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THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 17, 1995 Contents: Virginia--ROBERTSON CONGLOMERATE TO SELL "ICE CAPADES" UNIT United States--WHO ARE THE PROMISE KEEPERS? Virginia--FEDS SEIZE COMPUTER OF SCIENTOLOGY CRITIC New York--MAYOR GIULIANI PRAISES CATHOLIC SCHOOLS World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS _______________ _______________ ROBERTSON CONGLOMERATE TO SELL "ICE CAPADES" UNIT The $10.2 Million Deal Provides Another Look Into The Televangelist's Sprawling Financial Empire by Conrad Goeringer Pat Robertson's International Family Entertainment, Inc. announced Monday, August 14 that it is selling off the recently acquired Ice Capades show. IFE had purchased assets of the show last February, for $10.2 million, which happens to be the same amount for which an unidentified management company is issuing notes back to Robertson's own firm. The notes come due in 2005 and bear an annual interest rate of 7.5 percent. IFE retains the right to convert those notes back into a majority stake in the Ice Capades and the management company. Some observers are wondering if the new Ice Capades owners are not linked to others parts of Pat Robertson's financial conglomerate and telecommunications empire. When the Ice Capades show was purchased six months ago, skating champion Dorothy Hamil stayed on as president of the company. She has now resigned, purportedly due to the lackluster attendance in the last season. A Communications Giant International Family Entertainment is one of the two major players in Pat Robertson's huge religious communications empire. The other is the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which airs the popular "700 Club" program throughout most of the United States and many other parts of the world. IFE is the financial vehicle controlling the Family Channel, one of the largest ad-supported cable TV networks in the country. It reaches 95 percent of all cable households, and 63 percent of all households which receive any television. It has also launched two other channels, one in the United Kingdom (also known as Family Channel), the other known as the Cable Health Club. The U.K. operation has been running in the red, although losses in the past quarter were only $2.35 million, a slight improvement from the $3.1 million deficit for the same period last year. Two other units, the Cable Health Club and MTM Entertainment, also lost money, but that may reflect capitalization and expansion costs. MTM, ("Mary Tyler Moore") is a developer and distributor of television programming. Properties include the popular show "Christy," which has enjoyed widespread support from religious organizations throughout the country for its "wholesome," family-oriented themes, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Snowy River: The McGregor Saga," "Boogie's Diner," and even "Lou Grant" which conservative pundits once accused of being a mouthpiece for "liberal propaganda." Family Channel was founded in 1977 by Pat Robertson and his son, Tim. In 1989, they formed IFE, which in turn purchased Family Channel. Although IFE went public in 1992, it is still controlled by Robertson, who at age sixty-three serves as chairman with an annual salary of $434,594. Timothy Robertson is president and CEO, receiving $582,766 for his duties. While establishing numerous corporate entities is a common and legal practice, Robertson's use of this technique in the past suggests that the new Ice Capades management company may be less of an "outside party" and, indeed, might itself be linked to Robertson. According to Knight-Ridder Business News, IFE senior vice president David R. Humphrey while declining to identify the new owner said that "it is run by a former major-league baseball player and manages various sports events." Humphrey also added that the new management company has lined up a major corporate sponsor for the Ice Capades 1995-96 tour, but likewise would not identify who that sponsor was. "Ice Capades executives were unavailable for comment," noted a reporter in Monday's edition of the Virginian-Pilot. Humphrey added that the Ice Capades "will still be closely allied with other IFE operations, including the Family Channel." IFE is busy on other fronts, as well. Since May, the Robertson company has been "talking" to religious conservative film critic Michael Medved about a "family viewing" site on the World Wide Web. Medved, the co-host of the popular PBS show "Sneak Previews," was one of the early popularizers of the current "Hollywood Hates America" theme which has been taken up by politicians like Senators Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. Medved recently called for a "violence tax" to be leveled by the government against films which supposedly portray excessive amounts of violence or profanity. Civil libertarians have warned that Medved's "family friendly" philosophy really masks a pro- censorship, conservative political agenda. According to Robertson and IFE, the web site "would allow families and those concerned about movie content to consult a well-known, trusted critic for recommendations. The site would probably include evaluation of other media fare as well." International Family Entertainment has also produced a series of 30-second commercials which allegedly present views of "family life" and is trying to begin a "Seal of Approval" program under which "family oriented" marketers would receive an endorsement from the Family Channel. Income for IFE has been rising steadily since 1998. Revenues for the first year reached $62.6 