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News Archive for September, 1998

Cult or Practicing Religious Freedom?, AP Online, Wednesday, September 30, 1998, 10:51 Eastern Time
Harrison Johnson was stung more than 200 times by a swarm of yellow jackets and died hours later, and authorities are investigating why parents took so long to summon help. A friend said the adults at the scene simply failed to realize the 2-year-old Harrison Johnson was in real danger, but the parents are members of a religious sect whose members have been in legal trouble over a child's death in the past. The boy was stung probably 75 times around the head and face and as many as 150 times on the body, Sheriff's Detective Lisa Haber said. Experts estimated that as many as 1,000 insects attacked the boy. Paramedics were not summoned until seven hours later and were unable to revive the boy. He died later at a hospital. The Johnsons were acquitted in March after being charged with failing to report the 1996 death of an infant whose parents were fellow members of the religious sect, an evangelical group called Bible Readers Fellowship, that broke away from a church in Melbourne called the Tabernacle. The parents, Rachael and Robert Aitcheson, told police their month-old daughter, Alexus, choked to death on regurgitated milk in October 1996 and was cremated during a private ceremony at a relative's farm. The parents themselves face trial next week on charges of failing to report the death, failing to obtain medical attention for the girl, abuse of a dead body and child abuse. The religious group was described at the Johnsons' trial as avoiding medical treatment and disdaining governmental requirements like recording births and deaths. Authorities learned of Alexus' brief existence only when the Aitchesons told friends of their daughter's death.
U. of Bridgeport Gets Its Largest Gift, New York Times, Tuesday, September 29, 1998
A group with ties to the Unification Church has forgiven a $90 million loan to the University of Bridgeport and is to donate an additional $15 million, school officials announced yesterday. The $90 million is the largest gift in the university's history, said Donna Marino, a university spokeswoman. The Professors' World Peace Academy, an academic arm of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, rescued the financially troubled university in 1992. At that time, the academy agreed to give the school $50.5 million over five years, in exchange for control of the board of trustees. That amount was later increased to a total of $90 million.
Meditating for Fun and Profit, New York Times, Wednesday, September 23, 1998
Fairfield has attracted entrepreneurs from around the country, in addition to having a few who are native, and many of the start-ups have become multimillion-dollar international corporations. The majority are followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the leader of the Transcendental Meditation movement who purchased the campus of the bankrupt Parsons College here in 1974 and turned it into Maharishi University of Management. With the Maharishi came hundreds of believers, many of whom already had business experience and diverse backgrounds. The business atmosphere is highly charged, encouraging enterprising behavior not normally found in such small settings. [Editor's note: Critics allege that entrepreneurial success in Fairfield has little to do with the efficacy of TM -- and rather more to do with access to the cheap and educated labor pool of the Maharishi's followers.]
Aum attempted to kill head of religious group, The Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Wednesday, September 23, 1998
Satoru Hashimoto, a member of the "home affairs ministry" of the Aum Supreme Truth religious cult, revealed at his trial, which opened at the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday, that the cult attempted to murder Ryuho Okawa, head of another religious group, Kofuku no Kagaku (Institute for Research into Human Happiness). At the trial, Hashimoto testified that the attempted murder was directly ordered by Aum leader Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara. Hashimoto disclosed that he released deadly VX nerve gas into a car the cult thought was to carry Okawa. According to Hashimoto's testimony, he was present at a meeting held in January or February 1995 at the Aum facility in Kamikuishikimura, Yamanashi Prefecture, where Matsumoto instructed Yoshihiro Inoue, 28, the cult's "intelligence minister," and other members to murder Okawa. Matsumoto ordered Hashimoto to actually carry out the murder. Haskimoto, accompanied by Inoue and Tomomitsu Niimi, 34, the cult's "home affairs minister," Hashimoto approached a Mercedes car they believed was to transport Okawa. Niimi handed Hashimoto a needle-less syringe containing the gas. Hashimoto then allegedly released the gas through the intake of the air conditioning system under the hood of the car.
Deepak's Loving Feeling, San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, September 22, 1998
Deepak Chopra is calling himself only Deepak on "The Gift of Love," an album to be released in November by Rasa Records. According to a report in New York magazine, the album is billed as a "musical tribute to the act of love," and features contributions from Madonna, Demi Moore, Debra Winger, Blythe Danner, Goldie Hawn, and Martin Sheen. They will be reading the poetry of the 13th century Persian mystic Rumi while a beat plays in the background to create the "experience of ecstasy." Deepak says this will fill the "missing love" voice in people's lives.
