Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 19, 1996 A M

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Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 19, 1996 from: Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn # 161 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/19/96 e-mail: 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. Dubious Origins 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 credulous fear... "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." No Response 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 this? " 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 FCC? 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 papal mass. * 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 priests: * 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 have caused. ** 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 information about American Atheists, send mail to, and include your name and mailing address. Or, check out our cool new site on the world wide web at 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 and put "info aanews" in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F.Goeringer, The LISTMASTER ( Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait (


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