RNB Roundup for Sep. 29, 2008

RNB Religion Shorts: a compendium of blurbs and links to, for the most part, religion-related stories you may have missed — be it on purpose or otherwise.

Read or save these stories while you can. Some sites may require either free registration or a paid subscription. If you can not find the full stories online, check the archives of the sites indicated. Alternatively, see if can read the item at archive.org or by using Google’s cache.


Scientology

Australia: Scientology front group uses historic building for free

There have been objections towards a Scientology-linked drug group exclusively using one of Victoria’s grand historic properties rent free … They have allowed Narconon, a drug rehabilitation program based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology founder, to work out of the lodge rent free – although they have to pay maintenance fees … Narconon’s drug rehabilitation programs have been ridiculed by critics, who say they are as just a ‘predatory’ front for the Church of Scientology.

- Source: Scientologists using historic Victorian property rent free , Macquarie National News, via Live.com.au (Australia), Sep. 29, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Note: If you see the tag ‘quackery’ at the bottom of this page, it’s in relation to the above story. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Anti-Scientology protest material removed from YouTube following threats of legal action

The video sharing website YouTube has removed several anti-Scientology videos following threats of legal action. Wikinews found that at least 11 videos have been removed from the site following Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices served on YouTube by Dr. Oliver Schaper, Scientologist and self-described advocate of the Church of Scientology’s rights to free speech. Schaper, in an interview with Wikinews reporter Jason Safoutin, denied involvement in a previous run of DMCA requests involving similar video material. However, the videos in question bear a message that Schaper was the originator of the request. According to YouTube the 11 videos were removed by direct DMCA requests from Schaper. The videos have been reported to be of anti-Scientology protests, recorded by various members of the group Anonymous. … Wikinews contacted Schaper to find out why he made the new requests. According to him, the videos were not of protests against Scientology, but instead were videos of alleged hate-crimes and hate-speech, which were allegedly attacking Schaper personally.

Islam

Islamists plunder weapons from hijacked ship in Somalia

The ‘Religion of Peace’ has some explaining to do:

Islamist extremists prepared last night to unload rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns from a Ukrainian freighter seized by Somali pirates even as foreign warships surrounded the vessel. … The ship’s captain contacted media outlets by satellite phone to say that one of his crew had died during the hostage drama. The pirates were demanding a $20 million ( £10.8 million) ransom for the release of the MV Faina, its 20 surviving crew and cargo of weapons, which include 33 Russian tanks.

- Source: Islamists plunder weapons from hijacked ship in Somalia, The Times (UK), Sep. 29, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Muslims most unpopular group in Australia

One in ten Australians believe some races are superior to others and Muslims are the most unpopular group in the country, the lead author of a new study said on Sunday. Professor Kevin Dunn from the University of Western Sydney said a 10-year study of 12,500 people found that Australians were generally tolerant, with more than 80 percent viewing cultural diversity as beneficial. But about 10 percent of the population were racial supremacists. Dunn said Muslims were most often seen as the group that did not ‘fit in’ to Australian life.

- Source: Muslims most unpopular group in Australia, AFP (France), via the Daily Times (Pakistan), Sep. 29, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Christianity

Carlton Pearson shutters congregation

A pastor who once led one of Tulsa’s most prominent charismatic churches and served as an adviser to then-President-elect Bush has shut down his church. Bishop Carlton Pearson preached his final sermon at New Dimensions Church on Sept. 7. The church has been folded into All Souls Unitarian Church, the world’s largest church in that denomination. … Eight years ago, the church had about 6,000 members … Pearson then began preaching that all people would go to heaven, a theology he refers to as ”the gospel of inclusion.” Not long after, evangelical leaders began spurning Pearson, the membership in his church — renamed New Dimensions Church — fell to a few hundred and the church’s south Tulsa property was lost in foreclosure. But liberal religious leaders embraced Pearson, and New Dimensions Church affiliated with the United Church of Christ, one of the nation’s most liberal denominations.

- Source: Controversial Okla. pastor shutters congregation, AP via the Chicago Sun-Times, Sep. 26, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

In Christianity the doctrine of inclusivism (sometimes called inclusionism) is considered heretical – the opposite of orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is the body of essential Christian doctrines – those doctrines that make Christianity Christian and not something else.

