Southern Religion

What’s almost = to allegations of husband’s infidelity?

Scientology, perhaps?

Standing by her man, Victoria Beckham denied in an interview “that she and soccer superstar husband David Beckham have dabbled in Scientology and defended her spouse from recent claims of marital infidelity.”

“We aren’t Scientologists. We really don’t know very much about it. I mean, Tom [Cruise] and Katie [Holmes] – they’ve mentioned it to us. But, no, they didn’t try to hook us and reel us in,” the 36-year-old former Spice Girl star said.

Involvement in a declining cult which tears families apart? Yes, even amid a celebrity mess, bad enough to push off.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Cults | | Comments Off on What’s almost = to allegations of husband’s infidelity?

Bill Keller’s thus far nonexistent ‘old-time evangelism center’

From Baptists Today we learned of a Christian Post story which reports as fact that “fiery preacher” Bill Keller will open an “old-time evangelism center” on Jan. 1, 2011, near Ground Zero as somehow a responce to Park 51. Although Daniel Bates of the London Daily Mail is more careful, and writes:

Bill Keller said he is raising funds to build a house of worship within a few blocks of where terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. … he plans to open his Christian centre on January 1 next year.

Indeed, the Christian Post’s Victor Anderson unabashedly reports:

After the conclusion of 2010, the permanent location will be open seven days a week to “combat this new evil being constructed near ground zero” and to “bring people the Truth of God’s Word and the love and hope of Jesus Christ,” referring to the proposed $100 million, 13-story Islamic cultural center and mosque that has ruffled feathers across the nation.

Meanwhile, Keller held services Sunday for 55 in a room at the New York Mariott Downtown Hotel.

The New York Times Fernanda Santos reported that at his Sunday service:

Mr. Keller promoted his center, which he called the 9/11 Christian Center at Ground Zero, as a religious counterweight to the mosque, which he repeatedly called a “victory mosque” or a monument to “a great Muslim military accomplishment,” as he explained it at the inaugural service at the New York Marriott Downtown Hotel on West Street, two blocks south of ground zero.

Mr. Keller also described the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck, who is a Mormon, and Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who is behind the Muslim community center, as followers of false faiths. Later, he called the mosque’s potential worshipers guilty of terrorism by association, saying it was “their Muslim brothers” who “flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers and killed 3,000 people.”

Both mainstream daily newspaper reporters understand that Keller’s ambitious self-promotion is newsworthy, but does not bring magically into existence the center for which he is attempting to raise money.

Thus far what he’s doing is more a newsworthy stunt amid chaotic Islamophobia than the launch of a project.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Cults, Politics, Religion | , , , | 1 Comment

Ted Haggard incorporates (again)

Ted Haggard actually started his new church in November. Last week’s incorporation was just another step for the man who left his last big church amid scandal and left behind a hush money agreement.

Why incorporate now? He told the Colorado Springs Gazette that it’s about the money. That is:

. . . St. James was incorporated “to keep the accounting in order” of the paid talks they’ve given for about a year and a half at evangelical churches across the country. The Haggards incur out-of-pocket expenses while on the road, so St. James is a way to be reimbursed for those costs in an orderly manner, he said.


May 14, 2010 Posted by | Cults | , | Comments Off on Ted Haggard incorporates (again)

Death worship takes hold in Mexico

D.E. Campbell writes in Foreign Policy:

Mictlantecuhtli in the Codex Borgia

The barrio of Tepito, where it’s said that everything is for sale except dignity, has been one of Mexico City’s roughest neighborhoods since Aztec times. Famous for its black market and its boxing champions, Tepito is a place where residents learn to fight early and fight hard. These days it has also become the epicenter of Mexico’s fastest-growing faith: Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, a hybrid religion that merges Catholic symbolism with pre-Hispanic worship of the skeletal Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancihuatl, Lord and Lady of the Dead.

I recently went there for an outdoor mass at one of Santa Muerte’s first public shrines, founded eight years ago by a great-grandmother named Enriqueta Romero. When I visited in November, Romero placed a necklace with skull pendant around my neck as some 5,000 worshippers surged toward the glass-encased skeleton outside her house. Clad in a faded housedress, she told me that Mexico’s Catholic churches stand empty while thousands of Holy Death shrines have spread across the country because “the church reprimands,” but Santa Muerte never does. “She accepts everyone, with faults and without.”

