THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 22, 1995 Contents: Virginia - FEDS SEIZE COMPUTER OF SCIENTOLOGY CR
THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 22, 1995
Virginia--FEDS SEIZE COMPUTER OF SCIENTOLOGY CRITIC
(Update and Correction)
Washington--ROBERTSON LOBBIES FOR DICTATOR'S VISIT TO U.S.
World--RELIGIOUS GROUPS STEP UP COMPLAINTS ABOUT BEIJING
CONFERENCE ON WOMEN
Iowa--REPUBLICAN STRAW POLL SHOWS SURPRISING STRENGTH OF
FAR RIGHT CANDIDATES
World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
FEDS SEIZE COMPUTER OF SCIENTOLOGY CRITIC (Update and
By Conrad Goeringer
THEISTWATCH has a correction and an update concerning
our recent story about Scientology.
In the August 17 edition of TheistWatch, we noted
that on Saturday, August 12, federal marshals had seized a
computer and other equipment belonging to Arnaldo P.
Lerma. Mr. Lerma had allegedly posted texts on the
Internet which comprise secret church doctrines. We
incorrectly identified Lerma as a current member of the
Scientology organization; he is not, but is a former
employee of that church.
We also wish to report that newsgroup readers have
proposed an Arnie Lerma Defense Fund and have raised
several hundred dollars toward the purchase of a new
Gateway Pentium "with all the trimmings" for Mr. Lerma.
Other developments in this case: Mr. Lerma says that
he was a Scientology missionary and financial manager for
a nine-year period beginning in 1968 and nearly eloped
with the daughter of Church founder, pulp science fiction
writer L. Ron Hubbard.
In addition, various Internet newsgroups concerned
with Scientology are apparently picking up many new
readers. According to Scott Goehring (no relation to your
esteemed TW correspondent) who founded one of the groups,
"On the Net, the truth comes out." He also told the New
York Times that "The church (Scientology) can't shut
everyone up. They can't sue all 100 million people on the
Mr. Lerma's case appears to be a carbon copy of that
involving Dennis Erlich, a former minister of Scientology.
He left the religion in 1982 and is identified as a
leading critic. The church alleged copyright violations by
Erlich and obtained an order from the U.S. District Court
in San Francisco to raid his home and seize his computer
and software materials. That case is scheduled for trial
next year; Erlich is being defended by the Electronic
Frontier Foundation, a "cyber rights" group.
If you want to learn more about both sides in this
case, pick up Scientology's best-seller "Dianetics". Then
investigate the newsgroup alt. religion.scientology, or
surf over the EFF site on the web at http://www.eff.org.
As for the "big secret" of Scientology, well, as
reported in our last related dispatch, it involves a
cosmic bad guy named Xenu, who was head of the local
Galactic Federation. Faced with overpopulation, Xenu
orders his Galactic Patrol to round up people and murder
them by injecting their spinal cords with glycol. The
bodies were shipped to earth, which was then known as
Teegeeack and piled on mountaintops. The mountains were
blown up by hydrogen bombs and the "souls" of these dead
people (or "Thetans") were then gathered together and
somehow implanted with unwholesome emotions and ideas.
Today, these "body thetans" are responsible for the
problems human beings face in life problems and obstacles
which can only be eliminated by the "clearing" process
invented by Scientology (Dianetics) founder L. Ron
Hubbard, which involves undergoing extensive questioning
with the famous church "E-Meter."
Well, supposedly this "secret" is worth thousands of
dollars, at least if you believe ex-Scientologists. As TW
has observed before, similar yarns are found in the Bible,
Book of Mormon, the Urantia Book, even the teachings of
the Black Muslims. Unlike the sacred texts of Scientology,
you can often read this stuff for free at the local
library. But if anyone out there wants to send ME a few
thousand bucks for "revealing" these public-record sacred
secrets, I'll gladly accept! (Cash only, no credit cards
ROBERTSON LOBBIES FOR DICTATOR'S VISIT TO U.S.
By Conrad Goeringer
OK, the Church of Scientology is rolling in money,
thanks to a lot of rich Hollywood celebrities like Kirstie
Alley, Tom Cruise and the only pulp fiction guy (not L.
Ron Hubbard, you dummie!), John Travolta. But that's
nothing compared to Christian TV evangelist Pat Robertson.
While Pat's trying to take over the U.S. Government with
the Christian Coalition, he's also started a diamond-
mining operation in Zaire to compete with the big boys at
DeBeers, Ltd. And he wants to have the U.S. State
Department lift the ban on granting Zaire's thuggish
strongman, Mobutu Sese Seko, a visa.
