent Neo-Nazi Violence
Excite/AP, Aug. 31, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A list of some of the recent acts of neo-Nazi violence in Germany:

April 21 - Synagogue in eastern city of Erfurt is targeted in a failed arson attack on the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday the night before; neo-Nazis later arrested.

April 29 - Nine Vietnamese gathered at a lake in the northern German town of Waschow are attacked by 15-member group of neo-Nazis ages 17 to 22.

June 11 - Alberto Adriano, 39, an immigrant from Mozambique, is beaten in a park while on his way home in the eastern city of Dessau by three neo-Nazis. He dies three days later from his injuries. The three suspects were convicted of murder on Wednesday.

July 4 - A 26-year-old Greek and a 27-year-old Afghan are brutally beaten by seven extreme right-wing youths in the western city of Duesseldorf.

July 9 - A 52-year-old homeless man is beaten to death by five known members of the extreme-right scene, ages 19 to 22, in the Baltic coastal town of Wismar.

July 24 - A 51-year-old homeless man is beaten to death in the Baltic coastal town of Seebad Ahlbeck. Four skinheads are arrested, one after a nationwide manhunt. Their alleged motive is that the homeless have no place in society.

July 25 - Two children of asylum-seekers, from Kenya and Congo, are attacked in a tram and slightly injured by five young Germans in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam.

Aug. 19 - Three skinheads attack a 32-year-old African with German citizenship, knocking him down and kicking him with their boots, in the northern town of Barmstedt where he was attending a local festival with his wife and child.

Aug. 30 - Two known neo-Nazis in Luebeck appear in court offering to pay $1,400 in damages to a 33-year-old African man they had beaten up the night before. A judge releases the suspects without bail after they expressed remorse and offered damages, but prosecutors said they were reviewing the decision.
[...entire item...]


=== Other News

10. Divine-rule idea for holy sites in Jerusalem gains
San Diego Union-Tribune/AP, Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.uniontrib.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
JERUSALEM -- Israelis and Palestinians who have spent months wrangling over which side should control Jerusalem's holy sites are turning their attention to an idea floated after Camp David's failure: Put God in charge.

The proposal to declare God the sovereign over Jerusalem shrines is tentative, but it has the potential to help defuse the most emotional dispute in the Mideast peace talks. It has won the guarded endorsement of Jerusalem's hawkish Israeli mayor and a top Palestinian official -- marking the first time the two sides have found any common ground on how to share the city.

''This is a very promising solution,'' said political scientist Menachem Klein, member of an Israeli think tank that has been advising Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the negotiations with the Palestinians.
(...)

Among all the issues the Israelis and Palestinians must hammer out for a final peace treaty the toughest is the future of Jerusalem -- and specifically, the dispute over Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.
(...)

Arafat demands full Palestinian sovereignty over all of traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy places. He has said the mosques are sacred to millions of Muslims around the world and that he does not have a mandate to surrender them to the Israelis.

Barak has made the same argument, saying no Israeli prime minister could ever give up the Temple Mount, the object of Jewish longing through the ages.

If God is declared sovereign, both leaders might be able to save face and no longer have to fear being branded a traitor to their religion. Klein said negotiators could then start working out the details of how sovereignty is expressed, such as who would be in charge of security and who would issue permits for renovations.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Azeri God's Army cult trial opens in Baku
BBC Monitoring, Aug. 31, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of report by Azerbaijani Space TV on 31st August
[Presenter, video shows trial] The trial of 13 members of the Jeyshullah, God's Army, group opened today at the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court. The trial is presided over by Ogtay Magsudov and the defendants are charged with murder, robbery and sabotage.
(...)

It has been proven that Jeyshullah members attempted to bomb and set fire to the Krishna Consciousness Society's Baku headquarters in 1997 and that they murdered the chairman of the Union of Psychics and Sorcerers, Etibar Elkin, and his two sons in 1999.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. Group seeks reports of crop circles
The Irish Times (Ireland), Aug. 28, 2000
http://www.ireland.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Farmers have been asked to watch for and report any crop circles which they may find in their fields this harvest.

