Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 30, 1996 Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996 10:59:41 -0700 nn nn AA
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 30, 1996
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996 10:59:41 -0700
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#114 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/30/96
In This Issue...
* Representative Hyde & Banker Hyde ~~ A Day In Court!
* "Decency" Act Goes Down Again
* TheistWatch: The Devil DIDN'T Make Me Do It!
* About This List...
PRAYER AMENDMENT BOOSTER IN COURT OVER S&L ALLEGATIONS
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill) is back in court today concerning charges of gross
negligence in the $67,000,000 collapse of Clyde Federal Savings and Loan
Association in 1991. Hyde is a high-profile poster boy for the Christian
Coalition, and last week was grandstanding on Capitol Hill to promote his
version of a Religious Equality Amendment which would return prayer to public
schools and, insists Hyde and others, "restore morality" in American society.
Hyde is also the head of the Republican Platform Committee which is
presently embroiled in a fight over a controversial abortion plank, and is
Chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee which has been the
launching pad for much of the religious right "morals agenda" legislation
being pushed by Christian Coalition and its allies.
But today, Hyde will again be defending his own moral values. In April,
1993, the Resolution Trust Corporation sued Hyde and 11 other Clyde Federal
Savings directors, charging evidence of gross negligence and mismanagement,
and seeking $17.2 million in damages. That figure is considerably short of
the $67 million which was spent bailing out the troubled thrift. Indeed, the
collapse of Clyde was part of a nationwide scenario where boom-and-bust
savings and loan institutions went belly-up in what some critics say is a
$500 billion scandal. RTC was created to sell-off the assets of the ailing
thrifs; its charter expired last year, and the Hyde case is now in the hands
of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Rep. Hyde insists that he is a victim of overzealous prosecutors, and
refers to the "trophy-hunting" aspect of the case in media interviews. He
also claims that he is a victim of a "dragnet" by the Clinton
administration; and Hyde's attorney describes the FDIC allegations as
Charges against the congressman and the other S&L directors say that they
deliberately engaged in risky financial practices, and exercised inadequate
supervision of Clyde's managers and accounts. Even after the being warned of
potential wrong-doing by the Federal Home Loan Board, though, the RTC/FDIC
says that the group still continued the practice of making risky loans,
including a $5,000,000 investment in a beach-front project in Texas.
Records show that Hyde received a monthly stipend for attending Board
meetings at Clyde S&L, and that he voted for investments on what some
consider to be extremely risky speculation, including some $10,000,000 for
Hyde maintains that Clyde Federal Savings was in sound financial condition
when he left the board, and that he "paid attention" when investment
strategies were discussed. But Tim Anderson, a former bank consultant,
insists that minutes of board meetings at CFS show that Hyde knew the thrift
was in financial trouble prior to his resignation.
SECOND FEDERAL PANEL STRIKES DOWN ''DECENCY ACT''
Supreme Court Test, "Son-Of-CDA" Still Possible
The so-called Communications Decency Act suffered another blow yesterday
when a three-judge federal panel in New York ruled that the law was
unconstitutional, and clearly restricted free expression in a new
communications media, namely the internet.
A separate panel in Philadelphia also declared the CDA unconstitutional
last month. Federal authorities announced that they would appeal that
decision, and it is probable that the New York case will be consolidated with
the earlier decision. The N.T. Times noted, though, that yesterday's ruling
will "reinforce the notion that the law cannot pass constitutional muster."
The Communications Decency Act was part of a larger legislative package
passed in February which overhauled the country's telecommunications laws.
CDA specified criminal sanctions against those who transmitted "indecent"
material over computer networks to any site which could be viewed by children
and youngsters under 18." Critics charged that the law was excessively broad
in its definitions, vague, and virtually un-enforceable. But CDA enjoyed the
support of a number of religious fundamentalist and evangelical
organizations, and was a key element in the Christian Coalition's "Contract
With the American Family." Opponents of the Decency Act charged that it was
simply a ploy to ban materials offensive to blue-nose groups and others by
invoking hysteria that children "might" view pictures or other content
The New York decision was a victory for the single person who had brought
the suit, Joseph P. Shea of the cyberjounal, The American Reporter. In
February, that publication ran an editorial blasting the CDA which contained
"four-letter words." In May, the editorial was republished in Harper's
Magazine; unlike Shea, though, the editors at Harpers faced no criminal
sanction for the content of the story.
Declared Shea's attorney, Randall J. Boe: "Consider this. Joe Shea
committed a crime when he published his editorial electronically, but
Harper's didn't commit a crime when they published it on paper. There's no
law that says a 12-year-old can't go to a store and buy a copy of Harper's."
Under the Decency Act, Shea could have faced fines up to $250,000 and a
jail term up to two years, all for using an "interactive computer service" --
his on-line publication -- to post "indecent" materials where it might be
viewed by those under 18-years of age.
