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News Archive for March, 1998

The Maharishi vastly expanding holdings in North Carolina, "Thousand-Headed Purusha," March 31, 1998
The Transcendental Meditation movement appears to be moving a substantial portion of the Maharishi's holdings in North America to "Heavenly Mountain Resort" just outside of Boone, NC, declaring it the "Spiritual Center of America." They have currently secured over 7,000 acres, and local reports indicate that they are purchasing many businesses. The TM movement recently requested "tax-free" status for $20.5 million worth of North Carolina property, as a "nonprofit, educational" organization. The facility will be run by the "Maharishi Thousand-Headed Purusha Program," a group of celibate monks within the "secular, scientific" TM movement.
Transcripts of Chen Tao press conferences, Watchman Fellowship, March 1998
Watchman Fellowship posts many transcripts of Chen Tao press conferences, including their most recent prophecies. Teacher Chen's revelation includes promises that humans can achieve deity and repeats earlier warnings about an approaching nuclear Armageddon in 1999.,
UN asks Germany to clarify surveillance of Scientologists, Tuesday, March 31, 1998, 06:33 GMT 07:33
Germany--(BBC) The United Nations special rapporteur on religion has asked Germany to make clear why it has placed the Church of Scientology under surveillance. The rapporteur rejected allegations by the Scientologists that Germany's attitude towards them is reminiscent of the Nazis. The German authorities say surveillance of Scientologists is necessary because of what they call the movement's anti-democratic activities.
Vampire cult member to plead guilty to avoid death penalty, 10:56 p.m. PST Tuesday, March 31, 1998
TAVARES, Fla. (AP) -- In a deal that will save him from a potential death sentence, a member of a "vampire cult" agreed to plead guilty to his role in the slayings of another cult member's parents. The deal struck with prosecutors Monday ensures that Howard Scott Anderson will not follow cult leader Rod Ferrell to the electric chair for the 1996 killings. Anderson, 17, agreed to admit to being a principal in the slayings of Richard Wendorf and Naoma Queen. He was to be sentenced today to two life sentences.
Lifetime imprisonment sought for AUM member, 4:17 a.m. PST Tuesday, March 31, 1998
TOKYO, March 31 (Kyodo) -- Prosecutors Tuesday sought life imprisonment for a former member of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult accused of taking part in the June 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, that killed seven people and injured 144 others. Prosecutors sought the sentence at a Tokyo District Court hearing Tuesday for Takashi Tomita, 39, who has also been indicted for preparing for murder in connection with the cult's plan to mass produce the lethal nerve gas sarin. According to prosecutors, AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, assigned Tomita as bodyguard for Hideo
Rev. Moon & His 'Green Card', The Consortium, March 30, 1998
Rev. Sun Myung Moon received his status as a U.S. "lawful permanent resident" nearly 25 years ago, during President Nixon's administration, according to a Justice Department document recently released under a Freedom of Information Act request. In a letter dated April 7, 1975, James F. Greene, then deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, listed the date when Moon obtained his "green card" as April 30, 1973. But it was unclear from the released document whether Moon received any preferential treatment from the Nixon administration. According to a 1978 congressional investigative report on the "Koreagate" influence-buying scandal, "Moon had laid the foundation for political work in this country prior to 1973 [though] his followers became more openly involved in political activities in that and subsequent years." The report added that Moon's organization used his followers' travels to smuggle large sums of money into the United States in apparent violation of federal currency laws. According to other Justice Department records released under FOIA requests, Moon's legal alien status has protected him and his movement from government investigations into their sources of money and other legal questions. When eligible for citizenship in 1978, Moon never became a U.S. citizen. Then, about two years ago, Moon began denouncing the United States and moved his base of operation to Uruguay. Nevertheless, Moon has not renounced his "green card," according to U.S. officials familiar with his case. Full story at h ttp://
Is there life after death for Heaven's Gate? US News and World Report, Monday, March 30, 1998
Earlier this year, about half a dozen former members met to discuss the group's future in the Rolla, Mo., home of Lorraine Snelson, a soft-spoken great-grandmother who joined the group in 1975 along with her daughter, Judy Rowland. Some former members are considering whether to start a new class. Rio DiAngelo, who runs the Web design company founded by Heaven's Gate, says that in the past year he has received "hundreds of letters and E-mails from people who feel this is so true." He also denies that disseminating group teachings will lead to more suicides.
