Date: Mon, 2 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 2, 1996 A M E
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 2, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#145 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/2/96
In This Issue...
* Mormon Prez Blasts Atheists
* Yonkers Won't Yank Buses For Church Schools
* NYC Wants Ban On Religious Aid Overturned
* TheistWatch: All That Hiking For WHAAAT?
* About This List...
MORMON PRESIDENT CALLS FOR NEW BATTLE AGAINST ATHEISM
Speaking to a meeting of the American Legion yesterday, the President of
the Mormon Church (Church of Latter-day Saints) called for a "battle"
against Atheism, and conjured "an unequivocal trust in the power of the
Almighty to guide and defend us." According to a report in today's Salt Lake
Tribune, Gordon B. Hinkley praised veterans of various U.S. wars, "but warned
that their sacrifces may be in vain unless the nation turns itself again to
The event was the 78th national convention of the American Legion being
held in Salt Lake City. Hinkley praised those "who have been defenders of
our liberty at great cost," but warned that "those battles are over and
another battle goes on."
"The new battle is one against atheism," noted the Tribune.
President Hinkley remarked: "As you once knew so well, there are no
atheists in foxholes. In times of extremity, we plead for and put our trust
in a power mightier than ourselves."
Hinkley's address took place to an overflow audience of American Legion
members gathered at the Mormon Tabernacle; today, the LDS head receives the
Legion's "Good Guy Award", which according to a spokesman "is presented to
someone for their lifelong contributions to society, to the betterment of
According to the Desert News, the Sunday event was "a program laced with
patriotic and religious hymns performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," and
began with a parade of flags into the famous religious venue. Hinkley's talk
included a number of areas of concern for Atheists and state-church
separation defenders; he noted, for instance, that the Boy Scouts had been
taken to court to defend their oath which states "On my honor, I will do my
best, to do my duty to God, and my country." Civil libertarians have
challenged the discriminatory practice of the Scouts, and other groups, due
to the requirement of acknowledging a deity. Hinkley added that the omission
of god from areas of life "is one of the reasons for the great host of social
problems with which we deal these days," and cited a litany of complains
including broken homes, teen pregnancy and disrespect for property.
"Our people are forsaking the Almighty, and I fear he may forsake us."
YONKERS PROVIDING BUS SERVICE FOR CATHOLIC SCHOOLS
In a possible violation of state-church separation, Yonkers, New York
school officials have reached an agreement with local Catholic authorities to
again provide bus service for nearly 1,000 students attending Parochial
schools. The details of the agreement were hammered out in an August 20
meeting which include Catherine Hickey, a superintendent of the archdiocesan
school system, and Reginald Marra of the Yonkers public school
administration. According to Catholic New York, the meeting was the first of
The agreement comes after a July 29 announcement that the Borough was
ending subsidized transportation for private, religious schools in order to
save the cost of the program, which amounts to $970,000 per year. Earlier,
state officials announced cuts in the district's education budget of nearly
The prospect of having to pay transportation costs prompted local Catholic
officials to launch a petition drive and pressure campaign. CNY noted that
"Early this month, pastors organized a petition drive to school board members
and city officials. More than 150 parents joined pastors and principals at
school board hearings Aug. 6 and Aug. 14."
First Amendment supporters maintain that 'hidden aid" to religious groups,
including religious schools, violates the separation of state and church.
They cite schemes like vouchers, subsidized lunch, transportation and
textbooks and examples of using taxpayer money to promote religious
COURT ASKED TO LOOSEN RULES ON PUBLIC AID TO CHURCH SCHOOLS
Subsidized transportation for religious schools isn't the only violation
of the "Wall of Separation" between church and state taking place in New
York. On Thursday, attorneys for the New York City Board of Education
pleaded with a Federal appeals court to declare invalid a 1985 Supreme Court
ruling which prohibits public school teachers from entering church-affiliated
schools in order to give remedial instruction to students.
Already, the City is spending $14 million per year to operate 114
customized trailer-classrooms throughout New York; the special trailers are
parked outside of Roman Catholic, Jewish and Protestant schools so that
students can then enter and receive instruction from public school teachers.
Thursday's suit, initiated by attorneys for Roman Catholic parents,
maintains that students should not have to leave the school building and
cross the street. The city is already providing remedial services to more
than 22,000 children who attend 250 religious and private schools.
The 1985 ruling, Aguilar v. Fenton, has already been attacked by Supreme
Court justices Scalia, O'Connor, Thomas, Kennedy, and chief justice William
Rehnquist. One more vote would be required to overturn the decade-old
decision, which found that having public school teachers enter private,
religious schools was "entanglement" between church and state, and a
violation of the Establishment Clause.
One possible result of Aguilar has been the establishment of "special"
school districts by public authorities; in New York, a law created a special
district for handicapped children of Hasidic Jews in the village of Kiryas
Joel. District courts, though, have been mixed in their interpretation of
Aguilar v. Fenton. Early last week, a Federal District Court ruled that the
Wabasso Area School District in Vesta, Minnesota, may not operate a special
school exclusively for members of a religious sect known as the Brethren. In
September, 1993, the district began holding classes in a building which had
been purchased by a member of the Brethren cult, which was then "leased back"
to the district free of charge. The court found that the fact that no
religion is taught in the school "does not affect the constitutional
violation of this case."
The New York City case involves the National Committee for Public
Education and Religious Liberty, a separationist group. Attorney Stanley
Geller told the New York Times that he even considers the vans an "evasion"
of Aguilar v. Fenton; he said that if the current litigation reaches the U.S.
