Rev. Arthur Allen Jr., leader of the “House of Prayer,” ended his three-month jail sentence last week for whipping children in his church.

But three months in the cooler hasn’t changed the arrogant preacher. Allen said, “I should be congratulated. Given a medal,” reports The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Apparently the jury didn’t agree. They convicted Allen for “cruelty to children” and “aggravated assault.”

The “House of Prayer” leader still has ten years of probation ahead of him. Allen says, “[Probation] doesn’t allow me to preach all the Bible, so that’s just ungodly.”

Apparently the preacher forgot to read verses within the New Testament that enjoin believers to obey civil authority.

Are the books of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, really hot sellers or are the author’s sales instead the result of loyal Scientologists buying up their icon’s fiction?

“If not the Hubbardites but the apostates and investigative reporters are to be believed, ‘Battlefield Earth’ was a required purchase, and another church scam.” says Salon Magazine.

Never mind, Yahoo is running a less critical rehash of a press release touting Hubbard’s “‘Battlefield Earth’ — the biggest single science fiction novel in electronic publishing.”

Uh huh.

But if Battlefield Earth was so good as a book why did it bomb at the box office as a movie? It ultimately won “Razzies” as the worst movie of the year.

Well, some books just don’t translate into good movies. Right?

But USA Today said, “[The script is] deeply dumb, depressingly derivative.”

Hey wasn’t the script based upon Hubbard’s story or what?

John and Vicki Tubiolo wanted to know how their church spent money. But the church had other ideas. Rather than let the Tubiolo’s check the books, their church threw them out and now the matter is in court, reports The Herald Sun.

The Abundant Life Church of Hillsborough, North Carolina started as a bible study, but it ended up as an independent non-denominational church.

John Tubiolo had questions about church finances when a building project was proposed. He said, “What we wanted was a financial report with the beginning balance, the ending balance and what happened in between.”

He is now in court attempting to compel the church to show him that information.

However, the church says he has no right to see its books. And it looks like a judge will ultimately resolve the matter.

Do you know how the money is spent at your church, mosque, synagogue or religious organization?

The more accountability an organization has, the more likely things are all right.

That is, each layer of accountability typically insures those below are behaving properly. It’s not always good enough to rely on innate goodness; it is most often safer to have people watched through system of checks, balances and financial transparency.

Many religious organizations have elected boards, bylaws, auditing procedures and denominational accountability to insure that things are being handled appropriately.

Though all independent churches don’t represent a risk, obviously the more accountability the safer the situation is.

Who is your religious leader accountable to?

John Tubiolo wasn’t so sure. His attorney observed, “We’ve never received anything in minutes or bylaws.”

It’s probably not a good idea to wait until a situation arises to check about bylaws and accountability. Perhaps people who are shopping for a place to worship should check things like this out before becoming involved and contributing money.

The Worldwide Church of God was built upon the exclusive claims made by its founder Herbert W. Armstrong.

Armstrong concocted a religion, which some called a “cult,” that was apparently an amalgam of several sects. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses he denied the Christian belief in trinity and insisted upon observing his version of the feast days and festivals of Judaismt. Armstrong also incorporated a belief about British-Israelism, which holds one day Jesus will rule from the throne of Great Britain.

This unique blend of theology and practice eventually netted Armstrong more than 160,000 followers, which he ruled over like a dictator for decades. It also afforded him a lavish lifestyle that included mansions, costly furnishings and a personal jet.

However, when Armstrong died in 1986 his religious empire went through a kind of evolution or what some might call a “revolution.”

His successors made an effort to effectively mainstream their isolated group into Protestantism. But after accepting the doctrines and moderate beliefs of their Christian brethren, Worldwide membership dropped drastically.

It seems without its peculiar dogma that the religion lost its attraction. And many Worldwiders felt there was no longer much reason to belong and tithe to the church. Schisms and splintering have subsequently reduced Worldwide to about 60,000 adherents, though its annual revenue is still about $25 million dollars.

The modernization of Worldwide doesn’t seem to have included democratization and/or opened up the issue of meaningful financial accountability to the membership. A power elite still appears to run the organization without referendum and they recently decided to hold an auction.

In what can be seen as a symbolic liquidation they sold off some of the opulent residue that still remained from Armstrong’s glory days, reports The Pasadena Star News.

It appears that the “cult” Herbert Armstrong built may gradually disappear without the man and idiosyncratic beliefs that made it so unique and compelling to its faithful.

The 50-acre Ambassador College campus property in Pasadena, once the crown jewel of Armstrong’s holdings, is now being developed into residential housing to provide designated pastors with pensions.