Wealthy enclave ignores suicide cult anniversary, March 28, 1998, 3:24 AM, PST
RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. (AP) -- The 39 bodies were found by fallen cult member Rio DiAngelo, who left the group a month before the suicides. On March 26, 1997, he received a videotape from the group and drove to Rancho Santa Fe to find the bodies. He filmed the scene before calling police. Appraiser Randall Bell said the property is still heavily stigmatized. An odd smell -- something between dirty socks and formaldehyde -- remains, especially when air conditioning or heating is used. Consequently, San Diego County is planning to auction off the personal effects from the Rancho Santa Fe estate--cars, bunk beds, computers, books--by June. County officials say that Do's written instructions to former members, authorizing them to maintain "artifacts" from the class, do not constitute a will under California law.
The first of...? China Post, Friday March 27, 1998
(Central News Agency)-In Taiwan, a Keelung man was found to have apparently drowned himself in the sea in a suicide that was suspected to be related to the God's Salvation Church movement in the United States. Relatives of the 43-year old Yang Ching-feng said he told them he wanted to see God arrive in a flying saucer. Yang then went out after telling his families of his expectations of seeing God. He then disappeared and was found floating dead in the sea off a fishing port in Keelung.
Cult members plan to return to Taiwan, China News, Friday, March 27, 1998
Followers of Taiwanese cult leader Chen Heng-ming are undecided about whether to return to Taiwan after God failed to appear on television as Chen had predicted on Wednesday. Some followers of Chen still believe that God will descend to Earth in human form on March 31. Others, however, said they will leave for home soon and have put their homes in Garland up for sale.
Scientology investigating reporter's personal life, St. Petersburg Times, Friday March 27, 1998
Continuing a long-standing practice, the Church of Scientology again is investigating the personal life of a news reporter. Church officials say their lawyers have hired a firm to investigate Joseph Mallia, a reporter who recently wrote a five-part series that raised questions about church practices. The investigation conflicts with statements made in 1994 by a top church official, Kurt Weiland. During an interview at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the St. Petersburg Times asked Weiland and church president Heber C. Jentzsch about the practice of investigating reporters. Weiland responded, "There's no institutional or organized campaign or effort or action ongoing to go after a reporter." Asked this week to explain the contradiction, Weiland said the church deals with adverse news reports on a case-by-case basis. He said Mallia's articles were inaccurate and the church was trying to uncover what "sinister motive" he had and what "vested interest" he was working for. "It's not a personal thing," Weiland said. "Every time a reporter steps out of his way to create damage to the church . . . then, of course, it's gloves off." Throughout much of its 43-year existence, the Church of Scientology has used private investigators against detractors and reporters as part of an aggressive strategy to defend itself against criticism. The Herald quoted several academics who said Scientology was the only religious organization in the U.S. that investigates reporters.
God's a no-show, so cult alters tune, March 26, 1998, 7:26 AM PST
Explaining that God was camera-shy, the leader of a Taiwanese cult Wednesday backed down from predictions he made in Gary, Indiana, two months ago that the supreme deity would appear in Texas next week. "But don't call us liars," Chen said. "Keep watching." The effect of Wednesday's reversal on the estimated 150 members of the group, also known as God's Salvation Church, was unclear. Chen's chief spokesman, Richard Liu, said in a recorded statement that the group no longer would answer questions from reporters, but Chen said he would stay in Garland to study.
Attorneys push for a new murder trial of `vampire' cult leader, Miami Herald, Thursday, March 26, 1998
TAVARES -- (AP) -- Attorneys are seeking a new trial for "vampire" cult leader Rod Ferrell, who was sentenced to death last month for killing his friend's parents. In a related development, the victims' daughter, Heather Wendorf, temporarily has been denied her half of her parents' insurance benefits, The Daily Commercial of Leesburg reported last week. The uncertainty of Wendorf's role in the murders has raised questions for Jacksonville-based All-American Insurance, the insurance company handling Richard Wendorf's $20,000 policy.
Police close streets around Garland neighborhood, The Dallas Morning News, March 25, 1998
GARLAND - Members of God's Salvation Church planned to gather at the house of their leader, Hon-Ming Chen, Tuesday night in hopes that God would appear on television at midnight as Mr. Chen promised. But their leader also said the heavens would be emptied of moon, stars and sun on Monday. Then God would come on television early Wednesday with instructions about a flying saucer rescue. About 20 men have shaved their heads in preparation for God's arrival. Others are quietly going about their lives. An officer for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston was in Garland on Tuesday offering assistance to any of the Taiwanese who want to return home. Police closed streets around the neighborhood Tuesday afternoon. They could remain closed through Wednesday. Residents and a horde of reporters will be allowed to enter the neighborhood, but sightseers will not.
