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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - December 21, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 146)

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=== Waco / Branch Davidians
1. Davidian lawyer raises questions on Delta Force

=== Falun Gong
2. 40 held after sect defies ban on rallies
3. Falun Gong group complains of being kept under surveillance before being
returned to SAR

=== Scientology
4. Scientology lawsuit forges on
5. Scientologists, critics sharing woman's name

=== Y2K / Doomsday / Millennium
6. CSIS warns of millennial cult attacks
7. Doomsday cults pose threat-newspaper
8. MI5 raises alert over millennial doomsday cults
9. Potential Extremist Reactions to Y2K Detailed in ADL Report
10. Alleged California Y2K plotters plead not guilty
11. Western Hate Groups Are Getting Special Y2K Attention
12. 'Bobby Bible' Warns Jesus Is Coming to Holy Land
13. The ball goes up, but what comes down?
14. Preparing for the end times
15. Egyptian boogie nights
16. Followers of Greek gods want no part of Christian millennium
17. Is Time Up for Utah Polygamous Sect?: Authorities dismiss millennium
threats, but they'll keep a cautious eye out
18. Self-Reliant Mormons Prepared for Y2K Worst
19. Plot to Destroy Nuclear Plant Foiled, Feds Say

=== Other News
20. Loggers sue over 'religious' groups' timber appeals
21. Did Chopra Buy Sex With American Express Card?
22. Satanic DJs Allegedly Robbed Communication Towers
23. Muslims Urged on Claim to Jerusalem
24. Cops Ordered to Return Televangelist's Checks
25. Tiny human-borne monitoring device sparks privacy fears
26. Australian man convicted of feeding hash cookies to Mormons
27. Dorothy Allison, 74, 'Psychic Detective' Consulted by Police
28. Virgin Mary Statues Vanish in Texas

=== Noted
29. Web rumors have many starry-eyed over 'superbright' celestial event
30. Brightest of Moons and Tallest of Tales
31. Wal-Mart a cult? Book says so; others say no
32. Leaving Social Security is not easy
33. 87% have religious belief, says survey
34. Catholic Newspaper Selects Jesus for Millennium
35. With Rum And Cigars, Cubans Pray to Saint Lazarus
36. Death-penalty opponents illuminate Colosseum

=== Film
37. Holy Smoke Review

=== Waco / Branch Davidians

1. Davidian lawyer raises questions on Delta Force
Dallas Morning News, Dec. 21, 1999
Sworn testimony from two members of the Army's secret Delta Force unit raises
questions about the actions of a third Delta soldier during the last hours of
the Branch Davidian standoff, a lawyer for the sect said Monday.

Two technical specialists from the classified anti-terrorist unit were among
24 government witnesses questioned in recent depositions by lawyers for the
Branch Davidians, and their testimony indicated that "there's a combat guy
[from the same unit] whose time is not accounted for on April 19," said Mike
Caddell, lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians.

Mr. Caddell said the depositions left unanswered key questions about Delta
Force's involvement in an FBI tank and tear-gas assault on the Branch
Davidian compound. He said the questioning of FBI and military personnel also
failed to resolve whether Delta Force soldiers or any other government agents
fired guns into the building on April 19, 1993 - a charge that the government
has denied.

Pressed on the issue of government gunfire, the FBI's hostage rescue team
members questioned during the depositions said they did not personally fire
or witness any government gunfire April 19, Mr. Caddell said.

But neither they nor FBI technical experts who operated FBI infrared cameras
during the standoff could explain the origin of repeated flashes on an
infrared videotape recorded by an airborne camera during the last hours of
the tear-gas assault, Mr. Caddell said.

"One thing that became clear from this first round of depositions: Whatever
really happened on April 19, there's only a handful of people that really
know," Mr. Caddell said. "This operation obviously proceeded on a
need-to-know basis. I would say fewer than a dozen people really knew what
was going to happen or what did happen that day."

The two soldiers who were questioned, both technical equipment specialists,
denied active involvement in FBI operations in Waco, including the final
assault, Mr. Caddell said. But they acknowledged that they could not account
for the whereabouts of their unit's combat arms representative April 19 until
after the compound burned.

"Frankly, their explanation for that, the cover story that was given to
explain his absence, was preposterous," Mr. Caddell said, adding that he
could not divulge details of that story because of the court's protective
order. Mr. Caddell said he hoped to question the third soldier during the
next series of depositions.

The first round of depositions included FBI agents assigned to the airplanes
that circled the compound April 19 with infrared and still cameras, Mr.
Caddell said.

The agents, including the bureau's most experienced infrared camera operator,
acknowledged that they "had not ever seen flashes before" like those that
appeared repeatedly on the Waco video during the last hour before the
compound burned.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

2. 40 held after sect defies ban on rallies
South China Morning Post, Dec. 20, 1999
Police arrested nearly 40 Falun Gong followers as they staged a defiant
public exercise session outside the Lisboa Hotel.

A democratic campaigner hit out at the action, saying it raised doubts about
whether the principle of "one country, two systems" would be applied in

Hong Kong's Falun Gong spokeswoman was twice expelled from Macau after being
questioned by officials for an hour and having her bag searched.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Falun Gong group complains of being kept under surveillance before being
returned to SAR
Yahoo! Asia/Wise News, Dec. 19, 1999
The Macau Government has launched a massive crackdown on the Falun Gong,
expelling six sect members and denying entry to a number of others.

Six Falun Gong followers - a Hong Kong woman and her five fellow
practitioners from Malaysia, Australia and Japan - were expelled by the Macau
Government yesterday.

Chau Shing, a Hong Kong resident, said she and her fellow sect members were
''under surveillance'' since they arrived in Macau on Wednesday.

She said the six were grilled separately and that police told them they had
not violated any rules. Then they were sent back to Hong Kong and given a
letter saying they could never re-enter Macau.

''We want to go to Macau again,'' Ms Sze said. ''We think the people and
authorities and police in Macau don't understand Falun Gong. We want to
introduce Falun Gong to them. Also, we want to participate in the handover

Criticising the police action, Macau's leading pro-democracy legislator,
Antonio Ng, said yesterday it was clearly a political decision by Portugal
and designed to prevent a protest to mar handover ceremonies.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

4. Scientology lawsuit forges on
MSNBC/Channel 8 Tampa, FL, Dec. 18, 1999
It could be a year before a Pinellas judge makes a decision whether a
critical document in an $80 million lawsuit against the Church of Scientology
was forged.

The legal question now is whether Lisa's mom signed over permission to the
sue the Church of Scientology before her own death two years ago.

