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Religion News Report

December 26, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 301) - 2/3

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Rainbow


» Continued from Part 1

=== Mormonism
15. Mormons Ready to Maximize Attention 2002 Winter Games Bring

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
16. Abduction case teen may visit dad soon

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
17. Brutal attack on 'witch'
18. Groups Seek to Aid Women Sent to Ghana's 'Witch' Camps

=== Hate Groups / Militia Movements
19. Yahoo! Asks Court To Block Ruling
20. The militia lurking in your backyard
21. McVeigh's Death Request Criticized
22. Belgian king warns against racism

» Part 3

=== Other News
23. The man believers think is God (Sai Baba)
24. China Sets up Anti-Sect Association, Steps up Propaganda
25. China: Anti-Cult Association meets to discuss cults and human rights
26. All confessions have equal rights in Russia

=== Death Penalty
27. Innocence Project credited with expanding awareness of DNA testing in law enforcement

=== Noted
28. Memory not always solid proof
29. False memory easy to create
30. Godfather makes Jesus big in Japan

=== Books
31. Templar Treasures Hidden on Baltic Sea Island?

=== The Monks Around The Corner
32. Greek Religious Order Belts out 'Monk Rock'


=== Mormonism

15. Mormons Ready to Maximize Attention 2002 Winter Games Bring
Salt Lake Tribune/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 26, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SALT LAKE CITY -- When gold medals are handed out at the 2002 Winter Games, the ceremony will take place on a plaza built and owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

TV cameras -- and thus the eyes of the world -- will have little choice but to linger on the church's nearby gothic temple, bristling with spires, and on other buildings that make up the headquarters of a rapidly growing American-born faith that claims 11 million members worldwide.

Though tainted by a bidding scandal, Salt Lake City's Winter Games will certainly focus much of the world's attention on a dynamic Mormon culture, which is why the media-savvy church is gearing up to capitalize on the opportunity.

Church officials say they will go for the soft sell -- no aggressive missionaries or overt ties between the Games and the church. But the location of the medals plaza alone guarantees that billions of people worldwide will be exposed to the church's teachings.

''It is fair to say that there will be a positive impact,'' said W. Craig Zwick, president of the LDS missionary district that includes Pennsylvania and New Jersey. ''It's a name-recognition deal.''

Zwick, like many others, hopes that camera shots of the temple will become the Games' signature image, and that the media, in telling the church's story, won't get ''hung up on polygamy, Mormon wealth and a lot of things that don't matter.'' For Salt Lake City's mayor, Rocky Anderson, the challenge will be to get people to look beyond the church to see his city.

Featuring the City: Anderson was so chagrined when Mitt Romney -- a Mormon and the head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee -- agreed to have the medals plaza in the temple's backyard that he won a promise that the five illuminated Olympic rings would be hung only on the century-old City Hall building, the symbol of secular Salt Lake.

Putting the rings on City Hall, Anderson said, is an important part of ''how we will present ourselves. We wanted to dispute any notion that there is going to be any one icon or image presented to the world,''
(...)

Image Conscious: Today's church is extremely conscious of its image. The church-owned Deseret News, one of Salt Lake's two major daily papers, pays close attention to how the world is regarding the city, which Otterson said expected to host 50 heads of state during the Games.
(...)

''The Olympics is a series of images -- of the competition and so forth, but also of the community that hosts it,'' said Ted Wilson, who was mayor of Salt Lake from 1975 to 1985 and now teaches at the University of Utah.

Wilson, who converted to Mormonism as an adult, said church president Hinckley was ''a super PR guy'' who knew the opportunity the Games represented.

''Under Gordon B. Hinckley, the church is extraordinarily image-conscious,'' he said. ''They may deny that, but it is true.'' And by having the medals plaza adjacent to Temple Square, Wilson said, ''that will play well into the cameras.

''The church will be intercepting the camera view every way you look.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Theologically, the Mormon church is a cult of Christianity. Though it claims to be Christian, the teachings and practices of the Mormon church do not represent historical, biblical Christianity.


=== Jehovah's Witnesses

16. Abduction case teen may visit dad soon
Chicago Tribune, Dec. 21, 2000
http://www.chicagotribune.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
A 14-year-old girl who has not seen her father since 1991 could have her first face-to-face visit with him next month, Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy said Wednesday.

Murphy said the decision would ultimately be up to Alese Reichart, whom authorities say was abducted by her mother nine years ago after a bitter divorce.
(...)

