Makoto Hirata Archive

You'll find articles about this subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

Christ Embassy’s false gospel; Bill Gothard quits; Ultraman banned

HBO’s fictional True Detective TV series may well have been inspired by the Hosanna Church child abuse case.

Nic Pizzolatto, the Louisiana-reared creator of the series, last week told Entertainment Weekly:

You know, you can Google “Satanism” “preschool” and “Louisiana” and you’ll be surprised at what you get. But instead of having our Satan worshippers worship Satan, they worship The Yellow King.

See if you think it fits.

The church’s former pastor, Louis D. Lamonica, is serving four concurrent life sentences.

Ex-Aum Shinrykio cult member Makoto Hirata, who in January 2011 turned himself in to police after nearly 17 years on the run, has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for his involvement in three AUM cult-related crimes.

Hirata was found guilty in the kidnapping and imprisonment of Kiyoshi Kariya, a notary clerk who eventually died after being injected with an anesthetic drug by another member of Aum Shinrikyo.

Kariya was abducted to get him to reveal he whereabouts of his sister who had been in hiding after she tried to leave the cult.

Hirata was also found guilty in the the bombing of a Tokyo condominium and the firebombing of an AUM facility the following month, both of which were aimed at impeding the police investigation.

After having been placed on leave earlier this month by his Board of Directors, Bill Gothard — founder of the Institute of Basic Life Principles — has resigned.

Gothard’s resignation comes amid claims that he engaged in sexual harassment and other misconduct.

The website Recovering Grace has published stories of some of the 34 women who have come forward with complaints.

Christian apologetics and counter-cult ministry Midwest Christian Outreach has been highlighting the problems surrounding Gothard and his ministry for years.

The leader of a religious group in rural Pine Country, Minnesota, is being investigated over claims of sexual abuse.

Victor Barnard heads up the River Road Fellowship, a group of about 150 people. His followers view him as their spiritual leader, but the Pine County sheriff calls him a pedophile. Authorities and former members refer to the group as a cult.

Barnard was reported to the police four years ago, but the Pine County district attorney allegedly wanted the case to go away. It is said he did not believe the case would stick.

At the time, the attorney wrote: “The sad truth is: These individuals admit that they were essentially ‘brainwashed‘ by Barnard and readily and willingly did what he wanted them to do.”

Here are two reports from Minneapolis-St.Paul station KMSP. First the original story, broadcast last week:

Then the follow-up report:

Meanwhile, Barnard is missing. Investigators believe he and his followers have left for Washington state.

Japanese comic superhero Ultraman has been slain by Malaysian censors.

The book “Ultraman: The Ultra Power” was reportedly banned because it contained the sentence, “Ultraman is seen and respected as Allah or an elder of all Ultra warriors.”

“Allah” is the Malay and Arabic word for God. The authorities foresee ‘public disorder’ if Ultaman is allowed to compare himself to Allah (largely, of course, since many of the latter’s followers tend to create havoc whenever they feel, rightly or wrongly, that their faith has been slighted).

By the way, last October, a Malaysia court ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the word ‘Allah’ — even though Christians have used it for centuries.1

Christ Embassy’s false gospel

The Prosperity Gospel — the notion that God wants to shower people with money, but only after they demonstrate their faith by donating lots of money to whomever advertises the scam — does make some people rich.

Predictably it works like a charm for those preacher$ who use the gospel as a means for personal gain. Like Nigerian pastor, televangelist and faith healer(?) Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy International (actual name: Believers LoveWorld Incorporated).

Nigerian media refer to him as a billionaire, although that refers to Nigerian Naira, which works out to about 6,067,000 US Dollars. Still a nice figure.

Enconium magazine says his private residence has now been revealed: a four-storey building with a penthouse.

The magazine says the palatial structure, known as ‘The White House’ (which it mimics) “stands out from the other buildings in the over N2 billion-worth Believers Love World International headquarters.”

So yes, the Prosperity Gospel works if you’re on the right side of the scam.

