THEISTWATCH for July 19, 1995 Contents: Washington, D.C. - ABORTION BAN TERMED +quot;BEGIN

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THEISTWATCH for July 19, 1995 __________________ __________________ Contents: Washington, D.C.--ABORTION BAN TERMED "BEGINNING OF THE END" FOR ROE v. WADE New York--BIZARRE SEX ABUSE CASE INVOLVING MINISTER RAISES DOUBTS, CASE APPEAL World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS __________________ __________________ ABORTION BAN TERMED "BEGINNING OF THE END" FOR ROE v. WADE Religious Conservatives Win Another Important Round in Their Fight to End Abortion Rights by Conrad Goeringer In a major victory for religious conservatives, a bill to outlaw some late-term abortions cleared the House Judiciary Committee following three hours of impassioned and partisan debate. The vote followed party lines, passing the proposed legislation by a 20-12 margin. It was another piece of legislation which had been specifically targeted for action by the Christian Coalition in its "Contract With the American Family," released just a few weeks ago in Washington, D.C. Termed the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act," it makes it a crime for doctors to perform so-called "partial birth" abortions, a procedure "in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery." The law would subject doctors to fines or up to two years in prison and give family members the right to sue the physician for damages. The bill had been introduced by Committee chair Rep. Charles Canaday, R-Fla. "This is the beginning of the end for Roe v. Wade," lamented Colorado Representative Pat Schroeder, who warned that the bill was a serious threat to abortion rights. "They've just taken a big chunk out of it and clearly want to go after the whole thing." Schroeder was apparently right on the target, especially after the committee rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Her amendment would have exempted doctors from prosecution if the late term abortion were performed to save the woman's life -- but even that stipulation didn't find sympathy in the GOP-run Judiciary Committee. Critics note that from its very introduction, Canaday's legislation was "loaded" with terminology and goals which were lifted word-for-word from the Christian Coalition "Contract." The term "partial birth abortion" appears in the first section of the Contract's section dealing with abortion, where it is also called a D & X or "dilation and extraction." The section reads: "This 'partial-birth abortion' procedure is also known as dilation and extraction,' or D & X, in which forceps are used to remove second and third-trimester babies, with only the head remaining inside the uterus. The child's life is then ended, and the dead child is delivered." Nowhere in the Contract's section on abortion is the word "fetus'' used; instead, terms such as "unborn child," "child," "victim," "innocent human life" and "babies" appear constantly. In addition, the phrase "partial-birth abortion" appears to be an invention of the Coalition and its allies as well. By implication, abortion is semantically linked to "birth," and late-trimester abortions are thus pictured as procedures performed on "children." Passage of the bill in the Judiciary Committee is a major hurdle for the legislation, which still faces passage of a Senate version and, of course, the signature of President Clinton. It nevertheless is an important victory for the religious right and is a testament to the sheer political clout of the Christian Coalition. Roe v. Wade, once considered an unshakeable foundation for abortion rights, may indeed be in serious trouble. BIZARRE SEX ABUSE CASE INVOLVING MINISTER RAISES DOUBTS, CASE APPEAL by Conrad F. Goeringer It may be a national scandal which for too long has resulted in imprisonment for innocent men and women. And it is something which even today brings emotional responses from all sides of the issue, especially since it involves children. Beginning in the mid-1980s, fears of "ritual child abuse" became widely publicized through numerous television specials and talk shows. Many of the concerns were linked to something referred to as "Satan's Underground," supposedly a nationwide, covert network of satanic cults which engaged in numerous illegal activities, including murder, mutilation of animals, and the abduction and sexual molestation of children -- all ostensibly in "service" or "sacrifice" to the devil. One religious magazine claimed that satanic worship "was America's best kept secret" and charged that "normal, everyday people" such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, firemen and others could well be cult members. The fears of a widespread, heretofore undetected organization of Satanists were also echoed by religious fundamentalist ministries and preachers, many of whom appeared on talk shows. There were also "professional" therapists, counselors, and "experts" on the subject. Although they were frequently quoted in magazine or newspaper articles, and appeared as guests on afternoon television, their claims were rarely questioned or examined critically. Among the claims: --- Up to 50,000 persons each year in the United States were being kidnaped and sacrificed in satanic cult rituals. --- Children were often targets of cult sexual abuse (by strangers as well as parents). This abuse included