Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 31, 1996 Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 10:15:27 -0700 nn nn AA

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 31, 1996 Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 10:15:27 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #116 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/31/96 In This Issue... * Dole Has More Than Alien Invasion To Worry About... * Coalition "Voter Guides" Prompt FEC Suit * AACHAT * Coming Soon ~ Brassiere Wars In Mexico, Religious Neighborhoods in Chicago * About This List... RELIGIOUS FEUDS, AGENDA READY TO SPLIT REPUBLICAN RANKS? Reports Say Buchanan Ready To Launch Third Party Effort GOP frontrunner Bob Dole went to the movies this past weekend to see the blockbuster film "Independence Day," but his campaign seems to have even more problems that the beleaguered on-screen President who managed to fend off an alien invasion from outer space. With two weeks left until the Republican convention in San Diego, Dole appears unable to focus any successful attacks on the Clinton White House. Worse yet, squabbling continues to erupt in party ranks, and developments in the last 24-48 hours don't bode well for the Kansas senator. * According to a report filed by Stephen Robinson in Britain 's Electronic Telegraph, Pat Buchanan is "so incensed by exclusion from the Republican convention in California that he seems to be preparing to run as a third party candidate to sabotage Robert Dole's presidential campaign." The Telegraph says that communication between the Dole and Buchanan camps has "broken down", and that Buchanan "is believed to be torn between a desire to get back at Mr. Dole and his wish to remain in the party." * Bad feelings are boiling over ever since Buchanan turned down a "sound bite" role which would have permitted him to address the convention through a brief video clip, the content of which would have been subject to approval by the Dole forces. GOP Chairman Haley Barbour has been scrambling all week in spin-doctor mode, stressing party unity and portraying the San Diego convention as "a festival of Republican idea." But Buchanan's sister who has run his last two primary efforts for the nomination told media: "We consider the decision to deny Pat (Buchanan) a speaking role at the GOP convention, and offer him instead a pre-taped "sound bite"... an affront to the millions who believe in Pat the the 3 million who voted for him." * Buchanan still has 141 floor delegates at the upcoming convention, enough to cause plenty of headaches for Barbour and GOP managers. Dole has the convention locked-up with some 1,477 delegates; but "culture war" issues ranging from abortion to the "tolerance statement" Dole has proposed can easilly disrupt any scripting the presumed nominee's handlers have in mind. Any floor fights inside the San Diego convention may also support the efforts of anti-abortion activists outside to picket and close clinics throughout the area. Expect Randall Terry and other Operation Rescue types to take at least some of the air time away from Dole, and focus it instead on splits and the religious agenda plaguing the Republican establishment. * The Telegraph, the Moonie-conservative Washington Times and other sources say that the US Taxpayers Party may be Buchanan's vehicle in a third party effort. There are unconfirmed reports that USTP has slated Rep. Robert K. Dornan of California to speak at its own San Diego gathering, and that the group has already offered Buchanan its presidential nomination. USTP is headed by Howard Phillips, a recent convert to the Christian Reconstructionist theology. That religious tendency advocates the death penalty for a range of bible-law offenses, including homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery and talking back to parents. If anything, a link between Buchanan and the USTP would suggest a growing religious radicalization of those elements already slighted and disenchanted by the Republican Party. * The Christian Coalition, which is now firmly married to the Dole cause, may have problems of its own. The FEC has filed charges against the group, saying that it violates its educational tax-exemption by engaging in partisan political activity (see related story.) * Even without the FEC problem, Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed has his hands full trying to finesse the Dole camp to "stay on track," and prevent Christian conservatives who are even further to the right from bolting the party ranks. Reed has been the architect of a "stay faithful" strategy which clearly involves remaining within the GOP ranks; he also knows (as a student of history) that third party efforts are generally not successful. Reed continues to wheel-and-deal behind the scenes, offering his precinct-level organization of some 1.6 members and 64 million "voters guides", in exchange for loyalty to the Coalition's religious-social agenda -- or as much of it as he can win. One prospect -- a split within religious conservative ranks between Reed and the Buchanan camp. * Dole handlers are scrambling to complete their screening process for potential vice presidential running mates. Several names have been mentioned, including Ohio Governor George Voinovich, Michigan's John Engler and and Illinois Jim Edgar. A late-comer to the list -- Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles, 47, and a staunch Roman Catholic anti-abortionist. Unlike the other candidates, Nickles has been asked to submit to a background investigation. ********** COALITION HOWLS OVER FEC SUIT ON POLITICAL ACTIVITY No sooner had the Federal Election Commission announced yesterday that it was filing suit against the Christian Coalition for its violation of tax exemption laws governing partisan political activity, than the group cranked-up its propaganda and legal machinery, and vowed to assemble "the finest election law legal team" to fight the charges. Statements and press releases poured out of the Coalition's office in Chesapeake, Virginia decrying the FEC "attempt to suppress First Amendment rights of people of faith." The statement termed the charges "totally baseless," "frivolous," and said that the Coalition remains "confident that the courts will uphold the rights of Christians to participate in the political process and hand the FEC yet another defeat." But the FEC suit appears to have nothing to do with the "rights of Christians" to engage in political activism, but rather the status of the Coalition as an educational, tax-exempt