Date: Mon, 23 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 23, 1996 A M
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 23, 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
#164 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/23/96
In This Issue...
* Human Rights or Religious Wrongs? Gov. Office For Clerics
* Religious "Charity" Uses Your Money
* "Anti-Religion" Conspiracy Is Media Bust
* An Ephemeral Offer
* About This List...
CLINTON FORMING RELIGIOUS ''ADVISORY'' PANEL ON RIGHTS
Senate, House Resolutions Defend Christian Proselytizing...
The Clinton administration is forming a special 20-member advisory
committee which, according to the Washington Post, will be housed in offices
located in the U.S. State Department and charged with supposedly informing
the government on "problems of religious oppression and intolerance"
throughout the world. Word of the special panel was reportedly leaked by an
unidentified White House official, who told the Post that a public
announcement concerning the matter would be made "very soon." Reuter news
service said that the group would make "specific recommendations in areas
such as diplomacy, refugees, and using religious leaders to resolve
disputes." The identity of the panel members, or what religious group
instigated the proposal, are not yet known.
According to a morning dispatch on CNN, the panel "is being formed to
counter complaints from evangelical Christians that insufficient attention is
placed on the persecution of Christians abroad."
Formation of this panel (and its recognition by giving it offices and
other resources within the U.S. Department of State) comes at a crucial time.
* A new book by Watergate expose reporter Carl Bernstein explores the
not-so-secret machinations between the Roman Catholic Church and the U.S.
government during the Reagan administration in using church resources to
accelerate the "fall" of Communism, particularly in Poland and other east
block states. Even before this book, however, there were substantial reports
documenting the funnelling of over $20,000,000 in covert-operations money
from the Central Intelligence Agency through the church and into the coffers
of the Solidarity Trade Union in Poland. The government of communist
apparatchik General Jaruzelski disintegrated, and Solidarity founder Lech
Walesa was elected the nation's first President following decades of
(That relationship, though, soon soured as Poles began to be suspicious of
the "power grab" being conducted by the Vatican, especially in internal
politics. Alexander Kwasniewski defeated Walesca in a hotly-contested
election in November of last year. Since then, the Polish legislature has
repealed a number of church-backed laws, including a ban on abortion. And
the government has refused to sign a "Concordant" with the Vatican. The Pope
and the Polish Catholic establishment has also opposed a draft constitution
that omits all references to god in its preamble.)
* Evangelical movements have stepped-up their proselytizing efforts,
especially in the so-called "10-40 Window", a latitude zone which includes a
number of countries where Christian missionary efforts are colliding with
indigenous customs and religious beliefs, and Islamic establishments.
Religious groups based in the United States -- including Pat Robertson's
700 Club -- have suddenly discovered the issue of "human rights" when it
involves expressions by Christians in predominantly Muslim societies.
A number of organizations are involved in the "Praying Through the 10-40
Window" campaign, including the Christian Information Network, AD2000, and
Robertson's "World Reach" project. The AD2000 movement says that it is
"Mobilizing global prayer for evangelism," and coordinates the "prayer
warrior" efforts of dozens of smaller groups including the Spiritual Warfare
Network, Every Home for Christ, Intercessors International, Southern Baptist
Bold Mission Prayer Thrust, Campus Crusade and Women's Aglow (sic). "Praying
Through the 10-40 Window" is often described in quasi-military terms. Last
year, for instance, their efforts included "warfare prayer behind enemy
lines" and the use of so-called "Gateway cities" where prayer events were
Robertson's effort is perhaps the most ambitious and heavilly funded. His
World Reach began in 1995 with the lofty objective of reaching "nearly 3
billion people with the Gospel message over the next five years -- with the
goal of 500 million decisions (conversions) for Christ."
"World Reach will focus its efforts on five regions of the world:
Asia,Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America," says the 700
(Ed. note: What's left? The antarctic?)
"The message of salvation through Jesus Christ will be communicated in
terms that are culturally relevant and acceptable, and delivered by the
medium that best suits the culture and capabilities of each nation..."
The Christian Education Network says that its plan for "Praying Through
the 10-40 Window" events includes "prayer teams (who) fan out to spiritually,
economically, and politically strategic cities," across the world. Other
events, including the Washing March for Jesus and Concerts for Prayer
International are part of a "focus on cities in the Muslim world that is
being sponsored by the AD2000 and Beyond Movement."
Re-Defining "Human Rights" ?
Religious belief was a useful tool during the cold war, when the United
States was portrayed as being in a struggle against "godless" communism. The
disintegration of the Soviet Union, however, has proven to be a
"mixed-blessing" in some cases. In Russia, fascist and nationalist jingoism
has created the prospect of yet another authoritarian regime, perhaps headed
by strongman Alexlander Lebed, who has sought an official alliance with the
Russian Orthodox Church. He and his more rightwing opponents, including
madman Vladimir Zhironovsky, both intend using the Orthodox religious
establishment, and seek the protect the country from incursions by "other"
religions and sects, including Mormonism, Scientology and Judaism.
