Religion News Briefs: Scientology, a fatwa, auras, FLDS revelations

This is Religion News Blog’s roundup of news reports dealing with religion, spirituality, religious cults, and related issues.

checkmark Ex-Scientologist to Garden Grove Mayor: Do Your Research Before the Grip-n-Grin

The tell-it-like-it-is OC Weekly (covering Orange County, California), says

Politicos beware: if you’re ever caught glad-handing the Church of Scientology, one of its former members will pay you a visit at a public meeting and give you the verbal version of “Scientology for Dummies.”

Paulien Lombard, the former Scientologist who used to spy for church, is continuing her relentless campaign to spread the word about the abuses she says members of the organization suffer at the hands of their leaders.

Her latest tour stop was at a Garden Grove City Council meeting.

In our opinion any official who allow him- or herself to be used by the Scientology cult is unfit for public office.


checkmark First study of people who leave FLDS polygamous sect shows struggle

The results of a survey among 90 young former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) held some surprises, reports Lindsay Whitehurst in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Some 750 young people have left the sect in the past eight years.

Among the survey’s surprises: the majority of those surveyed said they chose to leave rather than being forced out.

The survey also indicated the majority don’t go because they were interacting with the opposite sex or watching TV, both of which are off-limits in the strictly conservative sect.

Rather, a full 80 percent said they left or were forced out because the FLDS limited their ability to make decisions in their own lives.

Once they do leave, 60 percent of the teens said they aren’t ever allowed to visit or call home.

Despite being cut off from their families, the vast majority — 87 percent — said they were happy to be living outside of the sect’s home base of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, and were more optimistic about the future.

Partial results of the survey were released last Friday at the fourth annual conference of Safety Net, “which was started by the Utah attorney general  to ensure that people associated with the practice of polygamy have the same educational opportunities and access to justice, safety and services as the general public.”

Full results will be published in a booklet or in a scholarly journal later, Whitehurst says.

According to Pat Merkley, clinical director of the Safety Net, this was the first survey of its kind:

There’s a dearth of scholarly research on fundamentalist Mormons, Merkly said, and without it, social workers and therapists have little to guide them.

‘Lost Boys’
The steadily growing groups of those who have left or have been sent away from the FLDS collectively have often been referred to as the ‘Lost Boys.’ On this, The Primer — “a guidebook for law enforcement and Human Services Agencies who serve Fundamentalist Mormon populations” — says

Lost Boys: This term has been used to refer primarily to young single men who have been exiled from the FLDS community (either voluntarily or involuntarily). Some have insufficient education and knowledge to equip them to live on their own. Some have said they have abused drugs or alcohol because they have been convinced they are “already going to hell”. Some also say they were expelled to prevent them from being competition for older men in the assignment of wives. These young males (and some females) resent the label, “Lost Boy”.

In her Polygamy Blog (which we highly recommend), Whitehurst also details some other highlights of the Safety Net conference.

checkmark Warren Jeffs revelation reportedly names 15 men as “fathers” to FLDS children

Warren Jeffs, the jailed cult leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, reportedly has handed down a new ‘revelation’ in which he names 15 men as “fathers” to the children in the sect.

Sam Brower, a private investigator for lawyers suing the polygamous church and the author of the book “Prophet’s Prey,” said Monday that his sources tell him the chosen 15 are the only ones allowed to procreate.

“These 15 men are appointed to be the procreators for the priesthood, for the FLDS,” he told FOX 13. “The other men in the community have been assigned the station of caretakers.”

Brower said he was told the announcement prompted about 300 people to get up and walk out of a meeting when it was read.

Utah TV station KSL says the reports are hard to verify.

Last August Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.”

Ever since, Jeffs — whom followers believe is a prophet from God — has been sharpening his creative writing skills by issuing a stream of ‘revelations’ he claims come from Jesus Christ.

Despite being jailed, Jeffs still maintains his iron-fisted rule over the FLDS.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Lindsay Whitehurst catalogs Jeffs revelations in this Google Calendar. Click on ‘more details’ in each entry for a link to the full revelation.