The appeal has come from a new group, UFO Ireland, which was formed to collate information from Ireland and to analyse whether there is any extra-terrestrial activity here.

The central co-ordinator of the group, Mr Lorcan McGrane, said yesterday he and his colleagues would adopt a sceptical approach to all reports in the hope of discovering a genuine site.
(...)

He did not think the group's work was in any way weakened by an appeal to the public to report UFO sightings as well.

''We have noted a number of UFO sightings from Ireland on websites in the USA and some of them were really over the top,'' he said. Mr McGrane said that reports of crop circles and other sightings of UFOs would be published in Six Mag magazine, which hosts the UFO website.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Sig Mag
http://www.sixmag.ie/Off-site Link (down when last checked)


=== Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance

13. ACLJ Offers to Defend School Districts and Spontaneous Prayer at High School Football Games
Business Wire, Aug. 31, 2000
[Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance]
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 31, 2000--The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, announced today that it will defend any school district in America that is sued for permitting spontaneous prayer to occur at high school football games.

''We will defend any school district that is sued for simply permitting students and citizens to express their First Amendment rights at football games,'' said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. ''Even with the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding school prayer, there should be no confusion that spontaneous prayer at high school football games is both legal and constitutional.''
(...)

''It is clear that private student prayer before sporting events is permissible provided that the prayer is not sponsored or endorsed by the school and does not utilize the school's public address system,'' said Sekulow. ''As students and members of the community are permitted to stand up and cheer for their team, they are also permitted to stand up and recite a religious statement, including a prayer.''

''If the ACLU or any other organization attempt to challenge or target a school system that permits such First Amendment activity, we will be ready to provide legal assistance and defend school districts in those situations,'' said Sekulow.

The ACLJ has sent an informational letter outlining the legalities of religious expression in the public schools in light of the Santa Fe decision to superintendents in more than 15,000 public school districts across the country. The letter is available at the ACLJ web site at www.aclj.orgOff-site Link.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Bible Class
MSNBC/KTVE (Louisiana), Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.msnbc.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[Religious Freedom / Religious Intolerance]
(...) The people for the American way foundation want to know what's being taught in a class called: the history of bible as literature.

Coach Chris Eubanks at Ouachita junior high teaches his students about the history of the bible. The people for the American way foundation recently asked for a copy of his class curriculum. The foundation says they only want to be sure the class is being taught in a constitutional way.
(...)

The school's lawyer says they're aware of a right and wrong way to teach about the bible. ''In a public school context, you cannot provide religious instruction however you can teach about religion in the context of history and literature,'' says Noah Elmer.

The group asking for the curriculum says there have been no fingers pointed at Ouachita junior high. In fact they're looking at teaching practices from schools around the nation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Science

15. Killers caught by victim's memory
The Times (England), Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Scientists will soon be able to record memories, according to a government report.

Emerging ''neurochemical technology'' means that the final vision of a murder victim as well as more pleasant recollections of the living will be preserved for others to see.

The predictions are contained in a report published by the Department of Trade and Industry's Foresight task force, which was created to take a look at the future.

It examines crime-fighting measures for the 21st century, and predicts ''greater access to the memories of the living and possibly the recently deceased'' through new technology. This would be achieved through ''cybernetics'', which ''offers the possibility of integrating technology into the human body''.

The report acknowledges that ''social resistance'' will limit the use of the technology.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Human Rights / Faith Healing

16. Guess which pair lost their child
Rocky Mountain News, Aug. 29, 2000 (Opinion)
http://insidedenver.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Lindsay Gentry weighed 44 pounds when she finally starved to death at the age of 15. Over the years, teachers and students tried their best to help the stick-thin girl who always seemed desperately hungry and underfed. Some of them even gave her extra food, until Lindsay's parents ordered them to stop.

School employees filed at least 15 child abuse complaints with child welfare agencies in Orange County, Calif. The agencies did nothing. Neither did a host of doctors, whose long-running complacency in the face of the emaciated girl's condition was so outrageous that the judge presiding over the trial of Lindsay's parents last month felt compelled to comment on it.

