Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 15, 1996 A M E

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Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 15, 1996 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 #176 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/15/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org 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 point. 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 educational material." * 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 several days of hardware problems, our listserver is finally working. We were surprised when last Thursday evening, the "Nightowl Edition" of AANEWS did not arrive in a timely fashion; we then learned that a breakdown at our service provider was responsible. A trickle of e-mail began to flow yesterday, but again the service was too slow for many of you to receive our media advisory. We apologize for duplicate mailings, and for the delay in getting AANEWS to your address. We must also note that while we did receive a number of new SUBSCRIBE messages, some mail to AANEWS may have gotten lost in transit, or in the cue at the listserv. If you subscribed to this service since October 10 but are not receiving mailings directly, you must re-subscribe. Assuming that "all is well" with the TechnoGods at Internet Direct, we will work diligently to clear up the backlog of both news and correspondence which has accumulated over the last several days. Bear with us...and, again, thanks for your patience and support of AANEWS! The LISTMASTER ** 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 mailing address. Or, check out our cool site on the world wide web at http://www.atheists.org. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to both aanews and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) 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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