THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 13, 1995 Contents: United States - FYI; A POCKET GUIDE TO THE RELIGIO

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THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 13, 1995 __________________ __________________ Contents: United States--FYI; A POCKET GUIDE TO THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT Bosnia--ETHNIC CLEANSING AND "MUSLIM" RENEWAL World--"INFIDEL" WRITERS RECOGNIZED BY LITERARY PEERS World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS __________________ __________________ FYI; A POCKET GUIDE TO THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT by Conrad Goeringer Just who is behind the drive to institute "Bible-based" law-and-order in the United States? While people focus on cultural pit bulls like Sen. Bob Dole or former Secretary of Education William Bennett, they are merely the celebrities of a much wider religious conservative movement that is just starting to flex its political muscle. And while many Americans have heard of groups like the Christian Coalition, there are other organizations in the religious right pantheon which enjoy considerable influence in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country. Here's a brief rundown on some of the major players who are willing to go overtime in their efforts to abolish the wall of separation between government and the churches. CHRISTIAN COALITION -- Founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson, the coalition boasts somewhere between 600,000 and one million members, an annual budget of about $25 million, and the "participation" of some 40,000 churches and congregations throughout the country. Each week, a televised political strategy session featuring the group's director, Ralph Reed, is transmitted by satellite to over 1,000 "downlink" churches and halls throughout the nation. Reed is trying to boost that figure to 2,000 and bring in another 20,000 more churches while increasing the budget to $100 million per year. The Christian Coalition also is working to have a field staff of 25 workers in each congressional district throughout the country. Best known for its church-distributed "voter guides," the Christian Coalition has released its "Contract With the American Family," outlining its religious-social agenda for the nation. The group is considered a key player in the November 1995 elections, which returned control of the U.S. Senate and House to the Republican Party. And from Internet web pages to fax machines and well-orchestrated press conferences, the Christian Coalition is a major force in American politics. Another Robertson operation is the AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (ACLJ) headquartered in Virginia Beach, Va. The group is headed by Jay Sekulow. It's $10 million annual budget supports offices in Atlanta, Phoenix, Mobile, and New Hope, Kentucky. Some 2,000 lawyers act as "cooperating attorneys," mimicking the structure of the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, the ACLJ can dispatch "swat teams" anywhere in the country, teams of lawyers who argue on behalf of the "religious rights" of Christians. The organization has represented key figures in the anti-abortion movement, including Operation Rescue's Randall Terry. ACLJ echoes the standard Robertson-line on issues such as state/church separation (claiming that the Establishment Clause is really a "wall of hostility and bigotry" against religionists), and promoting the unfounded claim that the "religious rights" of "people of faith" are under government attack. American Center for Law and Justice has also been active in the movement to legitimize "student initiated" school prayer during official events such as graduation and sport matches. Representatives of ACLJ are also in on the effort to draft a "Religious Equality Amendment." Another litigation-oriented group is t(e RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE of Charlottesville, Virginia. Like ACLJ, the Institute busies itself with issues of "religious freedom" through its network of 500 volunteers. In addition to offices in Sacramento, Atlanta, Honolulu, Grand Rapids, Nashville, and Dallas, Rutherford Institute has set up shop in Bolivia, Hungary and England. It represents anti-abortion activists and has been involved in the case of a teacher who attempted to teach "creationism" in a school classroom. Two other groups are the AMERICAN SPIRITUAL LIBERTIES UNION of Redondo Beach, California, and the NATIONAL LEGAL FOUNDATION of Virginia Beach. NLF seems to concentrate mostly on overturning state and local legislation protecting the rights of gay men and women. In fact, it was behind Colorado's notorious proposition which abolished gay rights protections. Foundation wording of such propositions often appears in similar legislative proposals throughout the country. ASLU has won several battles concerning the erection of religious displays in municipal parks. Its official motto says that the Union is dedicated to "putting God in public places." The AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION LAW CENTER is, of course tied to the Tupelo, Mississippi-based AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION. The center concentrates its efforts hunting for "spiritually incorrect" textbooks and library offerings. AFA monitors mass media for smut and profanity content and publishes a "dirty dozen" list of corporate advertisers who underwrite filthy television shows. The group is also considering a boycott of AT&T and accuses the telecommunications giant of promoting a "homosexual lifestyle" because of workplace programs aimed at