Japan’s Public Security Examination Commission wants to extend its official watch over the cult Aum for another two years, reports the Japan Times.

Aum’s founder and one-time guru Chizuo Matsumoto is still on trial for the 1995 gassing of Tokyo’s subway system, which resulted in twelve deaths and thousands of victims hospitalized.

Matsumoto once called himself “Shoko Asahara” and ruled over thousands of disciples, who were so enthralled with him, they even bought his bath water. Now the guru is in jail and likely to receive a death sentence, as have some of his key subordinates.

Matsumoto created an odd eclectic composite religion based upon his own idiosyncrasies. Aum included apocalyptic predictions and pieces of Christianity, Buddhism and neo-Eastern mysticism.

Aum still has more than 1,000 adherents in Japan.

The Japanese group is a frightening historical example of what dire consequences are possible when a cult obtains weapons of mass destruction.

It seems reasonable given Aum’s horrific history that officials want to watch the group closely for years to come. Of course some apologists might call this “persecution,” but it really is simply common sense.

The Mormon Church (LDS) has mounted a concerted campaign to get its faithful fulminating.

LDS lost a court decision, which prevents them from controlling free speech at a plaza adjacent to their downtown temple in Salt Lake City. So now they want the easement erased that provided for such freedoms.

If you can’t win, why not change the rules of the game?

It looks live the city council may ultimately go along and give LDS what it wants. Phone calls, emails and letters are flooding in from faithful Mormons responding to their church’s call, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Mayor Anderson has said “No” to the church, a word that they apparently find difficult to accept. But the mayor is being worn down by the carefully planned campaign and may not have the support of the city council.

One resident wrote in to the Tribune, that the plaza is really a “façade,” it actually forms the roof of a parking garage for temple users.

However, another “façade” that seems evident in Salt Lake City, is the illusion that some residents may have that their city government is independent. Instead, it increasingly looks like the city council acts as a “façade” for Mormon interests.

And that façade appears to be cracking.

According to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals two parents were correctly designated “unfit” in a lower court ruling, which transferred custody of their child to state social services, reports the Associated Press.

The parents are members of a destructive “cult” called “The Body” led by Roland Robidoux. The group does not accept modern medicine and the couple’s child died due to medical neglect during a home birth.

Another child also died within the group due to starvation. A parent connected to that death is now serving a life sentence for murder.

“The Body” has proven repeatedly that it is a deeply destructive group with dire consequences for children. What can be seen from this group’s history is that adults under the influence of an extreme “cult” may become irrational and even criminal.

Children born or brought into such “cults” often cannot rely upon their parents to exercise good judgement and protect them. And frequently social services and the courts are their last hope for meaningful help.

Sadly, authorities were not able to help two children within “The Body.” Their lives were tragically cut short because of the mindset promoted by the group’s leader Roland Robidoux.

However, though parents have been charged and/or restricted by the courts, nothing has been done regarding Robidoux, who is clearly the root cause of these tragedies.

In the case of Charles Manson and his “Family,” the cult leader was criminally prosecuted and convicted for the influence he held over group members, which ultimately led them to murder.

Why hasn’t Roland Robidoux been charged? How many more innocents may suffer before a prosecutor takes action against this “cult” leader?

Is Scientology hard up for new members?

Despite claims that it has “millions” of adherents some critics have said its total membership may be less than 100,000 and shrinking.

So what do businesses often do when they have a slump? They increase advertising and look for new markets.

Now the Church of Scientology is engaged in an ongoing ad campaign seemingly focused upon recruiting college students.

Scientology is recognized as a “church” in the United States, but considered otherwise in many countries.

And now it seems to be acting more like a business than a church. Scientology is paying for splashy ads placed within college newspapers. The inserted promotions have been run at US colleges, but are now finding their way to an expanded market in other countries.

This has caused controversy at some campuses, but Scientology’s frequent response to any criticism is that it reflects “religious bigotry.”

Controversy emerged again when ads were run promoting the “science” of “Dianetics” at Oxford in Great Britain. One official said that accepting the ad was “profoundly irresponsible.”

But the editor replied that to do otherwise would be “religious bigotry and intolerance,” reports the Oxford Student.

What is Dianetics?

Dianetics is the so-called “science” created by sci-fi writer and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard’s creation has also been called “pseudo-science.” However, by making his “science” a religion Mr. Hubbard conveniently sidestepped the need to prove his claims through any credible peer-reviewed scientific research.