But wait! There’s more. Former Charisma Magazine2 editor Lee Grady points out that many Nigerian Christians, theologians and ‘cult-monitoring groups’ consider Christ Embassy to be a cult — due to its un-biblical teachings and practices.

In other words, Christ Embassy is theologically a cult of Christianity. And if, as Grady says, members are indeed “forced to give money in offerings and are pressured to marry only within their church” than sociologically it has certain cult-like elements as well. 3

Yet millions of Christians — unable or unwilling to apply biblical principles of discernment — follow Oyakhilome.

Fortunately, not everyone falls for his teachings:

Religion News Blog brings you expert-selected, hand-picked religion news articles with a focus (though not always exclusively so) on cults, religious sects, world religions, and related issues.


  1. The word was, and is, not used to support the false notion that the God worshipped by Christians and the one followed by Muslims are one and the same.
  2. Interestingly, Charisma Magazine itself has long promoted — and benefited from the advertising budgets of — false teachers, including Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, and the late Paul Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network — a constant source of false teachings ranging from aberrant to heretical
  3. Grady should have explained in which context he used the term ‘cult’ since it means different things in different contexts.

AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult member on trial

The trial of Makoto Hirata, a former leading member of the deadly AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult, has started in Tokyo District Court.

Prosecutors are seeking the death sentence for Hirata, who is charged for his involvement in the 1995 abduction and confinement of Kiyoshi Kariya, a notary official who later died after being injected with an anesthetic drug by AUM members.

Prosecutors say they used the anesthetics on Kariya to get him to talk about his sister, who escaped from the group after being pressed to donate her land.

Hirata, who joined the cult in 1987 at the age of 22, turned himself in to police in January, 2011, after having been on the run for nearly 17 years.

He maintains he only drove the vehicle involved in the abduction, and claims he did not have prior knowledge of the intent to kidnap Kariya.

Hirata also charged with involvement in the firebombing of a Tokyo condominium.

Prosecutors say the bombing was meant to prevent the place from being raided by the police.
Makoto Hirata
Hirata’s lawyers say he got interested in spirituality as a result of his disillusionment with bubble-era Japan’s dogged pursuit of economic gain.

They explain that, just like AUM Shinrikyo’s other members, Hirata was so fascinated with charisma of AUM Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara that he eventually decided total submission to the guru was the only way to attain peace of mind.1

Seven AUM members who are on death-row — including Yoshihiro Inoue, Tomomasa Nakagawa, and Yasuo Hayashi — have been summoned to testify during the trial.

Six months after Hirata turned himself in, the last two ex-AUM members on the Japan’s most wanted list, Naoko Kikuchi, 42, and Katsuya Takahashi, 55, were arrested separately in June 2012.

Closure and Awareness

AUM Shinrikyo’s many victims hope the trials of these last three cult members will bring closure.

Meanwhile cult experts hope the trial will raise awareness of the potential dangers of joining cults.

The crimes of AUM Shinrikyo

During rush hour, On the morning of March 20, 1995, members of AUM Shinrikyo launched a deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

13 people died, and 6,373 people needed hospital treatment. The attack was part of a 2

Japan’s National Police Agency says that a total of 6,583 people fell victim to Aum Shinrikyo.

Nearly 19 years after the gas attack thirteen Aum Shinrikyo cult members are on death row, including the group’s leader, Shoko Asahara.

In January 2,000 Aum Shinrikyo changed its name to Aleph.

The cult remains under surveillance, as does an offshoot named Hikari no Wa, which was established in 2007.

Membership in Aleph and other AUM Shinrikyo splintergroups has been growing in recent years, according to police and public security authorities.

Many of the cult members remain loyal to Shoko Asahara.

Did You Know?

A number of scholars who study what they term ‘new- or alternative religions’ actually came to AUM Shinrikyo’s defense.


  1. Asahara had taught that the world would be destroyed at the end of the (now last) century in a nuclear catastrophe, and that only those why had joined AUM would be spared.
  2. See also: Aum’s history of violence, and Violations and violence