THEISTWATCH for JUNE 14, 1995 Pennsylvania - TAX EXEMPTION PROBED IN CATHOLIC ELECTORAL CA
THEISTWATCH for JUNE 14, 1995
Pennsylvania--TAX EXEMPTION PROBED IN CATHOLIC ELECTORAL
CASE United States--AT LAST! SANITY, SKEPTICISM PREVAIL ON
PRIME TIME TV Algeria--SOCCER BOOSTER MURDERED IN
TAX EXEMPTION PROBED IN CATHOLIC ELECTORAL CASE
by Conrad F. Goeringer
Two Roman Catholic organizations may have violated tax
exemption and election codes, according to a report in
Tuesday's (June 13) edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The complaints filed with the IRS involve St. Philomena's
Elementary School in Lansdowne and the Home and School
Association which is affiliated with St. Cyril's School in
East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. A spokeswoman for the Roman
Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia said that "mistakes"
According to reports, the school principal at St.
Philomena's sent students home with campaign leaflets
endorsing a specific candidate for the William Penn School
Board. The St. Cyril's case involved literature
distribution and the charge that the candidate's campaign
was virtually run by the Home and School Association.
The Lansdowne resident who filed the complaint said
"What they (the Churches) did clearly violate the Internal
Revenue Code. . . . I just want tax-exempt organizations to
get out of electioneering."
Although the archdiocese said that precautions were
being taken to prevent similar incidents in the future, the
Roman Catholic organization in southeastern Pennsylvania
has been involved in blatant political action on issues
ranging from anti-abortion activism to a campaign for
government support of private-parochial schools. Last
month, parishioners throughout the region were given mail-
in post cards during church services to send to elected
representatives in support of the school voucher campaign.
The archdiocese has also contributed funding and other
resources to a coalition running advertising on behalf of
the vouchers, now being debated in the Pennsylvania
Critics charge that the incident in Lansdowne is, in
fact, part of a pattern which is encouraged by the Roman
Catholic leadership in Philadelphia.
No action was taken against Sister Margaret John, the
principal at St. Philomena, although she "admitted that she
made a mistake and should have read the flier more
AT LAST! SANITY, SKEPTICISM PREVAIL ON PRIME TIME TV
Claims By a Writer Who Says She Talked to Jesus Were
Critically Examined on Last Week's 20/20 Program
by Conrad Goeringer
Betty J. Eadie says that she died, went to heaven,
talked to Jesus, and returned to earth with a message.
The message has sold 4,000,000 copies of her book
"Embraced by the Light" in 26 countries and made Betty
Eadie a sought-after speaker, especially on the New Age
chat circuit. But despite the book's growing popularity,
not everyone is buying what Betty has to say.
Last week's installment of the ABC newsmagazine
"20/20" was a pleasant departure from the credulous tone
found in numerous documentaries, specials and
investigations into the paranormal, occult and religious.
While noting that many individuals -- including Betty Eadie
-- report NDE's or "Near Death Experiences," "20/20"
presented psychologist Susan Blackmore who skillfully
explained the NDE phenomena in scientific terms. Blackmore
is a psychologist at the University of the West of England
in Bristol. Her own investigations have transformed her
from being an initial "believer" in such paranormal
phenomena into a skeptic.
Among the common recollections of NDE are:
**Hovering and looking down on one's body laying on an
operating table or bed, even on the ground or in the
remains of machinery following an accident.
**Being "pulled" into a bright tunnel and experiencing
intense feelings of love, warmth, joy and resolution.
**Encountering angels, gods, other supernatural
Blackmore noted that death is a process of
neurological decay, where brain cells are firing rapidly
and in random, producing all manner of subjective
experiences. She explained the "tunnel" by the gradual
decay of cells in the visual cortex, and surmised that the
NDE is a function of brain activity rather than some
mystical or religious event.
Experiments have also duplicated the "hovering"
sensation, through the use of drugs such as tetrodotoxin.