After decades of critical media reports Scientology seems to prefer buying its own press through paid advertising. And it also appears to have joined the ranks of other groups called “cults” that work colleges and universities for new recruits.

Students should know that Scientology can be expensive. And any student that take its courses is likely to find this out.

In Ireland a cautionary story recently emerged, reported within the Irish Times. A woman who took Scientology courses later sued them. She said they hurt her through “mind control techniques.” One man who made similar claims in the United States ultimately won his lawsuit and received $8.7 million dollars.

So has the Church of Scientology embraced targeted marketing as an article of faith?

Recruiting at the better colleges might be lucrative. Some students have extra cash, or at least credit cards. And after college many are likely to earn good salaries.

However, should a “church” be so concerned with expanding its customer client base?

Apparently the church that Hubbard built is concerned. Scientology seems engaged in a rather concerted effort to expand its market share amongst the demographic group most often targeted by groups called “cults.”

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo caused a scandal when he married a follower of Rev. Moon in a mass wedding officiated by the “cult leader.” It is unclear if that marriage was ever consummated.

But after more than a year of rehabilitation and maybe some “deprogramming” the prelate is back in action. He renounced his marriage and explained that he might have been “brainwashed.”

Ironically his former “Moonie” bride claimed it was the Catholic Church who “brainwashed” her husband and is now controlling him through undue influence.

It is somewhat bizarre that the Unification Church, so often accused of “brainwashing,” would now be willing to offer this as an explanation for the bishop’s change of heart. Rev. Moon and his apologists have often said there is no such thing as “cult brainwashing.”

Apparently when someone rejects them, such a position can be revised.

Milingo is now approved to resume his clerical duties. He recently led his first mass in some time, reports Reuters.

Looking back over the curious saga of the bishop and the “cult,” it seems what started as a clever propaganda ploy ultimately backfired on the Unification Church. They not only lost the bishop, but “lost face” too.

Instead of getting good press for the Rev. Moon, Milingo’s story proved once again that the church often engages in strange behavior. However, it’s doubtful that its would-be “messiah” will mend his ways.

More likely is that Bishop Milingo has learned something about the world of cults through his painful personal experience. And perhaps the Pope and his Curia have come to realize that even a bishop can be vulnerable to “mind control.”

Four environmental extremists have been arrested for arson in connection to acts of domestic terrorism, reports KATU TV.

At least one of those charged has ties to the well-known radical group called “Earth Liberation Front” (ELF).

ELF has repeatedly been linked to acts of criminal violence, including a fire in Vail Colorado that remains the most destructive act of eco-terrorism in US history.

Charged but still free, is Tre Arrow. Once a congressional candidate, he is now a fugitive.

Authorities acted upon information provided by a friend of one of the suspects.

It seems that radicals like Arrow are unwilling to accept the democratic process. Rather than run for office on an environmental platform and accept the results, they apparently prefer bombs to the ballot box.

Some former members of radical groups like ELF say they are similar to “cults.” That is, members often appear to be “brainwashed” through intensive indoctrination programs sponsored by such groups.

Radical environmental groups like ELF seem to effectively recruit from amongst initially mainstream activists, who they then draw to the fringe and mold to their mindset.

Ironically, ELF claims it wants to “save the planet,” but in practice is destroying property and terrorizing citizens. Their philosophy, not unlike destructive cults, appears to be “the end justifies the means.”

As the United States conducts a “War on Terror” it is important to fight all terrorists, both foreign and domestic. A group like ELF is to environmentalism what Osama bin-Laden is to mainstream Islam. It seems they simply use ecological concern as a façade for violence.

It seems that the Mormon Church can’t take no for an answer.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected church rules to control behavior around a plaza adjacent to their historic downtown Salt Lake City temple. The court said such rules restricting free speech were unconstitutional.

Apparently sensing they are unlikely to receive a reversal from the Supreme Court, the Mormon Church (LDS) is now attempting what looks like an end run, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The LDS has launched an intense campaign using its substantial influence over church members to change city regulations. They want the faithful to lobby their political leaders to alter an easement that provides unfettered speech around their plaza.

An LDS spokesman put it this way, “The church isn’t going to exert its influence on the politics. The citizens of this city are going to exert their influence on the people they put in office.”


But since so many of Salt Lake’s citizens are faithful Mormons the implications are obvious.

