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

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Wed, 25 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 25, 1996 from: Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #166 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/25/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * Church Exploits Kids For Government $$$ * TheistWatch: Brits "Less Concerned" About Religion Than U.S. * Atheist Viewpoint Television -- Coming To A Screen Near You? * About This List... CHURCH MOBILIZES KIDS TO SUPPORT ''SCHOOL CHOICE DAY'' Students in Pittsburg, Pa. Roman Catholics schools were enlisted yesterday to demonstrate on behalf of "school choice" and a diocese campaign to "develop awareness in the community" in time for the November 5 election. It was just another in a long string of marches, ads, letter-writing drives and other pressure tactics which church authorities throughout Pennsylvania have been using on behalf of voucher schemes and other forms of parochaid. AANEWS is still monitoring reports of "School Choice Day" to see what extent parishes and archdiocese throughout the country were used to build support for government aid to religious schools. According to the Pennsylvania Tribune-Review, children in kindergarten through eight-grade level were to be used in demonstrations organized by authorities at SS. Simon & Jude School in Pittsburg. Vouchers are a temporarilly a "dead issue" in the state, and the Assembly has no related legislation in its bill hopper. The Tribune-Review noted, though that "Catholic and other private schools are gathering behind candidates who support the idea," and quoted the assistant superintendent of Pittsburg Catholic Schools, Ronald Bowes, who said "We believe it is right and we believe it is just." Students at another regional Catholic School, St. Thomas Moore in Bethel Park, were scheduled to spend school time drawing pictures and writing essays "which will be included in a booklet and mailed to local legislators." At at St. John the Baptist, students "are writing special prayers, putting up banners and discussing the concept (of Parochaid) in social studies classes." Pennsylvania is one of a handful of bellwether states which have emerged in the forefront of the school voucher effort. Earlier this year, Catholic leaders in Pittsburg and Philadelphia conducted unprecedented campaigns to enact voucher legislation proposed by Gov. Tom Ridge. The pilot project would have involved over $50 million in state funds awarded as vouchers to parents wishing to have their children attend private and religious schools. As in other states, research indicated that the vast bulk of that money would be used for tuition credits to religious institutions, a fact that disturbed First Amendment activists who see vouchers as government aid to churches. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia participated in a multi-million dollar television advertising campaign, and distributed pre-printed cards to parishioners for them to mail to target members of the State Assembly. Leiglsators, though, defeated Ridge's voucher proposal. Critics note that voucher schemes divert badly needed funds from public schools that are already financially strapped. And the constitutionality of vouchers has yet to be resolved. In Ohio, a voucher scheme has been approved which includes both non-sectarian and religious private schools. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a local voucher program does not include religious schools. And in New York, Mayor Rudolf Giuliani is working with Roman Catholic Cardinal John O'Connor to use private funds (in lieu of public monies) to "hand over" students from the public school system to the Parochial schools. ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS People in the United Kingdom are considerably less worried about religious matters than their American counterparts, according to yet another survey conducted by the Gallup organization. Just 17% of Brits say that religious belief is "very important," compared to 57% in the U.S. The poll also indicate that born-again and evangelical Christians are four times as prevalent in America as in the U.K., and that just 12% of persons in Great Britain attend weekly religious services compared to 40% in the U.S. The figures are remarkable for a number of reasons. Polling critics say that according to exhaustive rollow-up research, people who respond to surveys that measure church-going often lie, telling pollsters that they attend services when they do not. The 40% figure which is reported by the Gallup organization has been criticized on other statistical grounds as well; in many communities, there is simply not the church capacity to accomodate all of the "worshippers" who insist they attend services. People who do attend church may be more disposed in answering reader-response surveys as well. A poll conducted earlier this month in the Oakland (California) Press reported that "A total of 100% of Oakland Press readers responding to last week's We Believe question said they attend a weekly religion service..." In the U.K., the latest poll shows that nearly half of the population (46%) "say they never set foot in a place of worship, except perhaps occasionally to attend a wedding or funeral." Only 11% of Americans surveyed make this response according to Gallup. An in Britain only one in ten persons thinks that religion influence in society is increasing, compared to 38% of Americans. ** The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (there's a difference?) usually busies itself with those defending church-state separation, or perhaps criticizing the Vatican and its religious foolishness from an Atheist or secular point of view. But now, the League has a new problem: a major Protestant denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has published a book which claims that the pope is an agent of Satan. That intriguing charge in made in a new Adventist publication "God's Answers to Your Questions." According to Associated Press, it "likens the papacy to the beast in the book of Revelation, an ally of Satan in the world's final days." William Donahue, President of the League, insists that "For this to come from the Seventh-day Adventists and not from a splinter group makes this offense paritcuarly egregious." He added that the book "raises the ante and makes it all the more serious." Protestants can't agree over the veracity of the claims, though. A professor from Union Theological Seminary told that media that the Adventist book was "outrageous and inflammatory and untrue biblically in any sense." But George Reid of the Adventist's Biblical Research Institute said that the book simply reflects the well-known views of Protestant Reformation leaders including Martin Luther and John Calvin. During the Reformation period, Protestant churches began breaking away from the Vatican; many dissident theologians believed that the Catholic Church had invented practices and doctrines not found in the bible. Dr. Sibley Towner, professor of biblical interpretation at Union Theological, told