Religion News Blog Roundup for Jan. 29, 2008

“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.

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Charles Koen

Pastor indicted in connection with $1.6 million training school scam

CAIRO,Ill. – A church leader with Heartland ties gets indicted in connection with $1 million fraud scheme involving a not-for-profit orgination he operates in Cairo [Illinois].

The Reverend Charles Koen heads up the Christian Hope Church and a civil rights organization called United Front.

The Cook County state’s attorney accuses Koen of running a fake training program through United Front to help workers get carpentry training so they can earn a union card.
Heartland News/KFVS

Charles Koen, managing director of United Front and copastor of Christian Hope Church, was indicted on charges of organizing a financial crimes enterprise, forgery and other charges in connection with the theft of the training funds. In separate charges brought last year, Koen is accused of stealing more than $500,000 from the United Way of Harvey.

Koen was convicted in 1991 of arson and fraud for setting fire to the United Front headquarters in Cairo in southern Illinois to cover up his theft of government funds.

Also charged were Alex Brooks, United Front’s vice president and a pastor at the same church; Joyce Norfleet, United Front’s national training director; and Dorothy Taylor and Ronnie Marshall, United Front employees. Rivera and Harper were charged with official misconduct, theft, misappropriation of financial institution property, among other charges. Prosecutors also charged United Front.
Chicago Tribune


You cannot be our beauty pageant judge because…

A woman crowned winner of the Miss Canada Plus pageant last year has been rejected as a judge for an upcoming beauty pageant in Toronto.

Stephanie Conover says it’s because her biography lists tarot cards and a Japanese healing system called reiki among her hobbies.

Karen Murray, the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant director, says they want someone “down to earth, not someone into the dark side or the occult.”

“They wrote this letter…basically revoking my invite and chastising me for my belief systems,” [Stephanie] Conover said.

“I was hurt but at the same time I was completely flabbergasted.”

The letter reads: “Tarot card reading and Reiki are the occult and is not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians.”


Scientology website shielded against DDoS attack

The Church of Scientology has restored it website to normal after a campaign of denial of service attacks prompted it to use DDoS mitigation service Prolexic.

Web sites associated with the Church of Scientology were intermittently unavailable last week after an internet group calling itself Anonymous declared war on the controversial organisation.
More at The Register

Meanwhile, Anonymous has called for protests outside Scientology centers worldwide on February 10.
Worse news for the cult: the niece of Scientology’s leader has spoken out in an open letter.
Incidentaly: interesting to see ‘Scientology’ and ‘normal’ in one sentence. Odd, but interesting.

The Church Around The Corner

Las Vegas chapels’ unholy hustle

Las Vegas, which calls itself the Wedding Capital of the World, has more than 60 chapels where people can exchange vows — on gondolas, with an Elvis impersonator, aboard a pirate ship — almost any way they want. Competition for couples is fierce. In recent years, it has escalated to minor warfare, with the Pit in the center of it all. Accusations have flown: slashed tires, death threats, homeless men paid to hassle competitors.

Many chapels advertise and take bookings online. But they also rely heavily on a ragtag bunch of handbillers — some of whom have spent time in the county jail — who stalk the lovelorn like paparazzi chasing stars.

The city recently stripped the license of a chapel accused of thuggish tactics, including sending out handbillers who banged on car windows and badgered brides until they wept. Officials are discussing whether tougher regulations, including background checks for chapel workers, could keep wedding peddlers in check.
More at the Los Angeles Times

Kenneth Copeland

Kenneth Copeland pledges ‘holy war’
Kenneth Copeland is one of the televangelists whose financial dealings are under investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Copeland, whose countless un-Biblical teachings include the prosperity doctrine scam, is not amused.

In a Jan. 22 closed-circuit broadcast of his 2008 Ministers’ Conference obtained by Roll Call, Copeland pledges a holy war against “Brother Grassley” and the Senate for attempting to get a look at the controversial ministry’s finances.

And it appears that Copeland has some political connections to call on — and support — as well:

A few months ago, the Mike Huckabee campaign finally started the work of touching base with evangelical leaders of influence. Among others, they met with Ken Copeland, one of the nation’s top televangelists. Last night the Governor called his friend in the middle of a conference and Copeland, carefully observing all the laws governing non profits, as a private citizen, re-convened a private meeting, turned to his friends and raised $111,000 in cash and reportedly a cool million in promises for Huckabee.
The Ledger

The Wittenburg Door (yes, they do spell it that way) refers to it as the Copeland/Huckabee Love Affair:

“Kenneth Copeland, I will stand with you!” Huckabee yelled over the phone, according to Copeland. “You’re trying to get prosperity to the people, and they’re [the Senate] trying to take it away from ’em. I will stand with you anytime, anywhere, on any issue!”
Wittenburg Door


Is James Dobson’s Political Clout Fading?

James Dobson, the founder and head of the evangelical media and counseling group Focus on the Family, is constantly described by the media as a power broker, kingmaker, and “the Christian right’s most powerful leader.” As such, his endorsement is seen as key by G.O.P. presidential candidates in the 2008 race.

On Wednesday night, his political action website released assessments of the major Democratic and Republican candidates — and political observers immediately checked in to see whether Dobson’s organization was leaning toward Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney, the two G.O.P. candidates who have made the biggest play for the evangelical vote.

As Focus on the Family weighs in on the presidential race, however, an examination of the group’s records shows that its influence may not be all that it once was, and that its actual base may have become smaller.
More at TIME magazine

Catholic Church

Behind the cult of Mary

The Virgin Mary attained cult status in the earliest centuries of the fledgling Christian church. And despite a concerted effort begun by the Vatican 40 years ago to de-emphasize her, the mother of Jesus remains a powerful, albeit polarizing, force within the Catholic Church.

The church’s liberal wing claims the Mary cult is an unnecessary anachronism. Others—mainly conservative Catholics—argue that Mary is as popular as ever and want her reinstated as the Queen of Heaven.

Catholicism’s internecine debate over Mary’s status is nothing new, says Michael P. Carroll, author of The Cult of the Virgin Mary. “Devotion to Mary in the western church has gone through a number of cycles,” he says. Mariology is linked to Mary’s important role within the church at its inception, according to Sarah Jane Boss, director of the Center for Marian Studies at the University of Wales-Lampeter. A prayer to Mary, written in Greek on papyrus and found in Egypt, addresses her as the Mother of God, and it dates to sometime between the third and fifth centuries.

But why did the early church feel a need to elevate Mary to a position of worship?
More at U.S. News & World Report

Greek Orthodox Church

Head of Greek Orthodox Church dies

ATHENS (Reuters) – The head of Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, who mended ties with the Vatican but clashed with the Greek state, died of cancer on Monday at the age of 69.

Quick Links

Top 10 Ways Christians (Including Me) Tend to Fail, by the author of I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop.

Religion Style Book: An easy-to-use authoritative guide created for journalists who report on religion in the mainstream media.

Radio Paradise. Great name. Great station. It’s what we tend to listen to while we’re working.


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, Religion News Blog, Jan. 29, 2008,

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday January 29, 2008.
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