Religion news roundup: A Raelian bishop; the Anti-Christ; Robert Schuller on Twitter; 3 prayers for $4.95; Scientology…

RNB Religion Shorts: a compendium of blurbs and links to, for the most part, religion-related stories you may have missed. See the end of this article for more details.

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Robert H. Schuller

“This is the real Robert H.Schuller. The person saying they were me, here on twitter is gone. So lets start a new day.” Twitter, 12:19 AM Mar 26th.

The rest of the story:

Impostor signs up with Twitter as Crystal Cathedral’s Schuller

Crystal Cathedral founder Rev. Robert H. Schuller‘s foray into the world of Twitter had a little hiccup after the church’s IT department discovered last week that an impostor was already “tweeting” away under the televangelist’s name, church spokesman Michael Nason said today. … “Our IT department notified Twitter and the other person’s account was shut down within 24 hours,” Nason said. However, it turned out that this impostor had nothing but positive things to say about the Garden Grove megachurch. … “Even Dr. Schuller joked about how this person could’ve been his ghostwriter and is flattered by someone wanting to imitate him,” he said. “He did a good job.”

– Source: Orange County Register, Mar. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Religion Question of the Day

What would Jesus Twit?

Wayne Bent

Cult leader to appeal sexual abuse conviction

Imprisoned cult leader Wayne Bent plans to appeal his conviction. … The self-proclaimed messiah and leader of an apocalyptic cult compound in northeastern New Mexico was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this year. A jury found that Bent molested teenage followers in what he claimed was a religious ceremony.

– Source:, Mar. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

• Bent’s followers have posted a statement The Law Offices of John McCall, Attorney at Law at their website.


Scientology Targets Haiti, But Why?

The Scientology organization has increasingly targeted poor countries such as Haiti in its recruitment efforts. Why would this money-hungry crime-cult be interested in one of the world’s poorest countries? The answer: Because they want to bring Haitians in to the USA on “religious worker” visas to serve as unpaid laborers.

– Source: Agora Vox, Mar. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda

Honduran Congress: Ban ‘Antichrist’ sect building

Honduran lawmakers have asked authorities to stop a religious group led by a man calling himself the “Antichrist” from constructing a spiritual center in the country’s capital.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is banned from entering Honduras, but his Growing in Grace Church has 20 offices in the Central American nation. […]

The Honduran Congress unanimously voted Tuesday to ask authorities to prohibit the sect from constructing the center in Tegucigalpa.[…]

– Source: AP via, Mar. 25, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Virginia is geared up in case of bio attack

Larry Edwards remembers the first act of bioterrorism using salmonella bacteria in the United States better than most people.

Edwards, now a regional retail food specialist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was working in the agency’s Oregon office in the 1980s, when the Rajneesh cult — a religious cult from India that bought a ranch in rural Wasco County — sickened more than 700 people by sprinkling salmonella bacteria on salad bars at 10 restaurants in the community. The actions were part of an orchestrated attempt for cult members to gain a political foothold in the local government by making voters too sick to vote, said Edwards.

Edwards and more than a dozen other speakers from around the country were at The Smithfield Center on Thursday participating in the Virginia Agroterrorism Conference. Workshop topics included domestic terrorism threats, FBI response capabilities, food safety, animal health, plant protection and countermeasures for weapons of mass destruction.

More than 130 people — mostly law enforcement officers and farmers — attended the conference to learn how the state would respond if an act of terrorism were to impact its food supply. The event was sponsored by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Norfolk office of the FBI, with Smithfield Foods picking up the tab for the site and lunch.

– Source: Daily Press, Mar. 27, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Jehovah’s Witnesses organization may move many of its administrative offices from Brooklyn to Ramapo, NY, in suburban Rockland County.

