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UK Teen Cited For Calling Scientology a "Cult" 995

An anonymous reader writes "A 15-year-old in the UK is facing prosecution for using the word 'cult' to describe the Church of Scientology at an anti-Scientology demonstration in London earlier this month. According to the City of London police at the scene, the teen was violating the Public Order Act, which 'prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.' There's a video of the teen receiving the summons from the City of London police at the demonstration (starting about 1 minute in), and now he's asking for advice on how to handle the court case."
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UK Teen Cited For Calling Scientology a "Cult"

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  • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:00AM (#23488086)

    Whats the difference between religions and cults? As far as I can tell they really are the same thing.
    Cult = Small unpopular religion
    Religion = Large Popular cult.

    Cult is a root in cultivate, where all religions were at one point cults. However in popular use cults tend to benefit a majority of people, where religious are institutions whose goal is to benefit society. I'm not saying that their methods always benefit society, but that's the ideal. Also cults tend to be secretive. For example, you ask a Christian their beliefs, they'll tell you they believe in a guy who walked on water, healed the sick, turned water into wine, and rose from the dead. You ask a cult their beliefs and practices and they won't answer you. []

    You'll note that Tommy Davis never answered what Scientology beliefs in, only the "benefits". He also lied about OT3 involving Xenu.

    Also they are not mutually exclusive. One can have a religion which is a cult.

  • If anyone's interested in knowing about the "Church" and its abuses, Anonymous, or the protests in general, Anonymous has a great page on Why We Protest [].
  • The law in question (Score:4, Informative)

    by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:08AM (#23488152)
    I'm not a resident of the UK. However this info has been shared

    YT video/a> of an officer explaining the new rule []

    Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (c. 1) []

    I'm not in agreement, but this is the law being sited and enforced.
  • Colt (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dr. Cody ( 554864 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:11AM (#23488174)
  • Re:move to germany (Score:5, Informative)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:11AM (#23488186)
    Germany even put them under surveillance by the "Verfassungsschutz". Usually, something like this is reserved for groups that threaten the state's integrity, safety or the state itself.

    So calling the CoS a "cult" seems rather tame by comparison.
  • Re:Oh, Great. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <slashdot AT uberm00 DOT net> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:14AM (#23488222) Homepage Journal
    I tried to post this a month and a half ago on Slashdot but it was rejected: Atlanta police arrest a peaceful protester at the March 15th worldwide protest []. Note the numerous police decked out in full riot gear, even though Anonymous had posed no threat to them or Scientology, and was very clear that this was a peaceful protest.

    They then started issuing tickets to any cars that honked as they drove by. Second half of that video I linked, I shit you not.

    From what I've read they were much better at the April and May protests, but it does show that the police's allegiances in some areas shift like crazy.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:15AM (#23488226)
    Eating placenta is a ritual in some cultures. And it is par for the course among many mammals.
  • by dotgain ( 630123 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:19AM (#23488256) Homepage Journal
    Speaking as a man who had a pretty hefty dose of having to learn about Cult Mind Control while I did my damndest to save my wife from the Jehovah's Witnesses, I would say this this is pretty accurate, but would add:

    4) Works to create tension and mistrust between the new-guy and his unbelieving / skeptical family and friends. [like Scientology]
    5) Often attempts to exhaust the person physically during the induction, 2AM knocks on the door etc. to defeat their mental defences

  • Re:Oh, Great. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:23AM (#23488290) Homepage Journal
    Much more effective than you can imagine. Check out this fascinating article about conspiracies that actually happened []. One of the entries is about Scientology's fairly successful effort at stealing back documents that made them look bad. From the government.

    From the article:

    Anyway, somewhere around 5,000 of Scientology's crack commandos wiretapped and burglarized various agencies. They stole hundreds of documents, mainly from the IRS. No critic was spared, and in the end, 136 organizations, agencies and foreign embassies were infiltrated.
  • by chartreuse ( 16508 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:28AM (#23488318) Homepage

    Christianity, and especially Islam would be seen as completely psychotic if they were not several thousand years of tradition surrounding these religions, and countless reforms to make them remain relevant in our technologically advanced world.
    "Several" thousand years would seem to overstate the matter. Muhammad was born around 570, and we apparently date the Gregorian calendar beginning with some guy in year 0 or something, around 2008 years ago.