There were differences between the New York and Philadelphia cases,
however, in both what was being challenged and in what the rulings were from
the respective judicial panels. The New York judges rejected arguments that
the definition of "decency" was too vauge; but they did insist that the
Intenet is different from broadcast media where decency challenges have been
upheld. The judges distinguished between the ease a child might have in,
say, turning on a radio or television set, and logging on to a specific site
on the Internet or world wide web. "Indecent material on the Internet
ordinarilly does not assault the user without a warning," wrote the New York
panel, adding: "A child cannot gain access to Internet content with the touch
of a remote control, and while accidental viewing of indecent content is
possible, there is no evidence in this record to suggest that it is likely."
The New York case included an amicus ("friend of the court") brief filed
by the Family Research Council, headed by censorship and decency zealot Gary
Bauer. The legal director for the Council found cause for optimism in
Monday's decision, noting that the issue will be resolved by the U.S. Supreme
Court, which has found "that the government has a compelling interest to
protect children from indecent material."
"Only the beginning..."
Even with the victories in New York and Philadelphia, cyberrights
activists still have a long fight ahead. Mike Russell of the Christian
Coalition saids that the group is "confident that something will come about
in the long run" which will leigitmize government monitoring of
communications in cyberspace. To the Coalition, Family Research Council and
other religious right movements, the internet is simply another
communications media to be covered by legal statutes against pornography,
obscentiy and other content.
There are also a number of bill in the legislative hopper which promise to
"fix" the constitutional shortcomings of the ommunications Decency Act,
raising the spectre that a "son-of-CDA" will hit the floor of Congress if the
Supreme Court overturns the original legislation. Rep. Zoe Lofgren
(D.Calif.) has cooked up a bill with the somewhat Orwellian description:
"Internet Freedom and Child Protection Act" which simply copies the penalties
from the original CDA to be used against those who send "any comment,
request, suggestion, proposal, image or other communication which is obscene,
lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten,
or harass another person." Lofgren also wants Internet Service Providers
(ISP's) to make available "screening software" for limiting access to parts
of the internet which is "unusitable' for children. It mandates that the FCC
establishes standards to "prescribe minimum technical standards for screening
The 'State's Rights" Threat
The federal battle over the internet is being mirrored in many state
legislatures throughout the nation; some 17 states now have bills that would
regulate on-line content in some fashion. Most echo the terminology of the
proposals introduced in Washington. In nearly all cases, however,
legislators crafting the proposals are supported by religious and decency
groups , and speak of the internet as a "anarchic" or "ungoverned" media
which needs to be "brought under control."
In some states like Virginia, the "decency" issue is linked to what state
employees happen to use their computers for. Starting July 1, state
employees (with the exception of the Virginia State Police) may not use state
computer to obtain "sexually explicit contents" unless they receive
permission from bosses. That legislation was crafted by Robert Marshall, a
Republican state delegate, who said that he had heard stories about problems
in state offices where employees were viewing smut on the internet. "There
is no constitutional obligation to furnish state employees on government time
with the material, period." Even so, critics note that as usual, legal
edicts -- especially when they concern hot topics like pornography and
obscenity -- are vague, broad and not well thought out. In the Virginia law,
they point to state university professors in fields like art history,
sociology or even criminal justice who would be restricted by the ruling.
Besides, insist critics, if the goal is to prevent employees from wasting
time, why is the law limited to adult material? What about sports, the
stock market, news, RealAudio and other offerings on the internet?
Clearly, the decency issue is one which will remain a political hot topic
and vote-grabber for some time. Segments of the news media often portray the
internet as a uncharted void filled with obscenity, or sites for learning how
to build bombs, or platforms for racist or neo-nazi propaganda. Defending
the First Amendment, on or off the net, remains a daunting task.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
It's confession time. Your editor considers himself to be fairly well
versed in matters scientific, especially those which have to do with the
subject of astronomy. So, I must thank Mr. Kendall Auel for calling to my
attention an egregious error made in yesterday's AANEWS dispatch, where I
wrote about the problem of rampant mysticism and pseudoscience plaguing
Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union. We lamented the fact that
"An official in the Presidential Security Service is paid to prepare
astronomoical horoscopes of the leaders of the nation." I should have used
the term "astrological horoscopes," since there is very much a difference
between the science of astronomy, and the pre-science (or even pseudoscience)
belief in astrology. The former had its roots in the latter, but the two
have since parted company. Astronomy has won claim to being an effective
discipline in uncovering at least some of the secrets of the solar system,
galaxy and the rest of our universe (all the while raising a bevy of new and
exciting questions!), while astrology has clearly won the battle for
"believers", adherents, enthusiasts and probably bucks. There are about
2,500 men and women in the country who are considered funded, full-time
astronomers, but well over ten times that number who grind out questionable
astrological horoscopes and list their trade as a full time occupation.
Apologies, gentle readers, if this terrible travesty offended you. I
accept blame, criticism and rebuke, and won't even attempt to insist that the
devil made me do it,
Those of you who are members of American Atheists may want to join AACHAT,
our moderated discussion group headed by the AA Internet Representative,
Margie Wait. AACHAT includes exchanges about Atheism, religion, First
Amendment topics, state-church separation, AA activities and related areas.
If you would like to participate in AACHAT, send mail to:
firstname.lastname@example.org, and include your name and postal address.
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