Date: Tue, 20 Aug 1996 14:11:16 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 20, 1996 nn nn

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Date: Tue, 20 Aug 1996 14:11:16 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 20, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #135 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/20/96 In This Issue... * Taxpayers Giving Away Medical Facility To Church? * On The Campaign Trail...With Mostly A Prayer * TheistWatch: Enlightenment, Satisfaction * About This List... CATHOLIC CORPORATION MAY TAKE OVER LA COUNTY HOSPITAL Cash-strapped Los Angeles is selling off assets; but the beneficiary of such bogus "privatization" may not be taxpayers, but rather religious groups which have moved into the lucrative, government-subsidized field of health care. Last week, it was announced that a Roman Catholic hospital chain known as Catholic Healthcare West has emeged as a "leading contender" to take over operation of LA county's famous Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center. Described by the Los Angeles Times as a "crown jewel in the six-hospital county health care system," the facility would be turned over to CHW complete with an operating agreement and 10-year lease. Catholic Healthcare West currently operates 35 hospitals; the Times noted that the corporation "is said to have the inside track" in negotiations to lease the facility, although two other corporations are said to be under consideration as well. They are: Daniel Freeman Hospitals, which has established a business partnership with the USC Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Gerontology, and S.K. Ching & Associates, a private partnership. Neither group is church affiliated. An AANEWS investigation into Catholic Healthcare West raises serious questions about the propriety and constitutionality of transferring a public facility like Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center to a religious organization. Who -- and What -- is Catholic Healthcare West ? CHW is essentially one of many corporate bodies which operate as part of the Roman Catholic Church. Although it is legally incorporated as a not-for-profit health care system, it has accumulated assets of over $4 billion and posted earnings of $3.1 billion. Over 6,500 physicians are affiliated with Catholic Healthcare West, which has holdings in California, Nevada and Arizona. CHW is "sponsored" by three Church religious orders which include the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of St. Dominic and the Daughters of Charity. In 1986, the Sisters of Mercy formed Catholic Healthcare West; the corporation was joined in 1988 by the Sisters of St. Dominic. In May, 1995, the company picked up another sponsor, the Daughters of Charity National Health System, a corporation which had been formed in 1986. The health care field is one area where the lines between private enterprise, government money and corporate dominion have often become blurred, even non-existent. Catholic Healthcare West is no exception. While publicity materials of CHW and the respective founding groups emphasize their religious origins -- in one case going as far back as 1233, 12 years following the death of the Founder of the Dominican Order -- present day concerns appear to be more worldly and suspect. One example concerns laws which permit religious groups, under a non-profit status, to issue tax-exempt bonds for purposes of raising revenues. In May of this year, California State Treasurer Matt Fong announced two separate sales involving a grand total of $268,000,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds for CHW, which were issued through the California Health Facilities Financing Authority -- a body chaired by Mr. Fong. At the time, Fong declared, in a statement from his Office of the State Treasurer, that "The primary uses of bond proceeds will be to refinance ten debt issues belonging to eight hospitals being merged into the Catholic Healthcare West family." $24,000,000 worth of the bonds were used "to construct a replacement hospital facility for Robert F. Kennedy Medical Center in Hawthorne," another CHW holding. While the bonds all received triple-A ratings from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, as tax exempt instruments they naturally enjoyed the same privileged status as government, tax-free bonds. CHW has also received good treatment at the hands of the Federal Trade Commission. In 1992-93, Catholic Healthcare West enjoyed a dispensation from the usual waiting time requirements which apply to corporations planning mergers of acquisitions. An FTC notice issued on Jan. 15, 1993 listed CHW as one of a number of corporations for which certain rules had been waived; that action was permitted under a subsection of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act of 1976. Worldly & Spiritual Kingdoms Los Angeles County authorities may be crossing the line in considering turning over any portion of the county healthcare facility to a religious corporation. Despite its rather substantial worldly revenues and machinations, CHW's "Mission Statement" insists: "Catholic Healthcare West is committed to fostering the healing ministry of the Catholic Church and the Sponsoring Congregations. In a spirit of collaboration...