Supreme Court, he will argue that the use of public school teachers and other
resources violates the Establishment clause since it frees additional money
for religious indoctrination.
NEW SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ COULD REFLECT RELIGIOUS SPLITS
U.S. forces in the middle east remain on high alert today following the
capture of the Kurdish stronghold of Irbil by 30,000 Iraqui troops and a
faction of Kurd fighters. The city is the administrative center of a "safe
haven" zone established by the United Nations in 1991 following the end of
the Persian Gulf war. Meanwhile, there are reports that despite a pullback
by Iraq from Irbil, a column of IraqiT-72 tanks is rolling toward
Sulamaniye, a main staging area for Kurds opposing the rule of Iraqui
strongman Saddam Hussein.
The situation reflects not only the ever-changing political alliances of
the region, but deep religious divisions as well.
The 22 million Kurds make up the world's largest ethnic group without a
nation; they are spread throughout portions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and
Armenia. Most are Sunni Muslims, and there are several distinct rebel
groups. The fighting in Irbil underscores continued differences between the
Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK) under the leadership of Jalai Talabani. According to the
Washington Post, "each Kurdish faction is now loosely allied with a country
that Washington long has despised."
The Iraqi regime has been hostile to any aspirations of Kurdish
nationalism, and resents the fact that the "zone" administered from Irbil. is
comprised of three former provinces of Iraq, and protected by the "no fly"
umbrella of U.S. air power based in Turkey. In the 1980,s Hussein's elite
Republican Guards massacred thousands of Kurds, and reportedly used
assasination squads and poison gas.
But Iran entered the picture in the 1990's and began courting the PUK.
Talabani's group was already disgruntled with the KDP which, it charged, was
not sharing illicit oil revenues from sales to Turkey. Complicating matters
even more is the recent victory in Turkey by Islamic fundamentalists led by
Necmettin Erbakan, who last month signed a $23 billion deal with Iran for the
purchase of natural gas. The Post notes that "Iran is eager to expand its
influence in Turkey and in Kurdish Iraq."
In related developments:
* The flow of information in and out of Iran has been cut, thanks to a
unilateral move by the U.S. According to a column in the web version of WIRED
by John Heilemann ("Netizen') , early last month the National Science
Foundation "blocked crucial international links to Iran, apparently in
response to an Iran and Libya Sanction Act...The move prevents people in the
United States from connecting to Iranian computers by cutting off access to
the country's only permanent Net connection -- a single, achingly slow 9600
* Despite the Islamist gas deal, Turkey Prime Minister Erbakan still is
apparently being held in check by both the Army and government coalition
partner Tansu Ciller of the True Path group. In addition, Turkey has a new,
unlikely ally -- Israel -- which is selling dozens of fighter aircraft to
Erbakan's air force. Behind the deal -- Tansu Ciller. Meanwhile, Mr.
Erbakan has called for an "Islamic summit" with Iran, Iraq and Syria.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
We reported recently that Hollywood actor and Church of Scientology member
Tom Cruise was having rough-going in Germany when he appeared to promote the
release of his blockbuster film, "Mission Impossible." Now, another
Scientologist -- John Travolta -- is catching flak. Last week, a Social
Democrat urged the German government to ban the latest Travolta file,
"Phenomenon," ostensibly because it made references to Scientology and its
founder, pulp-fiction guru L. Ron Hubbard.
The Church of Scientology has called on the United Nations to investigate
complaints of discrimination against members in Germany; the group claims
30,000 followers in the country, but German Courts have ruled that
Scientology is not a church, but a for-profit business.
We don't see the contradiction, though.
Seems that the giant Disney entertainment conglomerate -- currently the
target of a boycott by Southern Baptists and Adventists -- has a new group to
worry about. Last week, Arab Americans demonstrated outside studio
headquarters insisting that two recent Disney films "insult" Arabs, and
called for Islamists to expand the boycott. Demonstrators objected to "an
assortment of villainous Arabic-like characters in 'Kazaam'," noted the Los
Angeles Times, and even the fact that there was a "nastry, sharp-dealing
neighbor named Habib" in the movie "Father of the Bride."
The Times made some interesting revelations, including the fact that in
1993 Disney executives promised to "consult" with Muslim leaders about "any
projects involving Arabs." That agreement was the result of protests against
lyrics -- eventually changed by Disney -- which would have appeared in the
We note that joining the Muslim protesters were local Christian activists
of both right and left political persuasions.
While ethnic, racial stereotyping is wrong, we wonder if much of this
squawking is not part of a larger agenda -- namely, banning anything which
smacks of "insulting" religious practices, which in middle eastern cultures
are closely intertwined with social and cultural mores. And should materials
be censored because they are "offensive"? We say, no. And we also predict a
growing alliance of Christian, Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists in the
"culture war" against modernity and on behalf of the bogus issue of "family
Reuter news service reports that 34 Hindu pilgrims died of exposure during
a pilgrimage to a cave in Kashmiri. Their objective was "a frozen
manifestation of the god Shiva's sexual organ." Police noted that heavy rain
had stranded over 70,000 other pilgrims en route to the cave; worshippers
pray before an ice stalagmite which is the "lingam" or phallus of Shiva.
It was worse last year, though, when Hindu pilgrims were being attacked by
Muslim guerillas. The Islamists are waging a separatist revolt which started
in 1990 in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, the only areas of India which
have a Muslim majority.
Well, guerilla attacks, floods, freezing cold and other calamities would
surely discourage any rational person -- even from seeing a god who seems to
be having a perpetually good time.
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