RNB Religion News Roundup: Scientology abuse exposed; Burka ban considered

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.

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If you have noticed fewer articles and roundups being posted to Religion News Blog, it’s because we are on vacation.

We’re in a place with lots of sun, sand and sea, perfect Pina Colada’s and wonderful food. The only drawback is that the Internet is powered by two donkeys and a squirrel — a far cry from the 120 mbps/sec connection we enjoy back home.

Hence, fewer articles for the time being.

That said, we aim to post a few roundup’s a week, along with regular Twitters.


The St. Petersburg Times continues its 3-part exposé of the Church of Scientology — an movement we at Religion News Blog consider to be a criminal enterprise masquerading as a religion. Monday’s installment deals with the death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson, considered by many to be a victim of a) Scientology’s quackery, b) the hate group’s fight again psychiatry, and c) the cult’s desire to protect its long-running scam.

Death in slow motion: Part 2 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

The night after Lisa McPherson died, the leader of the Church of Scientology sent word for one of his top lieutenants to wait by a pay phone at the Holiday Inn Surfside on Clearwater Beach.

When Marty Rathbun answered the ringing phone in the lobby, David Miscavige let him have it:

Why aren’t you all over this mess? The police are poking around. Do something.

“Yes sir,” Rathbun said.

Now, for the first time, comes an inside account from the upper ranks of Scientology — from the man who directed the church’s handling of the case.

Rathbun, who defected from Scientology’s staff in late 2004, admits that as prosecutors and attorneys for McPherson’s family prepared subpoenas, he ordered the destruction of incriminating evidence about her care at the Fort Harrison.

He and others who have left the church disclose for the first time that Miscavige was involved in McPherson’s Scientology counseling. Just weeks before her mental breakdown, they say, it was the leader himself who determined that she had reached an enhanced mental state that Scientologists call “clear.”

For years Rathbun was adamant that the church did nothing wrong. Now he says that McPherson’s care was a debacle from the start. It was a “perfect storm of incompetence and irresponsibility” within the church, he said. “You couldn’t justify it.”

He disclosed that the church was prepared to pay almost any price to make the case go away.

– Source / Full Story: Newspaper series alleges ‘physical violence’ by leaders of Church of Scientology, Thomas C. Tobin and Joe Childs, St. Petersburg Times, June 22, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Scientology: Ecclesiastical justice, Part 3 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

The four high-ranking executives who left Scientology say that church leader David Miscavige not only physically attacked members of his executive staff, he messed with their minds.

He frequently had groups of managers jump into a pool or a lake. He mustered them into group confessions that sometimes spun into free-for-alls, with people hitting one another.

Mike Rinder, who defended the church to the media for two decades, couldn’t stomach what was happening on the inside.

The tactics to keep executives in line “are wrong from a Scientology viewpoint,” said Rinder, who walked away two years ago. “They are not standard practice of Scientology. They are just not humanitarian. And they are just outright evil.”

– Source / Full Story: Scientology: Ecclesiastical justice, Part 3 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology, Thomas C. Tobin and Joe Childs, St. Petersburg Times, June 23, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

See Also:
Church of Scientology investigation gets worldwide response
• ReligionLink, published by the Religion Newswriters Foundation, has published a Guide to Scientology. Buyer beware: the guide includes links to sites operated by the Church of Scientology or its front groups. Too, some of the people listed as resources are known cult apologistsacademics who support dangerous groups.


The ‘religion of peace’ has made another victim:

British man snatched over religion

A British engineer kidnapped in Yemen by armed killers was part of an evangelical group that may have been targeted as an act of revenge for its attempts to convert local Muslims to Christianity.

His captors have already killed three women members of the group and abducted a married couple and their three young children.

– Source / Full Story: British man snatched over religion, The Times, June 21, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

French parliament to consider burka ban

PARIS, France (CNN) — The French National Assembly announced on Tuesday the creation of a parliamentary inquiry into whether women in France should be allowed to wear the burka.

A cross-party panel of 32 lawmakers will investigate whether the traditional Muslim garment poses a threat to the secular nature of the French constitution, Agence France-Presse reported. They are due to report back with their recommendations in six months.

The announcement follows the signing of a petition by 57 lawmakers calling for a study into the feasibility of legislation to ban the burka in public places.

On Monday French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared in a keynote parliamentary address that the burka, which covers women from head to toe, is “not welcome” in France.

“The problem of the burka is not a religious problem. This is an issue of a woman’s freedom and dignity. This is not a religious symbol. It is a sign of subservience; it is a sign of lowering. I want to say solemnly, the burka is not welcome in France,” Sarkozy told lawmakers.

The right of Muslim women to cover themselves is fiercely debated in France, which has a large Muslim minority but also a staunchly secular constitution. […]

France is not the only European Union country to have considered banning the burka. Dutch lawmakers voted in favor of a ban in 2005, although the government of the time was defeated in elections before it could pass legislation to outlaw the garment.