Meanwhile, the parents of Anamarie Martinez Regino have had their daughter taken from them by the state of New Mexico. Medical and legal complacency isn't a problem in this case: Indeed, the girl was a patient at Presbyterian Hospital when she was seized by the Children, Youth and Families Department, on the recommendation of Anamarie's physician, Monika Mahal.

Anamarie's parents have committed the crime of failing to keep their daughter from getting fat. Ever since she was 2 months old, Miguel Regino and Adela Martinez have been taking Anamarie to hospitals, in an effort to determine why their daughter, who is three times heavier and 50 percent taller than the average 3-year-old, is so large. Doctors have been unable to give them an answer.

Dozens of tests have found nothing that explains why their child is different. ''I can't tell you what is causing her to be this large in absolute certainty,'' says Mahal's partner, Dr. Irene Moody (translation: we have no idea). ''But we do know that her size is life-threatening.''

Even this bit of medical wisdom is open to question: Tests done a month ago found no unhealthy stress on Anamarie's heart. In any case, there appears to be no evidence that either Adela Martinez or her husband have ever mistreated or neglected their daughter. No state agency or law enforcement office had ever accused them of anything improper, Martinez said, until she was served with legal papers on Friday charging the family with not being able to keep Anamarie's weight down.

It has come to this: We live in a nation where parents can spend years starving a child to death, while doctors and government bureaucrats choose to do nothing. Indeed, our legal system forbids us to interfere when a child is dying of an illness that could be cured by a simple dose of medicine because we are supposed to accept that the freedom of the child's parents to adhere to the tenets of their religion is more important than saving the child's life.

Yet, we also live in a culture that sanctions a state agency's kidnapping of a child from loving and dutiful parents, for no better reason than that, despite their best efforts, they have been unable to find a way to keep their daughter from gaining weight.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Human Sacrifice: Is It Legal?
Themestream, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.themestream.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Imagine a child asking you for a banana and you give it. Harmless, yes? Until, that is, the child begins choking on a bite. What do you do? The Heimlich maneuver? Call an ambulance? Do nothing? While the last option seems barbaric, that's exactly what some parents do when their child's life is in danger. And the law lets them do it.

Faith healing is a practice common in most cultures and persists even in the light (or in spite) of current medical knowledge and procedures. While there are many types of faith healing, the most common mean is through basic prayer.

While most use prayer in addition to medical treatment, there is a small segment of the population that uses prayer as the sole means of healing ails. Not surprisingly, these groups are religious in nature.

Not all religious groups reject all medical treatments, however. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, refuse blood transfusion in accordance with their reading of certain Bible passages.[1],[2] Also, Christian Scientists (followers of the Church of Christ, Scientist) allow for the setting of broken bones but all other medical treatments are discouraged with ''scientific prayer'' in its place.[3],[4] However, there are many groups besides Christian Scientists that encourage or require the refusal of medical care, including the followers of the Children of the First Born, End Time Ministries, Faith Assembly, Christ Church (Oregon), Faith Tabernacle, Bible Readers Fellowship (FL) and many more.[5]

Living in a country where our medical practices are some of the best in the world, one may say that those who refuse life-saving medical care are ignorant or stupid. However, we also live in a country founded on religious freedom and we allow one to refuse medical care whether his/her religion requires it or not.

On the flip side of these freedoms, though, comes a dark reality. While refusal of medical care is an option for an adult, what about a child? Can a child make that decision? The answer is no, and for good reason. Aside from the law, most children under the age of eighteen are not sophisticated enough to make such decisions on their own and their parents or guardians either facilitate the choice-making with the children or make the decision for them. However, to refuse a child medical care when it could greatly benefit the child's welfare (and especially in saving the life of a child) is unlawful neglect. So, if the law does not allow a child or its parents/guardians to refuse the child medical care, how can a child ever go without it when it can be helped? Unfortunately, most states exempt parents/guardians from medical neglect if the decision is based on their religious beliefs.

In 1998, the medical journal Pediatrics published a study of 172 cases of children who died when faith healing alone was used to treat an ailment.[6] Of those, if proper medical care were provided, 81.2% of the children would have had a >90% survival rate and 10.5% would have had a survival rate of >50%. Only three children (1.7%) would not have benefited in any case.