Fundamentalist LDS Church?
Note: as a news outlet owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church), Salt Lake City’s FOX 13 never refers to the FLDS by its proper name: Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but rather uses the terms “FLDS Church” or “Fundamentalist LDS Church.”

Theologically, the FLDS is a sect of Mormonism. Both movements are, theologically, cults of Christianity due to the fact that their teachings and practices contradict, change, and/or otherwise violate essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

Polygamous sects of the Mormon Church

checkmark Scientific Evidence Proves why Healers See the “Aura” of People

An older item, but one that is noteworthy. The University of Granada, Spain, reports that

Researchers in Spain have found that many of the individuals claiming to see the aura of people –traditionally called “healers” or “quacks”– actually present the neuropsychological phenomenon known as “synesthesia” (specifically, “emotional synesthesia”). This might be a scientific explanation of their alleged “virtue”. In synesthetes, the brain regions responsible for the processing of each type of sensory stimuli are intensely interconnected. This way, synesthetes can see or taste a sound, feel a taste, or associate people with a particular color.

The study was conducted by the University of Granada Department of Experimental Psychology Óscar Iborra, Luis Pastor and Emilio Gómez Milán, and has been published in the prestigious journal Consciousness and Cognition. This is the first time that a scientific explanation is provided on the esoteric phenomenon of the aura, a supposed energy field of luminous radiation surrounding a person as a halo, which is imperceptible to most human beings.

Reference: Auras in mysticism and synaesthesia: a comparison. Consciousness and cognition, 2012, 21(1), 258-268 de Milán, Iborra, Pastor y otros. Avalaible at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810011002868

checkmark Google removes terror videos from YouTube

Google removed 640 videos from YouTube in the second half of last year amid fears they promoted terrorism.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) made a request for five user accounts to be closed for allegedly promoting terrorism.

Google agreed and deleted the 640 videos.

Details were released in the internet giant’s latest Transparency Report which reveals requests by international authorities to remove material.

PC World writes

“We received a request from the UK’s Association of [Chief] Police Officers to remove five user accounts that allegedly promoted terrorism,” the company said on the UK’s removal request statistics page. “We terminated these accounts because they violated YouTube’s Community Guidelines, and as a result approximately 640 videos were removed.”

More transparency into government requests

Islam and Terrorism

checkmark Death Threat From Iran Sent To St. Louis Men

A St Louis, MO man who says that as a teenager he once served in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard has received a letter in which he and his pastor, Mike Salazar, are threatened with death.

The letter contained a fatwa, or religious decree, marking them for death. It was reportedly signed by a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Army.

Ali Bhakti says that when he was with the group

he was even assigned a suicide mission, to blow up an Israeli disco. But, he had a dramatic change of heart and faith and converted to Christianity and moved to the U.S. He met Pastor Salazar at church and since then the two have been spreading their beliefs to church goers. The two men believe that Islam is a religion that could easily radicalize a Muslim into a terrorist.

More Stories To Check

Michael Tomasky on the Problems With Mitt Romney’s Biography: From his family and faith to his careers in business and politics, Mitt Romney’s life story is a liability. Will America elect the Man Who Isn’t There?

Vatican offers special solution for conservative splinter group, SSPX: In a bid to end a decades-long split in the Catholic Church, the Vatican offered a conservative breakaway group a special status enjoyed only by the Opus Dei movement. The status, known as a “personal prelature,” would allow the SSPX to operate directly under the pope’s authority, without territorial boundaries.

Religious Groups Struggle To Contain Technology Use: Cell phones are increasingly ubiquitous among the very religious, from Hasidic Jewish communities to Amish groups. Some leaders are cracking down, especially on women’s usage.

Benny Hinn opens up about wife’s prescription drug problem: Benny Hinn has revealed that the divorce from his wife came about due to her struggle with an addiction to prescription pills. The televangelist announced last month that he was reconciling with former wife Suzanne Hinn.

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014