This is our archive of news items tagged Sharia.

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

‘Psychic’ Sylvia Brown dies; Spiritual abuse; Scientology …

bullet Self-proclaimed ‘Psychic’ Sylvia Brown has died at the age of 77.

According to the CNN report, Brown claimed she discovered her alleged abilities when she was 3 years old. In 1974 she founded The Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research.

She also set up the Society of Novus Spiritus to train ‘ministers,’ and created The Sylvia Browne Hypnosis Training Center.

Like other psychics, Brown has been debunked many times.

On a 2004 episode of “The Montel Williams Show” she told the mother of a missing girl that her daughter was dead, “in heaven, on the other side.” That girl, Amanda Berry, was rescued last May from the home of Ariel Castro, where she and two other girl had been held captive for the better part of a decade. T

Noted skeptic James Randi has long tried to get Brown to fulfill a promise that she would have him test her alleged ability to talk to the dead. She never did.

Can Psychics help you?

bullet Bishop Georges Pontier, president of the French bishops’ conference has issued a public statement in response to calls for recognition of the “human damage” caused by ecclesiastical movements that were guilty of abusive practices.

A group of 40 people who describe themselves as “victims of sectarian aberrations in different ecclesial movements and religious congregations” addressed the bishops at a recent meeting, saying that the effects of spiritual abuse can range from depression to suicide or to the destruction of personalities.

The critics named 14 spiritual communities for what they consider to be cult-like practices. Only five of these groups — including Legion of Christ, the Beatitudes community, Points-Cœur, and the Community of St. John — have been subject to church discipline.

Pontier warned against generalizations, and against dismissing groups based on the behavior of individuals, but he emphasized the need for spiritual freedom, noting that “The Gospel of Christ, which we seek to serve, is a school of spiritual freedom.”
Research resources on spiritual abuse

bullet The Scientology cult finally removed a giant, illegal sign from a temporary building it set up in Clearwater, Florida.

A spokesperson for the fantasy religion says her church considers the sign to be art that has a religious meaning for Scientologists. The sign includes the terms, “Golden Age of Tech” — which refers to a teaching method developed by Scientology cult founder, fantasist L. Ron Hubbard, and the letters KSW — an acronym for “Keeping Scientology Working.”1

The latter phrase refers to a series of policy letters written by Hubbard regarding the proper application and preservation of his study method, and the eradication of “non-standard tech”, also known as “squirreling” — the unauthorized use of the method by Scientology practitioners who have either been kicked out of the Church of Scientology, of have voluntarily disassociated themselves from it.

Clearwater’s Code Enforcement Board doesn’t buy that explanation, and ruled — a day after the sign was removed — 6-1 that the church had violated the city’s sign code.

An attorney representing the cult says the city infringes on religious freedom, and confirmed Scientology may plan to attach other such wraps for celebrations later this year. But a city attorney says, “We are simply asking that they follow the rules just as any other good corporate citizen, religious citizen or even just a regular plain Jane or Joe Citizen would do.”

Indeed, religious freedom is no excuse to break the law.

Speaking of which, a 1977 FBI raid uncovered that the cult at the time plotted to take over the city of Clearwater.

bullet Where were you when you heard the news about the Peoples Temple mass murder/suicide?

It happened 35 years ago today.

Often informally referred to as Jonestown — after cult leader Jim Jones — the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project became a darling of academic defenders of alternative religions, including J. Gordon Melton, who is so notorious for his defense of cults that he has been referred to as the ‘father of cult apologists.’

Melton said “This wasn’t a cult. This was a respectable, mainline Christian group.” He claimed that the mass suicide2 had been transformed into a “definitive cult horror story” by the media and anti-cult groups.

But if you want to know what really happened it’s better to learn from someone who was closely involved. Deborah Layton, one of the cult’s few survivors shared her story in Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People Temple

Incidentally, amidst a plethora of articles on the Peoples Temple that appeared this month, this one is among the most interesting: Why Did So Many Black Women Die? Jonestown at 35

bullet Nowadays its difficult to find newspapers and other news outlets that still have reporters dedicated to the religion beat.

Perhaps they’ve all taken refuge at Religion Dispatches, where you find tons of interesting religion articles, such as Are Messianic Jews Unfairly Shunned by Jews?3

Or at Religion News Service, with articles like Are Christian conferences sexist?4

bullet On Religion News Blog’s Twitter feed we occasionally use the hashtag #religiousinsanity to signify insane behavior rooted in someone’s interpretation of religion.

Case in point: A man who offered ‘free hugs’ in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh has been arrested by the state’s religious police.

Yes, free hugs.

Yes, ‘religious police.’

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is charged with enforcing ShariaIslamic law.

We’ve heard enough.

bullet A Costco store near Los Angeles has apologized for labeling Bibles with price stickers that declare the books to be ‘fiction’.

The Bibles were actually mislabeled by a distributor, but Costco says “we take responsibility and should have caught the mistake.”

The store has relabeled the books, so if you managed to get a mislabeled Bible — and left the price sticker attached — you’ve got yourself a collector’s item.