Not everyone comes to church in their Sunday best

The Rev. David Moyer still remembers the gasp as the beautiful young bride came up the aisle. “What was that about?” he wondered. So Moyer, the conservative rector of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Rosemont, Pa., went ahead with the nuptials — quite unaware of how backless the bride’s dress really was. “It wasn’t until I blessed them and they turned around that I looked down,” he recalled with a laugh, “and saw her butt crack.” Glance around churches any weekend and it’s plain that “proper dress” is just a quaint memory for some people — and an alien concept to others.

- Source: Not everyone comes to church in their Sunday best, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sep. 27, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Mercedes puts Brownsville preacher under scrutiny

A bishop is under scrutiny from the state attorney’s office after arranging the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz for a parishioner involved in an alleged Miami-Dade scam. … According to a search warrant, Bishop Willie J. Jones, of God’s Calling Gospel Holiness Church, used the church to buy a Mercedes-Benz for parishioner Janice Currington, who drove the car and made payments to him with ill-gotten money.

- Source: Mercedes puts Brownsville preacher under scrutiny, Miami Herald, Sep. 26, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Hedge funds cry foul over Church’s attack on short selling

Hedge fund managers reacted with fury yesterday to an attack on short selling and debt trading by leaders of the Church of England yesterday, pointing to the contradiction between what they say and how they invest their vast assets. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican church, said it was right to ban short selling, while John Sentamu, archbishop of York, called traders who cashed in on falling prices “bank robbers and asset strippers”. Hedge funds and religious critics pointed to the willingness of the Church commissioners to lend stock from their £5.5bn ($10.1bn) of investments – a key support for short selling – and derided the pair for not understanding the role of shorting.

- Source: Hedge funds cry foul over Church’s attack on short selling, Financial Times (UK), Sep. 26, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Judaism / Christianity

Scholars search for missing pages of Hebrew Bible

A quest is underway on four continents to find the missing pages of one of the world’s most important holy texts, the 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible known as the Crown of Aleppo. Crusaders held it for ransom, fire almost destroyed it, and it was reputedly smuggled across Mideast borders hidden in a washing machine. But in 1958, when it finally reached Israel, 196 pages were missing — about 40% of the total — and for some Old Testament scholars they have become a kind of holy grail. … Three days after the United Nations passed the 1947 resolution to grant Israel statehood, a Syrian mob burned down the synagogue. Aleppo’s Jews rescued the codex, but in the ensuing years the 10,000-strong community was uprooted and scattered around the world. Scholars believe that Aleppo Jews still hold many of the missing pages and that others have fallen into the hands of antiquities dealers.

- Source: Scholars search for missing pages of Hebrew Bible, AP via the Los Angeles Times, Sep. 28, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Religion Reporting

religion journalists address faith and politics and `shrinking newsprint’ and new media

The Religion Newswriters Association recently gathered in Washington, D.C. both to take the pulse of the religious and political currents in the U.S. and to find a way to navigate the new and uncertain world of journalism beyond traditional newspapers.

A brief but informative overview of topics addressed at the conference.

Exclusive Brethren

No university for Exclusive Brethren kids

They attend well-equipped schools with low teacher-student ratios and solid HSC results, but none of them will be going to university.
They are the children of the Exclusive Brethren, and for them university is taboo. They can study at TAFEs and other tertiary institutions, but not at universities.
You won’t find Brethren children watching TV programs, either, or going to the movies, or visiting google on the Internet. It’s all part of their belief in separation from the sinful world around them, and elders admit that can mean they can grow up ignorant of the extent of that wickedness. The university ban is one aspect of the Brethren lifestyle that outsiders, known as “worldlies”, find hardest to understand. It means that the 15,000-strong Australian Brethren community is producing plenty of accountants but no doctors, lawyers or teachers. Which means, ironically, that no Brethren teachers are tutoring the 2,300 students at 43 Australian schools run by the Christian sect, which was described by Labor leader Kevin Rudd last year as an “extreme cult” that broke up families.
Every teacher is a worldly.

- Source: No uni for Exclusive Brethren kids, TV New Zealand, Sep. 28, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The publishers of Religion News Blog consider the Exclusive Brethren to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. In our view, the teachings and practices of this group are spiritually abusive. Sociologically the group has cult-like elements as well.


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