Taiwan sect's God prophecy scorned at home, Wednesday, March 25, 1998, 11:00 AM ET
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan laypeople and religious figures were scornful Wednesday after a live telecast from Texas failed to show God revealing himself as a Taiwanese flying saucer spiritualist had prophesied. The would-be moment of truth was carried live on television in Taiwan -- but there was no sign of the heavenly broadcast. Sect leader Hon-Ming Chen had promised it would be visible on Channel 18 on any television set in America. A contrite Chen quickly emerged from his Garland home to tell scores of reporters that he had been wrong and they now could discount his forecast of God's appearance. ``I would rather you don't believe what I say any more,'' said Chen. Sceptics in Taiwan called Chen a fool. Religious leaders in Taiwan were equally disdainful.
UFO cult calm as God misses predicted TV appearance, CNN, March 25, 1998, 5:54 a.m. EST
GARLAND, Texas -- Members of God's Salvation Church waited for a sign Tuesday night. Chen Heng-Ming, "Teacher Chen," had said that God would appear on television channel 18 worldwide at 12:01 a.m. CST, and via flying saucer on March 31. But the set showed nothing but static. "Because we did not see God's message... my predictions of March 31 can be considered nonsense," Chen said through an interpreter. Chen, who said he would offer himself for stoning or crucifixion if his prophecies failed, says he will stay in Garland "to continue studying and researching." He insists his followers are free to go their own way. Chen, who claims he fathered Jesus and now talks to God through a ring on his finger, brought his followers from Taiwan to the Dallas suburbs. The 150 members sold everything back home because Garland sounds like "God's land." The group also built a "spaceship" out of radial tires and plywood, and stocked a shrine with fruit, cola and crackers for God's arrival. Police cordoned off a 165-house area where the group lives, fearing a mass suicide if God did not appear. Chen insisted there was no threat of a of the Heaven's Gate tragedy a year ago. Religious experts say the Salvation Church, whose members include doctors, engineers and teachers, is typical of the kind of religious groups that spring up at the end of a century. Full story: [Editor's Note: Cult experts maintain it is not unusual for a group to continue functioning after a failed prediction. The leader will frequently frame the situation as a "test of faith," as many of his or her followers leave. The smaller group that remains may become even more fanatical. Several such rounds of failed predictions preceded the final Heaven's Gate tragedy.]
God a no-show for Taiwanese spiritual sect, Wednesday, March 25, 1998, 1:21 a.m. PST
GARLAND, Texas (Reuters) - The flying saucer spiritualists turned on and tuned in, but God didn't show up. A 150-member Taiwanese spiritual sect which recently moved to the Dallas suburb of Garland had predicted God would appear on television immediately after midnight on Wednesday morning (0600 GMT) to announce that he would descend to earth next week. But there was no sign of the heavenly television broadcast that the sect's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, had predicted would be visible on Channel 18 on any television set in the United States. A contrite Chen quickly emerged from his suburban home in Garland to tell scores of reporters that he had been wrong and that they could now discount his prediction that God would show up here at 10 a.m. (1600 GMT) on March 31. "Since God's appearance on television has not been realized, you can take what we have preached as nonsense," Chen said through an interpreter. "I would rather you don't believe what I say any more." But he said he continued to communicate with God and that he still believed God would descend to earth to save hundreds of millions of people from a nuclear holocaust in 1999 by taking them to another planet in flying saucers.
Mexican Satanists sentenced for murder of 15 people, Tuesday, March 24, 1998, 6:46 p.m. PST
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Three Mexican Satanists Tuesday were each sentenced to a 50 years in prison for the murder of 15 people in devil-worshipping rituals nine years ago, officials said. The group had become known as "narcosatanists" in the Mexican press because of reports that it sought the devil's protection for a marijuana dealing operation by sacrificing people and animals. The three, who each received the maximum sentence allowable, were part of a Satanic cult in the city of Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, the Attorney General's Office (PGR) said. Two other cult members died in separate shootouts with Mexican police. They were part of a clan responsible for the deaths of 15 people, among them a 9-year-old Mexican child and a U.S. college student from the University of Texas named Mark Kilroy, 21, who was kidnapped from a Matamoros bar. Among the three men convicted was Elio Hernandez Rivera, considered the leader of the group, and Sergio Martinez Salinas and Davis Serna Valdes.
