Date: Fri, 23 Aug 1996 12:33:26 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 23, 1996 nn nn

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Date: Fri, 23 Aug 1996 12:33:26 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for August 23, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #137 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 8/23/96 In This Issue... * More First Amendment Battles in Utah * Coalition Plans Rally at Demo Convention * TheistWatch: When IS It The 21st. Century, Anyway? * About This List... RELIGIOUS GROUPS FILE BRIEF IN BAUCHMAN CASE Rachel Bauchman, the Utah high school student who said that a capella choir was singing blatantly religious songs as part of a class curriculum and sued public officials, picked up support on Wednesday from a somewhat unlikely quarter -- religious groups. Six different organizations filed a 32-page brief supporting Bauchman, charging that "Public school sponsored attendance at religious services and the use of a public school teaching position as a pulpit to preach religion" was morally wrong and unconstitutional. The suit was filed on behalf of the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and Union of American Hebrew Congregations. New York attorney Colby Smith, who represents the group, said: "Each amicus is a leading religious institution that believes strongly in preserving religious freedom in the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, especially in the field of public education." Bauchman's 1995 lawsuit stems from events which started the previous year when Rachel -- then in the 10th-grade-- got involved in the choir at West High School in Salt Lake City. She was "floored" when the Director, Richard Torgerson distributed a list of songs all of which were religion and which praised "Jesus as the Lord, Savior and King," according to Bauchman, who happenes to be Jewish. National media coverage of the Bauchman case focused primarilly on the religious contents of songs which the capella choir was to perform; but there other problems, endemic to the strong influence throughout Salt Lake City and the state of Utah exercised by the Mormon Church. On field trips, for instance, non-Mormon choir students were asked to "witness" Jesus Christ and sing church songs. Bauchman's protests, first to the choir director and then to school authorities, resulted in a wave of hostility, resentment and harassment as well. A local radio talk show featured a program with the topic: "Rachel Bauchman -- Hero or Bitch." The FBI looked in to threats against her life, and according to Bauchman she was called everything from a "Dirty Jew" to a "Jew Bitch" by classmates. One man who called her residence said "Too bad Hitler didn't finish the job," and was later arrested and sentenced to six months probation. The Bauchman case divided Salt Lake City's small Jewish community. Indeed, some local leaders took the position that Rachel Bauchman was too confrontational. One told local media that "We try to solve things quietly before going public. We are very aware of our minority status here; we are a very small group." Rachel persisted, though, but in June of this year U.S. District Judge Thomas Greene ruled that the capella choir performances did not promote religion. Even so, the Bauchman case was a clear challenge to religious interests. A federal appeals court had earlier enjoined the choir from singing Christian songs during 1995 high school graduation ceremonies, but an "impromptu, student-initiated" demonstration took place and the song "Friends" was sung by many students and audience members. Conspicuously absent in this case is an assortment of other religious groups which are either highly selective in fighting for state-church separation, or who pay lipservice to the First Amendment while trying to impose their doctrinal will on society. One of the amicus participants said that the Establishment Clause "is best for both church and state and is indispensable for the preservation of religious liberty, which is a unique blessing of American democracy." Meanwhile, the courageous Ms. Bauchman won't be returning to the hostile environment of West High School when classes begin in the fall. Yesterday, her father confirmed that she wil enroll in a nearby nondenominational private school. Asked why she wasn't returning to West High, Eric Bauchman responded "I'll leave that to your imagination." *** CHRISTIAN COALITION, ALLIANCE PLAN RALLY AT DEMO CONVENTION When the gavel drops to open the Democratic National Convention next week, religious fundamentalists will be there in an effort to begin flexing their political muscle in Bill Clinton's turf. Both the Christian Coalition and its subsidiary, the Catholic Alliance will be sponsoring a joint "Celebration of Life"on Monday at the Field Museum of Natural History; scheduled speakers include Rep. Ralph Hall (D-TX), Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX), Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-MO), Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, Maureen Roselli of the Catholic Alliance, and Carol Long of the National Right to Life Committee. The event is being promoted as an "inspirational celebration and 'thank-you' to pro-life Democratic Congressmen," and an "offer (for) pro-life members of Congress a chance to speak during the convention." ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Ralph Reed once described his group, Christian Coalition, and just a bunch of church goin' folks who want "a place in the discussion at the great table which is called Democracy. Folksy, isn't it? Almost sounds like an FDR Fireside Chat. Now, the current USA TODAY is informing us that "Muslims want a place at the political table," and notes that "American Muslims are trying to shed their political invisibility and gain clout and respect by entering partisan politics." On Monday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations will kick off a plan to register Muslim voters in Mosques throughout the nation on September 13, and encourage (Islamic) immigrants to take out citizenship. There are even groups like Muslim Women for America (but we don't if they're agitating to strip off the veil), and the American Muslim Alliance which supported nearly 200 Islamic candidates in primary contests this year, of which over 40 were selected as delegates to political conventions. USA TODAY also notes that there may be as many as 5 million Islamists in the country, a number which could surpass the Jewish total. Although the Muslims aren't a monolithic group, the paper observes that "Most Muslims would feel comfortable with the family values rhetoric of the Republicans..." Prediction: Ralph Reed may start a "Muslim Brotherhood" of