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Notes:

  1. Tom Cruise mentioned this acronym in his infamous video on Scientology
  2. Investigators learned that it was actually a combination of mass murder and suicide
  3. See: Messianic Jews
  4. See: Women in Christian Ministry

‘Living God’ near death * Doubting Mormons * Evangelical Playboy cover

bullet As former cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne, 83, is near death, members of the Australian cult she founded in the 1960s are scrambling for control.

The Family” used adoption scams to illegally obtain dozens of children, who were subjected to cruel treatments — including beatings, starvation and forced LSD use.

They were told that Hamilton-Byrne was a ‘living god,’ and were taught a mixture of extreme Christianity and Eastern mysticism.

The Age reports that

The victims have sought damages for ongoing mental health problems from abuse and cruelty suffered, false imprisonment, mind control and use of drugs.

They all settled out of court for amounts of about 250.000 Australian Dollars, as lawyers have used Hamilton-Byrne’s dementia — from which she has suffered since 2007 as a defence in the civil court actions.

Her estate is estimated to be worth between $10 million and $20 million (Australian).

bullet Here’s another reason why people in civilized countries should combat any and all attempts by Muslims to establish Sharia — Islamic law: a 24-old Norwegian women in Dubai who reported to police that she has been raped has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for ‘having unlawful sex.’

In the United Arab Emirates, in criminal matters a woman’s testimony is worth half of that of a man before a court. That’s primitive, to say the least.

Update: the woman contacted the media, and is now free to go — after the Norwegian government raised a stink.

But remember: visiting Dubai is like traveling back to the dark ages. Beautiful buildings, fantastic shops, gorgeous hotels — but its a thin veneer that covers a law system based on an extremely intolerant religion.

bullet Carl Lentz is not your typical pastor — and Hillsong Church NYC is not your typical church.

The article doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about Lentz’ theology. Nor does this February 2011 interview in the Christian Post. Those are missed opportunities.

We do know that the church is part of the Australia-based Hillsong Church movement, which is known and loved for its popular worship music — and criticized for its Word-of-Faith theology, including a major emphasis on prosperity teachings.

bullet Brazilian model Aline Franzoi, who belongs to National Mission Evangelical Church in Brazil, has come under fire from fellow Christians for her decision to appear on the cover of Playboy.

She told a Spanish-language Christian site that she won’t pose nude because she is an Evangelical, but on her Facebook page she pointed out that her religion and her work are two different areas that she prefers to keep separate.

Franzoi says God looks at our heart and our intentions, but — as so often is the case — many of her fellow Christians are already throwing her under the bus.

bullet Scientology is not the only movement to have its teachings exposed to daylight by the Internet.

Some Mormons search the web and find doubt, the New York Times says.

Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.

No wonder. While Mormonism tries to pass itself off as authentic Christianity, it is a religion cobbled together by ‘prophet’ Joseph Smith from his fantasies mixed with plagiarized and bastardized teachings from the Bible. It’s truly amazing that so many people have fallen for it in the first place.

One has only to look at the tremendous amount of problems faced by The Book of Mormon — which Smith claimed was the “most correct of any book on earth, nd the keystone of our religion” — to see that something is seriously wrong.

Mormons looking for answers will find lots of helpful information at Mormons in Transition

bullet Say, can you believe the hysterical reaction some Americans have to the Rolling Stone article about the surviving Boston bomber?

None of the victims are honored by such over-the-top flag-waving.

It’s good to see a top reporter like Janet Reitman take a look at what’s behind Tsarnaev’s actions.

Religion News Briefs is published several times a week — even during the summer break.

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Sudan Threatens to Arrest Church Leaders

Sudan Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments has threatened to arrest church leaders if they carry out evangelistic activities and do not comply with an order for churches to provide their names and contact information.

The warning arrived a few days after Sudan President Omar al-Bashir told cheering crowds that the country’s constitution will be more deeply entrenched in sharia (Islamic law). [Read more...]

Oklahoma Shariah Ban Is Blocked

Sharia -- Islamic extremism codified A federal judge blocked Oklahoma officials Monday from implementing a voter-approved referendum that singles out Islamic religious law, or Shariah, as a threat to the state.

Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange, of U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, set a Nov. 22 hearing to consider whether the Save Our State Amendment violates the U.S. Constitution. Until then, she issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state Election Board from certifying State Question 755, which passed by 70% on Nov. 2. [Read more...]

Democratic Muslims pleased as sharia demo is called off

Sharia -- Islamic extremism codified A demonstration of Muslim hardliners calling for sharia law to be imposed in Britain was cancelled in London over the weekend amid planned counter-protests by democratic Muslims.

Anjem Choudary, leader of the radical Islamic group Al Muhajiroun, said that organisers of the Islam4UK demo had cancelled the march from the Houses of Parliament to Trafalgar Square on 31 October 2009 because of security concerns.

The Islamic Society of Britain, which was planning to join other organisations in staging a “dignified, non-violent” counter-demonstration, hailed the cancellation as a “great success”. [Read more...]