"Cigars and"
Potions" Found

Faith Healer Charged
With Bizarre Ax Murders
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

March 5, 1998

A faith healer was arrested in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and charged with killing three people, police said Wednesday. A sister and two other relatives were also arrested on charges of complicity in the murders.

"Cleotilde Alma Grande ... made [her victims] sleep using baths with bean fertilizing pellets and then axed them between their heads and shoulders," Liliana Santos, of the Criminal Investigation Department, told reporters.

Police found the bodies of three of her alleged victims at her home in the rural town of El Porvenir, 37 miles north of the capital. One victim, with the hands and feet missing, was found buried under Alma's stove. Police also uncovered two other bodies near the house.

Local press reports say Alma used to practice "faith healing" in her home. Police also found large quantities of cigars and potions at the house.

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Where Churches Come From

Church of the Fuzzy Bunny's
by Woody Johnson

April 1, 1998

How do clever strip-club owners outwit local ordinances designed to shut them down? In Ladson, South Carolina, Jerry Colombo converted his Club 2010 into the "Church of the Fuzzy Bunny's" [sic], featuring Bible-reading followed by a procession of pastie-wearing dancers.

We can imagine some of the racy Bible passages that are favorites here. The book The Bible Unmasked by Joseph Lewis describes some likely candidates for Columbo and his ilk.

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Monk Commits "a No-No"

Monk Arrested for
Kicking Worshipper
by Cliff Walker
from wire reports

February 4, 1998

Hong Kong -- Police arrested a Buddhist monk and charged him with assault for kicking a worshiper at a Taoist temple. The 30-year-old monk was standing by the Wong Tai Sin Temple when a man kneeling beside him offering incense was pushed over by the large crowd and fell on the monk's feet, according to the South China Morning Post.

Temple authorities said that the monk kicked the man and injured him in the eye and he fought back. Police had to break up the fight. The monk was charged with assault and freed on bail. He is scheduled to appear in court next week.

"Kicking a man on his knees. That's a no no for a monk," said a temple administrator.

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Imitation Religion:
a Redundancy

Buddhist Clergy
Wary of Phony Monks
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

March 9, 1998

Hong Kong's Buddhist clergy is warning followers that phony monks are preying on the faithful at funerals. The imposters, say the clergy, who have wives and smoke cigarettes.

Many Chinese use Buddhist monks for funeral rites, including scripture recitals and blessing the dead. After spending three hours at a funeral, the monks receive donations.

"Don't trust people who hang around the death-bed and offer services," said Hin-hung, a senior monk at the Hong Kong Buddhist Association. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, he added: "There are impostors and it's something that's been going on for a long time ... It means people are not getting the services they paid for."

Hin-hung said the person performing the rites should not be "someone who smokes, goes back home to his wife and does things which aren't very moral.... You can see if the person is really into it or is just playing around."

However, Hin-hung understands why some people find it hard to spot a phony monk: "It's something that is really of another world so it would be difficult to measure such a thing."

The Buddhist clergy recently complained that bona fide monks from mainland China were competing with local monks for business. Earlier reports fall short of calling the mainland monks "fakes" and, rather, describe fears that the monks are undermining the competition with exorbitantly low rates. The nature of these complaints has escallated from considering the mainland monks bona fide but inespensive competition toward calling them outright fakes.

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Cheap Monks

Competition Takes Its Toll
On Local Monk Market
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

February 10, 1998

Even Buddhist monks can feel the brunt of the marketplace. In Hong Kong, cheap labor in the form of monks from China is threatening their livelihoods.

Local monks are being squeezed out by an influx of brethren who charge less for services ranging from beating drums and reciting sutras to praying at funerals, the South China Morning Post said.

"It's fair that they're complaining -- they have a right to," said an unnamed source at the Po Lin monastery, the main center of the Buddhism in Hong Kong.

Monks' earnings have dropped from HK$20,000 (US$2,587) a month to a just a few thousand for some monks, it said.