his own -- and why not? The patriarchal superstition of Islam fits hand-in-glove with Promise Keepers and other movements which emphasize males as "heads of households" and other institutions. ** Do you care? Does it REALLY matter? Different religious cults have quibbled for centuries over whose god actually exists, what this god allegedly reveals, and how we should spend our lives supplicating this deity. Even so-called Christians who follow the god-man Jesus can't make up their minds. Sometimes, the excruciating theological and ontological questions become, well, downright irrelevant and absurd -- especially if you're an Atheist. But as Atheists, we encourage as much skepticism as we can amongst the ranks of religious believers. And we encourage the Rev. Richard Rhem, a minister with the Reformed Church in America, a denomination with some 200,000 followers and roots in the teachings of the likes of John Calvin. Rhem has come to question religious doctrines of whether or not non-Christians can possibly be "saved." Does one have to "accept Jesus" in order to get the ticket to the cosmic amusement park of Heaven punched? Would a life of noble deeds, charitable works and decent behavior could for zero, zilch, nada -- if you were a Moslem, Hindu or ("heaven" forbid!) an Atheist, and there did turn out to be an afterlife? It seems that Rev. Rhem believes that salvation may involve lifestyles other than the acceptance of the divinity of Jesus Christ -- a litmus test in many religious congregations like the Southern Baptists, who worry that non-Christians are destined to an eternity of damnation. That raises interesting questions, though; if only Christians could enter heaven, why would god create whole races that existed prior to the advent of Christianity, or in places where missionaries haven't gone and set up shop? Like Mars, maybe? A regional body of the Reformed Church has censured Rhem for entertaining such heretical thoughts, and a denomination big-wig told the New York Times that "We think this is a debate of mountainous proportions. It isn't Mohammed, it isn't Joseph Smith, it isn't David Koresh, it isn't Buddah -- it's through Jesus that God has revealed himself." Right, dude. And we'd bet the next paycheck that many priests in THOSE denominations are telling their followers a similar line. "It isn't Jesus..." ** Seems it's the lot of an Atheist in life to constantly be pestered with remarks like: "What about morality? If you don't believe in "god", how can you be a good person?" The implication, of course, is that Atheists are scumbags, and that religious people enjoy a monopolistic hold on decent, wholesome behavior. Now, we're not saying that it's just the other way around, but do consider the behavior of the Benedictine Monks of Buckfast Abbey in Britain. According to yesterday's Electronic Telegraphy, the Brothers have been fined nearly $5,000 for making false claims about the wine they peddle. Here's what we learned from the grapevine... the monks supposedly take a French base, and jazz it up with a "secret recipe" at Buckfast Abbey. But an entire consignment of wine exported to the Caribbean , and bottled under the monk's J. Chandler & Co. firm, falsely stated that it was made at the abbey. It wasn't, and trading officers confiscated 32,700 bottles of the booze. The monks admitted to two counts of applying a false description on labels; the new wine will simply say: "Made to an original recipe of the monks of Buckfast Abbey." ** We expected it. And it's an argument we're NOT going to get into! In Wednesday's aanews, we included a piece about fears of millennialist turmoil and panic in Britain, where a study was warning of impending doomsday, end-of-the world cults. Our first line in the story read: "40 Months and Counting..." Several readers promptly dispatched letters noting that that time period would make it the year 2000, which, they insisted, was not the twenty-first century. Presumably, the twenty-first century begins on Jan. 1, 2001. In publications and newsgroups devoted to the phenomenon of millennialism, the debate over time and labels is a hot topic. The phrase "40 Months and County" referred to the year year 2000 -- or, to be more precise, Jan. 1, 2000 -- or, to be even more exact, New Year's Eve, 1999 -- when for most casual observers, the new millennium commences. Should it really start on Jan. 1, 2001? Perhaps, but as Dan and Gail Collins observe in "The Millennium Book: Your Essential All-Purpose Guide for the Year 2000," the year 2000 SEEMS like a good time to kick off the Millennium. Disagree? Fine. Those of you who wish to argue the point, meet me to settle this argument -- Times Square, midnight, Dec. 31, 1999. ** Hey, give me those good 'ol Dionysian nature cults any day! Seems that the Roman Catholic Church has a special rite for "consecrated virgins," and that these chaste ladies will be holding a reunion next May to celebrate their status. Is this a hold-over from earlier pagan Temple virgins, we wonder? The rite was allowed to lapsefor centuries, until it was revived by the late Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. Britains first consecrated virgin of the modern era recently told The London Times that the pledge to remain chaste should not be taken lightly: "It means total dedication and making sacrifices which you cannot undertake easilly..." The belief in the wholesomeness and "purity" of virgin-hood, of course, is intertwined with wretched and twisted views about human sexuality, pleasures of the flesh, and the human body. "Virgin" is promoted by churchmen and duplicitous politicians of the "Just-Say-No" Party as a sanctimonious state of being, whereas "whore," "slut" and other terms are inherently perjorative. What does this say about a culture's attitude toward life, please and happiness? This modern-day virgin cult has even managed to appropriate some of the terminology of the women's movement. The "first virgin" declared that "many of the virgins are in touch with each to offer sisterly support and friendship," and prophesized that "more virgins will be consecrated next year." Absurd as this is, we might add that in fundamentalist-evangelical circles in America, there is emerging the term "secondary virgins." What could this possibly mean, you ask? "Secondary virgins" are young women who lived a life of sin (that is, they had sex and orgasms) before they were "re-born in Christ," and now have decided to "say no" until getting permission from the preacher and the judge. Interestingly, the virgin cult is still directed mostly at females. ** 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, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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