News

Voice of America 04-05-97

CULT DEATHS IN CALIFORNIA

BYLINE=AVI ARDITTI
TELEPHONE=619-2585
DATELINE=WASHINGTON
EDITOR=OLIVER CHANLER

CONTENT=


THIS IS _________ WITH THE VOA SPECIAL ENGLISH PROGRAM
IN THE NEWS.

THEY OPERATED A BUSINESS IN A LARGE HOME NEAR SAN
DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.  THEY DESIGNED ELECTRONIC 
INFORMATION PAGES FOR COMPANIES TO PUT ON THE 
INTERNET COMPUTER SYSTEM.  

LATE LAST MONTH, THE TWENTY-ONE WOMEN AND 
EIGHTEEN MEN GATHERED THEIR BELONGINGS FOR A TRIP.  
ALL HAD SHORT HAIR AND WORE SIMILAR BLACK CLOTHES.  
IN THREE GROUPS, OVER SEVERAL DAYS, THEY SWALLOWED
A MIXTURE OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL, AND LAY DOWN WITH
PLASTIC BAGS OVER THEIR HEADS.  WHEN POLICE FOUND 
THEM, ALL THIRTY-NINE PEOPLE WERE DEAD.  THIS IS WHAT
INVESTIGATORS SAY HAPPENED TO THE GROUP THAT CALLED
ITSELF "HEAVEN'S GATE."  

AMONG THE DEAD WAS THE GROUP'S LEADER, MARSHALL 
APPLEWHITE, A FORMER MUSIC PROFESSOR.  HE WAS SIXTY-SIX
YEARS OLD.  HE TOLD HIS FOLLOWERS THAT THEY WOULD
FIND A NEW LIFE ON A SPACESHIP TRAVELLING BEHIND THE 
HALE-BOPP COMET.  FIRST, HOWEVER, THEY WOULD HAVE TO 
LEAVE THEIR BODIES, WHICH THEY CALLED THEIR "CONTAINERS".

DURING THEIR YEARS TOGETHER, MEMBERS OF THE GROUP 
HALTED ALL COMMUNICATION WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
THEY ALSO PROMISED NOT TO HAVE SEX.  MISTER APPLEWHITE
AND SOME OF THE OTHER MEN HAD THEIR SEXUAL ORGANS 
REMOVED.

THE YOUNGEST MEMBER IF THE GROUP WAS TWENTY-SIX.  
THE OLDEST WAS SEVENTY-TWO.  MOST WERE IN THEIR FORTIES.    

GROUPS LIKE HEAVEN'S GATE ARE COMMONLY KNOWN AS
CULTS.  MANY CULTS ARE BASED ON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.  
SOME OF THESE BELIEFS ARE EXTREME.  SOME ARE NOT.  
HERE ARE FAMOUS EXAMPLES OF MODERN CULTS:  

SHOKO ASAHARA LED THE JAPANESE CULT KNOWN AS 
AUM SHINRI KYO, OR "SUPREME TRUTH."  HE AND OTHERS 
ARE CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH THE NERVE GAS ATTACK 
IN TOKYO'S UNDERGROUND TRAIN SYSTEM TWO YEARS AGO.
THE GAS KILLED TWELVE PEOPLE AND MADE THOUSANDS SICK.

DAVID KORESH LED THE BRANCH DAVIDIAN GROUP.  FOUR 
YEARS AGO, FIRE DESTROYED THEIR BUILDING IN WACO, TEXAS, 
DURING A RAID BY FEDERAL AGENTS.  HE AND MORE THAN
SEVENTY OTHERS, INCLUDING CHILDREN, DIED IN THE FIRE.

IN EUROPE, LUC JOURET AND JOSEPH DIMAMBRO LED A 
GROUP KNOWN AS THE ORDER OF THE SOLAR TEMPLE.  MORE
THAN FIFTY MEMBERS,  INCLUDING THE TWO OF THEM, WERE 
FOUND DEAD IN SWITZERLAND AND CANADA IN OCTOBER, 
NINETEEN-NINETY-FOUR.  MANY WERE MURDERED.  A YEAR
LATER THE BODIES OF SIXTEEN OTHERS WERE FOUND IN A 
BURNED HOUSE IN FRANCE.  LAST MONTH, FIVE SOLAR TEMPLE
MEMBERS WERE FOUND BURNED TO DEATH IN QUEBEC.  

JIM JONES, OF THE UNITED STATES, LED A CULT CALLED THE 
PEOPLE'S TEMPLE.  IN NINETEEN-SEVENTY-EIGHT, IN JONESTOWN,
GUYANA, HE AND HIS FOLLOWERS DRANK POISON. 
NINE-HUNDRED PEOPLE DIED WITH THEIR LEADER.  

EXPERTS SAY NOT ALL CULTS ARE DANGEROUS.  YET, AS THE 
YEAR TWO-THOUSAND NEARS, THEY SAY THERE IS NO TELLING
WHAT SOME GROUPS MAY DO IF THEY BELIEVE IT IS THE END
OF THE WORLD.

THIS SPECIAL ENGLISH IN THE NEWS PROGRAM WAS WRITTEN BY
AVI ARDITTI.  THIS IS __________.

04-Apr-97 1:37 PM EST (1837 UTC)
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