Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 11, 1996 A M
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 11, 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
#154 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/11/96
* Atheist Activist Says Guru Is "Fraud" ~ Thomas Jefferson Would Agree!
* American Atheists Calls Upon Park Super To Remove Plaque
* School Prayer Legislation Dead In Congress?
* About This List...
SRI CHINMOY ''BRAINWASHES'' FOLLOWERS, IS RELIGIOUS CULT
CULT FIGURE CHARGES ATHEISTS ACTIVIST
Campaign To Remove Religious Plaque at Statue Of Liberty Continues
Sri Chinmoy isn't just a "spiritual" spokesman -- he's a religious leader.
Sri Chinmoy believes that he was Thomas Jefferson in a previous life.
And Sri Chinmoy is a "fraud" who insists that the god Krishna perched on
Those are just some of the revelations being made about the Hindu
religious guru whose followers have placed a commemorative "Peace Blossom"
plaque at the Statue of Liberty (and over 900 other locations across the
The revelations are being made by Brie Waters, a co-founder and
Vice-President of the Atheists Students Foundation at the University of
Maryland, College Park. Yesterday, Waters revealed that at one time she
herself had been nearly "brainwashed" by the Sri Chinmoy cult, which has
already claimed a close family member.
Waters admits that Chinmoy "does seem to want world peace," a major theme
in his campaign to have commemorate devices placed at major tourist venues
such as Australia's Sydney Opera House, the Grand Coulee Damn, Victorial
Falls, and now the Statue of Liberty. "But the other face is that he
(Chinmoy) is a fraud," charges Ms. Waters.
"He's very good at what he does because he never asks for money or
material possessions so so many other fradulent gurus do. "
Waters made other revelations which provide insight into the
Jamaica-Queens, N.Y.-based religious cult, among them:
* Chinmoy "believes he is the spiritual brother of Jesus Christ, and that
he was Thomas Jefferson in a previous life."
* "He has every strict rules for his disciples. They must be vegetarians,
must meditate and pray three time each day, have to run at least 2-miles a
day, and have to come to Sri Chinmoy's hometown as often as possible. "
* Followers "must not engage in sexual intercourse, even with their
* Although Chinmoy is not totally consistent with certain Hindu teachings,
"he carries on much of the Hindu tradition," according to Waters, including
"making his women disciples wear saris and giving his most devoted disciples
'spiritual names' in his native language of Bengali." Waters also noted that
at all of the Sri Chinmoy prayer centers throughout the world, followers meet
every Wednesday night for a 45-minute "meditation," which she said "consists
of meditating to a picture of Sri Chinmoy in an atmopshere of candlelight and
incense." Ms. Waters charged that this was part of an over-all "brainwashing
"Your eyes start seeing double and your brain place tricks on you during
meditation." The divinity of Sri Chinmoy is re-enforced even after the
"meditation" ceremony, when followers are served "blessed food" or "prasad."
Adds Ms. Waters: "Each disciple goes up to the food with hands folded in
prayer position and nods to the picture (of Sri Chinmoy) as they get the
Ms. Waters also has a different opinion than the one held by the Hindu
guru's followers as to his talents in art and music. Chinmoy's devotees
insist that he is a master musician, painter and poet, but Waters spared no
words in saying that "As for his art and music, they suck. They're nothing
but pain sponged onto canvas and simple, single meolody lines that have the
same themes from song to song.." Indeed, one critical posting on the net
about a Sri Chinmoy "concert" was unequivocable in referring to the event as
a "Supreme Suck."
The Atheist activist also insisted that Chinmoy, who proclaims himself a
"god-realized master," actually is "a religious leader with an agenda. Sri
Chinmoy is a cult leader, and he brainwashes children and others."
While these activities strike rationalists as absurd and even denigrating
to mentally-healthy, autonomous individuals, they clearly point to the
religious and mystical nature of the Sri Chinmoy cult. These facts also
raise questions about how thoroughly the National Park Services investigated
Chinmoy and his followers prior to granting permission for the bronze "Peace
Blossom" to be placed at the Statue of Liberty.
Brie Waters says that the plaque"is one more strike against having a
secular government that the Founders worked so hard to achieve."
(AANEWS readers are encouraged to support the Atheists Student Foundation;
check out their page on the world wide web at
http://www.wam.umd.edu/~kaugust/asa.html. Our thanks to Ali and Brie for
bringing this news about Sri Chinmoy to our attention!)
ATHEISTS ''KEEP THE PRESSURE ON'' FOR PARK SERVICE TO REMOVE
UNCONSTITUTIONAL RELIGIOUS PLAQUE
Efforts to have the National Park Service remove an unconstitutional
religious plaque from the Statue of Liberty placed there in an official
ceremony by followers of Hindu cult leader Sri Chinmoy continued yesterday
and into this morning. Supporters of the campaign were asked to direct their
comments to Marie Rust, the Field Director for the Park Service whose office
is responsible for the famous monument. Press releases about the incident
flowed out to the media yesterday, and Margie Wait of the American Atheist
FaxNet reports that copies are also being sent to members of Congress.
As this issue of AANEWS is dispatched, another press advisory is being
released by American Atheists, which include a letter sent to Ms. Rust by
Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists. It reads:
Ms. Marie Rust, Field Director
National Park Service
U.S. Customs House
200 Chesnut Street, Room 306
Philadelphia, Pa. 19106
Dear Ms. Rust:
American Atheists is concerned about the Park Service decision to allow
the installation of a plaque by followers of Hindu religious leader Sri
Chinmoy in the lobby at the Statue of Liberty. As an organization dedicated
to the First Amendment separation of government and religion, we are
distressed to hear that this device was dedicated in a ceremony on August 27,
and included a presentation by your agency of a cake to commemorate Chinmoy's
birthday. According to the New York Times, the decision to install a
so-called "Peace Blossom" plaque at this national monument was made by the
Superintendent of the site, Ms. Diana H. Dayson. The circumstances behind
this move are disturbing.
