Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 19, 1996 A M E

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Date: Sat, 19 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 19, 1996 Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #179 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/19/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * Coalition "Off The Dole-Man?" * AFS Says Treaty Of Tripoli Is "Day To Remember" * TheistWatch: More Sleaze From Morris, Big Mac Taboo In Israel * About This List... COALITION ''WRITING OFF'' DOLE: SHIFTING TO CONGRESSIONAL RACES ? There is growing evidence that the Christian Coalition is conceding the presidential election to incumbent Bill Clinton, and re-directing its efforts instead to congressional and local races in hopes of keeping its friends in office, and the GOP in control of at least the House or Senate. The strategy reflects disappointment within the organization's leadership that Republican candidate Dole has failed to sufficiently emphasize the "character issue" and what Coalition Director Ralph Reed terms the "moral crisis" facing the nation. Friday's edition of USA TODAY said that the powerful religious political group "has all but written off Bob Dole." The paper also quoted Democratic pollster Alan Secrest, who opined that the Coalition is maintaining a lower profile in the presidential race "to avoid blame" for any Dole debacle on election day. * The Coalition is targeting a number of open Democratic seats in the Senate, including races in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. Also look for a CC push in the North Carolina Senate race where Coalition friend and incumbent Sen. Jesse Helms is facing a tough challenge again from Harvey Gantt in his fifth re-election bid. * There are conflicting reports about the distribution of the Coalition's "voters guides." In some states, guides have already been circulated along with "scorecards" which are a more abbreviated version and concentrate on specific races. USA TODAY reports that the Coalition will distribute "46 million of its voter guides in 120,000 churches on the Sunday before the election," although other estimates of the number of guides have run as high as 65 million. * Last week the Coalition blasted the Clinton campaign's ad campaign running on religious radio stations throughout the country. Ralph Reed said "It is the height of hypocrisy for a sitting president to accept contributions from pro-abortion and gay lobby groups at the very moment that he is telling Christians in targeted radio ads that he opposes the radical agenda of the same special interest groups to whom he is beholden." The ads boast that Clinton favors a ban on late-term abortions, although the President vetoed the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Bill in April since it did not make exceptions for cases where the health or life of the mother was endangered. ** ATLANTA FREETHINKERS CALL FOR CELEBRATION: TREATY OF TRIPOLI November 4, 1796 Should Be A Day To Remember... Well, it's not as popular as the Fourth of July. But the Atlanta Freethought Society is urging Atheists and state-church separationists everywhere to do what they can in building public awareness of an important anniversary, namely, the signing of the Treaty of Tripoli which was signed on November 4, 1796. The group would also like to see more awareness as well about June 10 -- on that day in 1797, the Treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate, then signed and proclaimed by President John Adams. You won't find the Treaty of Tripoli mentioned in many popularized histories; and it is not directly related to the Tripolitan War, a conflict which spanned the years between 1801 and 1805, and finally ended the payment of booty tribute to the Muslim Pasha of Tripoli whose corsairs raided ships of foreign nations along the North Africa coast. But the Treaty is important in documenting the legacy of state-church separation in American history: Article II begins with the words: "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." And that phrase is now used widely by separationists in refuting the contention of fundamentalist christians that "America is a religious nation," or is "founded upon Christian (or biblical) principles." The History The Treaty was signed on November 4, 1796 when George Washington was nearing the end of his second and final term as President, although again, it is mostly a footnote or passing mention in various biographies and accounts, and has not attracted the interest -- until lately -- evinced byemore prominant documents and international agreements such as Jay's Treaty with Great Britain. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate the next spring, and proclaimed law by President John Adamns on June 10, 1797. Despite its relative lack of notoriety, though, the Treaty of Tripoli is an important document in the history of state-church separation, and remains a vital source in refuting the distortions and historical revisionism of Pat Robertson, David Barton and others who insist that "separation is a myth." Robertson has declared that "separation of church and state is a lie of the left and the liberals," and even U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rhenquist, in a series of chilling revelations, has expressed that the "wall of separation" referred to by Thomas Jefferson, likewise has no basis in history. In a statement released on the internet to various Atheist and First Amendment organization, Ed Buckner of the Atlanta Freethough Society is urging us to "push for celebrating either or both of these bicentennials, with press releases, letters to the editor, requests, requests for officials to make proclamations," and more. Mr. Buckner has also done some exhaustive research in refuting the doubts and objections raised by certain religious fundamentalist writers and partisans. Buckner notes "Since most of those objections have some grain of truth to them but are nevertheless misleadingly used, they need to be considered one at a time: * "The words, 'As the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion...' were almost certainly written by an obscure poet known to keep company with men attacked as having the reputation of being atheists." The author, who wanted very much to be remembered primarily as an epic poet rather than an "obscure" one, was Joel Barlow, the U.S. diplomatic representative assigned the task