Ramapo views Jehovah’s Witnesses development plan

The 248-acre site was intended to become an active-senior development, but the builder, Lorterdan Properties at Ramapo, sold the site in February to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. A deed filed at the Rockland County Clerk’s Office on Feb. 13 showed that the society paid $11.5 million. The society plans to move many of its administrative offices from Brooklyn, where it has overseen its worldwide operations for 100 years. … The relocation would place the volunteer workers closer to the organization’s printing operations in Ulster County. … Watchtower is seeking an amendment to the zoning law to permit construction of a “monastery” subject to a permit from the Town Board.
As defined in the proposed amendment, a monastery would be a “planned development of buildings for integrated living, working and worshiping arrangements.” Schools would not be included.

– Source: The Journal News, Mar. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Matt Baker

Former Waco-area pastor indicted in wife’s death

WACO — A former pastor has been indicted on a murder charge in his wife’s 2006 death, which was initially ruled a suicide before her parents pressed authorities to reopen the case.

Matt Baker, 37, turned himself in Thursday at the Kerr County Jail, one day after a grand jury returned the indictment, which alleges that he killed his wife, Kari, by giving her drugs and suffocating her with a pillow. Bail was set at $500,000.

Baker, who has since moved to Kerrville with his two daughters, has said in numerous interviews that he did not kill his 31-year-old wife. He has said she committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills because she remained despondent over the 1998 death of their young daughter from cancer.

– Source: AP via, Mar. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Terry Sedlacek

Not guilty plea for alleged Ill. church shooter

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — The attorney for a man accused of fatally shooting a southwestern Illinois pastor in church has entered a not guilty plea on the man’s behalf — despite his client’s attempt to plead guilty.

Twenty-seven-year-old Terry Sedlacek appeared for a Thursday arraignment via video from his Madison County jail cell. He was indicted hours earlier on first-degree murder charges in the death of the Rev. Fred Winters.

– Source: AP, Mar. 27, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Raelian bishop sues video game giant for religious discrimination

A Quebec judge has begun deliberating whether world video game giant Ubisoft Entertainment’s Montreal office discriminated against the owner of local employee coaching firm APIE Inc. after discovering he’s a Raelian. Daniel Chabot, bishop of the Raelian Church, is seeking $10,000 in moral and exemplary damages from Ubisoft because he argues he was discriminated against based on religion. […]

Chabot said he received excellent evaluations following the first two days of training, but the third day was cancelled after an unflattering Journal de Montreal story on the Raelian movement mentioned him.

– Source: Canwest News Service, Mar. 18, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Transcendental Meditation

The city of Hartford, CT, moves to take over the decrepit downtown hotel owned by an investment arm of the late guru to the Beatles:

The Maharishi’s Empty Hotel

The clock is finally ticking for Hartford’s 1960s-era Clarion Hotel, the 12-story eyesore in spooling white concrete worthy of an Eastern Bloc nation that sits in the way of hoped-for redevelopment of Constitution Plaza downtown.

With the passage by the City Council in January of an urban renewal plan for the plaza, the building’s long-time owner, the Maharishi Global Development Fund of Fairfield, Iowa, has been put on notice that the city has begun the process to take over the hulking 12-story hotel through eminent domain. […]

The multi-billion dollar global empire of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — yes, guru to the Beatles — snatched up the abandoned hotel for $1.5 million in 1994 with promises of restoring it as a place to stay on Constitution Plaza, or perhaps remaking it into a Maharishi Vedic University, where students of transcendental meditation, which the Maharishi originated, could come to study.

Instead, exactly nothing happened for the past 15 years, resulting in the haggard, water-damaged wreck that today sits astride Kinsley Street on Columbus Boulevard.

– Source: New Haven Advocate, Mar. 12, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Jailed for 10 years, the Muslim pilot who paused to pray before taking emergency action in plane crash that killed 16

A Muslim pilot and co-pilot who paused to pray before taking emergency measures as they ditched a passenger plane in the sea, killing 16 people, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. Pilot Chafik Gharby and co-pilot Ali Kebaier were convicted of taking inadequate emergency measures by an Italian court. … A fuel-gauge malfunction was partly to blame, with technicians putting the wrong type of gauge on the plane before it took off. It meant the pilot and crew believed they had more fuel than they actually did. The plane’s engines cut out simultaneously when the fuel ran out. However prosecutors also said the pilot succumbed to panic, praying out loud instead of following emergency procedures.

