Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 4, 1996 A M E R

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Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 4, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #172 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/4/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org In This Issue... * High Court Hears Atheist Appeal On Religious Test * Starr Slated For Robertson Ceremony * What Bill Murray Up To, Anyway? * Taliban ~ A Religious Nightmare For Women * AACHAT * "Spamming" Hits The Godless List! * About This List... CASE ''CRIES OUT FOR A COURT RULING ON MERITS'' JUSTICES TOLD Born-Again Governor, State, Fighting Atheist's Civil Rights In S.C. In arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, an attorney for South Carolina Atheist Herb Silverman told justices that his client is the victim of discrimination because he will not acknowledge a belief in "god" to obtain a notary public license. Edmund Robinson of the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the case "cries out for as court ruling on the constitutional controversy." But the attorney for South Carolina, Brad Waring, repeated the state's contention that Silverman was denied an license because his application lacked the correct number of signatures, and he had crossed out the word "God" from the constitutionally-mandated oath. Waring noted: "If the word protect, preserve or defend had been struck from the application, the result would have been exactly the same. There was no religious discrimination in this case, and there was no evidence presented of it." A lower Circuit judge, though, upheld Silverman's argument that he was a victim of religious discrimination. Judge Thomas Hughston, Jr. ruled earlier that "The state cannot require any religious belief including a call for 'God's help' as a requirement for appointment to office." Since 1868, the South Carolina constitution has stated: "No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution." Herb Silverman is a mathematics professor at the College of Charleston. His six year battle against the "God clause" included an unsuccessful run for the office of governor as a write-in candidate, and legal appeals which even he hadn't anticipated. Silverman, for instance, never thought he would end up having to take his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. This morning, Silverman told AANEWS: "When I began this, what I though in my political naievete was that if I went to the ACLU, once this was brought to the attention of the governor they would change the law and that would be the end of it." One factor he didn't count on was zeal of a born-again religious fundamentalist governor, Carrol Campbell. Silverman noted that both Campbell and his successor, Governor David A. Beasley, are both favorites of the Christian Coalition. Gov. Beasley ordered the state to appeal the case following the unfavorable Circuit Court ruling. "I heard a while back that South Carolina has spent over $30,000 in this case," added Dr. Silverman. "At one time they had three attorneys assigned to it." He noted that the 1868 wording in the state charter "was considered an improvement over the old constitution, which talked about only white, Protestant land owners being able to hold public office. Silverman told CNN earlier that "I'm qualified to be a professor of mathematics at a state institution, but I don't have the morals be a notary public because I happen to not believe in a Supreme Being." Similar clauses exist in the constitutions of six other states -- Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Maryland and Pennsylvania. "But South Carolina is the only state that bother's to enforce the 'God clause," Dr. Silverman points out, while others ignore it and consider it to be a violation of the First Amendment. Herb Silverman continues his battle for Atheist civil rights in South Carolina and the rest of the bible belt. "I teach and I've got academic freedom so my job isn't in jeopardy. My colleagues are mostly supportive," says the 54-year-old math professor and native of Philadelphia, Pa. "Some of them thought that it was originally a pretty trivial manner, but I try to tell them that this is about more than just a notary public's license -- it's a civil rights issue." He also appears guardedly optimistic about winning his case. "I think that both of these governors knew they were fighting a losing battle, but they had to pander to groups like the Christian Coalition which dominate the state Republican Party." "I really had no desire in the beginning to go to court with this. I hoped it could be settled amicably, but this has made me realize how much religious prejudice there is here in the bible belt." Part of Herb Silverman's fight against religious bigotry has been his help in starting "Secular Humanists of the Low Country," an eclectic mix of Atheists, freethinkers and even Unitarians. (Their web site is at http://www.serve.com/SECHUMLO). Yesterday's arguments took place before five of the nine Supreme Court justices. There