Date: Thu, 27 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 26, 1996 A M
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 26, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#167 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/26/96
In This Issue...
* Veto Override May Fail Today In Senate...
* "End Run" Around State-Church Separation In Eugene, Oregon?
* CDA "Obscenity" Abortion-Speech Ban Challenged.
* Going...Going...(Almost) Gone!
* About This List...
SENATE VOTE DUE ON PARTIAL BIRTH ABORTION BAN
Despite Church Stance, Clinton Still Holds Lead With Catholic Voters
As this dispatch of AANEWS is being sent out, a U.S. Senate vote is
still pending on efforts to overturn President Clinton's veto of the Partial
Birth Abortion Ban. That legislation -- which prohibits a specific form of
late-term abortion -- cleared Congress last spring, but was vetoed in April
by Mr. Clinton. The President objected to the ban, saying that it lacked a
provision to allow the procedure in order to protect the health of the
mother. Clinton's veto elicited a cry from anti-choice groups and the
National Catholic Bishop's Conference, which sent the White House an official
letter condemning the veto.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted 285-137 to override the
Clinton veto. Supporters greeting that development as a major victory for
But today's Senate vote is less clear. A total of 67 votes will be
required to sustain the House veto, and Senate watchers doubt that the
measure will pass.
Yesterday, Mr. Clinton ducked the Partial Birth Abortion Ban issue, while
GOP Presidential candidate Bob Dole seemed to contradict his earlier stance
on the legislation, and running mate Jack Kemp teamed-up with N.Y. Cardinal
John O'Connor to apply pressure to Senators.
* Mr. Kemp had a 40-minute meeting on Wednesday with the powerful prelate,
and a conference call with religious conservative leaders and radio
talkmeisters across the nation. Kemp declared: "Some of us believe it (late
term abortion) is approaching infanticide," adding "I think this override is
* Senator Dole released a two-paragraph statement read by Kemp which
described today's vote in the Senate as "a defining decision." Dole noted
that the action "will define who we recognize as part of the human family.
America is humane enough and inclusive enough to welcome these children,
just moments away from their first breath of life."
* Yesterday's meeting between Kemp and O'Connor underscores the GOP effort
to court Roman Catholic voters, who are considered a key swing vote in
crucial Midwestern states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Not
surprisingly, the GOP has also promoted school voucher plans in many of these
states, which would give parents tax credits for sending their children to
private and religious schools.
Even so, regional and national polls show that Mr. Clinton continues to
hold a substantial lead of up to 20% with Catholic voters over Senator Dole.
LEGIONAIRE GROUP MAKING ''END RUN'' AROUND FIRST AMENDMENT ?
Group Wants Religious Cross On Public Land Declared ''War
Remember the Skinner Butte court case?
Last month, a federal court ruled thad that this monument in a Eugene,
Oregon public park, was an obvious religious symbol and a violation of the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. And the Eugene City Council
voted two weeks ago to not waste taxpayer's money appealing the decision.
Now, American Legion Post 3 in Eugene wants to challenge the Ninth
Circuit ruling, and insists that the cross really isn't a religious icon, but
-- get this -- "a symbol of sacrifice for the veterans who served and, in
some cases, gave their lives, in defense of freedom." That means that once
again, the history of how the cross came to be erected on public land will be
an important issue in deciding whether or not it is something other than what
it obviously appears to be.
In 1934, Eugene declared Skinner Butte Park to be a war memorial park.
The first cross was erected there in 1936, but according to local newspaper
columnist Don Bishoff, "had no known veteran' connection. The Eugene Chamber
of Commerce erected it 'as a symbol of good will'."
The present cross is a 51-foot high steel and concrete structure, which
the Ninth Circuit ruled "clearly represents government endorsement of
Christianity thereby violating the First Amendment."
Part of the City Council's decision to not appeal the cross decision may
stem from practical concerns, including money. Over $23,000 of taxpayer
funds has been used so far in defending the cross, and a Supreme Court appeal
could exceed $120,000. According to the Portland Register, Eugene attorney
Charles Porter -- who represented the plaintiffs in the cross case -- "said
he could double the city's bill by demanding that Eugene pay for his work in
the event that the council pursues the case and loses."
