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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - February 2, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 319) - 3/4

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues

» Continued from Part 2

=== Other News
29. Nepal: The case against jailed Norwegian missionary opens
30. Out-of-state activists depart church protest (Indianapolis Baptist Temple)
31. Judge Rules Sect Can't Place Tenets Near Ten Commandments in Ogden
32. Indianapolis Worker's Pursuit of Office Blessings Spurned by Court
33. Media heiress Patricia Hearst defends pardon by Clinton
34. Cult to return 'brainwashed' member's assets
35. Minister resigns over quake remarks
36. Resident sues Golden Beach for slander
37. Evangelical leader fears Sharon will pass anti-missionary laws
38. Kollek joins outcry against Temple digs

» Part 4

=== Alternative Healing
39. Reiki -- soul food for Asia's largest prison
40. Alternative medicines: Science or magic?

=== Noted
41. Deepak Chopra Discusses His Mystical Life
42. The Bakker Family Discusses Living Through Scandal and Personal Tragedy

=== The Monks Around The Corner
43. Rock'n'roll monks defy Greek church

=== Other News

29. Nepal: The case against jailed Norwegian missionary opens
The Norway Post, Jan. 30, 2001
http://www.norwaypost.no/Off-site Link

The court proceedings in the case against the jailed Norwegian missionary Trond Berg begin on Wednesday. Berg was arrested on October, charged with illegal proselyting.

Nepal's Supreme Court in Katmandu has refused to hear his case, and has sent it back to the district court in Rajbiraj, the town where Berg was arrested on October 29th, accused of illegal proselyting.

Berg was charged with trying to convert a Hindu to Christianity, by offering him a sum of 40,000 rupies (NOK 5,000). If sentenced, Berg risks up to six years in jail.

He denies that he at any time has tried to convert anyone to Christianity by offering money, or by using force.

30. Out-of-state activists depart church protest
Indianapolis Star, Feb. 1, 2001
http://starnews.com/Off-site Link

The holdout at the Indianapolis Baptist Temple became a more subdued, local protest Tuesday with the departure of out-of-state activists who helped turn the church's tax battle into a symbolic stand, at least among some members of the religious right.

Anti-abortionist crusader Bruce Murch, his wife and their nine children left Tuesday morning after an emotional prayer huddle with the church's patriarch, the Rev. Gregory J. Dixon.

Pastors from Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa and other states also left Tuesday or earlier this week.

In the nearly 12 weeks since Temple members had defied a federal judge's order to vacate the church, these leaders had printed posters and T-shirts, cranked out e-mail bulletins or hosted endless short-wave radio talk shows.

The church's senior pastor, the Rev. Gregory A. Dixon, acknowledged that the character of the church's stand had changed.

''Basically, they have done the majority of the work for these 80 days, and our people have been the support staff,'' he said. ''Our people are going to have to step up. And we're going to have to hit that hard in our evening service.''

U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson would not comment on whether the departures have cleared the way for the church's seizure.

Some of the departing pastors, such as Murch and the Rev. W.N. Otwell, are old hands at government confrontations and fervent believers in the justness of the church's stand.

The departing pastors denied emphatically, though, that they were leaving so the marshals could move in.

Some even predicted that in a few days or weeks, the Bush administration would forgive the $6 million in taxes, penalties and interest owed by the church for its failure to withhold employee income taxes, and Social Security and Medicare taxes.

31. Judge Rules Sect Can't Place Tenets Near Ten Commandments in Ogden
The Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 2, 2001
http://www.sltrib.com/Off-site Link

Federal Judge Bruce Jenkins needed more than a year to conclude that the city of Ogden could legally refuse to allow an obscure non-Christian sect to display its own tenets next to an existing Ten Commandments monument.

''Plaintiffs remain free to explore the nature and origins of the universe unhindered by Ogden City,'' Jenkins said in his Thursday ruling dismissing several constitutional challenges raised by Salt Lake City-based Summum.

Within hours of the ruling, civil liberties attorney Brian Barnard placed the case before the 10th Circuit Court in Denver, filing a notice of appeal with Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court.

The Ten Commandments monument, fashioned as a stone tablet, was erected at the Ogden Municipal Gardens in 1966 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Jenkins' ruling addressed two lawsuits which had been consolidated. Initially, a December 1998 complaint sought removal of the Ten Commandments. That action, brought by an Ogden resident and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., was merged with Summum's March 1999 suit. A month later, the Wisconsin group dropped its claim to simplify the case.

