Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 12:21:08 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 19, 1996 nn nn
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 12:21:08 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 19, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#133 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/19/96
In This Issue...
* Religion School Funding Is Turned Down In Wisconsin
* Utah Solons Can't Hide Religious Agenda Behind Closed Doors
* Post-Convention Buzz & Blues
* To Our Readers: Back Issues Of AANEWS, ftp Site
* About This List...
RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS LOSE IN WISCONSIN VOUCHER RULING
A Circuit Judge in Madison, Wisconsin has ruled that a Milwaukee school
voucher program may not include educational institutions which are religious
in nature or are affiliated with churches. Judge Paul Higginbotham of Dane
County Circuit Court did find, however, that the six-year old program could
continue its expansion, thus making available funds for about 14,000 students
to attend private, nonsectarian schools at state expense.
The decision was based largely on Wisconsin's State Constitution which
stipulates that no "money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of
religious societies or religious or theological seminaries." But
school-choice supporters hailed the ruling as a "partial victory." The
executive director of the Parents for School Choice told The New York Times:
"I would have loved to have had the injunction totally lifted," noting that
last year alone, about 3,500 students applied for aid in order to attend
This latest ruling adds to the complex legal and social issues which
surround proposed school voucher plans. In Ohio, a program instituted by
Governor George Voinovich has thus far managed to clear legal hurdles, and
would be the first in the country to use state vouchers to allow students to
attend either religious or non-sectarian private schools. Wisconsin Governor
Tommy G. Thompson, though, said that the matter in his state won't be
resolved until it reaches the Wisconsin Supreme Court or even the U.S.
While many critics charge that vouchers deprive cash-strapped public
schools from badly needed funds, proponents insist that it would create a
"competative" educational atmophere, and offer parents more choice in
educating their children. Some voucher supporters believe that the program
should cover only public schools, and there are those who want vouchers to
apply to private schools which are non-sectarian. But most organized
pro-voucher efforts have come from religious groups, especially Roman
Catholic organizations. In Ohio, for instance, studies have indicated that
over 60% of voucher funds would go to the state's enormous Parochial school
UTAH ATHEISTS SUPPORT ''OPEN MEETING'' LAW RULING
In Utah, a long conflict involving secret meetings, questions of public
accountability, and religiously-inspired laws which discriminate against
homosexuals may finally be coming to a close.
The story began in February, when the Salt Lake City School Board tried to
selectively ban a student gay rights and support group. When the Board found
that couldn't be done, they then decided to prohibit all noncurricular clubs;
demonstrations and marches promptly followed that action. To make matters
worse, the Utah School Board Association then hired Salt Lake City attorney
Brtin Burbridge, who is associated with the firm of Kirton&McConkie which
represents the Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints or LDS.
The biggest obstacle to selective banning of student groups (often
organizations which did not meet the morality litmus test of the
Mormon-dominated state) happened to be the federal Equal Access Law of 1984.
Ironically, that legislation enjoyed the support of Utah's U.S. Senator
Orrin Hatch, a Mormon and friend of religious-right groups like the Christian
Coalition. One reason for Hatch's support -- getting student Bible and other
religious organizations recognized and active on high school campuses.
All of this was taking place against a steady pattern of other
state-church separation abuses, though, which has kept Utah American Atheists
Directors Chris Allen and Rich Andrews working over-time in defense of the
First Amendment. In May, for instance, a Utah school district opened its
facilities to 1,500 Mormon seminary students following a fire at an LDS
seminary school. Allen reminded public officials that the policy violated
not only the U.S. Constitution, but the Utah State Constitution which
declares: "Religious classes shall not be held in school buildings or on
school property in any way that permits public money or property to be
applied to, or that requires public employees to be entangled with, any
religious worship, exercise, or instruction."
But back in January, it seems that Utah State Senators held a closed door
meeting to discuss the "problem" of how to eradicate homosexual clubs and
other student groups which may offend the sensibilities of local
religionists. When word of the secret meeting leaked, three Utahns,
represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit, insisting that
the solons had violated the state's Open and Public Meetings Act.
Late last week, Third District Judge J. Dennis Frederick upheld the Open
and Public Meetings Act, and told the legislators that they were not immune
from the very laws which they enact. State Senate President Lane Beattie has
predicted that the legislators will appeal the case if necessary, and make an
indirect reference to another decision by Judge Frederick -- a ruling in 1992
which found that government-sponsored prayer was also unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune called Beattie's remarks
"intemperate," and debated whether it was meant "as an insult or a threat."
In a statement which appeared on yesterday's Tribune, Chris Allen praised
the paper's editorial and the ruling by Judge Frederick which supported the
intent of the Open Meetings law.
"It was bad enough when senators got caught violating their own law and
then compounded the hypocrisy by arguing that courts couldn't enforce the law
on them," Allen noted.
CONVENTION FALLOUT ~ RELIGION AS CAMPAIGN SLOGAN
With the GOP convention finally over, political observers are still
debating the role which religion will play in the hotly contested White House
race betwee President Bill Clinton and Republican challenger Bob Dole. There
is still plenty of fallout, though, from the San Diego GOP meet which
resembled more of an infomercial than a free-for-all delegate fight on the
* Religious conservative commentator and writer Cal Thomas - a favorite on
Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network -- is glad to see that Ted
Koppel and other network heavies either left the convention early, or decided
to downplay the affair altogether.
