Date: Sat, 21 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 21, 1996 A M

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Date: Sat, 21 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 21, 1996 from: Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #163 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/21/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * Beverly Hills -- No 90210 For Religious Menorah Display * Regents Turn Down Another Voucher Scheme In New York * The Devil In Kenya ~ Church And State Exploit "Satanic Panic"? * TheistWatch: Gay Suspense, Alien Invasions On The Tube * Welcome Back Margie! * Our Great Membership Offer! Gotti Didn't Join, Look What Happened To Him! * About This List... MENORAH DISPLAY MAY BE NEXT TO GO IN CALIFORNIA Despite the political power of religious groups like the Christian Coalition, there is progress being made on at least some fronts in the battle to preserve the First Amendment's "Wall of Separation." Religious displays on public lands have suffered a number of setbacks in recent weeks, and now a 27-foot-tall Jewish menorah in Beverly Hills, California may join the list. In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the city violated the Constitution by permitting a Jewish group, the Chabad of California, to display a 5,500 pound Hanukkah menorah in the publicly-owned Beverly Gardens Park. That has prompted the local City Council to order the City Attorney to draft an ordinance which would ban the overnight display of "private art or other exhibits" in public parks. Other religious landmarks and displays in the state have come under official scrutiny. In late August, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the City of San Francisco had no business maintaining the famous 62-year-old Mt. Davidson cross, a steel and concrete structure which hovers over 100 feet above the tallest mountain in the area. But local religious groups are now pressuring the City to "sell" them the land upon which the cross is built in order to circumvent the intent of the court ruling. A similar decision in Oregon ruled that a cross in Eugene, Oregon on government land also violated state-church separation. ** STATE REGENTS TURN DOWN CATHOLIC VOUCHER SCHEME But NYC Will Still Try To Hand Kids Over To Church Schools The Regents of the State of New York yesterday voted 8 to 5 to reject a voucher program which would have subsidized costs for parents choosing to send their children to Roman Catholic religious schools. According to the New York Times, the proposal was "offered unexpectedly" by one Regent; following the vote, the state's Roman Catholic bishops, speaking through the Catholic Conference termed the decision "tragic and misguided." The voucher plan would have authorized reimbursements worth up to $2,500 per student to parents sending their children to parochial schools. Initially, the children would have had to already qualify for other programs including free lunches; in addition, they would have to attend public schools that are "on probation because their students score poorly on test," according to the Times. That fact would tend to support the allegations made by voucher critics, who insist that the programs simply divert funds from cash-strapped public schools in favor of religious institutions. The Regents vote might not have killed the measure entirely, though. Regents Chancellor Carl Hayden said that "It was our sense that it would be very premature for us to vote on something of this magnitude without proper analysis and debate." The Board member who popped the proposal, R. Carlos Carballada, offered a similar voucher scheme in 1991 which the Regents rejected. Observers say that this Regents proposal is simply to "test the waters" on vouchers aimed specifically at religious schools. A new program is underway in Cleveland, Ohio, which would allow voucher money to be spent for tuition at any private school, even those in the parochial system; studies indicate that the biggest beneficiary of the voucher scheme in that state would be the enormous Catholic school system. "Hand Over The Kids! Or Else!" Meanwhile, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani continues in his efforts to transfer 1,000 failing students from the city's public school system into parochial schools. Initial concerns about the constitutionality of the venture were sidetracked several days ago when it was quickly and conveniently announced that "private donations" would pay for the tuition costs. But critics note that the "donations" could be used for helping public schools; and other suggest that this latest developments does not alter the growing incestuous relationship between the Giuliani administration and the powerful Church establishment in New York headed by Cardinal John O'Connor. O'Connor has even agreed to "donate" empty parochial school classrooms for use by the city, but in exchange for a "modest fee." ** An AANEWS Special Investigation... ''DEVIL WORSHIP'' HYSTERIA SWEEPING KENYA Is 