Tokyo nerve gas victims are still trapped in nightmare, Friday, March 20, 1998
TOKYO (AP) -- The attack by the doomsday cult AUM Shinri Kyo shattered the nation's traditional sense of safety. Twelve people died, and thousands were sickened. Trials for dozens of key cult leaders, including founder Shoko Asahara, drag on. A verdict on Asahara may not come until the next decade. Police say about 500 cult members remain faithful to Asahara and are clandestinely carrying on rituals. They say the cult is far from the threat it once was but that signs of its resurgence are alarming. About half of 285 victims surveyed recently by St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo said they continue to suffer from a vague sort of fatigue. Thirty percent complained of chronic headaches, and more than 20 percent said they at times have dizziness, irregular breathing, nausea or loss of appetite. The Labor Ministry has spent $2.6 million on medical expenses for the 3,692 victims of the subway attack. The families of 18 people who died or were seriously injured in the subway attack or the 1994 gassing received $424,000 in compensation -- about $23,535 apiece. But some 2,000 other victims, including housewives, children and others who were unemployed, were deemed ineligible.
Garland sect prepares for God's arrival, The Dallas Morning News, March 22, 1998
GARLAND - God will come to Garland on March 31 to begin taking people away in flying saucers, according to a Taiwanese group called God's Salvation Church. In the broad sweep of religious history, it's fairly mainstream stuff, say scholars of religious studies. Flying saucers are a new wrinkle but also understandable, said Dr. Lonnie Kliever, chairman of the religious studies department at Southern Methodist University. Since the first alleged UFO sighting in 1947, a number of religious groups have seized upon flying saucers as a way to explain how God is going to manage the promised pickup, Dr. Kliever said. Although members of God's Salvation Church, also known as Chen-Tao, believe God will look exactly like the bespectacled, gray-haired Mr. Chen, they say it will be easy to distinguish mortal from deity. God will be able to speak any language and walk through walls. He will duplicate himself into enough bodies that everyone will be able to shake his hand and ask questions, Mr. Chen said. The group has welcomed Garland police, who came to investigate rumors that they might kill themselves if God does not materialize. They also have been careful to avoid offending their neighbors. Chen-Tao followers' extreme commitment is typical of first-generation religions, said Dr. Stuart Wright, a sociology professor at Lamar University in Beaumont. He estimates that 4,000 new religions have arisen in the last 50 years. On March 31, a cult deprogrammer named Mary Alice Chrnalogar plans to hold a news conference in a shopping center near the neighborhood. James Walker, president of Watchman Fellowship, a Christian group he describes as countercult, will be in Mr. Chen's front yard to hold him to his prophecy. "If he tries to set a new date, I'm going to remind him that he said they should disregard what he said if God doesn't appear on this date," Mr. Walker said. "I think that's the healthiest thing that can happen."
Cult claims God will appear in a flying saucer, CNN, March 19, 1998
GARLAND, Texas -- The 150 members of God's Salvation Church, sold everything back home in Taiwan and moved to Garland because they say it sounds like "God's land." In anticipation of God's arrival on Earth, the cultists have built what they say is a spacecraft using five radial tires, some plywood and a few lamp posts. They also have prepared a shrine with fruit, cola and crackers, and they spend their time in prayer to get ready for the end of the month, when they claim God will show up at 3513 Ridgedale Drive to save mankind from nuclear war. The cult's leader, known to members as Teacher Chen, is a 41-year-old former social sciences professor. Chen believes that God will first appear on Channel 18 on television sets worldwide at midnight on March 24. Chen also says that on March 31 at 10 a.m., God will take the form of a human being. And, who would that be? That would be Chen himself. The cult leader says that if God does not show up on March 31, he and his followers will not commit suicide, like the 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult did a year ago. However, Chen says that if God does not show up in Garland, he will make himself available for stoning or crucifixion -- and his followers will be free to pack up and go home. And, he adds, everyone will be able to regard the cult's beliefs as nonsense.
Ex-minister faces prison, must pay restitution, Denver Post, Wed, 18 Mar 1998 14:25:15
Richard J. Panyard, 45,former minister of the cult religion The Way International, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and three years' probation and ordered to repay more than 20 of his followers a total of $528,000. That amount includes $176,000 to be repaid to one follower, Kathleen Shay of Boulder, who had turned over to Panyard her entire family inheritance of stock in McDonald's Restaurants. In January, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud. He and two followers, Jack Northart and Charles Mandry, founded three companies in the late 1980s using money coerced out of the Way's followers. The companies struggled for two years without showing profits and around April 1989 became "a scheme to defraud," according to the U.S. attorney's office. Panyard was ordered to surrender to the U.S. marshal on April 14.
