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Newsletter June-July, 1998

Countdown 2000: Millenium Cults
This Month at FACTNet P.3
FACTNet/CAN Conference P.4
CAN Update P.5
News Briefs P.6
AFF Recovery Workshop P.7
Dateline Features Bob Minton P.8
Accessing the FACTNet Website P.9
FACTNet Info P.10

News Briefs

Amway. Amway was among a number of direct marketers banned from China in April, an edict which set off riots that killed four people. According to the Associated Press [April 30, 1998], "Participants in the schemes, akin to pyramid swindles, have besieged sales offices and scuffled with police in at least three Chinese cities… China's State Council, or Cabinet, issued the ban 10 days ago out of concern that direct marketers were preying on the poor and uneducated and inspiring superstition and cults." Now that US President Clinton is in China for summit meetings, the issue may arise. The Box News Service reported [April 26, 1998], "Such a prospect is likely to cause a stir in a U.S. Congress which is aware that Amway Corp., its top officers and their wives are 'among the nation's largest soft-money givers,' according to Common Cause. The advocacy group reports that they have given more than $4 million to the Republican Party since 1993. In addition, Amway spent $1.3 million subsidizing the telecast of the 1996 Republican convention on a cable channel." Mary Kay and Avon were also included in the ban.

Anti-Cult. The Belgian Parliament has approved the establishment of a public Information and Advice Center on Harmful Cults. The center's purpose is to study cults, provide information and advice to the public, and set up a study center accessible by the general population. Once every two years, the center is required to report to the Parliament and Belgium's Council of Ministers [From Belgium newspaper, Het Belang van Limburg, April 29, 1998].

Aum Shin Rikyo. Testimonies and confessions from recent trials of Aum Shin Rikyo members reveal that the group released lethal biologiocal weapons from rooftops and trucks in Japan for years in an effort to kill millions. Germ warfare was targeted on the Japanese Legislature, the Imperial Palace, the area around Tokyo, and even the US military base at Yokosuka. The poisons were not detected at the times of their releases, and apparently caused no deaths. Aum Shin Rikyo is the cult responsible for the deadly 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack. The subway attack - along with the earlier germ warfare releases - was intended to spark the apocalypse Aum Shin Rikyo postulates is coming. Meanwhile, about 200 current members met for a fundraising conference in late April, paying up to $1,500 each to attend.

Aum Shin Rikyo. After choosing not to appeal his sentence of life imprisonment, former Aum Shin Rikyo member Ikuo Hayashi, published an article in the July issue of Bungeishunju magazine in which he expresses gratitude to the victims of the cult's 1995 Tokyo subway attack for helping him "recover his humanity." Hayashi did not receive the death sentence because he had shown remorse for his actions. Twelve people died in 1995 and thousands were injured when Aum Shin Rikyo members released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway.

Children & Cults. A recent study by a children's advocacy group disclosed that the vast majority of children who died because their parents refused to seek medical treatment for "religious" reasons, could have been saved. The report was published in the journal Pediatrics [April], and provides substance to arguments that parents should be held accountable for homicide and child neglect, if they choose to withhold standard medical treatments from their children. Dr. Seth M. Asser, of the University of California, San Diego and co-author of the study, said, "A lot of people believe that this is a freedom of religion issue, but it's not. You can't be allowed to abuse your children based on your religious beliefs. These kids died of things that are easily treatable in any community medical center, appendicitis, pneumonia, diabetes - things that kids rarely die from in this country." The study looked at 172 child deaths in the US which were known to have occurred in faith-healing-only situations.

Church Universal and Triumphant. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported in March that the leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) is facing problems on a number of fronts. Elizabeth Clare Prophet, 58, is fighting illness, her fourth marriage has "crumbled", and her four adult children "have turned their back on the Church Universal and Triumphant, the fruits of her lifetime of incredibly hard work." She is also in a custody battle over her fifth child, a 4-year-old. In addition, thousands of CUT members have left the group, and the group is in financial straights.

Freemen. Four members of the anti-government Freemen group were sentenced June 5, 1998 for their parts in the 1996 Montana standoff with the FBI. The members were convicted of acting as accessories to robbery and sentenced to up to 6 1/2 years in prison, according to Reuters [June 5, 1998]. Other Freemen are still on trial in Billings, Montana. The 81-day standoff in 1996 ended peacefully when Freemen left the Justus ranch June 13, 1996 due to lack of electricity and health problems. The Freemen claimed the ranch was not subject to United States jurisdiction, printed their own money orders, and hold white separatist views.

Manson Family. Manson Family member Leslie van Houten was denied parole for the tenth time by the California Board of Prison Terms. Van Houten was convicted of the 1969 stabbing murders of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, a Los Angeles couple. Their deaths occurred the day after the other Manson Family fatal stabbings of actress Sharon Tate, eight months pregnant at the time, and four of her house guests. Van Houten, 48, has been in jail for 29 years, during which time she has earned two college degrees and begun her own web site. She told the board she was regretful and has been a model prisoner. The board also heard statements from relatives of the deceased, and took 20 minutes to decide to deny her parole. Manson himself remains in prison at Corcoran State Prison in California.

Natural Law Party. According to Reuters [May 4, 1998], the French branch of the Natural Law Party offered a suggestion in keeping the euro stable. The group holds that its methods of meditation increase world harmony to the extent that they can maintain the stability of the European currency. In a statement, they offered "a coherent group of 7,000 people practicing Yogic Flying to give the euro the necessary stability." The party could not afford, however, to amass such a group.

