Date: Thu, 10 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 10, 1996 A M E

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Date: Thu, 10 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 10, 1996 Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #174 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/10/96 In This Issue... * Taxpayers Paid $5.1 Million For "Chapel," "Religious Instruction" Facility * Houston: No Public Drug Program In Religious Schools * Afghan Update: "Start Praying -- Or Else!" NEW CHAPEL OPENS, BUT MILITARY BASE WILL CLOSE NEXT YEAR Talk about wasteful government spending... Taxpayers have shelled out $5.1 million to build a chapel a the Naval Training Center in San Diego, California, even though that facility will be closing next year. According to reports, including a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the 33,000 square foot church was four months from completion when the base was put on a government list of military installations being closed for budget purposes. Even so, a Navy spokesman told the paper that "They're going to have to pay for it anyway, so why not complete the structure?" Equally puzzling is news that "The facility was used for the last recruit graduation, but not for religious services -- the base's World War II-era chapel still works fine for that." The new multi-million dollar church is reported used "occasionally for meetings, charity events and other function." But if the older chapel "still works" for religious purposes, why spend money on a new structure? An AANEWS investigation revealed, though, that the original appropriation for the "chapel and religious instruction facility" was only $4.1. That figure was included in a funding bill approved in August, 1994, part of a $94 million appropriation for military facilities in San Diego County; it was part of a compromise measure between appropriation committees in the House and Senate. Further State-Church Violations? Military chaplains and religious facilities on military bases have been defended as constitutionally appropriate with the argument that personnel are often denied access to such facilities as part of their combat mission. While that argument may have a basis in the case of troops in distant countries or remote areas, there seems to be little rationale for building any chapel -- especially, a new $5.1 million structure -- in San Diego. An AANEWS reader informed us that the Yllow Pages directory is filled with listings under the heading of "Churches," and that he did not "realize the number and diversity of San Diego's churches...there are christian churches of almost every conceivable major denomination, Moslem mosques, Jewish temples, New Age (Holistic and Metaphysics), Buddhist Temples, Hare Krishna Temples, etc..." Mr. Daniel Nakaji added that "There are definitely more churches in the outlying suburbs of La Mesa and Lemon Grove ..." and that he "stopped counting churches individually at 300 when I got to 'Churches-Catholic, Byzantine' so there are eight more pages left...I would say there are at least 1,500 churches in San Diego, not counting those little 'shopping center' churches that I've seen." With the base closure, San Diego faces a dilemma similar to other communities throughout the nation -- what becomes of the land and buildings on abandoned military installations? Local officials were reportedy studying possible uses for the Naval Training Center as far back as June, 1993, and City Councilman Ronald Roberts suggested converting the base into a public park. Others suggested converting it an airport to relieve the congestion at nearby Lindbergh Field. If the city does purchase the Training Center, there is then a question surrounding the fate of the new chapel. A slew of recent court cases has sent a warning to local government officials in California and Oregon that religious monuments of any kind cannot be maintained on public land. ** OFFICIALS SAY ANTI-DRUG PROGRAM CAN'T OPERATE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS In Harris County, Texas, public officials have warned deputies that they may not operate several drug and gang prevention courses in private religious schools since it violates the Constitutions of both the United States and the State of Texas. That decision was made by the county attorney's office after a local Constable asked permission for his deputies to include the church schools in some of the popular nationwide educational programs, including DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance and Training) and GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training). According to the Houston Chronicle, one of the schools proposed for inclusion in the program was the Northland Christian School. It is not yet known whether the County Commissioners will follow the ruling from the attorney's office. The Chronicle noted that the State Constitution is more rigorous in its concept of state-church separation. The 10-page opinion from the County Attorney observed that this fact stemmed from the Texas history, when citizens resisted the official religion of Catholicism while they were part of Mexico. Following independence, notes the Chronicle, "they ensured that their constitution would protect them from such requirements in the future." The Harris County opinion distinguished between the use of public aid for individual students, rather than the school itself. The DARE program requires that public law enforcement officers be considered as faculty members, and that the contents of the course be part of other programs administered by the school. "The risk of 'religious entanglement' is high," noted the Houston paper. ** Afghanistan ~ TALIBAN STALLS, RE-TAKES LOST GROUND NEAR PANSHIR VALLEY Taliban troops and armored units attacked the town of Jebul Siraj early this morning, winning back some of the territory lost earlier to a surprise offensive by former government troops. Yesterday, fierce fighting took place at the mouth of the strategic Panshir Valley, a redoubt for ex-military chief Ahmed Shad Massood. An estimated 200 Taliban militia were killed, and the Islamic army fell back to a position near Charikar, some 40 miles north of the capital of Kabul. Observers say that yesterday's developments mean "a new phase of war" (London Times) for the Taliban, which has surprised both allies and foes with its string of "stunning" successes on the battlefield. * Apparently cooperating with Gen. Massood's troops are forces under the command of General Abdul Rashid Dostrum, the Uzbek warlord who controls several provinces in the north of Afghanistan. Media reports say that the extent of this alliance is not yet clear; and Dostrum's Islamic army may be able to negotiate and eventually even enter into some kind of coalition government with the Taliban. Interestingly, Dostrum is described as a "whiskey-drinking ethnic Uzbec who rose to military