Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 12:15:29 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 13, 1996 nn nn

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Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 12:15:29 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 13, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #127 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/13/96 In This Issue... * More GOP Convention Coverage ~ Abortion Ban, School Prayer, Aid to Religious Schools OK'd by GOP ~ "Family" Films a Flop ~ Ass-Kickin' Tough Guys Under the GOP Big Tent * About This List... "UNITY'' PLATFORM SUPPORTS PRAYER, RELIGIOUS SOCIAL AGENDA Republicans kicked off their 1996 national convention yesterday with computerized, sound-byte theatrics, a round of speeches calling for party unity, and a platform which some pundits believe suggests that Pat Buchanan, not Bob Dole, really sets the direction of the GOP. The abortion debate still looms large in the background, despite rousing speeches from the likes of Gen. Colin Powell, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and ex-Presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford. * The party convention reflects the ultimate postmodernist triumph of style over substances; weighty orations are considered passe, speeches are thoroughly vetted and reduced to media-digestible length, and the main podium area has been transformed into a stage set which at times resembles the half-time show at the Super Bowl. As the Democrats are sure to do, Republicans tromped out the usual array of safe "social diversity" icons which USA TODAY described as "Native Americans in full tribal dress, a black child singer and a 12-year-old girl with AIDS." * American media seems to giving equal portions of coverage to Dole's tax package, the party flap over abortion, and a round of fluff interviews from the convention floor. Sadly lacking, though, is coverage on other issues buried in the party platform. Planks From The "Family Values" Platform In a series of stage-managed maneuvers yesterday, GOP Platform Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde (Ill.) faced little opposition in getting key planks of the 1996 platform document approved. A section titled "Families and Society" begins with a quote made by Bob Dole which declares that "The alternative to cold bureaucracy is not indifference. It is warmth of families and neighborhoods, charities, churches, synagogues and communities. The value-shaping institutions have the tools to reclaim lives -- individual responsibility, tough love, and spiritual renewal. They do more than care for the body; they restore the spirit." Individual planks supported elements of the Christian Coalition "Contract With the American Family," and key pieces of religious-right legislation moving through congress. Henry Hyde's version of the Religious Equality Amendment (euphemistically now termed the Religious Freedom Amendment), which would blur or eradicate constitutional state-church separation, got a boost from planks and statements in the platform: -- --"While recognizing a role for government in dealing with social ills, we look to mediating institutions -- religious and community groups, private associations of all kinds -- to take the lead in tackling the social ills that some government programs have only worsened." Hyde's amendment, along with the recently-passed Welfare Reform Bill, call for greater government assistance to private, religious groups in administering social welfare programs. Critics and state-church separationists see such a move as effectively gutting the Establishment Clause, and giving government funds to religious movements -- regardless of the purpose for which they are intended or used. The platform also hailed symbolic legislation such as the Defense of Marriage Act, another key religious chestnut which defines "marriage" as the legal union of one man and one woman. Under "Improving Education," Republicans pledged to abolish the Department of Education, "end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning." "Family choice" is a euphemism for voucher schemes, a key goal of religious right groups and even the Roman Catholic Church which in many states would be the major recipient of government funds in such programs. While calling for less government intrusion into "family" life, the platform nevertheless chose to advise all Americans on the best way to conduct their personal affairs in sexual areas. -- "Abstinence education in the home will lead to less need for birth control services and fewer abortions. We support educational initiatives to promote chastity until marriage as the expected standard of behavior...We oppose school-based clinics, which provide referrals, counseling, and related services for contraception and abortion." As expected, the platform also supported prayer as an acceptable objective of government policy: -- "We will continue to work for the return of voluntary prayer in our schools and will strongly enforce the Republican legislation that guarantees equal access to school facilities by student religious groups. We encourage State legislatures to pass statutes which prohibit local school boards from adopting policies of denial regarding voluntary school prayer." That plank is a natural red-flag for First Amendment activists and civil libertarians. Ironically, it vould violate the "local control" sentiments which Republican prayer-gurus like Henry Hude and Orrin Hatch praise in criticizing federal court decisions, in the cases of schoolboards which moved to stop intrusive religious ritual. It also would overturn a considerable body of findings that so-called "voluntary" prayer is a myth, since students who do not participate often find themselves being discriminated against, harassed, and even subjected to physical violence. Under the section "Improving America's Health Care," the platform supports "increased emphasis on prevention of dieases" like Alzheimer's, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes, then suddenly calls "for fetal protection in biomedical research." It also echoes the current faddish outrage over teen sexuality be insisting that "About half the children of today's teen welfare mothers were fathered in statutory rape," ignoring the fact that "statutory rape" includes consentual sex before a legal age which can vary considerably from state to state. It also adds: -- "To ensure that religiously affiliate institutions can fulfill their helping mission, we endorse Republican legislation to stop discrimination against them in government programs." There was little to stop passage of the platform plank on the abortion subject which declared: "The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children." (Some see a peculiar irony in that reference, since other GOP proposals concerning illegal immigrants and their offspring would give more protection to a fetus than to a fully developed human being.) Still Lurking A major obstacle now facing the Dole-Kemp campaign team will be getting "beyond" the abortion question. Republicans are in the minority on this crucial questions; a national poll conducted last month by MSNBC, for instance, found that 60 percent of Americans describe themselves as "pro-choice," although they may not personally advocate abortion. The Dallas Morning News surveyed GOP convention delegates, and discovered that Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed should indeed worry about the unity and homogeneity of "pro-life" forces on the floor. 