Noting that Alese has been raised as a Jehovah's Witness, a religion that does not celebrate Christmas, attorney Diane Panos called the move a publicity stunt. Panos, representing Taylor, also objected to Murphy's characterization of the week-old relationship between the girl and her social worker as a ''close bond.''

The judge said that she did not think the visit would interfere with Alese's religion, adding that if the girl wanted to make the visit, she would be allowed to do so.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Paganism / Witchcraft

17. Brutal attack on 'witch'
News24 (South Africa), Dec. 22, 2000
http://news.24.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Pietermaritzburg - Residents of Khokhwane, near Elandskop, say persistent rumours of witchcraft probably led to the murder of a 76-year-old woman and her 26-year old grandson.
(...)

Sibongile believes the attack was prompted by continuous accusations that her grandmother was practising witchcraft, leading to the deaths of many people in the area.

''I'm told that such suspicions started long before I was born and this is the second time grandmother's house has been set on fire by people blaming her for their illnesses,'' said Sibongile, denying any knowledge of any recent death or incident that might have sparked such action.

She said even at school fellow pupils have told her that they are afraid to associate themselves with her because her grandmother ''is a well known witchcraft practitioner''.

Neighbours - who spoke on condition of anonymity - suspect the attack is linked to the death of a local policeman who died three days after being attacked by sharp pains in November.

''After his death, Mrs Ngcobo and his family were heard ululating and bought cases of beer to celebrate. They even said a talkative person like him cannot die, so he was only in a coma,'' said a neighbour.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Groups Seek to Aid Women Sent to Ghana's 'Witch' Camps
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 24, 2000
http://www.latimes.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
GNANI, Ghana--One woman lost the home she owned and the prosperous cafe she ran. Another is still nursing injuries from a beating administered by relatives and neighbors. A third, subsisting in her old age on odd jobs, doesn't even know how long she has been banished.

Their crimes: Each was accused witchcraft.

Their punishment: Exile far from home in a string of isolated villages populated only by other ''witches.''
(...)

The custom of ostracizing women because of suspected sorcery has existed for generations in several African countries. Among them is Ghana, a West African nation where superstition still permeates many aspects of daily life.

But human rights groups, aid organizations and women's rights advocates are trying to convince communities that banishment is self-defeating. They are launching a campaign to first educate people and ultimately to wipe out the practice.
(...)

Gnani is one of four known witch camps in northern Ghana, but aid workers suspect that the number of sites could be much higher. While the exact number of women living in them is unknown, human rights advocates estimate that the figure could run into the thousands. At least 660 ''witches'' between the ages of 35 and 80 live in Gnani alone.

Simple suspicion is enough to have a woman branded a witch. Sometimes her only crime is that her face appears to someone in a dream, someone dies, or sickness or bad luck befalls the community. Sometimes the real reason is envy or spite.

''In African traditional religions, there must be a reason why something happens to you, especially when it is bad,'' Pimpong said. ''[People] see human beings as channels through which these [unfavorable] things can be introduced into the community.''
(...)

Even after the women lose their homes and possessions, entry into a village such as Gnani is not guaranteed for those accused of being witches. Before a woman can be admitted, the fetish priest in charge of the witch camp must conduct a ceremony to drive the evil out of the woman's soul.

A chicken is slaughtered, and its blood is mixed with dirt and water. The priest prays over the potion to summon ancestral gods, and the woman must drink the concoction.

Fetish priest Shei Tindanaa, who has been in dusty, fly-infested Gnani for three years, claims to have ''cured'' scores of women in this fashion. At least 25 women have been banished here in the last three months alone.

''Until the gods prove that someone is innocent, I am not against [the practice of banishment],'' he said. And because of tradition, he said, the practice simply can't be eliminated.
(...)

Ghanaian law forbids banishment and rituals that violate fundamental human rights, and the crime is punishable by at least three years in prison. But no one in Ghana is known to have ever been charged, let alone sentenced, for accusing a woman of witchcraft and expelling her from her home.
(...)

Local authorities say it would be tough to close down the settlements.

''We have many ethnic groups with traditional practices,'' said Adolphus Wemegah, deputy commissioner of the criminal investigation division of the Ghanaian police. ''Some people believe that if they take this issue up with the authorities, they might be punished by their gods.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups / Militia Movements

19. Yahoo! Asks Court To Block Ruling
AP, Dec. 22, 2000
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Raising questions over who controls the Internet, Yahoo! Inc. is asking a federal judge to block a French court's order that it keep computer users in France from accessing online auctions of Nazi paraphernalia.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose on Thursday, attorneys for Santa Clara-based Yahoo! said the French court violated the company's free speech rights and does not have jurisdiction over content produced by an American business.