million (net income $11.8 million), and by 1993 had climbed to a staggering $208.2 million (with $17.3 million net). The company employs nearly 700 people, and according to the latest Cowles/Media Information Report, has $74.1 million in cash on hand. Advertising accounted for less than 10 percent of the revenues, however, suggesting that Robertson's operation has a huge, and expanding base of individual and/or corporate donors. The total market value of the company stands at an impressive $694.9 million. "Alternative Culture" Robertson Style Robertson's evangelical and business activities both underscore an important development which has been taking place in American society -- the evolution of an "alternative Christian culture." Christian evangelicals, of course, have long chosen to "withdraw" from the wider, secular American scene when possible, often cloistering themselves in church, church-related social activities, Bible camps, retreats and other venues. But it is the sheer scale of Robertson's activities which is creating a "total environment" where believers can be reinforced and immersed in "religiously correct" programming and activities throughout the day. One example of this is the IFE purchase of a 20 percent share of Body by Jake Enterprises, Inc., a health- fitness merchandising and film production company headed by bodybuilder Jake Steinfeld. International Family also announced this $4 million cash acquisition on Monday. Body by Jake may fit in conveniently with the Cable Health Club. Robertson seems to be moving toward a total religious instruction-and-"family" fitness/entertainment mediaplex, where participants in the Robertson movement can receive everything from political instruction, religious doctrine, "morally correct" entertainment, and even health workouts all from the same source. Like the "synergy" found in corporate deals involving Disney and ABC, Robertson seems to be achieving similar results with Family Channel, Christian Broadcasting Network, and the International Family Entertainment, Inc. Like it or not, he also appears to be making his own brand of religious conservatism a household fixture, thanks in part to the ubiquitous power of television. WHO ARE THE PROMISE KEEPERS? by Conrad Goeringer THEISTWATCH has been watching the Christians "Men's Movement" known as the Promise Keepers. Founded by ex- collegiate football coach Bill McCartney, the organization stages huge prayer rallies in stadiums and athletic arenas throughout the country and is attracting a significant following. News reports on the Promise Keepers describe these events in highly emotive terms. "I felt God speaking to me," declared one man during a tearful prayer-rally. Thousands respond to "Coach" McCartney's "altar calls" and traipse to the front of a huge stage where they pray in small groups with Promise Keepers counselors, "unburdening their souls, seeking forgiveness and exchanging phone numbers." These Promise Keeper rallies have all of the ambience and hormonal rush of a gridiron slug-fest. McCartney told one recent gathering that "We as Godly men recognize that we have fumbled the ball. A real man gets knocked down all the time. He just keeps getting up with the help of his friends." Who ARE these guys, anyway? A survey published recently by USA TODAY may provide a clue in determining who is attracted to these gut- wrenching and angst-ridden encounter groups with the Lord. A survey of those who attended Promise Keepers events in 1994 found that 21 percent had been divorced at some time; 88 percent, though, were married at the time they signed up for the Praise God stadium wave; 5 percent were divorced, and 7 percent were single. Indeed, Promise Keepers is aimed at married men; the group emphasizes the need for males to "reclaim spiritual leadership in households" a goal which makes groups like the National Organization for Women less than enthused. Despite efforts to court Black evangelicals and its public stands against racism, only 16 percent of Promise Keeper attendees are in ethnic minorities. Whites account for 84 percent of the guys in the bleachers, and Blacks are way, way back at 7 percent. Hispanics are 5 percent, and Asians and Native Americans split the remaining four points down the middle. Of those attending rallies, 13.5 percent have no church denominational affiliation. But the biggest percentage 23.9 percent is composed of men who were Baptist. Another 10.2 percent describe themselves as Southern Baptist, the denominational backbone of the evangelical movement. Other affiliations account for a much smaller representation. Assembly of God, Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans total only about 2.5 percent to 5.9 percent. Roman Catholics account for only 2.2 percent. There may be a curious relationship between the emphasis on athletic settings, language, and male companionship, as well as the peculiar role of "Coach" McCartney. Half of the attendees said they felt their father was "largely absent" when they grew up, according to the survey. And 19.2 percent reported that they were children of divorced parents. Part of the psychological "draw" of this religious men's movement could well be the role of male god and father figures, including the figure of the "coach" which can loom large in the minds of some adolescents. There is also the "permission" one is given at a Promise Keepers gathering to express emotion and release tensions in a somewhat socially accepted religious ritual manner. Traditional male stereotypes restrict the venues in which men may shout, cry, express doubts about their own