UFO Cult Denies Suicidal Tendencies
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.
Followers of the Taiwan-based church have left their homes to join about 140 other members in 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." Garland is a middle-class northeast Dallas suburb of about 140,000 residents.
Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives, who investigated a Taiwanese woman's claim that her teen-age daughter was kidnaped 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 kidnaping," Lomonaco said. "At the most it would have been child concealment. ... There was no crime."
POST NOTE > My many thanks to Barbara Digamber for forwarding this news article along to me.
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