Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 15, 1996 A M E
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 15, 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
#176 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/15/96
In This Issue...
* "Equal Time" On Public Access
* Christian Coalition -- Election Day Countdown
* A Message To Readers
* About This List...
ATHEIST WANTS ''EQUAL TIME'' ON CITY RELIGIOUS CABLE TV
It would have to happen in a place like Corpus Christi, Texas.
The city government required the major cable provider in the area, Paragon
Cable, to have several public access, local origination channels, including
one devoted exclusively to religious programming. That doesn't sit well with
Atheist Ron Hudson, who is challenging the "believers only" monopoly and
demanding equal time on Corpus Christi's official religious channel. And
word is that the City Attorney has already decided that Mr. Hudson has a
Hudson recently told the San Antonio Express News that his fight for cable
access is "a First Amendment issue which allows freedom of religion and, I
contend, freedom FROM religion." That issue has occupied his efforts for
over a year when he complained to the local City Council.
The Cable Commission is due shortly to make it decision on whether Hudson
will be given a chance to appear on Channel 18, which up until now has been
devoted exclusively to religious programming. Under a franchising agreement
negotiated in 1981 with the City, Paragon is required to provide a total of
four public-access channels, including one devoted exclusively to religious
content. The requirement for appearing on Channel 18, though, was that the
individual had to represent a church that is "recognized" by larger religious
bodies. For Hudson, this rule constitutes a "religious test" for
participating or having access to a governmental function.
According to the Express-News, about 35 area churches appear on the
religion-only channel, and times slots are determined through a lottery
system. Rev. Jerry Vestal, who represents the churches, warned: "His
(Hudson's) purpose is to do away with our whole structure, remove all the
religious requirements, so we'll become just another public-access channel."
But Ron Hudson suggests his beliefs, or lack of them, are not the issue. He
told the paper: "People here think I want access so I can do some Christian
bashing. That's not the point at all, although it might occur." Meanwhile,
Rev. Vestal countered by dragging out the name of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, and
warned that Hudson's efforts were like those of the famous Atheist who
"persevered in taking prayer out of school..."
Vetal adds that he is also "praying" for Mr. Hudson, "that Christ will
come into his heart."
"He'd be a wonderful Christian," adds the Reverend.
(We'll let you know how Ron Hudson's battle with local cable and government
authorities is resolved when we learn more... -ed.)
CHRISTIAN COALITION: WARY OF DOLE or STAYING THE COURSE ?
With the 1996 Presidential election just a little over two weeks away,
there are now developments on the religious right -- and particularly within
the Christian Coalition -- that are worth watching.
* Distribution of between 50 million and 65 million Christian Coalition
"voters guides" is now underway, mostly through a network of up to 100,000
participating churches and religious groups throughout the country. Some
controversy, however, seems to be plaguing this effort, although the
resources of the Coalition are so vast that its campaign on behalf of GOP
nominee Bob Dole and many Republican incumbents up for re-election is moving
forward. But the "Road to Victory" Conference held in September is now
encountering a few bumps in the road.
The suit filed by the Federal Election Commission which alleges that
Christian Coalition is essentially a political action committee has CC
executives sufficiently worried that they dispatched attorney Alan P. Dye (
partner in the Washington law firm of Webster, Chamberlain & Bean) to send a
letter to pastors advising them about the distribution of the controversial
voters guides. Recall that the "guides" -- perhaps the most formidable tool
in the Coalition political arsenal -- are often distributed immediately prior
to election day; they purport to summarize candidate's views and voting
records on "hot button" issues like defense, homosexuality, abortion and
prayer in schools. Critics have charged that these "guides" are
disingenuous, or distort a candidate's substantive views on issues.
Mr. Dye's letter, addressed to "pastors", says that religious groups
"should have no concern that they may violate any provision of the Internal
Revenue Code" by distributing the guides, adding "There is no known instance
in which the tax-exempt status of a church has been revoked as a result of
the distribution of voter guides."
While Dye is technically correct, his letter does not mention cases where
churches which have taken partisan political stances on issues such abortion
HAVE run afowl of both election laws and regulations concerning non-profit
religious or educational groups.
