Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 4, 1996 A M E R
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 4, 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
#172 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/4/96
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
* "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
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
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
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
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
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
* 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
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
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
* 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
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?"
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