Date: Mon, 2 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 2, 1996 A M E

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Date: Mon, 2 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 2, 1996 from: Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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? * AACHAT * 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 God." 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 America." 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 its kind. 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 $13 million. 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 institutions. ** 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 bps modem." * 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 movie "Aladdin." 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 values." ** 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. ** INTERESTED IN MEETING OTHER ATHEISTS? TRY AACHAT ! If you're a member of American Atheists, consider participating in our moderated news group, aachat. We talk about Atheism, religion, the First Amendment, even trade a few jokes and wisecracks. If you would join the growing aachat family, send mail to Margie Wait at: *** About This List... 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