Date: Thu, 27 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 26, 1996 A M

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Date: Thu, 27 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 26, 1996 from: Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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 anti-abortion forces. 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 absolutely essential." * 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 Monument'' 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 Entanglement? 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 religion." ** 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 classrooms. 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 $37.50. Members receive the American Atheists Newsletter, American Atheists Magazine, catalogues, mailings and other benefits. You also get to participate in our on-line moderated discussion forum, aachat. So what are you waiting for? You still can take advantage of this offer -- just send mail to, and include your name and postal address. ** 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 postal 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 aanews and American Atheists. 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,


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