THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 24, 1995 Contents: Israel - MUSLIM RELIGIOUS GROUPS CONTINUE TO THW

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THEISTWATCH FOR AUGUST 24, 1995 Contents: Israel--MUSLIM RELIGIOUS GROUPS CONTINUE TO THWART PEACE Colorado--THE MEN BEHIND PROMISE KEEPERS United States--GUIDELINES ON RELIGION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS ISSUED United States--SCHOOL DRESS CODES MAY BE CHALLENGED BY THE RELIGIOUS (Editorial Opinion) World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS ____________________ ____________________ MUSLIM RELIGIOUS GROUPS CONTINUE TO THWART PEACE by Conrad Goeringer Efforts to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process continued with the August 28 suicide bombing of two Jerusalem buses, killing five people. The fundamentalist Hamas organization which opposed the PLO- Israeli dialogue, quickly claimed credit for the massacre. Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928 in Egypt to drive the British out of the Middle East. Today the organization supports the establishment of an "Islamic Social Republic" modeled along the lines of Iran. The group is divided into four sections: political, security, military and information. It has a budget of about $30 million per year. Weapons and training come from Iran, but the group also receives help from a network of Islamic fundamentalists throughout the world. Funding is also believed to come from Saudi Arabia. Splits within the Hamas organization, however, are beginning to provide a glimpse into the operations of this shadowy movement. Hamas is recruiting heavily among disillusioned youth in the Gaza district who are impatient with Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Veterans of the famous "stone throwing" period, many have spent time in Israeli jails. The organization provides them with an action-filled if rigorous lifestyle of self-sacrifice and a sense of identity as part of a larger, religious- political struggle. Religion plays an important part in the Hamas training. Young recruits are ordered to execute a certain person, only to find that their guns are empty. They are also promised that death in the service of Islam renders the terrorist a martyr with instant entry into heaven. And they are told that their reward for faithful service will be "70 vestal virgins to wait on him, plentiful water to drink, and lush pastures to rest in," according to USA Today (August 22). That sort of religious zealotry and the promise of an idyllic hereafter obtained through bloodshed dates back hundred of years to the infamous Order of Assassins, begun by the Persian Hasan Saba around 1090. The order subjected its followers to a rigorous program of training and indoctrination, often using hashish-induced delusions and promises of an indulgent reward in heaven. Not all Hamas recruits, though, may need such incentives. They often come from the poorest segment of Palestinian society and have nothing to lose in the confrontation with either the Israeli security forces of Shin Beth, or Arafat's Palestinian Authority. *************** THE MEN BEHIND PROMISE KEEPERS Christian Men's Group features men with long and checkered pasts in the religious right by Conrad Goeringer More on the Promise Keepers, that group of sports- oriented-kind-'o-guys who now pack football stadiums and sports arenas to sing, pray, cry, and "cross the goal line" in dedicating their lives to Jee-zus. Founded in 1990, the organization is the dream of Bill McCartney, former Colorado University football coach. THEISTWATCH has been a bit amazed at how McCartney and his newfangled group have managed to import the symbolism of The American Jock into what otherwise would pass as a grade-b religious camp meeting. McCartney's long-winded presentations to the (men only) crowds are packed with sports vocabulary, along with references to "real men." Logging onto the Promise Keepers site on the World Wide Web, though, turns out to be even more of an experience! For starters, you can send comments to the Promise Keepers movement through something called "wavemaker.com," which we suspect has something to do with those "stadium waves" that sport-geeks love. But even if "wavemaker" isn't part of the PK ambience, we next checked out the list of 1995 men's conferences under a colorful logo titled "Raise The Standard." In an ode to the old "muscle art" of the Soviet Era, three arms are depicted clutching a banner with a cross-on-crown motif. The same artistic style pervades logos for something called "PointMan," an individual described as "the church's agent to Promise Keepers," who must be appointed by a pastor. This logo depicts the profile of three square-jawed types. No room for Casper Milquetoasts in this outfit! The "Speaker Team" for the Promise Keepers listed a few names, a "blast from the past." We recognized Bill Bright of the old Campus Crusade for Christ who two decades ago was the beneficiary of all sorts of fat-cat money and blitzed the nation with a "Here's Life, America!" religious campaign. Watergate crook Chuck Colson is also on the Promise Keeper's roster of speakers. Joseph Garlington of the Covenant Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, popped-up, too. He was a guest on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" when