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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - February 20, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 327) - 1/3

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues
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== Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo
1. Foot cult to pay defrauded believers

=== Falun Gong
2. Hong Kong Group: China Charges Falun Gong Follower
3. Mainland pressure rising to curb Falun Gong
4. China 're-educates' cult members
5. The 'unseen hand' at human rights meet

=== Falun Gong - China's Government-Controlled Media
6. Reports from China's government-controlled media
7. Freedom for Religions, No Room for Evil Cults: Chinese Official
8. Book Slams Falun Gong Cult

=== International Churches of Christ
9. Cult targets campus

=== Islam
10. Group Says 300 Killed in Afghanistan
11. Five nude women among 40 held in mountain ritual

» Part 2 === Mormonism
12. Church Moves To Adjust Use Of Its Name

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
13. Web site puts face on pagans

=== Hate Groups
14. Germany Creates Police Units

=== Other News
15. Bush's Call to Church Groups Attracts the Untraditional
16. Seized Indianapolis church holds service
17. In the name of the Father

» Part 3 === Alternative Medicine / Healing
18. Report Damning Ancient Indian Medicine Draws Ire
19. Ayurveda not unscientific, aver city experts
20. Data conflicts on acupuncture's effectiveness

=== Noted
21. Ministers get hip to lure young

=== The Tax Scare Around The Corner
22. Tax numbers spark devil of a row in Church

== Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo

1. Foot cult to pay defrauded believers
Japan Times (Japan), Feb. 21, 2001
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/Off-site Link

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) The Fukuoka High Court ordered the Honohana Sampogyo cult and former leader Hogen Fukunaga on Tuesday to pay about 227.2 million yen in damages for swindling money out of 27 believers in the name of training fees.

Upholding a lower court ruling, presiding Judge Takao Kondo said the fees were illegal as the cult went beyond what society deems acceptable as religious activity.

''It was obvious that the religious group intended to collect money,'' Kondo said.
The plaintiffs demanded the sect, which professed the power to diagnose people's woes by examining the soles of their feet, pay 237 million yen in damages.

Kondo, however, told the court that he did not believe all Honohana members recognized they were breaking the law when they recruited people to the sect.

''Each person has different views on donation (to religious groups). It could be a legitimate religious activity, depending on circumstances,'' he said.

=== Falun Gong

2. Hong Kong Group: China Charges Falun Gong Follower
Reuters, Feb. 20, 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has charged a Macau-based follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, banned on the mainland, with ``inciting to subvert state power,'' a Hong Kong human rights group said on Tuesday.

Zhang Yuhui was arrested in adjoining Zhuhai in southern China on December 18 last year when Chinese President Zhang Zemin was visiting Macau, the Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said in a statement.

Zhang, 36, is a mainland Chinese living in the autonomous Chinese city of Macau where Falun Gong is legal. Portugal ran Macau for 450 years before it reverted to China in December 1999.

The information group quoted unidentified ``informed sources'' as saying Zhang had been arrested for spreading pro-Falun Gong remarks on the Internet.

Last October, Beijing launched new Internet laws, one of which bans the use of the Web for ``evil cult'' activities, the Hong Kong group said.

Just before Macau's 1999 handover, Zhang had been detained in Zhuhai for three months for releasing articles supportive of Falun Gong through China-based and overseas Web Sites.

3. Mainland pressure rising to curb Falun Gong
UPI, Feb. 20, 2001
http://www.vny.com/Off-site Link

HONG KONG, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- China's top religious affairs official told a
religious conference in Hong Kong that no responsible government would turn
a blind eye to the ''evil acts'' the banned spiritual Falun Gong movement had

Addressing a gathering at Hong Kong's Chinese University, Ye Xiaowen, head
of the State Council's Religious Affairs Office, said it had become clear
that the Falun Gong in Hong Kong had become political and that with time it
would show its ''evil'' face in the territory, according to the South China
Morning Post.

Ye did not give directives concerning how Hong Kong should deal with the
semi-religious movement but said that he was confident the ''Hong Kong public
have the wisdom'' to handle the Falun Gong.

He acknowledged indirectly that the Falun Gong have not broken laws in
Hong Kong but said even ''poppy flowers have a beautiful face.''

4. China 're-educates' cult members
The Guardian (England), Feb. 20, 2001
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Off-site Link

China has admitted making extensive use of a much-criticised form of imprisonment without trial in its efforts to suppress the banned Falun Gong spiritual sect.

The practice of sending people to labour camps for ''re-education'' has been condemned by human rights groups abroad. They say Beijing may also be employing it to clear the streets of undesirables during its bid to stage the 2008 Olympic Games.

A team from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visits the city today to assess the bid. The police are on heightened alert against demonstrations, after another alleged Falun Gong supporter committed suicide in public on Friday.