– Source: The Daily Mail, Mar. 24, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The Church Around The Corner

You Pay, Computer Prays For You

Information Age Prayer is a site that charges you a monthly fee to say prayers for you. A typical charge is $4.95 per month to say three prayers specified by you each day.

“We use state of the art text to speech synthesizers to voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to typical person praying,” the company states. “Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen.”

– Source: Live Science/FOX News, Mar. 26, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


A study Bible wins ‘Christian Book of the Year’ award

The ESV Study Bible has been named the “Christian Book of the Year” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, marking the first time the honor has been given to a study Bible.

The Bible, which is in the English Standard Version, includes study notes from evangelical Christian scholars and other reference materials. Published by Crossway, it also won in the best Bible category.

– Source: USA TODAY, Mar. 24, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

• See also: John Calvin, age 499, shapes book award winners

Not That Kind Of Cult

In the seventies and eighties the term ‘cult’ made people think about destructive and/or offbeat more-or-less religious movements like the Branch Davidians (of Waco fame), the ‘Church’ of Scientology (space aliens, lying, brainwashing, money-grabbing, crimes, hate- and harassment activities, etcetera), Aum Shinrikyo (Sarin gas attacks), and Peoples Temple (mass murder/suicide).

Then came the nineties, when ‘cult apologists‘ defended such groups — often in court, and sometimes for money. These academics, who produced some attrocious material masquerading as ‘research’ tried to get rid of the term ‘cult.’ Most of these creatures have shrunk back into their lairs.

Nowadays the term ‘cult’ is as popular as ever, though some news media are a bit more politically-correct in when and how they apply it.

For background information about the history and use of the term ‘cult’ — along with related terminoloy — see our Cult FAQ.

Now, in the RNB Religion News Roundup from time to time we note some headlines that use the term not in the ‘religious’ sense, but rather to indicate, as Merriam-Webster states, “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work.” Why do we do this? Just for fun…

Pope was right to challenge the cult of the condom
The cult of the to-do list
Cult of shopping takes aim at Easter

Mormon Church

In a series of posts to the Religious Researcher blog, Apologist Robert Bowman has been taking a look at the ways Mormons try to explain the failed Missouri Temple Prophecy:

Pick an Explanation, Any Explanation: How Mormons Have Explained Joseph Smith’s Missouri Temple Prophecy

Mormons have offered a bewildering variety of explanations for the apparent failed predictive prophecy of Joseph Smith in Doctrine & Covenants 84:1-5 that a temple would be built in Independence, Missouri, before the generation living in 1832 had all died. Let me just list these various explanations. I will attempt to list them very roughly (as best I can at this point in my research) in the chronological order in which they first appear in the literature:

Heresy Hunters has posted an article by Richard Abanes — an award-winning, bestselling journalist who has authored/co-authored twenty books covering world religions, cults, the occult, pop culture, and the entertainment industry — in which he shares his views on some ODMs (i.e. Online Discernment Ministries):

ODM Update: Another Apologist Speaks Out

n one of my recent articles (see Don’t Believe Everything You Read€¦On the Internet), I noted how there now exists a certain group of online “Christians,” who under the guise of discernment/apologetics (i.e., Online Discernment Ministries), have been attacking other Christians using some of the same tactics employed by religious cultists to denounce those who are not part of their particular group. I have labeled this relatively new group of religious zealots the “Cult of Online Discernment Ministries” (ODMs).

Before I begin the following article, it should be noted as a point of reference that the tactics often used by cults to mislead and deceive their followers include: half-truths, false information, outright lies, faulty reasoning, unsubstantiated assumptions, quotes taken out of context, manipulation of facts (and concealment of facts), sensational language, fear-mongering, conspiracy theories, hate rhetoric, and verbiage that presents a rigid “us vs. them” mentality.

Such tactics are particularly useful by cultists (and ODMs) when attacking perceived enemies.

– Source:, Mar. 22, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The article is also available at The Heresy Hunter Hunters

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday March 27, 2009.
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