– Source / Full Story: French parliament to consider burka ban, CNN, June 23, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

The publishers of Religion News Blog support a ban on the burka. Islam is, for the most part, an intolerant religion that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Muslims to intergrate — and the Burka greatly contributes to this problem. The costume is not prescribed by the Qu’ran, and even if it were, this style of dress allows people to withdraw from the norms of the society in which they live. Western society should not give up its norms and values — certainly not for a religion whose intolerance towards those who think and believe differently leads to outrageous, uncivilized behavior around the world.

See also:
Burqa ban: What Barack Obama could learn from Nicolas Sarkozy about Islam

Mary Winkler

Winkler, in-laws spar over trust funds

Attorneys for Mary Winkler on Monday raised questions about trust fund money for her children that was used to pay legal fees for her in-laws, Dan and Diane Winkler. In a hearing before a chancellor, the attorneys said those funds should be paid back. A trial on the matter continues in Chancery Court today before Chancellor Ron Harmon. […]

Mary Winkler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting her husband, 31-year-old Church of Christ minister Matthew Winkler, at their Selmer home in March 2006.

Sentenced to three years in prison, she received probation for most of it, spending only 12 days in jail after her sentencing and two months in a mental health facility before being released.

Mary Winkler regained legal custody of her three daughters, ages 11, 9 and 3, in September 2008. They previously had been living with their grandparents, Dan and Diane Winkler, and had court-ordered visits with their mother.

– Source / Full Story: Winkler, in-laws spar over trust funds, The Jackson Sun, June 23, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Religion Trends

Online Evangelists Tap Millions Looking for God

Two million people look for God each day — not in church, but in a search. “The number is staggering,” said Mark Weimer, a self-described techie evangelist whose ministry has tapped the Internet to capture those looking for spiritual answers.

Weimer is CEO of Global Media Outreach, the technology arm of Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI), which hosts 91 Web sites in 11 languages to spread the “good news.”

Global Outreach estimates that 1 in 1,000 Internet searchers is looking for information about God. Just last year, their sites had 3 million visitors. On an average day, sites like Jesus2020 get 150,000 visitors, and about 25,000 of them click a button to say they want to learn more. Of those about 5,000 a day fill in a form so an online missionary can contact them via e-mail. […]

– Source / Full Story: Online Evangelists Tap Millions Looking for God, ABC News, June 22, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Two-thirds of teenagers don’t believe in God… and think reality TV is more important

Nearly two-thirds of teenagers don’t believe in God and think that reality television is far more important than religion, new research has revealed.

The survey showed that 66 per cent of teens do not believe a deity exists while 50 per cent have never prayed and 16 per cent have never been to church.

Teenagers rated family, friends, money, music and even reality TV shows above faith.

Other statistics which emerged from the report included:

• 59 per cent of children believed religion has had a negative influence on the world
• 60 per cent only go to church for a wedding or christening
• Only 30 per cent of teenagers think there is an afterlife…
• … while 10 per cent believe in reincarnation
• 47 per cent said organised religion had no place in the world
• 60 per cent don’t believe Religious Studies should be compulsory in schools
• However, 91 per cent agreed they should treat others the way they wished to be treated themselves

The study of 1,000 teenagers aged 13 to 18 was carried out by Penguin books.

– Source / Full Story: Two-thirds of teenagers don’t believe in God… and think reality TV is more important, The Daily Mail, UK, June 22, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Ever So Briefly

Saudi Arabia’s religious police have shown the limits of their tolerance by arresting 67 Filipino men at a drag party. The men were rounded up after police raided a party at a villa in Riyadh held to celebrate the Philippines’ independence day. The kingdom, run in accordance with a strict interpretation of Sharia law, has become more liberal in recent years.

Germany has discovered it has more Muslims than suspected, with a government survey concluding on Tuesday that about 5 per cent of the entire population was Islamic.

A Christian hospital worker who was ordered to remove a crucifix “which could harbour infection” has left her job in protest. Devout Helen Slatter, 43, was told by Gloucestershire Royal Hospital the necklace posed a health and safety risk and could even be used as weapon. Ms Slatter, a blood sampler – or phlebologist – was not content to accept the hospital’s offer that she wear the emblem in her pocket and has now resigned.

A woman sexually assaulted by the Rev. Donald Dean Budd in 2003 and 2005 has sued the former pastor and the governing body that supervised him in civil court. […] Beach claims the church was at fault for not investigating her claims that Budd had an inappropriate sexual relationship with her in 2003 and 2005 while she sought spiritual guidance in the wake of her grandfather’s death. As a result of Budd’s sexual misconduct and the church’s alleged negligence, the lawsuit claims she lost her faith in God and suffered emotional distress as well as physical injury, including anxiety, sleeplessness and headaches.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday June 23, 2009.
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