Scientology awarded $3 Million in Lawsuit, San Jose Mercury News, Saturday, September 19, 1998,
A federal judge in San Jose has issued a $3 million judgment -- promptly suspended -- against an Arcata software developer and handed down a permanent injunction barring him from putting confidential Church of Scientology materials on the Internet. The actions by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel on Thursday marked the end of a two-year legal dispute between Grady Ward and the Religious Technology Center (RTC), a nonprofit organization within the family of churches of Scientology. The lawsuit accused Ward of posting secret church teachings online without authorization. Judge Fogel suspended the immediate payment of the $3 million, providing that in the future, Ward does not defame officials of the church or distribute any of Scientology's copyrighted teachings or trade secrets. Conditions of the agreement also require Ward to pay $200 a month to RTC for the rest of his life. The church has aggressively litigated in courts around the nation and in other countries to keep its private materials off the Web.
Church of Scientology wins $3 million ruling, Saturday, September 19, 1998, 4:31 p.m. PDT
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- A federal judge has awarded the Church of Scientology $3 million against a critic of the church who posted parts of the group's secret scriptures on the Internet. But defendant Grady Ward will not have to pay the full fine as long as he pays the church $200 a month for the rest of his life. He also has been ordered not to publish Scientology secrets. The judgment cannot be erased by filing bankruptcy, according to the settlement, and any publisher's advance or profit made from writing or selling a book about Scientology must be forfeited to the church. Scientology can move to claim the $3 million judgment if Ward violates any of the provisions or falls more than 30 days on his monthly payments. Ward reportedly plans to appeal the judge's ruling.
Church seeks debt protection after sex suit, San Jose Mercury News, Monday, September 21, 1998
The Ananda Church of Self-Realization, whose former spiritual leader was assessed $1.2 million in damages earlier this year after losing a lawsuit over sexual exploitation of a church member, has filed for federal bankruptcy protection. The church with 2,500 members worldwide, was founded in 1968 by Swami Kriyananda, also known as J. Donald Walters. Earlier this year, a San Mateo County jury ordered Walters to pay $1.2 million to a follower who said she was sexually exploited in 1993 by a senior minister who told her it was "God's will." The woman, Anne-Marie Bertolucci, began taking meditation classes at the church's Palo Alto branch in the early 1990s to relieve the stress from her job as a computer programmer. Bertolucci has not received a penny of the verdict, said her attorney, Ford Greene. The Chapter 11 reorganization plan would allow the church to continue serving its members while satisfying creditors, said Walter R. Dahl, the church's attorney. The church would not have to sell its assets to pay its debts, he said.
Uruguay takes over Moon's bank, Friday, September 18, 1998, 11:33 a.m. PDT
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (Reuters) - Uruguay's Central Bank said Friday it was taking over Banco de Credito, which is controlled by Korean Evangelist Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, due to liquidity problems. Banco de Credito has sufficient capital to continue operating but the Central Bank hopes to improve its management, Capote said. No Banco de Credito spokesman was immediately available to comment on the Central Bank move.
Judges inspect AUM site linked to sarin production, Tuesday, September 15, 1998, 7:03 a.m. PDT
TOKYO, Sept. 14 (Kyodo) -- Judges inspected a facility Monday once owned by AUM Shinrikyo that the cult allegedly used to produce and attempted to mass-produce sarin nerve gas, the substance used in the 1995 poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. The judges from the Tokyo District Court conducted their first on-the-spot inspection of the three buildings in the village of Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo. Defense lawyers for AUM founder Shoko Asahara, 43, and former senior AUM member Yoshihiro Inoue, 28, joined the judges and prosecutors in visiting the site at the foot of Mt. Fuji. But Asahara and Inoue did not go to the site. Both Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and Inoue are charged with murder and attempted murder in the subway attack. Of the three buildings, two are laboratories of AUM scientists who allegedly produced the sarin nerve gas. The toxic gas they made was allegedly used in attacks on the Tokyo subway system and another sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994. The third building is a chemical plant where AUM members allegedly attempted to mass-produce sarin gas. Demolition of the buildings will begin Wednesday.
The doctor who pronounced Scientologist Lisa McPherson dead pays her estate $ 100,000, St. Petersburg Times, Tuesday, September 15, 1998
A Clearwater doctor who declared Scientologist Lisa McPherson dead when she arrived at a New Port Richey hospital in December 1995 has paid her estate $100,000 to settle his portion of a wrongful death suit McPherson's family filed against the Church of Scientology and others. The Scientologists who were taking care of McPherson at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater drove her to New Port Richey where Minkoff, a Scientologist, was on duty. He had prescribed medication by telephone before her death.
Residents urge ward to buy Aum training site, The Daily Yomiuri, Thursday, September 17, 1998
Residents living near an Aum Supreme Truth cult training center recently opened in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, submitted a petition Wednesday with about 16,000 signatures calling on the Toshima Ward Assembly to purchase the premises, sources said. The training site measures approximately 290 square meters and occupies the first floor of a six-story apartment block in a densely built up area. Aum members apparently engage in training sessions well into the night at the site, where all the windows are shielded. In March, the cult purchased a property that was put up for auction at a special price in Tokigawamura, Saitama Prefecture, by using a real estate broker as a cover. Fearing the same may happen in Ikebukuro, the residents decided to ask the ward office to purchase the property and turn it into a public facility.
