Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 19, 1996 A M
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 19, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 161 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/19/96
A Note to AANEWS Readers... Due to problems earlier today with the
listserver, we are re-sending this edition of aanews. Apologies for any
duplication or problems with your mail...
In This Issue...
* FCC Petition Hoax Alive and Well...
* JP-2 May Have Troubles In France
* Want More Sex? Become An Archbishop! A Scandal In Santa Fe
* For AACHAT Members
* About This List...
''PHANTOM FCC PETITION'' HOAX RE-EMERGES IN FIVE STATES...
Once Again, Claim That "Madalyn O'Hair Is Out To Ban Religious
Broadcasts" Makes The Rounds
A hoax petition that in the last twenty years has resulted in the
accumulation of nearly 15 million signatures and 65 million pieces of paper
in the files of the Federal Communications Commission, has once again begun
to circulate in several states. The appeal claims that Madalyn Murray
O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, has filed a document with the FCC to
ban all religious broadcasting on television and radio. O'Hair's name has
been a major target of religious groups ever since her involvement in the
famous U.S. Supreme Court case MURRAY v. CURLETT (1963) which helped to end
prayer and bible verse recitation in public schools.
In September, 1995, O'Hair, along with her son, Jon, and adopted daughter,
Robin, disappeared from the American Atheists center. There has been no
contact with the trio, and their whereabouts or reason for leaving remains a
mystery to this day.
Letters and counter petitions over the matter have been pouring into FCC
offices sinces 1975.
The problem is -- O'Hair never made such an application to the Commission,
and the matter is a complete hoax and fabrication.
But last week, Orin "Spike" Tyson, Director at the American Atheists
offices in Austin, Texas, began receiving calls that the "Great FCC Petition
Hoax" had suddenly emerged in Utah, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota.
"We've even gotten an inquiry from a U.S. Congressman," said Tyson, "who
wants to know why we're doing this. And we have received word that the
petition is now even on the Internet."
Tyson told AANEWS he has several file folders with clippings and
correspondence about the fake petition. "It's been in virtually every major
newspaper in the U.S. over the past twenty years," he added, "and I don't see
any indication that it will go away."
He also reported that the staff at American Atheists stopped even
maintaining records about the hoax around 1991. "They couldn't keep up, and
it was just an incredible waste of time."
The "Phantom Petition" as it was dubbed in the July, 24, 1976 issue of "TV
Guide," appears to be transmitted by handy tools like the photocopy machine
and quick-print outlets. The fact that it is now on the Internet, though,
may give the hoax renewed vitality. Earlier this week, investigators probing
the crash of TWA Flight 800 expressed dismay at what they termed speculation
and rumor that the plane had been brought down by a missile fired by a U.S.
warship; that report spread, in part, through documents posted in e-mail and
internet news groups.
Most of the appeals and counter-petitions appear to have been hastilly
composed on typewriters, and are poorly researched. One that cirulated to
the Ladies Auxiliary of the Michigan VFW, declared:
"ATTENTION! Madaline O'Hare (sic) is on the move again. She succeeded in
making it illegal to read the Bible and pray in public schools...At this
moment she is trying to have ALL religious programs carried on TV and radio
censored and banned. The FCC has stated they must receive no less than a
million letters to keep all religious programs on the air...Will you
distribute a copy of this and the attached letter to every auxiliary member,
neighbor, friend and relative?"
Another mimeographed appeal declared:
"FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE ATTENTION. MADALYN MURRAY O'HARE, AN ATHEIST, WHOSE
EFFORTS SUCCESSFULLY ELIMINATED THE USE OF BIBLE READING AND PRAYER FROM ALL
PUBLIC SCHOOLS FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, HAS BEEN GRANTED A FEDERAL HEARING IN
WASHINGTON, D.C....TO STOP THE READING OF THE GOSPEL ON THE AIRWAYS OF
AMERICA. SHE TOOK HER PETITION WITH 27,000 SIGNATURES TO BACK HER STAND..."
Newspaper stories which have covered the phantom petition hoax often
compare it to other modern "urban myths." Was Procter & Gamble using a
'satanic symbol' as their corporate logo? What about McDonald's giving money
to the Church of Satan? Those rumors eventually ended-up being squelched, in
part because religious leaders including Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham got
involved and denounced them as fraudulent. But O'Hair has had no such luck.
O'Hair herself rememberd how the entire affair began, and even penned a
long article about the petition hoax titled "The Phantom Phenomenon" which
appeared in an issue of American Atheist Magazine.
It all began in December, 1974, when two men attempting to help minority
groups establish small, non-commercial radio stations mailed a "Petition for
Rulemaking" to the FCC. They asked for a freeze on the granting of licenses
to channel rights for religious and government institutions until a study
could determine whether existing noncommercial educational station was really
fulfilling their mission. The petition, #2493, was dismissed by FCC officers
nine months later on the grounds that the government should remain neutral in
respect to religion.