'Satanic Panic' Being Used For Catholic Agenda? In Kenya, a government-Catholic run commission has stated that a growing wave of devil-worship is sweeping the country, and that satanists are engage in drinking of blood, raping children, and human sacrifice. The panel was chaired by Roman Catholic Archbishop Nicodemus Kirima, and included an Anglican bishop and theologian. Church officials insisted that the finding were "very true and very serious," and said that cult members were often "rich, educated and powerful people." On Thursday, the government of President Daniel Moi released its own statement, noting: "According to the testimonies, satanic cult include the following in their rituals: human sacrifice, drinking of human blood, eating of human flesh, black Mass, wine, nudity of the participants in the ritual, incantation in unintelligible language, sexual abuse and rape, especially of children and minors, black magic, narcotic drugs, presence of snakes." It also warned of "abetting or getting involved in devil worship which is in its formative stages in our country." The charges appear to have many similarities to the unsubstantiated claims of "Satan's Underground" made in the United States during the late 1970's and 80's. Here, allegations of such activities -- including the dubious claim that upwards of 50,000 victims were sacrificed annually in cult activity -- met with growing skepticism. The domestic "Satanic panic" soon transmogrified into fears of UFO alien abductions and bizarre genetic experimentation. In Kenya, Thursday's report was greeted with skepticism and even ridicule, especially from human rights organizations. Britain's Electronic Telegraph noted that some "fear the report may be used by the government to act against dissidents." Yesterday, the Kenya Human Rights Commission rejected the government statement as "diverting the attention of Kenyans from more urgent problems such as constitutional and economic reform," according to Reuters news agency. Commission representative Njuguna Mutahi told media that "The constitution guarantees freedom of worship -- anyone has a right to worship anything. We are not governed by some kind of religiosity." The commission was formed by President Moi in October, 1994. That fact, and the leadership of the nation's Catholic prelate, may suggest some of the motivation behind the dubious report. Democracy to Dictatorship Kenya won independence from Great Britain in 1963, and since then has had only two Presidents. The first was Jomo Kenyatta of the African National Union, who ruled until his death in 1978. Since then, the nation has been governed by Daniel arap Moi, who in 1982 officially converted the country into a one-party state following an attempted coup led by the country's Air Force. After that, there were repeated calls for legalization of effective opposition groups, and waves of government reaction. Moi allowed an election to be held in December, 1992, and outdistanced three opponents with 37% of the vote. Critics charge that Moi operates a "de jure party state." The country includes more than 40 ethnic groups, and race-violence has resulted in the death of over 1,500 people and the displacment of more than 300,000, mostly women and children. The Human Rights Report notes that "Moi has blamed the violence on opposition parties, government critics, human rights activists, the church and the media," but "There is strong evidence that the violence was instigated and manipulated by the government." Kenya has an explosive rate of population growth, even by Third World standards. From 28 million people in 1994, Kenya should reach 35 million by the turn of the century -- an annual rate of 3%, and a net population growth of about 25% in a five year period. Unemployment is staggering, with only about 15% of people employed. That trend is being exacerbated by an influx of population from the countryside, mostly into the capital, Nairobi. A Religious Dimension? The only organizations aside from ruling or token political parties listed by the United States Agency for International Development as "Other Political or Pressure Groups" are certain labor unions and the Roman Catholic Church. This is surprising -- while Roman Catholicism is the nation's leading religious belief (28%), Protestant organizations including Anglicans account for 26% of the population with "indigenous beliefs" at 18% and Islam at 6%. As elsewhere in the Third World, the Catholic Church in Kenya finds itself in a "turf war" for religious allegiance with aggressive Protestant denominations, which the Vatican sometimes labels as "sects." They include the Methodist Church, which is working with evangelicals to proselytize the region as part of its "Vision 2000" campaign. The Seventh Day Adventist group (which has emerged as a major irritant to the Church in traditional "Catholic" nations, especially in Latin America) has conducted an extensive outreach in Kenya since 1985. That church operates dozens of rural clinics, and has even received