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Preaching Polygamy; The Insider; Jeffs on the Run; Inside Secrets; Cop Lets Killer Go; Escaped Convict; 'Code' Controversy; The Da Vinci Hoax?; Superstar Preacher; Mine Rescue

Aired May 9, 2006 - 23:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: ...people listen. He's a best-selling author, TV star and head of the largest church in the country. Why is he so popular? Tonight, Anderson talks one on one with Joel Osteen.

And cracking the criticism of "The Da Vinci Code."


FATHER JOSEPH DI NOIA, VATICAN OFFICIAL: It's a very serious attack on the divinity of Christ.



ANNOUNCER: With Catholic leaders giving mixed reviews, is the opposition getting out of hand? We're covering all the angles.

Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN broadcast center in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, thanks for joining us in this 11:00 o'clock edition of 360. We're focusing tonight on Warren Jeffs.

To the FBI, Warren Jeffs is a criminal, the newest name on its 10 most wanted fugitives list. Among the criminal charges he is facing is engaging in sex with a minor.

But to Jeffs' followers -- and there are thousands of them -- and you're seeing pictures of some of them right now -- he's not a criminal, he's a prophet whose word is absolute.

You're about to hear something extremely rare, Warren Jeffs, in his own words, caught on tape.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His followers, an estimated 10,000 people, believe he is their prophet.

To the FBI, he's one of their top 10 criminals. The prophet, Warren Jeffs, is considered one of the most sinister polygamists of his time, a coldhearted, abusive leader, the head of a secret society where men have dozens of wives and small armies of children, where women as young as 13 are forced to marry and start families. Listen to how the fugitive prophet speaks to first-time brides. This is a rare audio recording of his teachings recorded by a disgruntled member and obtained by "KSL Radio."

WARREN JEFFS, POLYGAMIST LEADER: Many young men, when they receive their first wife, they're just so untrained. And the woman, if she's not careful, will be overbearing and always ask permission for what she wants. And ladies, build up your husband by being submissive. That's how you will give your children the success. You will want your children to be obedient and submissive to righteous living.

KAYE: In Jeffs' fundamentalist world, men are kings.

JEFFS: Dear wives, realizing happiness is only being a part and a strength to your husband. Get close to him. Confide in him. Don't let your former family be your total confidence. It should be your new husband. Turn to him with a full heart and give him the opportunity to lead you right.

KAYE: For the documentary, "Colorado City and the Underground Railroad," Filmmaker Michael Watkiss visited the Colorado city compound dozens of times.

MICHAEL WATKISS, FILMMAKER: He has this sort of preacher-like nice deep voice, and this sort of -- or this numbing sort of presentation. But it's just this over and over sort of rout communication to these young people. This is what you do. And everything else is sinful. The little girls, from the moment they're born, are deprived of any meaningful education, any sort of opportunities or outlook for opportunities. They are told that their one and only role in life is to be the obedient wife of a polygamist man.

KAYE: And like most cults, there is an us versus them mentality. Jeffs controls his followers by steering them away from the outside, what he calls a wicked and immoral world.

JEFFS: You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, or rude and filthy, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all of the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

KAYE: Watkiss says Jeffs, and his father before him, controls the followers from cradle to grave.

WATKISS: You see this guy preaching this doctrine of complete obedience. And letting the young women know that their only role in life is to do what he says. And he clearly is sort of a Svengali, charismatic figure. People disparage him, you know, and -- but the bottom line is, I think the guy has a lot of power and needs to be taken very seriously. And I listen to these sermons, and they scare me.

KAYE: Watkiss says it's no coincidence the compound is one of the most isolated areas of the country, chosen, he says, for that very reason.

WATKISS: They went there very intentionally because they have long understood that the light of day is not their friend. If they're going to practice this stuff, they need to be in secret and in hiding.

KAYE: Watkiss calls the emphasis on selecting wives and baby making assembly-line polygamy with no end in sight. Even with Jeffs on the run, he says, the faithful remain behind him.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: And with us again tonight is Brent Jeffs, the nephew of Warren Jeffs.

Brent, just hearing your uncle's voice, that's got to be hard for you?

BRENT JEFFS, NEPHEW OF WARREN JEFFS: It is very hard for me. It brings back so many memories over all the years. It kind of makes me just shake inside, you know. It's such an eerie voice. I just -- it's hard to hear.

COOPER: When you were in and you believed, did you believe everything he said? I mean, did it all make sense? Did it all seem that this was the word of God?

B. JEFFS: To a point. You know, growing up in it, you just -- your whole family's in it. You're surrounded by it, 24/7. And, you know, little things start happening. And that makes you question. You start questioning the religion and what it's all about. And that's pretty much how it went for me. Later on in my, you know, teenage years, that's when I started questioning everything.

