Date: Mon, 5 Aug 1996 12:14:25 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 5, 1996 nn nn AA

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Date: Mon, 5 Aug 1996 12:14:25 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 5, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #120 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/5/96 In This Issue... * Christian Coalition Ready For Convention Battle ~ Prayers & Hi-Tech * Religion Permeates '96 Campaign * TheistWatch: Fingers Do The Walking, Decide Who Gets Ministry Post * AACHAT * About This List... COALITION PLANNING ''WAR ROOM'' FOR GOP CONVENTION And It ISN'T A Political Organization ? The Christian Coalition will operate a "state of the art" communications complex and self-described "war room" during the upcoming Republican Convention in San Diego, which will allow the controversial group to monitor and direct the activities of over 1000 sympathetic delegates. According to reports and press statements, the Coalition will employ laptop computers, pagers, runners and a network of 102 "floor whips" with the stated purpose of making sure that presumed presidential nominee Bob Dole follows through on demands that he choose a staunch anti-abortion running mate to fill out the vice presidential slot on the '96 ticket. Overseeing the "war room command center" will be D.J. Gribbin, the Christian Coalition National Field Director, and Chuck Cuningham, who directs the CC Voter Education division. In addition, there will be a "message of the day" and news media relations operation run by Mike Russell, the Coalition's Director of Communication, and a daily publication for delegates which will be distributed at the convention. Mike Ebert will churning out the paper, backed up with a full-time staff of 50 workers. The "war room" operation was announced two days after the Federal Election Commission announced that it was filing suit against the Christian Coalition, charging that the group should have reported donations and expenditures as a political action committee. But the Coalition, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, says that it is simply an educational-social organization representing "people of faith." The presence of the CC "command center" and "war room" would suggest that the group maintains a primary interest in politics, especially concerning developments in the Republican Party. In related news: * The Coalition is also proceeding with its Faith & Freedom Rally scheduled for August 14 in San Diego's famous Balboa Park. Confirmed speakers include GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Elizabeth Dole, and Scott O'Grady described as a "Bosnian war hero." Elizabeth Dole is the wife of Sen. Bob Dole, and a staunch anti-abortion evangelical. O'Grady was dismissed from the Army for refusing to wear a United Nations emblem while stationed in Bosnia. * A major objective of the Christian Coalition "war room" in San Diego will be to make sure that the party platform reflects continued opposition to abortion, and support for a so-called Human Life Amendment. * A battle of conflicting polls and surveys has already begun. A Christian Coalition poll reported that over 1,000 delegates are committed to a ban on abortion. But Associated Press reports: "A survey of all but a handful of the 107 platform committee members found opponents of the (anti-choice) plank had more than enough support to put the issue in front of all 1,990 Republican delegates..." AP's survey showed that 41 members of the platform committee wanted to retain the anti-abortion language, 31 wanted to remove the plank, 11 said they did not know, and 17 refused to answer the survey. "The results suggest opponents of the platform language would have a difficult time winning in the committee..." * Gary Bauer, head of the Family Research Council, declares: "There's no question that the plank will stay." There are still reports of tension between Dole's handlers (and even the candidate himself) and some of the Christian political activists; strategists fear that the "one issue" fixation on the abortion question may prevent the candidate from discussing other key issues in the campaign. * Elected as a delegate to the platform committee, from Texas -- David Barton, Christian "revisionist" propagandist whose popular books and videos, including "The Myth of Separation", advance the thesis that America was founded as a "Christian nation" and that state-church separation has no basis in the origins of the country. AANEWS recently profiled Barton, and how many of his quotes which "prove" or suggest "The Myth of Separation" are of either dubious origin or outright hoaxes and fabrications. * The biggest fear in the Dole camp is that debate and arguing could break out on the convention floor, again over the abortion question. Opponents of the language reportedly have more than the 27 votes needed, though, to take the issue out of the platform committee and onto the floor for discussion. Speaking against the language will be Gov. Pete Wilson of California, and Gov. William Weld of Massachusetts. If zealous anti-abortion delegates begin to heckle and boo opposing