    A world-spanning religion based on ancient Egyptian religion, now that would be millennia.
  • by nsayer ( 86181 ) <> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:44AM (#23488426) Homepage
    1. There is no year 0. The year before year 1 was 1 BC.

    2. They didn't know it was year 1 at the time. That whole thing was worked out many, many years later. It turns out that the guy that worked it out was wrong. The best guess is that the fellow you're talking about was born in 4 BC, but given the state of record keeping at the time (particularly given that fellow's official status at the time of his life and death), that has to be taken with a "Lot's wife" sized grain of salt.

  • Re:in other news (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:55AM (#23488510)
    Those people were prosecuted []
    In all, only four people were brought to face charges on Friday June 26 as a result of the Sloane Square demonstration. These included Mizanur Rahman, as well as 26-year old Umran Javed of Birmingham, who denied one charge of soliciting to murder American or Danish nationals and one charge of using threatening words or behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred. 31 year old Abdul Rahman Saleem (aka Abu Yahya) denied one count of using words likely to stir up racial hatred. 23 year old Abdul Muhid was charged with two counts of soliciting murder to those who insulted Islam.

    All those charged except Abdul Muhid were granted bail. Muhid, who had tried to flee the country on May 4 with Anjem Choudary, was denied bail and was kept in custody in Winchester Prison.

    Muhid, Abdul Rahman Saleem (aka Abu Yahya) and Umran Javed are still awaiting their trials.

    Actually the incitement to religious hatred law that this guy got busted under was partly inspired by that demonstration.

    It's silly really. Incitement should be illegal and that's it. Then the "Behead those who insult Islam" types would get arrested and this guy wouldn't. Which seems fair enough to me.
  • by coleblak ( 863392 ) <coleblakdotcom@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:04AM (#23488566)
    Also, in the wild, the placenta being left around alerts predators to tasty, tasty babies being around. As for Cults/Religions, Cults COST you money, Religions GUILT it out of you.
  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:08AM (#23488602) Homepage
    Yep. Though probably you are thinking of the wrong Orwell

    After all the church has spent a considerable amount of money on wooing that particular police department. []

    It is the "All animals are equal, some are more equal than the other" bit of Orwell.
  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:10AM (#23488620) Homepage Journal
    I know this is a lot to ask, but please get the facts right.

    He hasn't received a summons.
    He's not being taken to court.
    He was warned, by a somewhat overzealous police officer, that he might have been in breach of the law, and he had his sign confiscated.

    The Crown Prosecution Service, who are the people who decide whether a prosecution will take place, have been told that these events happened. And will decide whether to proceed. If anyone wants to bet $10 to say they will, I'll gladly take your money here and now.

    That's it.
  • by jwisser ( 1038696 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:13AM (#23488638) Homepage
    I like "Terrorism and Radicalization Prevention Act". It's one letter-switch away from being a TRAP.
  • by DJMajah ( 738313 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:22AM (#23488706)

    that's not what "ironic" means.
    Quoth Wiki: Dramatic (or tragic) irony is a disparity of expression and awareness: when words and actions possess a significance that the listener or audience understands, but the speaker or character does not.

    Sounds like irony to me.
  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:26AM (#23488738) Homepage Journal
    It's not even a ticket.
    It's a warning about the possibility of getting a ticket.

    A ticket would be a written "Notice of Intended Prosecution", which would have to be followed up with a summons. And although the kid says he's got a summons, he clearly hasn't as he doesn't know his court date. A summons tells you when and where you must appear appear to answer a charge -- hence the name.
  • by ubernostrum ( 219442 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:33AM (#23488790) Homepage

    Well, definitions vary wildly. In the course of my (philosophy) degree, I did quite a bit of study into religion, and generally speaking the following are considered good indicators of a "cult", though there is no single universal set of definitive criteria.

    So, in general, a "cult":

    • Typically follows one or more highly charismatic leaders, whose word is taken to be unquestionable.
    • Clearly divides the world into "us" and "them".
    • Believes that the world outside the "us" group is fundamentally bad/evil.
    • As a result, believes that interaction with the outside world is dangerous to members of the "us" group and is to be avoided when possible, or carefully supervised.
    • As a result, tends to form more or less isolated enclaves to minimize contact with outsiders, or mediate such contact through trusted group members in positions of authority.
    • As a result, believes that untrained persons interacting with the outside world are tainted and need to be carefully reassimilated to the group.
    • Typically holds beliefs radically different from what is considered mainstream or acceptable for the immediately-surrounding society.
    • As a result of the above, typically experiences a high degree of tension with the outside world, which can create a feedback loop (above tendencies lead to tension, which aggravates above tendencies, which leads to more tension...).