Man who stormed Scientology office found guilty but insane, Saturday, March 21, 1998, 1:40 a.m. PST
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- A man who shot four people at a Church of Scientology office and then set the building on fire could spend the rest of his life in a mental institution. A judge on Friday found Jairus Chegero Godeka, 39, guilty except for insanity for the rampage on Sept. 25, 1996. The judge sentenced him to 120 years in custody, and state psychiatrists will have to determine whether Godeka is ever sane enough to be released. Godeka entered the Scientology Celebrity Centre during a busy lunch hour and shot a pregnant woman and three men. He blamed his business problems on Scientology and was under a court order to stay away from the church.
High alert in Moscow for metro gas attack anniversary, BBC, Thursday, March 19, 1998, 20:53 GMT
Emergency services in Moscow were placed on a high state of alert from midnight (2100 gmt) Thursday after the authorities received an anonymous telephone call threatening a gas attack on the city's underground system, Russian TV6 reported. The caller said the attack would be staged to mark the third anniversary of the sarin attack on Tokyo's underground by followers of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, which led to 11 deaths.
Werner Erhard's legacy lives on in a kinder, gentler and lucrative version of his self-help seminars, Time, March 16, 1998
Erhard's 60-hour EST seminars were strenuous ordeals, complete with "body catchers" and barf bags for the weak of mind and stomach. Trainers applauded bladder control and cursed those who didn't get it. After two decades and two divorces, the self-help messiah vanished amid reports of tax fraud (which proved false and won him $200,000 from the IRS) and allegations of incest (which were later recanted). Unlike Erhard, est is still around--sort of. In 1991, before he left the U.S., Erhard sold the "technology" behind his seminars to his employees, who formed a new company called the Landmark Education Corp., with Erhard's brother Harry Rosenberg at the helm. Landmark appears to be thriving. At its core is a four-part "Curriculum for Living," which starts with a 3 1/2-day seminar called the Forum and proceeds to courses that expand upon its brand of enlightenment. Since 1991, approximately 300,000 mostly professional and well-educated seekers have taken the introductory Forum (an estimated 700,000 took Erhard-era seminars). Revenues, which had been averaging $34 million annually, hit $48 million in 1997, with profits approaching 4%. Landmark is becoming a global brand name, with 42 offices in 11 countries, including a well-appointed San Francisco headquarters. The secret of its success? It's programs are not as costly (tuition is down some 50% from Erhard days); they are not as lengthy (the basic course was originally spread over two weekends); and--most important--they are less in-your-face, nearly devoid of the shouting and door monitoring imposed by est's stern trainers. At a recent Forum weekend in a nondescript room 52 men and 47 women gathered for a variety of reasons. The meek sought a voice; the proud, humbling; the lonely, companionship. All had signed a form stating that they are mentally and physically well. It is important that attendees be healthy. The Forum, which costs $350, still requires endurance. It consists of three 12- to 16-hour days--with time out for meals--and (after a one-day breather) a one-evening wrap-up. Some Forum grads weren't sold. Critics say Landmark is an elaborate marketing game that relies heavily on volunteers. Psychiatrists who speak on Landmark's behalf dispute these claims.
Japan sarin attack witness reveals Russia training, Friday, March 13, 1998, 4:02 a.m. PST
TOKYO, March 13 (Reuters) - A witness in the two-year-old trial of Japanese doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara on Friday described shooting training in Russia and threats that kept him from leaving the cult. Former Aum Shinrikyo member Yasuo Hayashi testified at Tokyo District Court that he and 20 other members of the cult had been taken to Russia in 1994 for a one-week training course in shooting. Upon their return, he said, Asahara took them into his meditation room and suddenly grew angry. "He threatened to kill us if we were ever to leave or betray him. I was scared," Hayashi said. Speaking calmly despite rambling statements from Asahara, who sat only yards away, Hayashi also described being told to work in a plant where deadly sarin gas was allegedly produced soon after his return from Russia. Asahara, 42, is standing trial for murder and attempted murder in the subway gassing. He also faces 16 other charges, including the masterminding of a separate sarin gas attack in the central Japan city of Matsumoto in July 1994 that killed seven people and sickened 144.
