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Newsletter March, 1998

FACTNet Newsletter MARCH 1998


A historic Franciscan monastary in the Netherlands is now a battleground. Current tenants of the St. Ludwig monastery are members of the Tanscendental Meditation movement. Led by Indian guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the group has appealed the St. Ludwig monastery's status as a national monument in order to demolish it, in part because it does not face due east. The Maharishi Foundation has vowed to take the legal fight as far as necessary to attain their goal, even to the Netherland's highest court.

The Chinese Flying Saucer Research Association traces its roots back 4,000 years to the time of China's first recorded UFO sighting. It appears simply to be a fraternity of believers in extra-terrestrial life, without cultish leanings. But according to the association's chairmain, Ho Hsien-jung, the group is being overrun by imposters. Ho insists that aliens are a matter of science, not of religion, and works to debunk false alien claims. One such cult guru claim of an alien fleet of spaceships turned out to be the lights of an airport. The New & Observer [March 2, 1998] reported, "Taiwan has long been home to a host of bizarre Buddhist and Taoist sects, but now it has spawned a legion of oddbal cults promising trips to nirvana in alien craft -- and swindling thousands of clients of their savings." The God's Salvation Church, a Taiwanese group now living in Garland Texas, may be one such example. The New & Observer quotes the Justice Minister, Liao Cheng-hao, saying "Our economy has grown very fast. People have money but have not developed mentally at the same speed. They feel empty and grab hold of a religion. It is very easy for fake creeds to steal their money."

Aum Shinrikyo, the cult group that killed 12 people and sickened 6,000 others in 1995 with a sarin nerve gas attack in Tokyo subways, is going loud and strong. Amidst trials of leader Shoko Asahara and others associated with the attack, it appears that the group is continuing its activities, recruiting members and accumulating huge amounts of money via cult-owned businesses. A member of the National Police told Reuters [March 2, 1998] that "There's no reason to worry now because we have our eye on them. The Aum people do not pose a danger to society any more."

Cults in Court
In late February, a Russian court
dismissed a lawsuit brought against Dr. Alexander L. Dvorkin and the Russion Orthodox Church by a coalition of cult groups including Hare Krishna, Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church. At issue was a book written by Dr. Dvorkin and published by the Russian Orthodox Church critical of such groups. The Moscow City Court which dismissed the suit fully upheld the original decision made by a lower court in May 1997. In addition, the plaintiffs were ordered to pay the defendants for the expenses incurred in responding to the frivolous lawsuit, almost $20,000. The plaintiffs' attorney was Galina Krylova, a member of the governing board of the Scientology-based Citizen's Commision on Human Rights. The defendants were represented by Geralina Lyubarskaya, who Dr. Dvorkin explains is one of the best civil lawyers in Moscow. In a letter from Dr. Dvorkin, he writes, "I thanks everybody for the support and prayers. The mass campaign of support in Russia was beyond my imagination. It was really our common victory! God bless you all!"

A San Mateo County jury in Redwood City has charged the Ananda Church of God Realization with fraud and infliction of emotional distress, and has ordered the cult to pay victim Anne-Marie Bertolucci $625,000 in compensatory damages. Bertolucci was represented by attorneys Mchael Flynn and Ford Greene, a member of FACTNet's Board of Advisors. The Chronicle [February 9, 1998] quoted Greene explaining that he is very careful "not to throw the baby of legitimate religious beliefs and practices out with the bathwater of deception and coercion. I look to see whether the group is authoritarian or open. These are red flags. Secrecy is certainly next page

Authentic CAN out of bankruptcy

The original Cult Awareness Network, Inc. (CAN) emerged from bankruptcy February 5, 1998. Scientology bankrupted and closed CAN through over 40 lawsuits, then purchased rights to it, and currently answers the phones. The authentic CAN noted in a letter sent recently: "As ordered by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Barliant in Chicago on November 7, 1997, management of CAN's remaining assets now reverts to its Board of Directors. For 20 years, CAN, a non-profit educational organization, supplied information and advocacy about cults and mind control to families, media and other professionals - only to be driven into bankruptcy in 1995. Today, over the authentic CAN's objections, Scientology-related investors in Los Angeles are using CAN's name."

Internet leads to rise in hate groups

A report has concluded that the Internet has contributed to a sharp rise in hate groups. Adolescents and others who previously would not have had access to the ideologies and tactics of extremist groups now have vast resources of such information literally at their fingertips. According to the Miami Herald [March 8, 1998], "In its quarterly report on extremist organizations, the Southern Poverty Law Center said last week that it counted 474 hate groups nationwide in 1997, a 20 percent increase over 1996… The new report counted 163 Web sites that advocate racial hatred; less than three years ago, there was one. There also is more attention being paid to the year 2000, which some hate groups consider a sort of Armageddon -- and a reason to go to war… It also said one chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, the American Knights, expanded from one to 12 chapters last year and that racist and neo-Nazi skinheads made a violent comeback in Denver, Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which was founded in the 1970s to battle racial bias, has won major legal fights against the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups."

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