forcing the children to drink human blood, kill animals, or have intercourse with groups of strangers including parents or siblings. Other actions included burying children in coffins with dead bodies or killing babies. --- Women were recruited, sometimes with mboney or drugs, to be "satanic baby breeders"; the children, brought to term in anonymity and cared for or delivered by "cult doctors," would then be sacrificed to Satan. --- A nationwide satanic cult (or group of cults) may have been behind Charles Manson, David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), and other murders. --- Daycare centers, schools, and even churches were favorite targets of cult members, because of their access to children. As the charges about "Satan's Underground" became more bizarre, some journalists began to investigate these claims. Although individual police departments had even conducted "seminars" in "satanic cult activities," there has gradually developed an awareness that -- as the FBI's Behavioral Research Unit concluded -- there was little or no substantive evidence for the claims. Individual self-proclaimed "experts" on Satanism such as former FBI agent Ted Gunderson "played out" the devil worship angle. It was no longer of interest as a subject to many talk show producers, and by the early to mid-1990s had been replaced by more introspective topics such as safe sex, meaningful interpersonal relationships, or generation-X. Social scientists began to autopsy "Satan's Underground" as what they termed an "urban legend" -- and a lesson about mass hysteria and social anxieties. But an important component of the legend survived -- obsessive fears of child abuse, especially group or ritual child abuse which might involve anyone. Carried over from the Satan's Underground hysteria was the notion of "recovered memories" -- the ability of people to "recover" memories of past events, even those which might have happened at an extremely young age -- through the efforts of a therapist. The new paradigm of "recovered memories" involved certain critical factors: --- First was a "trigger" -- anything from sleeplessness to free-floating anxiety -- that supposedly "might mean" something. In young children it could be bed wetting, loss of appetite or withdrawal. Symptoms could emerge at any time, even into adulthood. --- The paradigm held that "memories" were "trying to come to the surface" of conscious awareness, which they had been suppressed due to trauma such as sexual abuse. In order to "help" this process, the therapist "guides" or even hypnotizes the patient, and under questioning and relentless probing, ostensibly "draws out" the hidden truth. Of course, it might not just be a therapist. With children, anyone from parents and teachers to police and "behavioral experts" can be called in to elucidate these repressed memories. The problem is that the paradigm is often false. Memory may not be like a "tape recording" of events from the past which is "lost" or suppressed and be found -- and hence "replayed" years later, even under hypnosis. Hypnotic regression is also resulting in a babble of pseudo-scientific claims by patients, including stories of exciting "past lives" and abductions by space aliens. Controlled studies have suggested that even "false memories" -- demonstratably inaccurate "memories" can be constructed and reported by patients thanks to manipulation by therapists. And children "lie." Studies now indicate that children will often follow the lead of investigators and questioners probing for tales about sexual abuse or other horrors. Even sincere investigators, in their zeal to "uncover the truth," can unknowingly manipulate children into the desired responses. So, enter the Rev. Nathaniel T. Grady, who is starting the tenth year of a prison sentence for child molesting. Grady may be typical of many individuals who have been accused and convicted of sexual abuse charges, often on little or no corroborative evidence, often on the "word" of one or more children, and on the basis or standards and procedures now obsolete. The details are frighteningly simple. Five men, including Grady, were convicted for raping and sodomizing more than a dozen preschool children. While a pastor at the Westchester United Methodist Church in New York, Grady had an office next door to a classroom. Before that, he had been head of a congregation at the Church of Our Savior in Yonkers; he had no criminal record. While at the Westchester church, he had played the role of Santa Clause during the Christmas season and "wore a scary mask at Halloween," according to the N.Y. Times. In April 1984, one of the three-year-old preschoolers awoke from a nightmare and told his mother about "the robber" -- someone who allegedly molested him during naptime at the day care center. According to the Times, the child's father had been an informer in a federal labor racketeering case and quickly called in an FBI agent he knew. Thus began a relentless round of questioning which soon involved other children and produced some 640 hours of video surveillance footage. Grady was identified by one of the children as "Jason's Daddy," one of the abusers. By June of 1984, Grady had been approached and volunteered to submit to a polygraph; this was refused, however. In August, the parents filed a civil suit against the day-care facility and the City of New York. During