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February 17th, 2014
06:41 PM ET

Satanists: Accused Craigslist killer not one of us

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) -  She's not one of us.

That's what Satanists are saying about accused "Craigslist killer" Miranda Barbour.

The 19-year-old told The Daily Item, a Pennsylvania newspaper, that she joined a satanic cult in Alaska when she was 13 and participated in several murders.

Barbour, who has been charged with one slaying in 2013, told the newspaper that she has been involved in  at least 22 killings.

But authorities haven't corroborated her claims, and top Satanists say they have no ties to Barbour or her husband, Elytte Barbour, who is also charged in the 2013 killing of 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara. Police say LaFerrara responded to a "companionship" ad placed by Miranda Barbour on Craigslist.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Crime • Cults • Satanism

January 31st, 2013
04:21 AM ET

Unholy details of a religious cult

CNN's Brooke Baldwin talks to Rafael Romo about a religious cult whose members were believed to be victims of sex slavery.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Cults • Mexico • TV-CNN Newsroom

My Take: Penn State’s dark fellowship
Joseph Loconte looks to C.S. Lewis for help understanding the reaction of Joe Paterno, above, and others to Jerry Sandusky.
July 15th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

My Take: Penn State’s dark fellowship

Editor's Note: Joseph Loconte, Ph.D., is an associate professor of history at the King’s College in New York City and the author of The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt.

By Joseph Loconte, Special to CNN

(CNN)–The results of the investigation into the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, released last week, suggest a crisis of conscience in the academy. The report blames “the most powerful leaders at the university” for concealing vital facts about football coach Jerry Sandusky’s chronic record of child abuse. Singled out are university President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz, and head Coach Joe Paterno. “Our most saddening and sobering finding,” the report said, “is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State.”

Last month Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse, including rape and sodomy. If the investigation’s conclusions are correct, he had help. It seems that all these individuals, men of public achievement and outward propriety, conspired together to protect a serial pedophile. How is it possible?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Cults • My Take • Sports

Amish attacks unveil suspected cult
November 1st, 2011
02:48 PM ET

Amish beard-cutting attacks uncover suspected cult

By Chris Welch, CNN

Bergholz, Ohio (CNN) - Aden Troyer hasn't figured out precisely how he'll tell his daughters – now 4 and 5 years old – why they're growing up without a mother.

"I've kind of held back a little bit because they are so young, and I do not want to depress them," he said from his home in north-central Pennsylvania.

Troyer, his ex-wife, Wilma, and their two children are part of the Amish faith, which includes living a simple life free of the conveniences of the modern world, like electricity and motorized vehicles.

But what happened to the Troyer family is anything but simple.

Troyer believes that he and his wife were lured into a cult made up of breakaway members of the larger Amish community near Bergholz in rural eastern Ohio. He said it was – and still is – ruled with an iron fist by his former father-in-law, Sam Mullet, a man who Troyer and others say is anything but a typical Amish leader.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Amish • Cults • Ohio • Religious violence

October 9th, 2011
07:42 PM ET

My Take: This evangelical says Mormonism isn’t a cult

Editor’s note: Richard J. Mouw is President of Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical school in Pasadena, California.

By Richard J. Mouw, Special to CNN

Some prominent evangelical pastors have been telling their constituents not to support Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidential nomination. Because Romney is Mormon, they say, to cast a vote for him is to promote the cause of a cult.

I beg to differ.

For the past dozen years, I’ve been co-chairing, with Professor Robert Millet of Brigham Young University – the respected Mormon school - a behind-closed-doors dialogue between about a dozen evangelicals and an equal number of our Mormon counterparts.

We have talked for many hours about key theological issues: the authority of the Bible, the person and work of Christ, the Trinity, “continuing revelations” and the career of Joseph Smith, the 19th century founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), better known as the Mormon Church.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Cults • Evangelical • Mitt Romney • Politics • Rick Perry

Rose McGowan: How she survived, escaped a cult
Rose McGowan grew up in the Italian countryside, where her parent were members of the local branch of the Children of God.
August 25th, 2011
07:53 PM ET

Rose McGowan: How she survived, escaped a cult

By Blaine Zuckerman, PEOPLE.com

(PEOPLE.com) - Rose McGowan's first nine years were anything but traditional. They were spent in the Children of God sect, a group that extolled the virtues of free love and prepared for the second coming of Jesus.

Although it proved a harrowing experience - she fled with her family, she says, once the cult began advocating child-adult sexual relations - as the setting at first "was really idyllic," remembers the actress, 38, who rose to fame on TV's Charmed and now stars in Conan the Barbarian 3D.

"I grew up in pastoral settings" - specifically, the Italian countryside, where her parent were members of the local branch of the Children of God. But McGowan, who was born in Florence, knew instinctively that she didn't belong in such a place.

Read the full story here.
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Cults • Entertainment

April 17th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Rethinking the word 'cult'

Nearly 20 years ago, 76 people lost their lives during an FBI raid near Waco, Texas. CNN's Drew Griffin looks at those events at 8 ET/PT and 11 ET/PT Sunday night in "Waco: Faith, Fear & Fire."

Editor’s note: James T. Richardson, J.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he specializes in new religions. He is the coauthor of the forthcoming Saints under Siege (New York University Press).

By James T. Richardson, Special to CNN

I remember being struck by one of the early stories about 1993’s siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

Shortly after an initial raid by federal authorities ended in a gun battle that left 10 dead (six Davidians and four ATF agents), a lengthy story appeared in my local paper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, about the history of the Davidian group, which had existed at Mount Carmel, Texas for decades.

The story noted that Branch Davidians were a spinoff sect of the Seventh Day Adventists, a Christian denomination. The term “cult” did not appear in the story at all. And yet the headline of this front-page piece screamed “Cult Standoff in Waco” in inch-high capital letters.

Some headline writer had decided that the Davidians were in fact a cult, no matter what the story said.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Cults • Faith Now • History • Opinion

December 10th, 2010
12:36 PM ET

Federal jury finds Smart kidnapper guilty

A federal jury has found a homeless street preacher guilty of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002 and transporting the 14-year-old girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity.

Jurors deliberated for about five hours before announcing the verdict in the case of Brian David Mitchell, 57, court officials said.

Smart, now 23, was the prosecution's star witness. She spent three days on the witness stand after traveling to Utah from Paris, France, where she is on a mission with the Mormon church. Afterwards, she sat with her parents in the front row of the courtroom, watching the trial.

Read the full story here about the verdict in the Elizabeth Smart case.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Courts • Cults • Faith Now • Mormonism • United States • Utah

September 19th, 2010
11:03 PM ET

Missing 'cult-like' group found alive after suicide fears

A group of 13 Salvadoran immigrants missing in southern California amid fears that they planned a cult-like mass suicide have been found alive, unhurt and upset to find they were the subjects of an extensive search.

Authorities had been scouring the Palmdale area of northern Los Angeles County on horseback and by helicopter Sunday in search of the group, which included eight children between the ages of 3 and 17, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. A resident spotted one of the vehicles identified in the lookout at a park and notified the sheriff's department, he said.

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: California • Christianity • Cults • Faith Now • United States

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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