Religion News Roundup: Messianic cult + atomic bomb: no good; vampire stands trial; 666 license plate…

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

A brief one today. Don’t forget, follow the links before they’re gone…

Quote of the Day

You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs.

The story…

Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran—Or I Will

In an interview conducted shortly before he was sworn in today as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a challenge for Barack Obama. The American president, he said, must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and quickly—or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities itself. […]

In unusually blunt language, Netanyahu said of the Iranian leadership, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.”

History teaches Jews that threats against their collective existence should be taken seriously, and, if possible, preempted, he suggested. In recent years, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has regularly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and the supreme Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, this month called Israel a “cancerous tumor.”

But Netanyahu also said that Iran threatens many other countries apart from Israel, and so his mission over the next several months is to convince the world of the broad danger posed by Iran.

– Source: The Atlantic, Mar. 31, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Netanyahu, who clarified he would manage Israel’s relationship with Washington personally, addressed Barack Obama’s softened approach towards Iran, saying he would support the US president’s decision to engage Iran, as long as negotiations brought about a quick end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“How you achieve this goal is less important than achieving it,” he said, but he added that he was skeptical that Iran would respond positively to Obama’s appeals. […]

The article stated that Netanyahu would not suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one of his aides said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, “not years.”

– Source: Netanyahu: We don’t want messianic cult controlling nukes, Ynetnews, Israel, Apr. 1, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See also:
Iranian president backs messianic cult
Messianic Fervor Grows Among Iran’s Shiites
Iranian ‘cult’ of imam sparks controversy


In Indianna a man charged with criminal confinement and battery for injuring a 14-year-old boy during an exorcism in 2007 may plead guilty to one of the charges, thus avoiding a trial.

Plea agreement possible in Bloomington exorcism case

Police reports indicate that [Eddie] Uyesugi believed he could cure the teen’s autism by casting out demons through a religious ritual called an exorcism.

The boy’s mother agreed to the exorcism and invited Uyesugi to her home. She later reported that during the exorcism, Uyesugi beat and choked the boy, causing him to vomit. The boy’s face reportedly was swollen and bruised after the ritual, which police said lasted for hours.

Uyesugi told police that the mother told him that her son had a dozen or more demons inside and that she wanted him to pray over the boy to make them leave. Uyesugi said the teen turned violent during the event, and that he was injured when Uyesugi tried to restrain him.

– Source: Herald Times Bloomington, Indiana, Mar. 30, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

(Alleged) Vampires

Judge rules that ‘The Impaler’ will stand trial

A district judge has denied a motion to dismiss criminal charges against a man who calls himself “The Impaler” and is accused of sending harassing e-mails to a Rochester teenager in 2007.

Olmsted District Judge Joseph Chase said it is “fair and reasonable” that John Albert Sharkey stand trial on the charges. Sharkey, 44, is charged with one count of felony harassment and two counts of misdemeanor coercion.

Sharkey, who ran for Minnesota governor in 2006 under the Vampyres, Witches and Pagans party banner, notified the court he is no longer being represented by Smith or the public defender’s office. He wants to represent himself and have the court appoint a legal adviser to assist. Sharkey’s next court hearing is Monday.

Sharkey claims he created The Vampyre Nation and that he was a candidate for president. […]

“Jurors may well find the defendant to be a clownish buffoon and his alleged belief in vampires to be ridiculous,” Chase wrote in his memorandum, and jurors might also surmise that Sharkey places no more stock in this “vampire nonsense than most of us place in the Tooth Fairy, and that all of this is really his elaborate means of striking up conversations with adolescent girls.”

– Source: Post-Bulletin, Rochester, MN, Mar. 31, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Archived version of the ‘Sharkey for Governor of Minnesota” website

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses

After five years of selling off hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate holdings in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have finally bought something big: 248 acres upstate. […] All along, the Watchtower had maintained that its core headquarters would remain in Brooklyn, but the personnel shift seems to indicate otherwise. […] Whenever the move happens, it will not have been unexpected. For more than four years, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been undertaking a sell-off of Biblical proportions …

The group is respected among real estate dealers for its business acumen, the excellent condition in which it maintains its properties, and a history of keeping its cards very close to its chest.

– Source: The Brooklyn Paper, April 2, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Incidentally, some readers might be interested in the Watchtower’s warnings regarding the Internet. The information is published at a website that posts nothing but quotes from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — the organization that says it is the sole representative of Jehovah’s will on earth. The quotes — which, taken directly from the Watchtower’s publications, are fully referenced — show the organization’s flip-flops on important issues, its many failed prophecies, its beef with aluminum, and other such quackery.


Metroland sued for $65 million

Less than a month before the Dalai Lama’s visit to Albany, a group linked to the Ethical Humanitarian Foundation, which is responsible for bringing the Dalai Lama to the region, is suing Albany’s alternative newspaper Metroland for $65 million.

NXIVM (pronounced nex-ee-um) and EHF were both “conceptually founded” by local entrepreneur Keith Raniere.

NXIVM is suing over an article that ran in Metroland in March 2008 where news editor Chet Hardin attributes information to “cult expertRick Ross. The group alleges that Metroland conspired with Ross to push false information that ultimately resulted in a loss of profit totaling $5 million.

– Source: Albany Student Press Blog / The Times Union, Mar. 30, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Cult Experts

Earl Paulk

Funeral set Saturday for Earl Paulk

Archbishop Earl Paulk, a metro Atlanta pastor whose fame and megachurch ministry crumbled under accusations of sexual improprieties, will be buried Saturday. […] The 81-year-old minister died Sunday from cancer. […] His reputation began disintegrating in the early 1990s, when a series of women accused him and others at the church of manipulating them into sexual relationships. … Mona Brewer, a singer, sued him in 2005 for sexual misconduct, saying he coerced her into an affair. The suit is unresolved, but a DNA test ordered showed he fathered a son with his brother’s wife.

– Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Apr. 1, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


State agrees to replace ‘demonic’ license plate

The Nash County veteran who last week asked North Carolina officials to replace his “demonic license plate” was both shocked and satisfied by public reaction to his story.

The Telegram first posted an article online early Friday afternoon about Lenny Ruiz and his license plate from hell. The automatically generated plate number issued by the state read A666, which didn’t jive well with Ruiz or his Catholic roots.

Within an hour of the story’s posting, an official with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles contacted Ruiz and offered to replace the plate, free of charge. Previously, officials in Raleigh said the Vietnam veteran either had to keep the plate or buy a new one.

– Source: Rocky Mount Telegram, Mar. 30, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Worse than the Taliban’ – new law rolls back rights for Afghan women

Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan’s presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.

The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation by human rights activists and some MPs that it flouts the constitution’s equal rights provisions.

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.

Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban”. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said. […]

– Source: The Guardian, UK, Mar. 31, 1009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Hate Groups, George Bush, Free Speech and the ACLU

Here’s an odd situation. A law meant to stop a despicable hate group from picketing funerals (while shouting all manner of abusive slogans) was used against a couple protesting George Bush:

ACLU: Michigan funeral protest law unconstitutional

[…] The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of a 64-year-old Army veteran and his late wife.

They were arrested in 2007 in Clare County while driving in a funeral procession of a friend who was killed in Iraq. They displayed signs in their van that were critical of President Bush.

The state law was passed to stop demonstrations by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, which has protested at funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. […]

– Source: AP via, April 1, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Neo-Nazi youth group banned for trying to indoctrinate children in Germany

A neo-Nazi youth organisation that ran military-style camps to teach children as young as six that Jews are a threat to the nation was outlawed by the German Government this morning.

Amid growing fears that the far-Right is gaining ground in Germany, the Interior Ministry announced an immediate ban on Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, or German Youth Faithful to the Homeland, for attempting to indoctrinate children with racial ideology.

Police carried out dawn raids on HDJ leaders’ homes in four states to seize the organisation’s assets and extremist materials.

– Source: The Times, UK, Mar. 31, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Jews give Amish walking tours

The city’s ultra-Orthodox Jews took the Pennsylvania Amish on a walking tour of their world this week, saying their communities are naturally drawn to each other with a commitment to simpler lifestyles.

”It’s reinforcing to the Amish community to see us Jews living the way the Bible says Jews are supposed to live, and have lived since the time of Moses and Abraham,” said Yisroel Ber Kaplan, program director for the Chassidic Discovery Center in Brooklyn. ”The Amish are also living their lives as the Bible speaks to them.”

Dozens of Amish residents from Lancaster County toured a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights on Tuesday to learn more about their culture.

Rabbi Beryl Epstein called the experience ”living Judaism.”

The neighborhood is home to an ultra-Orthodox Lubavitcher sect born about 200 years ago in Russia.

– Source: AP via The Morning Call, April 2, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Quick: do the Amish and/or the ultra-Orthodox Jews use cell phones? Read the rest of the story to find out.

Also Noted

• We often point the finger at repressive regimes in Asia and Africa, but just how free is the press in Europe? Gabrielle Jaffe asks Jean-François Julliard, head of Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders).

• Police in Borikhamxay province, Laos, on March 19 destroyed a church building in Nonsomboon village while Christian residents attended a meeting called by district officials.

• eSkeptic newsletter: How We Staged the Morristown UFO Hoax

We mention this research resource from time to time…: searches for information about (religious) cults, cult-like organizations, and cults experts, — as well as paranormal-, New Age, and pseudoscientific claims — across 260+ websites, blogs and forums dedicated to cult research, spiritual abuse, ex-cult counseling & support.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 2, 2009.
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