Subjects in laboratory trials were administered similar
chemicals and reported levitating out of their own bodies,
"looking down" on themselves and others. One ingenious
experiment asked the subjects to levitate and examine
numbers which were mounted face-up near the roof of the lab
room. Although test subjects often had the experience of
viewing the numbers, their recollections never did match
the actual digits on the control cards. Obviously, they --
and their eyes -- stayed in bed.
"20/20" also noted that Eadie has a religious
background, having spent time in a Roman Catholic boarding
school as a child on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.
Records which would confirm the fact that she did, in fact,
die while having a hysterectomy have not been released.
Betty Eadies's "messages" from heaven are often vague
or speak of "love" and "understanding." Those depicted
attending her lectures, asking questions or getting her to
sign copies of her book frequently cried and expressed
gratitude to Eadie for her claim that their "loved one's"
lived on in an afterlife. Betty Eadie is quite matter-of-
fact about heaven, too. Do our pets survive to be with us
in an afterlife? She says they do. (What about germs,
sharks, ticks or killer bees?)
One of the more disturbing claims of Ms. Eadie,
though, concerns the holocaust. Eadie insists that Jews
were, in a sense, responsible for their own deaths at the
hands of Nazis "because they were on earth for a divine
purpose." She also claims that EVERYBODY goes to heaven,
from our pets to Adolph Hitler and Pol Pot. A comforting
Unfortunately, no one at "20/20" thought to ask Betty
Eadie (or any other NDE-travellers who claim to have
ventured to heaven) why she did not return with a cure for
cancer, AIDS, or perhaps a useful formula for energy
production -- something that would tend to support such an
astounding claim as that of meeting a god. Eadie says,
however, that she was sent back to earth alive, "for a
purpose" and when she is done with her work she will die.
For now, that purpose seems to involve books, lectures, and
glowing stories about the hereafter.
Both hosts of "20/20", Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters,
expressed skepticism at Betty Eadie's claims. Downs
suggested that Eadie, however, believed her own story and
had obviously experienced "something." Unfortunately, this
"20/20" installment was not a thorough autopsy of a
religious or paranormal claim. It did not discuss the
possible motivations of Eadie (ranging from hallucination
to outright fraud), nor did it examine the even more
crucial element of why so many persons believe claims of
this type without good, substantial evidence. But it was
refreshing to see at least some counter-evidence presented.
One senses that Dr. Blackmore said a great deal more about
the "Near Death Experience" that ended up on the cutting-
room floor at ABC. Perhaps, though, this program is at
least a start for some segments of the news media to take a
more critical and skeptical approach in dealing with claims
of the occult, paranormal, and religious.
SOCCER BOOSTER MURDERED IN FUNDAMENTALIST JIHAD
30,000 Have Been Killed in Algeria As the Islamic Salvation
Front Continues Its Terror Campaign
by Conrad F. Goeringer
Islamic militants continued their holy war in Algeria
Sunday, June 11, murdering a popular soccer fan known
throughout the country for his colorful garb and stadium
antics. Hocine Dehimi was 33 and known to hundreds of
thousands of fans as "Yamaha." For the past 15 years, he
was a mascot for the national soccer team and his home club
in the Belcourt section of Algiers. "Yamaha" followed his
teams to away-matches, danced, led crowds in songs and
chants, and banged drums to build up enthusiasm during the
Thousands of Algerian youth poured into the streets of
the poor Belcourt section yesterday in protest of this
latest act of violence. It appears that the murder was
carried out by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front
which has carried out a terror campaign in its efforts to
establish an Iran-style "Islamic Social Republic" and
abolish reforms made in Algeria by the secular government
and other progressive elements.
Originally, the Front targeted military and political
leaders, but has now begun executing popular cultural
figures as well. The popular singer known as Hasni, whose
cassettes and records were sold throughout the Middle East,
was killed in September 1994. The newspaper El Watan said
like Hasni, the young Dehimi was a symbol "of hope for
young people thirsting to live, not kill."
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