eliminating homophobia and bigotry. While many religious-right moments are constipated over the issue of school prayer, groups such as the California-based INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH and the WESTERN CENTER FOR LAW AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM in Fair Oaks, California defend the interests of teachers and others trying to oppose evolution in schools. When Christian fundamentalists captured the school board in Vista, California, the Center was St. Johnny-on-the-spot with an official statement of policy. Incidentally, the new school board was zeroing in on sex education instruction as well, before getting the boot in a recall election. The Institute tries to wrap fundamentalist crank dogma over the evolution issue with a scientific veneer. Suggesting that evolution "may not be the only explanation" for fossil and geological records, ICR attempts to demonstrate that the "young earth" hypothesis can indeed explain everything from the Grand Canyon to dinosaur remains, all within the framework of a literal interpretation of Genesis. ICR was started in 1973, with ties to the Christian Heritage College. In 1980, ICR's "Research division" began calling itself the "graduate school," and separated from Christian Heritage in order to protect that school's accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a recognized accreditation body. Among the people associated with ICR is one of the co-founders, Tim LaHaye (with ties to the Concerned Women of America and the old Jerry Fallwell-Moral Majority crowd), and Australian evangelist Ken Ham. Ham's style has alienated some within ICR, since he is a rabid evangelist; he heads his own group known as "Answers in Genesis!" and publishes a newsletter which, according to the National Center for Science Education, is largely filled with ads for ICR books. While some fundamentalist right groups do not emphasize creationist pseudo-science, they see the fight against evolution as an important element in "putting god back into schools" or "teaching religion." You won't find mention of creationism in the Christian Coalition's Contract, but you will see Pat Robertson criticizing evolution in his usual slippery style on the "700 Club" program. Groups such as FOCUS ON THE FAMILY and CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA beat the drums over the "family values" issues, particularly as the conservative religious agenda relates to gays. Focus is based in Colorado Springs, and has some 400,000 supporters. The group is headed by Dr. James Dobson, whose books on parenting are popular in religious bookstores. Dobson is somewhat of a "bible disciplinarian," one of the "don't spare the rod" enthusiasts who suggest plenty of religious instruction to sooth the angst of worried, aging yuppies who happen to have rebellious kids. The organization just wrapped up another Conference on the Family, a fundamentalist shindig complete with speakers like William Bennet and a shopping bazaar of fundy books, tapes, bumper stickers and other religious kitsch. The Concerned Women was started by Beverly and Tim LaHaye. Tim was also instrumental in founding the Institute for Creation Research. CWA concentrates on "family values" issues while fighting pornography, monitoring textbooks, and opposing abortion rights. This nationwide nexus of religious right groups is echoed in states, cities and local precincts by hundreds of "parents" or "neighborhood" movements clamoring over issues such as sex education in schools, classroom prayer, diversity and tolerance teaching, "pornography," "religious liberty," and even more bizarre concerns such as witchcraft and satanic cults. These local organizations often are founded by individuals who are members of national groups, and their "line" often reflects the position of Christian Coalition, CWA, and others. Many are members of local evangelical or fundamentalist churches. While the bulk appear to be Protestant, Roman Catholics are active in religious-right causes, especially due to the abortion and gay rights issues. And Christian Coalition honcho Ralph Reed is reportedly toying with the idea of forming a "Jewish version" of the Coalition, no doubt one which would stress the "religious liberty" and "traditional values" themes. Numbers are hard to come by in estimating the total strength of these organizations, especially since a person may be in several different groups. A majority of surveyed Republicans have identified themselves as "evangelical Christians," but not all participate in or agree totally with the Christian Coalition and its allied groups. The success secret of the religious right apparently rests in its well-funded organization, from its presence in Washington, D.C., down through individual precincts and caucuses. Its influence is far greater than its membership strength would first suggest. It is also riding a political wave. At the unveiling of the "Contract With the American Family," Christian Coalition Director Reed announced that "We have arrived," and that the Contract "was just the beginning.'' Civil libertarians and others are asking when and where it will end. ETHNIC CLEANSING AND "MUSLIM" RENEWAL by Conrad Goeringer THEISTWATCH has been telling subscribers that the current situation in Bosnia threatens to push that region's "Muslim" population into the hands of fundamentalism, and religionize the entire culture in the process. Despite the label, many individuals in the former Yugoslavia were first and foremost secularists. Since the breakup of that nation, however, and the rise of nationalist-fascist and orthodox movements, the people in this once-progressive society are now being pushed into different "sides." Most lethal is the Bosnian Serb government, headed by "Mr. Ethnic Cleansing" himself, Radovan Karadzic, and helped along with military thugs such as General Ratko Mladic. The Serbs have now taken the "enclave" (a nice way of describing former towns, cities and communities) of Srebrenica, driving out 30,000 "Muslim" civilians and bringing one step closer the goal of "Greater Serbia." As predicted, reaction has come hard and fast from Muslim fundamentalists in Iran, who no doubt will seize upon this latest development as a sounding board for their religious zealotry. Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that this latest development was proof of "the falsehood of claims by the United States and some other countries about supporting human rights." Iran is already a major supplier of arms to the Bosnian "Muslims" -- and with the weaponry come contingents of Islamic "advisers" who do all they can to indoctrinate their Bosnian comrades in the "need" for religious revolution. A total Serb victory will not only establish an authoritarian-Orthodox State along ethnic lines, but will drive non-Serbs into their own nationalistic -- and religious -- bunkers. With Srebrenica taken, other enclaves such as Zepa and Gorazde are threatened. The U.N. presence there seems to do little in deterring the Serb military. The religious factors underpinning the war in Bosnia receive little or no attention from mass media in the West. Yet the geopolitical consequences of a Serb victory are manifold. For people in a once-secular society known as Yugoslavia, being caught between competing political and religious orthodoxies may prove to be one of the great outrages and tragedies of the twentieth century. "INFIDEL" WRITERS RECOGNIZED BY PEERS Each year the Human Rights Watch announces the list of recipients for its famous Lillian Hellman/Dashiell Hammett Grants. These grants go to "writers all around the world who are in financial need because of political persecution." In the first five years, the grants went to more than 160 writers. This year, 48 writers from 23 countries are receiving some $175,000 to support them in their struggle against intolerance and authoritarianism. All deserve our support as civil libertarians and advocates of freedom of conscience; governments throughout the world often have the habit of ignoring and suppressing the voices of dissent and reason. Here is a partial list of grant recipients who may be of interest to THEISTWATCH subscribers: Lindsey Collen (Mauritius), novelist whose book "The Rape of Sita" was banned and attacked as "an outrage to public and religious morality." She received anonymous rape and death threats. b Hadi Khorsandi (Iran). This poet-jounralist is under a death sentence from Islamic fundamentalists for writing "satirical articles critical of the revolution." Morteza Miraftabi (Iran), a poet and essayist who was imprisoned under the despotic shah and later forced into exile for writing "an article criticizing the Islamic regime." THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS by Conrad F. Goeringer Trouble again in Israel, as Tel Aviv tries to arrive at a workable settlement concerning the fate of the West Bank. A group of rabbis has now issued a religious ruling demanding that Israeli troops refuse any orders to withdraw from their positions on the West Bank. According to the vice chairman of the Rabbinical Association, army camps are to be considered the equivalent of Jewish settlements, and that withdrawal would violate the Torah, specifically passages which command "populate the land of Israel." The Rabbinical Association, with a membership of 1,500, has close ties with the National Religious Party and some elements of the Orthodox Jewish community. The ruling drew immediate reaction from secular Israelis who accused the rabbinical group of what Associated Press (July 13) termed "injecting an explosive religious element into the divisive political debate over the West Bank." Observers note that the Rabbinical Association order capitalizes on other religious fears -- namely the possibility that Islamic fundamentalists will launch military attacks against Jewish settlements in the region. Attacks which have killed hundreds of people on both sides are an attempt by Moslem militants like the Hamas movement to scuttle the ongoing peace dialogue between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government. ****************** The religious right in America is stirring up more controversy of its own, this time reacting to yesterday's speech by President Clinton (July 12) outlining his administration's position on prayer and religion. Clinton, while acknowledging what he termed the religious tradition and values of American society, fell short of endorsing government-mandated prayer. His talk was seen as an attempt by the president to "straddle the fence" on certain First Amendment issues, as typified by his remarks that public schools "were not religion-free zones." Groups supporting a "Religious Equality Amendment" reacted sharply. Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition issued a press release saying "The President has now agreed with our longstanding position that public schools should not be religion-free zones. This eloquent rhetoric must now be backed by reality." Andrea Sheldon, a spokeswoman for the Traditional Values Coalition was less generous. "He's an eloquent speaker," she said in reference to Clinton, but added that "The President doesn't understand the issues." *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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