Mormonism may have once arguably fallen within the category of a “cult.” It certainly began as a personality-driven group defined by a totalitarian charismatic leader, Joseph Smith.

Smith eventually exercised absolute control over his followers in Illinois, where they lived within a largely self-contained community called Nauvoo.

He was head of the church, its “prophet,” “revelator,” “seer,” the mayor of Nauvoo and a militia general. The people of Illinois came to fear Smith’s power, which ultimately led to his arrest and death.

Then came Brigham Young. Unlike Smith’s son and designated heir Young had a new vision for the Mormons, which included a “Promised Land.” That land is now known as Utah.

In the beginning Utah was a theocracy ruled over by Young. But through a series of pragmatic “revelations” and succeeding church presidents, the religious state would become one of the United States of America. First, it was necessary to give up polygamy and many years later another “revelation” would provide the premise for previously excluded Blacks to enter the Mormon “priesthood.”

The totalitarian governance of The Mormon Church changed too. Power devolved from one-man rule to a more moderate structure of council and quorums.

But will Mormonism ever completely cast off what can be seen as its “cultic” baggage?

Racism and elitism still permeate the modern Mormon religion through its writings and teachings about the so-called “Laminites,” a mythical people apparently invented by Joseph Smith, but accepted by Mormons as historical fact.

Thomas Murphy a Mormon anthropologist recently attempted to address this issue by proving Smith’s historical claims were scientifically false. However, the response to his research results was the threat of possible expulsion through excommunication. Other Mormon scholars and intellectuals have experienced similar resistance.

William Bagely, a Mormon descendent and historian specifically studied probably the darkest day of Mormon intolerance. This was September 11, 1857, known as the Massacre of Mountain Meadows. On that day a group of Mormon men dressed as Indians murdered 120 settlers as they crossed Utah.

This event seems to reflect the deep fear early Mormons had of their ethnocentric society being somehow defiled or violated by “unbelievers.”

Bagley points out that Brigham Young himself knew about the coming attack and supposedly said, “Brethren, do your duty.” But Mormon apologists deny this, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

In recent months another controversy has erupted in Utah. This revolves around the rather heavy handed way the Mormon Church has exercised its power in Salt Lake City to suppress free expression around its historic Temple Square.

What then is the future of Mormonism in the 21sr Century?

Will The Mormon Church continue to evolve until it is another denomination within the mainstream of American religious life? Or has it reached some limit, which it cannot move beyond?

Many insist that the demythologizing of the Mormon Scriptures and the opening up of Utah as a truly pluralistic society is inevitable.

It seems like Dwight “Malachi” York has used allegations of “persecution” and “racism” historically whenever there was a criminal investigation into his possible criminal activities.

When the Nuwaubian leader was cited in Georgia for anything from zoning violations to ultimately the sexual abuse of minor children, it was always somehow “persecution.”

And apparently, York may have used a similar strategy to deflect law enforcement regarding a murder investigation he was linked to years ago in Brooklyn, reports Newsday.

That murder in 1979 remains unsolved, though informants identified the killer as a close York associate.

But York moved to Georgia, where new allegations of “racism” would emerge whenever he was criticized. And prominent political leaders would rally around and defend the cult leader, reports Newsday.

York’s defenders included Al Sharpton, NAACP officials, Jesse Jackson and assorted Georgia politicians, who were apparently taken in by his claims of supposed injustice.

This isn’t a new story.

Jim Jones, the notorious cult leader who in 1978 led almost a thousand followers to death at Jonestown, likewise had an assortment of prominent leaders that once supported him.

Then California Governor Gerry Brown, State Assemblyman Willy Brown and Mayor Moscone of San Francisco were all once fans and friends of Jim Jones.

Willy Brown said years later, “If we knew then he was mad, clearly we wouldn’t have appeared with him.”

Mayor Moscone was somewhat more blunt, “It’s clear that if there was a sinister plan, then we were taken in.” But the mayor added, “I’m not taking any responsibility.”

Should politicians that support and/or somehow shield a cult leader from accountability or closer scrutiny accept any responsibility for whatever misdeeds and victimization takes place?

Certainly Revs. Sharpton and Jackson did not know about the gross abuses perpetrated by Dwight York, but perhaps they should have been more careful before defending the “cult leader.”

In the end it was the children under York’s control who were “persecuted,” through a reign of terror and sexual abuse at the hands of the “cult leader.”

Law enforcement in North Carolina has arrested four suspects and charged them with murder. Included in the arrests was a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan and the wife of another Klan leader now in custody, reports Associated Press and Fox News.