matching grant funding from the World Bank for hospital and health clinic construction. Government violence directed at "the church" does not appear to involve the nation's Roman Catholic establishment. The Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK) has suffered the loss of one of its leading activists, Mohammed Wekesa, who 'disappeared" in 1994 following his release from police custody. Womens groups such as the Kenyan League of Women Voters and the Federation of Womens Lawyers, are also known targets of government surveillance and abuse; indeed, female genital mutilation and other gender problems are rampant throughout the nation. Human Rights group estimate that the percentage of Kenyan females subjected to this gruesome ritual could be as high as 50%. Another Protestant incursion in Kenya involves the World Radio Missionary Fellowship, an international gospel radio network founded in 1931. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, the Fellowship operates short and medium wave transmitters throughout the world under the call letters HCJB ("Heralding Christ Jesus' Blessings"). While most of the WRMF efforts have been directed at Latin American nations, the organization has begun to expand its outreach elsewhere. HCJB often enjoys a "quasi-official" status with the governments of host-countries, and its Technical Services Division has even installed radio equipment for governmental agencies in countries such as Equador. In 1987, HCJB installed its own hydroelectic power station in Tenwek, Kenya. Another interesting group which has worked in Kenya is "Sharing of Ministries Abroad" (SOMA), which has ties to the Church of England. This ministry is active in "leadership training" throughout South America, and in Africa (Kenya and Tanzania.) Author and sociologist Sarah Diamond discusses the SOMA outreach in her took "Spiritual Warfare," and connections between the National Coordinator of SOMA, Rev. Brian Cox, and Iran-Contra operative Oliver North. While Muslims constitute only about 6% of the Kenyan religious profile, Islamic organizations and ethnic groups with a high Muslim representation appear to attract considerable government attention and repression. Ethnic Somalis, who are overwhelmingly Islamic, are required to carry two special identification cards; Kenya's domestic security police also frequently "sweep" Muslim towns, ostensibly in pursuit of "illegal aliens." No State Religion -- Yet... While Kenya's constitution does not call for an official state religion, "new churches" are presently required to "register" with the government. Meanwhile, Archbishop Kirima appears to working with President Moi to distract attention from the nation's growing social and economic problems. A high percentage of Anglican parishioners and clergy in the Protestant camp may also be considered allies of Kirima in light of recent calls for Catholic-Anglican unity. And Moi, for his part, will reach out for a helping hand wherever it appears to come from. It is quite possible in light of growing attention from Human Rights organizations that Moi and his internal police agency, the "General Service Unit" will use "satanic cults" as an explanation when butchered bodies are found, or when people turn up "missing." Moi has a long-established record of blaming other groups for violence in Kenya, including ethnic minorities. Interestingly, much of the Protestant outreach in the country has involved those very tribal groups including the Pokomos. And the assertion that "devil worshippers" are "educated" may also be a warning to dissident students and intellectuals. In terms of political benefit, it may well be that President Moi and the Church have a friend in "Satan." ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS On the pop culture front, check out CBS Sunday Morning tomorrow for a special feature about creationist threats in the public school system. The program will feature Dr. Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education, and include a segment with citizens and students in Jefferson County, Colorado. That community was site of the most recent brouhaha pitting scientists and reasoned educators against those who insist that earth, life, indeed the entire universe was a glorified play-dough project for The Almighty, that dinosaurs and human beings co-existed, that the world is only about 6,000 years old, that the Grand Canyon... well, you get the picture. A student there objected to the presentation of the Nova film "Miracle of Life," which briefly discussed evolution and was termed "one of the best learning resources available in the country" by an enlightened school board member. Our favorite quote in the whole Jefferson County commotion originated with a 15-year old student who objected to evolution, and wrote school authorities that the Bible should not be discarded in public schools "for scientific works that have to be revised and corrected every few years...If science is pervaded with theories like this (evolution) and