was no indication of when a ruling will be handed down. ** WHITEWATER PROSECUTOR SPEAKING AT ROBERTSON FUNCTION The byzantine case of the Whitewater land development controversy which has embroiled President Bill Clinton and his wife took another strange turn today, as the Washington Post revealed that "independent counsel" Kenneth W. Starr plans to address an event at Pat Robertson's Regent University. It was learned that Starr will deliver the keynote address at the 10th anniversary of the Regent University law school in Virginia Beach, an institution founded and directed by televangelist Pat Robertson. Robertson has used his "700 Club" program and the Christian Broadcasting Network to repeatedly hammer away at possible wrong-doing by the Clintons; he also termed the President's innauguration as a "repudiation of our forefathers' covenant with God." According to the Post, Starr's office is defending the speech saying that it is "apolitical" and "similar to others he makes at law schools around the country." Robertson's law school was recently granted official accreditation by the American Bar Association. A beaming Robertson gushed to newsmedia that this would result in Regent University producing "more lawyers, more legislators and more judges" in the United States. Meanwhile, convicted Whitewater defendant Susan McDougal yesterday was quoted as describing Kenneth Starr as a "hoodlum" for his role in the investigation. She repeated her claim that Starr and his staff repeatedly badgered her to implicate the Clintons, even going as far as to offer her probation and an end to pending California theft charges and federal income tax evasion charges if she would cooperate. McDougal said that her attorney, Bobby McDaniel, asked prosecutors what they wanted in the case. "They laughed and said,'You know what we want, our investigation is about the Clinton'." McDougal added: "This man (Starr) is corrupt, and it's coming down through the ranks of his whole hoodlum operation, to offer me this deal and they wanted something on the Clinton." She added: "The only deal that was offered to me was by the hoodlum Kenneth Starr..." McDougas has refused to testify before a grand jury orchestrated by Starr's office, and is now in jail for contempt of court. She was earlier convicted of four fraud counts in the Whitewater trial and given a two year prison sentence related to those charges. She also says that the only reading material she is permitted in the Faulkner County (Ark.) Dentention Center is a bible. According to CNN, "McDougal said if she could turn back the clock, she would have done more to defend herself early on. 'I can't believe what these people have done to me, and how little I did to defend myself,' she said." ** "MISSING O'HAIR'' STORY SPREADS ~ THE CURIOUS ROLE OF BILL MURRAY News coverage of the disappearance of American Atheist founder Madalyn Murray O'Hair, her son, and her adopted granddaughter, Robin, continued to percolate through the national media yesterday and today. CNN and the Los Angeles Times were among news sources which re-hashed details in the case, a fact that some observers attribute to the one-year anniversay of the mysterious disappearance. Early reports noted that William Murray, estranged son of Madalyn O'Hair who is now a Christian proselytizer, had filed a "Request to Locate" with the Austin, Texas Police Department.. In addition, the 1985 Porsche automobile belonging to Robin Murray O'Hair was located in a long-term parking lot at the Austin airport, and taken to a police impound yard for inspection. According to CNN, a spokesman for the police departments said "There is no indication of foul play." He also noted that if the family is located and asks police not to disclose their whereabouts, officials will reportedly close their investigation. Officer Mike Burgess noted "It is not against the law in Texas to be missing." The new role of William Murray in this case has prompted speculation. As a youth, he was a co-plaintiff with his mother in the famous U.S. Supreme Court case MURRAY v. CURLETT (1963) which helped to abolish prayer and bible verse recitation in public schools. For a number of years, he had a varying relationship with his mother and the American Atheists organization; he eventually announced his conversion to Christianity and went on the stump for various religious groups including Jerry Falwell's old Moral Majority group. Murray currently heads a Washington-D.C.-based political action committee called "Government Is Not God." According to CNN, "Murray said he filed the missing persons report to end a 'withering fire' of media interest, particularly from tabloid newspapers. 