Church prepares for God's arrival, Friday March 13, 11:39 AM EST
GARLAND, Texas, March 13 (UPI)--Members of a Taiwan-based church living in Texas are preparing for divine intervention when their leader predicts God will arrive in suburban Dallas on March 31. But God's Salvation Church leader Hong-Ming Chen has promised police, reporters, and others that there will be no mass suicide or violence against others if his prediction fails to come true. He predicts God will take over television broadcasts on March 24 to air bulletins about his plans to arrive in Garland on March 31 to carry people and animals away on space ships to avoid coming nuclear wars.
Court to rule on AUM leader's wife May 14, Monday, March 9, 1998, 4:42 a.m. PST
TOKYO, March 9 (Kyodo) -- The Tokyo District Court said Monday the court May 14 will deliver its decision on AUM Shinrikyo religious cult leader Shoko Asahara's wife Tomoko Matsumoto, who is accused of taking part in the murder of a cult member in 1994. Matsumoto, 39, is charged with conspiring with her husband Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and with other cult members to murder Kotaro Ochida, a 29-year-old cult member. Prosecutors are demanding a 10-year jail term for Matsumoto. The defendant has admitted having been at the scene of the murder but has denied involvement in any conspiracy to kill Ochida.
Heaven's Gate trustees sue dead Denver cultist over Web sales, Saturday, March 7, 1998, 2:10 p.m. PST
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Trustees of Heaven's Gate sued the estate of one of the cult's dead followers, claiming he misused the group's Web site to peddle audiotapes, videotapes, T-shirts, coffee mugs and mouse pads. Trustees Mark King, Sarah King and Wayne Parker sued in U.S. District Court on Friday, naming Chuck Humphrey and attempting to halt unauthorized use of the Internet to sell merchandise bearing the group's image and teachings. The suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco alleges that Humphrey sold the items for his own profit. Humphrey, 55, of Denver, committed suicide last month in the Arizona desert. His daughter, Kathryn Morea, continues to operate the Web site, violating the teachings and beliefs of the Heaven's Gate organization, said David MiClean, attorney for the group's trustees. The plaintiffs, who support Heaven's Gate teachings but are not members, say they were given authority to control and manage Heaven's Gate property and assets, including copyright and trademarked material. The plaintiffs contend Heaven's Gate members left specific instructions with regard to the group's Web site and account information was provided to the Kings, Parker and Humphrey. Humphrey later "exerted individual control over the ... Web site and made changes to it for his own profit and purposes," the suit said.
U.N. rights envoy says Germany must fight extremism, Thursday, March 5, 1998, 1:38 p.m. PST
GENEVA (Reuters) - Germany should implement a strategy to prevent religious intolerance, a United Nations human rights investigator said Thursday. Abdelfattah Amor, a former dean of the University of Tunis law faculty who serves as U.N. special rapporteur on religious intolerance, urged Germany to educate youth "to prevent them from falling victim to manipulation, extremism, and fanaticism." But he rejected as "meaningless and puerile" statements by the Church of Scientology comparing modern Germany to the Nazi state. Authorities placed the Church of Scientology under surveillance last June on suspicion of "anti-constitutional" intent. In a letter signed last January by several Hollywood stars who are members of the church, the Los Angeles-based movement protested to Bonn. Amor's 28-page report on Germany was submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which opens its annual six-week session to scrutinize alleged violations on March 16. Germany does not recognize Scientology as a religion, a status which would bring legal and tax advantages, and sees it as a business that exploits its members for financial gain -- a charge denied by the movement. "The authorities have pointed out that being under observation was not preventing Scientology from pursuing its activities," Amor said. The U.N. investigator added: "There is no need to emphasize that any comparison between modern Germany and Nazi Germany is so shocking as to be meaningless and puerile."
High court upholds prison term for former AUM doctor, Thursday, March 5, 1998, 3:24 a.m. PST
MIYAZAKI, Japan, March 5 (Kyodo) -- The Fukuoka High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling sentencing a former doctor with the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult to a prison term of four years and six months for abducting an inn operator for profit. Presiding Judge Masayuki Shinomori said Sasaki, 41, caused "physical and psychological damage" to the kidnap victim, in violation of medical ethics. The ruling said Sasaki abducted the inn operator, now 67, from Kobayashi, Miyazaki Prefecture, in March 1994 with one of the inn owner's daughters, an AUM follower, and brought him to the AUM complex in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, in a bid to steal the victim's deposits and other valuables. The daughter has been sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison for the crime.