(CHW) acts as a catalyst to strengthen existing ties, to stimulate new linkages in Catholic health care ministry in the West, and to provide leadership in voicing concerns of Catholic health care at the state and national level." Among the "concerns' of religious hospitals, though, may be services which are not provided due to theology -- such as abortion. AANEWS has also received a letter from an American Atheists member to the Los Angeles Times which discusses the proposed takeover of "Taxpayer-owned property by an arm of the Catholic Church." One concern was that CHW would "acquire vast expanses of walls and hallways from which it would hang crucifixes, religious pictures and position statues and other symbolic artifacts." Other objections included the fact that everyone from patients to staff members would be a trapped, "captive audience to religious intimidation and propaganda in a publicly-owned institution." The objections and concerns may be right on target. The CHW "Mission Statement" adds that "Throughout the organization and in all its activities, it (CHW) will seek to extend Christ's healing, to manifest Judeo-Christian values, to contribute to a caring environment, to promote justice and to affirm the dignity of each person." State-Church "Entanglement"? The case of Catholic Healthcare West typifies a trend, and problem, which now exists throughout the nation. As governments scramble to "privatize", an increasing amount of social services are being farmed-out to religious groups. From health care to drug-rehab, soup kitchens, food and clothing programs, day care and other outreaches, government funds -- often in the form of "community block grants" and other schemes -- are resulting in bulging religious and church coffers. Indeed, religious groups have become a major "intermediary" or professional administrator in the providing of social services. Even giant "charity" operations like Catholic Charitities, Inc. now receive the bulk of funding from government grants of one form or another. But the "dual mission" of such religious groups -- including Catholic Healthcare West -- remains a problematic one. Should a non-profit, religious corporation enjoy special status in the form of tax-exempt bonding authority, or operate public facilities? Is there an inherent conflict between the religious objectives outlined in the CHW statement, and the presumably secular purpose which LA County must practice in providing a heath care outreach? Critics insist that there is, and that government has no right to "give away the store" to private, religious groups. They also insist that religious groups cannot operate such programs in a consistent, secular manner. Legislation at the federal level would make it considerably easier -- and more lucrative -- for religious groups to take over social outreach programs at public expense. The latest Welfare Reform Act included a special provision that enjoins government from "discriminating" against religious organizations when it awards grants and contracts. Critics point out that in the past, this "discrimination" involved concerns over clear First Amendment violations which mixed tax monies with religious proselytizing. The dangerous trend of privatizing social services by bringing in religious charities -- as in the case of Catholic Healthcare West and its takeover of Rancho Los Amigos -- continues, and needs to be challenged. ** On The Campaign Trail... CANDIDATES UNABLE TO LOCATE FIRST AMENDMENT? During the recent GOP national convention, AANEWS lamented the obvious fact that no candidate seemed able or willing to declare that he or she might happen to possess lingering taints of First Amendment secularism and civil libertarianism. We might expand that to include just about anyone now running for high public office, including Democrats and even Reform Party politicians. * President Clinton celebrated his 50th anniversary visiting the sites of two church burnings, and insisted that the alleged arsons were "a test of our character as a people." Creating a photo opportunity for media, Clinton -- decked out in jeans, utility gloves and carrying tools -- pounded nails along with a volunteer crew helping to rebuild the Salem Missionary Baptist Church, which was burned on December 30. Also helping was wife Hillary, Vice President Al Gore, censor-crat wife Tipper and four of their five kids. * Even the conservative Washington Times did a double-talke at some of the festivities during Bob Dole's campaign tour stunts. The paper quotes Deborah Orin (N.Y. Post) who noted that a GOP rally in Denver featured funk-rap lyrics by the group Jakarta, famous for: "One, two, three, four -- get your woman on the floor. Gotta, gotta, gotta get up to get down." Would 'Liz Dole -- or even Tipper Gore -- approve? * The flurry of autopsies on the San Diego GOP convention still continues to yield interesting facts and insightful quotes. For instance, one-third of delegates described themselves as evangelical or born again Christians, a figure which AANEWS observers rate as low. And the Chicago Tribune adds: "Some in (the Christian Coalition) suggest that as many as 500 delegates were