During that time, another totally, unrelated development took place -- one
which later would be amalgamated into the phantom petition legend. In
several interviews about Atheism, Madalyn O'Hair casually mentioned that AA
had recently sent out mailings to some 27,000 people on its mailing list.
Somehow, peition #2493, the issue of religious broadcasting, Madalyn
O'Hair and a mailing list of 27,000 names got melded together and mixed-up
like something gone wrong on board the Starship Enterprise transporter. By
1975, groups like the National Religious Broadcasters, Inc. were circulating
warnings that: "It has been reported to NRB that 27,000 comments favoring the
anti-religious broadcasting stance taken by the petition were filed by the
opponents." Subsequent counter-petitions referred to the "O'Hair petition to
stop the reading of the Gospel..." as "FCC petition 2493."
Headlines in the nation's press told a similar story of misinformation and
"Letter avalanche on religion staggers FCC..."
"Before writing to FCC on Hearings: Don't."
"Here we go again..."
The counter petitions with their home-made look and frantic tone, seem to
have a life of their own.
"PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING AND ACT ACCORDINGLY! ATTENTION!
YOUR FREEDOM IS BEING THREATENED!!
MADELINE (sic) MURRAY O'HARE (sic) is at it again! This time she is on
the move to censure the Religious message and programs carried on Radio and
T.V....PLEASE ALSO PASS THIS INFORMATION ON TO YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES.
May we remind you that governments are lost because good people do nothing?"
While Mr. Tyson's staff has been able to simply stop filing the small
torrent of letters, clippings and other documents about the petition hoax,
the Federal Communications Commission has not. Well over 1.4 million letters
poured into FCC offices in 1990, and since then the total has reported
increased significantly. The Commission spent more than $1,500,000 in the
decade following the initial reports of O'Hair's phantom petition. That
included a special $250,000 congressional emergency appropriation just to pay
for mail processing, which included a form-letter explanation of the hoax
which was mailed back to persons contacting the FCC. The agency also
installed a special option in its recorded telephone menu which according to
Newsday "activates an emphatic denial that O'Hair has proposed a ban on
religious broadcasts." The Chief of the agency's news division told TIME
Magazine that "It (the hoax petition) is a fire that is difficult for the FCC
to put out." A historian in American religion told the publication that "To
evangelical Christians (O'Hair) is considered perhaps the archenemy." The
president of the Religious Public Relations Council said that "A lot of
people are fearful that the traditional values they hold are threatened, and
that they must act to defend God."
Some religious organizations say that even they have felt prompted to
speak out on the hoax. The United Methodist church reportedly sent out
several press releases over a 15-year period about the phantom peitions, but
a spokesman said that they did little to quell the fears and anxieties of
many religious persons. "The alarm that it triggers in them overshadows the
need to find out where the information comes from."
Earlier today, American Atheists President Ellen Johnson said that in her
opinion, it was futile to respond to the rumor, and compared the latest round
of petition-hysteria to alleged sightings of Mary and Jesus.
"Look, just last night on TV there was another program on about an
apparition appearing on somebody's tin roof," Johnson told AANEWS. "Another
sighting was something on a rock that looked to me like spraypaint. The FCC
petition thing is the just like this."
Johnson added that the phantom petition was part of a "sheep mentality."
"The people spreading this around don't research their facts on anything
else like prayer, or the abortion ban. Why should they when it comes to
A Missing Target
Ms. Johnson also noted that "Madalyn O'Hair has been a good target for
religious fundamentalists -- you can take any pot shot at her."
Even so, this is one target which for the last year has been downright
elusive. This latest round of FCC petition angst comes amidst numerous
reports in national publications and network television concerning the
disappearance of Madalyn O'Hair and her family. Despite considerable
speculation, there is no credible evidence to suggest what their fate may
have been since they walked out of the American Atheists office over one year
ago. If she is missing, how could Mrs. O'Hair be sending petitions to the
Spike Tyson suggests that it's because "A lot of these people who
circulate the petition are afraid of Atheists and Madalyn O'Hair. They're
taking the whole story on faith, and not bothering to check any facts."
But certain religious leaders may have to shoulder the blame for fears and
uncertainty which seems to be sweeping whole segments of America's religious
community, especially fundamentalist and evangelical churches. Proselytizers
like Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed have been accused of attempting to create a
"climate of fear" in responding to political and social events, telling
followers that "religion is under attack" and that remedies like the
Religious Freedom Amendment are required to "protect believers."