    Of course, many groups show one or more of these tendencies, but aren't widely considered (and really shouldn't be considered) "cults". And some groups that are "cults" show none of these tendencies. And this status can evolve over time; for example, many early Protestant movements were, by these criteria, "cults" at the time of their founding, but -- as Protestantism gained wider acceptance -- became closer to the mainstream and so lost many of the above tendencies.

  • Re:Once again (Score:5, Informative)

    by aristolochene ( 997556 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:38AM (#23488818)
    Apart from Articles 10 and 11 of European Convention on Human Rights? Part of Human Rights Act.

    Try and remember that first section of US constitution is based on English Bill or Rights (1689) and Scottish Claim of Right, which itself carries on a tradition of defining the limits of state power and citizens rights dating back to Magna Carta (which predates Columbus by 200 years).

    Worth thinking about every time americans get all misty eyed about their own history.

    That's not to say the UK is a perfect democracy, but neither is the US.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:48AM (#23488890)
    You mean Fair Game []. Fair Play [] is Apple's ironic term for its DRM scheme.
  • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) <brollyferret@gEI ... minus physicist> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:53AM (#23488912) Journal
    Wasn't voluntary when I was a kid.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:04AM (#23489008)
    Section 5
    (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he-
            (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour,
                    or disorderly behaviour, or
            (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation
                    which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
                    within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment,
                    alarm or distress thereby.

    (2) An offence under this section may be committed in a
            public or a private place, except that no offence is committed
            where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or
            other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a
            dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another

    (3) It is a defence for the accused to prove-
            (a) that he had no reason to believe that there was any
                    person within hearing or sight who was likely to be
                    caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
            (b) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to
                    believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing,
                    sign or other visible representation displayed, would
                    be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other
                    dwelling, or
            (c) that his conduct was reasonable.

    (4) A constable may arrest a person without warrant ifâ"
            (a) he engages in offensive conduct which the constable
                    warns him to stop, and
            (b) he engages in further offensive conduct immediately or
                    shortly after the warning.

    (5) In subsection (4) "offensive conduct" means conduct the
            constable reasonably suspects to constitute an offence under this
            section, and the conduct mentioned in paragraph (a) and the
            further conduct need not be of the same nature.

    (6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable
            on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the
            standard scale.

    Section 6
    (4) A person is guilty of an offence under section 5 only if he
            intends his words or behaviour, or the writing, sign or other
            visible representation, to be threatening, abusive or insulting,
            or is aware that it may be threatening, abusive or insulting or
            (as the case may be) he intends his behaviour to be or is aware
            that it may be disorderly. []
  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:05AM (#23489014)
    ISO 8601 [] has a year 0 (or 0000), corresponding to the Gregorian 1BC. It then goes -0001, -0002 etc for prior years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:25AM (#23489144)
    not quite


    Main Entry: cult
    Pronunciation: \klt\
    Function: noun
    Usage: often attributive
    Etymology: French & Latin; French culte, from Latin cultus care, adoration, from colere to cultivate -- more at wheel
    Date: 1617
    1: formal religious veneration : worship
    2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
    3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
    4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
    5 a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
  • Re:Once again (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:01AM (#23489370)
    Scientology isn't a religion. It's a cult.
  • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:29AM (#23489544)
    He *was* given a summons by the police at the demonstration. The CPS haven't decided whether to go ahead with the case yet, as you say, and no date has been set for the court case. I too hope that it will be quietly dropped by the CPS, but I'm not at all 100% sure.

    That the police even went so far as to issue a summons is a scary indictment of the level of anti-speech legislation on the books and used against peaceful demonstrators. As someone said above, I wonder when they'll decide to ban 'war-criminal' and 'tax' protest signs.

  • Re:Once again (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:33AM (#23489560)
    Oh, right, Article 10 and 11.

    Really worked for this guy, right?

    > Try and remember that first section of US
    > constitution is based on English Bill or Rights

    Nope. Sorry. Not even close.

    The first section (Article 1) of the constitution deals with the structure of government.

    Refresher course on line here: []

    In fact, ratification of the Constitution was in doubt due to the observation of the people that there were no protections of individual rights in the document. Promises of amendments to correct this issue were finally agreed to by states in order to get the constitution passed.

    Only then were people's rights enshrined in in the first 10 amendments, the most important of which and the least observed being Amendment 10:

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    In fact, that single amendment would have sufficed and we would be better off with just that single amendment. Too many people believe the constitution enumerates our rights. This is totally backward. The constitution Limits Government. Something sadly lacking in Britain.
  • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:52AM (#23489658)
    No need for a dictionary. I've RTFA (before it was posted on /., so I have an excuse), and the kid cited a case in which a judge called Scientology a cult. I've no doubt he'll cite it again if this comes to trial.
  • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @05:07AM (#23489722) Homepage Journal
    To nitpick: This was City of London police. City of London != London.

    City of London is just one of 30 boroughs of the city named London. Confusing, I know. To make matters more confusing, City of London have it's police force (the rest of London's policing is done by the Metropolitan Police as pointed out in the article) and City of London has it's own Lord Mayor not to be confused with the Mayor of London.

    City of London is the "original" London, where most of the settlements dating back to Roman times can be found. Now it's mainly a financial centre, and not many people live there.

    Generally City is under tighter control than the rest of London, and it doesn't surprise me that it was City of London police that acted like idiots.

  • Re:Once again (Score:5, Informative)

    by aristolochene ( 997556 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @05:27AM (#23489830)
    the set of amendments to the constitution which form the bill of rights in the US closely match - and indeed were derived from the English/Scottish bills/claims of right from 1689. This is, I'm afraid, fact - phrases like "cruel and unusual punishment" come from English bill of rights. The UK doesn't have a single written constitution (for complex historical reasons), but there are plenty of documents (for example Margna Carta) which were developed in the UK and limit state power. It's absurd to suggest that the UK does not have systems in place to limit the power of the state. The US system of politics /government didn't develop in a vacuum. Many of the ideas of the US constitution were based on UK law (hardly a surprise) and modified to suit the particular ideology/politics/beliefs of early US politicians. It's probably fair to say that some aspects of the US model have been a success, and some less so. it is easy to pick holes in both US and UK systems of government, and neither represents a perfect democracy, but it is difficult to argue that they don't both share a common root.
  • Re:Once again (Score:5, Informative)

    by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @06:45AM (#23490282) Homepage

    In the UK, I can say "Gordon Brown is a noxious prick" without any legal repercussions.If I was in the US, I couldn't say that about George W Bush without being arrested.

    I've lived in the US my whole life. Saying that any politician is a prick, fruad, cheat, liar, bastard, @#$#head or worse is constitutionally protected political speech. People can, and do voice their opinion on our leaders with bumper stickers, rants on national television, signs, t-shirts and more. Bush is more often the target than not. We have the absolute right to criticize our politicians. We have no thought police, despite peoples best attempts to imagine them!

    What we are struggling with here is the right to peacefully assemble to voice these opinions where, say George Bush is going to give a speech at a graduation. The haters want to disrupt the event (which would fall out of bounds of our right to *peacefully* assemble), and Bush just wants to deliver his speech (and believe me, he doesn't want distractions).
  • Re:Once again (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nuskrad ( 740518 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @06:57AM (#23490354)
    The Human Rights Act is flimsy at best though. The First Amendment to the US Constitution doesn't include a list of exceptions longer than the amendment itself, whereas the HRA states that freedom of expression may be curtailed "in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary". The fact it includes 'morals', which are entirely subjective, demonstrates just how flimsy it is.
  • Re:Not censorship (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @08:10AM (#23490776)

      That only computes to a Scientologist.
  • by hassanchop ( 1261914 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @08:49AM (#23491162)

    I knew a guy who was charged for shouting an obscene comment to a buddy while they were kayaking near a swimming area... []

    I think you should have said "I read a story about a guy..." because we read it too. And that way when you find out that his conviction was overturned on appeal, you won't look so silly.

    "TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Michigan Court of Appeals yesterday struck down a 105-year-old law against using vulgar language in front of women and children, throwing out the conviction of a canoeist who let loose a stream of curses after falling into the water.

    A three-judge panel ruled in favor of Timothy Joseph Boomer. An Arenac County jury had found him guilty in 1999 of swearing after tumbling into the Rifle River."