It appears the murder victim knew about a planned anti-government bombing and was killed to silence him, reports WAFF News in Huntsville.

The body recovered had two gunshot wounds to the head.

This murder and the plot behind it are a clear reminder that despite the threat to America from without by foreign Islamic fringe groups such as al-Qaeda, there still remains an ever-present threat from within.

It is important to remember that before 9-11 it was American extremist Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, which represented the most horrific historic act of terrorism on American soil.

More American born anti-government fanatics continue to exist and network within the United States. Many experts believe the anthrax attacks after 9-11 was linked to a domestic terrorist.

Dwight “Malachi” York, the jailed leader of the Nuwaubians, struck a deal this week with prosecutors regarding criminal charges for sexually abusing and exploiting children.

Additional details of that deal are now known.

York will forfeit $400,000 seized by law enforcement in a raid, which will be divided amongst his victims.

Additionally, state and federal charges have been combined through the plea agreement, reports The Athens Banner-Herald.

According to the deal York could walk out of prison in 12 years, if he behaves. Then the “cult leader” would have at least 36 months of supervised release.

York will probably serve his time in a federal prison as opposed to a state prison.

The County Attorney said, ”It’s short enough that he won’t die in prison, but it’s long enough that he won’t live too much longer after he’s released.”

Let’s hope York’s family health history includes chronic clogged arteries, heart disease, cancer or something that would claim his life before he makes parole.

It seems that the children York terrorized and abused for years didn’t want to relive their past through testimony in open court.

And the “cult” leader used the children once again, this time as an apparent bargaining chip to avoid the risk of receiving a much longer sentence.

The District Attorney said, ”What we gave to our victims is that Mr. York stood up in court and said, ‘I did it. There’s no way his followers can say he was railroaded or there was a conspiracy.”

The County Attorney added, ”This guy who claimed to be a messiah stood up in court and admitted he was nothing less than a monster.”

However, if history means anything many Nuwaubians will not accept this ending. Like many cult followers of the past they will likely remain loyal, deny York’s guilt and insist he was “railroaded” and “persecuted.”

The followers of Yahweh Ben Yahweh waited for their convicted leader to finish his prison term and then joyfully reunited with him. Despite the fact that he had been linked to murder.

Former followers of David Koresh are still waiting for their pedophile “prophet” to return from heaven and judge the world, despite the repeated judgement of both a court and congress that he was a “monster.”

And there are many that today insist that Jim Jones was the victim of a “conspiracy.”

Cult followers are often so deeply invested in a leader and/or group; they can’t seem to accept the facts, which might contradict their beliefs. Denial for such people often becomes a way of life.

Matt Hale wasn’t wearing a suit for his court appearance this time.

The East Peoria, Illinois resident and leader of the “World Church of the Creator” had a history of filing lawsuits and appearing in court through various actions and appeals.

But this time the would-be lawyer was more befittingly attired in a plain orange jumpsuit, the dress required for jailhouse residents.

Even though the hate group leader’s father was hoping to post $200,000 bail for his son, Hale was refused release, reports Associated Press.

A US Magistrate rejected a bail request and instead set Hale’s trial date for July.

The racist is charged with plotting to murder a federal judge who ruled against him in a lawsuit.

Hopefully, the white supremacist’s wardrobe will eventually evolve into more conservative prison garb.

Hale does seem to like uniforms, but probably didn’t have this one in mind for his wardrobe.

Rev. Moon, founder of the Unification Church, is calling upon his devotees to go to Korea and “witness for peace,” reports The Billings Gazette.

In Montana the Unification Church is now called “The Family Church of Billings.” Its pastor hopped a flight for Seoul on Monday and an elder followed two days later.

One of the Moon devotees said, “We hope to relieve the tension.”

Perhaps things are getting a bit tense for Rev. Moon. The self-proclaimed “messiah” has sunk $55 million dollars in North Korea, through a company he owns called Pyonghwa Motors.

A Montana Moon follower said, “If there is an opportunity to go to North Korea, I’d go.”

It’s hard to believe that Moon, the supposedly conservative and staunchly anti-Communist owner of the Washington Times, or his followers, would want to help Communist North Korea, but they do.

Maybe it’s nostalgia? Moon was once held prisoner in North Korea for two years.

Perhaps Kim Jong Il the “Great Leader” of North Korea and Rev. Moon the “messiah” have more in common than meets the eye, after all they have both been called totalitarian “cult leaders.” And both men conrol billions of dollars as a result of that status.