Religion News Briefs: a UFO cult, a killer cult, a former cult

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

checkmark Raelians still trying to rehabilitate Swastika

Raelians, the religious cult that in 2002 lied to the media by claiming to have cloned a human being, continues coming up with ways to have the media advertise its websites.

The UFO cult — which teaches that human beings came from extraterrestials — currently defends its display of a swastika over New Jersey beaches on Saturday, arguing it was trying to bring it back as a peaceful symbol rather than promote antisemitism.

According to CBS

The International Raelian Movement said a small plane dragging a banner with a swastika above Long Beach was a part of Swastika Rehabilitation Day, an attempt to “re-educate” the public about the symbol’s pre-Nazi roots. […]

The Raelians said they also flew the banner along the U.S. West Coast, Australia and handed out flyers on the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel and Karlsruhe, Germany. (In Germany, it is illegal to show the swastika in public and the group said they are sending someone to court to challenge the law.)


checkmark Lawyer tells of agonising scenes as doctors forced to let a Jehovah’s Witness who wanted to live, die

A lawyer who advised doctors that they must let a 22-year-old Jehovah’s Witness die even though he wanted to live has spoken of the agonising scenes before the young man’s death.

Robert Tobin, a partner in the London law firm Kennedy’s, was called in by an unnamed NHS Trust when the man, a Jehovah’s Witness who was critically ill with sickle cell anaemia, refused a blood transfusion which could have saved his life. […]

Mr Tobin said: “I don’t know what his mother was thinking as she sat by and watched him die. I assume either she felt powerless or she felt bound to her own religious code of conduct which says you can’t share blood with others.

Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be Christians, but that claim is not recognized by any Christian denomination. Theologically the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, the organization that claims to represent God on earth, is considered to be a cult of Christianity because the movement’s teachings violate, ignore and/or change the essential teachings of the Christian faith.

The cult has come up with its own Bible ‘translation’ designed to support the Watchtower’s doctrines. Its teachings regarding blood has let to countless unnecessary deaths, prompting some to call the organization a ‘killer cult.’

The website of Witnesses for Jesus, which reaches out to Jehovah’s Witnesses, includes the online book, Biblical Answers To Questions Jehovah’s Witnesses Ask. Several chapters in the book address the movement’s teachings regarding blood.
Associated Jehovah’s Witnesses For Reform on Blood is operated by current Jehovah’s Witnesses who wish to see the organization change its stance on the subject.
Research resources on Jehovah’s Witnesses

checkmark Accused baby killer tied to ‘cult’

This is a bit of an odd story. APNZ reports that a “man accused of murdering his six-month-old son in a South Brisbane river had links with a New Zealand religious cult.”

According to a blog post written by his wife, David’s Fisher’s parents had been members of the Worldwide Church of God — known since 2009 as Grace Communion International.

tAs we not at our parent site, Apologetics Index, Throughout most of its history, the Worldwide Church of God – founded and led by Herbert W. Armstrong – was, theologically, a cult of Christianity. Among other things, it rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and salvation by grace through faith alone.

Sociologically, the movement had many cultic elements as well.

However, starting in the mid 1980’s under Joseph Tkach Sr, and later his son, Joseph Tkach Jr. – the church’s current leader – the Worldwide Church of God has undergone major changes in doctrine to the extend that is has rejected its heretical teachings, and instead has embraced orthodox Christianity.

The APNZ article makes much of that clear, but does not explain how what the possible connection is between the baby’s death and the fact that the father’s family had been involved with a cult of Christianity.

checkmark Granddaughter of Paul and Jan Crouch Alleges Cover-up of Rape by TBN Employee When She Was 13

A granddaughter of Paul and Jan Crouch, founders of the flock-fleecing Trinity Broadcasting Network, says the company is covering up her rape at the hands of an employee when she was 13 years old.

Carra Crouch, now 19, filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on June 18 alleging that in April 2006 she was raped in an Atlanta hotel room by Stephen L. Smith, a 30-year-old TBN employee at the time.

The lawsuit alleges battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence, and is one of several court cases in which Trinity is mired.

Courthouse News Service has a detailed article on the case.

The Trinity Broadcasting Network is considered the world’s largest Christian TV network, but given the enormous amount of aberrant and heretical programming — as well as the behavior of its founders — some Christian refer to TBN as The Blasphemy Network.

checkmark Social workers considered sending boy to the Congo for exorcism

In England a mother who no longer had responsibility for her child

asked for him to be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo for “deliverance”.

The boy’s family claimed this was necessary because they believed he was possessed by “kindoki” or evil spirits.

Islington social services officials then paid more than £4,000 for an expert to travel to Africa to investigate.

The expert, Richard Hoskins, an academic specialising in African religions, was alarmed by what he saw on the visit, and advised the council that the boy should not be exorcised.

After receiving his report, the council – then under Liberal Democrat control – abandoned the plan.
Dr Hoskins said that prior to his trip, some Islington council officials had been “mindful to agree to the request” for exorcism.

Speaking at a conference yesterday, he said the case demonstrated how officials in Britain were reluctant to challenge the mistreatement of children when it was committed under the guise of “religious or cultural practices”.

checkmark The doomsday cult of 9-to-5 depression

One of the enduring mysteries of the Aum Shinrikyo atrocities of the 1990s is the ease with which the cult attracted members.

The arrest this month of the last two fugitives allegedly involved in Aum’s fatal 1995 sarin gas assault on the Tokyo subway system recalls the whole ghastly episode, together with its unsolved riddles.

What would draw sane, relatively prosperous, in many cases highly intelligent people to the incoherent blend of pseudo-philosophy, pseudo-enlightenment and pseudo-mysticism that elevated robbery, murder and terrorism into acts of religious devotion? […]

Probably no definitive answer is possible, and this certainly is not an attempt at one. But the business magazine Shukan Toyo Keizai provides a clue, though without making the connection. Its June 16 edition devotes 50 pages to an issue it fears is getting out of hand: depression.

Deborah Layton, a survivor of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple cult, has said: “Nobody joins a cult. You join a self-help group, a religious movement, a political organization. They change so gradually, by the time you realize you’re entrapped – and almost everybody does – you can’t figure a safe way back out.”

Who joins cult? And why?
The Power of Cults
Today’s Cults: You Might Not Recognize Them

More religion news:

Man seeks awareness of sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses: the cult’s misuse of an Old Testament rule leads to cover-ups, denials, and more abuse.
Former white supremacist sheds hate to help all people
Singapore pastor arrested over misuse of $18m: The founder of one of Singapore’s richest churches was arrested Tuesday on allegations of misusing at least $18 million in donations from his congregation of more than 30,000, police said. Pastor Kong Hee and four senior executives of the City Harvest Church — a Christian group registered as a charity — were arrested by the Commercial Affairs Department, a police unit set up to fight financial crime.
Civil lawsuit filed against polygamist sect cities lifts spirits of area officials: Public officials, utility entities and law enforcement officials of Colorado City and Hilldale, Utah, have been called out by the federal government for violations against individuals in those communities who aren’t members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS. The individuals whose rights are in question are those who’ve never been FLDS members, or those who’ve been excommunicated by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and/or his followers.
Narconon Arrowhead under Fire The Scientology cult makes copious use of press release services to try and get its name in the news in a positive way (which seldom happens). But nowadays the cult’s critics also issue press releases, such as this one. Regarding Narconon: it’s best to stay away from the cult’s quackery.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016