RNB Roundup: Scientology; No ifs, ands, or….; A Goaded Priest; Brian Welch; and more

“RNB Roundup” is a collection of clippings, snippets, links, commentary and other items that, in one way or another, relate to the topics normally covered in Religion News Blog.

No ifs, ands, or…

Last month, New York’s Times Square Church went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order against a billboard for a line of bidets that was placed on a Broadway office tower where the church rents space. The ad showed a row of naked buttocks, with smiling faces drawn on them.

No ifs ands or ...

According to the New York Times, the church’s pastor called the row of buttocks “indecent for public display,” “certainly unsuited for public exposure to children” and “antithetical to the values of our congregation and church.”

Van Wagner, the outdoor advertising company that was trying to put the ad up, disagreed. In a memo filed in State Supreme Court, its lawyer Adam C. Silverstein wrote: “The advertisement is not obscene or pornographic. It is not sexually suggestive. And it does not promote an immoral or indecent message or product.” Bare buttocks, he noted, can be seen on network television and at the public library.

The bidet company, however, has now turned the other cheek and changed the ad. In what Advertising Age calls an “extremely mature and straight-forward statement (for the marketing industry),” the company explains:

When a billboard’s content or theme creates a situation whereby its primary marketing aim — in this case, advertising the Washlet and raising US consumer awareness of this unique personal cleansing system — becomes secondary to distractions that draw attention away from the company’s business goals, it’s time to change the advertising.”

Why Brian “Head” Welch walked away from KORN

Brian Welch talks about his conversion

For more than a decade, Brian “Head” Welch was lead guitarist for the controversial rock band KORN, but in early 2005 he shocked the international music community when he abruptly quit the band and announced that he had been saved by Jesus Christ. His announcement in front of 10,000 people in Bakersfield, California set off a media frenzy, as people from around the world sought to understand what led this rock star into the light.

Now, his story the revealing and courageous memoir, “Save Me From Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story” (Harper One Books), rocketed into the New York Times bestsellers list after its first week of publication, debuting at #20 on the “Non-Fiction” list.
– Source: Blabbermouth.net

Nasty Wimps

According to Reuters,

A Roman Catholic priest who unleashed a torrent of expletives and racist abuse against skateboarders outside his Australian cathedral, only to have the outburst filmed and placed on YouTube, has been put on leave.
– Source:

While nobody condones the priest’s response, many of those who have left comments at YouTube point out that the skateboarders were indeed tresspasing, subsequently did not leave the property when told to do so, and proceeded to goat the old priest.

Scientology not a cult?

In a column for Slate, Mark Oppenheimer, a senior book critic for the Forward, shares why he doesn’t think Scientology — while bizarre– is a cult

Some Americans may consider Scientology perhaps a cult, maybe a violent sect, and certainly very weird. And, like many, I find the Church of Scientology odd, to say the least. But Scientology is no more bizarre than other religions. And it’s the similarities between Scientology and, say, Christianity and Judaism that make us so uncomfortable. We need to hate Scientology, lest we hate ourselves.

But reaching such a conclusion, as I have discovered, isn’t bound to win a religion writer any friends.

Oppenheimer says a recent podcast, in which he interviewed John Carmichael, president of the Church of Scientology in New York, brought him “heaps of scorn,” apparently because, as he now says, “I did not have time to ask him about many of the controversies surrounding the religion, including allegations of financial improprieties and cultlike behavior.”

He explains:

Not every article about a Catholic mentions the church’s pederasty scandals or its suborning of fascism under Hitler and Franco. An article about Yom Kippur observance in Hackensack need not ask Jews for their views of illegal West Bank settlements. All religious groups have something to answer for, but religion writing would be quite tedious, not to mention unilluminating, if every article were reduced to the negative charges against some co-religionists.

Fair enough. But that statement, and the rest of his column — in which Oppenheimer basically says that Scientology is no weirder than other religions — includes nothing to justify the “But it’s not a cult” in the subtitle to his piece.

While the term cult may be difficult to define most people familiar with Scientology’s teachings and practices will have no problem recognizing its cultic characteristics.

Perhaps Oppenheimer should talk with some writers and reporters who did take the time to look into those things that make Scientology a cult. Those writers report a pattern of harassment that sets Scientology far apart from the other religions he mentions.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 1, 2007.
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