Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 11, 1996 A M

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Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 11, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #154 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/11/96 http://www.atheists.org * 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 his shoulders. 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 globe). 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 spouses!" * 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 effect." "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 food." 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. Sincerely, 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 election. 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... 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 more information about American Atheists, send mail to info@atheists.org and include your name and postal address; or, check out our cool new website at http://www.atheists.org. 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: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" in the message body (minus the quotation marks, please). Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER. Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait, irep@atheists.org/

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