THEISTWATCH FOR JUNE 10, 1995 Contents: Washington, D.C. - CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PUS
THEISTWATCH FOR JUNE 10, 1995
Washington, D.C.--CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PUSH
"CREATIONISM" IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS? (Part 1 of 2)
Washington, D.C.--HOUSE DEFEAT OF POPULATION CONTROL BILL
Pennsylvania--SUNDAY "BLUE LAW" SHUTS DOWN CLUB CONCERTS
Colorado--JOCKS FOR JESUS?
Texas--A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PUSH "CREATIONISM" IN PUBLIC
SCHOOLS? (Part 1 of 2)
Under The Guise of "Teaching Religion," a Religious Equality
Amendment Could Promote Pseudo-Science in Classrooms.
by Conrad F. Goeringer
JUNE 9 As the House Judiciary Committee begins hearings into
a proposed Religious Equality Amendment, some critics fear that
such a law would not only bring prayer into
classrooms, but may introduce pseudo-science in biology and other
Although it was not a part of the Christian Coalition's
"Contract With the American Family," introducing so-called
"scientific creationism" as an alternative to evolutionary
principles is a major objective of many Christian evangelical
organizations. While some groups such as the Institute for
Creation Research in California promote creationism openly, other
organizations are more covert in having such an agenda. Having
creationism taught in public schools often as a
"competing theory" or "alternative explanation" to evolution is
part of a number of goals, all having to do with "putting god
back in the schools" or "protecting the rights of
Creationism is a religious doctrine which accepts a
literal interpretation of the biblical work Genesis, which
describes the origin of life and the formation of the
universe. This biblical account is the starting point for
those advancing creationism; unlike scientific methodology,
creationism assumes biblical inerrancy, then selectively
searches for supporting evidence. And while it is promoted as a
"religious alternative" to evolution, it is a PARTICULAR
religious account, that is, a Judeo-Christian scenario. Other
religious accounts of Hopi Indians, Mayans, various African
tribes, Polynesians and Eskimos are excluded.
Creationism has several important elements: first is the
belief that the Bible is the inspired word of a god and that
accounts found therein are literal and true. Such an
assumption underpins Christian fundamentalism. Along with
other tenets including the divinity of Jesus Christ and the
virgin birth, biblical inerrancy constitutes the famous five
points serving as a requisite for belief as defined by the
Niagara Bible Conference in 1895. As a result, creationism holds
that the universe was created out of nothing by a god in seven
days, that life did not evolve over millions of
years through evolutionary mechanisms, and that life forms were
created simultaneously. Creationists believe in a "young earth"
or even "young universe" scenario; all that we see
around us is only several thousands of years old.
While such claims run counter to the best evidence of
physical science, creationists often cite when they claim to be
"flaws" or "weaknesses" in fossil records or other
scientific demonstrations of evolution. Often their arguments are
couched in the language of science, but lack the rigor and
critical methodology of the scientific enterprise.
Whereas science begins with questions about the universe,
creationism starts with assumptions based on religious
doctrines, then selectively seeks evidence.
Often, the "flaws" in evolutionary theory that
creationists point out simply are not real issues;
creationist arguments often rely on misrepresentation of
evidence or misunderstanding of science. Such arguments often
find a receptive argument in fundamentalist churches, or with
audiences which lack a good background in science, but the
overwhelming body of scientists reject the objections and
claims of creationism.
This does not mean that creationism is de facto wrong.
Science is not a "majority vote," and creationists often
point out that science has erred on a number of occasions. But
scientists reject creationism because its account of how life and
the world began lacks good, supportive evidence. And scientists
while they disagree on various points and aspects of evolution
accept the proposition that evolution explains how life evolved
and why we find the fossil and other
physical evidence in the world that we do. In fact, as far back
as 1929, the magazine Scientific American noted: "Many have
sincerely been misled into the belief that there is a broad
cleavage between scientists who accept evolution and those who do
not. To them, our reader may find it
advantageous to show the following statement quoted in part: 'The
Council of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science has affirmed that so far as the scientific
evidences of the evolution (of) plants and animals and man are
concerned there is no ground whatever for the assertion that
these evidence constitute a mere 'guess.' No scientific
generalization is more strongly supported by thoroughly
tested evidence than is that of organic evolution. The
Council of the Association is convinced that any legislation
attempting to limit the teaching of any scientific doctrine so
well established and so widely accepted by specialists as is the
doctrine of evolution would be a profound mistake,
which could not fail to injure and retard the advancement of
knowledge and of human welfare by denying the freedom of
teaching an inquiry that is essential to all progress."
Despite such declarations, there has been a long history of
opposition to the teaching of evolution in schools. In the 1920s,
there was a flood of anti-evolution legislation from states such
as New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The Tennessee
law resulted in the famous "Monkey Trial"
pitting attorney Clarence Darrow against the fundamentalist
William Jennings Bryan. Ironically, when the trial began on July
10, 1925, Darrow found the judge sitting beneath "a
monster sign, saying, 'Read your Bible daily' " and opening the
legal proceedings with a prayer.
Many people still do not remember that the "Monkey
Trial" ended in conviction for John T. Scopes, the science
teacher in Rhea County High School who had used a somewhat mild
textbook outlining the basics of evolution. Clarence
Darrow successfully exposed the fundamentalism of Bryan, who died
several days later. But for religious reasons, teaching evolution
was considered sinful, taboo, and degrading to
religion in many parts of the country.
(End of Part One of Two)
HOUSE DEFEAT OF POPULATION CONTROL BILL "A VERY ENCOURAGING
FIRST STEP'' FOR ANTI-CHOICE
by Conrad F. Goeringer
JUNE 9 The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to slash
a $25 million contribution to the U.N. Population Fund. The move
prompted Planned Parenthood to call the move "a
thinly-veiled attempt to use the issue of abortion to
dismantle international family planning funding." The action was
an amendment to a foreign affairs bill, pushed by Rep. Chris
Smith (R-NJ). It also bans funding for non-government
organizations that perform abortions in foreign countries, and
passed by a 240-181 vote, mostly along party lines.
The National Right to Life Committee described the ban as a
"very encouraging first step" in reversing the policies of the
Clinton Administration. Spokesman Douglas Johnson said that the
margin in the House "was about what we expected," noting that
similar legislation had been defeated in Congress when the
Democrats had control.
The ban re-affirms polices which existed under
former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Reagan
enunciated the so-called Mexico City policy in 1984 which
lifted support for abortion in U.S. foreign policy. One
argument mustered by ban-advocates was the coercive
population control policies in China, which is host for a
world population summit in September.
The First Salvo?
Wednesday's action may also be the first step in having the
GOP -dominated Congress "pay off" the religious right by
instituting a conservative social agenda. Last month's
"Contract With the American Family," a ten-point agenda of the
Christian Coalition, specifically mentioned the United Nations
Population Fund which received about $50 million from the U.S.
last year. The "Contract" noted that "In fiscal year 1993, the
United States contributed at least $580 million
toward world family planning programs" and that "Any of this
money that is contributed to organizations that encourage or
perform abortions should be eliminated."
The House ban also raises questions about domestic
funding for abortion. Critics see an end to funding as a
"first step" in banning abortion altogether. They also insist
that bans discriminate against poorer women in both the U.S. and
abroad, since the rich can afford abortion services out of their
A number of organizations which are pro-choice still
denounce the draconian "one child" policy in China as
coercive and anti-human rights. They maintain that the China
issue is a bogus issue, however, since the real target is
voluntary abortion, not an authoritarian government policy. The
59-vote margin suggests that evangelical conservative
forces may indeed have sufficient votes to enact other
portions of their social platform. The House action also
means that Congress is now paying more attention to the
religious social agenda, after spending the first 100 days of the
new session dealing with economic legislation outlined in the GOP
"Contract With America." Religious leaders have spent the past
two weeks putting new pressure on beholden GOP
officials in both the House and Senate, insisting that they "pay
up" for the massive financial and volunteer support of the
Christian right-wing in last November's Congressional
election. Many GOP victories have been attributed to the hard
work of groups such as the Christian Coalition.
SUNDAY "BLUE LAW" SHUTS DOWN CLUB CONCERTS
by Conrad Goeringer
It's getting harder and harder to hear good, live rock 'n
roll music in Lancaster, Pa. Don't blame Bob Dole with his
attacks on salacious lyrics. The state Bureau of Liquor
Control has cited an obscure provision which bans
"vocalization" on Sundays without a special permit a remnant of
the notorious "Blue Laws" states used to discourage any activity
other than church-going on Sundays.
Many Blue Laws have been declared unconstitutional. But just
a decade ago, numerous statutes were "on the books,"
largely as the result of fundamentalist religious groups
which insisted on "Keeping the Sabbath holy." In some places, you
couldn't purchase food that needed preparation, buy a
drink, purchase cigarettes or gasoline or have a venue for live
music, as in Lancaster.
So, in moved the boys from Liquor Control, to cite the
Chameleon Club in Lancaster for having live rock performances on
two Sundays in April. Ironically, a jukebox blasting out CD
sounds was permissible, and the supervisor of the bureau's local
office said that the law "gets very, very technical."
Unfortunately, the club owner has no plans to contest this
absurdity, and told Associated Press that the Sunday
fest was a good way for teens to have fun on weekends.
We agree. Sure beats going to church!
JOCKS FOR JESUS?
A Christian "Men's Group" Is Drawing Attention And Concern.
by Conrad F. Goeringer
A former college football coach has a vision thousands of
men packing a stadium, cheering, re-claiming lost
It's not the Big Ten playoff or the Rose Bowl. But you might
consider it the "Superbowl" of Christian masculinity, preaching
on steroids, religion with an attitude.
It's called Promise Keepers, a movement which has been
described as ecumenical, nondenominational, interracial,
Christian and, distinctly, for men only. Its goal is to
return men to the spiritual leadership of churches and
families, making them "better" husbands and fathers.
The group likes to meet in football stadiums or sports
arenas, reflecting the proclivities of its founder Bill
McCartney, former coach of the University of Colorado
Buffaloes. Promise Keepers started in 1990, but by 1994
succeeded in attracting an average audience of 50,000 men.
According to Episcopal News Service, "At these conferences, men
gather to sing hymns, to listen to motivational speakers, to
witness, to mentor, to confess, to pray, to hold hands, to cry."
According to the president of the movement, Randy
Phillips, the stadium events are "where men can let down and be
real." At these rallies, "Men are told . . . that through God's
power, they have the resources to interrupt the
collapse of the moral foundation of the world by making and
keeping promises to lead the nation toward a revival."
The message seems to be catching on, at least in
religious circles. Atlanta's Georgia Dome will be one of the 13
big Promise Keepers events held this year upwards of 1/2 million
men are expected to attend those conferences.
But it is the emphasis on spiritual "leadership" which has
critics even those in religious areas worried. Although the group
is interracial, some have charged that Promise
Keepers uses tough, anti-homosexual rhetoric in its message. Tony
Evans, a Dallas minister who wrote "Seven Promises of a Promise
Keeper" claimed that "the primary cause of this
national crisis is the feminization of the American male," which
has lead to a men's movement seeking to regain power "the same
white male Republican vote you saw in the last
That has even women religious leaders worried. Catherine
Clark Kroeger, president of Christians for Biblical Equality,
conditionally supports the group if it makes men "better team
players when they get home." She told Religious News Service,
though, that if "they (men) swagger around acting superior,
acting like they are calling the shots, that's a different
story." Other critics worry about "Testosterone
Christianity." Aside from the macho venue of stadiums, the
Promise Keepers perceive themselves as "soldiers in the army of
Christ," and organize themselves into small units they
call "squads." And EPS quoted two religious writers who noted
that "the agenda of Promise Keepers does not listen to the
interests of feminists, homosexuals and social libbers. While it
touts being an organization of racial harmony . . . the African
American presence at its events has been lacking."
Promise Keepers are exhorted to "influence the world" by
obeying "Jesus' Great Commandment and Great Commission."
Just where all of this leads is uncertain. Mainstream
religious groups like the United Methodist Church are taking a
wait-and-see attitude about the Promise Keepers movement, saying
that they neither "endorse or denounce" the group. But the
emphasis on men as the "spiritual leader of the house" suggests
that Promise Keepers may be a sports-version of
traditional patriarchy or even a religious coopting of the "men's
movement" in the secular world. Despite its emphasis on
transforming men into "better" fathers and husbands, the movement
has yet to make its opinions visible on important issues such as
abortion rights, state-church separation, and the role of
diversity in a pluralistic society. Promise
Keepers may end up a "men's club" within the religious
mainstream, or a tougher, even threatening advocate of
In this stadium, we'll just have to wait for the coin-
by Conrad Goeringer
Despite charges that Time Warner is the antichrist of the
communications and entertainment industry, we see that one
beneficiary of the company is right-wing "Kultur Czar" William
Bennett. The former secretary of education has a
best-seller out, "The Book of Values," a blend of post-Elbert
Hubbard aphorisms mixed with religious detritus. His latest
venture, "The Children's Book of Values" is about to be the main
selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, something that will
bring Bennett at least six figures in his personal bank account.
Not bad, especially considering that BOMC is a
subsidiary of Time Warner.
Wonder if he'll keep such tainted money.
The yarn of the good ship Monkey Business goes on,
laddies, and we report a sighting of ex-cabin mate Donna
Rice. Remember Her? Former presidential contender Gary Hart
surely does; the ex-senator was a shoo-in to occupy 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1988 election, and surely no one named
"George" could have turned back the young, liberal
Colorado legislator. Polls showed Hart on a cakewalk to the White
House, until aggressive photographers and telephoto
lenses caught him cavorting with Ms. Rice on board a friend's
yacht, aptly christened Monkey Business. (Well, it could have
been named "Foolin' Around"!). Amidst charges of adultery and
fornication and lying about the tryst Hart's campaign folded
overnight. Now comes word that Donna Rice, age 37, is married to
a business executive and has a new act working for the
anti-pornography bluenoses at a group called "Enough is
Enough." She says that "things still bother her" about the Hart
to Hart matter. Well, after helping to de-rail a
presidential campaign, what's the First Amendment anyway?
President Clinton is still feeling heat from homophobic
religious groups which protested his repeal of the military's
antedeluvian ban on gay men and women. The Justice Department
announced Thursday (June 8) that it is backing down from a
Supreme Court battle involving the power of states and
municipalities to strip gays of legal protection against
discrimination. Laws protect individuals from discrimination on
ethnic or religious grounds but not sexual orientation. The Los
Angeles Times says that "The issue has strong
political overtones," and that Clinton was "hurt politically"
because of his attempt to repeal the military ban.
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