Dec 30, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/30/2021 (Falun Gong, Australia, Religious Discrimination, Eliezer Berland's Shuvu Bonim, Isreal, Legal, Joel Osteen, Religion and Taxes)

Falun Gong, Australia, Religious Discrimination, Eliezer Berland's Shuvu Bonim, Isreal, Legal, Joel Osteen, Religion and Taxes

"Falun Gong practitioners have been blocked from taking part in this [years] Perth Christmas Pageant after organizers deemed the spiritual movement too political and could give rise to "security issues" at the event.

In email correspondence seen by WAtoday, the Falun Dafa Association was initially offered a place in the event, run by billionaire Kerry Stokes' Seven West Media, but the invitation was revoked 10 days later.

Seven organizers told the group the pageant was an apolitical event and their presence could lead to the "airing of international political issues".

"The pageant is not a forum for those involved in such issues to be represented, and it gives rise to potential conflict and security issues for the event," an email to the organization on Monday said.

It is the second time the group has been dropped from the event.

On the eve of the 2018 pageant, Falun Gong performers were told they could not join the parade, which they believed was a result of pressure from the Perth Chinese Consulate on Seven West Media organizers.

The group was eventually allowed to perform after an eleventh-hour backflip, but they were banned from wearing anything that could identify them as Falun Gong, including the movement's motto of "truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance" printed on their drums.

Before 2018, the group had been a regular performer at the pageant, which is one of Perth's biggest events and attracts crowds of about 200,000 people every year.

Falun Gong practitioner Mark Hutchison was surprised when he received an email from Seven West Media last month informing him the group was approved to participate in the event.

After a follow-up email to ensure the group would be allowed to be introduced as Falun Dafa, another name for Falun Gong, he was told they could no longer be accommodated."
"Two followers of convicted sex offender Eliezer Berland's Shuvu Bonim sect were charged on Friday in connection with the 1986 murder of a teen.

The two were indicted over the murder of 17-year-old Nissim Shitrit. His body was never found and Friday's charges were the first made in connection with his death.

One of the suspects charged in the case was the son of a former minister. His name has not been released for publication. The second suspect was Baruch Sharvit, a Shuvu Bonim follower.

According to the indictment, some of those involved in the abduction and death of Shitrit have not yet been detained.

Prosecutors asked for the suspects to remain in detention until the end of legal proceedings.

"The serious acts attributed to the accused indicate his danger to the public despite the lapse of time since the murder attributed to him," read the indictment for one of the suspects. "The fact that this is a multi-stage event, a very complex and extremely cruel event which was intended to impose the lifestyles of the defendants on the deceased and the public, establishes a reasonable basis for fear that his release will endanger public safety."

According to the indictment, Shitrit was suspected by members of the sect of having some form of relationship with a girl, in contravention of the sect's religious norms, the Ynet news site reported.

The teen was collected from his boarding school in Ashdod by the sect's "religious police," in January 1986, four months before he disappeared.

He was driven to Jerusalem and taken to a secluded location, where he was beaten."
" ... Most people know that religious organizations pay no property taxes on their houses of worship. Lesser known is that many also get a valuable break on residences for their clergy as well.

The word "parsonage," as these residences are called, conjures images of humble, spartan rooms attached to drafty churches. A few still are.

Yet in many places across Texas, parsonages are extravagant estates nestled in the state's most exclusive enclaves. Like their wealthy neighbors, the clergy occupants enjoy spacious and well-appointed homes, immaculate grounds, tennis courts, swimming pools, decorative fountains and serene grottos.

Unlike their neighbors, the parsonage owners pay nothing in taxes, leaving other Texans to backfill the uncollected revenue to cover the cost of schools, police and firefighters.

State law allows religious organizations to claim tax-free clergy residences of up to 1 acre. Yet each of the state's counties has its own appraiser responsible for overseeing local properties. So no one entity has examined how many parsonages there are in Texas, their value and their legality."

" ... Religious organizations own tax-free homes worth at least a billion dollars in Texas thanks to an obscure state law. Here are some examples of the homes.

Well-off religious organizations that clearly have the means to afford their taxes don't have to seek the exemption. Lakewood Church did not ask the Harris County appraiser for a tax break on the 15,000-square-foot residence of the state's most famous prosperity gospel preacher, Joel Osteen. His annual tax bill comes to $218,000 a year, according to county tax records.

Osteen, who hasn't taken a salary since 2004, believes it's important for donors to know all their money goes to the church, said his brother-in-law, Don Illof.

"He could take the parsonage break," Illof said. "But he pays his property taxes, just like he's supposed to."

Property records also show that San Antonio's Cornerstone Church didn't seek an exemption for any clergy residences in Bexar County. Appraisal records show its well-known spiritual leader, John Hagee, pays $42,000 annually in property taxes. A spokesman said the matter was personal and declined to comment.

But Harris County Appraisal District documents show New Light Church World Outreach & Worship Centers pays no taxes on its nearly 25,000-square-foot mansion in Spring perched on the shore of a private lake and occupied by its high-profile leader, I.V. Hilliard. The 11.8-acre lot includes three hot tubs, two fountains and a swimming pool and tennis court, property records show.

Hilliard's wife told appraisal officials it was their home, district documents show.

"Because Bishop Hilliard and his wife are living there, we are treating the 24,900-square-foot home as a parsonage," said Jack Barnett, a spokesman for the Harris district.

New Light's attorney, Malachi Johnson, said "Apostle Hilliard occupies only a portion" of the home and that the "primary use" of the property, which in addition to the mansion includes six other homes, was a "minister's retreat and conference center" that qualified for its tax break as a place of religious worship.

Johnson added that the large "H" adorning the wrought-iron gate surrounding the property didn't refer to Hilliard but to the Biblical word Hamath — a city of "wealth and prosperity." The tax break on the property where Hilliard lives saves New Light $100,000 a year in foregone property taxes.

Some religious organizations maintain deluxe accommodations for their clergy that appear at odds with their self-described austere values."

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