'I am hoping the police...can bring about some kind of closure'." But at American Atheists offices in Austin, manager Spike Tyson is skeptical. He told AANEWS this afternoon that "Bill Murray is looking for money for his organization, and hasn't had contact with his family for years." Tyson noted that for several years, when national conventions of American Atheists were held in different cities throughout the country, Murray often purchased abusive ads in local papers, and even picketed the events. "He's (William Murray) trying to maneuver himself into a position where he looks like some kind of good guy." Tyson also reported that yesterday was a "mad house" of media inquiries, including calls from foreign countries. He added that reporters presented him with no new information in the case. ** A RELIGIOUS NIGHTMARE DESCENDS ON WOMEN OF AFGHANISTAN Is U.S. Responsible For "Stunning" Taliban Victories ? "Modesty Patrols" Now Roaming Streets Of Kabul + A crackdown of unprecedented proportions on irreligious behavior, political dissent, and -- particularly - women is now taking place in Afghanistan, as the fundamentalist Taliban movement solidifies its grip on the nation and takes over the bureaucracy in Kabul. Last weekend, the Islamic warriors of the Taliban militia swept through the capital of Kabul, putting government troops under the command of former military chief Ahmed Shah Masood to flight. Harsh new decrees based upon strict interpretation of Islamic law have been put into effect. Our story today focuses on two developments... * THE WAR ON WOMEN. Taliban has already shut down all girls schools in areas under its control. One of the first decrees from Taliban mullahs upon capturing Kabul was to prohibit women from holding jobs, attending schools, or wearing "un-Islamic dress". Women must now wear full head coverings (the notorious "veil"); and men have been ordered to begin growing full beards in accordance with religious doctrine. Yesterday, Amnesty International accused the new theocratic regime of "implementing a reign of terror." An AI statement issued in London declared "Despite statements from their leadership suggesting moderation, it is clear that Taliban guards are busily implementing a reign of terror in Kabul. Families are afraid to go out into the streets, afraid to answer their doors and afraid that their loved ones will suffer the brutal consequences of being found un-Islamic by the militia." Meanwhile, Taliban guards have been conducting house-to-house sweeps in search of firearms, western literature, television sets and rock 'n roll music cassettes (a favorite target of Taliban security checkpoints on highways.) In addition, Taliban units reminiscent of Orthodox Jewish "modesty patrols" are now roaming the streets. Britain's Electronic Telegraph reports today that "Eyewitnesses in the capital say they saw armed Taliban fighters thrashing two women with aerials ripped from a car. The women were apparently guilty of not wearing strict Islamic dress, although they were fully covered except for their eyes.'They were crying and trying to run away...'." Mandatory prayer has also been ordered by the power hungry clerics. Earlier this week, Radio Kabul ordered all males to attend mosque services for morning and evening prayers. All public transportation has been ordered to halt five times each day for prayer sessions. The broadcast stated: "Offering prayers in mosque is sunnat (tradition of the Prophet) and those who abandon it are considered to be corrupt. Therefore all drivers of taxis, buses and lorries are asked to park their vehicles at the nearest mosque and offer congregational prayer along with their passengers." According to the Telegraphy, another decree issued on Wedneday orders all local mullahs and district Taliban commanders to "turn over...people who skipped prayers." "The latest ruling not only makes it obligatory for the once relatively liberal city's population to pray, but also demands that they do so in mosques, and not at home or at work as many Kabulis have done for decades." The Mullahs have continued their "war on women" in another order released yesterday, which declares that all public buses must immediately have a partition (chain or board) confining women to sit only in certain areas. Radio Kabul said that the order was being issued by the "religious police department." Today's New York Times includes reports of further abuse of women on the streets of Kabul, and notes that the "streets of this largely ruined city (are filled) with thousands of illiterate village youths toting Kalashnikov rifles." Reporter John Burns writes of how "Taliban youths took sticks to three women in the street...because their ankles showed beneath the head-to-foot shrouds that women are required to wear outside their homes." Burns also notes the growing "fear and anger that the Taliban have stirred among many of Kabul's million people, especially...women and girls..." Relief organizations are already encountering problems in rushing aid to the citizens of Kabul. One obstacle is the Taliban decree prohibiting women from working even in hospitals and clinics which now face a catastrophic shortage of doctors, nurses and other personnel. The situation can become worse for the estimated 40,000 "war widows" who are the sole support of their families. Yesterday, an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross told media that many families are "desperate." In addition, the ban on any school means that groups like Oxfam Internation