Wherever she may be, perhaps Madalyn O'Hair is having the last laugh about
the phantom FCC petition, though. Even missing, America's foremost Atheist
seems to remain a formidable target, and very much a thorn in the side of
religious zealots everywhere.
POPE FACES QUESTIONS, OPPOSITION IN VISIT TO FRANCE
Pope John Paul II's visit to France begins today amidst considerable
opposition from within and outside the Roman Catholic Church, and questions
about the pontiff's health. This is the fifth time the Pope has visited
France since 1980, and the event is attracting opposition from numerous
groups including Freemasons and secularists to former church members who have
insisted on being "un-baptised."
John Paul's arrival is timed to coincide with a government-orchestrated
celebration of the 1,500th anniversary of the baptism of the Frankish King,
Clovis. A number of secularist organizations have come out in opposition to
the religious spectacle, including the use of public money for security and
other support services on the papal tour. The Pope will conduct a special
mass on Sunday in Rheims to commemorate Clovis's baptism, one of the 21 stops
John Paul will be making throughout France. In related developments...
* Leaders of the extreme religious-right National Front have embraced
Clovis as a symbol of their political movement. But on Monday, Church
leaders tried to distance themselves from the Front and its leader,
Jean-Marie Le Pen, who had declared the superiority of the white race. LePen
intends to put in a high-profile appearance in Rheims on Sunday during the
* Hospitals throughout the area have been put on alert in case John Paul
requires emergency medical treatment. The pontiff's health has been the
subject of considerable speculation, and he is scheduled to undergo surgery
in Rome to remove an inflamed appendix when he returns from his visit to
France. The London Times reports that there is "increasing skepticism over
Vatican silence" about the pope's medical condition, including violent
shaking of his left hand, slurred speach, difficulty walking and other
possible symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.
FORMER ARCHBISHOPS BROKE CELIBACY, CONCEALED CHILD
ABUSE CASES SAYS PAPER ~~
Church Scrables To Suppress Testimony
The Albuquerque (N.M.) Tribune reported yesterday that former Archbishop
Robert Sanchez who "resigned in disgrace in 1993," had numerous sexual
affairs and covered up cases of child abuse involving priests. The
revelations have come out following efforts by the archdiocese to prevent
public disclosure of Sanchez's testimony in child molestation legal cases.
They involve nearly 700 pages of heavilly edited deposition material, and
reveal a number of improprieties by Sanchez, including:
* Failure by the archdiocese to notify parishes about child sex abuse by
* Failure to check priests' background, or even bother contacting
potential victimss to learn more about sexual abuse activity within clerical.
Evidence from the depositions also revealed that the Roman Catholic Church
simply tranferred paedophile priests to a church-run "treatment center" known
as Servants of the Paraclete, located near Albuquerque, N.M. Associated Press
is noting in a dispatch today that "Many of the priests were given positions
in New Mexico parishes after treatment, and several went on to abuse again."
The Tribune reports that Sanchez, while Archbishop, knew of between nine
and a dozen cases of alleged paedophile behavior among priests before any
lawsuits were filed. "He also said he felt like a hypocrite because he was
sexually active and was administering the church's sacraments," notes AP.
Sanchez's sexual exploits included affairs with at least 11 women, all of
whom were in their 20's. A secret deposition filed in 1994 by Sanchez says
that he had sexual encounters with women "more often after he became
archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe."
Although the former prelate is reportedly undergoing therapy and remains
in hiding, Sanchez is allegedly blaming a "lack of the spiritural environment
in our country" and a "permissive world" for his actions. Sanchez also
reportedly did not reveal any of his own sexual activity out of guilt and
shame, and he concealed clerical paedophiles because "he didn't want to
promote divisiveness and gossip in the parishes," according to Associated
Press. He also said that "In 1981, I did not understand (molestation of
children) to be a crime."
The significance in the Sanchez case, though, may not involve the former
Archbishop's own sexual exploits as much as it does a deliberate pattern of
coverup. The transfer of paedophile priests to the Servants of the Paraclete
facility went on for "decades" and involved churches throughout the country.
Tens of millions of dollars have been paid out by various Catholic
Archdiocese in recent years to cover compensation, legal fees, counselling
expenses for victims and secret, out-of-court settlements. The Santa Fe
church has spent over $1,000,000 in "counseling expenses." And the
archdioces decided to respond to the revelations in the Tribune by issuing a
two-paragraph statment calling for "healing and reconciliation."
A Note To AACHAT Members...
If you are a member of the aachat moderated news group, you've probably
noticed that there has been no traffic from this discussion forum for several
days. That's not because of divine intervention, though; Margie Wait's
computer is in the shop for an upgrade, and she hopes to back on-line
sometime tomorrow. We apologize for any delay and inconvenience this might
About This List...
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