The Rev. Tom Goldsmith of Salt Lake City’s First Unitarian Church said, “Having lost in court, they’re now taking their losing battle to the Mormon people. It’s religious politics at its most deplorable. Salt Lake is being run like a theocracy.”

A joke amongst some non-Mormons living in Utah, is the analogy that life there is so controlled by the church it’s somewhat like living behind the “Iron Curtain,” during the Cold War. But instead Utah exists behind its own “Zion Curtain.”

City Mayor Rocky Anderson refused to roll over for LDS leaders. He later explained, “I hear a lot from people that this is one of those rare instances where an elected official has said ‘no’ to a request of The Church of Jesus Christ.” He added, “There are some members of the City Council more interested in doing the bidding of the religious organization to which they belong than they are in representing the best interests of the city as a whole.”

Once Joseph Smith the founder of the Mormon Church, was its “prophet,” “revelator” and also Commander and Chief of the Mormon militia and Mayor of Nauvoo. He ran everything in Nauvoo, which was a “theocracy.” Later Brigham Young essentially continued that tradition in Utah. Only the federal government challenged such control. Church leaders subsequently adapted their society and pragmatically did what was necessary to achieve statehood.

Utah’s elected officials are still almost always Mormons. No one else has ever had meaningful power in that state. An LDS spokesman said, “I’m mystified as to why this has been a controversy at all.” Maybe he’s right.

Kip McKean; the founder of what was once the most rapidly growing group called a “cult” in the United States has resigned as its leader. McKean’s “International Church of Christ” grew from only a handful of devoted followers in the late 70s, to more than 100,000 within “170 nations,” according to its former head.

The ICC began 23 years ago and was once known as the “Boston Church of Christ” or “Boston Movement.” McKean started the group shortly after he was let go as a campus minister by the Houston Memorial church of Christ. The church ceased to support McKean largely for the same “sins” he now freely admits to. But more importantly due to the doctrines he taught.

In a resignation announcement now widely circulated through the Internet McKean admitted that his “biggest sin is arrogance.” He also said he “fostered an environment where people were afraid to speak up.”

But perhaps the most compelling reason for his resignation can be attributed to McKean’s admitted but unspecified “sins” that “surfaced” within his family, culminating in concern about their “spiritual condition.”

Interestingly, this is not the first time a leader of the movement has stepped down due to unspecified “sins.” The first such scandal was Chuck Lucas of the Cossraods church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida, who was McKean’s mentor.

Marty Wooten a leader of the ICC church in Los Angeles once claimed that there was “no greater discipler, disciple, brother, husband, father, leader, and friend than Kip McKean.” Wooten was apparently wrong. And according to recent reports he has also left leadership.

Steve Johnson another admirer of McKean once stated, “With eyes wide open I’m following Kip McKean; Consciously, Intentionally.” Johnson seems to have followed his idol out the door. Reports say he has left a key ICC leadership slot in New York.

In what looks increasingly like a “palace coup” many top ICC leaders closely associated with McKean appear to be moving on with their maker.

The ICC teaches a controversial form of “discipleship” that requires every member to have a “discipleship partner” selected for them by the group. This system has been criticized as an extreme means of controlling people. Former members have compared it to “brainwashing.”

Research once done with the cooperation of the Boston church seems to indicate that such criticism was true. That research and subsequent analysis was published in the seminal book regarding the movement titled “The Discipling Dilemma” by Flavil Yeakley.

Yeakley demonstrated that the group’s members did more than “follow the leader,” they actually were largely cloning him. Through “discipleship” training they mimicked personality traits of Kip McKean.

Perhaps this is what McKean meant when in 1992 he said, “Your church is going to be just like you.”

Scott Green an ardent disciple demonstrated this in 1988 when he said, “I want to be able to imitate Kip McKean. I want to preach like him. I want to think like him. I want to talk like him.”

The ICC essentially claims exclusivity as the “Kingdom of God.” The implicit understanding amongst its members is that they alone are “true disciples” and therefore “Christians.” Others outside their system are most often seen as “lost” and without salvation.

The ICC has historically been a totalitarian regime with power concentrated at the top of a hierarchical pyramid. McKean was known by the singular title of “World Evangelist.”

Now it seems a small tight knit group of men at the top, led by McKean’s former right hand man and frequent apologist Al Baird, has assumed power. And the demise of some of Kip’s most devoted sycophants can be seen as simply a consolidation of control by the new leadership.

