Anti-Cult. The state of Maryland has passed legislation to establish a Task Force to study the problem of cults on public university campuses. The resolution stated that national awareness of the destructive nature of cults had increased due to the recent suicides of Heaven's Gate members in California, cult-motivated murders in Mississippi and Florida, and the Aum Shin Rikyo subway gassing in Japan. Noting that there may up to 2,000 cults in the United States with 4 million to 6 million members and that "cult recruitment activities are often directed towards students on college campuses," the task force will gather further information on the dangers of cults on Maryland campuses. The resolution also noted that college students are particularly vulnerable to cult recruitment, and that those who become involve "undergo personality changes, suffer academically and financially, are alienated from their families and friends, and are robbed of the very things universities were designed to encourage: freedom of thought, intellectual growth, and personal development." Significantly, the resolution also notes that government entities are not to interfere with the free exercise of religion, but that "Maryland has a right and a responsibility to examine the behaviors of members of any group who violate State or local law or campus policies regarding deception, harassment, or fraud, or who threaten the mental, emotional, or physical well-being of the citizens of Maryland..."
Aum Shin Rikyo. Following a court ruling that the Aum Shin Rikyo cult compensate victims of the group's 1995 saris gas attack and other crimes, plans are being made to make payments in October. 1,209 victims and families of victims are seeking a total of 5.1 billion yen ($36 million). However, since the cult claims its assets are only 1.04 billion yen ($7.2 million), victims will only receive about 23% of the compensation they are requesting [Agence France Presse, July 15, 1998]. Meanwhile, a foundation is being set up by a support group in Japan to assist the victims with additional contributions, to make up for the amount they will not receive from Aum Shin Rikyo. Funds will be collected from public donations and from property seized from cult leader Shoko Asahara (which alone is worth 7.6 million yen, or $54,000).
Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT). A vice-president of the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) has resigned from the Montana-based organization, stating that he is leaving on good terms and will remain active in the group's Washington, DC branch. Andres Fortino worked for CUT for 16 years, most recently as its vice-president of finance and an executive board member. Fortino will be teaching at George Mason University's School of Management. CUT has undergone a number of destabilizing changes, including other officials resigning and children of leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet leaving the group.
Islamic Taliban Movement. In July, Afganistan rulers announced its citizens would have 15 days to dispose of their television sets, videocassette recorders, videotapes, and satellite dishes. After that time, the Minister for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue, under the Islamic Taliban Movement, would order religious police to smash the communications devices and punish the uncomplying according to its interpretation of Islamic law. According to the New York Times [July 10, 1998], the minister called television and video "the cause of corruption in this society." The Internet is viewed similarly although no edict has yet been issued (Internet use is virtually nonexistant in Afganistan, except in offices of international organizations.
International Church of Christ. In May the Irish Mirror provided an extensive report on the impact of the International Church of Christ's Irish branch, the Dublin Church of Christ. The Mirror called it "one of the world's fastest-growing cults" [Irish Mirror, May 26, 1998]. Leaders of the 85-member Irish branch are husband and wife Nick and Zarah Isaaks. According to the Mirror, members are taught that those who don't join will go to hell.
Frederick Lenz. The April 13, 1998 death of "guru" Frederick Lenz was ruled a suicide by New York's Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Police have stated that Lenz and a female companion tried to commit suicide by ingesting a large amount of Valium. After taking the Valium, they walked out to the dock of his house, and Lenz fell into the water and drowned. Two days later, divers found his body 60 feet from land. Lenz was a cult leader in the New York area.
Montana Freemen. In late July, federal jury in Montana, USA found four leaders of the anti-government Montana Freemen group were guilty of conspiracy against the US banking system, but the jury was deadlocked on conspiracy charges against eight other defendants and on other charges in the indictment. As a result of the deadlock, Judge John C. Coughenour declared a mistrial on the undecided charges, which was about half of the total 126 charges. Prosecuters announced that they will retry 11 of the 12 defendants from the previous trial on the remaining charges. The twelfth defendant will not be retried because he was found guilty of all charges brought against him. According to the Star Tribune [July 9, 1998], "The Freemen issued 3,432 bogus checks totaling $15.5 billion to followers nationwide." The Freemen members were arrested in 1996 after a 81-day standoff at their Justus Ranch in Montana with the FBI, which ended peacefully. The Freemen claimed the ranch was not subject to United States jurisdiction and hold white separatist views
Satanism. Two psychologists in Portland, Oregon USA have settled with a woman who claims they convinced her that she had been sexually abused as a child in a satanic cult. Jennifer Fultz sought therapy from the psychologists for depression; over the course of her counseling, they pressed her to believe that satanic sexual abuse endured in her childhood was source of her depression. The Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners notified both psychologists, Sophia Carr and Chyril Walker, that they planned to revoke their licenses for ethical violations. Carr is surrendering her license to the board, but there is no available information on Walker's plans [The Seattle Times, July 08, 1998].
Scientology. Scientology recently opened a new post in India. Its offices in suburban Bombay have set up "Way to Happiness" workshops targeting high-level corporate employees, students, and people with alcohol and drug problems. According to the South China Morning Post [May 22, 1998], workshops are advertised in tabloids with the lure, "If John Travolta has benefited from Scientology, so can you." Local leaders are wary, calling Scientology "a dangerous cult."
Voodoo. When a human hand was found by Florida's Manatee River in June, police used fingerprints to trace the hand to a man recently deceased of natural causes and buried through the services of Greens Funeral Home. Upon exhuming the body of Willie Suttle, investigators not only confirmed the hand was his, but also discovered his chest cavity was stufffed with 12 voodoo dolls. Funeral home owner Paul Green-Albritton has admitted to desicating the corpse in an effort to place a death curse on her funeral home competitors and other perceived enemies. The voodoo ritual involved pinning notes on the dolls and placing pins through their "hearts." Green-Albritton pleaded not guilty and may receive up to 15 years in prison or a $10,000 fine.
Other News Briefs: Headlines on the FACTNet Web Site
- Scientology's censorware humiliates adult members [August 20, 1998] www.factnet.org/Scientology/censorware.html
- Jesse Prince Affidavit [August 15, 1998] www.factnet.org/Scientology/jesse_prince_affidavit.html
- My experience with Children of God/The Family, part I [August 13, 1998] www.factnet.org/cults/children_of_god/experience_i.html
- Fraud Case Charges Cult, Clinton, Travolta [August 11, 1998] www.factnet.org/Scientology/pattinson.html
- Has the IRS gone right back to old abuses of power? [August 7, 1998] www.factnet.org/Scientology/irs_abuse.html
- L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology, Dianetics, and Racism: New web site! [August 6, 1998] www.factnet.org/Scientology/mayett.html
- Will US Congress, via Salmon & Payne, endorse dangerous cult; criticize US ally? [July 24, 1998] www.factnet.org/Scientology/salmon_payne.html
- Internet Czar: Wall Street Journal editorial criticizes judge's protection of Scientology's copyrights [July 21, 1998] www.rickross.com/reference/scientology/Scien54.html
- Freemen leaders convicted [July 15, 1998] www.factnet.org/headlines/freemen_convicted.html
- Aum Shin Rikyo prosecutors seek death sentence [July 10, 1998] www.factnet.org/cults/aum_shin_rikyo/kazuaki_okazaki.html
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