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THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 16, 1995 ____________________ ____________________ Contents: Washington, D.C.--CHRISTIAN COALITION'S SCHEDULE IN CONGRESS ROLLS ON Rome--"VATICAN RAG" OR "SHUFFLE 'N JIVE"? United Kingdom--CHURCH PROPERTY DEAL IS "ONE OF BRITAIN'S LARGEST" Washington, D.C.--WILL CLINTON JUST SAY "YES" TO RELIGIOUS CENSORSHIP? (Editorial Comment) World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS ___________________ ___________________ CHRISTIAN COALITION'S SCHEDULE IN CONGRESS ROLLS ON by Conrad F. Goeringer We begin this weekend edition of THEISTWATCH with some important news concerning the proposed "Religious Equality Amendment" and the latest activities of the Christian Coalition. An organization known as "C.C. Watch" which monitors the Coalition, informs us that the hearing scheduled in Los Angeles for this Monday, July 17, has apparently been canceled. No rescheduled date has been announced. "Did the Clinton announcement on religion in schools rain on the parade?", asks "C.C. Watch," or "Did pro-REA forces feel like they are not exactly having their way in these hearings, so why do it again?" THEISTWATCH will pass along to you any new developments on these hearings. Meanwhile, "C.C. Watch" also warns that while people are focused on elections in 1996 as a way of turning back the political challenges of the religions conservatives, the real action is taking place in Congress -- part of a strategy described by an official of the Christian Broadcasting Network as "chip away one block at a time." Here are some crucial issues now being acted on in Congress: ---The "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act" is now in the House Judiciary Committee (also charged with hearings on the "Religious Equality Amendment") which is scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday, July 18. The Christian Coalition has sent out faxes urging their members to oppose all the amendment to this legislation, such as the one offered by Rep. Pat Schroeder "which would gut the bill by allowing for a 'health of the mother' exception." --- The Coalition says that it hopes "to take most of Planned Parenthood's funding away by defunding Title X, and this amendment would place further restrictions on political advocacy by such liberal groups." This action is part of the Labor/Health-Human Services/Education Appropriations bill. A subcommittee has already voted to terminate 176 programs; it comes to a full committee vote next week. --- On Tuesday, July 18, the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Commerce and Justice will vote on de-funding the Legal Services Corporation. Abolishing the LSC is one of the main objectives of the Christian Coalition's "Contract With the American Family," in part because LSC has challenged anti-abortion "nuisance" restrictions such as husband/boyfriend consent and term limits. --- Christian Coalition is also pushing an amendment which would ban funds for Human Embryo Research. Establishing the "official status" of clumps of fetal tissue will be an important step in laying a foundation for the "life begins at conception" argument. The Christian right may be getting an unexpected boost in the medical-ethics twilight zone: right after the Christian Coalition contract was released last month, ANOTHER coalition of religious groups (most of them "mainstream" liberals), organized by anti-technology guru Jeremy Rifkin, demanded that Congress ban the patenting of genetic materials. Surprisingly, the rhetoric in the document was shockingly similar to anti-abortion propaganda. There is a somewhat related debate now that the FDA has approved a controversial process of using baboon bone-marrow as a new, experimental AIDS treatment. The whole subject of genetic technology and its manifold applications will be "heating up" and linked to the abortion question. --- Rep. John Istook of Oklahoma is also expected to offer an amendment to clarify that states are permitted (but not required) to use Medicaid funds to pay for abortions in the case of rape and incest. The "states' rights" option means that the local and state-level organizations of groups like the Christian Coalition can then begin cutting back abortion access (mostly to poor women) one state at a time. Remember that Istook is the "point man" charged by Speaker Gingrich with the task of drafting and guiding a "Religious Equality Amendment" through the House. THEISTWATCH will keep you up-to-date on these important developments. "VATICAN RAG" OR "SHUFFLE 'N JIVE"? The Pope's Latest Manifesto on Women Has Contradictions and Trendy, Pop-Culture New Speak by Conrad Goeringer Vatican flunkies are scrambling to interpret and clarify Pope John Paul II's latest pronouncement on the status of women. Last week's papal manifesto reaffirmed the Roman Catholic church's opposition to both abortion and to the ordination of women as priests. The anti-choice stance surprised no one, but various pro-"Priestess" groups in the Roman Catholic church were bitterly disappointed. Now officials are in a spin-doctor mode as they try to "clarify" the papal order concerning women in the church and the status of various Protestant religions which happen to have ordained women as part of their hierarchy. Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, head of the Pontifical Council of Laity, spent this week telling observers that the manifesto was some grand letter addressed to "every woman in the world" and an admission that the church had contributed to the cultural and social oppression of women throughout history. The pope also paid lip service to the struggle for women's rights, especially in the economic sphere. But while coming out and opposing the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic church, the pope has a problem with his efforts at "ecumenism," church unity. Protestants are somewhat wary of the Vatican's call for what some describe as a "World Church," naturally under the leadership of the pope of Rome. After all, Protestantism began, in large part, as a protest to various Roman Catholic church practices, including the dictatorial leadership of the pope. Since the Reformation, Protestant groups have gone their own respective ways, even arguing amongst themselves over a myriad of trivial details, rituals, and interpretations of scripture. Many "cashed in" on the 1960s women's movement by giving females a more active role in the mumbo-jumbo ceremonies; now, women can be as ridiculous as men in sporting church costumes, hats, and dispensing tasteless wafers to throngs of gullible parishioners. As far as these female Protestant functionaries are concerned, says Cardinal Pironio, John Paul "reaffirms Catholic doctrine while knowing that, on this issue, there are among the churches differences of interpretation." According to Ecumenical News, Pironio and other church officials are also now suggesting that "read as a whole" the papal manifesto "could be of great assistance to women, and to the United Nations Conference on Women" scheduled in September of this year in Beijing, China. But critics note that the conference has Roman Catholic officials (and many religious conservatives in the United States) worried; like previous gatherings, the Conference will confront the obvious need for birth control, abortion, and transforming the entire role of women in society as a means to controlling explosive population growth and combating rampant poverty. It's doubtful that the Vatican has much to offer in solving those pressing problems. CHURCH PROPERTY DEAL IS "ONE OF BRITAIN'S LARGEST" by Conrad Goeringer If you thought that Pat Robertson has bucks, think again. He's small fry compared to the giant Church of England, the official, state church of the somewhat misnamed British Empire. Ecumenical News is reporting that the church is unloading the bulk of its interest in one of Europe's largest shopping malls, the giant MetroCentre. The shopping complex was built in the late-1980s and cost some 270 million pounds to develop. The Church has decided to back out of the business venture in order to make cuts in an 800 million pound investment loss. Troubles began last April when the English House of Commons Social Security Select Committee accused the governing board of the Church of having "foolishly speculated" and engaged in "ethically suspect" practices. The Church Commissioners, responsible for some of the Church's operating costs then admitted to "past mistakes, learned from them and taken corrective action to secure long-term financial stability." The MetroCentre transfer is "one of Britain's largest ever single property transactions." A spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said that "By reducing our involvement in the MetroCentre, yet at the same time retaining a significant investment in it, we have taken a substantial step forward in re-balancing our investment portfolio." The Church Commissioners retain "freehold," de facto ownership, of the land, and receive 10 percent of the rental incomes from 330 tenants in the shopping complex. WILL CLINTON JUST SAY "YES" TO RELIGIOUS CENSORSHIP? by Conrad Goeringer WARNING! The V-Chip may be coming soon to a television set in your house, and will be hazardous for civil liberties! The V-chip proposal, which mandates that television manufacturers install a "blocking device" in all new sets permitting consumers to tune out programs with certain objectionable ratings, has passed the Senate and now enjoys the support of President Clinton. Clinton has spent the last week "tacking right" (according to a spokesman for the Christian Coalition), trying to compete with the traditional-family values crusade the GOP is adroitly exploiting, rather than challenge it altogether. Too bad. He spent nearly an hour at James Madison High School in Virginia talking about America's "religious heritage" and his own church background and criticized the notion that public schools should be considered "religion free zones." He's also chasing the coat tails of Senator Robert Dole, who any day now may well shave his head and begin sporting an earring, wearing a T-shirt which reads "Mr. Clean." Not to be outdone by the Senate Majority Leader's lambasting of Hollywood, Clinton is defending the V-Chip, and with it an invasive, bureaucratic ratings system which will electronically "tab" every program sent out over the airwaves and cable networks. Politicians simply cannot resist the lure of hopping on trendy political bandwagons, especially if the issue involved happens to be obscenity. Government leaders, preachers and politicians (especially if they are male) thunder against the evils of "smut" and then may head