It appears McKean and his family will be generously provided for despite their “spiritual condition.” Al Baird announced that the former “World Evangelist” has moved “into a full-time ministry role with the South Region of the Los Angeles church.”

It is unclear how McKean will continue to maintain his relatively lavish lifestyle, which has included a $500,000 condo in an exclusive gated community within Pacific Palisades owned by the church, expensive schools for his children and other perks.

Does Kip have a “golden parachute” like many exiting corporate CEOs? Or did he put away a substantial stash like some of Enron’s old execs? Maybe his old pal Al knows? Full and meaningful financial disclosure of all compensation paid to leadership has never been the policy of the ICC.

It is unlikely that the ICC will now fade away. Kip did build a “kingdom” and the remaining royalty at the top have a vested interest in continuing it.

Al Baird is also likely to continue Kip’s doctrinal legacy of “discipleship,” despite its problems. And it is unlikely that any significant democratic reforms, which would bring greater accountability to the organization, will be implemented anytime soon. No one should readily expect meaningful financial transparency from the ICC either, through its recent regime change.

It seems Kip McKean once again made a rather interesting observation in a 1992 leadership conference when he said, “I know this is either a total reflection of this man’s life, or he has lived such an atrocious life before the Lord, that this is a rejection of his life…your church is going to be just like you.” Little did he know then that he would actually later appear to have been speaking prophetically and to many definitively–about both himself and the ICC.

Kip McKean was once proclaimed as “The greatest living treasure that God has given the kingdom on the face of the earth,” now he seems little more than a former king who either abdicated or was deposed.

But the “reflection of this man’s life,” his “kingdom,” goes on. And what defines some kingdoms best, is that they are often ruled by despots.

Southern California residents can look forward to more than Santa this December. The so-called “Jews for Jesus” will be rolling out yet another round of their brand of proselytizing aimed at Jews called “Operation Behold your God,” reports the Christian Times.

This will be a “multi-pronged effort.” The California blitz is “part of a four-year campaign…launched in October 2000” to target Jews “in every city worldwide with a Jewish population of 25,000 or more.” “Jews for Jesus” have put 66 such cities on a list, with 33 in the U.S. This effort may include unsolicited and targeted mailings, phone calls and “street evangelism.”

“Jews for Jesus” is the brainchild of former Jew Martin Rosen, an ordained Baptist pastor who once worked for the American Board of Missions to the Jews. Rosen apparently wanted to run his own shop, so in the 70s he started up a new ministry and came up with a name that got him attention.

Pastor Martin is now retired and presumably living on a pension provided by “Jews for Jesus.” But the ministry he founded now has multi-million dollar annual budgets. “Jews for Jesus” is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a Christian organization that includes many para-church groups.

However, though Rosen proved to be a highly innovative and successful fund-raiser “Jews for Jesus” never really has been that successful at persuading Jews to accept its blended brand of fundamentalist Christianity.

When Jews leave Judaism they are more likely to embrace Buddhism, or in a mixed marriage with a non-Jewish spouse enter the Unitarian Church or some more liberal “mainline” church.

Ironically, the conversion rate to Judaism by Christians seems to exceed anything “Jews for Jesus” have ever specifically accomplished. And that has been achieved without spending millions of dollars annually on glitzy campaigns.

What Rosen did accomplish was to effectively create a kind of organizational kingdom. And he identified an inventive way to subsidize the salaries within that enterprise by raising millions of dollars annually from evangelical Christians.

The problem posed by organizations like Rosen’s isn’t really their missionary work. “Jews for Jesus” certainly have the right to preach to their heart’s content. The United States is a free country that constitutionally and culturally insures such free speech and religious pluralism.

Neither is the issue that “Jews for Jesus” is somehow a “cult,” though some former members have said they can be authoritarian and abusive.

The troubling issue about “Jews for Jesus” is their insistence that they are “Jews” without qualification and that they can somehow be both Jews and fundamentalist Christians simultaneously.

However, this is really rather self-referentially incoherent. Can a Baptist accept Buddhism and then become a “Baptist for Buddha,” or can a Mormon embrace Islam and be a “Mormon for Mohammed”?

No one would take such claims seriously.

But many people seem to assume that Jews are a race or a nationality and not simply a religious group bound by a common faith. And “Jews for Jesus” does nothing to dissuade such misconceptions. In fact, they openly encourage what can be seen as a kind of cryptic anti-Semitism that relies upon such stereotyping and misinformation.

