Religion News Roundup: Bono, Dalai Lama, Trade Union for Wizards, more

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

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Today’s Notable Quote

I come to lowly church halls and lofty cathedrals for what purpose? I search the Scriptures to what end? To check my head? My heart? No, my soul. For me these meditations are like a plumb line dropped by a master builder — to see if the walls are straight or crooked. I check my emotional life with music, my intellectual life with writing, but religion is where I soul-search.
– Source: It’s 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is? by Bono (Opinion), New York Times, April 18, 2009

Buddhism / NXIVM

Representative explains why Dalai Lama will come to Albany

The Dalai Lama had been scheduled to appear today through Wednesday in Albany. He canceled those appearances because of negative publicity connected to the sponsoring organization, a Dalai Lama representative wrote in an e-mail Friday.

Yet days after scrubbing his April appearances in Albany, the Dalai Lama agreed to give a public talk May 6 at the Palace Theatre sponsored by the same organization, the Ethical Humanitarian Foundation (the World Ethical Foundations Consortium is an EHF initiative).

Lobsang Nyandak, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas, explained the Dalai Lama’s change of heart in an e-mail:

“A delegation from the World Ethical Foundation Consortium recently met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala to discuss His Holiness’s proposed visit to Albany, which adverse publicity had caused to be postponed,” Nyandak wrote. “The delegation expressed sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused by their association with the Albany plans. They took the opportunity to clarify the background to the allegations that had been made against them and explained that their basic outlook is rooted in a proper sense of ethics based on truth, contentment and giving help to those in need. […]

“Taking everything into consideration, His Holiness feels committed to supporting the expression of worthy ideals. Therefore, he has agreed to visit Albany on May 6th where he will give a public talk.”

The EHF’s and WEFC’s co-founders, Sara and Clare Bronfman, the Seagram liquor heiresses, are affiliated with NXIVM, a Colonie-based company that conducts personal-growth training courses. Keith Raniere, the EHF’s and WEFC’s “conceptual founder,” is the founder of NXIVM.

Critics say NXIVM (pronounced NEX-ee-um) is a cult-like organization that employs psychologically damaging mind-control techniques. Raniere’s supporters say those accusations are unfounded. Numerous media accounts in recent years have pointed to the controversy surrounding Raniere and NXIVM.

– Source: Times Union, April 18, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Russian wizards seek trade union

MOSCOW — Wizards and psychics accustomed to working in the world beyond want to conjure up a trade union in Russia to manage their earthly employment worries, the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported. … Vladimir Yegorov, head of Russia’s folk medicine association, voiced scepticism that Russia would see an official wizards’ union anytime soon. “Trade unions are necessary where there are employers. But here we have no plants, no faith-healer factories. We have only individual entrepreneurs,” Yegorov told the daily.

– Source: AFP (France) via The Times (South Africa), Apr. 6, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The Family (Children of God)

20-year bid for answers

The brother of a woman found dead in Toorak Village wants the coronial inquest reopened 20 years later, amid claims a cult was involved.

Cypra Helmer’s naked and bloodied body was found on a busy street in 1988, while her clothes were in a car park two storeys above the scene. […]

No one saw the 37-year-old fall, but she left a note and investigating police concluded it was suicide. […]

But later this week her brother, Moscow-based journalist Dr John Helmer, will take the unusual step of asking a Supreme Court judge to reopen the inquest.

Dr Helmer claims to have new evidence that could point to investigative failures and, possibly, foul play. He has hired a legal team including solicitor Zarah Garde-Wilson.

Dr Helmer claims to have uncovered links between his sister and the notorious religious cult The Family.

Dr Helmer said a purported suicide note warranted analysis of who wrote it and when.

He believes a line in the note about “Their Will” is a reference to pressure from members of The Family. […]

– Source: Herald Sun, Australia, Apr. 15, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Pastor charged in beating of woman

Jackson County prosecutors on Friday accused a 54-year-old pastor in the beating of a woman that left her with a deep head wound and severed artery.

Prosecutors charged Alfred F. White of Kansas City with first-degree domestic assault. […]

When police arrived, the victim said she had been beaten all day and kicked out of a silver truck by her “baby daddy,” whom she identified as the pastor of the Community Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kan., police said. The woman then suffered a seizure. […]

According to court records, White allegedly picked up the victim in his truck and an argument erupted over whether he was the father of her child.

– Source: The Kansas City Star, April 17, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog


Guantanamo guard converts to Islam

As a prison guard at Guantanamo Bay, Terry Holdbrooks witnessed the inhumane treatment of detainees who resolutely kept their faith. It was an observation that led the Phoenix, Arizona native to convert to Islam – News 24, France


The American Way

Since Sept. 11, 2001, when [America’s] attention understandably turned to terrorism, nearly 120,000 Americans have been killed in nonterror homicides, most of them committed with guns.

Think about it — 120,000 dead. That’s nearly 25 times the number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the most part, we pay no attention to this relentless carnage. The idea of doing something meaningful about the insane number of guns in circulation is a nonstarter. So what if eight kids are shot to death every day in America. So what if someone is killed by a gun every 17 minutes.

The goal of the National Rifle Association and a host of so-called conservative lawmakers is to get ever more guns into the hands of ever more people.

– Source: Bob Herbert, Opinion, New York Times, Apr. 13, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Religion writers planning to address that kind of lunacy will appreciate these resources provided by the Religion News Writers Association:

Ten years after Columbine: gun violence, moral questions

The 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre falls on April 20, and April 16 marks two years since the devastating shooting at Virginia Tech, which claimed the lives of 32 people. That remains the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in United States history. But a series of eight gun attacks in March and early April killed more than 50 people and has again raised concerns about violence in American society and the morality of gun control.

– Source: ReligionLink, Religion Newswriters Association

Ever So Briefly

• Members of an Ohio church have pitched in to raise more than $625,000 for fellow worshippers who have lost their jobs.

• A vandal beheaded the Virgin Mary statue outside a Santa Monica church where Gov. Arnold Schwarzegger is among worshippers.

• In Australia two knife-wielding teenagers wearing pink pyjamas and slippers have robbed two girls and a mother on their way home from a church.

• The National University of Singapore has put up a notice “warning” students of a headless woman ghost in the campus, reported Sin Chew Daily.

• Sony Corporation has inadvertently invited the wrath of many Hindu groups by releasing its new video console game “Hanuman: Boy Warrior” for its PlayStation2. The Hindus from many parts of the world are feeling hurt and angry that Sony has used the Hindu god as the protagonist in the video game.

• Stephanie Meyer, the writer behind the wildly successful Twilight book, is being sued by a former friend for plagiarism–and production on the follow up, New Moon has been halted as a result. Heidi Stanton, who studied alongside Meyer at Brigham Young University in Utah claims Meyers stole the vampire story from her because it’s very similar to a short story she wrote while they were attending college together.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 20, 2009.
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