May 2, 2010 Posted by | Cults, Religion | | Comments Off on Death worship takes hold in Mexico

When are militia Christianist (not Christian)?

Andrew Sullivan is a gay Catholic who gently suggests:

Surely we can all assent to the notion that a Christian militia of the type now accused of planning domestic terrorism is not Christian. This is why I call them Christianist. Anyone planning to murder innocents by way of IEDs cannot plausibly call himself or herself a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

To which Skeptic PZ Myers replied at some easy-to-read length, asserting that there are Christians (the real thing). And Christianists, a term William Safire traced back to Andrew Sullivan, who on June 1, 2003, wrote:

I have a new term for those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression: Christianists. They are as anathema to true Christians as the Islamists are to true Islam.”


No friend of matters mystical, Myers of course fences almost everyone we know up with Christianists, but that’s a part of what he does. Whereas most of us may seriously entertain the possibility that the Hutaree are Christianists. And we are not.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Cults, Politics, Religion | , | 3 Comments

New top leadership required for the Legionaries of Christ

Legionaries of Christ

Removal of top Legionaries of Christ leadership is necessary and likely to attend actions following the apostolic visitation, Sandro Magister wrote in L’Espresso yesterday. It seems likely that “Vatican authorities will put the Legion under the command of an external commissioner endowed with full powers” over the organization, and findings suggest that the leadership must be replaced if renewal is to occur. For example:

According to some of the testimonies given to the apostolic visitors in recent months, some in this group knew about the founder’s double life, about the carnal acts he performed with many of his seminarians over the span of decades, about his lovers, his children, his drug use. But in spite of that, a fortress was built around Maciel in defense of his virtues, devotion to him was fostered among his followers, all of them unaware of the truth, his talents were emphasized, even among the upper hierarchy of the Church. This exaltation of the figure of the founder was so effective that even today it inspires the sense of belonging to the Legion among many of its priests and religious.

The cohesion of the leadership group, originating from its decades-long connection with Maciel, endures today in the bond that binds and subordinates everyone to Corcuera, and even more to [Luís Garza Medina, vicar general and director of the organization’s Italian province].

As a result, there are questions regarding whether to treat as “trustworthy” the “distancing of the Legion’s leaders from their founder, and in particular from the “sudden revelation” – or so they say – of his misdeeds?”

That “distancing” occurred by way of a statement on the Legion’s Web site in which they took the extraordinary step of disowning their founder.

At the same time, the embedded leadership is taking steps to ensure its survival of the Pope’s installment of an external commissioner.

Magister explains:

Freed from the annoyance of the visitors, and not yet subjected to the command of the commissioner, during this interim period which they are hoping will last for “several months” they are doing everything they can to consolidate their power and win the support of the majority of the 800 priests of the Legion, and of the other religious and lay members.

Maneuvering, reform and restoration? We will see.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Cults | , , | 1 Comment

CNN already under fire from scientology

Anderson Cooper’s series, “Scientology: A history of violence,” starts next week, but he’s already the target of “some sort of organized email campaign,” apparently from the declining “church.”

BTW, Cooper explains:

For the record, I just want to point out that this series is not about the beliefs or activities of the Church of Scientology. It is not about the religion or the vast majority of Scientologists. This series simply has to do with what some former high ranking church officials say went on within the upper management of the church, and what happened to them when they left the church.

More not-quite-secrets anymore unmasked? We’ll be watching.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | Cults | , | 1 Comment

Scientology fights back toward decline

Guy Fawkes mask (anonymous)

Hiring veteran journalists to counter-investigate the St. Petersburg Times was a strategy with something of a reverse twist. Scientology is under scrutiny in Australia [1,2,3], headed for the silver screen in Germany and still on the pages of U.S. news publications [1,2,3].

Just for example, you understand.

All of the well-known Scientology strategies keep applying, as makers of the film “Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt” (Until Nothing Remains) illustrated when they reported via the Guardian:

The film team said it had been “bombarded” with phone calls and emails from the organisation during production. The head of the Southwest German broadcasting organisation, Carl Bergengruen who was involved in the project, said Scientology had “tried via various means to discover details about the film” and that the film crew was even tailed by a Scientology representative.

“We are fearful that the organisation will try to use all legal means to try to stop the film being shown,” he said.