Read the above paragraph again.
(...)

Human sacrifice is outlawed in our nation…or is it? These children are forced into martyrdom with their lives by their parents/guardians. They are guilty of neglect - no, proactive neglect - and religious murder.

If we cannot justify the murder of adults for religious reasons, then how can we sit aside while innocent children do?
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Human Rights

18. Almost 1.5 million U.S. children have a parent in prison, study shows
CNN, Aug. 30, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly 1.5 million U.S. children -- 2 percent of the nation's minors -- had a parent in prison in 1999, according to the latest Justice Department statistics released Wednesday. That's more than 500,000 more children with a parent behind bars in 1999 than in 1991.

The figures reflect a 98 percent increase over the past eight years in the number of minors with a mother in prison. During the same period, the number of children with an imprisoned father increased 58 percent.

The Justice Department study said at the end of last year, 1,498,800 children had a parent in prison. A majority of the children -- 58 percent -- were younger than 10, and the average age was 8 years old. As of December 31, 1999, there were 72 million children in the United States.

Inmate population grows
Although U.S. crime rates showed a steady decline in the 1990s, the number of inmates grew, and the length of sentences for certain types of crimes also grew. According to The Associated Press, the nation's prison population increased by 62 percent from 1991 to 1999 -- to 1,284,894 prisoners.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

19. Roo the day
Salon, Aug. 25, 2000
http://www.salon.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Aug. 25, 2000 | Today there is yet another outsider in our midst. In case you're not familiar with Reform Party (and Natural Law Party) presidential candidate John Hagelin -- and judging by a July 17 Reuters poll in which he got exactly zero percent of the vote, you're not -- let me tell you: He's a ''roo.'' Lately Hagelin has tried to distance himself from his roo roots -- strategically understandable, but ultimately unfortunate. Because the roos, as politically maladroit as they may be, are good folk.
(...)

Fairfield's also the home of the Maharishi University of Management and the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (preschool through 12th), an educational system based on, among other things, a system of deep rest and stress release called transcendental meditation. MUM, where Hagelin is a physics professor, was founded in 1979 by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi -- who is best known as the guy who taught TM to the Beatles. The centerpiece of MUM is two enormous domes used for mass meditation, which can result, supposedly, in yogic flying -- a period of heightened awareness that manifests itself in high hopping or levitation. (Masters of this technique sometimes engage in ''flying'' contests that involve racing, high jumps and hurdles.)

In Fairfield, you are either a ''townie'' or a ''roo,'' which is short for ''guru'' -- Fairfield slang for meditator. I was a townie and, like all townies, thought the roos were completely out of their minds.
(...)

This May, Fairfield townies were in an uproar when MUM tore down Parson's Hall. Not only was the building a remnant of the historic, townie-loved Parson's College (on whose grounds MUM now stands), but it was being torn down because its doors did not have an eastern orientation, which could have, as MUM executive vice president Craig Pearson said, ''negative and damaging effects'' on those working inside it.

This is part of ''vastu,'' the art of building design that fosters health, happiness and prosperity. Vastu has inspired homeowners and shopkeepers all over Fairfield to board up their southern entrances and, in some cases, knock down entire walls. Some townies argued that Vedic architecture is derived from the Hindu religion and, therefore, destroying a federally funded campus building like Parson's Hall violated the separation of church and state. (A roo friend of mine commented, ''People take the Maharishi too literally. Next he'll tell you to board up your north entrance, then your east and west. Only then will people realize that the only way out is up.'')

Taking lifestyle cues from a peaceful, bearded spiritual leader who lives in a compound far away does have obvious religious overtones. MUM has always sort of floated around, so to speak, in that taboo territory between science and religion, although TM practitioners insist that TM is not a religion and only enhances any beliefs you already practice. ''The Transcendental Meditation technique is automatic,'' says the MUM Web site. ''It does not require any belief. It works for everyone.'' The fee to learn this all-inclusive technique: $1,000.