Historically, they have nothing to base such claims upon and rely on a kind of selective biblical exegesis and historical view instead.

Obviously, those who chose to follow Jesus amongst First Century Jewry went their own way and founded a new world religion now known as Christianity. Each faith has its own distinct beliefs, creeds and doctrines and perhaps more importantly the right to determine the parameters of its identity.

Jews that leave Judaism by accepting another religious belief system have always been historically referred to as “apostate Jews.” Apostasy is likewise recognized as a term to describe Christians who convert to another faith.

Jews, like Christians, come from many races and national origins. What ultimately makes a Jew is faith, not background. And whatever ambiguity there may be about Jewish heredity is a question that can only be resolved within the organized Jewish community itself.

There is no ambiguity about what Jews are not. Jews are not apostates who have rejected Judaism. All branches of Judaism not only recognize this, but also by the State of Israel through its courts regarding the “right of return” has established this through law. Apostate Jews cannot return to the Jewish homeland exercising their right to return as “Jews.”

It seems “Jews for Jesus” wish to disregard these facts and history itself. They appear to believe that they have the right to redefine Jewish identity.

Perhaps “Jews for Jesus” wish to form a kind of ghetto niche for themselves within Christianity. But this does not appear to be a popular idea amongst most evangelicals. Billy Graham has specifically rejected the concept of missionaries targeting a specific religious group.

Jewish-Christian relations have improved substantially in recent years. Roman Catholics in particular have recognized the ethnocentric beliefs and theology of triumphalism that led to tragedies like the Crusades and Inquisitions.

Catholics have made amends and improved interreligious dialog with Jews. Likewise, many Protestant churches within the National and World Council of Churches have largely rejected organized efforts to convert Jews.

Perhaps it is theologically impossible for fundamentalist and evangelical Christians to mirror their more moderate and ecumenical brethren. But Billy Graham’s opposition to missionary targeting seems like a meaningful first step at better relations between “born-again” Christians and Jews.

More importantly, recognizing implicit and exclusive right of the organized Jewish community to determine the parameters of its own identity would seem to be the next step in improving relations between the two religious camps.

Christmas is a holiday often associated with good will and kindness.

Hanukkah, which also falls in December, is about something important too. The willingness of Jews to die for the integrity and preservation of Judaism.

Why can’t both faiths “behold…God” by internalizing the precepts that have made them both great during the coming holiday season?

A religious group called the “Black Hebrews” emigrated from the United States to Israel in 1969. Its members claim they are descendents of the exiled tribe of Judah, driven out of Jerusalem during the First Century, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

However, unlike the Falasha Jews of Ethopia, there is no historical or archaeological evidence to substantiate such fanciful claims. Instead, like many groups called “cults,” the Black Hebrews depend upon their leader to define the group.

Ben Carter a steelworker from Chicago calls himself “Ben Ammi Ben Israel” and is the founder and leader of the Black Hebrews. And like so many cult leaders he has fantastic claims, which the group’s beliefs are based upon.

Ben says, the “Archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the lost Israeli tribe of Judah.”


He then found and gathered together his own tribe of 30 disciples, which were then designated as rediscovered “Jews” from the “Tribe of Judah.”

First, the group followed Ben to Africa and stayed there for two years to be “purified.” Subsequently, Carter led them to the “Promised Land,” which ultimately turned out to be an Israeli refugee community called Dimona.

The Black Hebrews largely live on the dole in Dimona. They have remained there for thirty years because the Israeli authorities reject their claims of Jewish identity and apparently don’t know what else to do with them.

Efforts to expel the group Israelis often call a “cult” has been met with political protests from the United States and hunger strikes in Dimona.

The group has grown to 2,000, largely through its high birth rate fostered by polygamy.

The supposedly “ancient faith” practiced by the Black Hebrews is actually an odd, idiosyncratic and eclectic mix of observances concocted by Ben Ammi. He continues to dictate virtually everything the group does. Pictures of Ben Ammi dominate the homes of the insular community.

Interestingly, Jewish authorities have offered Ben Ammi who is now 63 and his followers Jewish identity through recognized conversion. However, like most cults the Black Hebrews reject anything, but what their leader defines as the “true faith.”

But though Ben Ammi has rejected Israel’s offer to become a recognized Jew, the group has accepted working papers, temporary residency, health insurance and social security benefits.