organization. The Coalition was founded in 1988 by televangelist Pat Robertson following his unsuccessful campaign for president. Since then, under the leadership of Director Ralph Reed, it has swelled to a membership of 1.6 million, and claims to have between 60,000 and 100,000 churches "affiliated" with its efforts, including the distribution of tens of millions of "voters guides." Most of these guides, along with "scorecards" rating political candidates on key issues like abortion, pornography and school prayer are circulated to church congregations. In addition, the Coalition holds rallies -- often to coincide with important political events, such as the upcoming Republican national convention -- conducts workshops on precinct-level organizing, and has a weekly satellite-television uplink to several thousand church-based activist chapters. Despite this, the Coalition claims to be a religious and educational organization, not a political movement. But critics have long complained that the group is, in fact, a political organization, especially since its "voters guides" are allegedly disingenuously skewed and composed to depict certain candidates for public office in an unfavorable light. Democrats have insisted that the sudden and coordinated distribution of "voters guides" has played a key role in a number of campaigns, along with other Coalition activity such as "identifying voter blocks" and the "scorecard" distribution. The legal area which the FEC charges has been violated is considered somewhat gray and ambiguous by some observers; it involves whether the Coalition, or any other group, engaged in partisan or primarilly political activity. According to today's Chicago Tribune, the FEC complain is one where "there is a good chance the government will lose the case." Last April in a similar suit, a federal judge ruled that voter guides which had been distributed by Maine Right to Life Committee did not violate election laws. The Tribune notes: "At issue in that case, and the one against the Christian Coalition, is whether an organization that is not obliged to account for its spending and rundraising should be allowed to operate as a de factor political action committee." But those committees -- known as PAC's -- are required to file public reports in order to reveal the source of their funding. In addition, partisan political activity is not a legitimate function of an educational or religious tax-exempt group. One key element in the FEC case will be the role played by Christian Coalition "voters guides." In court documents, the FEC says that Director Ralph Reed targetted specific political officials for defeat, citing the case of Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.). It also charges that in 1990, the Coalition distributed up to 10 million "guides" which had been assembled in "coordination, cooperation, and/or consultation" with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which servces as the political campaign and fundraising arm of GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate. "Pushing the Envelope" and Its Consequences... When word about the FEC charges broke yesterday afternoon, pundits immediately began speculating on a possible outcome. Dr. Larry Sabato, a political scientist from the University of Virginia, said that the Christian Coalition has all of the appearances of being a campaign organization, and that Ralph Reed works with a "leadership manual" that is a handbook for political action. Sabato told CNN: "I think the Federal Election Commission shows definitely that the Christian Coalition is a partisan political organization and its intent is to help Republican candidates...That doesn't come as a surprise to anybody who has been watching the Christian Coalition since it was founded." Indeed, the Coalition has been accused of "punshing the envelope" and stretching its role as an educational, family-oriented religious group into that of a political campaig machine. Reed once commented on the role evangelical groups like the Coalition could play in local school-board elections by running "stealth candidates" who advocated a religious agenda. These "stealth candidates" were useful in gaining control of local boards, insisted Reed, who remarked that such a strategy would surprise opponents. "Wham! They're in a body bag!" he euphemistically remarked. Yesterday's suit involved four of the five FEC members. Two Republicans, FEC Chair Lee Ann Elliott and Commissioner Joan Aikens joined the two Democrats on the board, Scott Thomas and John McGarry, in supporting the government action. (One Democratic member was absent, and the remaining GOP seat is vacant.) The move also represents the first time the Federal Election Commission has moved to resolve the ambiguous area separating issue-advocacy and overt political activity; it comes against a backdrop of growing political activism by religious and other groups across the political spectrum. But the Coalition argues that its scorecards and "voters guides" are designed to "give America's Christian voters the facts they will need to distinguish between GOOD and MISGUIDED congressmen." One of those congressmen was House Speaker Newt Gingrich; the George Christian Coalition sent out literature terming the Republican a "Christian Coalition 100 percenter." It is doubtful that the FEC suit will be resolved before the November election; and the Coalition still intends to proceed with plans to distribute 65,000,000 "voters guides" in time for the 1996 election through a network of some 100,000 churches and other religious groups throughout the country. Interestingly, in public statements yesterday, Reed revised that figure down to a mere 45,000,000, and added that "the FEC's attempt to silence people of faith will not affect that effort one bit." ********* INTERESTED IN NETWORKING WITH OTHER ATHEISTS ? If you are, and you're a member of American Atheists, consider joining our moderated discussion forum known as aachat. We discuss Atheism, the First Amendment, state-church separation, problems of being an Atheist in a religious culture, history, religion and other interesting topics. To join, contact our Internet Representative Margie Wait at Be sure to include your name and postal address. *** Coming In Our Evening Dispatch... * Should There Be a "Religious Neighborhood" In Chicago? * Religious Battle in Mexico Focuses on Bras (Yes, we're serious!) ***** 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 mail to:, and include your name and postal address. 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