Date: Tue, 8 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 8, 1996 A M E R
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 8, 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
#174 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/8/96 (Nightowl Edition)
In This Issue...
* Taliban -- "One Nation Under God"
* Unsolved Mystery? What Happened To The Religious Equality Amendment?
* About This List...
TALIBAN OFFENSIVE STALLING ?
The military juggernaut which has shocked both supporters and foes of
Afghanistan's Islamic Taliban militia may have stalled in the last 24-hours,
amidst warnings from a powerful Uzbek warlord and unexpected resistence from
a deposed army commander. General Abdul Rashid Dostrum, who controls six
northern provinces in Afghanistan not currently under Taliban occupation,
warned the fundamentalist militia to stop its bombardment of former
government troops now dug in within the Panshir Valley.
The confrontation between Taliban and troops loyal to General Ahmad Shah
Massood promises to be a classic military dilemma, which has repeated before
throughout history. Even invading Soviet armies in 1989 were unable to
occupy the Panshir; the New York Times today noted that "Now the Taliban are
trying to do what the Soviet troops never could: defeat Massoud (sic) in his
Developments since our last dispatch:
* Western analysts now have enough of a fix on the Order of Battle
concerning all sides in the Afghan conflict, and have concluded that Taliban
could probably not defeat a combined, unified counter attack from both the
Tajik forces of Masood and Dostrum's National Islamic Movement. Taliban could
also incur substantial, even crippling losses even if it does manage to
successfully take the Panshir.
* Is Uzbekistan giving covert support to Dostrum? A Pakistani delegation
arrived there last night to "discuss ways of preventing fighting between
Taliban and General Dostrum," according to the London Times. There are
reports that Uzbekistan is worried about the political and territorial
ambitions of the Pakistanis, who have emerged as a powerful regional force.
And The Religious Madness Goes On...
Taliban mullahs continue to announce draconian restrictions on all areas
of social, political and personal life; is this a trend which could result in
a popular uprising against the fanatical fundamentalist government which now
presides over Kabul and most of the country?
* "Taliban is rule-crazy," notes The Times. Mullah's have now outlawed
caged pet birds; the only reason which we have found so far for this peculiar
edict is that "Canaries are banned because they sing," a prohibition which
could be related to the clerical ban on videos and music. There are also now
restrictions concerning clothing which men may wear -- recall that one of the
first Taliban edicts issued by the power-crazed mullahs ordered women to wear
full clothing, head to foot. Shirts and trousers for men have "disappeared,"
and men are also now being ordered by militia troops to cover their arms down
to the wrist. Most are now wearing robes.
* Attendance at public prayer sessions is now mandatory. Each mosque has
been order to form a "shura" or council which will record names of all
neighborhood males, and check for compliance five times a day. "Come 4:30
a.m., the streets are full of bleary-eyed men following the muezzin's call,"
notes The Times.
* Card games and chess have also been banned since they are said to
encourage gambling. The war on women continues, and there are reports that
women (even when fully garbed) are receiving beatings on the street because
of a rule confining them to the home except for shopping chores.
* "A married couple riding on the same bicycle on the way to the market
were beaten for being physically too close in public..." This incident is
eerilly reminiscent of recent outbursts of fundamentalist religiosity and
theopolitical correctness in Iran, where religious zealots have attacked
women bike riders and protested similar mixed-sex recreational activities.
* A Taliban statement broadcast by Kabul radio declared that the "reforms"
enacted by the new regime were "a matter of pleasure to the Afghan women
whose rights and privileges are protected by the sacred Islam religion..."
* The Washington Post reports that as many as 250,000 people have fled
north before the Taliban advance into the Afghan capital of Kabul. This
enormous migration, say aid organizations with volunteers on the ground,
consists of "primarilly educated people of financial means whose modern
lifestyles clash with the Taliban's extreme interpretation of fundamentalist
Islam." Not everyone, though, has been able to flee the country. Taliban
militia have been reportedly preventing whole families from boarding buses
headed for the border. Ironically, other refugees have headed into
Pakistan, which is the primary backer and quartermaster for the Taliban army.
An International Response Grows -- But Slowly...
Taliban's reign of terror has not yet elicited anywhere near a cohesive
and articulated response from most nations, including those of the European
Union. But yesterday, United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali
warned the Taliban rulers of "serious repercussions" if the clerics continued
their assult on women. While Taliban has not yet attempted to claim
Afghanistan's seat at the U.N., the world body, which works with a number of
private relief groups, is the most important source of aid to the country.
But the New York Times reports that any U.N. call for sanctions or other
measures on behalf of women and individual rights is essentially a challenge
to fundamentalist Islamic law. The United Nations "is entering difficult
territory," notes the Times, since many nations with Muslim majorities
already "discriminate against women in various ways, though seldom so totally
as the Taliban has done."
"And in some of these countries other practices widely considered to be
violations of women's right, like involuntary genital mutilation, take
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ''RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AMENDMENT'' ?
