Chicago Sun-Times (Jan. 10)

"GROUP SEEKING SALVATION -- IN GARY" ran the Jan. 10 headline in a story in the Chicago Sun-Times, sent into us by alert reader Tom Kuhn (tomkuhn@usa.net) in the USA. Thanks, Tom, for the heads-up. Written by staff reporter Ernest Tucker, the story reads: Thirty-two members of God Saves the Earth Flying Saucer Foundation arrived Friday at a spot on Lake Michigan they believe is sacred: Gary. The Taiwanese sect believes God is coming March 31 to save Earth and that the northwest Indiana city figures in his plans. Group leader Hon-Ming Chen, dressed in the group's standard attire of white jogging suit and straw cowboy hat, said through a translator that ``God told us to come here'' to Gary's Lake Street Beach. He prophesied that survivors of World War III next year would come to the same strand via celestial saucers. ``This is holy,'' the silver-haired Chen said in front of a makeshift altar that included a 20-pound bag of rice, six crystal stars and gold sticks carved with dragons and wrapped with Christmas tree lights. Chen, 42, a former sociology teacher, then led members in an hourlong ritual. The service climaxed when several followers, including a child, removed their white sneakers and waded ankle-deep in the 37-degree waters as winds gusted up to 20 m.p.h. Two 9-year-olds believed by the group to be the incarnations of Jesus and Buddha did not take part in the washing of sins. Seagulls swooped down as Chen and his followers scattered flour, rice and other offerings into the water against the backdrop of the U.S. Steel plant. Before the ceremony, Chen repeated his public denials that the group has any plans for mass suicide, such as last year's deaths in the Heaven's Gate cult. ``We are peaceful and believe life is sacred,'' said Chen's interpreter, Richard Liu. Chen has predicted that God will descend on Garland, Texas, at 10 a.m. on March 31 to save the world but that in 1999 a nuclear World War III will devastate the planet. The tiny group, numbering about 150, founded a church in San Dimas, Calif., in 1995. Some of the sect moved to Garland, a middle-class Dallas suburb of 140,000, four or five months ago, said J. D. Bettes, public information officer for the Garland Police Department. After their leader bought a two-story house in the southwest section of town, the rest of the group followed and bought several homes within a three-mile radius of Chen's house. Chen has said the city was chosen because ``Garland sounds like God land.'' Cult expert George A. Mather said the ``apparently peaceful cult'' could take unpredictable action when nothing happens on March 31. Liu said the group was ``waiting for God to say'' where they should go next. The group left Garland on Tuesday morning in a six-car caravan. They arrived about midnight Thursday at the Days Inn in East Hazelcrest but checked out before heading to the beach. Liu said they were following the directions ``of God,'' although they did have a map of Gary. (Contributing reporter: Alex Rodriguez) -- (c)1998 Chicago Sun-Times NOTE: There was also a front page story in the Gary (Indiana) Post Tribune, but it is not available on the Internet yet. -- Ed.

UPI wire story based on Chicago Sun-Times story (above)

UPI picked up the story above from the Chicago Sun-Times on January 10 and rewrote it in UPI wire-speak for national distribution. So the UPI story could have appeared in over 250 newspapers coast to coast on Sunday or Monday, if editors decided to use it. Could be only 3 papers used it; we'll never know. Anyway, it looks as if the Sun-Times story we got from the paper's online site was not the entire story and that parts of the whole text were cut for online space reasons. Here it is, datelined Gary, Indiana (hey, isn't there a Broadway tune about Gary Indiana?):_______"Sect seeks salvation in Gary, Ind." goes the headline on the UPI wire release, with the story continuing: _____ A Taiwanese sect leader who believes God is coming to save the Earth in March claims a northwest Indiana beach will figure in the plan.___ The leader and 31 others traveled from Texas to visit the Gary shoreline and conduct an hourlong ritual Friday despite chilly lakefront winds gusting to 20 mph. ____ The visitors are part of a 150-member group founded two years ago in Calfornia that calls itself the God Saves the Earth Flying Saucer Foundation. Some members moved to Garland, Texas, several months ago. ___ The sect believes God will descend upon the Dallas suburb March 31___ In addition, group leader Hon-Ming Chen prophesied survivors of an impending World War III would arrive in Indiana next year aboard flying saucers, landing at Gary's Lake Street Beach. ___ Chen's translator, Richard Liu, told the Chicago Sun-Times, ``God told us to come here.'' ___ Before the beach ritual, Chen repeated his public denials that the group has any plans for a mass suicide, as with the Heaven's Gate cult last spring. He said his group's members ``believe life is sacred.'' ___ The lakefront ceremony involved setting up a makeshift altar and scattering rice and other offerings in the waters of Lake Michigan. Some of the participants waded in up to their ankles. --___( Copyright 1998 by United Press International. )


DESPITE UNIFORMS AND 'SPACESHIPS'.....