will be forced to close down programs which teach women and children how to avoid the estimated 10 million land mines that pepper the countryside. One unidentified woman physician, who is defying Taliban and keeping her health clinic open, told The Times: "It is so sad, and so demoralizing. In Russia and the United States, women are being launched into space, but here in Afghanistan, women are being told that they have no place but in the home. It is a primative thing." * RUMINATIONS OF POSSIBLE U.S. INVOLVEMENT. Conspicuously absent from the U.S. newsmedia during the past week have been the growing number of reports concerning possible U.S. involvement and support for the Taliban regime. The Los Angeles Times broke that news blackout this morning, though, although the paper used the term "conspiracy theory" to describe any possible American involvement in the "stunning" string of Taliban victories. There are several good reasons why certain American policy makers may support Taliban, or encourage the movement. * Taliban reflects a Sunni Moslem tradition more aligned with the predominant Islamic culture of Saudi Arabia, and somewhat distinct from the Shi'ite orientation of the regime in Iran. Taliban clerics -- some of whom are known to have read literally only one book in their lives, namely, the Koran -- are surprisingly effusive in their praise for the United States, and its support of the various guerilla movements which fought the Soviet Union following its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Some of those movements eventually aligned themselves with Tehran, while others degenerated into robber bands, war lords and drug dealers. Taliban appealed to nationalist sentiments, though, and seems to eschew any foreign entanglements along the line of Iran's efforts to "export" Islamic Revolution. The Times says that Taliban cleric Shirmohammed Stanekzai has stated that Afghanistan will "no longer serve as a training ground or haven for foreign extremists." In addition, Taliban could be counted on to either stop or channel the thriving drug traffic which has increasingly become a source of revenue for some former Mujahadeen groups. There is also the Pakistan-connection. The "stunning" victories of the past months which have surprised both friends and foes of Taliban were made possible by a powerful U.S. ally, namely Pakistan. Kremlin strategists, in assessing their own vulnerability to a growing Moslem insurgency from the south, consider Taliban to be a creature of the Pakistani Intelligence Service. And more: Taliban officials in Islamabad, Pakistan and now Kabul, appear to be dealing with only one government -- the United States. There are contradictory reports as to when talks between Taliban leaders and U.S. Deputy chief of mission John Holzman might take place, but the Times writes that a meeting could happen "as early as next week." "To those numerous Afghans who see an American hand in the Taliban's triumph, the relative speed with which the United States is now seeking to establish official contact with them is offered as further proof of collusion," notes the Los Angeles paper. But an unidentified Kabul University graduate student has another point. "How can your country want to deal with people who whip women for not conforming to their dress code?" ** GET ON THE HOT LIST... If you're a member of American Atheists, you should be participating in some of the lively, irreverent discussions taking place on our moderated discussion forum, AACHAT. It avoids the flame wars of alt.atheism, and since our moderator, Margie Wait, is constantly at her keyboard, well, the comments and discussions are almost in real-time! There's news about American Atheist events and activities, and spirited arguments about religion, civil liberties, Atheism, history...you name it! If you would like to become part of the growing aachat family, just contact Margie Wait at aachat@atheists.org. ** A NOTE TO READERS... Earlier this week, a server failure led to a delay in sending out aanews dispatches, and even possible loss of some subscribers. If you have discovered that you aren't getting aanews directly to your e-mail address, you may have to re-subscribe. Although the listserv failure was apparently due to malicious "spamming" of an unrelated list hosted by our service provider, over the last two weeks American Atheists has been the target of at least (and possibly two) "spam" types; we have learned that the purpose of these false subscribe messages has been to essentially clog one of the ports of the listserv, creating a que problem. Make sense? Anyway, we apologize for any delays or lost subscriptions, and are working with the system administrators to solve this problem. ** 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 info@atheists.org and include your name and postal address. Or, check out our cool new site on the web at http://www.atheists.org. 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 aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait, irep@atheists.org

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