Rather than demanding removal of the Ten Commandments, Summum sought to force Ogden to accept a free, additional monument bearing the sect's seven principles of creation: psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.

Barnard argued that in refusing Summum's gift, Ogden violated the First Amendment's guarantees of religious freedom and free speech.

Jenkins rejected all three claims, finding that the Ten Commandments are both a secular and ecumenical symbol.

32. Indianapolis Worker's Pursuit of Office Blessings Spurned by Court
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, Jan. 31, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

Jan. 31--Tuesday wasn't exactly a blessed day for Liz Anderson.

The Indianapolis office worker was dealt a severe blow in an initial court battle against a workplace policy that bars her from offering Christian blessings to customers.

But Anderson remained upbeat and pledged to fight on. ''This is just one obstacle. I know God is working in this. I'm looking for a miracle, and I know it's going to happen.''

It didn't happen Tuesday, as U.S. District Court Judge John Tinder denied Anderson's request for a preliminary injunction against the no-blessings policy imposed by her Indianapolis employer, USF Logistics.

Anderson's religious discrimination lawsuit against the company will be allowed to proceed. And while Tuesday's preliminary loss does not bode well for her overall legal claims, it likely will provide more fodder for groups who for years have been urging Congress to expand accommodations for religion in the workplace.

Anderson has argued that her habit of wishing folks a ''blessed day'' is a religious practice protected by the Civil Rights Act. Judge Tinder's ruling suggests it might be a personal preference not subject to legal protection.

Even if the practice is covered by the Civil Rights Act, Tinder ruled that USF Logistics already has made a reasonable accommodation for the practice as required by law.

USF has stuck with its ban against workers using the ''blessed'' greeting or other religious expressions with customers. However, the judge noted, the company has allowed Anderson to use it with co-workers and supervisors even though USF has a written policy that broadly bans all such activity.

The company issued that broad policy in mid-1999 after Anderson ignored a supervisor's warning to stop using the ''blessed'' greeting in e-mail with a Microsoft worker who had objected to its religious overtones. It was that policy that prompted Anderson to take her grievances public 15 months ago.

The case also has caught the attention of religious groups that have been fighting for five years to expand the circumstances under which employers must accommodate religious expression. Current case law requires accommodation unless the employer can prove that it would pose an ''undue hardship.''

33. Media heiress Patricia Hearst defends pardon by Clinton
AP, Jan. 31, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

(Washington-AP) -- Speaking on C-N-N's ``Larry King Live'' program tonight, media heiress Patricia Hearst defended her pardon by former President Clinton. Hearst denounced critics who said she should have been asked to make an admission of guilt for her role in a bank robbery in the 1970s.

Hearst has always maintained that she was brainwashed and was not responsible for her actions.
* See: Patricia Hearst Discusses Her Presidential PardonOff-site Link
CNN/Larry King Live, Jan. 31, 2001

34. Cult to return 'brainwashed' member's assets
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Feb. 1, 2001
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/Off-site Link

A reclusive cult that ''manipulated'' a distraught woman must return 240 million yen in assets that she signed over to it, the Tokyo District Court ruled Wednesday.

Presiding Judge Yukihiro Okahisa ruled that Kofukukai-Yamagishikai, a cult that operates farming communes, was acting unfairly in refusing to return assets to a 52-year-old Yokohama woman after she severed her links to the organization.

Although the judge denied the cult brainwashed her, he recognized that it psychologically pressured her against the nation's Constitution.

''It violates all public order and morals and is invalid,'' Okahisa said in reference to a contract giving Yamagishi control over the woman's assets that she had signed.

Of 10 similar lawsuits filed against Yamagishi demanding the return of once-surrendered assets, Wednesday's ruling was the first to be issued.

Yamagishi was created in 1953 and has led to the formation of over 40 communes, including some overseas. It advocates communal life and forbids personal wealth.

35. Minister resigns over quake remarks
BBC, Jan. 31, 2001
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link

An Indian minister has resigned after a furore over his remark that the earthquake in Gujarat was a sign of divine retribution.

T John, a junior minister in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, said he was stepping down to avoid controversy.