.....UFO CULT DENIES SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, wishes the headline above the Associcated Press story from San Dimas, California on December 24. The "reassurances" by cult members and the Taiwan government offices in the USA that Chen Tao members do not plan on committing suicide have apparently lulled many in the media in Taiwan and the USA to write this cult off as any kind of dangerous group. When I spoke with a Taiwanese reporter in Taipei on Jan. 13 by phone, she told me that there was no danger, that the cult had denied any suicidal plans. She was convinced they were telling the truth. But I reminded her that Heaven's Gaters also said on their website that suicide was not an option for them, yet look what they did. People are so easily duped by the lying pschopaths that are cult leaders and their lieutenants! Look at how Aum Supreme Truth (sic) lied and lied to the Japanese media for years...until they finally released the sarin gas in the subways...and then Japan woke up. There is still a very good chance that Chen Tao is set on a suicide mission come March 31. The leader, Mr Hon-Ming Chen is pure looney tunes, out to lunch, a kook! Not only is he the Asian "father" of Jesus the Christman, he is also God Himself. That's what he says. Some Chinese-language papers in Taiwan yesterday (Jan. 12) that the Taiwan FBI (their CBI) is looking into criminal charges against Chen Tao, including defrauding followers and financial shenanigans. Meanwhile, here is the rest of that AP story:_______SAN DIMAS, Calif. (AP) -- They wear monotone clothing and believe a spaceship is on its way to take them to the afterlife. That, say followers of God's Salvation Church, is the end of the similarities between them and the suicidal Heaven's Gate cult. More than 140 members of the Taiwan-based church have left their homes here for Garland, Texas, where they believe God will arrive in a spaceship on March 31. A white-clad family of four emerged from the church Tuesday, saying they were headed for Texas to join their fellow congregants, who departed by bus last week. Although its practices seem similar to the Heaven's Gate cult, right down to the uniforms and sneakers worn by followers, God's Salvation members said they have no plans to kill themselves. "We don't die," Pi Feng Chiang, mother of the family, said in halting English. "We believe God. God like life." Thirty-nine members of Heaven's Gate killed themselves in Rancho Santa Fe last March by drinking a concoction of booze and pills. God's Salvation followers believe they will board a spaceship to meet God; Heaven's Gate cultists believed they would be taken to the "Level Beyond Human" on a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet. God's Salvation members wear all white clothing and sneakers; Heaven's Gate cultists wore all-black uniforms and Nike sneakers when they died. "To commit suicide is to kill God," a lone straggler at the church said Tuesday, shaking his head behind a chain link fence. "It's killing your soul that was delegated to you from God." The man, dressed in blue jeans and a sweater, would not give his name. Taiwanese media reports last week said the group's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, was encouraging newcomers to kill themselves so their bodies could be picked up by flying saucers. Chen told reporters Tuesday that he had no such plans. "There isn't any danger," he said. Chen, a father of two in his 40s, did claim to be the father of Jesus Christ and that God will assume his body at 10 a.m. on March 31. Yu-Chung Lo, deputy director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston, has met with Chen and his followers and agrees there's nothing to fear. "I believe they would never commit suicide because as so far as I understand they are very gentle, friendly and most of them are highly educated," Lo said. Chen set up his organization in San Dimas then moved it to Garland early this summer because the name sounds like and means "God's Land." Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives, who investigated a Taiwanese woman's claim that her teen-age daughter was kidnapped by the cult, said they did not believe God's Salvation followers would kill themselves. The girl had been staying with her uncle, a member of the cult, but her mother wanted her back after the girl's father died last week of cancer, Deputy Joe Lomonaco said. She was reunited with her mother in Taiwan on Monday. "It wasn't a kidnapping," Lomonaco said. "At the most it would have been child concealment. ... There was no crime." -- (c)AP 1997 Hindsight Productions Ltd.


