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THEISTWATCH FOR MAY 4, 1995 ____________________ ____________________ Cyberspace--A WORD FROM THE THEISTWATCH MODERATOR Mississippi--AT&T ACCUSED OF 'PROMOTING HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA' United States--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Ecuador--STATE/CHURCH BATTLE IN ECUADOR: A LESS FOR THE U.S.? Mississippi--COORS BREWING COMPANY NOW FACING A.F.A. WRATH United States--OKLAHOMA BLAST ISN'T FIRST CASE OF "DOMESTIC TERRORISM" ____________________ ____________________ A WORD FROM THE THEISTWATCH MODERATOR My apologies for the day in delivering TheistWatch during this week. There have been some technical difficulties (translation: I accidentally erased the TheistWatch files two days in a row). This does, however, give me an opportunity to thank all of you for subscribing to THEISTWATCH. American Atheists first started this news watch on its BBS and later made it available on as an echo on Fidonet, volunteer network of BBSs. It was just last month that we were able to put all the pieces together to make it available as a mailing list. As moderator, I value any comments Atheist readers may have about the format or content of the mailing. (For example, would you prefer to receive each news article individually, rather than as one long mailing?). Contributions of news items are also invited. Please also note that we have a second mailing list available, ATHEIST-L, which concentrates on state/church separation news and information about American Atheists' activities. To subscribe to that, just email atheist- with the subject "subscribe." --Robin Murray-O'Hair, Moderator ____________________ ____________________ ____________________ ____________________ AT&T ACCUSED OF 'PROMOTING HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA' Right-Wing American Family Association Could Face Legal Action by Conrad F. Goeringer The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the nation's largest phone company has "an option" in suing the American Family Association in a flap over AT&T's support of gay rights. The AFA is a Christian fundamentalist media watch-dog opposed to profanity, homosexuality, violence and blasphemy. It is based in Tupelo, Mississippi and headed by Donald Wildmon. Among the charges leveled by AFA: --AT&T "participated" in an event called 'OUT Loud," the first annual Lesbian and Gay Cultural and Business Expo which featured "a haunted house where visitors journey through the twisted mind of the radical right." --The company has a policy allowing gay employees to place a pink triangle in work areas, supposedly identifying a homosexual-friendly" zone and, according to Ecumenical Press, "approves of this lifestyle and employees who disagree are out of step with company policy." --AT&T participated in the Northalsted Market Days Festival which "offered product awareness to Chicago's gay and lesbian community, having a sales booth staffed by AT&T people at the festival." --AT&T "has been among the top sponsors of pro-homosexual programs on television" and ""used radical homosexual Brian McNaught's video 'On Being Gay' to indoctrinate AT&T employees." Other charges attacked an AT&T management policy of dealing with homophobia in the workplace and making available video cassette tapes for employees which "help promote homosexuality." American Family Association has begun a boycott of AT&T, urging people to instead use a company called "Lifeline." Ten percent of "Lifeline" charges will be donated to AFA as a "ministry of choice." Meanwhile, the phone giant defended its anti-homophobic policies. An AT&T spokesperson said that AFA ads had mischaracterized company policies. "We just do not brook intolerant behavior aimed at gays," said AT&T representative Burke Stinson. Now, that's a True American Voice speaking. ____________________ ____________________ THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS by Conrad F. Goeringer Cops in Harvard, Illinois, arrested a fifteen-year-old boy for wearing the Star of David. As a part of a crackdown against "gang clothing," police are on the prowl for youngsters who "wear known gang colors, emblems, or other gang insignia." The youth was not Jewish and faces a fine of up to $500. "Crime experts" said that the Star of David could be a gang symbol, but two weeks later, police stopped and then released another person for wearing a similar emblem when it was learned that he had religious reasons for doing so. ******** Sooner or later it had to happen -- THEISTWATCH had to say something in connection with, what else?, the O. J. Simpson trial. According to the television tabloid show EXTRA, prayer is a secret weapon" being used by the defense team. It appears that defense attorney Johnny Cochran, a Baptist, has asked Simpson-pal Rosie Grier to organize prayer sessions during the trial. Grier, a former NFL hulk, believes O.J. is innocent; he is now a "lay minister." We only wonder -- what happens if Marcia Clark subpoenas the pope? ****** TV evangeloid Robert Tilton -- the guy who lived a "Rich and Famous" life-style and quickie-prayed over stacks of mail from followers -- used to thunder on and on about family values. Now