AUM to compensate parents of slain lawyer, wife, Friday, March 6, 1998, 4:33 a.m. PST
YOKOHAMA, March 6 (Kyodo) -- The parents of a lawyer and his wife who were allegedly killed by AUM Shinrikyo members in 1989 have accepted a 5.13 million yen compensation compromise Friday from the religious cult, lawyers for the parents said Friday. The two sides concluded the deal at the Yokohama District Court, where a 490 million damages suit was filed in December 1995 by the plaintiffs against the AUM cult and six senior AUM members, including AUM founder Shoko Asahara. Asahara and five other AUM members have been indicted on charges of killing the Sakamoto couple and their 1-year-old son Tatsuhiko in November 1989. Asahara faces numerous charges in 17 criminal cases, including one of murder in connection with the Tokyo subway sarin gassing in March 1995. Of the six AUM members sued by the parents, some have submitted reports to the court admitting the murder of the Sakamotos. Others, including Asahara, ignored requests to submit a report, an action regarded by the court as admitting the charges. The remaining member, Tomomitsu Niimi, submitted a report saying he would dispute the case.
UFO cult waits for God in Texas town, Akron Beacon Journal, Thursday, March 5, 1998
New York Times (GARLAND, TEXAS) The members of God's Salvation Church [Chen Tao] started moving in last summer. They have bought homes with all cash and within a 2 1/2-mile radius. At least 150 followers have arrived from Taiwan, with more on their way. They dress almost completely in white, including white sneakers and white straw cowboy hats. Their leader, Heng-ming Chen, whom they call "Teacher Chen," says he talks to God through his hand and discerns godly wisdom from golden balls that he sees floating in the sky. What has really attracted the neighbors' attention here is the bold pronouncement in Teacher Chen's long guide to his religion, entitled "God's Descending in Clouds (Flying Saucers) on Earth to Save People." On page 176, he promises: "At 10 a.m. on March 31, 1998, God shall make His appearance in the Holy Land of the Kingdom of God: 3513 Ridgedale Dr., Garland, TX 75041 U.S.A." He concludes: "I guarantee this on my life." The modest, split-level, beige-brick home at 3513 Ridgedale Drive is the home of Teacher Chen, a 42-year-old former social-science professor who says he fathered Christ nearly 2,000 years ago and whose group includes two boys, Chi-Jen Lo and Che-Yu Chiang, whom he describes as the reincarnations of Jesus and Buddha. In Taiwan, where Chen's followers generally sold everything they owned before coming here, the group's gathering in Texas has been major news. It has set off a wave of concern from distraught relatives who describe Chen as a cult leader who has both swindled and brainwashed the members into paying him their life savings for the supposed privilege of taking a ride on a flying saucer to heaven. Even more alarmingly, there have been recurring rumors reported in the Taiwan press, that the group plans to commit mass suicide if God does not arrive on schedule in Garland on March 31. In most cases, intact families have joined the group, although late last year sheriff's deputies in Los Angeles County retrieved a 16-year-old girl, Nan-Hua Chiang, after her mother in California expressed fears that she was joining a dangerous pilgrimage with the group to Texas. No one knows whether Chen's group may be an Asian version of Heaven's Gate or whether members simply subscribe to an unusual set of beliefs and will simply accept the development if God does not appear here on March 31.
Boston Herald series on Scientology now online, Thursday, March 5, 1998
The Boston Herald's five-part series on Scientology, published Sunday through Thursday, March 1-5, 1998, is now on the Herald's web site at:
Japan's gas attack cult back in business, Monday, March 2, 1998, 11:30 a.m. PST
TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese cult that in 1995 launched a sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways, killing 12 people and making 6,000 others ill, is again stepping up its activities, a police report obtained by Reuters says. Aum Shinrikyo is recruiting members, building facilities and amassing vast sums of money from cult-owned computer shops, the report said. It is also exercising mind control through the Internet, it said. After lying dormant, the followers of Asahara are talking of Armageddon again, the report said. "They're talking about arming themselves again," the report said. "Members are hearing sermons telling them Armageddon is coming in 1998 and to prepare themselves for the return of the guru in 2008." With cult guru Asahara still on trial, it was unclear why members of the cult anticipated his return in 2008. The report said among the 28 centers the cult has established since January 1997, devotees have bought an old inn in Nagano Prefecture. The facility in the town of Kisofukushima opened last May and houses 30 Aum members living in tiny meditation cells. As evidence that the Russian connection survives, the cult has a Russian-language Internet home page carried by a Russian provider called Internet Aum Shinrikyo Russia. There is also an extensive Web site network in Japan.