But meditators claim that they've scientifically proved their ''crime vaccine'' -- essentially, a gathering of meditators whose accumulated good energy lowers the crime rate of a given locale, like Washington, D.C. (July 1993), or Kosovo (August 1999). As a press release on the Web site states, ''When the group reached about 350 Yogic Flyers, the [Kosovo] destruction ended.''

On the other hand, in Fairfield -- where 20 percent of the population meditates on a daily basis -- ''criminal arrests on drug charges, weapons charges and for drunken driving increased dramatically in 1999,'' according to the Fairfield Ledger. The town's overcrowded jail was forced to send prisoners to five other Iowa jails in late 1999.
(...)

Ominous Maharishi proclamations like ''Democracy must be replaced by a system of administration that will create an integrated unified nation'' and perplexing platform statements like ''Natural law is the orderly principles -- the laws of nature -- that govern the functioning of nature everywhere, from atoms to ecosystems to galaxies'' only succeed in frightening people. Instead of trying to push concepts such as the ''crime vaccine'' and ''divine rule'' (which, by most folks' common logic, leads to ''divine rulers'') on an unsuspecting America, perhaps the TM movement should spend more time disseminating the practical and personal uses of TM through more traditional outlets -- radio, magazines and the talk show circuit.
(...)

It saddens me to hear that MUM is now looking into breaking off into its own city (tentatively called ''Golden'').
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. Dead Air
Phoenix New Times, Aug. 24, 2000
http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Past-life regression, psychic predictions and paranormal palaver: For 11 years, KTAR radio host Frank Baranowski has spooked his occult following
(...)

His show has evolved into a mix of stories, interviews with New Age notables, and psychic call-in sessions offered by people like Taylor and Baranowski's longtime friend Marian Esther.
(...)

Though ''Mysteries Around Us'' is often compared to the now-defunct program hosted by Art Bell (even KTAR's Web site makes the comparison), Dawn considers Baranowski's show more accessible.

''I didn't always understand Art, but I understand Frank,'' she says. ''Frank just knows what people are interested in. Art would get really out there. I don't understand all the UFO stuff, and he was really into it. It's just not my area.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Books / Films / Internet

21. Deception by Design
Themestream, Aug. 31, 2000
http://www.themestream.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Review of Scams from the Great BeyondOff-site Link: How to Make Easy Money Off of ESP, Astrology, UFOs, Crop Circles, Cattle Mutilations, Alien Abductions, Atlantis, Channeling, and Other New Age Nonsense, by Peter Huston, Paladin Press, 1997, ISBN 0-87364-912-5, 201 pages, paperback, $20.

Most skeptical books written about psychics and UFOs and the like, if used in a rational, logical debate where evidence is of foremost importance, would win the day against the books promoting such things. However, all too often we are not dealing solely rational, logical debates - if we were, Skeptical Inquirer magazine would out-sell the Weekly World News.

So, we have a number of rational, logical books that are often, let's face it, somewhat dry. Do I enjoy reading them? Absolutely! But I'd wager that I'm not the typical reader most publishers look at when they decide to print a book.

Author Peter Huston decided to do something about this, and Scams from the Great Beyond is the result.

Huston's book is modeled as a ''How To,'' telling readers how they can pretend to be a psychic, create fake UFO photographs, write an astrology column, etc. But throughout, it's quite obvious that this book is not here to teach fakery, but to expose it.
(...)

Some of the material, such as that on cold reading (using very non-psychic means to pretend to be a psychic), has been presented before, in numerous other publications.
(...)

Throughout the book, Huston makes his feelings for both the people who perpetrate this fraudulent nonsense, and the people who pay for it, quite obvious. At one point, he pleads with all those who believe in this type of thing to ''Wake up!!'' In the next chapter, he notes, ''I may have left the casual reader with the impression that I consider the great bulk of New Age enthusiasts to be boneheads. This is absolutely correct.'' Later he adds, ''if you think that you really can predict the future, then you should either see a doctor and get your head checked or else stop messing around with astrology buffs and invest in the stock market.'' Are such insults called-for? Perhaps.
(...)