A thousand women followers of Falun Gong have been ''successfully re-educated'' at a ''re-education through labour institute'' in Liaoning province, the official People's Daily reported at the weekend.

It said the ''tutors'' at the Masanjia camp provided ''loving care'', helping the inmates to overcome their resistance to reform. Claims by the Falun Gong organisation abroad that many members had been tortured by Masanjia were denied.

The figures quoted for one camp in one province give an idea of the magnitude of the operation against the Falun Gong. The People's Daily said more than 300 inmates had returned home from Masanjia after finishing their ''re-education terms''. Another 300 had their terms reduced or were serving them ''outside the facility''.

The process of labour re-education appears similar to the ''thought reform'' methods used in Chinese labour camps during the Mao Zedong era.

In a typical case in Masanjia, a ''former cult leader'', Li Lina, says the prison ''even provided the latest articles of Li Hongzhi and organised former practitioners to debate them''.

The use of repentant inmates to persuade more stubborn prisoners to change their beliefs was a characteristic feature of the ''thought reform'' process.

The Human Rights in China group in the US calculates that up to 2m people are picked up under some form of ''administrative custody'' every year, at least 5% of them children.

5. The 'unseen hand' at human rights meet
The Hindu (India), Feb. 19, 2000
http://www.indiaserver.com/Off-site Link

TOKYO, FEB. 19. A team of 17 inspectors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) begins a visit to Beijing on Tuesday and the city's Mayor has made a strong appeal to the IOC and the foreign media to keep the politics of human rights out of the consideration of whether the Chinese capital is a suitable host for the 2008 Summer Games.

Coincidentally, the Bush Administration has chosen this week to finalise a decision to propose a resolution to censure China at the annual session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), which meets in Geneva every March. Indications are that, tugged in opposite directions by different constituencies and government departments, the U.S. will opt to sponsor such a resolution, though it is debatable whether this would be intended for impact or domestic consumption.

In an interesting twist, due mainly to the actions, or inactions of both governments, and media coverage, the balance of power in public diplomacy on the human rights front has shifted in favour of sects like the Falun Gong. It's unseen hand will have a strong presence, both in Geneva and in the IOC.

Also later this week, the U.S. State Department will release its annual report on human rights. As usual, it is expected to employ strong words. This year, under a Republican administration influenced heavily by the Christian religious right, the report is expected to be particularly harsh on China's refusal to grant full rights of religious freedom.

Whether that influences the IOC is debatable, but then China itself is dragging the politics of religion into the Olympics inspections, if not directly then by the deliberate accident of timing. Monday's editions of some widely circulated international dailies carry paid supplements about the suitability of Beijing's candidacy and there is a complete absence of human rights issues.

But, on Sunday, the Chinese authorities published a new textbook to step up the drive to campaign against the Falun Gong sect.

=== Falun Gong - China's Government-Controlled Media

6. Reports from China's government-controlled media

* China's government-controlled media has, in recent days, published dozens
of items denouncing Falun Gong. As these items are essentially press
releases meant as propaganda rather than news reporting, there is little
to be gained by including all of them in RNR. Those interested may access
the reports via this Falun Gong news page

Occassionally, some of these reports will be noted here, though.

7. Freedom for Religions, No Room for Evil Cults: Chinese Official
Xinhua, Feb. 20, 2001
http://www.individual.com/Off-site Link

HONG KONG (Feb. 19) XINHUA via NewsEdge Corporation - The Chinese government highly respects the freedom of religions but will never allow the existence of evil cults in the country, a senior Chinese official in charge of religious matters said here Monday.

Respecting freedom of religions and guaranteeing independent running of religious groups are two basic principles of China's religious policy, Ye Xiaowen, director of China's State Bureau of Religious Affairs, said at a conference on religion.

Stressing that the Chinese people now enjoy full freedom of religious beliefs, Ye cited that religious believers in China have now exceeded 100 million, among whom there are more than 10 million Christians, four million Catholics, and 18 million Moslems.

Up to 1996, there were more than 85,000 worship sites nationwide for practitioners of Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Christianity and Catholicism to conduct religious activities, Ye said.

Though the government grants full freedom to religious beliefs, Ye stressed that evil cults like the much-condemned Falun Gong can go nowhere in the country since the Chinese government will never allow any evil cult to harm its people and jeopardize society.

As for Falun Gong in Hong Kong, Ye said that the Falun Gong group here also takes instructions from Li Hongzhi, leader of the evil cult. Recently, Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong have gone increasingly internationalized and politicized, Ye said.

Hong Kong's Falun Gong group has now peeled off its disguise of ''not participating in politics, not opposing the government and not joining force with any political forces,'' and has targeted directly against the central government, he said.