prominence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980's..." * International relief workers and news observers report that Taliban officials are "surprised" by growing international hostility to its sha'ria, or imposition of brutal Islamic law in the areas it governs. Men and women have been issued strict guidelines on dress, music and television have been banned, and Taliban militia -- often led by neighborhood clerics -- continue sweeping areas of Kabul in search of weapons and contraband material. There seems to be little willingness on the part of Taliban officials to relax any of their draconian rules, or give in to international opporbrium. The new education minister of the Taliban theocracy, Said Ghaisuddin delivered a sermon in a Kabul mosque, and declared "We don't care what the West wants us to do...We will carry out the will of god!" * International reverberations from the Taliban conquest continue to be felt. As noted in other AANEWS dispatches this week, Russia is worried about the Islamic threat to its borders, particularly the former republics of Uzbeikistan and Tajikistan which Moscow considers part of its "strategic frontier." It is generally agreed that Taliban is an instrument of the neighboring Pakistani regime. There are now reports that China has covertly sold equipment to Pakistan which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons; and it is no secret that since the 1970's, the Pakistan government has been attempting to develop the so-called "Islamic bomb," in part for leverage in its on-going disputes with regional rivals like India. The technology transfer was initially reported in the conservative Washington Times, a newspaper linked to Rev. Moon and the cultish Unification Church. The Times claims that its information is based on a "top secret" CIA memorandum dated September 14 warning of possible "dual use" equipment which could be employed for either peaceful or military purposes. Among the items are "ring magnets" which were shipped to the Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta, Pakistan, for use in a program to produced enriched weapons-grade uranium. * In areas like the Afghan capital of Kabul, the Taliban mullahs continue to issue religious decrees governing every aspect of social and personal life. The latest regulations we have learned of is an edict ordering men to now wear a turban or skull cap head covering. That does not quite rival an earlier decree, however, which warned citizens that they may not have caged birds of any kind, ostensibly because the birds might sing. * The United States government now seems to have doubts about the Taliban regime which, according to some, met with approval earlier from Washington strategists and may have even received covert American support. CNN notes that "The U.S. is hamstrung by conflicting goals where support for human rights often, in the short term, conflicts with strategic aims." Washington has dispatch a diplomatic team to Kabul which could arrive later today. While the State Department has joined with the United Nations in 'questioning' human rights violations by the Taliban, the clerical regime continues to be intransigent. Mullah Amir Khan Mutaqi, speaking for the six-man Taliban council in Kabul, says "There is no possibility of change in Islamic principles, which have not changed in the past 1,400 years...These principles are eternal, and they will remain eternal." * There are some limited indications that resistance to Taliban within the occupied areas -- especially Kabul -- may be ready to ignite. A correspondent for The London Times quotes an international aid worker who says that women "are very angry" with the flood of restrictive Taliban regulations. The Times adds that "The mullahs who now run most of Afghanistan are unaccustomed to Kabul's comparatively liberal traditions and appear surprised at public resistance to a system that is normal in the countryside." * Iran, which backed other Mujahadeen forces during the decade-long civil war, continues to distance itself from the Taliban. Tehran radio has been broadcasting remarks critical of the Kabul mullahs, including an address by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who delivers regular sermons at Tehran University. He is secretary of the notorious Council of Guardians, the most reactionary of the clerical organizations in Iran, which has substantial influence within the Revolutionary Guards and helps to direct the activities of VEVAK, the Iranian Intelligence Service. Jannati accuses the Taliban of giving Islam a bad name by imposing "fossilized" policies (Reuter News Service), and even criticized the Kabul regime's new policy of restricting education for women. "What could be worse than committing violence, narrow-mindednesss and limiting women's rights (thereby) defaming Islam," Jannati remarked in his address. But Tehran's condemnation of Taliban cannot be taken as a signal for better relations with the West, or even its Arab neighbors. Jannati has helped to orchestrate Tehran's efforts to drive a wedge between the United States and Saudi Arabia by sending its agents to the annual Haj in Mecca. In addition, he is a defender of the group "Supporters of Hebollah," the Iranian organization that mobilizes grassroot supports for the clerical regime in Tehran. The "Supporters'' have attacked women cyclists in public parks for wearing "un-Islamic" dress, and even rioted in movie theaters when mixed-sex scenes are shown in films, or when females sing on stage. Janniti is a reactionary, authoritarian religionist in his own right. What's going on? Taliban and Iran both have different stratgegic interests, and they have considerable doctrinal disagreements as well. While both preach authoritarian Muslim superstition, Iran's clerical establishment is Shi'ite -- the Taliban reflects a different strain of Muslim belief, more akin to the Sunni influence found in Saudi Arabia. The two differ over various doctrinal points of Koranic dogma, and the question of succession to Mohammed. Iran also supported the ousted government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, and is suspicious of Pakisanti (and possibly even suspected U.S.) backing for the Taliban. For the time being, Taliban seems to be remarkably inner-directed in terms of its willingness to "export" its clerical revolution elsewhere. The Taliban doctrines would not be fully tolerated in neighboring Pakistan, and the Taliban council has already announced its intention to create a "nationalist" religious agenda. Tehran is more aggressive in proselytizing in foreign countries, and has even extended its own outreach to places like Bosnia. The Iranian clerics may also consider the mostly illiterate and un-educated mullahs of the Taliban too difficult to control, and too unreliable as a potential ally. ** 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 this 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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