His final chapter, ''But Seriously Folks…'' puts a fine point on everything he'd said in the rest of the book. Paranormal claims are not just another form of ''entertainment,'' as the media often portrays it. I've often wondered why, when an elderly woman is robbed of her life savings by a con-man using the time-honored pigeon drop, everybody shakes their heads and says how horrible it is; but if the same woman slowly spends all her money on ''psychic readings'' and astrology charts, it's somehow considered ''different.''

A scam is a scam. Those who perpetrate them are, as Huston said, scum.
(...)

He wants more people to be skeptical and this book is meant to show them why they should be.

(A version of this article originally appeared in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.)


22. 'Who's Who in Hell': Book reveals who's hot
CNN, August 30, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
NEW YORK (CNN) -- It's a Who's Who book with a twist: a 1,200-plus-page tome devoted to atheists, agnostics, and all manner of religious skeptics. Warren Allen Smith's book ''Who's Who in HellOff-site Link: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists and Non-Theists'' alphabetically lists everyone from Woody Allen to Bruce Willis, George Clooney to Katherine Hepburn, Larry King to Albert Einstein, all culled from years of research.

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds out who'll be on hand when hell freezes over.
[...entire item... see URL for video report...]


23. 'God's Army' preaches to converted Mormon director's film makes good material for recruits
The Kansas City Star, Aug. 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Made by and aimed largely at practicing Mormons, ''God's Army'' will be dismissed by many as religious propaganda. Thing is, the film's observations about the nature of faith are insightful enough to arouse the interest of just about anyone with a spiritual bent.

In telling the story of a young Mormon missionary assigned to spread the message of the Latter-day Saints in wicked old Los Angeles, writer/director/actor Richard Dutcher clearly is preaching to the converted. Mormon beliefs are referred to in an offhand manner (the intended audience is already familiar with them), and a scene in which missionaries convert Hispanic Roman Catholics clearly wasn't designed to increase ecumenical harmony.

But the film's real subject is the test of faith that occurs when religious conviction collides with the cold, hard wall of reality.
(...)

Dutcher obviously has drawn upon his own missionary experiences in an effort to re-create this world, one frequently punctuated by practical jokes and the tensions that arise when young men are crammed together in cramped quarters with virtually no outlets except prayer. No coffee, alcohol, drugs or sex for this bunch.

The casting emphasizes Mormonism's one-umbrella outlook; among the missionaries there's an African-American and a Latino, and a new convert is from Taiwan.

From this description ''God's Army'' may sound heavy-handed and didactic. Curiously, it doesn't play that way.

Though Dutcher the writer leans on melodrama - one principal character has a fatal disease, and an unrelated subplot involves a faith healing - as a director he possesses the skill and conviction to finesse his way around the objections of non-Mormon viewers. He's assembled a cast of talented unknowns who give ''God's Army'' a believable, lived-in feel that eludes most ''Sunday School movies.''

Though it's receiving a single-screen commercial run in Kansas City, having already earned back its $1 million investment in Utah, the future of ''God's Army'' clearly resides in video. Virtually every Mormon congregation, and probably a majority of Mormon households, will end up with a copy of the film, which will serve innumerable young men, and some women, too, as an introduction to the rigors and joys of missionary work.
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* Theologically, the Mormon Church is a cult of Christianity


=== The Statue Around The Corner

24. Seeking Jesus? Look on your doorstep
Seattle Post-Intelligencer/AP, Aug. 31, 2000
http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/local/jesu31.shtmlOff-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
[More offbeat stories]
RICHLAND -- If you opened your front door and unexpectedly found a statue of Jesus on the porch, you might think it a miracle. That's what happened to Sharona Lindgren, but it was no miracle. It was evidence of a crime.

Lindgren found the statue Thursday outside her apartment. ''We opened up the door, and there was this 2-foot-tall Jesus looking at us,'' she said.

On the other side of town and on the same day, Debbie Patchin reported to police that a $60 concrete statue of Jesus had disappeared from her front-yard rock garden.
(...)

Lindgren sees her role in finding the statue as a sort of timely omen. The night before finding the statue, she discovered she was pregnant.

''I didn't have to go look for him,'' she said. ''He came to me.''
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