efficacy, or communicate in a substantive way with fellow males. Promise Keepers may be finding a way to "package" that need, combining expectations of fellowship and camaraderie with a pop-religious message. "Coach" McCartney wants the Promise Keepers to flourish "across the world." It is certainly flourishing in the U.S., and has successfully taken over the "men's movement" of the 1980s. "The Promise Keepers are the largest and most important men's movement in the United States today," said David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values. As the movement grows, THEISTWATCH will be watching. We promise. ***************** FEDS SEIZE COMPUTER OF SCIENTOLOGY CRITIC The Internet proves to be a hotbed for debunking Hubbard's science fiction-style religion by Conrad Goeringer John Travolta, Lisa Marie Presley, and Tom Cruise may buy into the Church of Scientology, but it appears that growing numbers of on-line skeptics do not. Defectors and critics of the science-fiction style religion are using the Internet and other on-line resources like discussion and news groups to comment on Scientology, and even publish some of the Church's secret teachings. Last Saturday, federal cops seized a computer belonging to a church employee in Arlington, Va. who had allegedly posted a 136-page text of Scientology doctrines. Arnaldo P. Lerma insisted that the material was already available through court records and that "you have to jump through a lot of expensive hoops to get access to this. . . . This is the big secret at the end of the rainbow, and you could go to the court clerk and get it for 50 cents a page." Reportedly, the document has been downloaded on the net in countries as far away as China and Finland. Lerna charges that the feds seized over 400 computer discs and other equipment. "They even took my mouse and my modem," he told the N.Y. Times. Scientology was concocted in 1954 by pulp science- fiction writer and adventurer L. Ron Hubbard. Critics charge that Scientology exploits followers by charging them considerable sums of money for revealing secrets and teachings as people move up within the different levels of the organization. Most of these "secret teachings," if not the entire body of doctrine, has probably now leaked out thanks to court cases and on-line gossip. Scientology is filled with tales about galactic federations, a leader named Xenu who had his space patrol round up excess populations from other worlds and dump them on planet earth, and "Thetans" whose thoughts and emotions impinge on us today. It really does belong in a pulp mag! L. Ron Hubbard Jr. ended up writing a scathing book about dad and his cult. Critics such as Martin Gardner have been exposing the foibles of this contemporary religious detritus. But maybe, despite the Feds and what some Church officials say is a campaign of harassment, Scientology has gotten a bum-rap. The Mormon Church promises believers their own planet! The Judeo-Christian Bible tells the story of a universe-wide battle between demons and angels, which really puts Hubbard to shame! Read the Autobiography of Malcolm X; Elija Mohammed and the Black Muslims have a similar yarn about some evil super-scientists who billions of years ago began creating an anemic and degenerate race which resulted in white folks. Well, it all sounds like you-know-what to me. If you want more info, though, for which at least some of Hollywood's over-paid stars are spending their money, surf the Internet, and even check out alt.religion.scientology. Go on over to web as well, and get the story on one ex-church member who's being helped out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a thriving "cyber rights" organization. Find them at And watch out for angels, Thetans and devils! MAYOR GIULIANI PRAISES CATHOLIC SCHOOLS Parents chide mayor for "disrespectful" comments made about the public school system by Conrad Goeringer New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani may have won the hearts of folks in the Big Apple when he ran the notorious "squeegee men" off the streets but he's causing a furor because of remarks made on Monday, August 14 about the public school system. Giuliani declared that the schools are in need of "radical reform" and that the system could be saved only if, as the N.Y. Times phrased it, "they were more like the [Roman] Catholic school system." Giuliani is a graduate of Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. About 95 percent of the student population in the school go on to college, and tuition is more than $3,500. Bishop Loughlin is part of a network of twenty- two Roman Catholic high schools, and some 151,000 are in the city's parochial school system. As impressive as the statistics are, however, they don't tell the entire story. Many Roman Catholic schools like Bishop Loughlin have no special ed programs for emotionally troubled youngsters, and they select students on the basis of high SAT scores and rigorous interviews. Public school advocates point out that the city system has to be a good deal broader, accepting unruly and difficult to teach students, along with the physically and emotionally handicapped. Critics of the mayor insist that his statements prove that he simply lacks an understanding of the mission of public education. One parent said that Giuliani was "totally disrespectful of the public school system and therefore of parents who need to send their kids to public schools." THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS by Conrad Goeringer Is this a "modest proposal"? A farce? Perhaps we should just file this away under "Not a