Moon promises new start, The Scotsman, Wednesday, September 16, 1998
The Unification Church claimed to have more than 30,000 members in the United States alone at the height of its popularity in the mid-1980s. Since then, followers have dwindled to a few thousand and its leader, the Rev Sun Myung Moon, has retreated to an estate at Irvington, outside New York. Now the "church" has embarked on an ambitious project which, if successful, could see Rev Moon abandon the US for what is described as a utopian city in the Brazilian jungle. Rev Moon's vision is to encourage environmentally responsible development in the third world - and he believes he can do this by setting up 33 separate communities on the 86,000-acre site on the Brazilian border with Paraguay. Each community, spread over a 120-mile radius, would concentrate on developing one species of tree, one kind of fish, one type of bird or animal and a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Sweden court rules in favor of Scientology, The Orlando Sentinal, Tuesday, September 15, 1998
Stockholm, Sweden - A Swedish court on Monday ordered a man to stop spreading a copyrighted Church of Scientology training manual on the Internet and ordered him to pay the church more than $150,000. Zenon Panoussis had put the manual on the Internet, which the Stockholm District Court on Monday ruled was a copyright violation. The court ordered Panoussis to repay the church's Religious Technology Center court costs of about $150,000 and another $1,250 in fines. <
Scientology's leading critic is arrested, St. Petersburg Times, Saturday, September 12, 1998
Robert S. Minton, a Boston millionaire who has spent nearly $ 2-million on anti-Scientology causes, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and jailed briefly before posting $ 25 bail. According to Boston police, the weapon was the stick from a picket sign Minton was holding as he protested against Scientology outside the church's Beacon Street headquarters. Police said Minton used the stick to strike Frank Ofman, a Scientology public affairs officer. Minton said Friday that he reacted after Ofman struck him with a fist to his temple and slapped his cheek. Minton said the stick holding up his sign broke during a scuffle and that he swatted Ofman with a placard, which had a portion of the stick still attached. The police report in Boston makes no mention of Minton being attacked.
High court reduces jail term for AUM member, Wednesday, September 9, 1998 9:19 p.m. PDT
TOKYO, Sept. 10 (Kyodo) -- The Tokyo High Court on Thursday sentenced a senior AUM Shinrikyo religious cult member, accused in two abduction cases, to six and a half years in prison, reducing a seven-year jail term ordered by a lower court two years ago. Eriko Iida, 37, has been tried on charges of abducting and confining a Tokyo notary clerk, resulting in his death, and of confining a daughter of a former dancer who was an AUM member at that time. Iida had allegedly proposed to AUM founder Shoko Asahara, 43, and some other cult members the abducting of the notary clerk, Kiyoshi Kariya, to question him about the whereabouts of his sister, from whom the cult had hoped to receive all her wealth as a donation.
Commission rejects Scientology deal, St. Petersburg Times, Saturday, September 5, 1998
Clearwater City commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to reject a settlement that would have ended a four-year legal battle with the Church of Scientology. The deal concerned a federal lawsuit between the city and the church over the future of 40 boxes of intelligence files on Scientology gathered by Clearwater police for 13 years in the 1980s and 1990s. It would have required police to conduct a "good faith" search of the files and destroy any records it deemed unnecessary. The deal fell apart over an unusual provision that would have required the police to notify the church's lawyers immediately by phone or fax when anyone requested the records that remained. According to both sides, the provision was inserted so the church might have the chance to take legal action when anyone asked for the records.
Little school of calm, The Times (London), Saturday, September 5, 1998
For many, the Maharishi conjures up images of the Beatles, beads and kaftans, but the practice of transcendental meditation -- and with it child meditation -- is gaining wider acceptance in Britain (troubleshooter Sir John Harvey-Jones, former chairman of ICI, is one of its most vociferous advocates). At the Maharishi School in Lancashire they do all the usual subjects, but everyone's favourite is meditation. Meditation is seen by its supporters as the solution to the growing stress in our lives -- a stress our children are far from immune to. Exam nerves, peer pressure, bullying, family break-ups, all contribute. [Editor's Note: Critics allege widespread child neglect and abuse at other Maharishi schools.]
Former MP minister quits Cong, The Statesman (INDIA), Friday, September 4, 1998
Bhopal- As the three-day Congress session got underway at Pachmarhi today, a former Madhya Pradesh minister and Congress MLA, Mr Mukesh Nayak, quit the party and joined Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's organisation, Madhya Pradesh Mahesh Vaidic Vishwa Prashashan. Addressing a Press conference here, Mr Nayak, who was dropped from the Digvijay Singh Cabinet in May, said he had also resigned from the membership of the state Assembly today. He said he had been appointed as the chief of MPMVVP. The political wing of MPMVVP, Ajeya Bharat Party, participated in the last parliamentary polls and it fielded candidates in about 30 constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. All of them lost their deposits. Madhya Pradesh is the home turf of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who hails from Jabalpur.

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