COOPER: And, I mean, your dad had three wives. What was it like growing up in a polygamist family?

B. JEFFS: In our family, it was really actually pretty good. But it was difficult at times, too, with the three moms and all of us kids, not getting along, you know. A lot of, you know, a lot of kids to worry about and stuff like that. Fun times but hard times, too.

COOPER: And getting out and, you know finding yourself in another city and suddenly you're surrounded by this life that you -- I don't know how much you even knew about this, you know, this life that most of us are living. What was that like, adjusting to that? B. JEFFS: That was like, for me, to move into another country, pretty much. Because everything that I was taught, I had to forget, and start over, pretty much. And try and adapt to this whole new world that was around me. And so I'm thankful that I had my brothers to live with to help me through, you know, all that.

COOPER: And your family now, I mean, your dad, is he still involved in the religion?

B. JEFFS: Absolutely not. He left pretty much right after I did, along with most of us kids. And so, you know, he's very happy right now. We're just like a good normal, happy family.

COOPER: And when you see those pictures -- I mean, I find it extraordinary, looking at those pictures of, you know, the women in the long dresses and the men in suits and people just kind of walking around, a lot of them turn their backs on the camera when they see the camera. When you see all those people, you know, walking, what do you think? I mean, can you describe what their lives are like?

B. JEFFS: I think back to how it was for me. You know, going anywhere, to the grocery store with my mom or anything, not allowed to talk to anybody, not allowed to look at anybody. You just -- you feel so controlled. You feel like a zombie walking around. And you always had that little question in your head, or thought about, what is it like on their side, you know?

COOPER: And did you have much sense of people outside? I mean, of what life was like outside? I mean, you went to an FLDS school. Were you taught about life outside?

B. JEFFS: Absolutely not. They purposely did not teach about that because they did not want people's minds to wander and want to leave.

COOPER: And so, I mean, that first step, I mean, did you grow up believing that men should automatically take -- what is the idea of men taking more than one wife? I mean, why is -- what's the idea behind it?

B. JEFFS: The whole idea of having plural wives earns you the highest degree in the celestial kingdom, is what they call it in the Mormon religion, the highest degree to live on. And so by having more than one wife, you are there. You're going to go there.

COOPER: We heard earlier about what they're calling the "Lost Boys". Are these boys pushed out?

B. JEFFS: Yes. Their dads are pushing them right out of the religion, and the poor boys don't even know where to turn. So it's really difficult to see them. And so I'm really happy and glad to be a part of that, to help them, you know, help them find themselves and help them along the way.

COOPER: Why is it so important to you that Warren Jeffs gets apprehended? B. JEFFS: Because of what he has done to me and done to thousands of other people in that religion, destroyed their lives, tearing apart their families, you know, kicking these "Lost Boys" out. He needs to be stopped. And this is a great way to do it. I'm really thankful to be on the show.

COOPER: Well, Brent Jeffs, I can't imagine what you've been through and I appreciate you talking about it, and good luck to you, and I hope to talk again.

B. JEFFS: Thank you.

COOPER: All right. For Warren Jeffs, the days of being a polygamist on the run may soon be over. Here's the raw data. Jeffs is now on the FBI's most wanted list. Since it began in 1950, there have been 482 people on that list, 452 of them have been caught. That's a 94 percent arrest record. On average, it takes 331 days to track down a most-wanted fugitive, though it took feds just two hours to catch Billy Austin Bryant n 1969.

Devious and resourceful -- just two of the words that Arizona's Attorney General Terry Goddard uses to describe Warren Jeffs. He's been on the run for years now. He's -- now he's got a headline status the FBI's list. We'll look at just how close the cops and the feds are to catching him.

And an embarrassing law enforcement snafu, a cops' dashboard camera shows how he let a convicted killer go free.

And a preacher, very different kind of preacher's secrets to success.


JOEL OSTEEN, TELEVANGELIST: I try not to condemn people. I don't think Jesus did. Trying to throw a large net to just try to plant a seed of hope in people.


COOPER: We'll have more from Televangelist Joel Osteen when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, it's not just the feds who are searching for Polygamist Leader Warren Jeffs. The law enforcement agents of a handful of states are also hunting after him. Finding him, however, may not be so easy.

Our CNN's Gary Tuchman spoke to Arizona's Attorney General Terry Goddard.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How close are you and the other authorities in Arizona and Utah and the feds to catching Warren Jeffs?

TERRY GODDARD, ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL: That's real hard to say. I think from here, from the Utah/Arizona side, we've certainly tightened the knot. We've made it much more difficult for him to go in and out of this community with impunity. I'm not saying impossible because he is incredibly, (a) devious, (b) has great resources and (c) has the incredible following, loyalty of his followers. So, we're not going to completely cut off his access, but we have cut off his access to an awful lot of the -- what should I say -- civilian resources that he used to control.

