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THEISTWATCH FOR JUNE 23, 1995 ____________________ ____________________ Contents: Washington, D.C.--FOSTER KNOCK-OUT IS POLITICAL GAIN FOR DOLE North Carolina--ALIMONY LEGISLATION IGNITES 'BIBLE LAW' DEBATE World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Cyberspace--TW READER QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS ____________________ ____________________ FOSTER KNOCK-OUT IS POLITICAL GAIN FOR DOLE Was Nominee Sacrificed To Court The Religious Right? by Conrad F. Goeringer In the wake a yesterday's Senate vote which derailed the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster for Surgeon General, analysts are now saying that the real winner turned out to be Majority Leader and presidential candidate Bob Dole (R- Kan.). A move to end debate and a filibuster by Senator Phil Gramm of Texas failed on Thursday by a vote of 57-43. Sixty votes were needed to cut off the debate, a procedure known as cloture. This means that Foster's nomination will not reach the Senate floor for a full vote. President Clinton has already tapped the Nashville obstetrician for a new job directing a government program to combat teen pregnancy. Ironically, Foster appeared to have the 51 votes needed for confirmation; but it was political maneuvering by Dole taking advantage of the Gramm filibuster which carried the day. Both Dole and Gramm have been desperately trying to shore up their credentials with the Republican Christian right-wing, courting groups such as the Christian Coalition. The Coalition and its allies were major players in last November's congressional elections, which saw the GOP gain control of both the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in forty years. While Gramm is a fiscal conservative, he is distrusted by some religious leaders "because of his perceived lack of fervor on abortion and other social issues," according to Reuters news service. The Foster nomination was his opportunity to change that image. Early in the confirmation process, the Texas Republican threatened a filibuster if necessary. But Dole, taking advantage of Gramm's position, managed to end the Senate debate quickly, without giving the Texas Senator much opportunity to stay in the media limelight. Time Magazine's Karen Tumulty said of Dole's strategy: "It's brilliant. He's won on both counts; it looks like he was fair in bringing this to a vote, and he's engineered it so there's no chance Foster can succeed." It was the reluctance to end debate that closed the door on the Foster nomination. Democrats made an overnight lobbying pitch to four key GOP senators, John Warner of Virginia, Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Ted Stevens of Alaska and Mark Hatfield of Oregon. While they might have supported Foster on a nomination vote, they were wary of tampering with the Senate cloture process. Dole succeeded in creating impression that the Senate (thanks to its Thursday vote) simply couldn't resolve the nomination question. Reuters quoted Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Committee, as praising Dole: "This vote on Doctor Foster was more of a vote on the leadership ability of Senator Dole than the qualifications of Henry Foster." Mary Ellen Bork of the Catholic Campaign of America remarked that "Gramm has been very slow to realize the importance of social issues. Dole was consistent and very fair in the way he dealt with Foster." Some senators, described as willing to support Foster in private, "decided not to vote for him for fear of embarrassing Dole and handing Gramm a victory," according to Reuters. Polls show that Dole has a commanding lead over eight other contenders for the GOP presidential nod. After yesterday's vote, he accused President Clinton of deliberately trying to "divide the American people over the issue of abortion." But the emotion and vehemence on both sides of the Foster nomination suggest that abortion is an issue with which all candidates will have to contend in the 1996 elections and beyond. ALIMONY LEGISLATION IGNITES 'BIBLE LAW' DEBATE IN N.C. By Conrad F. Goeringer The sanctity of marriage and what can happen at a drive-in burger joint are hot topics in the North Carolina legislature. Last week, that state's Senate approved an amendment which weakened a House-approved alimony reform measure. According to the Raleigh News and Observer (June 14), Republican supporters of the amendment had to duck charges that they were being unfair to women, insisting they were merely upholding the sanctity of marriage. It's all about cheating. Under existing law, the "dependent spouse" is awarded alimony payments only if it is proved that the partner committed adultery. And a "dependent spouse" (usually a woman in North Carolina) is barred from alimony for life if he or she has an affair, regardless of the partner's conduct. The new bill "requires a judge to consider marital misconduct by both parties," so that the "dependent spouse" is barred from getting alimony only if they have committed "more than one act of illicit sexual behavior." That math was too much for senators like Ham Horton, a GOP solon from Winston-Salem, who invoked the Old Testament and charged that the original amendment, in effect, gave a spouse one free act of adultery. "When we as a society condone adultery even once, we strike at the cornerstone of marriage and the family," said Ham. State Senator Don Kincaid of Lenoir agreed and charged that the bill would somehow tear families apart and encourage divorce. And Senator Dan Simpson warned that passing the bill "was one step from making free love legal", according to the News and Observer. "We shouldn't change our laws to violate the Ten Commandments," he said. State Senator Bob Shaw wondered about the definition of an "illicit sex act." News and Observer reported the furious debate this way: "If a couple fooled around in a car, then went to McDonald's, then got back in the car and fooled around again . . . would that constitute more than one illicit sex act?" Senator R.C. Soles of Tabor City mused "If they stopped for a Big Mac, then I would certainly count that as two acts." Conservative Christians a powerful force in this state which elects Jesse Helms and other luminaries opposed the bill which permitted one alimony-free sex act. In the end, the overall legislation (one of a group designed to make divorce laws more equitable for women) passed by a 40-7 margin. But for some Solons in the North Carolina Statehouse, even a quick Happy Meal is cause for concern. THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS by Conrad F. Goeringer Alabama is earning a reputation as home to more than the powerhouse "Crimson Tide" football team. With widespread poverty, illiteracy, and now a not-so-new social experiment to bring back prison chain gangs, Alabama can also boast widespread belief in god, the Bible, and Satan. According to polling done by the Mobile Press Register and the University of South Alabama, a majority of residents there believe the Good Book to be the infallible word of Gawd. They also believe that heaven and hell are actual places; 86 percent likewise believe that Satan is real. 53 percent agreed with the statement that "Every word of the Bible comes straight from God and is completely free of error." Another 38 percent said that "The Bible is inspired by God, and may contain some historical and scientific errors." And they vote! *************** A senior Bishop in Ireland has a solution to reverse years of decline in enrollment for the Roman Catholic priesthood. Let 'em marry, says Bishop Brendan Comiskey of County Wexford. While he agrees that such a proposal will probably not become a reality under Pope John Paul II who is a big fan of ecclesiastical celibacy, Comiskey insists that mother church should begin "seriously considering" his proposal before it runs out of priests. *************** Inquiring minds want to know what's the latest with Jim and Tammy? Jim Bakker got out of prison in December of last year and, according to his lawyer who's quoted in Parade Magazine, "is living quietly on a small, rented farm near Hendersonville, N.C., and writing a book he hopes will be of encouragement to others who have suffered great losses." Tammy Faye Bakker is now Tammy Faye Messner, having married the guy who built so much of the giant "Heritage USA" Christian theme park that was a keystone in Jim's once-thriving televangelist empire. Seems Tammy has plans to get back into the preaching, uh, "business," and has taped a pilot for a talk show featuring a stand-up comic (who ISN'T her ex-husband). May we expect a guest appearance by Beavis and Butthead? *************** If "Mass For the Shut-In" isn't your pace, perhaps you should try the "Psychic Friends Network," the 900 number infomercial rated #1 in the country by those in the know. Try some late-night channel surfing (especially after 12) and you'll probably come across self-proclaimed psychic Linda Georgian schmoozing it up with 60s-70s pop star Dionne Warwick. This 30-minute pitch airs 300 times a week across the nation's cable networks, outperforming heavyweights like Sy Sperling's Hair Club for Men or those never-sharpen knives which slice oranges and cut through bricks. The star of the show is Linda Georgian who looks like she stepped off the set of "Dallas," and whose distinctive voice was described by Working Woman magazine as "so nasal it could peel paint." Linda is selling psychic friendship at $3.99 a minute for an average ten-minute session (with your very own "personal psychic"). She also claims to read "auras," which mystics describe as some otherwise invisible band of light surrounding the body, and psychologists link to neurological disorders and schizophrenia. She insists that she has a cadre of 66 guardian angels working overtime to keep her focused on everything from her diet to her burgeoning psychic business. The lady describes herself as a "psychic Oprah" and has authored such weighty tomes as "Your Guardian Angels" and the soon-to-be released "Communicating With The Dead: Reaching Friends And Loved Ones Who Have Passed On to Another Dimension of Life." (Guess they don't need the 900 number). A third book is planned for 1996, titled "Creating Your Own Future." "Psychic Friends Network" and similar television fare like "Kenny Kingston's Psychic Hotline" seem to meet a need not filled by sleazoid, now mainstream, daytime talk shows a la Richard Bey, Rickie Lake and even the mellowing Oprah Winfrey. When not emersing themselves in the fictional problems of soap-opera stars, or witnessing the excesses of Women Who Haven't Told Hubby That They're Lesbians, the 900 psychic customers have somebody to talk to even if it isn't free or even cheap. There's reassurance about the future, about that "special someone" who's going to step into their lives and "make it all right," even about those angels who god put there to catch us when we slip on the existential banana peels of life. Linda's word is spreading, too. There are more and more "Psychic Friends" apparently, who require the energies of 1,500 self-proclaimed psychic visionaries who answer the continual flood of calls. Linda still does readings herself, though, and charges less than $3.99 per minute it actually works out to $75 for a 30-minute session. Hey, that's cheaper than talking to Johnny Cockran these days. And news reports insist that Linda Georgian is negotiating with Four Points Entertainment to tape a talk show pilot. Four Points isn't saying anything about this one way or another they're too busy with other productions like the "American Gladiators" program where people in spandex and helmets wallop each other with foam-covered paddles in an athletic contest that looks like it came out of a Fellini movie. Linda Georgian also says that she'd like to have Billy Graham on her show (he's obviously not right for American Gladiators.) But if there's anything to the "Psychic Friends Network," why do these wonderful, New Age gurus have to wait for YOUR call? Why don't they just call you instead, right before you pick up the phone? Maybe it's because of the disclaimer that's flashed at the end of every Psychic Friends Network infomercial, when Linda and Dionne are done with the schmoozing the one that says "For Adults and Entertainment Only." TW READER QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS From: To: Date: Fri, 23 Jun 95 08:51:46 -0500 Subject: Prayers in la schools TH> Conrad Goeringer Greatly enjoy your news messages; much of the information is NOT printed in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Are you aware that the Louisiana Legislature has recently passed, and the Governor has signed, a bill permitting student initiated prayer in public schools? I have a copy of the bill; should I copy it and send it e-mail or should I xerox it and send it snail mail? This is a snake which needs to be killed in the shell. Ann --- OLX 2.1 TD You CAN TOO trust the government...ask an Indian. MODERATOR'S RESPONSE: Ann, thank you for the positive comments. I've forwarded your note to Mr. Goeringer's personal email box separately. If you could mail a copy of the bill to American Atheists, that would be most helpful. We depend a great deal on information sent to us by American Atheist members and supporters. Quite often, local or state state/church separation news never makes it to the national media -- but it is just as important. For example, Texas just passed a similar bill, with little media coverage even inside the state. Local newspaper clippings are also welcomed. --Robin Murray-O'Hair, Moderator, TheistWatch *********************************************************************** * * * 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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