trial, one of the children who had earlier identified Grady as the molester could not identify him in court. Physical examination of the children was even inconclusive, and a pediatrician admitted that scratches and other marks on the children's genitals could have been the result of infections or allergic reactions. Even so, in January of 1986, after deliberating for seven days, a jury found Grady guilty of molesting five of the six children. Concerns over Nathaniel Grady's case have grown, especially in light of the infamous McMartin Preschool trial of 1990. That was the most expensive trial in the history of the California legal system, and despite literally dozens of charges against the defendants, everyone was found "not guilty." Numerous claims had been made by children -- and later, their parents -- including the one that children were molested in satanic rituals in underground chambers. The McMartin trial was recently the subject of a network movie which was critical of the prosecution in the case, and the manipulation of children by prosecutors, law enforcement, and self-proclaimed "experts" and therapists. Rev. Grady may well be the victim of a similar set of circumstances, especially the shaping and massaging of statements made by children, under persistent and repetitive questioning. In Grady's case, the alleged victims were interviewed over a dozen times. None of these meetings were videotaped. The eagerness of prosecutors, and sometimes therapists, to participate in unfounded charges of ritual sex abuse, individual molestation or other activities is resulting in a backlash. Some therapists are now being taken to court by parents accused of molesting their offspring, all on the basis of "recovered memories" of satanic rituals. Often, for reasons not quite clear, the accused are either ministers like Rev. Grady or "godfearing" religious people in small communities. The law is changing, too. In New York, it is more difficult to bring unsubstantiated charges thanks to the Keindl ruling, which stipulates that each charge of abuse must cite a specific incident "in a relatively precise time period." There is still the residual damage of being accused of pedophilia, even after being found innocent of charges. As for Rev. Grady, he is appealing through the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and maintaining that his conviction was based on what the Times describes as "the confused accounts of 3-year-olds and . . . the prosecution's methods (which) would not meet current legal standards." There is still a movement of religious, civic and various parents groups which hold to the legend of Satan's Underground, and claims that ritual or individual abuse of children is widespread. You might also see an occasional bumper-sticker reading "Believe the Children," suggesting that even the most outrageous charges may very well be true. Studies suggest that the overwhelming preponderance of child abuse cases, however, involve persons within the victim's immediate family, and rarely, if ever, have a "cult" or "group" component. And the victims in such cases rarely repress the memories of such acts, but rather live with them as a "dirty secret" for years to come. It may be that "Satan's Underground" is being replaced by unfounded fears of "cyber-molesters" who cruise computer networks in hopes of molesting children. Or the "legend" may have metamorphosed into the now-popular hysteria over alleged UFO abductions -- a pop-culture claim which enjoys surprisingly wide publicity thanks to shows like "Hidden Mysteries" and even "The X-Files." The Satanic High-Priest, in real life a parent, minister or teacher, is now replaced by the eerie stare of hairless, short aliens busy conducting genetic experiments and breeding with humans. Either way, the legend has left in its wake a good deal of fear, nonsense, and victims. THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS by Conrad F. Goeringer In Kiev, (former Soviet Union), a funeral for the head of a breakaway faction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church turned violent as "people of faith" and cops clashed in the streets. Seems that the followers of the late Patriarch Volodymyr wanted his carcass buried in an official state church, St. Sofia's Cathedral. Church officials turned them down, and the riot ensued after a funeral service for Volodymyr had been held in another nearby church. ****************** The nomination of a homophobic minister to the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board has been withdrawn, although the Rev. Ruben Diaz remains on that committee as a holdover member. Since his appointment two years ago, Diaz has attracted growing criticism from the gay community, especially for his opposition to the Gay Games, an Olympics-style competitive athletic event. Rev. Diaz opposed the Games' New York venue, saying that the event "would teach our young adults and children that homosexuality is O.K., that it is not immoral or sinful behavior, or that this kind of behavior is not biologically dangerous." The review board has thirteen members and monitors complaints from citizens about police brutality. The mayor technically appoints all members, but five -- like Rev. Diaz -- are picked by the city council. Last week, the furor over Diaz heated up again when he remarked at a council meeting that "if being a