Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 21, 1996 Date: Sun, 21 Jul 1996 10:28:41 -0700 nn nn AA

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 21, 1996 Date: Sun, 21 Jul 1996 10:28:41 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #101 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/21/96 In This Issue... * Candidate Would Dole Out Money For Religious Schools * Coalition Finances Being Probed? * Orthodox Again Try to Shut Street * Rabbi's Squabble Over Whoredom * RU-486 May Change, Abort Anti-Choice Movement * TheistWatch: BANG! That Verse... * About This List... DOLE PRAISES OHIO PLAN FOR SCHOOL VOUCHERS During a campaign swing through Ohio yesterday, GOP presumed nominee Sen. Bob Dole praised a pilot voucher program which would award scholarships of up to $2,250 per pupil for possible tuition to private and religious schools. The voucher scheme is the brainchild of Gov. George Voinovich, and would initially cover students in the troubled Cleveland public school district. It would provide funding for 1,500 scholarships in the initial phase, at a possible total cost to taxpayers of over three million dollars; but it would soon "inflate" to cover hundreds of other schools throughout Ohio if deemed successful. Dole's stop in Cleveland was his third visit to a Roman Catholic parochial school in as many days, and culminated a sweep through four Midwestern states. But the voucher scheme is being challenged by the American Federation of Teachers, which says that the plan violates First Amendment state-church separation. Judge Lisa Sadler of Franklin County Common Pleas Court is expected to rule on that case by the end of the month, and an appeal can be expected. Dole predicted that Voinovich "would prevail one way or another" to ram the plan through. Dole used the Midwest tour to unveil his own proposed $2.5 billion federal program which would provide scholarship to as 4 million schoolchildren in about 15 states. He compared it to the GI Bill following World War II which allowed returning soldiers to attend colleges and universities; but critics were quick to point out that the Dole plan includes coverage for private, religious schools. Others, like the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, complained that the Dole/Voinovich proposals would simply divert dollars that could be used to improve existing public schools. Observers note that Dole's emphasis on the so-called "Catholic vote" mirrors a similar strategy in the Clinton campaign. The President's handlers have encourage the incumbent to project a "school headmaster" image to offset Clinton's image as a liberal on issues like gay rights and abortion. **************** FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETIES AT CHRISTIAN COALITION ? A former chief financial officer at the Christian Coalition has been talking with federal authorities conerning "irregularities" at the powerful religious lobby since her dismissal earlier last month. According to ITN and other sources, the officer is Judy Liebert, who was paid $85,000 per year and who has worked for the Coalition since its founding in 1989. She was ordered to turn in keys and her ID card to the group's Chesapeake, Virginia offices, although she has reportedly remained on the payroll since her suspension. A Christian Coalition spokesman declined further comment, calling the incident a "personnel matter," although he did say that the group was auding its records and examining the practices of one vendor, "looking into his billing practices and expenses associated with the services he was provided." Those services reportedly includes contracts for writing, production, and list brokering for the giant 1.6 million member organization. Meanwhile, Moody Stallings, Liebert's attorney, said that the incident "has to do with her conversations with federal authorities concerning some irregularities she discovered in her official capacity." **** (Thanks to Margie Wait for tracking this story for AANEWS) * ORTHODOX RIOTERS AGAIN TRY TO SHUD DOWN JERUSALEM STREET For the second straight weekend, thousands of Orthodox Jewish rioters poured onto Bar Ilan street in Jerusalem in an attempt to stop traffic during the sabath holy period. An estimated ten thousand religious zealots, many wearing beards and wearing the heavy coats and jackets of Orthodox sects threw rubbish and rotten food at passing traffic, and began stopping cars and harrassing motorists with shouts of "Shabbas! Shabbash!," the Yiddish term for "sabbath." Since the election of Likud's candidate Benjamin Netanyahu as the country's Pime Minister, religious nationalist groups like the United Torah have vowed to transform Israeli society into a theocracy; many demand that non-religious activities, including driving, be banned during the Saturday holy period. Activists from the secularist Meretz Party made a bold stand against the Orthodox. News reports noted that they "seemed distinctly out of place in this neighborhood of religious schools and synagogues" (Philadelphia Inquirer), and that many were carrying banners which read "Jerusalem Is Free." A Meretz spokesman declared "It's the beginning of a cultural war of whether Jerusalem is just a holy city or also the capital of the state of Israel, whether it's a rational, 20-th century city or a medieval, ultra-Orthodox city." Rabbi Abraham Ravizt of the United Torah Judaism Party arrived during the riots, leading religionists on a march that including shouting religious songs. Last week, Ravitz had threatened to bring a no-confidence motion against Netanyahu in the Israeli parliament or Knesset. He retreated from that earlier threat, but has accused Jerusalem police of conducting a "pogrom" against Orthodox rioters, and called for the resignation of the city's beleaguered Police Chief. Numbers on both sides of the protest appear to have increased since last weekend's round of riots. Everyone seems to be using the phrase "culture war" to describe the struggle over Bar Ilan streets, which has become a symbol for religious fundamentalists and secular activists alike. While the Orthodox comprise about 30% of the city's population, Bar Illan street is a main traffic artery in Jerusalem. Ornan Yekutieli, a Meretz City Council representative, warned "You can't give in at any step. If we give up our struggle over Bar Ilan, they (fundamentalists) will take over 25 or 30 more streets." ********* MORE IN-FIGHTING IN RELIGIOUS RANKS You would think that as the "Chosen People", Jews could boast less factionalism that their squabbling Christian and Muslim counterparts, but that isn't always