Scientology lawyers say Fannie McPherson's signature on a key document is
forged. Friday, one of her surviving sisters testified it is not.

One handwriting expert says the signature is real, and another says it's
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Scientologists, critics sharing woman's name
St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 20, 1999
Vowing to speak out against "the propaganda of hate," a new organization of
local Scientologists is gearing up to counter the efforts of Robert S.
, the New England millionaire who is setting up shop in downtown
Clearwater to oppose the Church of Scientology.

The new organization is called the Lisa McPherson Foundation, named for the
veteran Scientologist whose 1995 death while in the care of church members
has saddled Scientology with a lawsuit, a criminal prosecution and increased
pressure from its critics.

And, in an added twist that local Scientologists find appalling, the case has
resulted in McPherson's name being used against the church they say she

Although McPherson had been a practicing Scientologist for 13 years, the
church's critics consider her a martyr for their cause. The name of Minton's
group, for example, is the Lisa McPherson Trust, which plans to present a
dark picture of Scientology to locals and provide "exit counseling" for those
who want to leave the church.

In contrast, the Lisa McPherson Foundation seeks to pull McPherson's name
back into the Scientology camp by opposing Minton at every turn and by
"standing up for religious tolerance," said Bennetta Slaughter, the
foundation's leader.

"I will, in fact, counter any hate that will come from them and I will handle
that," Slaughter said of Minton and his group in an interview last week.
"They are not going to poison this town."

She added: "There's a large difference between free speech and the propaganda
of hate. . . . Name one good thing that he's bringing to this community. I
can't think of one."

Its first project was an inch-thick binder using information compiled by
Church of Scientology staff members. The binder documents Minton's
controversial encounters with the church, two of which have resulted in his
arrest on misdemeanor battery charges.

It also includes background information on five Scientology critics who have
worked with Minton, including records on criminal convictions, criminal
allegations and instances when Scientology has defeated them in civil courts.

Slaughter said the foundation doesn't plan to widely disseminate the binder
but will "give it to people who are in positions who should know . . . so
that they can be informed."

In a phone interview from his New Hampshire farm, Minton responded, saying he
primarily is opposed to Scientology's strict "ethics" system, which he called

He cited records that came to light after McPherson's death indicating she
was struggling under a Scientology ethics program being administered at
Slaughter's company. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McPherson's family
and financed by Minton, that ethics program is alleged to have caused the
severe mental breakdown that played a key role in her death.

"Bennetta Slaughter is herself part and parcel of the Scientology abuse
process," Minton said.

He said he plans to close his purchase of a local headquarters on Jan. 5. He
has said the building is next to a Scientology property in downtown
Clearwater, but has not named the location. The staff will include former
Scientologists who want to share their perceptions of the church with current

Echoing Scientology officials, Slaughter characterized Minton's headquarters
as a deprograming center that will illegally detain people.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The Church of Scientology is known for its practice of harassing and
slandering its critics, as well as for its penchant to spread
misinformation and bigotry. Documentation: see above, and


=== Y2K / Doomsday / Millennium

6. CSIS warns of millennial cult attacks
National Post (Canada), Dec. 18, 1999
A Canadian intelligence report is warning that hundreds of "doomsday
religious movements"
are anticipating an apocalypse at the turn of the
millennium and may resort to mass violence.

An estimated 400 cults espousing end-of-the-world scenarios tied to 2000 may
have stockpiled weapons to bring about their prophecies, says the Canadian
Security Intelligence Service report obtained by the National Post.

The cults pose a clear and continuing threat to the safety of Canadians, says
the report, which adds that violence might be used either to help trigger an
envisioned apocalypse or to save face when one fails to materialize.

"While it is not known which cults have the potential for violence, this does
not imply that possible threats posed by doomsday religious movements should
be ignored, as they can quickly manifest themselves in a variety of forms."

Fears of mass violence related to 2000 have been growing since 1995, when the
Aum Shinrikyo cult released nerve gas in the Tokyo subway, killing 12 and
injuring 5,500. Canada has not been immune to doomsday cults. Fifty-four
members of the Order of the Solar Temple committed mass suicide in 1994,
including five in Quebec.

The report says law enforcement agencies should be on the watch for the
early-warning signs that a cult is preparing for the "last days," such as an
increase in the procurement of weapons, relocation to an isolated area, a
rise in violent rhetoric, an internal leadership struggle or a public
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Doomsday cults pose threat-newspaper
Yahoo!/Reuters, Dec. 18, 1999
(...) The newspaper reported that the 400 doomsday cults were in Canada but
CSIS spokesman Dan Lambert told Reuters that that figure applied worldwide
and that just three doomsday cults had ties to Canada.

The report, which is set to be released next week, also warned that the
groups may have stockpiled weapons. About three of these cults have some ties
to Canada.

Lambert said that Canadian law enforcement authorities were ''vigilant to any
potential for violence in relation to the millennium.'' ''Here in Canada, I
can't say there is a specific threat at this time,'' he said.

Canada's best-known cult, the Order of the Solar Temple, has been responsible
for 74 deaths in Canada, Switzerland and France in the past five years.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. MI5 raises alert over millennial doomsday cults
Sunday Times (England), Dec. 19, 1999
The security service MI5 has warned police chiefs and senior government
officials about the threat of mass suicides and organised violence from
millennium doomsday cults operating in Britain and abroad.

Experts in MI5's counter-terrorist section have conducted a detailed "threat
assessment" of what MI5 calls "apocalyptic and millennial groups", examining
the risk that some might resort to shootings or bombings as well as chemical
or biological attacks on the public.

In Britain, counter-terrorist officials, whose report has just been approved
by Stephen Lander, head of MI5, are concerned about the possibility of sects
poisoning reservoirs. Their assessment also says some groups or individuals
could engage in terrorist attacks on targets such as the Millennium Dome or
the River Thames celebrations, and warns of the possibility of mass suicides.
In recent years there were mass suicides by members of the Solar Temple cult
in Switzerland, France and Canada. Two years ago 39 members of the Heaven's
sect died in a group suicide in San Diego, California.

One dangerous cult identified in the MI5 report is the Concerned Christians,
an apocalyptic American sect with several dozen members in Britain. The
cult's leader, Monte Kim Miller, was deported from Israel last year. Miller
predicts he will be killed by Satan on the streets of Jerusalem this month.
He says he expects to be resurrected as Christ three days later.