"UFO Cult Gathers In Gary (Indiana)" -- Jan. 11

"Taiwanese UFO Cult Anoints Gary (Ind.) Loading Dock," ran the headline above another Chen Tao news report in the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle on Jan. 11. The story was a by-lined wire service report from Knight-Ridder News Service and was picked up from a story the day before in the Gary (Indiana) Post-Tribune. The wire service story was an exact duplicate of the Post-Tribune story and went out to about 75 newspapers across the USA. How many newspapers actually used the story, however, remains to be seen. (( If you would like to view the original pages of the Post-Tribune as scanned in by a Gary resident, email me at apf_6f@hotmail.com)) Here's the text: _______ "Gary Called God's Loading Dock," was the original headline in the Gary Post-Tribune, with staff writer Rick Miller reporting. A sub-head read: "Taiwanese religious group believes flying saucers will rescue survivors of cataclysm at Lake Street Beach." The story, later picked up by the Knight-Ridder News Service (Knight-Ridder owns the Post-Tribune, or used to own it; there's a relationship there somewhere) with Miller's byline intact, and datelined Gary, Indiana, read like this:_____At the end of the world, God's flying saucer will hover over Lake Michigan to transport survivors of the nuclear holocaust to the next dimension.___ Gary is God's loading dock.___ That's the belief of a Taiwanese religious cult that prayed in the sands of Lake Street Beach in Gary on Friday, anointing the "headquarters" from which God will rescue all remaining life on Earth.___ "After the Great Tribulation happens in 1999, God's flying saucer will carry off the survivors that come here," said the group's religious leader, Hon-Ming Chen, speaking through interpreter and follower Richard Liu._____ The cult's 21 adults and 11 children arrived in Gary Friday after driving two days from their home base in Garland, Texas. "We just followed God's instructions," said the silver-haired Chen, 42._____ On the beach, cult members stomped in the sand, waiving ritualistic objects such as ornate scepters, golden crosses and ceramic dragons. Chen threw fruits and rice into the water, periodically staring at his open palm. Chen speaks to God through his hand, followers said._____ Their religion combines aspects of Christianity, Buddhism and science fiction. Among the group, two 9-year-old boys were said to be the reincarnations of Jesus and Buddha.______ Commonly known as the Taiwanese UFO Cult, the group is often compared to Heaven's Gate, the cult of computer programmers who systematically killed themselves last year to rendezvous with a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp comet._______ Speculation on the Internet is that the Taiwanese cult, which claims to have 150 members, could commit suicide as soon as March 31. That's when they believe God will come to Earth in an exact replica of Chen in order to instruct humanity by means of television of what is to come.______ But Chen said he and his followers don't intend to commit suicide if that doesn't happen.______ "God tells us that suicide is never to be allowed, never permitted," Chen said. He, like others, wore a white cowboy hat through which followers believe that God's spirit enters their bodies.________ The Taiwanese cult started its first chapter in California in 1995, after followers used their life savings to come to the United States. Chen, their leader, relocated the cult last year to Garland. which he describes as "God's office." The name, Garland, sounds like "God-land," he's been quoted as saying._______ Chen preaches that a nuclear war in 1999 will trigger what he calls the "Great Tribulation." Those who survive the nuclear winter will be rescued by God's flying saucer. There will be other loading docks, but Lake Street Beach will be the headquarters, Chen explained._______ "Regardless of any kind of religious sect, any believers in God, any life form in the American continent can survive the Great Tribulation," Chen said. "All those who believe in God and are willing to receive God's salvation can be saved by God."______ Toward the end of the hour-long ritual Friday, several adults and an 8-year-old girl, said to be a leader in the coming dimension, took off their sneakers, rolled up their pant legs and waded into the lake's 36-degree water. Another part of the ritual came when members dipped ornate scepter-like objects into the lake. The group planned to return to Garland._______ Asked if there's a spiritual connection between Garland and Gary, Liu answered: "Nothing is a coincidence," adding, "After March 31, everything will be clear." (c) Knight-Ridder News Service 1998.