TUCHMAN: He's on the same list as Osama bin Laden, 10 most wanted list. I mean, do you think he'll be as hard to catch as Osama bin Laden?

GODDARD: Well, first, I don't think there's any comparison in terms of their crimes. But I wish you had that sort of the one most wanted list, and had Osama on it; and then you had the other nine. But he's going to be hard to catch. He has been hard to catch. It's going to take a concerted national effort. They're going to need to watch all his different areas of influence, and eventually he's got to be seen coming and going. I'm very confident of that.


COOPER: Well, it's hard to get into these communities, and we're trying to sort of go at it from as many different angles as possible. You just heard from the attorney general in Arizona.

The shadowy world of Warren Jeffs' community is also the focus of a book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," a fascinating book by Author John Krakauer. And it really takes readers deep inside the sect in a way that other writers haven't. He says he found plenty of dark secrets in the book. We spoke earlier.


COOPER: You've described him as evil. What, in particular, about him?

JOHN KRAKAUER, AUTHOR, "UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN": Just about everything. I mean, he -- if he were in a larger arena, he has the kind of pathology that would put him on a par with Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein. I mean, he's that kind of -- he has those kind of instincts.

And he's done -- he's damaged thousands of lives. I mean, he's a sexual predator. He's raped and sodomized many, many children, girls, women, and he's created this culture that is damaging in its own right.

He's ripped apart families. He's ripped off the federal government for millions of dollars through welfare fraud and other means. He is a bad guy in countless ways.

COOPER: It's, I mean, it's almost impossible to believe that in this day and age, someone like this guy can control -- I mean thousands -- we're talking about thousands of people here, and that these people, I mean, they don't watch television, they don't listen to radios, that they can allow themselves to live under this guy's rule, in the United States. I mean, it's crazy.

KRAKAUER: It is astonishing. I mean, when I first came upon this group, I was amazed that, you know, thousands of these people are living in the modern age. You go into their town, their main town, Colorado City, and it's like the twilight zone. On the surface, it looks sort of normal. But everyone answers to the prophet. To the cops, they don't obey the laws of the state if they conflict with the laws of Warren Jeffs' decrees. They obey Warren.

COOPER: I guess he's got bodyguards from what you've written about. Where do you think he's hiding and how hard is it going to be for the FBI to actually get him?

KRAKAUER: Without question, he's in Texas. He recently bought 1,700 acres in west Texas in the middle of nowhere, outside a small town called El Dorado, and he's been systematically building a city there. He's built this immense temple, towering 100 feet over the scrub. And he's there. He's probably been there almost constantly since last October. He may have left occasionally. There's rumors that put him back in Colorado City, but basically he's there. And everyone knows that. The problem is how to arrest him. And without provoking some calamity that would dwarf the calamity of Waco or even Jonestown. That's the challenge.

COOPER: You think he's capable of something like that?

KRAKAUER: Oh, there's no doubt. If he is cornered, if he has no other way out, there's little doubt -- there's no doubt that he would kill himself and take as many people with him as he could before he'd submit to the law. He's never going to go to jail. He's said as much. He said he will never submit to the laws of the United States.

COOPER: And as soon as somebody decides, for whatever reason, to leave, I mean, they are not just ex-communicated, they are cut off entirely from their family members?

KRAKAUER: Right, and actually, few people decide to leave. Most people are kicked out by Warren for all kinds of reasons, largely to maintain this culture of fear. He's very good. He has this knack that the best, most famous tyrants have of using fear and intimidation. His favorite tactic is, if you're an important -- you know, if you're a male in the society and you do something that he doesn't like, he will take your many wives and many more children from you. They will be immediately married to other men. They will end up in that man's bed, and you will be cast out.

COOPER: Well, as I said, it's incredible to think that this is happening in this day and age and these people are out here in the United States, thousands of people. You've written about it. John Krakauer, thanks for joining us.

KRAKAUER: My pleasure.


COOPER: For tomorrow night's show, I'll be in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a special edition of 360. We'll look deeper into the secret world of Warren Jeffs' sect.

Another man on the run. This one, an escaped killer, who fooled a cop.



RICHARD LEE MCNAIR, ESCAPED CONVICT: Blue, kind of a turquoise blue.

BORDELON: Turquoise blue?

You know the bad thing about it? You're matching up to him.

MCNAIR: That sucks, doesn't it?



COOPER: He was matching up to him because he was him. The officer let him go, a convicted murderer. Tonight, the killer has reappeared.

Also, "The Da Vinci Code," controversy. Just in time for the movie. Some Christians calling for a boycott of the movie; others say they can't wait to buy tickets. We're covering all the angles, next on 360.


COOPER: A convicted killer who escaped from a Louisiana prison, is still on the run tonight. We'll tell you where he surfaced in just a moment.

