Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 25, 1996 Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 09:26:09 -0700 nn nn AA

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 25, 1996 Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 09:26:09 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #107 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/25/96 * The Religious Equality Amendment & Political Grandstanding * Newt Snubs Dornan: Split In The Ranks? * David Barton: Pied Piper Of "Christian Nation" Mythology * About This List... RELIGION HEARINGS BECOMING POLITICAL LITMUS TEST? After lanugishing in the Congressional bill hopper for more than a year, a proposed Religious Equality Amendment is suddenly a hot and urgent priority for supporters on and off Capitol Hill. As reported yesterday in AANEWS, the hearings on Tuesday quickly turned into a forum for Rep. Henry Hyde, who insisted that a constitutional amendment is the only way to protect religious liberty in the United States. But after months of dormancy, why the sudden interest? The so-called "Hyde version" is one of two proposed texts for a Religious Equality Amendment. Eagle Forum, Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family and other groups have each supported their own pet version; both texts have remarkably similar language, but the Hyde amendment was considered unacceptable and weak by some religious conservatives, including evangelist William Murray, who along with his mother Madalyn Murray O'Hair was a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case which helped to end prayer and bible recitation in public schools. But suddenly, Number 2 House Republican Dick Armey of Texas appeared, and took over the job of massaging the language in the Hyde Amendment. The powerful Christian Coalition put out the word, and the Amendment was on the dock for another round of hearings. The Christian Science Monitor newspaper notes that since Senate GOP leaders have not scheduled any hearings or vote on the measure, "The sudden push for the amendment...appears politically motivated. Election day is fast approaching, and the Christian Coaltion wants a vote on a religious freedom amendment in time to include the results in its voter guides..." But despite the attention the proposal has generated in religious, media and political circles, AANEWS suggests that there are "problems in the ranks," and that Senate GOP leaders might be re-thinking their relationship with the religious right. This raises a question: is House Speaker Newt Gingrich trying to distance himself from the destructive political consequences of an alliance with groups like the Christian Coalition? His treatment of Rep. Robert Dornan may tell the tale... DORNAN SNUB REFLECTING SPLIT IN GOP RANKS WITH COALITION? At the center of an emerging split is Rep. Robert K. Dornan, a staunch GOP religious conservative and poster-boy for the Christian Coalition. Religious right elements are now furious that Speaker Ginrich has nixed Dornan from the prestigious conferee slot on the 1997 defense budget, a move which the Washington Times said leaves "the House-Senate conference devoid of a strong voice to push measures against abortion, pornography and homosexuals in the military." Dornon has been a steady supporter of the Christian Coalition, and led the charge on a number of CC agenda items, including efforts to ban adult material from being sold at military bases. Dornan also pushed for the mandatory discharge of all HIV-positive soldiers, a ban on gays from the military, and a ban on abortions in military hospitals. But it may be Dornan's confrontations with Rep. Steve Gunderson, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin who is openly gay and who happens to be a personal friend of Ginrich. The Times notes: "Mr. Dornan openly criticized House leaders for issuing spousal cards to the roommates of Mr. Gunderson and Rep. Barney Frank, Masssachusetts Democrat and an open homosexual." Axing Dornan -- curtailing his influence within GOP ranks and his high-profile in crafting a Republican agenda -- may be the first step in a campaign by Gingrich & Co. to re-exert some moderating influences within a party which some critics say is now beholden to Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition. There are other indictations of this effort as well. News reports are circulating that Pat Buchanan will not be permitted to speak at the GOP national convention next month slated for San Diego; and the Dole campaign seems to be in a backlash mode to the demands of the Coalition that the Kansas senator choose a vehemently pro-life running mate for the vice presidential slot. Ginrich and his supporters also seem to be emphasizing an economic attack on President Clinton as the best (if only) campaign strategy. Clinton has skillfully managed to coopt "family values" issues, often appearing to mimic the Republican language. Britain's Electronic Telegraphy says the President is using a "Happy Families" election pack, concentrating on social metaphors like Mr. Deadbeat dad, the absentee father, and Mr. Savage, the wife beater. Clinton has managed to shed his image as an extra-marital philanderer and created a solid, middle-class persona by supporting curfews for kids, school uniforms, community policing and other measures. In addition, Clinton's experience with Whitewater, gurugate, even his veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban seems to have