Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 24, 1996 Date: Wed, 24 Jul 1996 12:34:41 -0700 nn nn AA
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 24, 1996
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 1996 12:34:41 -0700
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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In This Issue...
* Atheists Excluded from Religious Equality Amendment Testimony
* Report Says Vouchers Drain Public Schools
* "Like A Virgin" ~~ JP2 Declares Mary Sex-Free
* About This List...
HOUSE PRAYER AMENDMENT TESTIMONY WAS ''STACKED DECK''
Despite a flood of e-mail, faxes and personal phone calls, Atheists were
excluded from yesterday's hearings on a proposed Religious Equality Amendment
held by the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.
Instead, religious groups and affiliated members provided the opposition to
the Amendment during a hearing that turned into a forum for its sponsor, Rep.
Henry Hyde (R., Ill). Hyde declared: "Our problem is not with the
Constitution itself, but with courts that interpret the First Amendment in a
way that undermines rather than protects religious freedom." He added that
"Public school teachers, who accept reports on witches, forbid students from
writing reports on Jesus...Religious charitable institutions are forbidden
from acting like religious charitable institutions when public welfare funds
flow through their books."
Supporting the Hyde Amendment was the Christian Coalition, which yesterday
released a statment insisting that "Religious speech should be no less valued
by our public institutions than any other form of free speech."
Despite efforts by American Atheists and supporters, the only
officially-recognized opposition during the hearings came from clergy
affiliated with an interfaith religious coalition. It was essentially a
replay of last summer's public hearings, where the legal counsel for the
House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee refused to permit testimony from
Atheists. On Monday, several church leaders held a press conference in front
of the Supreme Court building, led by Rev. James Dunn of the Baptist Joint
Committee on Public Affairs. Describing himself as a "born again,
Bible-bred, Texas-born Baptist preacher," he declared: "That's precise why I
oppose any government meddling in religion." Mark Pelavin of the Religious
Action Center for Reform Judaism told reporters that the Hyde proposal
"demeans religion, threatens our most precious rights and distracts America
from addressing its most pressing problems."
In testifying before the Constitution Subcommittee, though, religious
spokesmen put a peculiar twist on what otherwise would have been a
state-church separation debate. Rev. Oliver Thomas of the National Council
of Churches warned that the Hyde Amendment "could take away some of the
exemptions religions enjoy today" (Associated Press), although he did warn
that aid to religious schools could be "the largest unfunded mandate in
Meanwhile, Rep. Hyde denounced the restrictions on government aid to
religious organizations, and cited the Department of Housing and Urban
Development for allegedly asking a religious group -- the St. Vincent de
Paul Shelter -- to change its name since it was receiving federal money for
blankets and cots for use in a homeless shelter. But critics note that many
social services operated by church groups often include religious
proselytizing as part of their outreach, a policy Hyde and his supporters
seem to have little problem with.
(AANEWS will have further information on yesterday Subcommittee hearing)
OHIO SCHOOL CRISIS IS WARNING AGAINST DOLE VOUCHER SCHEME
Education advocates who warn that voucher proposals and other schemes for
government aid to private -- often religious -- schools gut the public
education system picked up more ammunition yesterday in a report issued by
the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal. It found that Ohio is spending more tax
dollars per student to support private schools than any other state, and
during a time when public schools are in crisis. Taxpayers shoved out over
$186,000,000 last year on the private institutions, enough money to have met
the need for state emergency loans required by public schools. The report
underscored the corrosive effects of voucher schemes, a pet project of Gov.
George Voinovich, who was branded "the worst education governor ever" by the
superintendent of one of the state's school districts.
But last weekend, presumed GOP-presidential nominee Bob Dole was stumping
in Ohio, and praised Voinovich's new voucher plans. Dole also unveiled a
scheme of his own, which would begin with a $2.5 billion federal program for
scholarships in 15 states which could be used for private school tuition. The
Ohio Federation of Teachers is challenging the latest Voinovich voucher
program, saying that it violates state-church separation and would end up
diverting millions of dollars from financially-strapped public schools.
The Beacon Journal report tended to confirm this latter fear. The paper
cited a 1990 Ohio Department of Education study that found $3.2 billion was
needed to correct structural and safety problems in the state's public
schools. From 1990-1995, the state appropriated $209 million for repairs,
but spent a whopping $509 million in private school aid.
Among other findings:
* According to the General Accounting Office, Ohio's school buildings are
the worst maintained in the nation and students are more likely to attend
classes in unsafe buildings than those in other states. The GAO study cited
bad electrical wiring, asbestos, structural problems in buildings and other
* Ohio is spending an average of $599 per private school student, at least
$197 more than any other state. The sum has grown to 3% of the total
* State aid to private, often private religious schools, is being
challenged in court by more than 500 of the 611 state school districts.
* Aid to private schools has upped the tax burden, especially when the
financial support is shifted from public schools. Case in point -- the Perry
School District in Start County, Ohio. Taxpayers were funding transportation
costs of students going to and from private schools, including one described
as "exclusive", during a time when the local public school district was
having financial problems and had to discontinue transportation for its own
students. It required a huge tax boost ($579 a year in new taxes for the
owner of a $100,000 home) to restore services for the public schools.