But first, a look at how close he was to being caught last month. A cop's dashboard camera tells the story of an officer who came literally face to face with the wanted man and let him go.

CNN's Heidi Collins reports.


CARL BORDELON, BALL, LOUISIANA POLICE OFFICER: What it is, we've got an escapee.


MCNAIR: There's a prison here?


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Acting cool, completely unrattled, escaped Convict Richard Lee McNair, stopped by Ball, Louisiana Police Officer Carl Bordelon.

BORDELON: Do you have any form of identification on you?


BORDELON: What's your name?

MCNAIR: Robert Jones.

BORDELON: Robert Jones?

MCNAIR: Uh-huh. Why, am I not supposed to be on the tracks?

BORDELON: No, that's not the problem right now. Where -- what's your address?

MCNAIR: I don't have an address. I'm at the hotel. We're working on houses and stuff like that.

COLLINS: With a dispatcher on the other line, the cop asked the escapee for more information.

BORDELON: Hey, this is Carl. Subject wear glasses?

What color eyes you got?

MCNAIR: Green, kind of a turquoise blue.

BORDELON: Turquoise blue?

COLLINS: Then, what you'd think would be the bombshell.

BORDELON: You know the bad thing about it?

MCNAIR: What's that?

BORDELON: You're matching up to him.

MCNAIR: Am I really? That sucks, doesn't it?


COLLINS: But moments later...

BORDELON: Put yourself in my position.

MCNAIR: Well, yes, but I'm not... BORDELON: I know, I'm not -- I'm not -- I'm not throwing you against the...

MCNAIR: Do I look like a prison escapee?

BORDELON: Hey, you wouldn't believe what them guys do. I mean, they've got years and years to think about how they're going to do it. When I crossed the tracks down there, I saw you running. I said, well, how lucky can I be?

MCNAIR: No, nope, nope, nope. I'm not no prison escapee.

COLLINS: The cop agreed. But before letting him go...

MCNAIR: Can you write down your phone number -- your cell phone number so I can have whoever call you?

BORDELON: Just call -- you got a cell phone with you?

MCNAIR: No. Hell, no, I don't even have a cell phone or anything.

BORDELON: Just call 911. That's all you got to do. They'll get a hold of us.

MCNAIR: All right. Hey, you have a good day now.

BORDELON: That's our quick line there.

MCNAIR: You have a good day now.

BORDELON: Be careful, buddy.

MCNAIR: Thank you.

BORDELON: All right.


COOPER: Oh, buddy. That close call was back in April. Since then, Richard McNair has surfaced. He's still one step ahead of the law.

CNN's Susan Roesgen picks up a hunt for a killer now on the loose.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a beautiful and remote place, Penticton, British Columbia, perfect for a man on the run.

Richard McNair was convicted of murder in North Dakota in 1987. His first escape was just six months later when he used lip balm to slip out of handcuffs. Since then, he's escaped two more times, most recently in April when he sneaked out of a prison in Louisiana by hiding in a mail van.

McNair was almost recaptured when he was spotted by a small town policeman, but he fooled the officer into letting him go.

BORDELON: Do you have any form of identification on you?


BORDELON: What's your name?

MCNAIR: Robert Jones.

BORDELON: Robert Jones?

MCNAIR: Uh-huh. Why, am I not supposed to be on the tracks?

ROESGEN: That was the last time law enforcement actually saw McNair -- until last week, when he was stopped in this Pontiac Grand Am by a suspicious Canadian Mountie. The car had stolen plates, and McNair took off on foot before the Mountie figured out who he was.

Inside the car were photographs the police say McNair had apparently taken of himself to make fake IDs. McNair, who's 47 years old, is good at changing his appearance, sometimes with a goatee, other times wearing glasses. He's on the U.S. marshals' 15 most wanted list. Police say he's a killer who doesn't want to wind up in a maximum-security prison with no hope of getting out again.

JOHN WARD, SPOKESMAN, RCMP: We know he's a man that's dangerous. He's got martial art degrees. He's also a survivalist. He could be in the woods. He could last -- he could survive for some time.

ROESGEN: Back in Louisiana, the hapless officer who let McNair slip away, shouldn't feel so bad. The famous Canadian Mounties, who always get their man, haven't yet got Richard McNair.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: Well, it is a controversial book that has put Catholic church leaders at odds with each other.


FATHER JOSEPH DI NOIA, VATICAN OFFICIAL: It's a very serious attack on not only the church, but on the divinity of Christ.

MONSIGNOR ROBERT SARNO, VATICAN OFFICIAL: I don't think "The Da Vinci Code" is an attack on the church. I think it's a great novel that was -- I found very gripping.


COOPER: Two different opinions. Tonight, the burning debate surrounding "The Da Vinci Code" about to get a whole lot bigger. We're covering all the angles.

