RNB’s Religion News Roundup: faith healing, witchcraft, exorcism and more…

RNB Religion News Roundup: a compendium of blurbs and links to, for the most part, religion-related stories and religion research resources.

You’ll find religion news stories ranging from serious to seriously offbeat, along with pointers to religion research resources.

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• Also, read About RNB’s Religion News Roundup for some info about the material on this page

Faith Healing

• A jury has been picked for the Neumann faith healing trial: Opening statements will be held Saturday morning in the case against Leilani Neumann. Her 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann died from untreated diabetes while she prayed for her recovery.

• From PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly: BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: This week (May 14) in Wausau, Wisconsin, jury selection began in the trial of a mother charged with reckless homicide. She relied only on God, not a doctor, to heal her sick daughter. The girl died. The mother was a member of a sect that teaches reliance on faith and prayer alone to heal. She was not a Christian Scientist, which does not forbid medical treatment. Christian Scientists are also active in trying to create legislation that balances the state’s duty to protect children with parents’ trust in God. But should there be any exemptions from prosecution because of religious faith? Lucky Severson reports….


• The Prime Minister of Tanzania, Mr Mizengo Pinda, has residents to abandon the superstitious belief that one can transfer crops from one farm to another. He also said it was surprising that in this era of science and technology people have been embracing superstition. “You should stop believing that someone can steal crops and send them to his or her farm miraculously or every person who dies has been bewitched; there is nothing like it in this century,” said Mr Pinda.The Citizen

• Nigeria: Self-styled Bishop, Sunday Okon Williams, who allegedly killed 110 children in Akwa Ibom State, in an attempt to exorcise witchcraft from them, was yesterday arraigned before an Oron High Court, along with four others. They are facing torture and murder charges. Williams, founder of a spiritual healing home at Ibaka, Mbo Local Government area, was arrested November last year, following a documentary: Saving Africa’s Witch Children,” broadcast by the United Kingdom (UK) Channel 4 station on November 12, 2008. In the documentary, the accused, during an interview, allegedly admitted killing more than 110 children in Akwa Ibom State, as he claimed to possess the power to exorcise witchcraft spirits from children.


The stolen concrete lion statue that was said to be the cause of a curse on a Wainuiomata woman looked much happier after it was returned to its Wairarapa home, a jury has been told. … Ms Wright was giving evidence at the trial where her mother and eight of her relatives are charged with the manslaughter of Janet Moses, 22, at Wainuiomata on October 12, 2007. Ms Moses allegedly drowned during a water-based ritual to cleanse her of evil spirits. A kaumatua had told the family that the lion, which Ms Moses’ sister had taken from the Greytown hotel a few weeks earlier, should be returned as part of the process of making Ms Moses better.

Catholic Church

A court in Jerusalem on Monday threw out a lawsuit against visiting Pope Benedict XVI filed by two far-right Israelis who claim treasures plundered from Jewish people over the centuries are held in the Vatican. Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir had named Benedict as a leading defendant in the criminal complaint, accusing him and other top Roman Catholic officials of receiving and possessing stolen goods.Middle East Online

A Roman Catholic archbishop who resigned in 2002 over a sex and financial scandal involving a man describes his struggles with being gay in an upcoming memoir about his decades serving the church. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, former head of the Milwaukee archdiocese, said in an interview Monday that he wrote about his sexual orientation because he wanted to be candid about “how this came to life in my own self, how I suppressed it, how it resurrected again.” Called “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop,” the book is set to be released in June.


A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty to conducting a cyber attack on Church of Scientology Web sites in January 2008. Prosecutors say 19-year-old Dmitriy Guzner of Verona entered his plea to computer hacking charges on Monday in Newark. … Guzner faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing Aug. 24.AP

Religious Insanity

• A psychologist testifying in the trial of Amy Hebert, a mother who stabbed her 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter to death after her husband told her he was planning to marry another woman, says Hebert, a devout Evangelical Christian, told him during a series of jailhouse interviews last year that she was following the voice of God when she fatally stabbed her daughter, her mildly autistic son and the family’s dog, Princess. The testimony came on the trial’s seventh day. “Ms. Hebert was and is a religious woman,” Ahava said. “She had a delusion that God was speaking to her. She believed that by sacrificing her life, her children’s lives and the dog’s life she was following God’s will.” WWLTV


• In an item titled, Atheists in Foxholes, the BBC figures that [d]espite the apparent weakening of church membership in the United States, the American government is probably some way from following the Netherlands in appointing army chaplains who don’t believe in God. There are thirty humanists serving in the Dutch armed forces. It is a relatively small military served nevertheless by 90 Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy, two Hindu pandits, two imams and two rabbis. Eline, a thirty year old air force captain, is serving in southern Afghanistan with 2,000 Dutch soldiers. She is clear about her atheism.

Tony Alamo

A follower of jailed evangelist Tony Alamo has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of failing to register as a sex offender. Jonathon Patrick Curry pleaded guilty to the charge Thursday in federal court at Fort Smith. Forty-nine-year-old Curry could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


• Under the heading, “God is Back: Taking on Satan, US-style,” The Times has posted an excerpt from a book whose authors claims that Pentecostalism has Islam and the Catholic Church on the run in many parts of the world: Pentecostalism is the great religious success story of the 20th century. It is not just spreading in Asia and Latin America: in large swaths of Africa Pentecostalism is expanding faster than Islam. It is also expanding twice as fast as Roman Catholicism, and three times as fast as other forms of Protestantism in Africa. The evidence of this can be seen everywhere in the developing world: from churches the size of football stadiums across Latin America to 12,000-acre “redemption camps” in Nigeria. Across the world fiery preachers are delivering the same message: live your life according to God’s law, read the Bible as the literal word of Truth, watch out for miracles and wonders and, above all, prepare yourself for the end of history and the beginning of the millennium.

The book is called God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World [or buy from Amazon.co.uk]

See also: God is back: How Ned Flanders won the evangelical crusade


• The folks at ReligionLink provide resources for religion reporters — a free service from the Religion Newswriters Foundation. The Morality of Prisoner Abuse: Is torture ever justified? The answer is clear to American believers—but for some that answer is clearly “yes,” for others it is definitely “no.” And that stark moral divide is shaping a debate that is growing more intense even years after the first revelations of prisoner abuse.

We think it is profoundly sad that such a question even needs to be asked by people in a civilized society — particularly in a country that constantly chides the rest of the world on what it perceives to be human rights violations. Even sadder is that a recent survey shows people unaffiliated with any religious group were least likely to back torture.

See also:
The US and Torture
Poll: On torture, evangelicals not looking to Bible, doctrine

Ever so briefly

A man in Bristol has captured video footage of what he believes to be a UFO flying over Britain.


Here’s what Religion News Blog’s editors twittered recently:

• Radical Muslims guilty of firebomb plot on publisher of Mohammed book: http://cli.gs/Ld3atN

• Anti-gay Westboro church to protest in South Florida: http://cli.gs/mqDTqH

• South Africa drops Dalai Lama visit ban: http://cli.gs/dL497L

• Pope slams Holocaust denial: http://cli.gs/XJU7T4

• Judge to decide if family can refuse, on religious grounds, chemo for son: http://cli.gs/jELZAs

• Polygamy Practiced Openly In American Towns: http://cli.gs/rrV4Pm

• Cambridge drops ‘too religious’ grace: http://cli.gs/ndhLpX

• Follower of jailed evangelist Tony Alamo pleads guilty to federal charge: http://cli.gs/p8bVgW

• Ongoing coverage of New Zealand exorcism death trial: http://cli.gs/HQj77m

• What Turns People Into Spiritual Virtuosos? : http://cli.gs/2sAQq0

• The punk rocker with ‘industrial-strength spirituality’: http://cli.gs/b31g7P

• ‘I spent 12 years in a cave’: http://cli.gs/VSeYJS

• FLDS sect lawyers claim raid on their ranch was planned before warrant: http://cli.gs/D79DdM

• Baha’is say jailed leaders in Iran face harsh new accusation:http://cli.gs/znWXVB

• Pastor sues his own church members: http://cli.gs/mq2u62

• Man gets house arrest for role in ‘cult rescue’ abduction: http://cli.gs/5hG0Dh

• Reading, Writing, and Original Sin: http://cli.gs/9h8JzH

• Al Qaeda calls for Islamic rule after Yemen violence: http://cli.gs/dRB8Qm

• Judge refuses to throw out charges against DC mosque bookkeeper: http://cli.gs/u8jVNy ago

• Danish bus firm tells Muslim women to remove their veils: http://cli.gs/9m4qee

• Building New Mosques Encounters Resistance in Europe: http://cli.gs/mzbs4B

• Islamic finance has ‘key role’ to play restoring confidence in financial markets http://cli.gs/Ju4t7v

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday May 15, 2009.
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