Christian, if being a preacher and believing in God and the Bible, if opposing certain behaviors, if preaching the truth of Gospel makes me homophobic, then I am proud to be homophobic." In somewhat of a mystery, however, The New York Times (July 19) quoted Diaz as then insisting that he was NOT homophobic, although he didn't bother explaining the obvious contradiction. Diaz supporters said that their tally of council votes necessary for Diaz's full appointment indicated that 23 of the 51 members opposed the minister. Diaz will remain on the board, however, until the Bronx delegation finds a replacement. ****************** Hey, things may not be that bad! There's hope for humanity yet, especially when a record 9,158 people flock to the University of Utah's Huntsman arena to hear quantum physicist Stephen Hawking discuss black holes and subatomic particles. Hawking, an Atheist and leading scientist, is the author of bestsellers like "A Brief History of Time." He holds the chair of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University (once occupied by Sir Isaac Newton). Hawking unfortunately has the degenerative neuromuscular disorder known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," named after the famous ballplayer, and uses a motorized wheelchair and computerized voice-synthesizer. The Salt Lake City turnout surpassed his previous audience record established several years ago, when 4,000 interested fans attended his lecture in Berkeley, California. ****************** Taking a Miquetoast-like stance, the president of NBC says that he supports the notorious "V-chip," but opposed "a government body trying to decide what's violent and what's not violent." Warren Littlefield made the statement to the Scripps-Howard News Service. The V-Chip is an electronic device that would "read" signals sent out with television programs and would permit parents (or others) to screen out "unwanted" programming. The V-Chip is part of a larger telecommunications act which has the support of President Clinton. It would require the television industry to establish a board to rate all television programming, or, in lieu of that, a government bureau to do the job. Critics charge that the V-Chip is a dangerous step toward censorship. The chip would be required equipment with new television sets. Littlefield said that he opposed any ratings board, however, insisting that screening out violent programming was a responsibility for parents. Critics of the chip, incidentally, charge that the device actually relieves families of that responsibility, turning the job over to the government "with a flip of the switch." Littlefield also noted that there are problems about rating various programs. He also criticized complaints over shows such as "Mad About You," which he described as an adult comedy about a married couple "committed to each other." "I wish we could force kids to watch that. I think it's great television," said Littlefield. He also insisted that NBC had plenty of "traditional family programming," including "Fresh Prince" and the pseudo-science dud "SeaQuest." ****************** New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggested that Islamic militants may be running out of steam -- or going underground, in their battle to establish "Islamic Social Republics" throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world. Writing in the July 19 "Foreign Affairs" column, Friedman points out that "Islamic fundamentalism seems to be either going underground or going mainstream. That is, fundamentalist groups are either engaging in more hard-core violence, and losing to the secular authorities, or playing by the rules of the game and being coopted by the secular political systems." Friedman also suggests that the "Islamic fundamentalist phenomena has peaked" and marshals evidence ranging from Egypt's thus-far successful war against Muslim terrorists to the Arab-Israeli peace process. But despite this optimism, it may be too early to nail shut the coffin on religious dogmatism. People were surprised when the Ayatollah Khomeni succeeded in overthrowing the autocratic Shah of Iran, despite the intervention of oil companies and the CIA. And throughout sections of the former Soviet Union, Islamic movements are enjoying widespread and growing support. Islamic ethnic minorities are the fastest growing segment of the population. And who would have thought that the once-invincable Red Army which had so successfully turned back Nazi Panzer divisions and served as the glue of the Kremlin's geopolitical empire, would crumble in Afghanistan? Even without the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism, the pervasive influence of the Muslim religion -- even in its more "moderate" form -- still manages to stifle and oppress. And while the Arab countries are undergoing major economic and social transformations, the dislocating forces inherent in such processes create a potent appeal for political and religious orthodoxy. America -- and the recent success of the Christian right -- is a case in point. The "Muffled Militants" of Islam, as Friedman terms them, may be in a down slump now. But like the guy in Terminator says, they'll be back. *********************************************************************** * * * 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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