speakers, it could be a repeat of the infamous 1964 GOP convention when Nelson Rockefeller was shouted down by conservative opponents. The "war room" may be doing double-duty -- defending the platform language in its support for an abortion ban, and trying to control potential rogue-delegates loyal to Pat Buchanan. Is there a split in the works between the Christian Coalition and less pragmatic elements of the religious right? ***** CAMPAIGN 96 ~ A WAR OF RELIGIOUS CREEDS AND WORDS? Religious morality and ideology is quickly becoming the major element in shaping the issues of the 1996 presidential campaign. Both President Clinton and presumed GOP nominee Bob Dole are working overtime to cast themselves as leaders grounded in religious faith; but on a deeper level, the upcoming campaign highlights some differences which exist in American Protestantism. * Both President and Mrs. Clinton are said to embody the "social gospel" or "social reformer" message echoed in the writings of Methodist founder John Wesley. New York Times reporter Cheryl Heckler-Feltze notes that practioners of social gospel "promote the inevitable (some would say all-consuming) relationship between personal faith and social improvements." * Like Clinton, Senator Dole is a Methodist. But the "all consuming" religious influence in his life seems to come from his wife, Elizabeth, who is an evangelical. This tendency in Protestantism "holds firms to a core set of beliefs they feel should be protected -- beliefs about the nature of Christ, the Bible and traditional or shared community values." Evangelicalism often embraces the "fundamentalist" conviction that the bible is without error and should be accepted literally; but they also emphasize a "born-again" experience which, they insist, changes their personality and motivates them to organize to transform secular society. Evangelicals can be found throughout the terrain which defines American Protestantism, and they account for between 14 percent of the U.S. population to as much as 46% depending on the method used to define who is an evangelical. According to the National Survey of Religion and Politics, a survey of over 4000 adults from various religious backgrounds found: -- 46% believe that "salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ." -- 44% believe that "the Bible is true and without error." -- 31% have had a "born again" conversion experience. -- 37% believe that "missions and evangelism are necessary to spread the Gospel." * The explosive growth of the "religious right" has been the mobilization of segments of the American religious community which, prior to the 1970's, we not high-profile and politically involved. Many evangelicals "shunned" political activity, and concentrated instead on revival meetings, crusades, bible distribution and missionary outreaches.. Evangelicals tended to create an inclusive, inner-directed sub-culture, one which emphasized personal conversion rather than mass social activism. "Fundamentalism" is a term that was invented in the 20th century, in part to describe the reaction of certain bible-literalists to the challenges of evolution and other scientific revelations. * President Clinton has tried to affect an image-makeover, casting aside his persona from the 1992 campaign and becoming a more avuncular, even stern leaders. He has coopted a number of GOP political issues, but has also succeeded in projecting himself as a "family values" and more traditionalist leader. While he holds firm on the abortion issue, he has backed off other hot-button topics such as gays in the military. He mimicked Pat Buchanan's conservative Catholicism by talking tough on the drug problem and suggesting school uniforms for kids, and promised to "take on" gangs.The Clintons make adroit use of photo opportunities showing them walking out of church, bibles in hand, and Clinton's press conferences and public statements are often peppered with religious appeals and references. The White House has used disasters like the Oklahoma City bombing, and more recently the tragedy of TWA flight 800 and the bombing at the Olympics Plaza as an opportunity to call for prayer; he described a wave of suspicious church arsons as "an attack on our most fundamental beliefs," nearly echoing the claim of Ralph Reed that the fires were "an attack on religious belief and Christianity." **** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS We've always lampooned those who seek divine intervention for such mundane activities as sporting events -- after all, how does "god" decide which team to support? The one whose followers manage to launch the most prayer heavenward? The same might be said over those who pray for rain, or sunny weather, or against the propsect of hurricanes and other natural calamities. Is The Divine slow on the uptake, a sort of cosmic dullard who needs to be reminded every time tragedy is about to strike his imploring faithful? So, consider the theological quandry of religious lawmakers in Israel when competing religious groups couldn't decide on who should have the coveted task of operating that country's Religious Affairs Ministry. There's power and money at stake; this ministry doles out funding to seminaries, helps to formulate religious law, and pays the salaries of thousands of state-employeed religious functionaries. (Here's a department for new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to jettison in his campaign to streamline the Israeli economy!). It seems that the fundmentalist Shas Party and the National Religious Party could not agree on who would operate the ministry, a prize-plum for their support of Netanyahu in the last national election. A suggestion that the two groups actually share power was quickly vetoed; so now, a more theologically-correct way has been devised. Today, a blindfolded Justice Minister will point to a random line of sacred text in a holy book, and officials will then scan the line for the first Hebrew letter from either Shas or the NRP acronym. The "winner" will have control of the Religious Affairs Ministry. We're not waiting up for the results, but this demonstration of human folly was too much for one secularist Knesset representative from the Third Way Party, who declared that "A casino should be a casino," and that chance holy verse had no legitimate role in helping to formulate national policy. **** According to the San Jose Mercury, an out-of-court settlement has been reached by a major internet service provider and a wing of the Church of Scientology known as the Religious Technology Center. The case began in 1995 when a bulletin board subscriber who was using the Netcom system to access the net, began posting writings of the Scientology founder, pulp-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. That outraged the controversial religious group, which insisted that much of its sacred materials are copyright-protected, and unauthorized posting thus amounted to theft of intellectual property. But critics charged that the Church was merely trying to silence critics and dissidents. The Mercury reports that as a result of the settlement, Netcom will post a message on its home web page declaring: "Subscribers who use these services from computers within the Netcom domain -- those computers whose hostname or address includes -- are required to abide by Netcom's Terms & Conditions. "These terms include a prohibition from using Netcom services to unlawfully distribute the intellectual property of others, regardless of the format of the property." Meanwhile, the series of exchanges between Scientology and writers Jeff Jacobsen and Jim Lippard continues in the latest issue of Skeptic Magazine. The duo authored a piece in the Spring, 1995 Skeptic discussing the history of an internet newsgroup known as alt.religion.scientology. Those interested in pursuing the Scientology controversy can also check out ***** Scientologists may believe in a good deal of weird and bizarre stuff, although the story of Xemu and the Galactic Confederation does indeed sound more like a piece from L. Ron Hubbard's pulp stories than an element of a sacred religious text. Then again, this may simply be a more Buck Rogers version of an even older tale found in the Old Testament, the cosmic soap opera between Jehovah and Lucifer, who battled for control of heaven. Even so, at least a Scientologist like actor Tom Cruise has the common sense to call for an ambulance when someone is hurt in an accident, which is exactly what he did a couple of months ago on a Los Angeles street. Fortunately, the victim of that accident didn't end up with his fate in the hands of, say, a Jehovah's Witness. A small piece in this month's Skeptic cites a book by a former Witness minister named David A. Reed ("Blood on the Altar: Confessions of a Jehovah's Witness Minister") who says that no one really knows for sure how many members of the sect have died simply because they refused to have a blood transfusion. Some of the deaths involve children who are smuggled out of hospitals, or denied professional care in preference to "spiritual" healing. Reed carried a "No blood" card in his wallet, and says that if necessary, he would have watched his own wife die rather than permit the potentially live-saving measure of a blood transfusion. The cult's publication The Watchtower declared by in January of 1961: "the receiver of a blood transfusion must be cut off from God's people by excommunication or disfellowshipping" or even be "put under surveillance." ***** MEET OTHER ATHEISTS...ON-LINE! If you're a member of American Atheists, consider joining our moderated discussion group aachat. We discuss a wide range of subjects, including Atheism, AA activities, history, religion, First Amendment issues and related topics. To participate, just contact our Internet Representative, Margie Wait at Be sure to include your name and postal address. * 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 on American Atheists, send mail to and include your name and postal address; or, check out our cool, new 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 information, send mail to and put "info aanews" in the message body (minus the quotation marks, please!). Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER


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