that is all there is to it, then science is obviously nothing more than an attempt to discredit religion and should not be taught in public schools." Talk about the need for science education!! Boob-tube afficianados managed to survive the Wednesday night season premier of "Ellen", amidst reports that the shows producers may bring the female character "out of the closet" to admit that she is "different" from a lot of other people -- and isn't talking about being left handed. "All Eyes Are On 'Ellen'," reports Associated Press, of nervous advertisers who are monitoring the Disney sitcom. Ad time peddler Paul Schulman told AP that if Ellen (played by Ellen DeGeneres) get's a girlfriend and 'the two of them are going to the zoo together, it's not a problem. If they're in bed together, it's a problem." If the bed scenario, or anything else which even hints of lesbianism comes true, expect an outroar from the Southern Baptist Convention, which is already taking on Disney for extending insurance benefits to partners of its gay employees. You'll also probably hear from Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition and other Kultur Kops as well. And Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association told Associated Press yesterday that he's already laying the groundwork for a Disney-ABC boycott, if Ellen is anything but straight. Gee, we wonder if Rev. Don did the same when fellow evangelist Jimmy Swaggart got caught with a hooker? But if it's not those damn homos, well, it's pesky over-sexed aliens. One reader has contacted us with news that one of the Big Three networks is planning a new series on the "Chariots of the God's" pseudo-history of Eric von Daniken. Haven't we got enough of this mystical, new age fare on television already, with "Sightings" and other "unsolved mystery"-style programs? Can you imagine a regular, one-hour prime time program featuring the likes of Carl Sagan or James Randi which exposes this cultural tidal wave of pseudo-science and outright distortion? Just who would advertise on that show, anyway? Encyclopedia Britannica? I mean, at least at programs like The Outer Limits didn't claim to be anything else but entertainment! And if you're stuck at home this evening after not getting an invite to the local Macarena party, you might mush out on the premier of the NBC series "Dark Skies." Back in June, AANEWS cited this program as further evidence of growing pre-millennialist angst; the action starts in 1961 when "two idealistic college grauates" journey to Washington, D.C. to become part of John Kennedy's New Frontier, only to discover that Aliens -- not a military-industrial complex -- have been running the world all along. Another conspiracy theory bites the dust, but... The 60's era Bobsey Twins end up stumbling over Project Majestic, "the government's ultrasecret program to fight a covert invasion of the planet by a mysterious extraterrestrial intelligence." What's remarkable is how the aliens screw up; they're busy manipulating everything from the Kennedy assasination to the Watergate break-in, which all goes to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald and G. Gordon Liddy really ARE innocent. "Dark Skies" is another hitchhiker on the current wave of what some social scientists label "subversion mythology." Look at the sinister, menacing overtones of "The X-Files" and "Independence Day" blended into with the outrageous second-rate effects of "Alien Autopsy." In times of social stress and dislocation, people often turns to conspiracy theories to make some sense of the world. Those outer space invasion flicks of the fifties ("The Day The Earth Stood Still," "Earth Versus The Flying Saucers") were thinly-veiled metaphors of alien, communist subversion. And with the Godless Reds now gone, well, isn't it only appropriate that the new enemy turns out to be us, or what we THINK to be us? Pass the popcorn! ** A Note To Readers... Our Internet Representative, Margie Wait, is now back on line, with more megs of RAM than ever! So, if you're a participant in our moderated discussion forum, aachat, you should be receiving mailings. There are only nine days left in our stupendous, spectacular, seductive and stimulating membership offer. For AANEWS readers only, membership in American Atheists is now available for 50% off the regular rate. Individuals may now join for just $25, and family memberships are available for $37.50. For membership information, send mail to "" and include your name and postal address. When you fill out and return your membership application, be sure to make a note that you are an AANEWS reader, and include your e-mail address. As a member, you receive the regular American Atheists Newsletter, American Atheist Magazine, catalogue, special mailings and other benefits. ** 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 subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to: and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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