Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 12:21:08 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 19, 1996 nn nn

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Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 12:21:08 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 19, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #133 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/19/96 http://www.atheists.org 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 * AACHAT * 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 religious schools. 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. Supreme Court. 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 system. *** 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 floor. * 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 and/or Senate. "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, including: -- 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 Council. * 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. *** INTERESTED IN MEETING OTHER ATHEIST? Join the growing numbers of aanews subscribers who are taking out membership in American Atheists, and signing up for our on-line discussion forum AACHAT. This moderated newsgroup takes on all kinds of lively topics, from Atheism and state-church separation to the problems of living as a non-believer in a culture which is often intoxicated on religious doctrine. For membership information, just send mail to info@atheists.org, and include your name and postal address. If you're already an American Atheists member and wish to participate, contact Margie Wait at aachat@atheists.org. *** 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. 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: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER. Internet Representative is Margie Wait, irep@atheists.org.

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