Associated Press that "In the Reformation, Protestants threw the word Antichrist around a lot. But that has not been done in mainline Protestant circles for centuries." The book is produced by the Adventist Review and Herald Publishing Association. "God's Answers to Your Questions" tells readers that "Those who acknowledge the supremacy of the beast by yielding obedience to the law of God as changed and enforced by the papacy...worship the beast... Such will take the side of Satan in his rebellion aganst God's authority." The Seventh day Adventist movement grew out of the apocalyptic vision of William Miller, who predicted the end of the world during the 1840's. The so-called "Millerites" attracted a surprisingly large and enthusiastic following, and many cult members disposed of all worldly goods and ventured to mountaintops or temples to await the Second Coming. Even after three failed predictions, Miller retained a considerable number of followers. The unsuccessful prophecies of Miller became known as The Great Disappointment; rather than collapsing, though, the Millerite or "Second Advent" movement was re-galvanized, mostly due to the efforts of new followers like Ellen G. Harmon. After marrying an Adventist minister named James White, she became (under the name of Ellen White) a prolific and dynamic proselytizer of apocalyptic religious Christianity. In October, 1860, the Seventh day Adventise Church was formally founded, and today boasts 9 million followers. The anti-papist sentiment in "God's Answers Your Questions" comes during a time when the Catholic Church is making unprecedented moves on behalf of unity of major Christian denominations (inevitably under the leadership of the pope.) In Britain, the Anglican church is already in a merger-mode with the Vatican, and even such traditionalist Protestant groups like the Southern Baptists have entered into a "dialogue" with the Catholic leadership. Rome is having less success, though, with Orthodox Church bodies based in Moscow and Greece. There is also a gradual political fusion uniting some Roman Catholics with rightwing Protestants, including the Christian Coalition. The CC's "subsidiary", the Catholic Alliance, has enjoyed partial success in attracting support from Catholic leaders. ** That "merger mode" we referred to in the article above is evident in the opinions of an Anglican Vicar who is about to be consecrated as a Bishop; late last week, the Rev. John Broadhurst called upon Church of England authorities to end their centuries-own feud with Rome, and give the Pope primacy over the Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Windsor. Broadhurst heads a traditionalist group within the Anglican church called Forward in Faith, and opposes the more liberal reforms in his church including the ordination of women into the priesthood. "Father Broadhurst has growing influence in a Church where large numbers remain disillusioned over what they see as a steady progress toward liberalism," noted The London Times. Today, Broadhurst is scheduled to be consecrated as Bishop of Fulham, a move which many church watchers see as official sanction within the Anglican hierarchy for his views. ** Calls for unity between Protestant denominations and the Catholic establishment seems to be resulting in another throw-back phenomenon, namely, phobia about a long-standing Vatican bugaboo -- Freemasonry. There have been dozens of official papal declarations (or "Bulls") condemning the fraternal order, in part due to its role as a non-sectarian brotherhood and its defense of state-church separation, especially in the United States. Early in its history, Freemasonry was an active political force on behalf of political Republicanism; it was rightfully portrayed as a sworn enemy of autocratic political and religious establishments. In the United States, many of the Founding Fathers held membership in the Masonic Order. While Masonry has aged over the decades to become part of the institutional landscape, it still excites suspicion and resentment within Vatican ranks. There are periodic outbreaks of anti-masonic sentiment in clerical ranks, or fears of a masonic conspiracy. In England, anti-masonry seems to be coinciding with growing religious angst over the alleged declining morals and status of the culture and calls for Anglican unity with Rome. A new plan by Britain's official Police Constabulary would compel all officers to declare whether they are Freemasons; those who reveal membership "would have the details entered on a force register of interests," acording to the London Times, which adds that "The declaration will be voluntary but if an officer stays silent and later faces allegations involving Freemasonry, his silence would count against him." The growing snoopiness and concern over Masonic membership has the organization's leadership, and civil libertarian groups concerned. Last Saturday, the secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England told the media that he did not think Freemasons should be singled out, and that membership was part of private life. "Even politice officers were entitled to a private life," noted The Times. Among requirements for membership in most branches of Freemasonry is belief in some kind of god. ** If you happen to be in Los Angeles this weekend and can't catch the lates tour at Universal Studios, well, consider spending $19 and dropping in at the annual Los Angeles Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. More than 1,000 clergy and politicians are expected to show up and, according to the Los Angeles times, "pray for the city's future." You'll even get to hear Rev. Lloyd John Ogilvie who made a career of organizing the LaLaLand prayer feed before taking on a job as official chaplain to the United States Senate. It may not be the buttoned-down affair you expect, though. The emcee for the Prayer Breakfast is none other than Pat Boone, who, we understand, is coming out with a heavy-metal rendition of some of his old classics. ** CALLING ALL ATHEIST ACTIVISTS...AND COUCH POTATOS! There's more to watch on television than re-runs of American Bandstand, ranting evangelists, and sappy, boring "family friendly" programming. How about The Atheist Viewpoint, the new cable show produced by American Atheists? This weekly 30-minute offering is hosted by Ellen Johnson and Ron Barrier, and features some of the liveliest -- and irreverent -- content on television! AVTV is now on over 40 cable systems throughout the country, and growing. We need sponsors for the Atheist Viewpoint; if your cable system has a public access channel and accepts "imported' programming, AVTV may be what YOU need to improve your viewing habits! Let us know if you are interested in becoming a sponsor in your area. Send e-mail to: ** 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 web at You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and the aanews. 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. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER ( Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait,


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank