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Groups List: U

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Hot picks: Unification Church (Moonies), USANA Health Sciences


U

UCKG. See Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

Unification Church. Danger Cult. Alternative name for the Moonies.

Unitarians. Danger Unitarians believe in the unity of God. In other words, God is a single personality, not a Trinity of three persons. This means they reject the deity of Christ, thus believing Jesus was a human not God incarnate. This in turn means that they reject original sin, and do not believe people are inherently sinful. This is made easier by their rejection of the inerrency of the Bible and the self refuting belief that no religion can claim an absolute monopoly on theological truth.

United Christian Conventions. The official name of the Cooneyites in New Zealand and Australia.

United Church of God, an International Association. Danger Cult. They use the extra three words (normally italicised) to distinguish themselves from other, local, churches that use "United Church of God" in their name. Based on the teachings of Herbert W Armstrong. Legalistic, sabbath worship, etc. Founded in May 1995 as a breakaway group from the former cult Worldwide Church of God when the "United" group decided they wanted to keep the doctrine of Herbert Armstrong rather than accept the reforms that were happening in the Worldwide Church of God. That they had the chance of reform and chose to reject it makes their present beliefs particularly sad.

United Centers for Spiritual Living. Danger Alternative name for United Church of Religious Science.

United Church of Religious Science. Danger Also known as Science of Mind and United Centers for Spiritual Living. One of the two main branches of Religious Science, the other being Religious Science International.

United Pentecostal Church International. Not Yet Rated A denomination present in New Zealand belonging to the heretical Oneness Pentecostal movement. Possibly a cult of Christianity because of its denial of the essential doctrine of the Trinity, insistence of water baptism (in Jesus' name, only) for salvation, etc. UPCI licensee Peter Heaslip has come to the attention of the New Zealand Cult List because of his claim to have an earned doctorate degree but repeated refusal to give details of where it was earned unless the NZ Cult List pays him $100,000.

Unity School of Christianity/Unity Church. Danger A "new thought"/metaphysical cult founded by Charles Fillmore and Mary Caroline Page (aka Myrtle Fillmore) in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, in 1889, and incorporated as a church in 1903. It is a cult of Christianity in that it attempts to appear Christian or compatible with Christianity, but strongly denies all the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. For example, it teaches pantheism and reincarnation. It is particularly dangerous because it encourages its followers to stay in their existing Christian churches, as a sort of mission field. For this reason it's hard to know how many there are in New Zealand. For more information see Probe Ministries' Off SiteUnity appraisal.

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Caution Hot Topic Controversial pentecostal church/cult that was founded in Brazil by Edir Macedo Bezerra, who now lives in the Unites States. (He was imprisoned on allegations of fraud in 1992 – "He was put in jail for two weeks and after that they could prove nothing against him. The judge responsible for imprisoning him was fired," was the response from the church). The church teaches prosperity gospel and apparently promises that God will bless them and their demons will be exorcised for a "hefty donation". Mario Justino, a former Universal Church pastor living in New York City is quoted as saying "They tell people that if they don't give, they'll go to hell". He also says his superiors instructed him to "tell the people, 'If you don't give, God does not look at your problems.' " In Brazil they are said to be "aggressively opposed to other Christian movements which it portrays as manifestations of the devil" and promise to cure AIDS.

It's said to be one of the fastest growing pentecostal churches in the world. In 1996 it had branches in at least 34 countries, in 2001 in at least 70. It has also made the news around the world. In Britain they bought a radio station from Mohamed Al-Fayed (owner of Harrods department store) for an undisclosed sum. In New York they've been criticised for "allegedly using high-pressure tactics to collect an estimated [US] $1 billion a year from its worshippers." The church has been the subject of a police investigation in Brazil, a highly critical report to the Belgian parliament, and a Charities Commission investigation in Britain. For more information see Apologetics Index's Off SiteUniversal Church listing (which calls it a cult, since its beliefs are so far removed from normal Christian belief) or Rick Ross' list of Off SiteUniversal Church news articles.

In August 2007 the group advertised healing meetings in New Zealand using holy water from Israel, but to their credit acknowledged that people cannot heal, God does. They also mentioned that people should see their doctor.