of reaching peace with the pirates of the Barbary coast. He wrote the words as a part of Article II of a Treaty with Tripoli agreed to on November 4, 1796. Barlow was a good friend of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe. When the French radicals arrested Thomas Paine, it was Barlow that Paine hurriedly entrusted with the manuscript of the first part of The Age of Reason. Barlow may have been an atheist himself, or, more likely, a deist -- and that may have somehow had something to do with the great controversy and mystery surrounding the existence of the famous Aritlce II. * "It's just a widely circulated but discredited myth that President George Washington ever wrote the famous words." According to Paul Boller, in GEORGE WASHINGTON AND RELIGION (1963), "Very likely Washington shared Barlow's view, though there is no record of his opinion about the treaty." Unfortunately, someone, perhaps an overzealous freethinker, circulated the words as a Washington quote, no doubt because the words were composed during the end of Washington's second administration. Some of the true circumstances surrounding the treaty text make the quote a more effective weapon against Christian-nation mythologists than if it had been a mere Washington quote. * "Only four years after the Treaty of Tripoli we're discussing was proclaimed, Tripoli declared war on the U.S. (so it was not really much of a success as a treaty) -- and the treaty was suprerceded by a second treaty with Tripoli a few years after that, so it no longer has any leagal force. Subsequent treaties did not contain these words and in fact one or two even contained allusions to the 'Trinity'." These points are all accurate, but all of them miss the mark nevertheless. Later treaties with Russia or Great Britain, which were then Christian nations, had the ceremonial allusions to the Trinity that such nations would want, but these had no treaty declarations of any kind of Christian status for the U.S. The significance of the words in Article II of the 1796-97 treaty is not that those words created a non-Christian nation or gave us a godless government -- it was the U.S. Constitution and First Amendment that did that. The significance lies in the fact that these words were used, apparently to reassure a Muslim power, and broadly accepted in the U.S., less than a decade after the Constitution was adopted and only five or six years after the First Amendment was approved. It is a strong reinforcement of the plain original intention of the framers and founders that is significant. * "The Treaty was in Arabic, and few if any Senators read Arabic." The original was in Arabic, but the English version, written by Joel Barlow, is the version voted on by the Senate, signed and approved by the President (by then John Adams) and proclaimed to the nation on June 10, 1797. It is the English translation that was reprinted in newspapers of the day and has always been treated as the official treaty in all U.S. records and reprints of treaties. * "Only 23 Senators in all voted for the treaty. And only one of Georegia's Senators voted for the treaty, and he left the Senate after that term, never to return." These points are also technically accurate, but very misleading. All Senators present (the Senate had far fewer members in thos days) voted, in a rare recorded vote, in favor of the treaty. One of Georgia's Senators was absent because of his alleged involvement in the Yazoo land fraud scandal; Georgia's other Senator, Josiah Tattnall, chose not to run for re-election, but was thereafter elected as Governor of Georgia. Though a young man -- one of Georgia's youngest governors -- he died shortly after that. Tattnal County was named after him, as were various streets and squares in Georgia." Mr. Buckner adds that "We have checked these details carefully and assure everyone that they are defensible." He adds that "The Atlanta Freethough Society is NOT suggesting that this treaty (or the Constitution that preceeded it makes the U.S. government anti-Christian nor tha it should be. For the sake of everyone's liberty, the government is -- and must remain -- neutral regarding religion." Hopefully, the efforts of the Atlanta Freethough Society concerning the bicentennials of this Treaty will be echoed by other individuals and groups throughout the country. You can reach the AFS by writing to PO Box 813392, Smyrna, GA 30081, or via phone at 770-641-2903. AANEWS will carry more information about the Treaty, including additional research by Ed Buckner which was included in his original e-mail/press release. ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS One of the more amusing aspects of this year's Presidential race is the contest between the major parties to see which side can outdo the other when it comes to invoking "god," motherhood and apple-pie in the vote-begging. The Christian Coalition remains convinced that the will of an almighty deity is best reflected in its own voters guides and scorecards, which presumable reflect the "God's Office-Keeping Seal of Approval" for all public officials be they inhabitants of the White House of the local tax assessors office. For the sake of argument, I can see where a hypothetical Supreme Being MIGHT be interested in those weighty developments concerning the fate of entire nations; but is there such a thing as "god's will" when it comes to a local zoning matter? Indeed, is there a "Christian way" of deciding the routing of, say, sewer pipes and gas lines? Does "god" have a land use plan for every township and block in the nation? Worse yet is the fact that it's just not religious right fundamentalists who claim to speak on behalf of "god's" political proclivities. In a classic case of "monkey-see-monkey-do," liberal religionists are now copying the Coalition's ruse of disseminating "voters guides" and other materials, albeit with a political slant of their own. The Interfaith Alliance, championed as an "alternative" to the Christian Coalition, now has 109 chapters in 36 states and will be pimping ITS voters guides in over 40 U.S. House and Senate races. According to USA TODAY, the Interfaith Alliance hopes "to show that the (Christian) Coalition does not speak for all Christians on issues such as abortion, gay rights, immigration and welfare reform..." Perhaps not; but Atheists can only smile while religionists squabble amongst themselves and try to divide the "word of god" as some kind of prophetic pie. What