Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 12:15:29 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 13, 1996 nn nn
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 12:15:29 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 13, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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.)
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
* 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...
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