Life sought for cult doctor in Tokyo subway attack, Posted at 7:48 p.m. PST Sunday, March 1, 1998
TOKYO, March 2 (Reuters) - Japanese prosecutors on Monday recommended life imprisonment for one of five doomsday cultists who directly released sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system three years ago. The recommendation at the trial of Ikuo Hayashi, who was a senior member of Aum Shinri Kyo (the Supreme Truth Sect), was the first sentence recommendation against any of the 14 main defendants accused of staging the attack, which killed 12 people and made thousands ill.

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Creation has two sides: intelligence, which is the cause of everything, and the manifestations of intelligence, which are the physical and psychological features of the everyday world. Because Transcendental Meditation directly approaches intelligence, rather than the manifestations of intelligence, it solves problems by introducing harmony and well-being at the most basic level, and not by dealing with problems themselves. That's why it is so effective.

Consider this example: The gardener supplies water to the root of a tree. That water, that nourishment, then reaches all parts of the tree - leaves, branches, flowers, fruit - through the sap. We can think of the sap as analogous to intelligence and the green leaves or yellow flowers as analogous to the manifestations of the intelligence. The leaves and flowers are the intelligence of the sap, after it has been transformed. So intelligence - like the leaves and flowers of a tree - appears as the many different forms of manifest life. Those manifestations include every aspect of existence, from the material and physiological, through the psychological, intellectual, and spiritual. All of those features of life come from transformations of intelligence. In meditation, we directly meet this essential intelligence. Therefore, we have the possibility of nourishing all of its other levels, and thus all levels of manifestation, in a way that is harmoniously related to the whole universe.

How is Transcendental Meditation different from the various other forms of meditation?

Maharishi: The basic difference is that Transcendental Meditation, in addition to its simplicity, concerns itself only with the mind. Other systems often involve some additional aspects with which the mind is associated, such as breathing or physical exercises. They can be a little complicated because they deal with so many things. But with Transcendental Meditation there is no possibility of any interference. So we say this is the all-simple program, enabling the conscious mind to fathom the whole range of its existence.

Transcendental Meditation ranges from active mind - or performing mind - to quiet mind - or resting mind. In this resting mind, one has purity and simplicity, uninvolved with anything other than the mind, uninvolved with any other practice. In Transcendental Meditation, because we deal only with the mind, we nourish all expressions of intelligence.

The mind meditates, gains Transcendental Consciousness and brings about transformation in different fields of manifestation. All fields of life, which are the expression of intelligence, are nourished or transformed and made better through experiencing Transcendental Consciousness.

The mind, of course, is always concerned with other aspects, such as the physiology of the body, the environment, and the whole universe for that matter. But since Transcendental Meditation deals only with the performance of the mind, from its active states to its settled state, it remains unconcerned with those other aspects, though it deals with them all, because intelligence deals with them all. -- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, unknown interview, copyright presumablyheld by Maharishi Vedic University, The Maharishi Foundation, or another group within the TM family.

Cults come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Categories of cults that are recruiting successfully today include:

Eastern meditation: characterized by belief in God-consciousness, becoming one with God. The leader usually distorts and Eastern-based philosophy or religion. Members sometimes learn to disregard worldly possessions and may take on an ascetic lifestyle. Techniques used: meditation, repeated mantras, altered states of consciousness, trance states.

Religious: marked by belief in salvation, afterlife, sometimes combined with an apocalyptic view. The leader reinterprets the Scriptures and often claims to be a prophet if not the messiah. Often the group is strict, sometimes using physical punishments such as paddling and birching, especially on children. Members are encouraged to spend a great deal of time proselytizing. (Note: included here are Bible-based neo-Christian and other religious cults, many considered syncretic since they combine beliefs and practices). Techniques used: speaking in tongues, chanting, praying, isolation, lengthy study sessions, many hours spent evangelizing, "struggle" (or criticism) and confession sessions.

Political, racist, terrorist: fueled by belief in changing society, revolution, overthrowing the "enemy" or getting rid of evil forces. The leader professes to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Often the group is armed and meets in secret with coded language, handshakes, and other ritualized practices. Members consider themselves an elite cadre ready to go to battle. Techniques used: paramilitary training, reporting on one another, guilt, fear, struggle sessions, instilled paranoia, long hours of indoctrination. -- Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, Lalich and Tobias, Hunter House, 1993.