done little damage in the polls, where he holds a commanding lead over Dole. GOP pundits may now be realizing that "Teflon Bill" is not vulnerable on the social agenda issues which have been the centerpiece for the Christian Coalition and other religious conservative groups. And the culture war issues like abortion may be backfiring; American women remain committed to a pro-choice position, which may reflect in their preference for Clinton at the polls. **************** ''CHRISTIAN NATION'' MYTHOLOGISTS USED PHONEY QUOTES David Barton, a major religious author and lecturer whose 1989 book "The Myth of Separation" ignited a round of attacks on First Amendment state-church separation, used fraudulent quotes attributed to major historical figures in supporting his argument that "America is a Christian nation." The full expose appears in the current issue of Church & State Magazine, in a "Consumer Alert!" article by journalist Rob Boston. For nearly a decade, Barton has been stumping the religious right lecture circuit arguing that state-church separation had no foundation in American history, until the Supreme Court began foisting in on the country. "The Myth of Separation" has been a hot seller in many Christian bookstores, and appears at political confabs for groups like Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition." A video version has been promoted by Barton's WallBuilders organization, airing on public access and religious stations throughout the country. In addition, Barton's claims often appear in literature distributed by groups such as the Christian Coalition. In 1992, for instance, a state convention of the Colorado Republican Party was pamphleted with Barton quotes, including: "The Separation of Church and State is l) Not a teaching of the founding fathers; 2) Not an historical teaching; 3) Not a teaching of law (except in recent years); 4) Not a biblical teaching." Barton also seems to be the source in a now often-repeated claim that the "wall of separation" is "one dimensional (sic)" or "one directional" or that "It keeps the government from running the church but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government." Rob Boston's investigation into the Barton quotes reveals that many are either "questionable" or outright false. Now, Barton has admitted that many of the quotes and claims are bogus, and WallBuilders has issued a terse one-page statewment aptly titled "Questionable Quotes." But Mr. Boston notes: "Barton's sloppy research and predilection to rely on questionable sources never stopped Religious Right activists from recommending his materials. Television preacher and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson has lauded Barton as a 'wonderful man.' 'I admire him tremendously for his breadth of information,' Robertson gushed." Among the "Questionable Quotes": "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not be religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" -- attributed to Patrick Henry (Questionable) "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." -- attributed to George Washington (Questionable) "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves...according to the Ten Commandments of God." -- attributed to James Madison (False) "I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make us better citizens." -- attributed to Thomas Jefferson (Questionable) "The only assurance of our nation's safety is to lay our foundation in morality and religion." -- attributed to Abraham Lincoln (Questionable) Barton's pseudo-history has become a tool for those arguing on behalf of issues such as school prayer, vouchers, and a Religious Equality Amendment. Rob Boston refers to an ad-hoc "Christian nation" movement comprised of religionists who echo many of the themes found in Barton's materials, and even notes that another Barton video -- "America's Godly Heritage" -- was a factor in Lisa Herdahl's Mississippi prayer case. Ms. Herdahl, the mother of six children, objected to the broadcast of prayers and religious verses over a public school PA system in Pottotoc County, Mississippi. In June, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers ruled against the practice, noting that it was unconstitutional. Rob Boston notes that "A less- noticed part of her lawsuit challenges a class at the school known as "A Biblical History of the Middle East," which used Barton's "America's Godly Heritage" video and other fundamentalist materials. Boston adds that David Barton continues to speak at gatherings around the nation, and that his "Christian nation" mythology is echoed by other propagandists like Reconstructionist preacher Gary DeMar, and TV preacher Peter Marshall. Meanwhile, "The Myth of Separation" has been "updated" and given a new title, "Original Intent" sans the phoney quotes and historical errors which characterized the early work. Rob Boston, though, notes that the new, santizied version appears to echo the same "Christian nation" pitch which has typified other Barton materials. **** (Interested readers may check out the Church & State web site at: . ** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and include your name and postal address. Or, check out our cool web site at: You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to AANEWS and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe info, send mail to:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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