for the nearest prostitute or strip-joint to satiate their own covert cravings. Jimmy Swaggart couldn't resist the lure of a street walker and the musty scent of cheap motel rooms. Even conservative solons in Washington have been captured cavorting with young pages or secretarial bimbos who couldn't type. Who are THESE guys to demand ratings? As for Bill Clinton, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt instead of Jennifer Flowers. Should the V-Chip legislation make it through the House, the television industry will have to set up an organization to revue and rate everything coming out of the nation's studios, production companies and, yes, even public access offices. And the bill provides that failure to do so on the part of the industry will result in a GOVERNMENT program to accomplish the task. Hey! Where are those budget-and-bureaucracy cutting conservatives when it comes to this sort of proposal? And what about television programming? We suspect that TV evangeloids can salivate at the mouth while describing the most violent and terrifying visions of "hell" that await sinners who do not follow the Bible and never receive a negative rating which would kick in the V-Chip. Programming which describes for young children the sadomasochism of Christ ("hanging on the cross, suffering for your sins!!!"), or denounces "harlots," moneychangers, and the Whore of Babylon, will surely be rated as "family viewing." But what about the news? Surveys suggest that youngsters are really most affected by what they might view on the evening news broadcasts, not some "subtext" from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers or the X-Files. If anything, the real violence in Bosnia, the nation's sprawling prisons, or even urban streets is becoming somewhat routine. If we are becoming desensitized to it, don't blame the world of fictional entertainment. There's enough in the real world to do that job quite well, thank you. Worse yet is the foolhardy attempt to pigeonhole all programming into some convenient rating system, which triggers the V-Chip to protect our kids -- and ultimately us -- from ourselves. Dick Wolf, executive producer of such award-winning programs as "Law and Order," noted in USA TODAY (July 13) that stimulating programs such as "NYPD Blue" would fall victim to the V-Chip, just like the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (considered by many, incidentally, to be a horror-genre classic). "NYPD Blue" was consistently in the top 20, but "advertisers stayed away in droves because of the adult-content warnings that ABC attached to it." Let's get real about this; while Clinton, the FCC and religious bluenoses are figuring out ways to convert television fair into something about as stimulating as "700 Club" or "Mass for The Shut-In," kids are wiser, hipper, and smarter than we give them credit for. Hey, mom and dad, they already know what a condom is! And go ahead, trigger that V-Chip . . . hopefully, the kids will figure out the code with the same ingenuity that lets them get through the ridiculous "parental control" options on the family computer. Rather than trying to ban sex and violence, or have government play nanny in the home, perhaps we should think about DISCUSSING these issues with youngsters in a sensible and forthright fashion. "Sweeping it under the rug" merely stimulates interest; blocking programs makes kids (and adults for that matter) more curious. "What is it they DON'T want me to see?" Is this a good way of fostering communications within families? The V-Chip is a bad idea, unless you want to see government and religious prudery play even more of a role in our social life. Just say "no" to censorship. THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS by Conrad Goeringer The Department of Education has been ordered by the president to let all public schools know about guidelines for religion and religious exercise. In the "Religious Fashion" category, students and teachers will be permitted to wear yarmulkes and headscarves, and they may display "religious messages" on their clothing if other messages are permitted. If T-shirts with sports logos are permitted, then so would "I'm pumped-up for Jesus!" or "God Rules!". Let's see, however, if this same concern with "religious liberty" translates consistently and protects the rights of students who decide to display antireligious slogans and motifs. There's already the "Bad Religion" logo for that popular musical group, depicting a cross with the slash-bar. But someday, somewhere, somebody is going to wear an American Atheists T-shirt or one depicting the "Darwin fish" with legs -- or my favorite which says "This Is Your Brain on Religion." What will happen then? *************** Here is an interesting development about the Rachel Bauchman case up in Utah. You may recall that Ms. Bauchman, a sixteen-year-old, protested the inclusion of Christian hymns in a choral class at her public high school. "No child should feel like a second-class citizen in their own choir. . . . I was left out, I was laughed at, I was whispered about." The school failed to address her concerns, and when she took legal action against the school, her class office campaign posters were soon decorated with swastikas and other racial epithets. Ms. Bauchman tried to distinguish between what she called "musical" pieces such as Handel's "Messiah" and songs such as "Friends," a 1982 Christian pop hit which is considered "devotional." The controversy played out in the Salt Lake City news media and reached fever pitch the night of high school graduation. The capella choir performed two substitute songs, but then a student led the assembled group -- including parents -- in a rousting version of "Friends." Columnist Frank Rich writing in this week's New York Times (July 12) noted: "On videotape, you can see some school officials sitting passively on stage, tacitly condoning a high school assembly's disintegration into what one observer called a 'hooting mob'." Mr. Rich also informs us that Rachel Bauchman was given the option by school officials of sitting out her choir class when it rehearsed Christian songs and receive an automatic grade of "A." It is obvious that these school administrators knew quite well that performing such songs -- especially at a graduation ceremony which is an official school function -- was wrong. Rather than deal with the issue, and open up a Pandora's box of controversial topics such as tolerance and diversity (anathema, it seems, in Mormon-dominated Utah), they tried to essentially "buy off" the young woman. It didn't work. In my book, Rachel Bauchman is a 100 percent, all-America heroine. She stood her ground against religious bigotry and mindless social conformity. And best of all, she resisted the quintessential American method of defusing controversy -- the bribe. *************** Our correspondent from New Orleans informs us that there's a new publication called Shamanic Applications Review, which describes itself as a "Quarterly for Mental Health Practioners." If so, it looks like this "Review" might have some serious flaws before the whistle blows on the first quarter! We're informed that its pages will deal with topics such as "Shamanic methods and treatment of trauma related disorders such as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD/DID), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Ritual Abuse and the treatment of malignant alters." One danger in such explorations is that these things may really not exist at all. "Ritual Abuse" has become a buzz-phrase for the old "Satanic cult"-conspiracy theories of fundamentalist wackos. While this frightening urban legend was being promoted through afternoon talk shows and Sunday sermons, innocent men and women were often being accused of being "Satanic High Priests" (or "Priestesses") molesting every kid in the neighborhood. Lives were ruined, lawyers sometimes got rich, self-appointed "therapists" and "counselors" were later found to be manipulating the "patients" -- and the entire sordid affair became a modern-day version of the old Salem witch craze. Multiple Personality Disorder may or may not exist; MPD was inextricably woven into the fantasy of the "Satanic cult" legend where victims -- prompted into "recalling" such dubious memories as having been forced to drink blood, murder babies, or copulate with numerous hooded men -- dealt with these horrors by "fragmenting" into various "personalities." Anyone up for a rerun of "The Exorcist"? We'll have to wait and see, of course, just how "Shamanic Applications Review" deals with these and other issues, especially those which constitute a whole new frontier of psuedo-science and new age crankery. I like the part about studying "malignant alters." I'd just include the "malignant altars" as well. (Thanks to Ann Nunn down thar' in the Big Easy for this info!) *************** If this installment of THEISTWATCH is proving to be too cerebral and serious, we offer this for your entertainment pleasure. A Dutch scientist says that the "blood" from a statue of the Madonna of Fatima is actually resin used to glue in the artificial eyes. Yet for the past two weeks crowds have been pouring into the southern Dutch town of Brunssum, after a 63-year-old pensioner began seeing "blood" flowing from the foot-high statue which had been a gift from some friends in Portugal. According to Ecumenical News, Jan Couman's "deeply religious" wife, Gerda, promptly declared that the red drops trickling down the Madonna "must be blood." She informed neighbors, who began spreading the word and crowding into their small house. One neighbor insisted that suddenly "the whole street was filled with the smell of heavenly flowers," while another claimed to have cured of her rheumatism. Meanwhile, the "blood" was analyzed by Jan van Wersch, head of the laboratory of the De Wever hospital in nearby Heerlen. He determined that the drops were from resin used toglue Mary's eyes in place, which had begun to melt owing to a recent heatwave. He noted that "When put in a cool place the drops become solid again. That's all there is to it." But the faithful are still pouring into the town of Brunssum. And Mrs. Coumans has told reporters that her second son became "a religious maniac" following a cerebral hemorrhage and thinks he is Christ. As for Gerda, she adds, "I talk to the Madonna each night. . . . This is no coincidence." *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: * * PO Box 140195 FTP: * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: * * Info on American Atheists:, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: * * 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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