According to the organization WATCH97 which is monitoring the Christian
Coalition, the Dye letter also ignores some crucial distinctions between
(501)(c)(3) and (501)(c)(4) organizations. In the latter category,
regulations about distributing political materials such as voters guides are
less strict than they are for the (c)(3) groups as defined by the Internal
Revenue Service. "The criteria for (501)(c)(4) voter guides are less
strict," notes WATCH 97, "allowing them to be based upon voting records and
information other than the answers to questionaires. Distribution of those
kinds of voer guides clearly puts the ...tax status of churches in jeopardy."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is now circulating two
memos dealing with voters guides; AU warns that the guides must be "non
partisan." In addition, "charities ( including (501)(c)(3) churches and
religious groups) are absolutely prohibited from intervening in political
campaigns by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office."
* There is new information about the push the Coalition is now conducting
on behalf of its endorsed candidates for office. According to Watch97 and
other sources, the Coalition contacted members of both the House and Senate
in its battle to override the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. In at least one
communique, the group said that: "The Christian Coalition will distribute 72
million congressional scorecards and voter guides during this cycle. The
partial birth abortion issue will be a key issue included in this voter
* The Coaltion's precinct army of volunteers includes literally thousands
of so-called "Church Liaisons." The liaisons have been working to recruit
pastors and church leaders to adopt a "Pastor Plan of Action" which includes
release of the guides and scorecards with church bulletins slated for
distribution on Sunday, November 3. Since this is only 48-hours before polls
open, don't expect candidates whose votes or views on issues might be
misrepresented to have adequate time to reply.
* There appears to be some behind-the-scenes pessimism and disenchantment
setting in with the Dole-Kemp ticket, and possibly even the Coalition's
strategy of "sticking it out" inside the Republican party. Coalition founder
and televangelist Pat Robertson has already declared that it will take "a
miracle'' for Dole to win the White House: and things may be equally gloomy
over at Robertson's giant Christian Broadcasting Network. Last week CBN laid
off 26 employees including a vice president, the third staff reduction in a
year. The Knight-Ridder news service suggests that the layoffs may be an
effort to save money for its giant international outreach effort known as
WorldReach 2000. That programs seeks to evangelize nearly a billion persons
before the turn of the century, many of them living in countries of the
so-called "10-40 zone" which includes most Muslim, middle eastern nations.
Last month, revenues at the Christian Coalition declined for the first
time according to tax records. Total donations for 1995 were $18.7 million,
down from a record $21.2 million in 1994. Even so, this may simply be a
shifting in how members and supporters underwrote Coalition activities; a
spokesman for the group said that that state CC chapters focused on raising
money for local activities.
The Coalition and a number of religious right groups feel that Dole is not
placing sufficient emphasis on the "morals agenda" in his campaign against
President Clinton, opting instead for a strategy which emphasizes his
proposed 15% tax cut. The Coalition, and some strategists within the
campaign, want Dole to step up his personal attacks and pay more attention to
the so-called "character issues." Even conservative columnist Chrles
Krauthammer, by no means a bible-banging fundamentalist, criticized the GOP
nominee for his only "occasional forays" on character and failure to
emphasize issues like the partial abortion abortion ban. Over the weekend,
syndicated columnist and commentator Georege Will echoed Krauthammer's
refrain, and urged Dole to concentrate his attacks and "refocus the debate
about extremism, and about the coarsening of the culture, which is in much
worse condition than the economy..."
* A Dole defeat -- or worse, the loss by the Republicans of one or both
houses of Congress to the Democrats -- could push more extreme religious
right elements into groups like the Christian Reconstructionist-run US
Taxpayers Party which until now has managed to attract only feeble support.
It could also undermine the grip which the Christian Coalition enjoys in
many state Republican organizations. Ironically, one of the statements heard
frequently from those grumbling about the Christian Coalition strategy and
the Dole-Kemp ticket, is a quote made by Dole in the October 6 debate.
Rather than lambast abortion, gay rights and child pornography, Dole told
the country: "I'm not some extremist out here; I care about people."
A Message To AANEWS Readers...
Dear AANEWS subscriber,
We sure hope that you're reading this! If you are, it means that after
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which has accumulated over the last several days. Bear with us...and, again,
thanks for your patience and support of AANEWS!
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