"This is a trend that should be increased," said Thomas on a San Diego
radio talk show. "What other network correspondents and anchors can we get
rid of? All of you, go home!"
Why Thomas's enthusiasm? "They keep using words like 'hate' and
'extreme.'...Oh, 'extreme' has been used so many times -- more than
'sunshine' when referring to San Diego. It's outrageous what these guys are
doing, so this is a wonderful trend."
* The Christian Coalition has already analyzed the consequences of a
Republican debacle in November, including a potential GOP loss in the House
"If congressional control changes hands, all chairmanships of committees
and subcommittees will also shift," notes the religious activist group. Of
particular concern are three important power centers on Captiol Hill,
-- House Subcommittee on the Constitution, presently headed by Rep.
Charles Canady (R-Fla.). Canady gets a 92% approval rating in Christian
Coalition "voters guides", and the subcommittee has been the locus of such
legislation as the Defense of Marriage Act, a Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and
a proposed Religious Equality Amendment. Should the Republicans lose the
House, chairmanship of the House Subcommittee reverts to Rep. Barney Frank
(D-Mass.), a "l'enfant terrible" to the religious conservatives. The
Coalition gives Frank a zero-zip-"nada"-null-void rating.
-- House Judiciary Committee. Christian Coalition poster-boy Rep. Henry
Hyde (R-Ill.) now heads this powerful committee, which in turn supervises the
antics of the inappropriately-named Constitution Subcommittee. Hyde is given
a 92% Coalition rating; when the GOP originally announced its Contract With
America, House Speaker Newt Gingrich farmed out to Hyde the task of making
sure that legislation for a Religious Equality Amendment would be ready by
July 4, 1995. That deadline passed, raising concerns among the Coalition and
its allies that the GOP was abandoning its commitment to the social agenda
of the religious right in favor of tax breaks, free treat and other economic
strategies. Hyde has now dusted off his version of the legislation and
re-presented it as the "Religious Freedom Amendment," and is pushing for a
floor vote in time for the results to be included in the Christian Coalition
"voters guide" for the 1996 election. If the GOP loses the House, this
powerful committee ends up being directed by Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich) who,
like Frank, has a null rating from the Christian Coalition
-- A Republican loss in the Senate means that Sen. Trent Lott (R.Miss.),
the present House Majority Leader, is replaced probably by Sen. Tom Daschle
(D-SA.D.). Lott has a perfect, 100% score with the Christian Coalition, while
Daschle meets with only an 18% approval rating.
Keep an eye on Lott, who at 54 already has nearly 24 years of experience
on Capitol Hill under his belt. He has been described as brash,
confrontational, and a "shake-'em-up-kind of guy" according to his Senate
colleagues, and he enjoys the reputation of being "an aggressive political
operator" according to Janet Cook in a profile done for the Los Angeles
Times. Watch his relationship, too, with Christian Coalition Director Ralph
Reed; both typify a kind of "pragmatic", "stealth" politics which is anathema
to others on the religious right, including many in the Pat Buchanan camp, or
less tatically-oriented power brokers like Gary Bauer of the Family Research
* D.J. Gribbin, national field director of the Christian Coalition, has
already put out the word that Senate and House races may be even more
important to the anti-choice agenda than the White House contest. Winning
the Presidency, but losing control of Congress could be worse than a Dole
defeat and status-quo on Capitol Hill.
* A Monthly Award for Newspeak should go to the Coalition's director on
voter education, Charles Cunningham. Defending the so-called "voters
guides", Cunningham insists "We don't tell voters who to vote for. We simply
present the information and let the voters decide." Cunningham puts the
number of guides which will be distributed at 55 million.
* One Foggy Bottom rumor mill reports that CC Director Ralph Reed has been
offered a job with the Dole/Kemp campaign organization, but turned down the
gig insisting that he already "has the best job in the world."
* GOP strategists are just delighted with VP candidated Jack Kemp who is
expected to attract Jewish votes and financial support. As a cabinet member,
Kemp defended the controversial policy of Jewish settlements in the occupied
territories, and has visited Israel 10 times. According to the Washington
Times, Kemp gets high marks from groups like the American-Israel Public
Affairs Committee. The paper also quotes Gal Shor, news editor of Los
Angeles Hebrew Weekly, who said that "Jews are suspicious of Dole," and that
"Without Kemp, the Jewish vote would have stayed with Clinton."
Dole's sins apparently include a suggestion made during the weeks
following the Iraqui invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that Saddam Hussein might
withdraw in exchange for an Israeli pull back from occupied lands.
A NOTE ABOUT BACK ISSUES OF THE AANEWS...
We recently have received a number of inquiries for back copies of aanews.
At this time, we do not have an archive available; we do intent to post back
issues of aanews -- and many other topical materials -- on our ftp site.
We are also happy to inform readers that the FLASHLINE page of our site on
the world wide web (http://www.atheists.org) is now activated. In the
future, we hope to update FLASHLINE with the type of timely information which
you find in the aanews. And when our ftp site is operational, we will link
from our web page.
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