An employee of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, however, challenged the monks' complaints. Lee Yee-wai said that such grumbling is inappropriate for monks: "Monks shouldn't complain about money."

Perhaps the monks may want to consider (gasp!) actually working for their living.

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Sgt. Jesus Christ Hallelujah

U.S. Sargeant Must Wait
to Change Name
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: San Antonio Express-News, Baltimore Sun

June 3, 1993

A judge told an Army sergeant that he would have wait 30 days to undo the name change that he had just been granted and about which he was having second thoughts. "Tyrone Victor Wright" had become "Jesus Christ Hallelujah."

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Names in the News:

Sixteen Licensed Saviors
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Los Angeles Times

May 2, 1995

The Los Angeles Times reported that 16 people named Jesus Christ have California drivers licenses.

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Names in the News:

Yes, Virginia,
There is a Santa Claus
by Cliff Walker

April, 1998

Well, actually, there are five Santa Clauses.

They all live in California, and they've got the driver's licenses to prove it. This information was included in a report critical of the Golden State's permit laws released by a legislative task force. California is the only state where applicants are allowed to use a fictitious name on their license by filling out a form and paying an extra $12.

There is even one license with the name "Me."

The law also means fake documents can easily be manufactured for illegal immigrants to establish residency, convicted sex offenders to create new identities or by drunken drivers to keep driving, the report says.

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Too Much Time
On Their Hands?

Conference on Angels
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Sikeston Standard Democrat, AP

June 13, 1993

Around 200 "angelologists" held the second American Conference on Angels in East Falmouth, Massachusetts. The organizer, K. Martin-Kuri, said attendees believe that each person on earth has a guardian angel who improves that person's life in many ways.

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Too Much Time
On Their Hands?

The Big Bigfoot Conference
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

March 6, 1998

Newcomerstown, Ohio (AP) -- It's that time of year again in the eastern Ohio town of Newcomerstown, where the 10th annual Ohio Bigfoot Conference will commence on Saturday.

Don Keating, is an Ohio resident who started the conference. He says he has been researching the creature for 13 years, and claims to have found footprints and hair samples that could be linked to Bigfoot. Keating has also spoken to more than 100 people who claim to have seen the creature.

Keating says it does not bother him that he has not found definite proof of Bigfoot's current or past existence.

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Shorter Lines at Disney World!

Homophobic Church
Boycotts Disney
by Woody Johnson

August, 1997

The Southern Baptist Convention, in Dallas, Texas, voted to boycott the Walt Disney Company because, it says, the company is too sympathetic to gays. The holy and righteous ban affects all Disney's various divisions, including theme parks, movie studios, cable television, its publishers and ABC TV.

Particularly disturbing to the Baptists is ABC's lesbian-centric sitcom "Ellen." The church also twitched over the fact that Disney provides health benefits to partners of its gay employees.

The Florida theme park has been the site of Gay Day events, prompting the president of the Baptists' Morals Panel to exclaim: "You can't walk on the family side of the street and the gay side of the street at the same time in the Magic Kingdom."

The buzz at Epcott Center is that most rank-and-file Baptists will ignore the church's pronouncement.

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One Reason To Leave The Church

Mother Sues Catholic
Diocese, Priests
by Woody Johnson

March, 1984

A 22-year-old Los Angeles woman filed a $21,000,000 suit against the archdiocese of Los Angeles and seven Roman Catholic priests. She claims the the seven priests had had sex with her since she was 16, leaving her the unwed mother of a baby girl.

She filed a separate paternity suit against two of the priests who, she says, had sex with her in a church rectory at the time she became pregnant. She accuses a third priest of suggesting that she have an abortion.

The plaintiff, who had planned to become a nun, states in the suit that she "lost faith in the Catholic Church."

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Show and Don't Tell

Fetus Displayed to
Young School Children
by Cliff Walker

April, 1984

Anti-abortion zeal admittedly got out of hand at a Moline Acres, Missouri, Catholic school. According to the Church's pastor, the display of a bottled nine-week-old fetus to students showed "justifiable but perhaps excessive zeal on the part of the teacher."