And proof that happy endings do happen, the remarkable story of two Australian miners trapped underground for two weeks, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, in 10 days, the movie version of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," opens nationwide in theaters. Considering that the book has already sold more than 40 million copies, there's little doubt that the film will be a hit.

Some are praying for a flop and they're taking action against the movie, calling on other Christians to help them.

CNN's Alessio Vinci takes a look now at the renewed controversy surrounding "The Da Vinci Code."


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We don't know what the pope thinks of "The Da Vinci Code." The Vatican would never dignify the plot with a papal comment. But what church officials think of it is clear. Or is it?

FATHER JOSEPH DI NOIA, VATICAN OFFICIAL: It's a very serious attack on not only the church, but on the divinity of Christ.

MONSIGNOR ROBERT SARNO, VATICAN OFFICIAL: I don't think "The Da Vinci Code" is an attack on the church. I think it's a great novel that was, I found, very gripping and interesting to read.

VINCI: OK. At the Vatican, some liked it, others did not. But those who didn't are seriously offended.

Cardinal Francis Arinza (ph), a Nigerian, considered last year a possible successor to John Paul II, he urged Christians around the world to take legal action against those who show disrespect for religious beliefs and Jesus.

Other church officials called for a boycott of the movie. Although inside the Vatican, they say a boycott wouldn't be official policy.

DI NOIA: I mean, the church is not going to ask for an official boycott of anything, you know, I mean -- but I suppose people might choose -- might be helpful not to choose not to see the film, for example, but I can't imagine an official boycott.

VINCI: Will you see the movie?

DI NOIA: I don't know.

VINCI: You don't know?

DI NOIA: I don't know. I haven't made up my mind yet. VINCI: What concerns the Vatican officials at the most is the claim that the book is based on historical facts.

But some churchmen in Rome see the debate surrounding "The Da Vinci Code" as an opportunity to speak to a wider public.

FATHER GREG APPARCEL, PRIEST: It's part of our responsibility to educate people as to what the church says and actually teaches about the origins of the church, about how the gospels were formed, about the creed and all that. And I think we need to do a little bit more of that than we have been doing.

VINCI: If "The Da Vinci Code" intent is to provoke debate, it certainly has here in Rome, especially when this giant poster of the movie appeared on the facade of a church under renovation. It outraged several clergymen who considered the ad blatant provocation.

As you can see, the poster is no longer visible, but there is no great conspiracy behind its disappearance.

(On camera): The truth is that this church is owned by the Italian government. And as a sign, perhaps, of how much influence can the Vatican at times exercise in this country, government officials agreed to cover it up.

(Voice-over): Dan Brown was recently cleared of plagiarism charges in Britain, but here in Rome, it feels as if the author will remain on permanent trial.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Rome.


COOPER: We our next guests have written their own argument against "The Da Vinci Code." Carl Olson and Sandra Meisel are the authors of "The Da Vinci Hoax."

Paul joins me from Eugene, Oregon; and Sandra, from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Thanks, both, for being with us.

SANDRA MUSEL: Yes, thank you for asking us.

COOPER: Carl, let me start off with you. Some Vatican officials have called for Catholics to boycott the movie. Do you think that's a good call?

CARL OLSON, AUTHOR, "THE DA VINCI HOAX": If by "boycott" we mean picketing in front of the theater, demonstrations, that sort of thing, I certainly don't agree with that.

If by "boycott" we mean don't go see the movie and urging others to not see the movie, that's my stance, that we just do it through personal contact with folks and say, you know, I don't think you want to go see a movie that attacks someone else's religion or someone's beliefs.

But as far as holding signs and picketing, I wouldn't agree with some kind of a posture like that.

COOPER: And Sandra, how is it that you believe that this attacks Christianity?

SANDRA MEISEL, AUTHOR, "THE DA VINCI HOAX": Well, it attacks the divinity of Christ and the trustworthiness of the gospels. Those are the most basic points about Christianity. And this applies to all forms of Christianity, not just Catholicism.

COOPER: To those who say, look, this is a novel, and it's a work of fiction, what's wrong if there's a story in it that's billed as fiction, it's not billed as fact?

MEISEL: It was sold as fact. It was sold as carefully researched, that everything in it was true. For the first six months, Dan Brown claimed on his Web site that everything in the book was true. And nothing in the book is true.

COOPER: And therefore, I mean, is it OK -- do you believe it's OK, Sandra, for people to see the movie?

MEISEL: It's not a matter of me deciding whether it's OK for them to see the movie. It is a matter that people who are believing Christians should consider, do you want to pay money to see, as entertainment, something that trashes your religion? Would a Jew go see a dramatization of the protocols of Zion? I don't think so. And I can say that because I'm -- my blood is Jewish enough to interest the Nazis.