The group's leader in Britain is Tom Cook, a former Vietnam veteran. Last
week The Sunday Times tracked him to his home in Finchley, north London. He
has distributed propaganda videos and leaflets for cult members. He insists
the group preaches peace, not war.

One British-based group, The Family, is preparing for the end of the world in
2006. Members are said to be stockpiling food and planning to hide in caves
in India.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Potential Extremist Reactions to Y2K Detailed in ADL Report
Northern Light/U.S. Newswire, Dec. 20, 1999
As the year comes to a close, concerns have intensified about possible Y2K
extremist reactions. The arrest in Seattle of an alleged terrorist last week
serves as a case in point. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) identifies
similar threats to national security from extremists and militia groups in
its report, "Y2K Paranoia: Extremists Confront the Millennium."Off-site Link

The report examines the varied reactions and expectations of elements on the
fringes of society and warns of the potential for violence. Y2K Paranoia
focuses on anti-government militia and "patriot" groups with theories of a
government conspiracy, certain religious fundamentalists and cults predicting
an apocalypse with Jews playing a conspiratorial or Satanic role, and
far-right extremists seeking to blame the so-called Y2K bug on Jews and the
federal government. Many of the groups are disseminating hate-filled
propaganda on the Internet.

Predicting The Apocalypse

-- The Prophecy Club -- Members are selling books that warn of a government
plan to establish an evil dictatorship and imprison "true believers" in
concentration camps.

-- Aum Shinrikyo -- The Japanese cult responsible for the 1995 Tokyo subway
attack is predicting Armageddon. Authorities fear the violence-prone group
could strike again.

-- Gershon Salomon -- As leader of the Movement for the Establishment of the
, Salomon reportedly has asserted that he and his followers must
"liberate" the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, destroy the Dome of the Rock Mosque
and build the Third Temple foretold by the prophets.

-- Concerned Christians -- Authorities believe that the group may resort to
violence in the streets of Jerusalem to hasten the Second Coming of Christ.
Concerned Christians achieved notoriety last January when its followers were
arrested and deported from Israel.

-- Yisrayl "Bill" Hawkins -- Hawkins, the leader of the House of Yahweh, and
his followers are awaiting the return of Jesus in a compound in Abilene,
Texas. The group reportedly is stockpiling arms.

-- Robert Millar -- The leader of a Christian Identity settlement in Muldrow,
Okla., Millar's white supremacist teachings include predictions of a series
of disasters after 2000 that will remove the wicked from the earth. The
settlement, dubbed Elohim City, reportedly is heavily armed.

Extreme Right Hatemongers

-- National Socialist White Revolutionary Party -- Believes that an impending
Russian nuclear, chemical and biological assault on the United States will
lead to the forming of a globalist government.

-- James Wickstrom -- An Identity minister in Michigan with links to Posse
Comitatus, a loosely organized group of Identity survivalists, Wickstrom
predicts Y2K will bring widespread chaos perpetrated by the "Jew and
antichrist world system." He claims there's a Jewish conspiracy to downplay
Y2K and insists the NATO strikes against Serbia were intended to divert
attention from an impending world disaster.

-- Christian Defense League -- The virulently anti-Semitic Christian Defense
League in Arabi, La. believes Y2K is actually a Jewish plot to take over the

-- Church of Israel - Dan Gayman, leader of the Missouri-based Church of
Israel, a white supremacist group, predicts civil chaos, especially among
"non-whites" whom he singles out from among welfare recipients as the most
likely to resort to "unbridled killing" if the Y2K bug results in a temporary
suspension of government entitlement programs. He advises followers to keep a
"shotgun handy."

-- National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP) --
Predicts a doomsday Y2K scenario that includes a stock market crash, a run on
the banks and general mayhem.

Militia and "Patriot" Groups

-- John Trochman and the Militia of Montana -- On his Web site, Trochman
repeatedly refers to "secret" military reports that suggest an imminent U.S.
government takeover.

-- NORFED -- Indiana organization claims the computer systems at the Federal
Reserve and other world financial institutions will malfunction, causing the
international monetary system to collapse.

-- Col. James "Bo" Gritz -- A former Green Beret and presidential candidate
for the extremist Populist Party, Gritz has trained hundreds of
anti-government zealots to fight a so-called "New World Order."

EDITORS NOTE: ADL experts are available for interviews on the findings of Y2K
Paranoia or for more information on extremist groups and world terrorism. The
report in its entirety may be viewed on the Internet at http://www.adl.orgOff-site Link.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Alleged California Y2K plotters plead not guilty
Excite/Reuters, Dec. 20, 1999
Two alleged militia members accused of plotting to blow up a California
propane plant in an attempt to fan Y2K hysteria and overthrow the U.S.
government pleaded not guilty to federal firearms and drug charges Monday.
Kevin Patterson, 42, and Charles Kiles, 49, entered their pleas at a
preliminary hearing in Sacramento following their indictments Friday by a
federal grand jury.

The affidavit also said both men had past involvement with the San Joaquin
County Militia, which authorities said planned to use violence to bring about
martial law in the belief that this would help the group attract a public
following to launch a revolution to overthrow the U.S. government.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Western Hate Groups Are Getting Special Y2K Attention
Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 19, 1999
When the clocks turn at the new millennium, terror central will be here in
the Intermountain West, headquarters for radicals, racists and religious
fanatics, according to a new federal report on domestic terrorism and Y2K.

Nearly a third of the FBI's 32-page "Project Megiddo" touches on characters
who have passed through Idaho, Montana or Utah on their way to ruination

Atop the list of places to watch is Hayden Lake, Idaho, headquarters of the
Aryan Nations, the neo-Nazi outpost that has served as a transit point for a
formidable list of zealous killers.

Project Megiddo (named for a hill in present-day Israel where Armageddon, the
biblical final battle, is to take place) was written by experts on religion
and militias with input from the FBI's behavioral science unit.

Along with Wassmuth, hate-group watchdogs such as the Southern Poverty Law
and the Anti-Defamation League are developing Y2K strategies similar
to Project Megiddo.

All the posturing and braggadocio, though, may be off the mark -- or a year
early, anyway. The Aryan Nations is advising members the real millennium
starts in 2001. And the FBI in Utah has detected little, if any, terrorist

"Collectively, we don't feel any of these groups are going to do anything at
the millennium," says the FBI's Jarboe. "We're looking more at computer
intrusion -- hackers intent on disruption."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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12. 'Bobby Bible' Warns Jesus Is Coming to Holy Land
Excite/Reuters, Dec. 20, 1999
Dressed in long black robes and wearing a baseball cap that says Jesus is
Lord, American street preacher "Bobby Bible" walked around central Bethlehem
Sunday and warned about the coming of Jesus.