the case. And sometimes, religious differences can turn deadly. In Jerusalem, Reform Jews have accused the country's orthodox chief rabbi of inciting murder by describing a biblical-era Israelite killed for having sex with a non-Jewish woman -- a symbol of whoredom -- as the first Reform believer. The charge was made by Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, who said that the remarks by Orthodox Rabbi Bakshi Doron were an incitement to murder. According to Reuter new service, the incident began with a story from the Book of Numbers which described how Phinehas, a great-nephew of Moses, surprised a fellow zealot and a non-jewish woman as they were having sex in a desert tent. Phinehas "smote them with a javelin," and the killing was welcomed by god as an act of atonement for those who had "begun to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab," thus ending a plague which killed 24,000 of the faithful. The chief rabbi denied that he was inciting hatred, telling Israeli Radio "I did not call for murder," and adding that ht only wanted to show that Reform Jews were like the traitors of old who advocated assimilation. Rabbi Regev disagreed, though, saying that the orthodox leader was "making the blood of Reform Jews cheap." Regev noted that the similarity to the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a religious fanatic who insist that ritual law justified killing since Rabin was handing over "God-given" land to the Palestinians. This latest exchange highlights the growing polarization taking place throughout Israeli culture since the election of Likud Party standardbearer Benjamin Netanhayu, and the success of the country's religious party's in winning a record number of seats in the Knesset. Though Netanyahu is not considered to be a particularly religious man and has offended some ultra-orthodox with his westernized lifestyle, he has been forced to make an accomodation with right-wing religious groups in order to prop-up his coalition government. Reacting to the remarks of the chief rabbi, Yossi Sarid of the secularist Meretz Party said that he would raise the issue of Bakshi Doran's "disgraceful" sermon on the floor of the Knesset. ********* MAJOR FIGHT CAN BE EXPECTED OVER RU-486 ABORTION PILL A breakthrough abortion technology -- the French "morning after" pill known as RU-486 -- is a step closer to U.S. approval following a hearing on Friday concerning the scientific safety of the product, also known as mifepristone. Sandra Wellman of the Population Council said that a decision by the Food and Drug Administration scientific advisory panel will be "very crucial" in determining whether or not American women have access to the pill which has been in use throughout Europe. Among the studies being evaluated are two French trials involving some 2,480 women. They found that mifepristone in combination with misoprostol, a substance which induces uterine contraction, were 95.5% effective in inducing abortion in women up to seven weeks pregnant. An American student on 2,100 women has generated only safety data, and results on the effectiveness of RU-486 are still being analyzed. But Dr. Beverly Winikoff of the Population Council said that American reaction to the drug has been favorable, adding "Women like this method overwhelmingly." She said that about 90% of the women studied reported satisfaction with RU-486. "Women value the method because they wanted to avoid surgery, they wanted something more natural and that would preserve autonomy and control." Pill May Restrict Options For Anti-Abortionists The anti-choice movement reacted grimly to the expected approval of RU-486, and over 125 demonstrators were outside of the Githersburg, Maryland auditorium where the scientific panel was meeting. The current strategy from major anti-abortion groups seems to be the using worst-case reactions to the drug. Randall K. O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee told USA TODAY that "We are fundamentally concerned that this (RU-486) is a dangerous drug," and cited the case of an Iowa woman who bled severely after an abortion which used mifepristone. He added: "We know it's deadly for the unborn children and dangerous for their mothers." But RU-486 may be the anti-choice movement's worst nightmare. So far, the anti-abortion cause -- while not succeeding in outlawing abortion -- has severely restricted its access. About 85% of counties in the United States do not have abortion services. In addition, pickets, physical attacks, aggressive "sidewalk counselling" and "prayer warrior" gatherings outside of clinics, have driven up costs associated with running an abortion provider operation. There is some evidence that many medical personnel are simply terrorized from offering the procedure. RU-486 could change that, since its use would be expanded to all licensed physicians. O'Bannon lamented: "If you increase the number of abortionists, you will have an increase in the number of abortions." While the pill would not put an end to other abortion procedures, it would make it more difficult for anti-choice forces to focus their energies and anger. One unanticipated consequence of RU-486 could be an increase in anti-abortion violence. The pill would allow many women to simply by-pass clinics, and enhance the anonymity of women seeking abortion, and of doctors providing the service. Militant anti-abortionists would have to select new targets -- possibly companies which manufacture the substance, or officials who continue to resist efforts to legislate against abortion. RU486 could change the complexion not only of how women empower themselves, but how the religious, anti-abortion movement reacts. ************* THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Israel isn't the only place where arguments over religion might be a deadly affair. Last week in the enlightened state of Alabama -- a place noted for such wonderful practices as cross burnings and prison chain gangs -- a man who felt bested in a contest over Bible quotes has been charged with killing his opponent. According to Associated Press, 38-year-old Gabriel Taylor was shot fatally once in the face. Witnesses say that Talor, whose brother is a preacher, was quoting scripture; the suspect retrieved his bible to check one of the passages and saw that he was, indeed, wrong. The Dadeville, Alabama chief of police told Associated Press: "He said Taylor did know more and that made him mad." The suspect then blurted out, "I'll kill you before the night is out." ************* About This List... 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