Neo-Nazism. An article appeared in a Moscow newspaper reporting that a neo-Nazi group had threatened to kill one Asian per day in honor of Hitler's birthday. Subsequently, Asians and other foreigners began to be attacked by skinheads. According to the Chicago Tribune [May 13, 1998], "About 20 skinheads brutally beat a couple of Asian women near the Arbat pedestrian district. A Nigerian, an Indian and a Kenyan were attacked in separate incidents. At a popular outdoor market, skinheads jumped a U.S. Marine, an African American with the U.S. Embassy contingent. Whether those incidents had anything to do with the published threats is unclear. But since neo-Nazi skinheads made their vow to begin killing on April 20, fear has risen among African and Asian foreigners who study, work and live in the Russian capital."

Rajneeshpuram. When US Attorney Charles Turner began to look into charges being brought against the Rajneeshpuram group a decade ago, members of the group conspired to murder him. Two members who were sentenced to five years in prison in 1995 for conspiracy to commit murder -- Sally-Anne Croft and Susan Hagan -- are now being released and deported to their native England. Other members who took part in the conspiracy were granted leniency for their testimonies against the others. Rajneeshpuram was a group in central Oregon that followed Indian guru Bhagwan Rajneesh. The charges Turner was investigating involved numerous sham marriages occuring in the group in order to bring more Rajneeshees into the US. Rajneesh was convicted of immigration fraud and deported, and died in 1990. The Rajneeshpuram group, in Antelope, OR, at one time had as many as 4,000 members, often armed, and Rajneesh had 93 Rolls Royces; but the group fell apart in 1985.

Satanism. 17-year-old Luke Woodham was sentenced to life imprisonment for the stabbing death of his mother, Mary Woodham, in October, 1997. He will face charges later of killing two students and wounding seven others at his high school, the first in a series of such murders in US high schools. During the trial, Woodham testified that he was driven to the murders after seeing and hearing demons, telling him he would be "nothing" if he did not kill. Woodham claims to have been under the influence of the leader of a cultic satanic group of youngsters who investigators say plotted to kill students at the high school. Several of the youth will face conspiracy charges, including leader, 19-year-old Grant Boyette. Woodham testified that Boyette cast spells from a satanic book and assigned demons to group members to ensure they follow his orders.

Scientology. The Lisa McPherson case is still an open investigation in Clearwater, FL. State prosecutors continue to study evidence in an effort to determine whether to file charges against Scientology for McPherson's death. Lisa McPherson died in December, 1995 at 36 after spending 17 ghastly days in the hands of Scientologists in Scientology's landmark building, the Ft. Harrison hotel. The records of Scientologists in charge of her during those days depict a psychologically distressed woman, but she was not medically treated. When she became extremely ill, Scientology staffers drove 45 minutes - past two hospitals - to bring her to a Scientologist doctor. She was dead on arrival. Autopsy reports show she was severely dehydrated and bruised, with insect bits on her body. In December, 1997 investigators recommended to State Attorney Bernie McCabe to prosecute Scientology on criminal charges. According to the 3-year statute of limitations on the kind of charges being considered, McCabe has until December of this year to decide how to proceed. Meanwhile, McPherson's family is continuing its own wrongful death suit against Scientology. Ken Dandar, the attorney in that suit, said of the state's investigation, "It is a criminal case that borders on homicide, and they have to be very careful about what they're doing." [St. Petersburg Times, June 7, 1998].

Scientology. "Alone in a 15th-floor classroom, MIT sophomore Philip C. Gale drew a physics formula on a blackboard showing what happens when a body falls from a great height. Then he slammed a chair through the classroom window and jumped more than 200 feet to his death" [Boston Herald, May 21, 1998]. Since Gale's death in March, many have questioned whether his suicide at 19 was attributable to his upbringing in Scientology. Gale had left Scientology, but years of Scientology schools, studies, and home-life must have been deeply ingrained. Gale attended Scientology's "elite" Delphi Academy boarding school in Oregon from age 8 to 14, enrolled at MIT at 15, and took time off at age 17 to work for Earthlink, an Internet company with Scientology links (recently bought by Sprint). Gale suffered from depression, but Scientology denounces psychiatry. Gale's mother, a high-ranking Scientology official, was a leader in Scientology's Citizen's Commission on Human Rights, an anti-psychiatry group. Psychiatrist Dr. Garder was quoted in the Herald saying "The lifetime risk of successfully completing suicide in individuals with recurrent depression is 15 percent." There is also the suggestion in Scientology that those who leave will commit suicide. A friend of Gale's said, "Leaving Scientology was a traumatic experience. He was brought up thinking it was the only way." The Herald reported that a University of Oregon [Conway, Siegelman] study showed, "Former Scientologists had the highest rates of persistent fear, sleeplessness, suicidal and self-destructive tendencies, violent outbursts, hallucinations and delusions, compared to ex-members of other religious groups." It is not insignificant that Gale chose to end his life on March 13th, as the birthday of founder L. Ron Hubbard a revered Scientology holiday.

Scientology. Refusing to bow to pressure from the United States, Sweden ruled on June 18, 1998 that the "secret Bible" of Scientology will remain a public document. In its final, un-appealable judgment, the court stated that preserving Swedish public access principles was more important than appeasing foreign political powers.

Unification Church. The Unification Church's Rev. Sun Myung Moon married 1500 couples in a huge group ceremony in Madison Square Garden June 13, 1998. Many of the couples had only met each other recently after being paired together by Moon, who used their photographs to match them. The AP quoted a church spokesman as saying, "It's a very spiritual process. The Rev. Moon is good at reading a person's character from the shape of their face." The Moonie wedding, "Blessing 98" follows upon a similar event last November at RFK stadium in Washington, DC. Cult expert Steve Hassan and 20 others peacefully protested the wedding, carrying signs saying "Get the facts before you give your money" and "Moon Destroys Families."

Other News Briefs: Headlines on the FACTNet Web Site



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