U.S. foreign policy strategists have also found themselves in problematic
relationships, though, with religious groups in the middle east. In
Afghanistan, the price of opposing the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul was
support for the Islamic Mujahadeen. Part of the fallout from that Faustian
bargain has the been the emergence of an Islamic state which now may fall to
an even more fundamentalist group, the Taliban, and the fact that Stinger
missiles are now probably included in the arsenals of "Army of God"-type
groups linked to the Iranian intelligence service, VEVAK. Two linchpins of
U.S. policy in the middle east -- Saudi Arabia and Bahrain -- both face
serious challenges from extreme fundamentalist movements.
The use of religion -- at least in this part of the world -- has often
backfired on State Department strategists. Yet increasingly, the U.S.
government is coming under pressure from evangelical religious groups to
guarantee "access" to foreign nations for American-based missionary
organizations and efforts.
But Robertson and other "prayer warriors" do not seem concerned about
"human rights" in the cases of those in the 10-40 window who may be
advocating a non-religious or secular agenda. This would include civil
liberties groups, womens' organizations, labor movements and movements on
behalf of cyber rights and telecommunications freedom. Indeed, the religious
right in the United States has often been ambivalent or hostile toward these
* Millennialist fervor is also playing a role in the effort to evangelize
the globe. Robertson himself often makes cagey remarks about Christ
"returning soon," and notes that humanity is on the threshhold of a new
millennium, one with heavy eschatological overtones. Some religious groups,
including the Southern Baptists, have dragged out hoary questions such as the
status of non-christians, from the theological storage chest. Can Buddhists,
Hindus, even Jews REALLY be saved and qualify for entrance into heaven if
they just live good lives? Apparently not. In June, the Southern Baptist
Convention adopted an official resolution calling for increased efforts to
convert others to gospel foolishness, with special emphasis on Jews. That
decision prompted an insightful observation from the Anti-Defamation League
which said that "Especially after the Holocaust, Christians have no right to
talk about a mission to the Jews. They should talk about a mission to the
Christians, because it was in Christian Europe that the Holocaust occurred."
The week before the SBC convention in New Orleans, two evangelical leaders
-- Donald Argue of the National Association of Evangelicals, and James Henry
of the Southern Baptist Convention -- contacted with White House concerning a
plan which was already being drafted to "address the overseas persecution of
Christians." In a letter to Clinton, they termed the project "manifestly
inadequate," and according to Religion News Service, wanted a "Presidential
commission with more authority to deal with the problem.
AANEWS will keep readers posted on the status of this special "Religious
CATHOLIC CHARITIES ADMITS TO ''PARTNERSHIP'' WITH GOVERNMENT
Religious partisans have often argued that "faith based charity" is proof
of the good work done by churches. But increasingly, religious charity has
turned out to be a government (i.e. taxpayer) funded program which churches
often take credit for. That fact was underscored in a new report released
yesterday during the annual gathering of Catholic Charities USA, described
as "the nation's largest network of independent social service
Even the president of the group, Rev. Fred Kammer, admitted that "While
Catholic organizations should be commended for spearheading the development
of housing, let's remember that partnership with the private sector and
government at all levels make most of these projects possible."
The report admitted, for instance, that of the 47,594 housing units built
by church affiliated outreaches, 47% were "assisted" by monies from the
Department of Housing and Urban Development. Other revelations include:
* 218 "church" building projects last year involved "public partners such
* 41% of operating income "comes from government funding" at different
levels, and 3/4 of that amount originates with the federal government.
* "More than 11 million people of all religious, national, racial, social
and economic backgrounds received services (from Catholic Charities USA) in
The percentage figures may actually be higher, though. Catholic Charities
has admitted that over 63% of its revenues come from government grants, not
the crumpled dollars bills deposited in Sunday's collection plate. It
becomes nearly impossible to trace some of the money flowing through "faith
based" charities, especially since it often originates in so-called Community
Development Block Grants where public funds are turned over to private (often
religious) social service groups.
The involvement of religious group in the administration and creation of
social service projects will probably grow in the near future, in part due to
the Welfare Reform Act. That legislation included a provision known as the
"charitable choice clause" that allows individual states "to contract with
religious organizations" to provide welfare services. Rev. Stephen Burger,
executive director of the International Union of Gospel Missions, a coalition
of 245 different "faith-based" missions, told USA TODAY earlier this month
that the plan was a good idea.
"By agreeing to this welfare-reform plan, Congress and President Clinton
are finally acknowledging our success in transforming lives by providing the
type of help the government does not, and cannot, provide -- spritual
"Material" and "Spiritual"
One problem with government subsidies for "faith based" charity (a
favorite slogan of Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed) has been the
intrusion of religious ritual into those taxpayer-funded social programs.