he's ditched wife #1 in divorce proceedings and hooked up with Leigh Valentine who has her own thriving ministry. Maybe Tammy Faye started a trend. ****** And you think YOU'VE got problems with junk mail and appeals for support? Even former President Jimmy Carter got back in the act asking god for partisan political help. According to a press release from Carter Center, the former president said that he had asked god "that people like Newt Gingrich would be defeated and Democrats would win the election in a proper way." God must be a Republican now, considering the outcome of the November voting. Maybe Jimmy still has too much "lust in his heart." ____________________ ____________________ STATE/CHURCH BATTLE IN ECUADOR: A LESSON FOR THE U.S.? Roman Catholic Church Accused of Manipulating Law by Conrad F. Goeringer One argument against prayer recitation in public schools has consisted of the fear that religious indoctrination ultimately benefits a particular faith, and that differing religions simply cannot agree on how all should worship. In fact, the history of prayer in public schools in the United States is one filled with conflict and even bloodshed. Protestants and Roman Catholics once battled each other in full-scale riots over whose version of the BIble would be read in city school systems. (That argument conveniently left out whatever non-Christians were around, including Atheists and other nonbelievers.) But with school prayer on the agenda for the new GOP "Contract with America," we might learn something from recent events in Latin America, specifically Ecuador. A national petition is being circulated there in protest of a law enacted last year mandating religious education in the government school system. That law was passed after a Roman Catholic conference demanded that religion be taught to "struggle against the loss of moral values." While the Roman Catholic church claims 90 percent of the country's population, Ecuador enjoyed over a century of sectarian education for children and youth. And many point out that, as in other nations, claims of allegiance by religious organizations are usually based upon baptisms, not the actual number of church- going adherents. Ironically, it is Protestant groups which are disturbed with the new law and sabre-rattling of the Roman Catholic establishment. They see the law, which was passed in November and requires up to two hours of government-funded religious indoctrination each week in all schools, as a threat to their own organizing efforts. Anglican Bishop Walter Crespo staged a week- long hunger strike in January, and in demonstrations against the legislation, two students were killed by police, twenty injured, and some sixty arrested. A spokesman for the Latin American Council of Churches, Cesar Parra, is quoted by the Ecumenical Press news service: "It is an unconstitutional law because it discriminates against religious minorities. . . . We must say that this Roman Catholic initiative on religious education in Ecuador is not an isolated one." Parra continues, "It is part of a project that was born in the assembly of Latin American Catholic Bishops in Santa Domingo in 1992, during which several strategies were designed in order to start a new Catholic evangelization in the continent." Despite its long history of dominating religion and politics in Latin America, the Roman Catholic church is now being challenged by a number of aggressive Protestant sects and other groups. Mormons have established a major recruiting effort in the region, as have evangelical Christians. The church considers these groups to be "sects." Meanwhile, a diverse group of workers, indigenous natives, human rights groups, and students have formed the Front for the Protection of Laity in an effort to repeal the new law. Roman Catholic church leaders have rejected a compromise plan which would allow local churches to provide schools with teachers for religious education, fearing that Protestants and others could "move in." The national petition now being circulated hopes to gather over a million signatures to repeal the law. Lessons for America? Not only do laws such as the one in Ecuador end up promoting specific religious beliefs, but they effectively "write off" segments of the population which profess no religion and support the separation of government and religion. A law -- in Ecuador or anywhere else -- which would compromise and allow any or all religious groups to have access to the public school system, would still hold students hostage to indoctrination. It is doubtful that an Atheist, or someone else who questions religious assumptions, would be given "equal time" to respond to claims made by religious instructors of any faith. And the geo-political "game plan" of the Roman Catholic church should be a concern for all people in the United States who support First Amendment state/church separation. Are activities such as the National Day of Prayer designed to create support for mandatory school prayer? No doubt just about EVERY religion would like to be in the privileged position of having its own peculiar prayer, holy book, and theology promulgated in schools through mandatory instruction. Finally, there is a deep-rooted cynicism not only in the latest evangelizing campaign by the Roman Catholics, but the tendency of Protestants to see the religious instruction law in Ecuador (and elsewhere) as sort of "turf battle" for the gullible. Perhaps this is the best reason for having NO religious indoctrination, even that which gives "equal time" to various groups in public schools. A population, particularly a group of young students trying to learn, should not be a recruiting field for religion-peddlers facilitated through the coercive power of government. In Ecuador, the United States, and everywhere else -- it is best to keep religious indoctrination out of the schools and maintain separation of state and church. ____________________ ____________________ COORS BREWING COMPANY NOW FACING A.F.A. WRATH by Conrad F. Goeringer The Coors Brewing Company -- a long-time underwriter for right-wing political and religious groups -- now faces the wrath of the evangelical American Family Association for being at the top of the organization's "Dirty Dozen" list. Based in Tupelo, Mississippi, A.F.A. describes itself as a "Christian organization promoting the Biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media." The group has called for boycotts and censorship in its battle against homosexuality, violence, profanity, and extra-marital sex. The "Dirty Dozen" includes corporate sponsors of organizations which A.F.A. claims sponsor programs with these themes. Other "Dozen" members include Sony, Hormel Foods, First Interstate Bancorp, Time Warner and Sara Lee. Although it leads the "Dirty Dozen" list, the Coors family and its firm have a long history of association with right wing Christian movements. Joe Coors was notorious for his battle against union representation for beer plant workers. In 1971, Coors joined with Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) and strategist Paul Weyrich to form a political alliance. By 1974, the trio had established the Heritage Foundation and the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress. Heritage Foundation went on to become one of the most influential think tanks in America, providing support and research for Ronald Reagan and, later, George Bush. The Committee was established to select and fund candidates in Congressional races who represented right-wing evangelical sentiments, particularly on issues such as abortion and Gay rights. Holly Coors was active in funding Pat Robertson's 700 Club and the Christian Broadcasting Network. She served on the board of CBN University as well. And Coors was a major backer in Bill Bright's "Here's Life, America" campaign, an attempt to proselytize Christianity on college campuses in the tumultuous 1970s. A variety of popular programs have attracted the criticism of A.F.A., especially those appearing on the Fox Network, such as "Married With Children" and "The Simpsons" (a target of George Bush in his "family values" theme). The "Dirty Dozen" and other offenders are selected on the basis of counts which tally incidents of sex, violence and profanity on an hourly basis during prime time. The monitoring report which found Coors at the top of the list covered the period of October 16 to November 12 of last year. A.F.A. bluenoses tabulated 8.5 incidents of violence each hour, 14.15 sex encounters, and 22.93 uses of profanity. "A total of 91 percent of all sex was depicted outside marriage," said A.F.A. Imagine that. And it's not even counting the soaps. ____________________ ____________________ OKLAHOMA BLAST ISN'T FIRST CASE OF "DOMESTIC TERRORISM" Blacks, Women, Gays, Workers and Political Dissidents Often Victims of State-Organized Violence by Conrad F. Goeringer It has become a symbol in the press, electronic media, and the public consciousness -- a bombed-out building, the front ripped away from a powerful blast, floors collapsed; helmeted rescue workers scramble over piles of rubble, still searching for the bodies of the dead, adding to a grisly arithmetic. 117 people are dead; many more have been seriously injured; and as workers move into "the pit," the part of the building where the blast seems to have taken its worst effects and which housed the day- care centers, rescue crews are preparing for the worst -- more bodies of dead kids. The government -- and plenty of everyday citizens -- are angry. About 70 percent according to surveys would give up some liberties they say in order to combat "domestic terrorism." The law enforcement establishment is happy to comply, and the FBI seems to be leading the pack in demanding tough legislation, more agents, and of course more control in fighting the specter of home-grown organized violence. Both FBI Director Louis Freeh and the news hounds in Oklahoma City are calling the blast the "worst," even the first case of terrorism on American soil. But terrorism isn't necessarily some crank militia or loner, and Oklahoma City is certainly not the "first," or even the worst case of "terrorism" in our nation. Columnist Stanley Crouch, writing in Sunday's N.Y. Daily News, reminds us that violence and bloodshed -- often by police and other government officials -- marked the history of the civil rights movement in America. Men, women, and children died as buildings were bombed; civil rights workers both black and white were murdered; and the violence sustained a long tradition of "legal lynching" against Southern blacks, going back to the days of slavery. And what about slavery? Slaveocracy was a thriving and legal institution throughout much of the South, receiving the sanction of both government and church. Slaves were "Christianized" to keep them subservient, placid, easy to control -- and intimidate. It was all legal too. In our yuppie "service economy," we also often forget another history --the struggle of millions of workers for better wager, better working conditions and union representation. It may be fashionable to insist that unions are "obsolete," but auto workers, steel workers, mill and textile employees and millions of other folks didn't think so in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Unions meant a lunch break, a chance to go to the restroom, a pension, and a slice of the American dream. Companies brought in squads of cops to bust heads when the unions began to organize, and backing them up were armies of "legal goons," including the notorious Pinkertons. A UAW organizer named Walter Reuther decided to fight back, and organized "flying squads" to protect striking workers and their families from the legal terror of the cops and the company thugs. A lot of people were killed in that struggle, too. And there was domestic terrorism of another sort as well, aimed at political dissidents. Women who tried to organize for everything from the vote to birth control were beaten, jailed and suppressed. "Mother Jones" achieved fame as a union organizer; Emma Goldman became "Red Emma" for her tireless work on behalf of civil liberties, freedom of thought, and other issues. Margaret Sanger was targeted because she said women should have access to birth control. That fight still continues. Perhaps the biggest case of "domestic terrorism" was the systematic extermination of native peoples throughout North America by the incursions of White, Christianizing European culture. Indians had been fighting amongst themselves for centuries, of course, and their cultures were not the idyllic paradise some "wannabees" like to picture them. But the first chemical warfare in history was carried out by the U.S. government -- giving typhoid infected blankets to expatriated Indian tribes as they were forcibly relocated onto government reservations. While government and church terrorism have often been used against blacks, Indians and others, terror is sometimes color- blind -- directed even against dissident whites. Thousands of young men were sent to Vietnam in a war which many top officials knew could not be won. A disproportionate number were black (about 40 percent), but the whites sent to 'Nam were often working-class backgrounds, unable to afford college and deferments. 50,000 Americans were killed, and up to 40 times that number -- over 2,000,000 Vietnamese --suffered the same fate. Cardinal Spellman of New York, a close confidant of President Kennedy, convinced JFK and other government leaders that it was a "war against godless communism." Diem was installed as the Roman Catholic president of South Vietnam even though the majority of the country was Buddhist. More firepower was expended in that war by the United States than by all the belligerents in World War II combined. The napalm, artillery rounds, cluster bombs and other weaponry make the Oklahoma City blast look like a water balloon in comparison. And we're not alone. Governments throughout the world are spending record amounts of money each year in building up their arsenals. Armaments have become the crack-cocaine of many national economies, including that of the former Soviet Union. The U.S. remains in the top three or four; our aerospace industry is hooked on foreign arms contracts. Countries like Brazil, Israel, even South Africa have moved into this lucrative market. It's legal terrorism. Don't get me wrong; Oklahoma City's carnage was the work of evil people intent on imposing their wills and bizarre theo- politics onto other people. Violence is rarely, if ever, the solution to complex social and personal problems -- it often transforms the perpetrator into the very thing which he or she is fighting, and at the cost of innocent victims. But "domestic terrorism" can have many faces. Some stare out at you in a frightening silence, the look of a lone madman or self-righteous cult that imagines itself a "vanguard". Others are impersonal, bureaucratic, draped in the vocabulary of defending the "national security," or fighting "enemies, both foreign and domestic." That kind of terrorism is by far more dangerous; it is carried out often as the will of god, and an official order. It's all perfectly legal. __________________ __________________ TheistWatch is a regular news survey on religion and religious belief, and the foibles and follies of religion, as reported from an Atheist standpoint. TheistWatch originates from the headquarters of American Atheists, Inc., in Austin, Texas, as a service to members and potential members and all Atheists concerned about the problems created by organized and unorganized superstitions. 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