ANTI-SATANISTS SPREADING FEAR FOR PROFIT - from the Mesa Tribune, Mesa, AZ (date unknown)

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ANTI-SATANISTS SPREADING FEAR FOR PROFIT - from the Mesa Tribune, Mesa, AZ (date unknown) "Satanism has become an industry in America. But black-robed devil worshippers aren't the industry's leaders. A fundamentalist preacher is the more likely profiteer. Book contracts, television appearances or paid speaking engagements are the coin of trade in the triumph of hype over horror. If the conspiracy theories are to be believed, the nation is awash in baby-killing Satanists. Some so-called experts claim 50,000 people a year are ritually sacrificed to Satan. Others claim the figure could go as high as 2 million a year. Alleged survivors of occult captivity say they have witnessed scores of ritualistic murders. But law enforcement officials have yet to confirm a single satanic human sacrifice, says Shawn Carlson, author of SATANISM IN AMERICA, a study published in October that seriously questions the idea of a widespread satanic murder conspiracy. "What shocked us was the total lack of evidence to support those allegations," Carlson said. "The people who are spreading these allegations are opportunists who have done shoddy research." The exaggerated claims that play big in tabloids and trash TV may be nothing more than a widescale hoax, but hoaxes can pay off. Origanizers of seminars offered to police departments and educators charge as much as $500 per person to attend. Videotapes and books are also for sale. Gerry O'Sullivan, a co-author of the SATANISM report, says the videotapes are commonly priced anywhere from "$39 to $200 apiece." The price on one 18-minute tape is $345, "but you can rent it for $75," he quipped. O'Sullivan, who holds a master's degree in theology, is concerned because he fears thinly disguised fundamentalist groups are using ritualistic crime scare tactics to push their own beliefs on police departments and schools. "How much public money and how much public time is being spent on these fundamental materials? I think it's a real scandal." O'Sullivan says some of the religious groups try to hide their backgrounds in secular-sounding titles. North American Conferences, which organizes occult crime seminars, is based in the fundamentalist Calvary Chapel of West Coving, Calif. The FILE 18 newsletter, which reports alleged instances of satanic crime and is distributed to police departments, is published by the Cult Crime Impact Network Inc. in the basement of Trinity Fellowship Church in Boise, Idaho. There is no mention of religious affiliations in the newsletter. The problem, says Carlson, is that anyone involved in legal, harmless forms of paganism, witchcraft, or Satan worship is suddenly branded as a criminal in the eyes of law enforcement officers who attend seminars. "I think it's a form of religious bigotry," he says. "It's hatemongering and fear-mongering of the worst sort. "There are so many of these seminars that the police eventually get beaten down. They start thinking if all these people are saying this, it's got to be true." Such beliefs can lead investigators and the public to improper conclusions: *A pair of skinned beavers and a pile of animal carcasses behind a state highway maintenance garage in New Hampshire were noted as evidence of animal sacrifice. The beavers were later found to be skinned by trappers and the carcasses were identified as roadkill gathered by highway workers. The workers had stored the bodies behind the garage until the spring thaw when the ground would be soft enough to permit burial. *Mesa police were checking for clues of satanic rituals last year after a ram's head was found in a dumpster. Police later discovered the ram had been slaughtered for a barbecue. * In 1988, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department called on experts for information on the occult after graves were found desecrated in a west Valley cemetery. When the teenage vandals were later arrested, they denied any connection to the occult, calling the act "stupid drunkenness." (End)

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