Religious groups gain considerable notoriety for "their" charitable works
which are, in reality, funded by the public. And religious proselytization
is often a feature of such "faith based" projects. Rev. Burger, for
instance, points out one shelter known as Harvest Home which provides
shelter, food and clothing to homeless women and children. "It also provides
rehabilitative services that include education classes, life-skills training
and Bible study."
The Welfare Reform Act -- until challenged in court -- will make it easier
for government funds to flow into the coffers of religious groups, minus the
traditional caveates about state-church separation. Meanwhile, the public
will continue to subsidize a reputation enjoyed by religious groups that
their "charitable" outreaches are beneficial to society.
IS ''ANTI-RELIGIOUS'' ARSON CONSPIRACY REALLY A BUST ?
The "Church Arson Plot" Was Much Smoke, Little Substance
Despite the efforts of hundreds of federal, state and local agents,
evidence of what religious leaders from many points on the political spectrum
described as a "plot" or "conspiracy" to burn churches and hurt religion
continues to be elusive or non-existent. One reason for that has been a
number of arrests in cases where church buildings (of black, white and
mixed-race congregations) were torched. This past summer, news of an alleged
"outbreak" of church fires captivated the attention of the public, media and
government investigators. Initially, it was thought that there was an effort
by racially motivated individuals or groups to burn down black churches.
Actuarial statistics, though, showed that the number of church burnings for
the year was "on schedule," and that nothing unusual was going on.
Politicians and religious leaders, though, quickly seized upon the "church
arson" hysteria. Black religious groups insisted that a "racist conspiracy"
was at work, although Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, even the
Director of the U.S.Civil Rights Commission, employed more dramatic terms in
describing the fires as a "conspiracy against religion" and "conspiracy
But now, with "church arson" faddism slipping out of the media and
political spotlight, a different -- and even embarrassing -- picture is
beginning to emerge.
* The total of fires still has not exceeded the yearly average; nor has
the percentage of "suspicious" fires in churches. In this latter category,
from Jan. 1, 1995 to September 4 of this year, there have been 230 possible
arsons, 100 of which occured in predomiantly black churches.
But everyone has been shocked by the profiles of those arrested for these
crimes. Blacks account for about 12.5% of the population. And while 100 of
the "suspicious" fires (43.5%) involve black churches, "33% of those who have
been arrested for burning black churches are African Americans," according to
the Los Angeles Times. Those arrested in arsons of predominantly white
churches account for another disproprotionately high ethnic percentage; 93%
of suspected firebugs in those cases are white.
Some of the more embarrassing, high-profile arrests in the black church
arsons include a case in Texas, where a 21-year old black firefighter and
church member admitted to setting the blaze.
The Times quotes an unidentified Justice Department official who declared
that "We're still seeing race and bigotry driving many of the fires as
suspected. But we're also seeing other motives as well, sometimes pranks,
sometimes issues within the congregation, sometimes...individuals who are a
Demands from religious groups -- everyone from the Christian Coalition to
the National Council of Churches -- that the government investigate the
arsons has resulted in some 70 arrests, four times the number made before the
FBI and Treasury Department (BATF) entered the probe and formed the National
Church Arson Task Force.
There were several distasteful aspects to the phoney "church arson"
* Religious and political leaders exploited a "pseudo-event," and made
disturbing claims with little or no supporting evidence.
Reed's contention that the fires were proof of a "war on religious belief"
had little or no basis in fact. Indeed, two men involved in the church fires
turned out to be members of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,
although most news accounts identified them only as members of the "KKK."
That racist group is now the target of a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law
Center; it's director, attorney Morris Dees, has been one of the few level
heads in the church arson "conspiracy" flap, and noted that there was a
"mixed bag" of reasons behind the fires.
In addition, religious right groups that are not particularly known for
their involvement in the struggle for civil rights, "hopped on the bandwagon"
and exploited the arson issue. The Christian Coalition offered a reward for
information in the cases, but the fate of that money remains unknown.
Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration established a special $10,000,000
special loan fund earmarked for re-building churches. That move was promptly
denounced by American Atheists. "Why should a church be considered more
valuable than a home or business which has been destroyed by arson," asked AA
President Ellen Johnson.
*Further erson of state-church separation occurred when government became
involved in the business of replacing torched church buildings. Rep. Henry
Hyde, a notorious Christian Coalition supporter, used the hysteria to
introduce a Church Arson Prevention Act which mandates especially high
penalties for those convicted of burning a church. But why not a private
residence? Or public building? In addition, insurance regulators came under
scrutiny, and now face penalties for refusing to insure congregations which
have suffered as the result of arson.
* Public credulity was exploited. In some cases, fears of a "conspiracy"
even reached the point that "satanists" were suspected. Fires in North
Carolina prompted newspapers there to warn parents of "telltale signs" that
children and adolescents were getting involved in devil-worship. At least
one group, though, has thus far escaped media and public suspicion -- aliens.
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