the popular televangelist split with the "Shepherding" movement. Read all about it in Sara Diamond's book "Spiritual Warfare," chapter four. Another Promise Keeper speaker is Franklin Graham, the president of "Samaritan's Purse" based in Boone, N.C. and son of the famous Billy Graham. Franklin was part of a bizarre scheme to settle thousands of Laotian Hmong tribal refugees in the jungles of Guyana. An attorney for the infamous Jim Jones entered the drama, a man named Jionell Luckhoo, who served as go-between for Graham and Guyana president Forbes Burnham. Seems that the entire plan was killed, though, when CIA agents working with Laotian drug lord General Vang Po ordered Hmong refugee leaders to abandon the scheme and remain in Thailand for further assignments. Jack Hayford of the Church on the Way, Van Nuys, California has been a regular on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the country's #2 religious broadcasting operation. "Pastor Jack" was the personal minister to Paul and Jan Crouch, who along with Jim Bakker, the guy who paid for Tammy Faye's mascara bills, founded the TBN. Trinity and Crouch distanced themselves from Bakker when the PTL scandal broke, insisting that their own media should "be used primarily to reach out and preach the gospel." Another Promise Keeper speaker is Billy Kim, identified in PK literature as affiliated with the Far East Broadcasting Company, Seoul, Korea. FEBS is mentioned in Diamond's book as having played an integral part in cold war intrigue; "FEBS staff in both Laos and the Philippines have boasted of their work with and for the CIA." She adds that Sig Mickelson, former president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, referred to "The Far East Broadcasting Company, a U.S. government operation with intelligence ties similar to RFE and RL. It's signals were aimed at Japan and China." THEISTWATCH will maintain its watch on the Promise Keepers, lookin' out for any sneak plays. GUIDELINES ON RELIGION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS ISSUED Department of Education guidelines seen as an attempt to stall "Religious Equality Amendment" by Conrad Goeringer Letters from the U.S. Department of Education to the nation's 15,000 school districts began arriving this week, outlining the government's guidelines on religious expression in public schools. And so did a letter from the Rutherford Institute, whose president charged that "Clinton's directive can be misleading, and in some instances case law fails to support some of its asserted principles." Last month, Clinton reaffirmed the alleged "religious heritage" of the United States, along with the importance of religion in the nation's cultural and social life. The president stopped short of endorsing official school prayer in the public schools. Political observers believe that this was Clinton's way of trying to defuse the conservative religious agenda for a "Religious Equality Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution. Clinton ordered the Education Department to inform the nation's school districts as to what is and is not permissible regarding religious exercise by students, parents, and teachers. Passage of a "Religious Equality Amendment" has become a major goal for various Christian political organizations, including the powerful Christian Coalition. While the exact wording for the amendment has not yet been introduced, it is expected that the legislation would permit prayer in public school classrooms, organized or initiated by students (possibly even teachers) or outsiders. Critics protest that this would result in excessive entanglement between government and religion, since it would make religious worship part of the official "business" of schools. They also warn that a "Religious Equality Amendment" would result in further intrusions of religious doctrines into school curriculums, especially through the teaching of pseudo-science "creationism" and "Christian revisionist" theories of history. In other related developments, on August 22 USA TODAY (8/22) reported that West Virginia's Upshir County School Board has approved an idea from "local citizens" to place Bibles in school hallways. Also, the Clinton guideline which permits students to wear religious garb -- including Jewish yarmulkes and Muslim head scarves -- may run into the latest fad in some school districts, having youngsters wear uniforms. (See TW story which follows). SCHOOL DRESS CODES MAY BE CHALLENGED BY RELIGIOUS Exempting religious students from wearing uniforms is wrong; requiring uniforms even worse by Conrad Goeringer In the fifties, it was comic books. Then came pelvis- pumping rock 'n roll, the Beatles, tie-die T-shirts, long hair. By the 1970s it was a wave of bad-taste gold jewelry and polyester (all to the beat of future-Scientologist John Travolta strutting along to the tunes of the Bee Gees). Then came pit bulls, devil worship, and gangs. It seems that Americans have become adept in finding some group, real or imaginary or exaggerated to blame for a variety of complex social ills, while ignoring the truly important problems that cannot be solved with simple, cliche-ridden panaceas. How about the one that "taking prayer out of the public schools," the evil mischief of the "most hated woman in America," Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, has resulted in drug use, sexual abandon, violent crime, the defeat in Vietnam, teen pregnancy, homosexuality. About the only thing Mrs. O'Hair has NOT been saddled with is the depletion of the ozone layer, but rest assured that charge may someday come. Which leads to the latest example of American comic- farce, the collision between "religious rights" and the simplistic faddism of a growing number of U.S. school districts. To wit: the return of the notorious school dress code. A friend of mind has witnessed the pendulum of dress- code hysteria swing from one extreme to another, all in the course of seeing his son and then his grandson be called onto the principal's carpet. In the mid-1960s, the son was hauled in by school disciplinarians for the offense of having "long hair." In 1992, the grandson was disciplined for having "too-short hair," a possible sign (said the school authorities) of involvement with skinheads, devil-worshippers, or gangs. Meanwhile, schools have been doing everything they can and sometimes what hysterical parents insist on to fight drugs, gangs, hip-hoppers, knives, guns, boomboxes and other vices, at any expense. Dress codes have become a perennial favorite of those who are searching for a panacea to tightened school budgets, striking teachers, wavering test results and other legitimate problems. Telling kids not to wear "gang colors," even going back to the Nancy Drew days of skirts and blouses for young women, is a lot easier than cutting class size or having an extended school year. It's cheaper, more convenient, and mollifies parents. It also looks good for school boards, and it creates a new day-to- day drama within the soap opera world of school administrations. But as expected, religious advocates want a special exemption from even school dress codes. Under the Clinton guidelines and certainly under a proposed "Religious Equality Amendment" religious students will be permitted a wide range of skull caps, scarves, beads and other ornaments which distinguish them from "other" students, and which announce their religious affiliations to the entire community. Religionists, of course, say that this has something to do with their beliefs and their gods; but does their deity require assistance in picking out his, her or its followers in the crowded hallways of a public school? Religionists have also demanded exemptions from a wide range of laws which right or wrong still apply to everyone else. Some religious groups insist on their "right" to use drugs, while others can be hauled off to jail for the offense of smoking a harmless joint. Is this right? Uniforms in schools, of course, are meant to "level" the student body and to, ostensibly, minimize the expression of individual tastes and preferences. That in itself is wrong, but it is even worse to require that all but religious students must dress in a certain way. If anything, the presence of school dress codes and the exemption of religious students would probably emphasize differences. School uniforms are the fashion equivalent of trying to ban all speech because we find some speech offensive. Students justifiably rebelled against this authoritarian practice in the 1960s; school test scores did not drop suddenly, nor was there an overnight epidemic of violence. Uniforms will not solve the problems of American education any more than "putting God back in the classroom" will, as many "Religious Equality Amendment" boosters insist. Both proposals have no good basis in history. Neither solves a legitimate problem. And they endanger the rights of everyone. THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS by Conrad Goeringer The nation's schools may be showing some improvement, thank you, without the alleged benefits of mandated prayer and Bible reading or the invasive agenda of the conservative-religious front. That's according to the annual "Condition of Education" report released Monday, August 21 by the U.S. Education Department. According to Secretary Richard W. Riley, students are taking more challenging science and math courses, achieving higher test scores, and dropping out of school less. The study, however, noted that minority students still need more work to improve their performance and that all students need improvement in English reading and writing skills. *************** We're glad to report that Muslim-convert "Iron Mike" Tyson is keeping a low profile about his religious affiliation. Maybe that is because fans, officials, and the media are fighting mad about Saturday's 89-second "bout" with Peter McNeeley, which at last count had brought in about $55 million. Tyson may be thanking Allah for his $250,000-a-second "comeback" orchestrated by promoter Don King, but fans are blaming a premature call by McNeeley's manager, Vinnie Vecchione, for stopping the bout. Now Bob Arum, promoter for ringside evangelist George Foreman, wants his man to take on Tyson, saying that the winner could walk home with as much as $80 million. And just think, whoever survives that slugfest can thank the "god" of his choice: Jehovah or Allah! Talk about a "fix"! *************** We have no comment whatsoever on a report from Baltimore that 700 nuns have agreed to donate their brains postmortem for research purposes into Alzheimer's and other degenerative mental disorders. *************** Wake up and smell the coffee, Bob. Political autopsies continue to pour in following last weekend's straw poll vote in Iowa, which showed Senator Robert Dole in a dead heat with Texas Senator Phil Gramm for the GOP presidential nod in 1996 and conservative-religious flagwaver Pat Buchanan coming up dangerously fast to third position. POINT: The combined Gramm-Buchanan vote (4,504) far exceeded the Dole vote of 2,582. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that this "provided fresh evidence that the GOP nomination process is being increasingly dominated by right-wing ideologues (read: "religious dogmatists") within the party, a bad sign for Dole who is essentially a mainstream Republican dealmaker." POINT: Dole's first-place tie with Gramm turned out to be only 2 percent higher than in 1987 when he finished behind televangelist Pat Robertson; and it was a full 2 percent lower than when a similar Iowa straw poll was held last year. The real winners in Iowa's Pat Buchanan, the Christian Coalition, and the religious-conservative agenda. *************** Even with a "Religious Equality Amendment" and the introduction of bogus "creationism" into public schools, Biblical literalists who believe that everything was invented by some all-powerful deity in the course of a seven-day workweek have more and more difficulty squaring Genesis with scientific facts. Last week it was announced that paleontologists have found more direct and unambiguous evidence for upright walking (also known as bipedalism) along the evolutionary tree. The discovery took place in Kenya and has revealed a new species of human ancestor that lived four million years ago. The leg and arm bones found near Lake Turkana place the emergence of bipedalism back by nearly half a million years. Scientists say that it supports the growing contention that bipedal locomotion was a defining adaptation which set human ancestors apart from quadrupedal apes. Who (besides "creationists") says there are no missing links? The latest discoveries fill in even more of the blanks in helping us to know our ancestors, including Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis, Robustus, Boisei, Ethiopicus and Afanensis, the last known affectionately as "Lucy." Try finding those folks listed in Genesis! *************** Hey, when you're living in filth, squalor, ignorance, exploitation, and religious superstition, what better way to solve the problem than by changing a name? In an outburst of religious-ethnic atavism, the Indian government has decided to change the name of the city of Bombay to Mumbai. Makes a difference, doesn't it? Mumbai is taken from the name of a Hindu goddess. In an Associated Press report, Bachi Karkaria, editor of the "Bombay Times" said that "Mumbai harks back to a past that is glorious. Bombay, on the other hand, represents grit, gumption and a go-getting spirit that's perfectly suited to the present, and the future." The name change was instituted by the right wing Hindu party known as Shiv Sena, which won control of the state legislature in March. *************** THEISTWATCH has been updating readers on the political footsies involving TV evangelist Pat Robertson and Zaire's dictatorial strongman, Mobutu Sese Seko. Pat has become Mobutu's personal spinmeister, telling viewers of the Christian Broadcasting Network that the Zairean honcho has "seen the error of his ways." How convenient, especially since Robertson has forestry concessions and as diamond mining operation in Zaire. On Monday, August 25, Mobutu's army dumped another 2,000 Rwandan refugees back across the border where they face possible "ethnic cleansing" in the Hutu-Tutsi war. Another 26,000 refugees poured out of three camps and fled, all to avoid the forced repatriation. And why not? There is a growing scandal linking the wholesale slaughter of civilians in Rwanda with many priests and religious officials who often packed their churches with refugees, then tipped off bloodthirsty government troops. *************** Our recent report on the use of "shame" in the war against prostitution prompted Margie Wait to update us on the situation in her home state of Colorado. You may recall that Philadelphia has joined the ranks of other U.S. cities which tries to publish names and even photographs of men caught soliciting the favors of prostitutes. What's next?, we asked. Public floggings? It seems that the cranky and draconian "bible law" solutions advocated by fundamentalist Christians, specifically those calling themselves "Reconstructionists" was finding favor in the public imagination and the halls of government. Ms. Wait informs us that Colorado enacted a "John's" law in 1994 and that those arrested for this victimless crime are to have their pictures published in the newspapers. Fortunately, both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post declined this opportunity to act as hand- maiden for the State and Church, but the smaller Aurora Sentinel did not. Our mention of Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter" prompted Wait to observe, "It appears that Aurora, Colorado wants to find many Hester Prynnes." Wonder how Jimmy Swaggart feels about this idea. *********************************************************************** * * * 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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