"On December 31 he will part the sky and come partially down," said the
60-year-old from Los Angeles, carrying a Prophecy King James bible and wooden
cross as he walked around Manger Square in the town of Jesus's birth.

"Dead and living Christians are going to go up to meet him. It's going to be
a catastrophe for you and wonderful for me.

"You will come under the wrath of God. You are going to get a spanking," the
man, carrying a bag blaring recorded Christmas carols as the nearby mosque
called Muslims to prayer, told a journalist as Palestinian passers-by paused
and gaped at him.

Sunday, Palestinian police in Bethlehem detained briefly two Americans who
said they were Seventh Day Adventists but acting on their own when they
distributed pamphlets entitled "Earth's Final Warning." "The title's a bit
weird," a policeman in the town told Reuters. "We wanted to see if they have
any connection to violent groups."

Bobby Bible, who declined to give his real name, said he was a Conservative
Baptist who did not advocate violence to hasten what he says was the 30
percent chance of Jesus's appearance. "But I only encourage suicide for
homosexuals and child molesters," he said.

He said he was in Bethlehem as a "representative of God" and was calling
Christians to gather at midnight on December 31 on the Mount of Olives in
Jerusalem to watch for Jesus.

"We are going to say 'Lord we are here, come and get us'," Bobby Bible said.
"If he doesn't, I will go back to work, playing golf and preaching to the
heathen of Los Angeles."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. The ball goes up, but what comes down?
US News & World Report, Dec. 27, 1999
(...) International terrorists are not the only threat over New Year's. An
FBI report on the possibility of millennial violence found few specific
threats of domestic terrorism. The report, called Project Megiddo, did note,
though, that some militia and radical religious groups are "clearly focusing
on the millennium as a time of action."

That is cause for concern. Earlier this month, the FBI found a cache of 50
firearms, 50,000 rounds of ammunition, and 30 pounds of ammonium-nitrate
fertilizer (also used in the Oklahoma City bombing) when they arrested two
men accused of plotting millennial attacks in and around Sacramento, Calif.
Police in Florida also arrested a militia member accused of plotting to blow
up electric power stations. "It's not the organized groups that worry me,"
says New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir, who co-chairs a
terrorism task force. "It's the individual entrepreneurs who might have some
idea of making a statement on New Year's Eve."

These precautions have spawned their own reaction. TV networks in Las Vegas
are hiring bodyguards to protect reporters during the evening. The Southern
Oregon Militia is warning members to keep their extra license plates handy.
Many militia and patriot groups are hunkering down, fearing Washington will
use millennial chaos as an excuse for a crackdown. "I expect some major event
or two or five to happen soon," says Bob Fletcher, a former Militia of
Montana leader, "and the government will say there was a connection between
bin Laden's money and some local patriot group."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. Preparing for the end times
US News & World Report, Dec. 27, 1999
JERUSALEM-Jesus, Elijah, and Moses walk the streets. The man on the corner is
a prophet, warning of end times to come; in the walled Old City, they're
selling pamphlets predicting the victory of any number of religious sects in
the apocalyptic battle that will follow.

Welcome to Jerusalem. While this city has long attracted zealots and madmen
(in addition to the pious and the passionate), as the millennium approaches
things are getting wackier by the day. Besides the usual loonies, Israel is
concerned that a few fringe doomsday cultists will slip into the country and
attack Islamic mosques on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. In their twisted
theology, destroying the Al-Aqsa mosque or the Dome of the Rock would bring
on the building of a "Third Temple," which some evangelicals believe would be
the springboard to the Second Coming.

In some cases, the police have been accused of cracking down too hard on what
are essentially individuals practicing religion. Part of the problem is
discerning between the truly dangerous, the merely disturbed, or the deeply
zealous. Among the unstable are those with Jerusalem syndrome, the condition
of being so overwhelmed by being in the city that they think they are
biblical figures.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. Egyptian boogie nights
US News & World Report, Dec. 27, 1999
One official calls them "pyramidiots," folks with a variety of oddball
beliefs about the pyramids. On the cusp of the millennium, the theories of
the pyramidiots have become a bit frightening. With a concert for 50,000
planned near the pyramids of Giza on New Year's Eve, authorities are bracing
for-well, who knows?

And then there's the question of religious sensibility-always a bit dicey
here. Critics complain that the concert is being held during Ramadan, the
Islamic calendar's holiest month. Some newspapers say it's all part of a
Zionist plot to lay claim to the pyramids.

But such conspiracy theories are downright tame compared with what's on the
Internet. David Icke, a former British television sportscaster turned prophet
of doom, and Texe Marrs, a retired U.S. Air Force officer turned pastor, have
issued Web site warnings that, come millennium eve, former President George
Bush and fellow members of a cult known as the Illuminati will summon
oppressive evil forces at a black mass in a burial chamber deep inside the
great Cheops pyramid. Even Satan himself might make a cameo appearance, some
webheads say. According to Icke, the Illuminati are "genetic hybrids, the
result of interbreeding between a reptilian extraterrestrial race and
humanity many thousands of years ago." But that's not all. The elite of the
Illuminati include not only former President Bush but also Bill Clinton, the
British royal family, and Henry Kissinger, Icke says. A spokesman for Bush
says the former president actually plans a quiet New Year's Eve at home in
Houston. No matter. Icke himself plans to show up at the pyramids on December
31, accompanied by a Zulu shaman.

But not to worry, Egyptian officials have a plan. Zahi Hawass, the
government's custodian of the Giza plateau, has said the area, including all
three pyramids and the Sphinx, will be closed "for security" for about 36
hours, from the evening of Dec. 30, 1999, until after dawn on Jan. 1, 2000.
That ought to take care of the Illuminati and the Zulu shaman, but what about
Satan? "The magic and mystery of the pyramids," sighs Hawass, "make people
speak nonsense."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. Followers of Greek gods want no part of Christian millennium
San Diego Union Tribune/AP, Dec. 20, 1999
(...) A small but passionate group of devotees to the 12 Olympian gods claim
it's sacrilegious to mix the ancient temples with celebrations marking 2,000
years of Christianity, and have threatened to take the Culture Ministry to
court if it allows Christian hymns to be sung inside the Parthenon on New
Year's Eve.

"The Parthenon, temple to Athena, is a sacred place of Greek religion," said
Nikolaos Tziotis, secretary of the Committee for the Recognition of the Greek
Religion of the 12 Gods. "It is the greatest blasphemy for songs of another
religion to be heard there, and we will not allow it."

The Culture Ministry says it is aware of the objections, but does not plan to
cancel or significantly alter the extravaganza. It did, however, decide to
shift a Byzantine choir from outside the Parthenon to the entrance to the

A core of about 1,000 people in Greece try to maintain a spiritual connection
with the ancients. These modern followers say they seek to build a general
outlook drawn from Greek philosophers and a love of nature.

"We don't walk down the street in togas," Tsamis said. "We gather in
philosophical companies and associations."

Still, the powerful Greek Orthodox Christian Church dismisses them as a "New
Age" clan.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Is Time Up for Utah Polygamous Sect?: Authorities dismiss millennium
threats, but they'll keep a cautious eye out
Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 19, 1999
James D. Harmston and his fledgling polygamous sect once craved the
limelight, opening their store-front church to the media and the curious and
preaching to the world over the Internet. That was before time ran out.
"The day has now arrived," the church says in a final (for now at least)
cyberspace warning. "God has shut the mouths of his servants and will begin
to do His own work of rendering judgment and calamity upon the wicked and

Some former disciples of The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints
of the Last Days (TLC)
believe the ominous words mean Harmston and his
300-member following intend to make good on his apocalyptic visions, which
include sacking the Mormon Church's Salt Lake Temple and seizing power over
this central Utah valley to establish a new Zion.

Harmston, a 58-year-old former real-estate agent, is in a crowded field of
doomsayers who preach the biblical end is nigh; for many, that's as close as
midnight New Year's Eve, the moment they predict mass computer failures and
power outages will spark world-wide chaos.

But apart from gloomy Internet prophesies and a torrent of dire rumors, there
are few tangible signs that Harmston's doomsday clock is ready to strike.
According to even his biggest detractors, Harmston isn't stockpiling weapons
or digging bunkers, and his followers, who live throughout the valley,
continue their everyday lives.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Self-Reliant Mormons Prepared for Y2K Worst
APBnews.com/AP, Dec. 18, 1999
As the countdown dwindles, people across the country are scrambling to stock
their larders ahead of Jan. 1, preparing, sometimes frantically, for
potential Y2K disasters that range from a harsh winter storm to societal

But not at Salt Lake City's Temple Square, home of the Mormon Church, where
the calm of knowing you're prepared is the dominant sentiment. For decades,
members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been
encouraged to store a year's worth of food in their homes, not just for
Y2K, but for any hard times.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Plot to Destroy Nuclear Plant Foiled, Feds Say
APBnews.com, Dec. 9, 1999
A militia leader is in jail for plotting to blow up a Florida nuclear power
plant and black out Atlanta by destroying electrical facilities, federal
authorities said today.

His arrest, along with the arrests last week of two California militia
members accused of plotting to blow up a propane installation, could be part
of the FBI's effort to minimize the threat of violence from anti-government
groups around the end of the millennium, said a spokesman for a prominent
watchdog group

Beauregard formerly was the leader of the Southeastern States Alliance (SSA),
a coalition of militia groups from seven Southern states ranging from Florida
to Kentucky to Virginia, Potok said.

Potok said the SSA has a strong "Christian Identity" element in it, referring
to the religious doctrine of some anti-government white supremacists. That's
about as hard-line as you can get," Potok said. "It reflects something that's
going on in militias. They're becoming harder-edged, and there's more and
more Christian Identity influence being seen."

Potok said a major player in the militia movement, Rick Ainsworth of Alabama,
asked Beauregard last year to step down as SSA leader, which he did. Potok
said he does not know why Ainsworth made the request. Beauregard remained
at the head of his local militia, the 111th Regiment Militia of Pinellas
County, which formerly was the 77th Regiment, Potok said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

20. Loggers sue over 'religious' groups' timber appeals
Star-Telegram, Dec. 19, 1999
The feud between environmentalists and loggers over commercial tree-cutting
in Minnesota's forests is being transformed into a fight over the separation
of church and state.

A group of loggers has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and
two environmental groups, claiming the Forest Service has buckled to the
groups' philosophy of "deep ecology," which regards the natural world as

That philosophy, the lawsuit maintains, amounts to a religion. And that means
the Forest Service has violated the First Amendment prohibition on government
favoring or endorsing one religion over another, it claims.

The heart of the case is whether "deep ecology" is religious at all. "Of
course not," said Michael Pinto, president of the Institute for Deep Ecology
based in Occidental, Calif. "Religion is faith-based. Deep ecology is not."

Pinto says the philosophy, which has attracted worldwide interest since being
introduced in the 1970s, is simply an insightful way of looking at the
interconnectedness of human beings and nature. But the loggers argue that it
is similar to American Indian religions that place nature at the center of

Bron Taylor, A professor of environmental studies, religion and earth ethics
at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, said deep ecology could be
considered a religion -- if a court's definition didn't require a belief in
divine beings.

The case could have far-reaching implications, said Michael Stokes Paulsen, a
University of Minnesota law professor and national expert on law and

If loggers were to win, Baptists could be sued for lobbying for gambling
restrictions, or Catholics could be sued for promoting restrictions on
partial-birth abortion, he said.

"Who knows?" he said. "Maybe baseball fans could be sued if their fervent
devotion to a team led to a bond referendum for a new stadium."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

21. Did Chopra Buy Sex With American Express Card?
APBnews.com, Dec. 17, 1999
Did New Age guru Deepak Chopra leave home without his American Express card,
which someone then used to pay for the services of a San Francisco prostitute
in 1991?

That question took center stage on Thursday in Chopra's lawsuit against a
woman he accuses of threatening to publicize a prostitute's story of a sexual
encounter with him if he didn't pay $1 million.

The woman's attorney attempted to convince jurors that the signatures on the
prostitute's credit-card receipts are indeed those of Chopra; attorneys for
the best-selling author contend that his assistant is responsible for the
charges and faking his signature, and Chopra was in India at the time.

Also on Thursday, Chopra accused Weaver of stealing his office files,
including medical records of the founder of the Transcendental Meditation
movement. He also talked about a life full of "stalkers."

Weaver, who formerly worked with Chopra at a San Diego alternative healing
center, denies blackmailing him. In a countersuit, Weaver accuses Chopra of
sexually harassing her.

This is not the first time the receipts have been examined. Before printing a
negative article about Chopra in 1996, the Weekly Standard magazine hired a
handwriting expert to compare the signatures with Chopra's, according to the
Columbia Journalism Review.