According to the Washington Post and other news
sources, Robertson is helping to orchestrate a campaign by
religious conservatives, Washington think-tanks, and paid
Mobutu lobbyists, to convince the government that the
Zairean president has "seen the error of his ways." Since
the 1991 riots in that country, Washington has been trying
to distance U.S. policy from Mobutu. The state department
charges the dictator with embezzlement, massive
corruption, and what the Post termed "indifference to the
physical deterioration of what should be a prosperous
country." Mobutu is also charged with rearming the vicious
Hutu militias of Rwanda.
Lobbyist Paul Erickson has received a $30,000
contract to help orchestrate the new PR campaign for
Mobutu. He served as political director in the 1992 GOP
presidential primary campaign of conservative columnist
Pat Buchanan. An Erickson associate is Jack Abramoff, who
once headed a conservative organization known as Citizens
for America. Abramoff produced a 1989 film titled "Red
Scorpion," a movie based loosely on the life of CIA front-
man Jonas Savimbi. Savimbi was a military leader in the
Angolan civil war and received financing from what was
then the White-ruled apartheid government in South Africa.
Citizens for America receives attention in Sara
Diamond's study of the Christian right political activism,
"Spiritual Warfare." According to Diamond, CFA was one of
a cluster of organizations which constituted "private" aid
groups to the notorious "Contra" movement in Nicaragua.
Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network was also part
of a "contra aid" effort, pouring $3 million into the
right-wing Nicaraguan Patriotic Association.
According to the Post, Robertson's business interests
in Zaire include mining and forestry concessions, and a
diamond-mining concern through the African Development Co.
Robertson is an unabashed Mobutu booster, and is
reportedly working with Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) to obtain a visa for the
Meanwhile, the Washington director of Human Rights
Watch/Africa said that "Giving Mobutu a visa to this
country would be an enormous and serious mistake. He has
manipulated the flood of refugees from Rwanda and profited
from it. . . . He has manipulated the (Zairean) transition
process again and again. It would be a terrible sign for
the African continent if a man as corrupt and brutal as
Mobutu were allowed to come to this country."
Pat Robertson doesn't agree, though, evidently
thinking that in more ways than one Mobutu is a "diamond
in the rough."
RELIGIOUS GROUPS STEP UP COMPLAINTS ABOUT BEIJING
CONFERENCE ON WOMEN
by Conrad Goeringer
Pressure continues to build against U.S.
participation in the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women
slated for next month in Beijing, China. THEISTWATCH has
followed an orchestrated campaign waged by Christian
evangelicals to derail this event. James Dobson, head of
the Focus on the Family group, insists that the event is
"the greatest threat to the family in my lifetime," adding
that "they absolutely hate the traditional family, the
radical feminists who are behind this thing."
Attention is now focused on whether or not First Lady
Hillary Clinton will make a cameo appearance at the
Beijing event, which is expected to draw nearly 50,000
delegates from all over the world. A news service report
from Christianity Today magazine quotes U.S. Rep.
Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) as charging that Beijing "is a
singularly inappropriate place to hold a conference on the
status of women, given (that China) is a place that is
known for widespread violations of the rights of women,
especially through its coercive population control
program, which makes widespread use of forced abortion and
forced sterilization." The news service also noted that
"Leading Christian observers say a negative view of family
and full-time motherhood permeates much of the feminist
leadership of both the governmental delegates and
nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives." But
the latest efforts to damage the conference now involve
trying to link this event with the fate of human rights
activist Harry Wu. This past weekend, GOP presidential
contenders Bob Dole and Phil Gramm both called upon Mrs.
Clinton to boycott the Beijing conference. Dole said "I
think it would be a mistake for the First Lady to go as
long as they're retaining an American prisoner there,
Harry Wu, and as long as there's other human rights
Mr. Wu was arrested last June while trying to enter
China from Kazakhstan. He has since been charged with
Some suggest that the attempt to link Wu and the
domestic Chinese situation is simply a cover for efforts
against the women's conference and its feminist agenda.
Ironically, other religious elements are already
squabbling over the conference as well. Muslim clerics
throughout the Middle East have been critical of this
event, suggesting that it will threaten the predominant
role of men in family life and society in general. Muslim
countries are already under attack for their own miserable
human lights record. An umbrella group known as the
Ecumenical Coalition on Women and Society intends to show
up in Beijing to protest the practice of forcing Muslim
mothers who convert to Christianity to give up their
A decision on Hillary Clinton's role as leader of the
U.S. delegation to the conference is anticipated within
the next two weeks.
REPUBLICAN STRAW POLL SHOWS SURPRISING STRENGTH OF FAR
By Conrad Goeringer
You ain't in Kansas no more, Mr. Senator. That was
the message Iowan straw-poll voters gave Bob Dole the
night of Saturday, August 19, night during a non-binding
preference poll which saw Texan Phil Gramm dead-even the
score with the GOP presidential frontrunner. Both men each
drew 24 percent or 2,582 votes. The biggest upset, though,
was a surge by far right candidates Pat Buchanan, who got
18 percent and Christian columnist Alan Keyes, who
captured fourth place with 804 votes.
It was a jolt to the Dole campaign. The New York
Times said that the straw poll was possibly "the first
sign that Senator Bob Dole could be tripped up in his
march to the Republican presidential nomination." Gramm's
organization spent over $200,000, nearly three-times the
amount earmarked for the Iowa poll by Dole. But the
biggest surprise was the showing by Pat Buchanan, who
since 1992 has been the foremost spokesman of the "culture
war" campaign, a favorite theme of religious
It cost participants $25 to vote in the convention
poll and in most cases the different campaign
organizations picked up the tab. In 1987, religious
broadcaster Pat Robertson upset then Vice President George
Bush in the Iowa straw vote. Although caucus votes aren't
at stake in this particular round of voting, there is a
symbolic significance to the whole affair.
As for Buchanan, the Iowa poll gives his campaign
significant momentum. Even if he does not win any primary
contests, his religious and nationalist backers can still
demand important positions within the GOP national
platform committee and influence the Republican stance on
issues such as abortion, prayer in school, censorship and
other hot-button topics. Buchanan's 18 percent is
respectable, considering that he has run a national
campaign effort on only about $3,000,000 considerably less
than the resources of Dole and Gramm.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
by Conrad Goeringer
This isn't exactly the tale of Casey Jones. The death
toll stands at nearly 300, with another 400 people injured
Sunday, August 20 is what is being termed possibly the
worst train accident in the history of India. It all
started when the New Delhi-bound Kalindi Express struck a
"sacred" cow one-half mile from a railroad station near
the town of Firozabad. According to the rail system's
regional manager, the cow's body became entangled in the
engine and supposedly damaged the locomotive's brake
system. A second train known as the Pureshotham Express,
also headed for New Delhi, then slammed into the stopped
Express. There were a total of 2,200 passengers on both
trains, most of them asleep at the time of the collision.
But there's more to the story than is being reported
in some U.S. media. Some wire service reports are
emphasizing the poor condition of India's rail system,
which still has old track and switching equipment. That
may not have been a major factor in this particular
accident, however. Early reports suggested that the first
train engineer wad distraught and embarrassed over hitting
a cow, a "sacred" animal in India's Hindu superstition,
and began slowing the train down to check on the condition
of the holy bovine. Nothing about defective breaks, or any
accident to the breaking system, was noted.
In any case, cows wander the streets, fields and even
railroad right-of-ways throughout India, and are revered
as sacred objects, often shown more consideration and care
than those human beings ostracized by India's notorious
Hindu caste system. This isn't the first time cows have
been responsible for human carnage. In 1981, a crash
involving one of the sacred animals killed more than 200
people when a train crashed into a river.
Across the country, worried parents often spurred on
the forces of religious prudery and conservatism are
questioning the policy of condom distribution in public
"It will only increase promiscuity and pre-marital
sex," warn program opponents. "It's sending the message to
teens that sex outside of marriage is OK!" they add.
Well, as any rational person knows, sex outside of
marriage is indeed "OK," as long as it is consensual and
voluntary, and as long as one isn't emersed in the
psychological guilt and angst of religious repression.
But a new study about prophylactic distribution in
Philadelphia high schools suggests that condoms do not
increase "promiscuity," otherwise known as the rate of
sexual intercourse. Condom distribution began four years
ago as part of a comprehensive sex-education program to
curb teen pregnancy and the spread of AIDS. While part of
the program mentioned abstinence, the Roman Catholic
diocese blasted the condom distribution part and denounced
One third of students in the seven Philly area high
schools surveyed are now using health center resources,
including condoms. And 64 percent of students at schools
with condom distribution report that they are engaging in
sex, a figure identical to that of students in schools
without the health center-condom programs. Another finding
concerned pregnancy; there was one less pregnancy for
every 200 female students in schools that had condom
Researchers say that the Philadelphia study confirms
similar findings in other parts of the country.
With aggressive religious groups like Christian
evangelists or Muslim fanatics grabbing the headlines, one
doesn't hear much news these days about the Lutherans.
About the only publicity this staid, mainline-Protestant
denomination garners is thanks to Garrison Keeler, whose
"Prairie Home Companion" used to mention his strict
Lutheran upbringing, or the Lutheran pastor in the town of
But the Lutherans are alive and well, and according
to Ecunet News will be spending over $21 million next year
to start 40 new congregations. Like many American
religions, the Lutherans have discovered the Latino and
"Third World" market. With the honky suburbs already
settled by churches, McDonald's and Easy-Lube, "Many of
these new starts will be planted in communities of persons
of color and where English is not the primary language."
Another $4 million will be spent on the eight
Lutheran seminaries. Hey, those quiet Lutheran pastors
have to be trained SOMEWHERE!
* 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: email@example.com *
* Info on American Atheists: firstname.lastname@example.org, *
* & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address *
* AANEWS -Free subscription: email@example.com *
* 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. *
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank