Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 12:56:58 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 21, 1996 A M E

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Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 12:56:58 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 21, 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 #180 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/21/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org In This Issue... * Afghanistan ~ Yeah, But WHICH god? * Court To Rule On Military Chaplain Politicking * Colorado Amendment Gains New Support * TheistWatch: Fatima Madonna Doll Begins Road Tour * About This List... TALIBAN BLUNTS ATTACK ON KABUL AS BOTH SIDES DECLARE "GOD IS GREATEST" The American presidential election may not be the only showcase of "lesser evil politics." In wartorn Afghanistan earlier today, both the Taliban religious militia which controls the capital of Kabul, and former government troops under the command of General Ahmad Shah Massood chanted "God is greatest" as they each launched rocked salvos and exchanged gun fire. It now appears that following initial victories by Massood's forces, the Taliban has stopped this latest offensive. Much of the fighting centered on the village of Hussein Kot which is just 12 miles on the main road leading into Kabul. From there, Massood's soldiers launched a rocket attack on the capital's airport, and with the battlecry "God is greatest!" began an infantry assault in the direction of Kabul. Taliban militia echoing the same religious sloganeering then counterattacked, driving the former government troops back with what Reuter news service is describing as a "withering barrage of mortar, rocket and artillery fire." Insurrection ? There continue to be reports of growing opposition to the authoritarian Taliban religious agenda, especially in Kabul. Yesterday, Britain's Electronic Telegraph says that "armed resistance is waiting for the command to rise up and rebel," and that "Astonishingly there is evidence that Afghan women, outraged by the Taliban's attempts to impose strict Islamic rule on the city, are launching deadly terrorist attacks on their tormentors." Despite house-to-house searches by Taliban militia to confiscate firearms, ammunition and other weapons, there are estimated to be over 500 guerillas now operating in Kabul, most of them loyal to the former military commander, Gen. Massood. The Telegraph ads that "there are substantial arms caches hidden far from the reach of the Taliban..." In related developments... * Forces of Uzbek warlord Gen. Rashid Dostrum captured the Bagram airbase late Friday night, depriving Taliban of a major staging area . This followed a breakdown in truce talks, and an end to any immediate negotiated settlement. In conferences with representatives of Dostrum, Taliban clerics reportedly stood by their demand that strict Islamic law be imposed on all parts of the country, including provinces controlled by Dostrum, and that both the warlord and troops loyal to Gen. Massood be disarmed. The capture of Bagram means that the pressure is now off Gen. Massood, who until the weekend was entrenched with his units in the Panshir Valley. Kabul is now vulnerable to the north and east, and two of the three main roads leading into the capitol are under the control of rebels. * Any alliance between Massood and Dostrum remains problematic. Gen. Massood is an ethnic Tajik, a group wary of Dostrum's Uzbek origins. Both dislike the ethnic Pashtuns, though, who represent nearly half of Afghanistan's 16 million people and constitute the bulk of the Taliban militia. * Taliban religious fanaticism continues to produce resentment, especially in Kabul. The mullah's have already banned women from the workplace and instituted mandatory, public prayer sessions for all males five times a day. Taliban "modesty patrols" roam the streets assaulting both men and women who are not dressed according to fundamentalist law, and the death penalty has been instituted for a wide range of transgressions, including adultery. The latest Taliban punishment is public humilitation. The London Times reports one incident involving younsters caught stealing "public property" from bombed-out areas of Kabul who were made to stand on chairs in the middle of a road, balancing pieces of waste metal on their shoulders for hours on-end. "It explains why Kabul hates the Taliban rulers," noted The Times, "an uneducated, rural people with no knowledge of city life and a repugnance for its comparatively liberal ways..." Many of the Taliban mullahs who exercise full police powers are near-illiterate; many boast of reading only one book in their lives (the Koran), and many are young religious school students. * United Nations envoy Norbert Holl landed in Kabul early this morning, and is slated to hold talks with senior Taliban officials. The Taliban response may depend, in part, on whether they can broker a deal with Gen. Dostrum, whose front line is just 12 miles from the Kabul city limits. While Dostrum's army is smaller than the combined Taliban units, it is well armed and more coordinated. The Washington Post notes that Dostrum "is considered a formidable military strategists." What To Expect... Regardless of the prospects for a brokered peace agreement, the immediate political and military landscape may not change much in Afghanistan. Dostrum and Massood continue to receive arms from India, Russia and probably Iran; Taliban's main quartermaster, Pakistan, shows no evidence of changing its policy. Beneath the veneer of politics, though, changes could be brewing. The Taliban imposition of religious law has been so brutal that the reaction against it could set the stage for a wider social revolution involving the question of womens rights. The current fighting outside of Kabul is a strictly males-only affair; but within the capital, an insurrection involving women could have unforeseen and long term consequences. If and when Taliban is thrown out of Kabul, it will be interesting to see just how far any new government, be it representing Dostrum or Massood, can go in selling ITS version of Islam to the population. Remember, Taliban was challenging a regime which was already a theocratic establishment. Much depends on how many guns women in Kabul can obtain, and how they organize after the military fighting stops and the political maneuvering beings... ** MILITARY CHAPLAIN CASE HEADED FOR COURT Last summer, when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops launched its "Project Life Postcard Campaign" to mobilize followers in support of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, the military drew a line in the regulatory sand. Each military branch issued guidelines to all service chaplains outlining the limitations for appropriate political activity. The nation's brass specifically prohibited distribution of any political materials from pulpits on miitary bases. As a result, military chaplains were enjoined from distributing pre-printed cards from the Bishops which followers could mail to their local Senator or Congressional Representative supporting the ban on late-term abortion. Now, that gag order is headed for court where it is expected to be heard next month in a Washington federal district court. The case will test the limits of just how far religious groups can go, even when they are directly funded by government -- in this case, pitting the free speech and political activities of military chaplains against restrictions on any government aid to religious activism. Federal laws like the Polk Act forbid lobbying by government employees. The situation involving military chaplains, though, may test new limits in the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which outlaws the mixing of government and religion. The constitutionality of having military chaplains has been challenged in the past, and in cases such as KATCOFF v. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, the courts found that soldiers in remote locations might find themselves without access to religious exercise. But chaplains are on the public payroll, and technically government employees. In addition, church buildings and other equipment on military bases are public property. The Pentagon regulations say that chaplains "may not directly or indirectly influence congressional action on pending legislation because of a rule forbidding lobbying in the military," according to the Christian Science Monitor. A religious coalition of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim chaplains, though, is challenging the restrictions. Civil libertarians and state-church activists remain divided over this issue. Free speech activist Nat Hentoff charged that the military rules were a form of "thinly veiled censorship" which violated "the basic right to receive unadulterated spiritual direction and, more importantly, instruction on how to apply that direction." But Robert Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State declared that the case "underscores the inherent problem of government-funded chaplaincy," and says that the US Supreme Court needs to examine the entire issue. For religious right groups, though, the military guidelines have become the latest in a series of "religious liberty" cases. Representing the group of chaplains is the Washington-based Becket Fund, which in most news reports is identified as a "bipartisan, ecumenical public interest law firm." In fact, the Fund is a major player on Capitol Hill for religion-based legislation such as the proposed Religious Equality Amendment, and worked closely with the Pontifical Council for Culture in Rome early this year in organizing a conference marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. Fund president Kevin Hasson warned that religion was becoming "something which pornography used to be: You can do it only in private, in your own home." ** COLORADO TAX PROPOSAL GAINS SUPPORT Colorado's Amendment 11 which would begin taxing non-profit organizations including churches and religious groups picked up support yesterday, when it was announced that the Business Coalition for Fair Competition had endorsed the measure. The Coalition is an alliance of 19 trade organizations, and works to stop government from competing with private business and remove unfair advantages in the marketplace enjoyed by non-profit, tax-exempt groups. According to a release from Coloradoans for Fair Property Taxation, "This endorsement is based on the fact that the non-profit sector has grown faster as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product than the for-profit sector, and that growth is not driven as much by donations as by the commercial sale of products and services." Amendment 11 booster John Murphy has argued that a tax on the state's non profit groups could generate as much as $100 million in taxes: Murphy wants that to be used as a tax rebate for Colorado citizens, who could then decide on how they wish to spend their money. The proposal has united the state's religious groups, though, and it is estimated that churches alone will be pouring up to $500,000 into the effort to defeat Amendment 11. In the past decade, dozens of religious groups have flocked to communities such as Colorado Springs; while they employ thousands of people, critics says that they receive a special tax-exemption which passes costs onto to private individuals and businesses. The full text of this latest endorsement can be found at http://www.xln.com/~fairtax. ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Mention "child abuse" and the public imagination conjurs the image of some paedophile who's headed to the local school playground just after downloading sexually explicit pics from the internet. But before calling 1-800-SNITCH, maybe we should remember that most physical abuse of children is carried out by relatives (and even parents in the wonderful "nuclear family") or perps known to the victim, not anonymous strangers. The bulk of organized, ritual child abuse doesn't go on inside bizarre satanic cults, but in hard-line, authoritarian fundamentalist sects where walloping children with the back of a hand or a paddle (or witholding food and resorting to torture) is justified as "bible-based discipline." And there's the child abuse practiced by religious sects which deprive kids of appropriate medical attention, just because mom and dad believe that "only prayer" is the way to deal with everything from a toothache to serious diseases. Well, if mom and dad want to trust more in their god than in antibiotics and surgery, that's OK with me. Free country, and it is their freedom of religion. But should they be enforcing their doctrines onto their kids who haven't often reached an age when they are free to choose, or even deliberate over alternatives? Last week, the legal system continued to wrestle with that problem as a federal judge in Boston overturned the 1990 involuntary manslaughter conviction of a Christian Scientist who preferred "spiritual healing" when her preschool daughter got sick. Chief US District Judge Emeritus Karlton ruled that prosecutors had violated the constitutional right of Laurie Walker to receive fair notice that a parent's reliance on such a regimen might be a crime. In 1984, while Walker's daughter was ill, California law recognized "spiritual healing" as an accepted regimen. Prosecutors insisted that this was only sanctioned when children were suffering from what The Christian Science Monitor described as "nonserious illnesses." But Karlton agreed with a defense attorney's petition, who said that his client was protected under the law by the extant statutes in California . In this case, mom won -- but the child lost. ** One need not go into the hoary pages of historical texts to discover myths. After all, myth-making is a thriving business, and some of the greatest religious mythology has been fabricated in our own era. AANEWS has suggested to readers that with the onset of the year 2000, we may expect outbursts of millennialist fervor, much of it manifesting religious overtones of some kind. We have noted the growing number of reports, for instance, of sightings of the Virgin Mary and even Jesus; indeed, next to sightings of UFO's and Princess Di, Mary and Jesus have risen to the top of the pop-culture celebrity list in some nations. One of the greatest myths surrounding Mary -- indeed, one that has done so much to foster the "cult of the Virgin" now sweeping most of the "Christian world" -- concerns the alleged apparition at Fatima, Portugal. October 13 marked the 79th anniversary of this event, where the mom 'o god is said to have appeared to three peasant children and imparted to them folksy instructions and some prophetic utterances. Not surprisingly, one of "Mary's" predictions allegedly concerned the Bolshevik revolution. Russia, it was said, would spread "errors" throughout the world, but eventually that wayward country would find its way back into the smothering embrace of Mother Church. Indeed, Catholic school children for decades were admonished to "pray for the conversion of Russia," and believe firmly in the inevitable outcome. Kind of makes you wonder why "god" permitted the revolution in the first place? With Catholicism making in a poor showing in newly-liberated Russia -- and, according to many observers, losing its grip in the emergent secular societies of the former Soviet block, like Poland -- the Vatican has now launched its latest publicity stunt, and it sending the official statue of Mary from the Fatima cult shrine for a barnstorming tour of Russia, Siberia and -- get this -- Kazakhstan. Thousands of people poured into Fatima, Portugal for the anniversary send-off, which was presided over by none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." CDF, for those who aren't up on Vatican intrigue, is essentially the successor to the Holy Inquisition; it is Ratzinger who plays an important role in the Roman Catholic Church's international operations, with special attention to target nations once "behind the iron curtain." Pope John Paul II is a Mary cultist, and in a 1991 sojourn to Fatima, credited Mary with bringing about the political realignment of eastern europe, and helping him survive an assasination attempt by Turkish gunman Ali Agca in 1981. Seems the attack, carried out in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, was on the Feast of the Virgin of Fatima, May 13. Investigators have linked Agca to a number of groups, from the Bulgarian secret service and the old KGB to fascist groups in Turkey such as the Gray Wolves. Whatever his affiliation, Agca has supposedly converted to Catholicism and apologized to the pontiff for his misdeeds. In anticipation of the millennium, the Church is dragging out for public consumption a veritable closet of long-forgeotted juju relics, including the Holy Coat of Trier and that old Barnum-style standby, the Shroud of Turin. We expect the Fatima Virgin doll to join this grotesque parade of superstitious iconography and make the rounds on behalf of Catholic proselytizing and cultural neurosis. And what about those revelations? How come Mary can't ask her all-knowing son for some truly useful information that would benefit the human race... a cure for cancer or Parkinson's disease or some other malady? What about a non-polluting energy source? Many would settle for the formula to a non-carcinogenic cigarette. ** We recently praised the efforts of the National Center for Science Education, a group which combats pseudoscientific creationism in public schools. This is a group worthy of your consideration and support: check out their web site at http://www.NatCenSciEd.org. * Remember our story a few weeks ago about the uproar over a video of a naked man playing at Durham Cathedral, England? Government officials, police, bluenoses and even some religious zealots all objected to a brief film titled "The Messenger" by graphic artist Bill Viola. According to Britain's Electronic Telegraph, the video is shown behind "modestry screens on policy advice." Now, THERE'S a new term for you -- "modesty screen!" Anway, it turns out that 'The Messenger" is such a hit that the exhibition has extended its hours, and more than 1,000 people each day are making a conscious voluntary effort to see the video. We're just wondering, in light of those numbers, who happens to be defining "modesty?" ** 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 postal mailing address. Or, check out our cool new site on the web at http://www.atheists.org. 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 aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and wirtten by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait (irep@atheists.org).

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