The article in the conservative publication accused Chopra of using the
prostitute. A furious Chopra filed a libel suit, and the magazine later
issued an apology and retracted its allegations, which had received worldwide

Attorneys for Chopra attempted to put forward evidence that they say shows
that Weaver stole files from Chopra's office, including immigration files,
IRS files, personal files and medical files of Hindu guru Maharishi Mahesh
, whom Chopra treated for heart problems. The Maharishi, a Hindu monk,
founded the Transcendental Meditation movement.

Judge Thomas Murphy did not allow the attorneys to pursue the theft
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Satanic DJs Allegedly Robbed Communication Towers
APBnews.com, Dec. 16, 1999
Two men who operated a pirate satanic radio station known as The Goat are
believed to have been responsible for at least $1 million in thefts and
damages at 37 communications towers throughout northern Indiana, police said

They allegedly stole equipment from radio and TV transmission towers and
other communications facilities in 21 counties to operate their illegal radio
station, Kennedy said. They also face charges of breaking into four churches
and three businesses.

"They'd play anything licensed radio stations would not play -- satanic,
heavy-metal-type music," she said. "They'd make a lot of satanic statements
and a lot of statements against the government. They'd just ramble, almost
incoherently sometimes. They just feel like the government shouldn't have
control over licensing stations. They're very anti-government."

The station was named The Goat because the animal represents the devil in
satanic lore.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

23. Muslims Urged on Claim to Jerusalem
Yahoo!/AP, Dec. 17, 1999
The top Muslim cleric in Jerusalem today told an overflow crowd of 400,000
worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine, that the
Palestinians cannot give up their claims to the disputed city.

Relinquishing religious claims would mean ''giving up in the future Mecca and
Medina,'' the first and second holiest shrines of Islam, said Ikrema Sabri,
the mufti of Jerusalem, an appointee of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Palestinians seek to establish a capital in east Jerusalem, which Israel
captured from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel seeks to maintain
sovereignty over all of the city.

In his sermon, Sabri also said Israel had no right to intervene in the
renovation of an underground prayer hall at the compound, the Marwani Mosque.
The work has been going on since 1996, with the reluctant approval of Israeli

However, when the Islamic Trust, or Waqf, which runs the mosque compound,
began to break open new exits to the Marwani Mosque, last month, Jerusalem's
hard-line mayor objected and archaeologists complained that the Muslims were
destroying an area rich in historic artifacts.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Cops Ordered to Return Televangelist's Checks
APBnews.com, Dec. 17, 1999
One hundred Fulton County police officers have been ordered to return $1,000
checks they each received from a nationally syndicated televangelist. The
Fulton County Ethics Board chairman said that the officers could face ethics
charges if they keep the money.

The money came from the Rev. Creflo Dollar, founder and pastor of World
Changers Ministries, a nondenominational church. Dollar gave the checks to
South Precinct officers three weeks after a captain intervened on his behalf
in traffic court.

Harvey said the Fulton County ethics code prohibits public employees from
accepting gifts from people they are likely to encounter on the job.

Harvey said the ethical questions began after Dollar had been cited for
running a traffic light and driving without proof of insurance in October and
could have been fined as much as $375. However, Harvey said police Capt. K.L.
Hawkins went to the traffic court and successfully persuaded the judge to
reduce the fines to warnings.

Three weeks later on Nov. 6, Dollar held a police appreciation breakfast on
church property for 35 police officers. The pastor gave each of the 100
police officers of the South Precinct a $1,000 check and a certificate of

Coleman said Dollar's grant of $100,000 was the largest ever given by an
organization to the department.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

25. Tiny human-borne monitoring device sparks privacy fears
CNN, Dec. 20, 1999
A Palm Beach, Florida-based telecommunications company has developed a
miniature digital monitoring device that can be implanted in people, intended
to assist in locating missing children or for monitoring the heart rate of
at-risk patients.

But electronic freedom activists are concerned about exploitation of the
technology, which would use global positioning system (GPS) technology to
track implantees. "It sounds dreadful. That's about as bad as it gets," Marc
Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in
Washington, said Monday.

Applied Digital Solutions announced last week it had acquired patent rights
to develop the unique transceiver, which would be powered by muscle movements
of implantees. The company plans to complete a working prototype by the end
of 2000.

Planted inconspicuously just under the skin, the implantable transceiver
sends and receives data and can be continuously tracked by GPS technology.
The company expects applications in the fields of law enforcement, security
and medicine.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. Australian man convicted of feeding hash cookies to Mormons
CNN/AP, Dec. 19, 1999
A man received a suspended two-month jail sentence Friday for feeding hash
cookies to two unsuspecting American Mormons.

Alexander McLean, 46, baked around 30 cookies and served some of them to the
two Americans when they visited his house in the southern city of Melbourne
on May 19. The names of the 19-year-old victims, who were hospitalized after
eating the cookies, were not released by the court.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

27. Dorothy Allison, 74, 'Psychic Detective' Consulted by Police
New York Times, Dec. 20, 1999
Dorothy Allison, a self-proclaimed psychic with a knack for turning up at the
scenes of notorious crimes, died on Dec. 1 at Clara Maass Medical Center in
Belleville, N.J. She was 74 and lived in Nutley, N.J.

Ms. Allison, a small woman in thick, oversized glasses, materializedto offer
to solve crimes including the Patricia Hearst kidnapping, the "Son of Sam"
killings, the murders of children in Atlanta and the death of JonBenet
Ramsey. She was not successful in those cases, but her supporters insist that
she hit the mark on others.

Chief Robert DeLitta of the Nutley Police Department, which became something
of a booking agent for Ms. Allison, said, "The information she provided was
very, very accurate -- right on the money." He said hundreds of police
departments from all over the world called the Nutley police to reach her.

Her fame made her the emblem of a vigorous debate about the efficacy and
legitimacy of so-called psychic detectives. "Dorothy couldn't locate Patty,"
Randolph Hearst, Patricia's father, said in a Newsweek interview. "But she is
honest and reputable. I wouldn't laugh at it."

But skeptics, many armed with volumes of research, insist that psychics have
never solved a single crime. Joe Nickell, a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer,
the magazine of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of
the Paranormal
, said in an interview that psychic detectives use a trick
called "retrofitting," which involves tossing out several clues, like a
number or a mention of water, that are interpreted to fit the facts after
they become known.

Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine, said in an interview that
psychic detectives commonly make logical predictions; for example, they
suggest that a corpse will be found in a remote area. "If you have a body,
are you going to dump it in a crowded city?" he asked.