COOPER: But clearly, there is a difference of opinion of this, Carl. I mean, you have some priests out there, and some religious leaders who are saying, you know, this is a book which sparks debate and it sparks a renewed interest in the gospels and in religious doctrine. And that's a good thing.

OLSEON: It does spark debate, it does spark interest, but I think it's unfortunate that it has to come about through sensationalism and through what I think is a very overt attack on the Catholic Church and on the basics of Christianity. I'd much rather that people be interested in the truth because of a love for the truth, not because of a love for conspiracy theories or for sensationalism or some other idea like that. So I just wish it were under -- it was a better reason for people to search for the truth, rather than sort of a novel.

COOPER: But, I mean, if a book gets 40 million people thinking about religion and discussing it, whether or not it was sensationalist in how it did it or whether or not it was, I mean, again, Dan Brown will tell you, it's a work of fiction. Isn't 40 million people, you know, reading this and thinking about it and maybe considering things that they hadn't considered and trying to figure out where they stand on it, isn't that a good thing, Sandra? Or Carl? MEISEL: No, it isn't -- it is not necessarily a good thing if the conclusion that they come to after they think is that the Catholic Church is a murderous, hateful organization that we would be better off without.

COOPER: Do you think people are -- do you think people believe this is fact?

MEISEL: A lot of people believe it's fact. There are actual polls that show about one-third of the readers of the book have taken it as true. And they go on "Da Vinci Code" tours to trace the steps of the hero.

COOPER: Well, all right. It's -- do you plan to see it yourself, Sandra?

MEISEL: As a part of my work, I have to see it. That has cast a shadow over my entire year.

COOPER: What? Just the fact that you're going to go see it has cast a shadow on your year?

MEISEL: I have to sit through this miserable thing. But not the first weekend. The first weekend, I shall be going to another movie.

COOPER: Carl, are you going to go see it?

OLSON: I am going to see it. And just, again, as Sandra said it, because I need to be able to respond to it. But I'm -- when asked by others whether they should see it or not, I say no. Don't bother. Don't give money to the makers of a movie that attacks your belief system or attacks Christianity.

COOPER: Carl Olsen and Sandra Meisel, appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much.

MEISEL: Thank you very much.

OLSON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Two different perspectives.

Every weekend tens of thousands flood a sports arena that is now home to America's biggest church. They come to see this man, Joel Osteen, part preacher, part self-help guru. He is a best-selling author, a TV star, and some say the new face of televangelism. Coming up, why he's so popular and my conversation with him.

Also, the rescue that defied all odds. If you haven't been following this story, it's just amazing. Two miners trapped deep underground for two weeks. For nearly a week, no one even knew they were alive. How they were saved, when 360 continues.



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1. Cesar's Way, by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier

2. Giada's Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis

3. The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren

4. Look Great, Feel Great, by Joyce Meyer

5. Your Best Life Now, by Joel Osteen


COOPER: And that is the list. Joel Osteen is on that list.

When his father died, he did what countless other sons have done, he took over the family business. Six years later, he has turned it into an empire his father probably could have never imagined. Strictly speaking, it's not a business, it is a church -- the biggest church in America, the kind that puts the mega in megachurch. And the man behind it has become a pastor with near rock star status.

Here's CNN's Rick Sanchez.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Think of it as part Broadway musical, part self-help seminar and part Jesus. And while some traditionalists may call it Christianity light, there are more than enough supporters to make this the fastest growing church in the entire country.

Welcome to Lakewood Ministries, where this Sunday morning I found myself among those who often drive great distances and fight traffic, maneuver a maze to park and walk half a mile in some cases just to attend church. The obvious question, why?

(On camera): But wouldn't you want to go to a place that's maybe a little easier to get to? You don't have to fight with 7,000 people to hear the -- why do you come here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just enjoy it here.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Once inside, you realize this is anything but your traditional church. Instead, the feel is that of a rock concert or basketball game.

(On camera): In fact, it's from this vantage point that I really start to get a sense of how true that really is. I'm sitting in the first row of a church. My photographer, however, is all the way in the back, seemingly about a block and a half away in an arena that used to be the home of the once world champion, Houston Rockets.

JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: But my message to you is you don't have to dread part of your life and enjoy the other.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): By the time Pastor Joel Osteen is ready to deliver what he calls his message, every seat in the lower bowl is taken, and more than half are gone in the upper deck as well. That's 12,000 to 14,000 people for this one service alone. More than many stadiums get for a major league baseball game, and there are three more services every weekend where Joel Osteen, himself, is the main attraction.

OSTEEN: Are there areas in your life that you're not really enjoying? If so, make some changes.

SANCHEZ: Osteen's message attracts tens of thousands because, according to his mother, it sells.

(On camera): What is the attraction, do you think?

DODIE OSTEEN, JOEL'S MOTHER: I think it's because he gives people hope. He doesn't beat them down, you know, and say there's no hope for you. You're a sinner.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): And the target of that message may be the key to Osteen's success. A target which is increasingly male -- men who welcome the spiritual guidance on how to improve their lives, but only if it comes via state of the art sound system, with jazzy graphics, while they're seated in comfortable seats.

Osteen is neither political nor controversial. And when we caught up with him, he didn't apologize for being a minister who's also a self-help guru.

(On camera): Are you the first one who's come along and taken both and kind of married them together?

OSTEEN: I've never thought about it until now. I don't know if I'm the first one, but I just think that people respond to it. And I don't know if I'm doing anything new. Maybe it's just, you any, I'm my dad 40 years younger, and it's just a different generation.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): A generation that seems to want its church experience to be high impact and deeply personal. A far cry from the experience Osteen's father offered when he founded the church nearly five decades ago in an abandoned feed store.

(On camera): If CNN could somehow go to heaven and do an interview with your dad, John, what would he say?

OSTEEN: I think my dad would say, I'm proud of my son. I'm proud of my daughter-in-law. I'm proud of my family. It's awesome that you've kept it going and just gone to new heights.

SANCHEZ: Kept it going?

OSTEEN: I know.

SANCHEZ: Kept it going? OSTEEN: Yes, but you know what my dad...

SANCHEZ: At 6,000, you've got 30,000.

OSTEEN: I know, my dad would be thrilled.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Rick Sanchez, CNN, Houston.


COOPER: Well, Joel Osteen is many things -- a preacher, a TV star, a best-selling author. His book, "Your Best Life Now," has sold millions of copies. He just signed a new book deal. I spoke to him earlier today.


COOPER: There's a lot to be depressed about in the world today, terrorism, a lot of hate out there. Are there days where you just kind of -- I mean, are you ever depressed? Because, I mean, I've got to tell you, I've watched your, you know, your sermons, and you're the most seemingly positive guy I've like ever seen.

OSTEEN: You know, there are times that I think we all just have to make that choice, to focus on what's good. And you know, we watched 9/11 happen and so many other things. And plus, Anderson, in our case, every week we're dealing with people that -- you know, we get a call, and somebody's 2-year-old daughter has cancer. I mean, there's a lot of things to pull you down, but you've still got to focus on, you know, I believe that God's still in control. That when we trust Him, that He will help us and that we can stay at a place of peace. And two, it's what we choose to focus on. You can't focus and dwell on that the whole time.

COOPER: And is it as easy as that, I mean, that you can wake up and say, you know, today I'm going to choose to be happy?

OSTEEN: I think a lot of it is in our -- I mean, you know, it may not be that easy, but a lot is in our thought process. I tell people all the time, your life is going to follow your thoughts. You get up thinking, you know, it's going to be a lousy day, it's raining, I don't feel like going to work. You draw in more negative.

And If you can get up and say, you know what, man, I'm alive, I've got some great kids, I've got a beautiful wife, I've got -- find something that you can be, you know, happy about it. I believe you draw in more of God's goodness.

COOPER: Everybody has critics. Your critics say, you know, your Christianity light, that you don't show a cross on the stage. When people tune in, they kind of see flags behind you. Does that hurt?

OSTEEN: You know, I -- I listen to my critics because I don't think that I'm the expert, and I want to learn from everybody. But when I search my heart, I believe I'm doing what God wants me to do, to give people hope. And as I said, standing at our altars every Sunday, you know, I don't apologize for encouraging people when I see people struggling in their marriage and people just having all kinds of problems. And to me, to be criticized for giving people hope and not beating them down, you know, it's not a bad thing.

COOPER: And you stay away generally from politics?

OSTEEN: I do. My father did. The whole time I was raised, it was the same way. I feel like sometimes -- I really feel like what I'm called to do is encourage, uplift people, give them hope. And sometimes I think when you get off course, at least for me, it narrows your message. And I don't think that's what I'm called to do. I have good friends that do, but I try to stay focused on what I'm called to do.

COOPER: So if someone comes to you after a sermon and says who should I vote for, what do you say?

OSTEEN: You know, I always tell them to just pray, search their own heart, listen to their own convictions. Because, you know, our church is made up of people from all different walks of life. I believe we have certainly different, you know, back -- political backgrounds for people. So I don't get up there -- I don't believe that's my part.

COOPER: What do you see your part as?

OSTEEN: I see my part as helping people live their everyday life, according to the scriptures and hopefully drawing people closer to Christ, to receive His love and forgiveness, but mainly building people up.

COOPER: Has fame changed you? I mean, you're on television. You're seen by I don't know how many millions of people every week. And, you know, you're making large amounts of money with your books. Does it change you?

OSTEEN: You know, I think it can if you let it, but I try not to let it. I don't feel any different than I did seven years ago, when I had never spoken before and we still play ball with my kids, and you just try to keep focused and not let it go to your head. Because, you know, my thing is, I start every day, first half hour, just searching my own heart and trying to get to a place of peace, and you know, making sure I'm doing what God wants me to do. And I think it starts in your own heart. If you can keep your heart pure, I think you'll do...

COOPER: It's hard thing to do that, because I mean, even in my own little realm, you know, people start treating you differently when they see you on television. And people on the streets, sometimes -- I mean, generally, they're much nicer to you than they are -- I mean, I suddenly have sales people who are really nice to me, when before, they were kind of like ignoring me. But how do you not let that start to, you know, alter the way you see yourself? If everyone else sees you differently, how do you not see yourself?

OSTEEN: Well, I think you need to have good people around you that will be honest with you. I'm fortunate to have good family members that can hopefully keep me grounded, brothers, sisters, family like that. And two, I just think you have to realize that -- I always realize, you know, I believe that God's the one that promotes and God's the one that can bring people down. And we've seen enough come down. So I like to try to, you know, try to remain the same, try to treat everybody well.

COOPER: Well, I appreciate you joining us. I've watched your program. And it's good to talk to you.

OSTEEN: Yes, thanks, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, a story you might even hear Joel Osteen's next broadcast. A story from down under. After two weeks, and at times, a seemingly impossible task, two trapped miners are brought to the surface alive. We're going to show you how the rescue team defied the odds. It is an amazing story, next on 360.


COOPER: It was a rescue story that gripped an entire country. Two Australian gold miners were freed today after enduring two weeks of hell, trapped thousands of feet underground in a metal cage. A small earthquake had triggered a rock fall that killed another miner. But for the other two, the story eventually had a happy ending.


COOPER (voice-over): It was a moment of triumph, two miners trapped for 14 days, finally free. Todd Russell and Brant Webb threw up their arms in victory, grabbed their tags to clock out of a shift that had run far too long, and rushed to embrace their families who surely thought this moment might never come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After two weeks, it's just fabulous to see them out. And it's just fabulous to have those families all come out together. It was just so exciting. I can't believe how exciting it was.

COOPER: It was a morning few Australians in this gold mining town of Beaconsfield will forget. Church bells that had not been rung since World War II chimed to celebrate the miners' rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just to happy. You know, we all just jumped out of bed and raced up here as quickly as we could to greet them all.

COOPER: Russell and Webb's harrowing ordeal began all the way back to April 25th when a minor earthquake triggered a rock slide inside the mine. The two men narrowly escaped death when a huge stone slab landed on their 16-square-foot cage, protecting them from being crushed. A fellow miner outside the cage was killed.

Almost a week passed before rescue teams realized that Russell and Webb were alive, half a mile under earth. A plan to get them out safely became a national priority.

The final plan was intricate and dangerous. A three-foot-wide tunnel, over 50 feet long, would be drilled into the rock. Rescuers had to be careful that their work wouldn't trigger another rockslide. Despite the danger, success. Rescuers burrowed the tunnel within just a few feet of the trapped miners, then put them on mats and pulled them through the tunnel to safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the people who have worked on this rescue operation deserve full praise. They have all been fantastic, working extraordinary hours in incredibly difficult conditions. They have done this while riding an emotional rollercoaster.

COOPER: A celebration of heroism all day, praise for the men who worked so hard under such precarious conditions to save Russell and Webb, and praise for the miners themselves who stayed calm and hopeful during so many uncertain hours.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I can't imagine what it would have been like. I don't think any of us can. And I think my final word must be a sense of admiration to them.

COOPER: Beaconsfield's gold mining heroes, tired but elated, got into their ambulances, but refused to shut the door as they rode out of town. They wanted to wave and give thanks to all the townspeople whose support had helped them survive.


COOPER: Just an incredible story. Imagine being there for almost a week and no one even knowing you're still alive. Amazing.

More of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.


COOPER: Tomorrow, on "AMERICAN MORNING," the "Battle on the Border." This time, the Canadian border, and the battle is not over illegal immigrants, it's over trash. Every day, 350 trucks packed with trash, enter the U.S. from Canada. Some lawmakers warn it could be a potential target for terrorists.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Trash, it's just one black glob on the x-ray. There's no way to say, oh, look at that little black spot there. That's a biological weapon, or that's a chemical weapon, or that's an illegal drug. You can't determine it. We don't need trash from Canada. Canada should take care of their own bloody trash. It's that simple.


COOPER: Well, a look at what's being done, tomorrow, on "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.

"LARRY KING" is next. His guest, Judge Judy speaks out on some of the major legal cases in the news.

And we'll be in Utah tomorrow, for more on the hunt for Warren Jeffs.

See you tomorrow. Good night.


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