coalition members." That figure may also be low, considering the presence of the CC "war room", that directed a network of over 1,000 "pro-life" delegates on the convention floor. * Reform Party founder and Candidate Ross Permot has made public his admiration for the late Father Divine and his "Father Divine's Peace Movement" based in Philadelphia. * Whither next, for the Coalition? It's on to Chicago, for the August 26-29 Democratic National Convention, where the group will hold a "Celebration of Life" anti-abortion rally and begin the Herculean task of organizing whatever anti-choice forces are in that party. CC Director Ralph Reed muses that the GOP convention was "not the high point of our movement," and sees activities at the Democratic shindig as part of a "long march." Has Ralph been reading the quotations of Mao? * Pro-lifers in the GOP are still reportedly angry at the treatment they received from Republican Chairman Haley Barbour and his minions, and agree with Phyllis Schlafly that the convention "didn't have enough pro-life leaders on the podium." Will they stay within the GOP? A lot depends on Pat Buchanan. He was being courted by Howard Phillips, a Christian Reconstructionist and head of the US Taxpayers Party. USTP has now had to settle for Phillips as its 1996 presidential contender, and may end up at the bottom of the religious right feeding chain this year. But Schlafly sees a bright side, and told the Chicago Tribune that "Pro-life conservatives have the platform and they have two pro-life candidates, so they certainly have had an impact." * That impact involves contributing about 5,000,000 new votes to Republican candidates in 1994, according to David Frum of the Manhattan Institute. * Larry Sabato, professor of government at the University of Virginia and a veteran observer of the Christian Coalition, says that moderates lack the kind of organization within the GOP which religious conservatives have been building since the mid-1970's. "The moderates aren't voting anymore," he noted. He also suggests that GOP leaders sent the religious right "a very clear message at this conventio0n...They're the activist core and they're going to have to learn the same thing African-Americans have learned in the Democratic Party...I think African-Americans realize that when they are too prominent and visible in the Democratic Party, then the party has trouble attracting white voters and winning." Added Frum: "I think the big question is: Will the Christian Right consent to become a normal part of the Republican Party?" ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Talk about stubborn. AANEWS has informed readers that despite Supreme Court cases and laws against school prayer, many school districts (particularly in the South) simply ignore the First Amendment and carry on the practice. A similar problem exists in Germany, too. Reuter news services reports that crucifixes remain hanging in Bavarian school classrooms, despite a year-old ruling from that country's supreme court against the practice. The paper "Die Welt" says that out of 50,000 school classrooms, there have been only 13 applications to take down the sado-masochistic religious icons -- and only six of the appeals actually succeeded. ** Who said that Buddhist mumbo-jumbo has anything to do with actual "enlightenment"? In Thailand, two women who once vowed as Buddhist nuns to stay together until death, have ended up marrying the same, somewhat overjoyed man. Viroj Boonbamrugnsilip, who used to describe himself as a "once broken-hearted man and believed that he would never marry, tied the knotin a simple temple ceremony with Amphorn Chaluaysrimuang, 32, and Nookal Ramangthong, 23. The former said: "Nookal and I took a vow to live together until death and to have the same husband," but noted that her friend was "devastated" at Viroj's marriage proposal. Even so, Viroj says that both women are "equal in my eyes" and plans to have two children with each of his brides. ** The "ghost month" is underway throughout much of the "enlightened" Buddhist world, as people begin offering food and drink to ghosts and other midnight cemetary dwellers. The period from August 14 to September 12 is particularly auspicious and supernatural, believe some. Superstitious parents admonish their male offspring not to marry during this time, warning that a bride will be transformed into a ghost if the wedding takes place during this period. Change jobs during the Ghost Month, and you risk being dragged under water and killed if you happen to be swimming. And currency is burned along with clothing, house hold items and other objects, to provide the necessities for "homeless ghosts." The big winner in this outburst of public ignorance seems to be merchants who crank up the advertising in anticipation of Ghost Month, knowing that believers will be spending bucks for perfectly good consumer items which end up as so much ash. *** 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 about American Atheists, send mail to:, and include your name and postal address. 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" (minus the quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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