Mr John had told a meeting organised by a Christian group on Tuesday that Gujarat was hit by an earthquake because the state's churches had been destroyed by anti-Christian campaigners.

''Injustice was done to our people.... For this God has punished them,'' he said.

Gujarat witnessed a spate of attacks on churches and prayers halls which were blamed on hardline Hindu groups.

36. Resident sues Golden Beach for slander
Miami Herald, Feb. 1, 2001
http://www.miamiherald.com/Off-site Link

A Golden Beach resident who practices ancient Jewish rituals is suing the town for slander and violation of her freedom of religion after a Golden Beach public official accused her of casting Vodou spells against him.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 12 against Vice Mayor Stanley Feinman and the town, Susan Chorney claims that Feinman has used his political power to keep her from performing religious rituals.

Chorney is a practitioner of Indian and Kaballah rites, which involve drawing sacred circles for protection. She said she should be allowed to express her freedom of religion, despite opposition from the town.

In December, the town council voted to reimburse Feinman for more than $5,000 in legal fees incurred while defending himself against a 1999 restraining order filed by Chorney. She claimed that Feinman photographed her while she traced a circle in the sand, stole her sacred wooden pole, harassed her, chased her off the beach and made plaster casts of footprints she left in the sand.

As part of the restraining order settlement, both Chorney and Feinman agreed to keep at least 100 yards from each other.

Feinman has since returned the wooden pole.

``I do not do Vodou,'' said Chorney, who is Jewish and often traces Kaballic healing circles on the beach.

Richard Burton, Chorney's attorney, said Feinman abused his political power.
``Feinman has used the town to prevent her from engaging in her religious rituals . . . and infringed on her right to free speech,'' Burton said Monday.

``When the town voted to pay for his legal fees in the restraining order, they supported his conduct.''

37. Evangelical leader fears Sharon will pass anti-missionary laws
The Jerusalem Post (Israel), Jan. 28, 2001
http://www.jpost.com/Off-site Link

JERUSALEM (January 28) - An Israeli Christian leader last week expressed concern that the election of Ariel Sharon as prime minister and the establishment of a Likud-led coalition could result in the passage of new anti-missionary legislation, which he said would be an infringement of human rights.

Rev. Charles Kopp, head of the United Christian Council in Israel, was referring to a bill, introduced by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) before the present Knesset recess, which would prohibit missionary activity and the dissemination of missionary material, such as soliciting to change one's religion by means of mail, fax, e-mail, or other instruments of communication. The bill passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset on December 6 by a vote of 23 to nine, with the support of the religious parties, the Likud, the National Union, and even some Shinui MKs, while Labor and Meretz MKs opposed it.

Kopp said that if Sharon formed a coalition, he would have to rely very heavily on the Orthodox parties, making it very probable that legislation of this sort would be passed. When asked about the ties that had existed between evangelical Christian groups and Likud-led governments in the past, Kopp said it was unlikely that there would such ties in the future.

''[Former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu] had more American experience. He understood the great affection many evangelical Christians have for Israel,'' Kopp said.

The bill has been the subject of an e-mail alert sent out by the World Evangelical Fellowship's Religious Liberty Commission to its supporters following a report to that body by the Messianic Action Committee in Israel, in which the MAC said the bill was aimed at the local messianic Christian community. The term ''messianic'' is often used to refer to those of a Jewish background who believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

38. Kollek joins outcry against Temple digs
Ha'aretz (Israel), Feb. 1, 2001
http://www3.haaretz.co.il/Off-site Link

Former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar and former mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek yesterday became the latest public figures to join the outcry against excavations by the Muslim Waqf religious trust on the Temple Mount.

The two informed the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount that they would add their signatures to a sharp letter on the subject sent to Prime Minister Ehud Barak last week.

The letter has been signed both by archaeologists and by public figures from all parts of the political spectrum.

The letter demands that Barak immediately halt the excavation and construction work being carried out by the Waqf, forbid the entry of heavy machinery, trucks and building materials into the Temple Mount compound, and forbid the exit of trucks laden with dirt that might contain archaeological artifacts.

It also demands that any construction on the mount be coordinated with the proper Israeli authorities - primarily the Antiquities Authority, whose employees have been barred from the mount for months - and that the mount be opened to journalists so that Israelis can keep abreast of what is happening there.

» Part 4