Ye delivered his speech, entitled ''The Development of Chinese Religions in the Past Century in China,'' as the first keynote speaker at an event organized by the Chinese University of Hong Kong to discuss religions in the past and their future.

8. Book Slams Falun Gong Cult
Xinhua, Feb. 19, 2001
http://www.individual.com/Off-site Link

BEIJING, February 18 (Xinhua)-- A book titled ''Say No to the Cult'' has been published by Jiuzhou Press and put on sale at the Xinhua Book Store, the ''China Youth Daily'' reported Friday.

The book was compiled by the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China (CCCYLC) and the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), with the purpose of unveiling the evil nature of the Falun Gong cult, which is anti- humanity, anti-society and anti-science.

=== International Churches of Christ

9. Cult targets campus
Sunday Star-Times (New Zealand), Feb. 18, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

Three years ago Julian Malcolm was pounding the streets trying to recruit young, lonely people into the religious group he had devoted himself to.

Now he is on a crusade of a different kind, taking up the cause against his former group to stop it growing stronger.

The 29-year-old chef will be at Auckland University during orientation this month handing out leaflets to new students he believes will be targeted by the religious group, International Church of Christ.

The United States-based ICC has branches in Auckland and Christchurch and is among a number of religious groups and cults Malcolm says will hone in on university orientations around the country.

The Auckland University Students Association has given Malcolm permission to hand out leaflets warning students they could be approached to join religious and cult-type groups.

The ICC has about 250 members in Auckland and 40 in Christchurch.

Malcolm is now part of Cultwatch, an Auckland-based group which monitors cults and religious groups.

Malcolm became involved with ICC in October 1998, through a friend he was teaching to play golf.

A few months later he was baptised in the sea at Mission Bay and was asked to start contributing 10% of his weekly pay to the church. He was told to forget everything he had been told about religion and that the only true path to heaven was through the ICC.

''They looked at my pay slip and said I had to pay a certain amount. If I missed a payment I would have to make it up a week later. Each year you also have to make a lump sum payment of 16 times your weekly contribution,'' said Malcolm.

Religious meetings were held three times a week, and there were evangelical sessions which Malcolm said were recruiting coaching. He would later become one of the top recruiters.

''I targeted 18 to 30-year-olds, students who looked vulnerable and I'd try anyone who looked like they might have money. We weren't interested in street kids or anyone like that. On average I'd recruit about 10 people a week, but only a few of those would stay and join.''

As the months went by he started to have misgivings. His family was worried about his new faith and searched the internet to find a group it could talk to.

''I went to dinner at my mother's place and unbeknown to me they had arranged a guy from Cultwatch to be there. We talked and they convinced me to get out.
''When I was leaving (the group), I was chastised and shouted at. It was all done to try and break me down so I would stay.''

Cultwatch director Mark Vrankovich said ICC had been banned from a number of university campuses around the world.

=== Islam

10. Group Says 300 Killed in Afghanistan
AP, Feb. 19, 2001
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A human rights group on Monday called for an inquiry into reports that as many as 300 Shiite Muslim civilians were recently massacred by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban in central Bamiyan province.

Citing witnesses, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Taliban troops rounded up and shot about 300 men after capturing the city of Yakaolang in January. The Taliban rejected the report.

The United Nations also said in a Jan. 19 report that it had credible reports of the killings, but put the death toll at about 100. Several victims were Afghans working for humanitarian organizations, both reports said.

Human Rights Watch said in a report that it had videotaped evidence of two mass graves in the area. It also released a list of the dead.

The Taliban, who rule 95 percent of Afghanistan and are mostly Sunni Muslims, said the reports were a ''conspiracy'' by opposition groups and other countries to tarnish their name.

11. Five nude women among 40 held in mountain ritual
The Star (Malaysia), Feb. 20, 2001
http://thestar.com.my/Off-site Link

MUAR: Forty people, including five women who were bathing in the nude, were arrested by the Muar religious enforcement unit for performing spiritual rituals on Gunung Ledang shortly after midnight yesterday.

The group, led by a self-proclaimed bomoh (shaman) from Segamat, was later detained at the Muar police station before being questioned at the religious department here at 9am yesterday.

Johor Religious Department's senior assistant director Mohd Asari Tibek said the members, aged between 20 and 40, had come from Segamat, Batu Pahat and here.

''The group went to the mountain and started their rituals in the afternoon and at midnight, the bomoh went into a trance before showering the women, who were all naked, with water.

''Such beliefs are against Islamic teachings and the department had to arrest them,'' he said here yesterday.

Mohd Asari said they would be questioned for indulging in deviationist teachings and their case would be brought to the Syariah court.

» Part 2