Visitors to her house noticed many commendations from police departments,
some of which officially say they do not use psychics.

Ms. Allison refused payment for her work, saying it would be "blood money."
She did accept money for expenses and payments for appearances on talk shows
and other forums. She also wrote articles and books, the most successful of
which was "A Psychic's Story," published in 1980.

She had harsh words for psychics who advertise on television, a practice she
shunned. "Those 1-900 number people should be arrested," she said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

28. Virgin Mary Statues Vanish in Texas
APBnews.com, Dec. 16, 1999
(...) Statues of the Virgin Mary have been disappearing without a trace from
lawns and cemeteries in and around the storied Texas port city of Galveston
since late summer.

Some say it's the work of mischievous children. Others think more savvy
crooks are at large. And still others fear the disappearances are
manifestations of lurking anti-Catholic sentiment in a city that, at the end
of the 19th century, housed the largest Catholic population in Texas.
Related Story:

Rubie Huvar regards the theft of her 80-pound Mary from a nativity scene an
anti-Catholic hate crime. "I feel like they've invaded my religion," she
said. "They came into my yard and took the thing that shows I'm a Catholic. I
could see once, somebody being silly, but this has happened time after time."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

=== Noted

29. Web rumors have many starry-eyed over 'superbright' celestial event
Houston Chronicle, Dec. 17, 1999
(...) In the last few weeks, e-mail rumors of a "superbright" full moon
rising over the winter solstice on Wednesday have propagated across
cyberspace, breathlessly promising an illuminated Luna unparalleled in 133

Compounding the typical full-moon fever are examples of past events during
similar celestial conjunctions, such as an 1866 Lakota Sioux ambush on U.S.
soldiers. Pagans, including dozens of groups in Houston that celebrate the
solstice, anticipate extra-special ceremonies to mark the sun's southernmost
point of the year.

The astronomers sigh. "It's an amazing testament to the power of Internet
chain-mail letters," said Alan MacRobert, associate editor for Sky &
Telescope magazine. "The Earth is not going to be lit up in a dazzling
display of light, and you will not be able to drive without your headlights."

No one disputes that the moon will appear brighter, experts said, but the
difference will be marginal.

Despite all the celestial coincidences, however, the moon will appear only
about 19 percent brighter than normal, MacRobert said. That might seem
significant until he explains that daylight is 50 million percent brighter
than moonlight. "The difference will be so slight that you won't see
anything different," he said.

Houston Police Department spokesman Robert Hurst said he has heard the
theories of increased domestic assault, drunkenness and even out-of-control
animals during full moons, but he doesn't subscribe to any of them. "There's
never been any direct correlation between crime and vandalism when the moon
is full," he said. "It's kind of just an old wives' tale."

The rumors about the superbright moon proliferating on the Internet and
around the watercooler can be traced to the 1999 edition of the Old Farmer's
Almanac, which is generally accurate, and reports that only one historical
incident -- the Sioux raiding party -- could be found that coincided with a
superbright moon.

Someone doctored the report and introduced it to the information
superhighway, said Donald Olson, a professor of astronomy at Southwest Texas
State University.

If there are any lasting repercussions of Wednesday's lunar event, Olson
said, they will arise from higher-than-normal tides, perhaps the year's

Locally this year, the expected full moon will only enhance the solstice
celebrations for Houston-area pagans, the several hundred Wiccans, druids and
others generally defined as followers who seek to re-create pre-Christian
traditions. "They will be extra beautiful," Bill Smith, a Houston-area
witch, said about the dozens of outdoor ceremonies that local pagans plan for
Wednesday night.

The Council of the Magickal Arts, a worldwide pagan organization, has
hundreds of members in the Houston area, said Cathy McNulty, a local member
and druid. Perhaps as many as 1,500 Houston pagans will hold solstice events
Wednesday night, various community sources said. "Basically, you can't swing
a cat in Houston without hitting a pagan," McNulty said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

30. Brightest of Moons and Tallest of Tales
New York Times, Dec. 21, 1999
High tides, not cosmic levels of illumination, may be the most noticeable
effect tomorrow night when an unusual combination of celestial events
produces one of the largest and brightest full Moons in recent memory.

The Moon will have an extra glow, astronomers say, because it will be as
close to Earth as it has been all year -- about 222,000 miles away compared
with an average of 239,000 miles -- and thus will appear larger in the sky.

The fact that this full Moon will coincide with the winter solstice, which
happens only once every 133 years, has raised wide interest, particularly on
the Internet, where messages over the last few weeks have suggested that
tomorrow's full Moon will be so brilliant that people driving at night in
snowy areas may not need their headlights. It is a fine story, but, like many
Internet legends, it has been embellished a bit along the way.

Although the Moon will be a little larger and brighter than usual, the
increased brightness will be evident only to observers with instruments, said
Prof. Brad Schaefer of the Yale physics department. "And its occurrence on
the winter solstice is of little astronomical importance," he said.

But while millions may be looking up and marveling at what they think is an
incredibly bright Moon, the real importance of the event may be the extreme
high tides caused by the nearby full Moon.

Despite the hoopla over tomorrow's full Moon, the real lunar show comes at
the next full Moon on Jan. 20, 2000, when North America will witness a full
lunar eclipse.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

31. Wal-Mart a cult? Book says so; others say no
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dec. 19, 1999
When does a company's culture become a cult? It's when a company goes to
great lengths to make its employees feel at home at the office, says business
professor and consultant Dave Arnott in his new book, Corporate Cults. It's
when a company cares more about employees' personalities or people skills
than about what tasks they can perform, Arnott says. And it's when employees
consider themselves a "family." Or when employees base "who they are" on
"what they do."

Arnott says corporations like Southwest, Wal-Mart and even Microsoft "wield
all-consuming power" over their employees through carefully planned cultish
cultures. But Arnott's description takes a view far different from those of
other mainstream business experts and psychologists -- and from the opinions
of the corporations he names.

"It sounds like good popular book material," said Dan Ganster, chairman of
the University of Arkansas' business management department. "But a 'cult'
implies that the cultures of a group are so pervasive that it totally
dominates your perspective of the world.

One of Arnott's biggest problems with "cultlike" corporations is that they
place more value on employees' personal skills, or "people" skills, than on
what work the employees can do, he writes in Corporate Cults. It's
dangerous, he says, because such employees are no longer hired for a job;
they are hired for who they are, or "whether they'll fit in." When that
happens, Arnott argues, employees confuse their own identity and sense of
self-worth with how they're viewed at work, and the result is "culted"
employees who are tied inextricably to the company.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Corporate Cults: The Insidious Lure of the All-Consuming OrganizationOff-site Link

32. Leaving Social Security is not easy
Detroit News, Dec. 20, 1999
How do you opt out of paying Social Security? Who can do this?

