10 Arizona-Based Religions
With the recent debate over the possible expansion of "religious freedom" laws in Arizona, it's worth noting that the state has a great deal of religious . . . creativity.
Check out 10 religions (or spiritual organizations, or sects, or in some cases, cults) that were born in Arizona:
Not only is there a church of Scientology in Phoenix, but it all started here -- founder L. Ron Hubbard's former home at the foot of Camelback Mountain. "It was there L. Ron Hubbard authored the first basic books of Scientology . . . " according to a Scientology website. "It was also there he convened informal discussions with students attending the seven Advanced Clinical Courses and three Congresses in neighboring facilities." The first formal organization of Scientology was in Phoenix. The house/museum is no longer open to the public, but you can still drive by and see it.
The Temple of The Presence, an Tucson-based offshoot of the Church Universal and Triumphant, is a New Age religious group that subscribes to the "I AM" Activity. However, unlike the Church Universal Triumphant, the Tucson offshoot doesn't have fallout shelters, nor did its founders get busted on federal weapons charges.
This organization, based in Scottsdale, claims it can really help people maximize their true potential. By the way, that's "including the ability to live forever," according to their own explanation.
This New Age church claims to have gotten its start in Phoenix in 1967 over the study of Tarot cards. Phoenix's Alpha Book Center was founded by the leader of the New Age Community Church.
This one involves a man who calls himself "Gabriel of Urantia," who oversees a 165-acre, where more than 100 people are reportedly preparing for the apocalypse. Their beliefs are in a book that they believe were given to humans by entities from space.
This "spiritual community," based out of Skull Valley, also has some New Age elements. Their learning materials are available for purchase online, and advanced topics include telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and levitation, among other things.
At a strip mall in Tempe, you can join Pastor Steven Anderson in praying for the death of President Obama, or his explanations of why homosexuals should be put to death and why National Geographic is a porn magazine.
The Diamond Mountain Center utilizes something like an American (read: capitalist) version of Buddhism. As described by the New York Times, "The monk who ran the retreat, Michael Roach, had previously run a diamond business worth tens of millions of dollars and was now promoting Buddhist principles as a path to financial prosperity, raising eyebrows from more traditional Buddhists." More eyebrows were raised after a "spiritual partner" of the camp and her husband were expelled from the property, and continued living in a nearby cave. The woman's husband died, and she was not in good condition when she was found.
Our colleague Eric Tsetsi recently wrote a New Times cover story on this church, located on a remote ranch near Safford. Participants consume hallucinogenic peyote as part of their spiritual practices. Although such a practice is more associated with the Native American Church, this one's not, and Arizona allows for the use of peyote for religious purposes.
The world-famous polygamist colony run by Warren Jeffs started on the Arizona side of the Arizona/Utah border, and eventually expanded to neighboring towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hilldale, Utah. Many issues over the FLDS church have been publicized over the last few decades, including its the towns' allegedly church-controlled police department, and the polygamy practices, which often involved children. Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet, is currently serving a prison sentence for the sexual assault of two girls.
Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
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