    If you knew the guy like you implied, you'd know that too.

    And the obscenity laws you talk about have repeatedly been ruled unconstitutional when challenged.

  • by coyote_oww ( 749758 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @09:49AM (#23491824)
    No, POTUS is limited to 10 years, technically. You can be elected twice and do two years of someone else's term. []

  • Re:Britain 1, USA 0 (Score:5, Informative)

    by SeaDuck79 ( 851025 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:12PM (#23494672)
    True, but there are objective definitions.

    First, on matters of adherence to biblical doctrine, St. Francis said this: "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity". This means that difference of opinion over worship style, dress, etc. should be unimportant, and shouldn't get in the way of focusing on the essentials of learning to follow God, and those differences don't define cults.

    When defining a cult, Dr. Walter Martin (RIP) wrote the definitive work in the 1970's called "The Kingdom of the Cults". It is an exhaustive, massive reference book that simply points out where each and every religious group in the world differs from Biblical doctrine.

    You know when you're in a cult when:

    1) The group is led by a charismatic leader who demands obedience to his word above any others.
    2) The leader insists on doing your thinking for you, i.e. arranged marriages, etc.
    3) The group grants teachings that are not the Bible equal or greater standing than the Bible.
    4) The leader teaches that all other churches/groups/whatever are missing it, and only HIS way is really hearing God.
    5) The leader doesn't even attempt to live by his own principles.

    Sounds like Scientology fits the definition to me.

    I'm definitely crossing the U.K. off my travel list. They've gone completely 'round the bend.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:48PM (#23497430)

    [Anonymous is a] well mannered, peaceful "organization"
    You must not be familiar with Anonymous' actions other than the Scientology war.
  • by Sonja Wiels ( 1293504 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @05:28PM (#23497820)
    "Oh, Scientology is not really any more far out than Christianity" (Subtext: this makes it "ok", it's like other bona fide religions and we let them stick around, right?)

    I have heard this notion cast about for some time now, here at Slashdot and elsewhere, and it disturbs me that so many people miss the important point here. The issue is not whether Scientology is any weirder than other religions. Their bizarre beliefs are not in and of themselves the danger. The real danger is of the same kind we have seen before. It is very familiar, everyone here has probably read about it at one point or another, perhaps in a history book, or a newspaper.

    And that danger is that to the average Scientologist the only hope for the world is through the philosophy of Scientology. It MUST be spread to every corner of the globe by whatever means necessary. Our society MUST be rewritten according to its standards and methods. And its current standards and methods are clear that any means are acceptable to reaching that end. ANY means. The laws, morals, ethics, etc. of the rest of the world are secondary and can be ignored if it means furthering the aims of Scientology.

    THAT is the danger in a nutshell. As I have said, we have seen this sort of thinking before: [] [] []

    And we have seen what happens when Scientologists are allowed to practice this "philosophy": [] [] []

    There are still other dangers to be considered as well. They turn people away from doctors, medicine and real mental help while giving pie-in-the-sky promises of curing all your problems (up to and including things like cancer, diabetes, schizophrenia, and homosexuality, which they consider a "mental illness"). Many have died believing Scientology would cure them.

    Then there is the fact they their "disconnection" policies have, and are continuing to rip families apart: []

    Children of Scientologists are often denied education, either by being discouraged to go to college (and in many cases any non-scientologist school), or if the parent is a staff member (or if the child is), they may be forced into a Scientology children's organization of one sort or another where they will receive a substandard education, if any. In my experience (which others shared with me and I have found out is all too common elsewhere), I was recruited at a young age and told that my education would be provided for. I and all the other children at the location I was at were given a 4-5 hours a day in a classroom-like environment in which we were to pair off and study "whatever". There were math books, science books, books on spelling and such. But there was no teacher, no curriculum, no grades, no structure of any sort. Often the class was cancelled if we were needed for more important matters (meaning anything to do with Scientology's well-being). To get around this we were all instructed and trained in how to lie if the city sent someone by to check on conditions there, and we were to tell them that we were always getting our study in.

    I understand that there are some similar practices in other religions as well. I oppose these too. Religions that forbid surgery or blood transfusions, those that sucker people into "faith healing", all are doing a tremendous disservice and must be opposed.

    Scientology too must be

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM