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THEISTWATCH FOR JUNE 10, 1995 ____________________ Contents: 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? World--THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS 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 science curriculums. 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 religious believers." 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 own pockets. 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 territory. 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 election." 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 Christian ideology. In this stadium, we'll just have to wait for the coin- toss. THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS 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. A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR . . . Yes, folks, it's time for a commercial of sorts. 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