The Akron Beacon Journal report seems to confirm the worst fears and
charges of school voucher critics. Education costs rise with the voucher
schemes; and public schools are driven to desperate measures, while private,
religious schools thrive.
POPE AGAIN DECLARES MARY WAS BIOLOGICAL VIRGIN
We're not talking mythology or folk legend here, ladies and gentlemen.
This is the real thing, and you had better believe it if you're a Roman
Catholic. The woman really WAS a virgin, and managed to have a kid to boot!
So says Pope John Paul II, who has again declared in a general audience
held July 10 at Vatican City, that Mary was indeed a biological virgin.
According to Catholic News Service, the pontiff all-knowingly proclaimed:
"The Gospels contain the explicit affirmation of a virginal conception of a
biological order, brought about by the Holy Spirit, and this truth has been
accepted by the Church from the time of the first formulations of the faith."
The statement was made in response to those who suggested that the virgin
birth was an artifact of "pagan mythological legend," or that it was
understood "not in a physical or biological sense but merely in a symbolic or
metaphorical sense." CNS added that : "He (the Pope) said while the Church's
teachings authority doesn't define the term 'virgin', the normal meaning
should be assumed: voluntary abstention from sexual acts and preservation of
physical wholeness." JP-2 declared that "Mary wanted a virginal life,
because she was animated by the desire to give her whole heart to God."
A Folk Legend, Indeed!
But the "Mystery" of the Virgin Birth -- one of several given such a
status by Catholic ecclesiastical authority, along with other improbably
events like the Resurrection, Ascension and Transubstantiation -- is indeed
rooted in an earlier, pagan ethos. Many artifacts of Catholic belief which
are given the Vatican "seal of approval" have little or no basis even in
biblical tradition, and are fabrications of clerical councils and individual
popes. Mary was not even declared the "mother of god" until the Council of
Ephesus in 431 c.e. and it was left to Pope Pius IX in 1854 to declare the
validity of the immaculate conception. although a "cult of the Virgin" has
existed since the time of the Nicean Creed.
In "Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth," historian and Atheist writer John
Jackson elaborated on the many god-men messiahs who have been worshipped
throughout history by the world's assorted religious systems, including those
said to have been born of a virgin. He wrote: "Another great pagan christ
was Krishna of India. In the sacred books of India it is recorded that
Krishna was born of the virgin Devaki, that his nativity was heralded by a
star, and that through of royal lineage, he was born in a cave..." Jackson
adds that "Osiris, the father of Horus, was another virgin-born god of
ancient Egypt" and that "Buddha was born of a virgin named Maya, (Maia) or
Mary. His birthday was celebrated on December 25..."
There is likewise controversy over the biblical texts which describe Mary
as a "virgin." The first reference of a "virgin birth" comes from Isaiah
7:14 which declares: "...Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and
shall call his name Immanuel." This old testament verse was later affirmed
in Mathew. But these translations come from a Greek text using the word
"parthenon," or virgin. In the earlier Hebrew, though, the word "almah" was
used, and could be translated as simply meaning a young women. In his
annotations to Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason," linguist Frank Zindler notes
the early discrepencies involving the sloppy use of the term "virgin," and
observes that "It thus appears that the surviving Septuagint text has been
doctored by Christian apologists...to make it accord with a Matthaean
Interestingly, some influential Americans doubted the mystery of the
virgin birth, including Thomas Jefferson, a deist. He wrote: "The day will
come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the supreme being as his father
in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of
Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." And Thomas Paine doubted not only the
virginity of an alleged mother of Jesus, Mary, but the entire prophecy
surrounding Jesus Christ.
The affirmation that Mary was a literal virgin not only shores up Roman
Catholic doctrine in an age of skepticism, but does so in a period when there
is also a renaissance in goddess-lore expressed across a diverse spectrum of
beliefs and practices. It comes during a time in history when apparitions of
the Virgin are increasing in number, a phenomenon which in the past occured
usally during periods of social disruption and anomie. And while the latest
papal pronunciamento on the virginity of Mary does little to change the
opinions of skeptics, it is, after all meant, designed for the consumption
and belief of the faithful.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Guess who the big winner is an emergent real estate shuffle in the Czech
Republic? Under a new agreement between the Vatican and the government of
Premier Vaclav Klauss, the Roman Catholic church will receive some 500
buildings and 432,250 acres of forest (7% of the nation's total forest
acreage!) in "compensation" for assets taken by the old communist government.
But while supporters think this is a great idea -- after all, it was stolen
from the church, right? -- critics have a differing opinion. Much of the
"expropriated" property allegedly owned by the Catholic Church was stolen
back in the 17th century from Protestants.
But it may work out for the best, at least on the accounting books. A
spokesman for the Czech Bishop's Conference said "It doesn't look very
profitable," noting that annual income from the forest lands would bring in
about $1.85 million. In exchange for the land, the government will begin
reducing its annual subsidies to the church, which now total over $12,
000,000 per year.
Well, for once we happen to agree with what some Catholic church
authorities have said.
In Glasgow, priests and other clergy will no longer be getting free
admission to Celtic football club events. Father Tom Connelly told Britain's
Electronic Telegraph: "We don't want any privileges...If we took them they
might expect extra prayer in return to help them win. The days of priests
having no dough and relying on hand-outs are long gone. The few priests I
know who still go can afford to buy season tickets."
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