On 15 March 2012 a South Auckland branch was featured on TV One's Close Up. The branch was said to hold four services a day, seven days a week. The article highlighted the tithes and sacrificial donations that are extracted from members with high pressure pitches from church leaders, and the consequences of doing that. After the article screened, Mark Sainsbury interviewed Associate Professor Peter Lineham (Massey University Albany Regional Director of Humanities), who said the group has branches in 120 countries, and that in 77 countries they've had a big impact. He called it a sect and mentioned the prosperity gospel beliefs the group teaches, and that the group internationally is trying to build a replica of Solomon's Temple. Professor Lineham finished by answering a question about the group seige mentality: "There is an aspect in which, particularly in their relationships with the media, it does see itself as constantly under seige. You're the enemy."

Update October 2012. The Broadcasting Standards Authority has cleared the Close Up item of any charges it was unbalanced in its reporting.

Universal Peace Federation. Danger Front group for the Moonies cult. Patron of UPF in New Zealand is Sir Peter Tapsell, former Speaker of Parliament and Police Minister. (However, he is not a member because he smokes a pipe.) The UPF executive board includes Husaini Ambawala, ethnic co-ordinator for Auckland Labour MPs.

University of the Seven Rays. Danger Esoteric school based in the USA. Associated with and/or represented in New Zealand by Seven Ray Institute.

UPCI. See United Pentecostal Church International.

USANA Health Sciences. Danger Hot Topic Printable version A multi-level marketing scheme that sells health and dietary supplements and skin care products in over a dozen countries. USANA's most popular product is a four week supply of multivitamin and mineral supplement tablets that (in the United States, according to Off SiteForbes) costs about ten times that of comparable retail tablets. In addition, laboratory tests showed that some of their products contain high Off Sitelead levels (broken link) – enough reason for a Danger rating in itself – and well under the claimed amounts of various vitamins and minerals. Excluding those items which were over 90% of the claimed amount, Essentials Mega Antioxidant fell short in several areas:

  • 14% of the claimed coenzyme Q10.
  • 78% of the claimed folic acid.
  • 64% of the claimed vitamin B12.

HealthPak 100 tested shortfalls (<90%):

  • 22% of claimed vitamin K.
  • 68% of claimed mixed natural tocopherals.
  • 0% of claimed N-acetyl L-cystein – not detectable.
  • 89% of the claimed coenzyme Q10.
  • 30% of the claimed grape seed extract.
  • 0.3% of the claimed rosemary extract (rosemarinic acid).

Universal Animal Pak tested shortfalls (<90%):

  • 88% of claimed vitamin C.
  • 69% of claimed folic acid.
  • 34% of claimed biotin.
  • 70% of claimed iodine.
  • 60% of claimed zinc.
  • 16% of claimed copper.

Quite apart from their products being overpriced and under vitamined/mineraled, USANA has had an interesting legal time. In the United States in March 2007 "fraudster turned fraud fighter" (and Christian pastor) Barry Minkow sent the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a 500 page report claiming:

  • 86% of profits are derived from sales to associates.
  • Only 37% of sales associates had ever earned a commission.
  • Of the 37% who earned a commission, 87% did not earn enough to cover the original $116 cost of becoming an associate.

One of the immediate results of the report was that one of USANA's board of directors resigned when it was found that he didn't have a Masters degree and his PhD was apparently from a degree mill. This helped USANA's stock price to drop by 15% the day after the report was published. Barry Minkow had predicted that would happen, and so made over US$60,000 from that – as well as triggering the SEC to start an investigation. USANA understandably sued Barry Minkow for defamation. The drop in share price also led to several shareholders suing USANA for not disclosing necessary information, and there has also been talk of a class-action lawsuit brought by various distributors. In August 2007 Off SiteForbes reported the FBI was also investigating USANA, and that the share price had fallen over 40%. Forbes quotes Usana spokesman Joseph Poulos saying "We believe everything he says to be false" – which is a pity, since that guy resigning from the board of directors did rather confirm at least some of what Barry Minkow said. The SEC decided in January 2008 to take no further action (although I note in passing they also thought Enron's accounting was OK) and USANA's lawsuit against Barry Minkow was thrown out in May 2008, with USANA having to reimburse the guy over US$140,000 for attorney fees. All very complicated.

 
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