good is religion if it says a) there exists an all-powerful entity which created the universe and intervenes in the course of human affairs and b) this being's intentions, wishes and commands are revealed to humanity through organized religion and various "sacred" texts, and yet there is so much disagreement over how all of this is to be interpreted? While these Interfaith Alliances and community-based Interfaith Coalitions may appear more benign than the Coalition and its crankier, fundamentalist allies, remember that they too use the religious stamp to legitimize their own social and political agenda -- the very thing so so righteously condemn the Christian Coalition for doing. And in tracking the activities of these groups across the country, aanews has seen no evidence that they support putting the churches on the taxrolls and doing away with other sanctified privilege for organized religion -- despite calls for expensive social programs and financial obligations by others. Is this right? It is said that sex sells everything from cars to ab busters. Then surely, religion is still a good sales pitch when it comes to peddling a political agenda, left, right or middle of the road. ** Remember sleazebag televangelist Morris Cerullo who we have had occasion to profile in past issues of AANEWS? Cerullo is one of the "prayer warrior" proselytizers buying huge chunks of television air time and conducting "healing crusades" around the world; in July, he took his "Billion Soul Crusade' to England, where in full-page newspapers ads he warned of that nation's "rapid moral and spiritual decline," although in somewhat starker terms than those used by the more staid Archbishop of Canterbury, whom Cerullo accused of being one of England's "confused spiritual leaders." Cerullo runs a San Diego, California based company called Morris Cerullo World Evangelism which has estimated annual earnings of nearly $70,000,000. His romp through England last summer was just one in a continued string of such foraging expedition (he's made over two dozen) in search of money and followers; and he mixed his usual recipe of fire-and-brimstone theatrics with an announcement that contributors could earn "bonus miles" and fly along with Morris in his global jaunts. Last week, it was announced that Cerullo had resigned from the Evangelical Alliance, which represents more than 5,000 churches and monitors their activities for financial impropriety. According to Britain's Electronic Telegraphy, the organization disapproved of Cerullo's "methods of boosting donations to his multi-million-pound crusade, including an air miles initiative..." The Alliance also objected to Cerullo's offer to supporters of a seven step program to "break Satan's hold on your life" which involved sending more money. ** It seems that just about wherever one looks, there is evidence of fundamentalist reaction against the pitfalls and joys of modernity. Take the penchant in some Christian and Moslem circles, for instance, to ban or even burn certain musical recordings or videos, prohibit the wearing of certain kinds of clothing (usually on women!), and demand other forms of social conformity. At times, it is puzzling to divine who is doing the banning and burning -- are the cassette tapes in the blazing fire the victims of a Christian fundamentalist church or a Taliban Muslim militia? Is the neighborhood "modesty patrol" under the direction of a mullah or a rabbi? Hmmm. It appears that hardly any country is immune from these fundamentalist ravishings of civil liberties, common sense, and free choice. While mullahs in Iran and Afghanistan are scouring the streets in search of provocative women, though, orthodox rabbis in Israel have mobilized their followers against the latest target of religious righteousness -- the Big Mac. Recall than in support for helping to elect the Likud Party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's fundamentalists have won themselves unprecedented powers and a number of influential ministry posts. Indeed, religious fundamentalists are now trying to enact mandatory observance of old sabbath laws, have disrupted archeological sites, battled secularists in efforts to shut down traffic arteries, and now want to ban advertising of non-kosher foods on Israel's Channel 2. One ad depicts a "virtual" hamburger complete with layers of bread, meat and vegetables -- and the one offending ingredient, a slice of cheese. See, the injunction found in Exodus 23:19 -- "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk" -- is interpreted by some to constitute a dietary prohibitition against consuming meat and dairy products together. Thirty or so centuries later, this biblical ranting now means that the Big Mac is a "forbidden" food. The spokesperson for McDonald's told reporters: "This is a political. The religious parties want to prove they have the power to enforce their beliefs on other people's behavior." He also termed the prohibition "ridiculous," and said that the burgermeisters were ready to go to Israel's High Court if necessary to protest the invasive religious dietary restriction and advertising ban. Channel 2 is a government network which is overseen by the Israeli Ministry of Education; that department is now controlled by the National Religious Party, one of the beneficiaries of the Netanyahu victory. Britain's Telegraph newspaper notes that McDonald's outlets are regularly picketed by orthodox Jews, not just because of the offending cheese, but because they have become symbols of cosmopolitanism and secularism. Strangely, the Golden Arches which have become the company's trademark, were used in TV ads by the defeated Labor Party as symbols of economic prosperity and foreign investment. But religious fundamentalists like the United Torah Judaisim Party and the National Religious Party, also used the arches to symbolize secular corruption of religious belief. The burger war might end up in the Israeli Supreme Court, where fundamentalists have also been calling for the ouster of the Chief Justice and other jurists who would not approve demands to close major transportation arteries in Jerusalem during the sabbath. ** 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 and include your name and postal address. Or, check out our cool new site on the web at You may forward, post or quote from our dispatch provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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