The film itself sounds like a classical Scientology exit story with an especially tragic conclusion:

According to the makers of Until Nothing Remains, the €2.5m (£2.3 m) drama, which is due to air in a prime-time slot at the end of March, is based on the true story of Heiner von Rönns, who left Scientology and suffered the subsequent break-up of his family.

Scientology calls the film false and intolerant, and distributed flyers at a Hamburg preview, accusing the filmmakers of aiming to “create a mood of intolerance and discrimination against a religious community.”

All of that effort to defeat critics while building attractive homes for the church. Yet as PZ Meyers pointed out from his reading of the NY Times investigation, they’re apparently shrinking:

The church is vague about its membership numbers. In 11 hours with a reporter over two days, Mr. Davis, the church’s spokesman, gave the numbers of Sea Org members (8,000), of Scientologists in the Tampa-Clearwater area (12,000) and of L. Ron Hubbard’s books printed in the last two and a half years (67 million). But asked about the church’s membership, Mr. Davis said, “I couldn’t tell you an exact figure, but it’s certainly, it’s most definitely in the millions in the U.S. and millions abroad.”

He said he did not know how to account for the findings in the American Religious Identification Survey that the number of Scientologists in the United States fell from 55,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2008.

If you make projections from those numbers, as Meyers did, Scientology appears to have done some magnificent architectural restoration without building a future.

March 12, 2010 Posted by | Cults, WWW | , , , , | Comments Off on Scientology fights back toward decline

Scientology sues Sandy Springs; Member is sued in N.J.

Guy Fawkes mask (anonymous)

Sandy Springs, Ga., slowed the Church of Scientology’s dramatic 2009 growth by denying a rezoning required to expand a former office building into their Georgia headquarters.

Ever aggressive, Scientology filed two lawsuits on Wednesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

The church filed religious discrimination complaints in U.S. District Court on Wednesday and Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday.

Both suits contend that the city infringed on the church’s religious rights in the City Council’s vote Dec. 15 that approved the rezoning of the building at Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive but denied the church’s request to add a fourth floor by enclosing a basement parking garage, saying there wasn’t enough parking.

The pre-lawsuit Scientology vs. Sandy Springs story was blogged in detail by xenubarb at Daily Kos.

Conflict and Scientology go hand-in-hand. Remember last year’s dramatic exits, legal reversals, impending movie, investigations and media takedowns?

Ed Brayton at ScienceBlogs writes about another Scientology lawsuit.

In this one, a politically active New Jersey a businessman is being sued for allegedly attempting to force Scientology upon his employees.

Michael Deak of My writes:

Calling a lawsuit brought against his business as “replete with misrepresentations and outright lies,” a new member of the Borough Council is denying the charges, including one that an employee was fired for not becoming a member of the Church of Scientology.

John Buckley, who on New Year’s Day was sworn into a three-year term as a councilman after winning a seat in the November election, said he and his company, Open House Direct “will vigorously defend against these unfounded claims and to also demonstrate that this is nothing but an attempt to harass us and to hurt our ability to do business.”

Three former employees — Maurice Grays, John Knapp and Larry Kolakowski — last month filed suit in Superior Court seeking legal relief, claiming they were victims of a hostile work environment and retaliation at the company on Hamilton Street.

Add to these the threatened Scientology suit in France against the Daughters of Saint Paul [which we blogged about earlier this month] and you have the makings of another fascinating year of watching Scientology-in-action.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Cults, WWW | , , , , | Comments Off on Scientology sues Sandy Springs; Member is sued in N.J.

Scientology outshrinks the Southern Baptist Convention

In the Scientology/Southern Baptist Convention faceoff, though loathe to admit it, Scientology is winning the race toward extinction.

Whereas the SBC is apparently doomed by demographics to be the slowly shrinking denomination, declining a fraction of a percent in 2006-2007 after a long run of declining growth rates, American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) data suggests that Scientology is imploding. If you agree that 45% shrinkage over less than a decade is implosion.

ARIS reported that in 2001 there were 55,000 adults in the United States who consider themselves Scientologists. In 2008, ARIS found there were 25,000 Americans identifying themselves as Scientologists.

Tommy Davis, the church’s top spokesman, told the New York Times that the number was “impossibly low.”

Or impossible to survive for long?

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Cults | , , | 3 Comments