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THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 22, 1995 Contents: 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 Correction) 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 Net." 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 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 please.) 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 African dictator. 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 abuses." Mr. Wu was arrested last June while trying to enter China from Kazakhstan. He has since been charged with espionage. 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 children. 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 RIGHT CANDIDATES 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 conservatives. 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 high schools. "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 the plan. 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 distribution. 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 Lake Woebegone. 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: * * 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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