25% of the delegates described themselves as "pro-choice," about half agreed with Dole's stance that abortion should be banned except in exceptional cases like rape, and only 12% supported an across-the-board prohibition on abortion. * While Family Research Council President Gary Bauer praised the platform, and declared the GOP was "a pro-life party," Susan Cullman of Republican Coalition for Choice lamented that "This platform (on abortion) is totally unacceptable. We are very upset. This document is even worse thant the 1992 platform. It is more severe." * Outside the convention hall, pro-choice leaders in the party conducted an impromptu press conference yesterday afternoon and promised to continue the fight in representing the "majority" view. California Governor Pete Wilson said "We will not be shouted down. And we will not go away." Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe noted: "All the polls have shown that the majority of Republicans and the majority of Americans are opposed to the abortion ban plank." And Bill Weld of Massachusetts added that the pro-choice element in the party had "come a lot further than 1992 in Houston when there was just two delegations in favor of abortion rights. But my hopes are by 2000 the majority outside the hall will be the majority inside the hall." On Sunday, both Gov. Weld and Sen.Snowe appeared at a San Diego abortion rights rally, and pledged to continue the fight against the Human Life Amendment. Snowe promised that Republicans "can also be the party that believes in...providing a woman sovereignty over her own body." * Truly locked-out of the convention process is the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP organization with 10,000 members. According to the San Francisco Examiner, the group is "in bitter indecision over whether to endorse Bob Dole," and has set Friday as the deadline for the Dole-Kemp campaign to actively seek the group's support. The Log Cabin Republicans may turn out to be yet another test of the "big tent" and "inclusion" policies which Republican Chairman Haley Barbour has been boasting about in public, especially on the floor of the convention. If Dole does seek the group's endorsement, it would reverse his position of last year when he returned a $1,000 donation from the Log Cabin Republicans after squawking fromreligious groups. * One indication of the power wielded by religious right groups is the shameless media courting of figures such as Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed and Phyllis Schlafly. The groups they represent were once considered a "fringe" even inside the GOP; the high profile status of such leaders, though, is testament to Reed's statement over the weekend that "Christians have arrived" in the respectable, American political mainstream. Schlafly, head of the Eagle Forum, was gushing with opinions and reads yesterday and seemed to be a regular in the CNN-2 interview lineup. *** ''FAMILY FILMS'' A BUST, BUT PARTY HAS ITS OWN MUSCLE The choice of Jack Kemp as a Dole running mate surprised a number of people, including President Clinton, who though that Florida Senator Connie Mack was slated for the VP slot. Kemp and Dole have disagreed on a number of economic issues, and the former congressman has been presented as being "less vehement" than other possible candidates on social issues. But appearances aren't everything. For starters, Kemp is a co-founder of the "Empower America" group with religious "kultur"-guru William Bennett. It was Bennett who along with Pat Buchanan ignited the "culture war" theme which came out of the Republican Convention in 1992 -- and which, suggested some observers, may have cost George Bush a second term as President." For Kemp and Bennet, the Empower America groups seems to reflect an ambiguous, even contradictory theme concerning the relationship of individuals and government. Kemp is involved mostly in EA forums and conferences which emphasize economic and technological growth issues from flat tax proposals to "How government spending is smothering the economy." Bennet, though, seems to morbidly dwell on social themes like obnoxious rap lyrics and Hollywood offerings such as Pulp Fiction, Showgirls and Striptease. In May, he announced "Round Two" in Empower America's "values campaign" supposedly directed at "obscene and harmful music lyrics being produced and marketed by major entertainment companies." Kemp's name was conspicuously absent from the EA press release, though, which instead focused on the efforts of Sen. Joe Lieberman and the puzzling figure of C. DeLores Tucker, Chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women. Although everyone inside the GOP tent from Bob Dole to the Christian Coalition has been trying to ride the "values" bandwagon, that effort has apparently done little to close the 20-point gap which President Clinton appears to still enjoy in major polls. And Dole's own attacks on the Hollywood film industry appear gratuitous, especially since many "family films" which meet the approval of Washington value-czars are not exactly boxoffice hits. In June, Dole told Hollywood: "Give us art worthy of our lives, worthy of your own talents, and worthy of a country to which we all owe so much." He followed that up with another appeal, that the " 'R' in movies should stand for reject." But today, CNN notes: "Hollywood has turned out its fair share of family movies this year, however, and instead of flocking to them, moviegoers have rejected the very films politicians claim people so desperately want." They cite highly-touted films like"Flipper", "Adventures of Pinocchio, " and "A Little Princess"; instead, people flocked to action-offerings including "Independence Day" (which even candidate Dole sanctioned, and Empower America considered an example of cinematic patriotism) Another contradictory element in the GOP "family values" facade is the ironic support the party, and Mr. Dole, enjoy from a stable of Hollywood tough-guys whose violent cinematic stunts don't exactly play to a G-audience. Tonite, GOP Hollywood stalwart Charlton Heston is hosting an Arena Political Action Committee party at Planet Hollywood, the chic, place-to-seen restaurant chain owned by Republican boosters Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The latter, of course, spoke at the 1992 convention and promised that Mr. Bush would be the "terminator" to Saddham Hussein (who apparently has had the last laugh on that count.) Karate-chopping Chuck Norris, another GOP'er is expected, although tough-guy Bruce Willis ("Die Hard"), who hosted a similar bash at the '92 GOP conclave, is out of town There's also wife Demi Moore, another heavy investor in Planet Hollywood, whose recent film Striptease didn't exactly draw accolades of approval from either Dole or Bill Bennet. *** 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 more information about American Atheists, send e-mail to: and include your name and postal address. You may post, forward 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" (minus the quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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