Yahoo! asked the U.S. court to reassure the Internet industry that such orders are unenforceable.
(...)

In April, two French groups - the Union of Jewish Students and the International Anti-Racism and Anti-Semitism League - sued Yahoo! for allegedly breaking French law barring the display or sale of racist material.

Last month, Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez gave Yahoo! three months to find a way to prevent French users from accessing auction pages with Nazi-related objects, and said Yahoo! would be fined $13,000 for each day after the deadline that it did not comply.

Yahoo! attorney Greg Wrenn said at the time that Yahoo! would ignore the ruling and refuse to pay the fines unless a U.S. court enforced it. The company contended that blocking all French users would be technically impossible.

Civil liberties organizations in the United States have warned that if the French decision is allowed to stand, repressive governments could use the same tactic against Web sites run by democracy groups and human-rights activists.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. The militia lurking in your backyard
The Thomaston Express, Dec. 21, 2000
http://www.zwire.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
PLYMOUTH -- The Southern Poverty Living Center has taken notice of it. Stop the Hate also is keeping an eye on it.

But even though it lists its headquarters as Terryville, and has 34 members according to its own website, which has received more than 6,000 hits since November 1999, few people in Thomaston and Plymouth have heard of the Connecticut 51st Militia.

The Connecticut 51st Militia. It sounds like a unit of the National Guard. Or perhaps a group that recreates Revolutionary War battles.

But, it's not. It's a private militia group based in Terryville that claims to be invoking its Constitutional rights as patriots.

The SPLC, which is a non-profit organization that combats hate, intolerance, and discrimination, maintains a Militia Intelligence Report that keeps track of privately-organized ''militias'' and patriot groups. That's how the 51st Militia came to the attention of the Express.

The Connecticut 51st Militia, based in Terryville, is the only private militia group listed for Connecticut by the SPLC (www.splcenter.orgOff-site Link).

''The Intelligence Project identified 217 'Patriot' groups that were active in 1999,'' the SPLC said. ''Of these groups, 68 were militias... Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the 'New World Order' or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines.''

The SPLC notes: ''Listing (in the Intelligence Report) does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist. The list was compiled from field reports, Patriot publications, the Internet, law enforcement sources and news reports. ''

Although the SPLC has taken notice of the Connecticut 51st Militia, it has not done anything in the area to capture the attention of local police or law enforcement agencies. Thomaston police said they had never heard of the organization until the Express mentioned it.

The Connecticut 51st Militia seems primarily to manifest itself on the world wide web where it maintains several web sites.
(...)

If the 51st Militia is real, it joins a growing number of such organizations that has the FBI on its toes.

In a report to the FBI (www.fbi.govOff-site Link), ''Militias: Initiating ContactOff-site Link,'' James E. Duffy and Alan C. Brantley, M.A. describe the typical militia members. And Duke, at least, appears to fit the bill.

They write: ''Most militia organization members are white males who range in age from the early 20s to the mid-50s. The majority of militia members appear to be attracted to the movement because of gun control issues... Many militia members believe that these legislative initiatives represent a government conspiracy to disarm the populace and ultimately abolish the Second Amendment to the Constitution... Militia members generally maintain strong Christian beliefs and justify their actions by claiming to be ardent defenders of the Constitution. They often compare the American Colonial period (1607-1783) to their present existence by relating significant Colonial dates and events to lend historical weight to their own beliefs and actions. Many militias claim to represent the ideological legacy of the founding fathers tracing their core beliefs to select writings and speeches that predate the Revolutionary War.''

FBI Director Louis Freeh said in a 1999 report that the United Nations, in particular, is the focus of ire for many militias. ''(The UN) is perceived as an organization bent on taking over the world and destroying American democracy and establishing 'the New World Order.' The New World Order theory holds that, one day, the United Nations will lead a military coup against the nations of the world to form a one-world government. United Nations troops, consisting of foreign armies, will commence a military takeover of America. The United Nations will mainly use foreign troops on American soil because foreigners will have fewer reservations about killing American citizens. Captured United States military bases will be used to help conquer the rest of the world.''

Some militias go beyond a distrust of the UN and anxiety over gun control issues, the FBI said.