While the American Legion Post considers the Eugene cross to be a "war
monument," local religionists have a different interpretation. One Council
Representative, Pat Farr admits that a cross is indeed religious in nature,
and according to the Register, "disagrees with strict efforts to remove
religious items from the public arena." Even so, Farr argues that the
Skinner Butte Cross is "primarilly a war memorial, not a religious symbol."
Religionists "In Denial" Over State-Church
The reaction of many groups in the Eugene Case typifies what happens when
courts find clear, egregious displays of public religiosity to be a
constitutional violation. There are several standard responses...
* "It's not really religious..." Holyday religious displays ranging from
Christmas nativity scenes to menorahs on public property have been
conveniently re-defined as "cultural symbols" or "community traditions,"
rather than icons of spiritual belief. Courts have been somewhat skeptical
of that argument, though, noting that the various monuments, creches and
other displays have religious origins.
* In Eugene, San Diego, San Francisco and other cities where fixed
religious monuments have been declared unconstitutional, religious groups
often attempt an "end run" around the First Amendment with schemes such as
having the City "sell" the property on which the cross or symbol is erected
for a token payment. In Eugene, the Register noted last week that "Some
cross supporters have suggested that the city sell the property under the
concrete structure or give away the land to avoid the constitutional
conflict. Mr. Porter notes, however, that "The constitutional issue would
still remain. The city would be selling the land to favor the Christian
GOVERNMENT USING ABORTION FREE SPEECH TO GUT CDA DECISION ?
In a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, New York, the fight over the
Communications Decency Act -- a major government intrusion into free speech
on the internet -- continues. Despite findings by judicial panels in
Philadelphia and New York that the 'decency' law is blatantly
unconstitutional, the U.S. Justice Department will be appealing the
controversial legislation which was signed into law by President Clinton.
Yesterday, free speech and pro-choice activists asked Judge Charles Sifton
of the Eastern District Court in New York to declare the CDA
unconstitutional. Their action is in response to a disingenuous government
declaration that Attorney General Janet Reno has "promised" that she will not
enforce provisions of CDA which severely restrict, even ban discussion about
abortion on the internet and other cyber media. Attorney Kathryn Kolbert
argued that CDA must be "officially declared unconstituional" in the event a
future attorney general might decide to enforce all, or select portions of
the invasive legislation. Naturally, government attorneys pleaded with Judge
Sifton to dismiss the suit.
Following yesterday's proceedings, Kolbert told reporters "We want to make
sure that the people who use the Internet can use it without the chill on the
exercise of their rights."
CDA was a provision of a larger piece of legislation, the seven-month old
Telecommunications Act of 1996. The "decency" legislation attempted to
restrict computer-based communications, arguing that "obscene" materials may
fall into the hands of minors. One provision in CDA added "interactive
computer services" to the list of forms of communication through which
obscene material could be transmitted. Older laws have attempted to ban
transmission of any information about abortion.
According to the New York Times, pro-choice activists are concerned since
much of the language in the Act was drafted by the House Judiciary Committee,
headed by Chrisatian Coalition poster-boy Rep. Henry Hyde. Mr. Hyde helped
orchestrate the floor battle in the House of Representatives last week which
overturned President Clinton's veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. He is
also the author of the controversial "Hyde version" of the Religious Equality
Amendment which would return prayer and bible reading to public school
While government attorney's attempted to argue that the abortion
provisions of the CDA have simply never been enforced, Ms. Kolbert noted that
the same provisions -- incorporated into the "decency" legislation -- had
been used against Margaret Sanger, a reproductive rights activist and
co-founder of Planned Parenthood who was indicted in 1914.
Ironically, Margaret Sanger's grandson -- Alexander C. Sanger -- is a
plaintiff in this latest action, along with the National Abortion and
Reproductive Rights Action League and the Feminist Majority Foundation.
"Isn't it amazing," Sanger declared to the New York Times, "I'm fighting
the same laws my grandmother and grandfather fought 80 years ago. It's
phenomenal. The laws never go away."
YOU'VE STILL GOT TIME...
Going...going...almost gone. Remember that the special American Atheists
membership offer expires on Monday, Sept. 30. Our office manager at American
Atheists, Mr. Spike Tyson, will accept memberships under the offer, provided
that you have requested your information packet and application prior to our
deadline, and return your application in a timely manner.
So, you can still get a 50% discount on membership in American Atheists.
That means individuals can sign-up for just $25, and families may join for
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