You have to be a religious worker, working for a church or a qualified church
organization, such as a nonprofit division under control of that church. Or
you and your employer have to be members of a sect opposed to Social
Security and Medicare taxes and benefits. And your employer must have applied
for and gotten an approval so you can then apply for your "leave."

You're dealing with a bureaucracy here, so you'll have to look at several
pieces of paper: IRS Form 8274 (saying you want to drop the coverage), Form
4029 (for members of recognized religious groups such as Amish or Mennonite),
and Form 4361 (generally used by members of religious orders or Christian
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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33. 87% have religious belief, says survey
The Irish Times, Dec. 11, 1999
A Gallup worldwide opinion poll has established that 87 per cent of people
consider themselves part of some religion, with 13 per cent saying they
belong to none.

The poll, conducted between mid-August and mid-October this year, was part of
the largest survey of world opinion undertaken and involved questioning
50,000 people in 60 countries, representing a population of 1.25 billion.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Catholic Newspaper Selects Jesus for Millennium
Excite/Reuters, Dec. 15, 1999
Jesus is being depicted for the new millennium as a dark-skinned peasant with
both feminine and masculine features.

The multicultural depiction was selected by a progressive Catholic
publication as the winner in an international art contest to update the more
traditional depictions Christ for the new millennium.

National Catholic Reporter hopes to take the painting and other entries on a
traveling exhibition to promote a more inclusive view of Jesus. "This
picture may well be prophetic. Jesus had said he wanted the church to be
universal," Farrell said. "This is an indigenous Jesus... and may be the
Jesus who reflects believers in the next millennium or two."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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35. With Rum And Cigars, Cubans Pray to Saint Lazarus
Yahoo!/Reuters, Dec. 17, 1999
Crowds of believers flocked Friday to pay homage to Saint Lazarus at one of
Cuba's most sacred shrines in a pilgrimage given a uniquely local flavor by
clouds of cigar smoke and sips of rum.

The annual pilgrimage drew thousands of Roman Catholic believers and
followers of the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion -- for whom the saint
symbolizes the deity Babalu-Aye -- seeking miracles and solutions to personal

In both Catholicism and Santeria -- introduced by African slaves brought to
Cuba when it was a Spanish colony -- Saint Lazarus is associated with the
healing of sicknesses.

Pilgrims entered the church smoking large cigars to blow smoke over images of
the saint. ''He always smoked tobacco,'' explained one man.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

36. Death-penalty opponents illuminate Colosseum
Star-Telegram, Dec. 17, 1999
With the blessing of the pope, the ancient Colosseum, where Christians were
thrown to the lions and gladiators fought to the death, has become a symbol
of life for foes of capital punishment.

Starting Dec. 12 and continuing throughout the year 2000, the amphitheater
inaugurated by the Emperor Vespasian in A.D. 80 is being illuminated for 48
hours each time a death sentence is suspended or commuted, or the death
penalty is abolished anywhere in the world.

The project was inaugurated as the United States announced that 96 Death Row
inmates have been executed in the country this year -- the largest number
since the Supreme Court allowed states to resume capital punishment in 1976.
[...entire item...]

=== Film

37. Holy Smoke Review
Steve Hassan's Mailing List, Dec. 21, 1999

By Ian Haworth, Cult Information Centre http://www.xenu.net/cic/

Yesterday evening I was able to see an industry preview, at the British
Academy of Film and Television Arts, of the film 'Holy Smoke', starring
Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel. For those working in the field of cult
awareness and for families with loved ones in cults, this film will be a
great disappointment at best and will surely be seen as highly offensive
by the majority.

The film promotes many of the myths and cult propaganda that suggest only
lost searching kids become involved with cults and that deprogrammers
financially exploit families and sexually exploit those they are supposed
to counsel.

Jane Campion was the writer/director of the film and having left the
screening area, I was advised that, "the film was very Jane Campion. It
was all about the change in the relationship between a man and a woman and
the shift of power and dominance from one to another." That seems to be
the case and indeed the press pack certainly suggests that this was Jane's
intention. The issue of cults was clearly of no real interest to Jane
and quite irrelevant to the story line.

However, to use Jane Campion's apparent misunderstanding of exit
as an artistic excuse to show a power struggle between a man
and a woman and a passionate sexual encounter is in my opinion quite
revolting. Surely exit counselling is not about power and dominance, it
is about enabling the disabled, it is about reactivating critical thought,
it is about giving back personal choice and freedom.

If one sees the film as a statement about Jane's own insight into or
confusion about interpersonal relationships and her spiritual meanderings,
then I found the film extremely disjointed and boring. However, to abuse
the topic of cults in this appalling way was yet another indicator of
Jane's lack of knowledge of a very serious problem.

Where was the research? The lack of understanding of the real impact of
cults on individuals and their families is tragic. There is also a
confused use of terminology when for example the deprogrammer is described
as an exit-counsellor. This confusion continues in the press pack that
accompanied the industry preview, with the deprogrammer being described
with both terms. As for what the deprogrammer did, it too had nothing to
do with reality and was very upsetting to watch.

The level of research was so poor they even gave the wrong date for the
'Jonestown' tragedy in Guyana in 1978. In addition, as an asthmatic for
over 45 years, I was surprised to find that even their research into
asthma must have been practically non-existent. The asthmatic mother in
the movie is seen many times using a Ventolin inhaler as though it was a
breath freshener.

Holy Smoke is also punctuated with crude attempts at black humour and
farce, which seem to be utterly pointless and add nothing to the whole
experience. I found myself embarrassed for Kate Winslet and Harvey
Keitel having to grapple with some of their lines in such an appalling
plot. My anxiety was further increased by the poor acting of some of the
cast in their portrayal of a dysfunctional family.

I wish Jane had picked another way for the central characters to meet,
because the film is a great disservice to hundreds of people around the
world like myself, who have worked tirelessly for many years to try to
assist society to understand the very serious nature of cults.

I had heard from Australia this was not a good movie, but I was shocked at
the new depths to which this one sank... (However, I shall refrain from
any cheap puns about the Titanic here.)

'Unholy Mess' would have been my choice of title for the film. However,
if you are still foolish enough to risk seeing the film, please buy a
large box of popcorn, when you enter, so at least you will have something
to enjoy.
[...entire item...]

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