FBI director Freeh explained in a statement to Congress in 1999: ''Most of the militia movement has no racial overtones and does not espouse bigotry; there are some black and Jewish militia members. However, the pseudo-religion of Christian Identity, as well as other hate philosophies, have begun to creep into the militia movement... Christian Identity is a belief system that provides both a religious base for racism and anti-Semitism, and an ideological rationale for violence against minorities. This pattern of racist elements seeping into the militia movement is a disturbing trend, as it will only strengthen the radical elements of the militias.''

At first glance, the 51st Militia does not appear to espouse any racist views on its many web sites. The Constitutional right to bear arms seems to be the primary concern of the group. The militia even quotes the Constitution on one site: ''A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.''

But a more detailed examination of the 51st Militia's website at Homestead uncovers a mysterious link to take the web surfer another website. The link is labeled ''COTWC Connecticut.'' Beneath the label is an image depicting a globe with a ''W'' topped off by a crown. Underlining the image, in big bold letters is the word, ''RAHOWA.''

''RAHOWA'' stands for ''racial holy war,'' the Anti-Defamation League explains in its website (www.adl.orgOff-site Link). And COTWC stands for Church of the World Creator.

Church of the World Creator is not a religious group like the Catholic Church. And its message is not something one will likely hear Sunday morning at mass.

On its website, www.creator.orgOff-site Link, the Church of the World Creator is forthright with is mission, ''Let us build a whiter and brighter world.''

The ADL reports WCOTC is ''one of the fastest-growing hate groups in the 1990s... (Its) stated goal is 'making this an all-white nation and ultimately an all-white world.''' The ADL explains: ''WCOTC has over 35 post office box addresses across the United States and two overseas.''
(...)

Although the 51st Militia links its website to a racist organization, the group's bulletin board at Yahoo exhibits a mixed message about the organization's views on race relations, at least among the Yahoo club's members.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. McVeigh's Death Request Criticized
AP, Dec. 23, 2000
http://news.excite.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
DENVER (AP) - Some people think Timothy McVeigh wants to become a martyr for anti-government causes. Others believe the convicted Oklahoma City bomber wants to control the only thing he can - his execution date.

Ever since his arrest just 90 minutes after the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people, McVeigh has never admitted involvement or given any reason for his actions.

And McVeigh isn't saying why he has asked a federal judge to stop his appeals process and set an execution date.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who presided over McVeigh's trial, ordered a hearing on that request for Thursday in his Denver courtroom. McVeigh will participate by a videoconferencing link from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where he is on death row.

No federal prisoner has been executed in 37 years.
(...)

The 32-year-old Gulf War veteran became angered by government actions including the raid on the Branch Davidians compound near Waco, Texas, and the FBI standoff with Randy Weaver and his family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Prosecutors argued at his trial that McVeigh hoped the bombing would capitalize on anti-government sentiment and ignite a revolution.
(...)

McVeigh realized the fight was over when he lost two appeals, speculated Denver attorney Scott Robinson, who also has observed McVeigh's court proceedings.

''He has always seen himself as a soldier of the anti-government movement, and the most misguided thing a soldier can do is die for misguided principles,'' Robinson said.

''What he really wants is to determine his own date of death, and that is the only power he has now,'' Robinson added.

The key issue at Thursday's hearing is whether McVeigh is competent and realizes he is giving up his right to appeal, said attorney Dennis Hartley, who represents McVeigh.

Unless the judge finds McVeigh mentally incompetent, he has the right to end his appeals.

Co-defendant Terry Nichols was convicted of federal charges of manslaughter and conspiracy, and was sentenced to life in prison. He faces state murder charges.
(...)

On the day of the bombing, which also injured more than 500 people, McVeigh wore a T-shirt bearing the phrase: ''The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.''
(...)

During a televised interview last March, McVeigh said he was angry and bitter over the Gulf War. He said his anger deepened when Randy Weaver's wife and son were killed during the standoff with federal agents at Ruby Ridge in 1992, followed eight months later by the Waco standoff.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Belgian king warns against racism
BBC, Dec. 24, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The Belgian king has used his traditional Christmas Eve address to warn his people of the dangers of racism and right-wing extremism.

King Albert said people had to remember the lessons of the past - and guard against all forms of racism.

Correspondents say the king's remarks are being seen as veiled criticism of the right-wing political party, the Vlaams Blok, which campaigns for independence for Belgium's Flemish population and opposes immigration.
(...)

The Vlaams Blok made significant gains during local elections held in Belgium in October.
(...)

The increase in support was seen as a backlash against Turkish, Arab and African immigrants.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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» Continued in Part 3