Religion News Briefing: Widow of first televangelist dies

In this Religion News Briefing:

Widow of Rex Humbard, world’s first televangelist, dies
‘The Elect’ – Short Documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church
Wisconsin Supreme Court May Decide the Scope of Prayer Treatment Exception
Puerto Rico ordered to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses into gated communities
Agape Ministries member gets his 22,000 bullets back
Muslim hate preacher: Rugby is the devil’s game

checkmark Widow of Rex Humbard, world’s first televangelist, dies

Maude Aimee Humbard, 89, died Monday in Lantana, Fla., after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was the wife of the late Rex Humbard, the world’s first televangelist.

She was an accomplished gospel singer when met Humbard, at that time a traveling evangelist. In 1952 the couple settled in Akron, Ohio, where in 1958 they built the Cathedral of Tomorrow, one of America’s first megachurches. The church was named after Humbard’s radio and television program, which ran from 1952 through 1983 — 37 years.

Rex Humbard was known for his huge emphasis on money, along with his use of mass-mailed, personalized begging letters that were accompanied by such marketing gimmicks as ‘prayer clothes,’ ‘anointing oil,’ or even a ‘faith nail’ — all of which you keep “as a point of contact” while you mail in your prayer requests along with a donation.

Humbard is thought to have been the originator of the so-called ‘seed-faith’ theology, in which financial donations are referred to as ‘seeds’ sown into the ministry as an ‘act of faith’ which — the claim goes — God will in turn bless by giving you financial windfalls. Nowadays this scam is known as the Prosperity Gospel.

The Akron Beacon Journal says Humbard’s

television ministry was instrumental in promoting an independent Christian television station in Canton that later became the flagship for the Trinity Broadcast Network.

By the mid-1970s, the Cathedral of Tomorrow weekly Sunday broadcast aired on 2,000 television stations with more than 25 million people worldwide tuning in to hear the Rev. Humbard’s familiar admonition: “What America needs is an old-fashioned, Holy Ghost, God-sent, soul-savin’, devil-hatin’ revival!”

Rex Humbard died in 2007 at the age of 88.

checkmark ‘The Elect’ – Short Documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church

The Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kansas, is a hate group masquerading as a Christian church.

Trailer for “The Elect”

The media, along with just about everyone else, seems to have tired somewhat of this attention seeking cult, but we noted this Paste Magazine write-up on “The Elect,” a 19-minute verite-style documentary about daily life inside the controversial church:

If you find yourself pissed at news stories surrounding the Westboro Baptists, the picketers who travel around the United States and hold signs with statements such as “God hates fags,” prepare yourself to be saddened by this short documentary about the hate group. Debut directors Dan Moore and Erin Zacek take us into the everyday lives of the bigots, specifically the group’s zealous spokeswoman and her children—yes, children; 25 of the 80 members are children. Through personal interviews and inside footage—and a provocative, verite style—Moore and Zacek challenge us to not just become angry with the Westboro Baptist Church but, instead, to feel sympathy for them, especially these children who have little choice in the matter. More than anything, though, they ask us to consider what went wrong theologically, as the congregation believes wholeheartedly they’re being faithful to Scripture. Even, evidently, to what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments: love God and love people.

“The Elect” premiered at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival. Hammer to Nail last year said

The Elect delivers an experience akin to having tea with Satan in his living room. Moore and Zacek are to be commended for taking on the daunting task of evenly documenting such inflammatory material without getting drawn into confrontations or challenges. They outmaneuver Shirley Phelps by giving her plenty of rope, laying bare the sad little power trip that consumes her family’s energy and delivers so much pain and hatred into the world.

Speaking of the hate group: See this picture of nine-year-old Josef Miles, who

felt the urge to make his own counter-protest sign upon encountering protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church during Graduation Day activities Saturday on the Washburn University campus. Securing a small sketchpad and pencil from his mother, he created his own sign that read simply, “God Hates No One.”

checkmark Faith Healing: Wisconsin Supreme Court May Decide the Scope of Prayer Treatment Exception

On May 1, an appeals court recommended in a written ruling that the Wisconsin State Supreme Court hear the case of a couple convicted on reckless homicide charges for the 2008 death of their daughter.