First, according to the Times, Ms. Dayson was "approached" by followers of
Sri Chinmoy a mere six weeks before the August 27 date, and shown a video
ostensibly about this Hindu religious leaders. Included in this video were a
number of questionable claims, and even a segment which supposedly depicted
the guru lifting several thousand pounds with one arm (one of many miraculous
and amazing feats his followers insist he is capable of). While Ms. Dayson
expressed some skepticism about that she nevertheless thought that the theme
of "world peace" was "apolitical and universal." The Times noted that "there
had been questions about the group's orientation but they had been
addressed." In truth, this plaque is simply another publicity stunt by
Chinmoy and his followers. Nevertheless, we learned from the Times that to
avoid any possible appearance of impropriety, Chinmoy was to be referred to
as a "student of peace" instead of a guru, "holy man," religious leader or
avatar, supposedly "to avoid unpleasant implications."
American Atheists suggests that one very definite "unpleasant implication"
is that there has been not only an exercise in official gullibility by public
officials, but a constitutional violation of the First Amendment's
Establishment clause. In providing space for a plaque to Chinmoy and his
followers, conducting a ceremony (complete with a cake) and public press
releases publicizing this event, the National Park Service has entered into a
situation of "excessive entanglement with religion."
Chinmoy is a self-admitted religious guru, a Hindu avatar who espouses the
tenets of that religion including re-incarnation. The issue of world peace,
while certainly admirable in a different context, is simply a ruse to gain
official recognition for Chinmoy and his followers. Indeed, they have pulled
this stunt in popular tourist venues throughout the world, including the
opera house in Sydney, Australia, Mount McKinley and the Grand Coulee Dam.
We recognize the right of Mr. Chinmoy and his followers to practice their
religion. But we also stress the importance of government agencies following
the letter of law concerning the First Amendment and state-church separation.
It is our contention that this "Peace Blossom," and the context of its
dedication, constitutes a violation of said separation.
American Atheists asks that your agency consider the possible legal
violation and implications of allowing this plaque to be erected, and
maintained in the lobby of the Statue of Liberty. I would be most willing to
discuss this matter further with you.
Ellen Johnson, President, AMERICAN ATHEISTS.
(Editor's note: Reportedly, today is going to be another busy day for Ms.
Rust's fax machine at the National Park Service. AANEWS readers may wish to
add their own opinions on this matter of intellectual skepticism, official
credulousness, and state-church separation. The fax number is 215-597-0815)
''RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AMENDMENT'' DEAD FOR THIS SESSION ?
Last week, AANEWS reported that religious and congressional leaders in
Washington were stepping up the pace in order to bring several important,
controversial pieces of legislation to a floor vote. That strategy was
designed to put key Senators and Representatives "on the record" in time for
release of the 50 million-plus copies of the Christian Coalition's "voters
guide" scheduled for distribution in October, in time for the November
We identified a number of legislative proposals including the Defense of
Marriage Act and the "Religious Freedom Amendment" which religious activists
hoped could be voted on within the next several days.
But it now appears that at least one of those key legislative items may be
shelved for the current session of Congress.
In an obscure posting which appeared in "Congress Daily," it was announced
that key GOP leaders have decided not to bring any school prayer measure for
a vote. The news has also been echoed by at least one state-church
separation group, the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, which
yesterday sent out a fax alert memorandum on the subject. The memo warned,
however, that "we need to be vigilant."
So far, there has been no other confirmation of this move; and frankly, it
is a bit of a puzzle why exactly Republican strategists would choose to
shelve the matter, at least until the next session of Congress.
The present version of "school prayer" legislation already has a bizarre
and twisted history, though. In the summer of 1995, the Christian Coalition
presented its "Contract With the American Family" during a lavish ceremony on
Capitol Hill which included prominent Republican political leaders beholden
to the fundamentalist group. The centerpiece was a "Religious Equality
Amendment" which not only would amend the Constitution to permit prayer, but
a wider expression of religious ritual in government buildings. The measure
would effective "gut" the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which
calls for separation of state and church.
The new House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, promised to deliver the Amendment
for a vote in time for the July 4 recess. The task of hammering out the
language for the bill was delegated to Rep. John Istook; representatives of
major religious right groups were called in, including Focus on the Family,
Christian Legal Society, and evangelist Bill Murray who, along with his
mother Madalyn Murray O'Hair, had filed the famous case MURRAY v. CURLETT
which in 1963 helped to end prayer and bible recitation in public schools.
The original July 4 deadline passed, and within a year squabbling over the
precise wording had resulted in two separation "versions" which enjoyed the
support of different religious groups. Neither version seemed to have enough
support for passage, and both languished in the committee hopper.
But in July of 1996, with the GOP convention in San Diego just a few short
weeks away, a compromise version was suddenly presented thanks to the efforts
of House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Judiciary Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde.
It was christened the "Religious Freedom Amendment," and with short notice a
day-long public hearing was slated on Captiol Hill. Even supporters of the
bill admitted that they were many votes short of passage; but Christian
Coalition Director Ralph Reed insisted that the REAL purpose of pushing a
floor vote on the Amendment was to "get people on record" for inclusion in
the "voters guides."
It may be premature to "bury" the Religious Freedom Amendment, or any
other version of school prayer legislation, for the current session. We'll
keep readers posted on this important legislative issue.
About This List...
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