With the 104th Congress now headed home and many legislators facing a
tough re-election battle, among the pieces of unfinished business languishing
in the bill hopper is the so-called Religious Freedom Amendment. Several
weeks ago, AANEWS reported that this proposal -- formerly labeled the
Religious Equality Amendment -- had suddenly been resurrected from Capitol
Hill limbo, and fast-tracked for a vote. That legislation would permit a wide
range of religious expression in public institutions, including school prayer
and other related activities in classrooms.
The Amendment has a convoluted and checkered history.
It began as a proposal from the Christian Coaltion, and was presented
eighteen months ago when the powerful religious lobby unveiled its "Contract
With the American Family," a morals-agenda supplement to the Republican
"Contract With America." The new House Speaker, Rep. Newt Gingrich, promised
a working version of the Amendment in time for a floor vote prior to July 4,
1995. He doled out the task to Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Oklahoma), who then
huddled with representatives of nearly a dozen religious-right groups
including the Christian Coalition, Christian Legal Society, Eagle Forum and
Family Research Council in hopes of drafting a legislation all could agree
That task proved to be insurmountable. All of the groups agreed that some
form of a "religious equality" proposal was necessary in order to legalize
school prayer, but soon two different versions emerged, with different groups
throwing their supporting behind one or the other proposal. Following a
round of widely-publicized hearings in several cities, both amendments
seemed to wither on the legislative vine.
In July of this year, what appeared to be a compromise version of the
Amendment -- the so-called Hyde proposal, named after Rep. Henry Hyde -- was
resurrected. It read:
"Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to
further protect religious freedom, including the right of students in public
schools to pray without government sponsorship or compulsion, by clarifying
the proper construction of any prohibition on laws respecting an
establishment of religion.
"In order to secure the right of the people to acknowledge and serve God
according to the dictates of conscience, neither the United States nor any
State shall deny any person equal access to a benefit, or otherwise
discriminate against any person, on account of religious belief, expression
or exercise. This amendment does not authorize government to coerce or
inhibit religious belief, expression or exercise."
Critics noted that the proposed Amendment "gutted" the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment, and targeted a key objective of religious
right wrath -- the "Lemon Test" or "three pronged" standard which originated
in the LEMON v. KURTZMAN Supreme Court suit. That test enjoined government
from engaging in any activity which was not primarilly secular, served to
promote religion or one religion over another, or resulted in the "excessive
entanglement" between religion and government. Obviously, standards like
LEMON were a substantial obstacle toward prayer in public schools, even the
seemingly more benign religious exercises such as "student initiated" prayer.
With a Religious Equality Amendment, LEMON and other state-church separation
guidelines were effectively viscerated.
Hyde's proposal was christened the Religious Freedom Amendment; its
introduction onto Capitol Hill caught a number of civil liberties groups off
guard, and there was little warning for the one day "hearing" orchestrated by
the House Constitution Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.
News accounts attributed the sudden appearance of this sanitized and
re-worked prayer legislation to the efforts of the Amendment's other author,
Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, the House #2 Republican. There was also another
factor: the Christian Coalition wanted a floor vote on as many bills relating
to its "Contract With the American Family" as could possibly be arranged. At
the August Republican Convention, Coalition Director Ralph Reed promised that
such floor votes would become part of the legislative record, and end up in
the approximately 60,000,000 "voters guides" slated for distribution this
month through the group's network of nearly 100,000 churches.
Among the legislation hastilly brought to the floor was the Defense of
Marriage Act, certain portions of the Welfare Reform Act, the Communications
Decency Act, and (conveniently for the Coalition), a vote to overturn
President Clinton's veto of the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban.
But the Hyde-Istook bill, the Religious Freedom Amendment, never got out
of the subcommittee. What happened?
According to the latest Church & State Magazine, one reason may be the
divisiveness which has plagued efforts at enacting workable legislation and
the specific proposals of Rep. Ernest Istook. On September 12, Istook held a
press conference to call for a vote on his version of the school prayer
amendment, and was "angry because the House leadership has spurned his
proposal in favor of a competing measure introduced by Majority leader Dick
The squabble between the different prayer camps has to do with the
wording, and how much emphasis is placed on classroom religious exercise.
The Hyde-Armey proposal does not specifically emphasize school prayer to the
extent the Istook version does; but legal opinion says that both would
clearly permit an unprecedented range of prayer and other religious exercise
in public schools and other government-public venues.
The split ultimately pits backers of the Istook version with those groups
supporting the Hyde-Armey model. The former has the support of Focus on the
Family, the American Family Association and Beverley LaHaye's Concerned Women
for America. The Hyde-Armey wording appeals to the Christian Legal Soiciety
and the National Association of Evangelicals. Church & State notes that the
Christian Coalition is willing to support either plan.
Regardless of the outcome of the November elections -- and whether or not
Republicans continue to control both the House and Senate -- some version of
a Religious Equality Amendment is likely to rear its head when the 105th
Congress meets next year in Washington.
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