Dale and Leilani Neumann prayed for their daughter’s healing rather than seek medical treatment her.

The State Bar of Wisconsin says

Laws protect a parent’s right to parent. Yet the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a case of first impression, may soon decide how far that right goes in a case where religious parents relied on “faith healing” to heal their sick child, and the child died. […]

In Wisconsin, like many states, parents who rely on prayer instead of traditional medical care to treat their children for injury or illness are exempt from child abuse and neglect laws under so-called “prayer treatment” or “faith-healing” exceptions. But how far does that exception go?

Robert Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at George Washington University Law School, says the Wisconsin case will turn on the complicated interplay between the state’s faith healing exception and its second-degree reckless homicide statute.

“These cases are not about religious freedom,” said Tuttle, who follows faith-healing cases, including the one pending here in Wisconsin. “It’s primarily a case that asks whether the parents were on clear notice of the point at which their protected conduct ran out.”

A state appeals court recently certified the Neumanns’ consolidated appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which could decide whether their convictions will stick.

Tuttle says these cases are hard to predict. “Even if it’s unclear when their protected conduct is no longer protected, that doesn’t necessarily mean their due process rights were violated.” […]

The state, which charged the Neumanns for second-degree reckless homicide, Wis. Stat. section 940.06, argues that the prayer treatment exception no longer applies when the child’s life is in danger. The Neumanns argue they didn’t know Madeline’s life was in danger until she died.

The question is: At what point does protected faith healing become unprotected reckless homicide? “If the child had died suddenly, then the parents probably have a good defense. But the fact is that the child’s health declined rapidly over two days,” Tuttle said.

Dale and Leilani Neumann do not belong to any organized religion or faith, but they told the Associated Press they believe in the Bible and say that healing comes from God.

At their trial a family friend testified that Leilani believed sickness was caused by sin.

Read the Appeals Court certification rulingPDF file
Research resources on faith healing

checkmark Puerto Rico ordered to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses into gated communities

The Associated Press says a U.S. court has ordered that all gated communities in Puerto Rico find a way to grant access to Jehovah’s Witnesses so they can proselytize.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement late Friday that the ruling benefits all religious, political and social groups, AP notes.

Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves to be the only true Christians. However, their organization – the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society – denies and/or contradicts several of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

There movement is therefore considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. Sociologically the movement has many cult like practices as well.

checkmark Agape Ministries member gets his 22,000 bullets back

Kevin Andrew Moore, 51, of Mount Compass, was found not guilty of seven weapons and ammunition-related offences in November and all charges were dismissed, The Advertiser reports.

But it has taken five months for police to release the firearms and ammunition at the centre of the allegations.

The weapons were apparently unrelated to those seized at the Agape Ministries property in May, 2010. Back then police searched 12 properties belonging to what was initially called a ‘doomsday cult,’ and found ammunition “hidden within the steel frames of some bed heads.”

Fugitive Agape Ministries leader Rocco Leo is said to have ‘hoodwinked’ members of the sect ito selling assets to prepare for the end of the world.

The Australian Taxation Office is pursuing Leo and his associates for $4.1 million after it stripped Agape Ministries of its tax-exempt legal status as a religion.

checkmark Muslim hate preacher: Rugby is the devil’s game

Over the years we have collected a lot of example of what we consider to be ‘religious insanity‘ — statement and actions so stupid or evil that you can’t call them ‘sane.’

Feiz Mohammad, an Australian Muslim preacher, contributes much material to this collection — much the same way an open sewer spits out lots of nasty stuff.

Among other things, this hate preacher has blamed women for being rape victims. He has called on youngsters to give up their lives in jihad, calls Jews ‘pigs,’ and has incited Muslim followers in the Netherlands to behead Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

All of it in the name of (his interpretation of) Islam, of course.

His latest bit of foolishness is an attack on Australia’s Rugby League. He calls rugby the devil’s game, and says rugby fans are devil followers who are hypnotized and seduced by an evil sport. Oh, and the ball is the devil as well.

We can laugh, of course, but as news from around the world has shown us, fanatical hate preachers like this are extremely dangerous as they are all too often able to incite unstable minds into acts of terrorism on behalf of the ‘religion of peace.’

Feiz Muhammad: Extremist Ideologue with Influence in the West


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday May 16, 2012.
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