good idea." The Edison Township, N.J. council was reported this past Monday to be considering a proposal which would mandate that three of the six members of the community Ethics Board be clergymen. According to Councilman James Kennedy, the author of this rather amazing idea, the presence of clergy would make the group "calmer and more effective." *************** PARENTAL WARNING: The following THEISTWATCH story contains suggestive, filthy, smut-filled lyrics but they have nothing to do with rap music! Religious conservatives and political hacks like Senator Bob Dole are still having a field day beating up on Black rap or gangsta artists like Snoop Doggy Dog or Dr. Dre, and focusing their righteous wrath on the Great Satan of Music, Time Warner. Word is that Time Warner is slowly trying to divest itself of Interscope records. Even if it does, the "music will live on", at least until Dole moves into the White House and hires Pat Robertson as the nation's moral Sergeant-at-Arms. But hooooold on! Along with those mean lookin', disrespectful, cursin'-and- rappin' Afro-Americans, there's a white boy in the music pile at Interscope who's been wowing audiences for three decades with suggestive tunes, smutty and innuendo-laden lyrics, and lewd gestures. We're talking about Tom Jones, the Interscope "stealth missile of smut" (N.Y. Times), who grabs his crotch more than Michael Jackson, and takes panties which women throw onto the stage and stuffs them down his already-tight pants. And that's just for starters. Bill Bennett and other luminaries of the right-wing religious "culture war" are in a paroxysm of indignation over Blacks who don't talk, sing and dress like tame, church-going, WASP types. They should read Tom Jones' lyrics: "Pussycat, pussycat, I've got hours to spend with you . . . I'll soon be kissing your sweet little pussycat lips." That was in 1965. By 1974, in his "Something 'Bout You Baby I like" cut, things had heated up: "Maybe it's the way you wear your bluejeans so tight. I can't put my finger on what you're doing right." And if you thought OJ and Mike Tyson were bad: "She was my woman. As she deceived me, I watched and went out of my mind . . . I crossed the street to her house and she stood there laughing . . . I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more." Interscope artists like Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur has said, and probably done, some pretty wild, even offensive things. Many lyrics, though, express deep, personal rage at society; many point to the stupidity and futility of violence. And as mean and tough as the rapper guys look, well, they've never appeared on stage wearing a fishnet shirt. *************** Monks at the Macheras Monastery near the Cyprus town of Nicosia are asking British security police to "stand guard" and keep out tourists or visitors wearing shorts, miniskirts or T-shirts. News reports say that it was the "sight of bare legs and shoulders" which so astonished these (celibate?) Men-O-God that prompted the action. Another monastery which dates to the twelfth century and is a repository of ancient treasures and manuscripts insists than scantily clad visitors must wear specially designed robes while on the premises. *************** In Madras, India, doctors operated on a five-year-old girl who was struck in the eye by her teacher. The girl's "crime" was drinking from a pitcher reserved for people from a high social caste a residue of the evil and discriminatory religious caste system. Kids from lower- caste families are considered "untouchable" and must wait for somebody to pour water into their cupped hands. *************** The new issue of Vanity Fair has an article in which a volunteer in Newt Gingrich's 1976 congressional campaign says that she had oral sex with the then-wed politician and future U.S. House Speaker. Ann Manning insists that "We had oral sex. . . . He (Gingrich) prefers that modus operandi because then he can say 'I never slept with her'." I didn't know it was called "Modus Operandi"! *************** When Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia died recently, thousands perhaps even millions of "Deadheads" flocked to memorial concerts, wiped off old vinyl for another spin, and even filled on-line chat rooms. Three generations of fans expressed their grief at the loss of this gentle, talented man. But the nation's cranky religious conservatives and sell-out yuppies were playing a different tune. Former Reagan-Bush flunkie John Sunnunu was busy trying to link Garcia to a "destructive drug lifestyle." Gannett News columnist John Omicinski dragged out every cliche he could probably think of in blasting Garcia, the 80s, and a giant slice of the American population who allegedly took "a roller coaster ride from sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll through divorce and late 'parenting' to the onset of prostate twinges and hot flashes." You don't have to like the music of the Dead to see what's behind the latest round of put-downs aimed at Jerry Garcia and an entire generational-cultural ethos. We have gone from the socially aware 60s and 70s to the "lean and mean" 90s, where guys like Pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm and Bob Dole battle over a political turf slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. Garcia, despite his faults of psyche and body, was truly an "American original." Fare thee well, Jerry. *********************************************************************** * * * 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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