Responding only after publicity and criticism, he admitted that the incident was "indiscreet" in that it involved pupils as young as 6 years old.

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Woman Prevails In
Suit Against Church
by Woody Johnson

June, 1984

A county jury in Tulsa, Oklahoma, awarded $390,000 in damages to a member of the Collinsville Church of Christ. She was denounced publicly for what the church said was the "sin of fornication."

The 36-year-old divorcee, a registered nurse and the mother of four, admitted privately to church officials to having had a fling with the former mayor of the small town. However, she refused to repent publicly on the ground that that would be hypocritical and "piling one sin on top of another."

The church leaders then announced her "sin of fornication" to the congregation. The woman then slapped the church and three of its elders with a suit for invasion of privacy.

The defendants argued that it was their "sacred duty to watch over the members of the flock." They said that it was their concern for "her soul's condition" that compelled them to do what they did.

An attorney for the church said the verdict would be appealed.

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Ten Million Hindus
Bathe in Magic River
by Cliff Walker
from various sources

April 15, 1998

Haridwar, India -- Ten million Hindus stripped to their loincloths or thin saris today and plunged into India's rushing Ganges River, thinking the water has powers to free them from "the cycle of death and rebirth."

According to The Guinness Book of World Records the Kumbh Mela bathing ritual is the largest religious gathering on earth. It happens every 12 years at Haridwar, a temple-ridden northern town in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The millions of pilgrims converged on the town, including naked recluses who live in Himalayan cave homes. They chanted prayers and lit incense along the river banks. The pilgrims were waited in long lines of fenced lanes to get to the river. Police forcibly removed bathers who lingered too long.

"This is the last chance to free ourselves from sins before the end of the millennium," said Jerry Gobind, a Hindu who traveled from Toronto.

Israeli tourist Noam Zaradez marveled at the crowd. "It's amazing. Here is the population of all of Israel," he said.

"I was amazed that even in the cold of night, they kept going in the water," Zaradez said. "It is incredible how much they are willing to suffer for their belief."

Hindus continue to regard the Ganges as pure despite the fact that more than 600 towns' sewer systems flush 300 million gallons into it each day.

Authorities deployed 25,000 police to Haridwar to maintain order, fearing a repeat of the recent fatal stampede during the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In 1986, 50 people died in a stampede at Haridwar and in 1954 about 800 pilgrims died when the Kumbh Mela was held in the northern city of Allahabad.

Police annonced that they would cancel the traditional processions of sadhus, the saffron-clad Hindu holy men, after rival sects clashed over who would bathe first. Authorities relented, though, after three religious leaders began a hunger strike.

"I came to do some good and put 10 years of bad luck behind me," said Chapala Sadhu Khan, 50, a widow from the eastern city of Calcutta. She said she sneaked onto a train and traveled 14 hours to come to Haridwar, saying she was so poor it was difficult to find food at home.

In Hindi, "kumbh" means pot and "mela" means fair. The festival derives its name from a mythical fight over a pot of nectar.

According to Hindu mythology, gods and demons were waging a war when they realized they needed holy nectar to achieve immortality and victory. They churned the sea and drew out the nectar. One god made off with the pot, spilling drops in 12 places, four of them in India and the rest in the heavens. Haridwar is one of those four spots. The Kumbh Melas celebrations are held every three years, rotating among the four spots.

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Modern Techniques and
Traditional "Family Values"
Don't Work

Marital Study Shatters
Previous Assumptions
by Cliff Walker
from various sources

February, 1998

A University of Washington study of 130 newlyweds over a period of six years has resulted in conclusions that have taken almost everyone by surprise. Researchers say that 'active listening' and other new techniques result in more divorces. Instead, couples which tend to stay together in happy, stable marriages had one thing in common: the husband was willing to acquiesce completely to his wife.

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