Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 13:55:09 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 23, 1996 A M E

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Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 13:55:09 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 23, 1996 Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #183 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/23/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * Evangelist Robertson Is Partner With Demo "Soft Money" Family * Atheist Media Appearance * TheistWatch: Taliban "Dead For A Thousand Years..." * About This List... An AANEWS Special Report... ROBERTSON TIED TO LIPPO-RIADY NEXUS OF CLINTON-DNC FUNDRAISING IFE Is Partner With Riady In Telecommunications Move The name of religious right televangelist Pat Robertson has come up in connection with a list of players linked to the charges of possible financial impropriety and campaign wrongdoing involving the Democratic National Committee. Robertson's International Family Entertainment Inc. has been involved since late last year with the Indonesian financial conglomerate Lippo Group in a telecommunications venture to bring "no sex, no news, no violence" capble TV programming into China, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan. Lippo is owned by the wealthy Riady family which according to news sources including TIME and the New York Times has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from relatives and employees into the coffers of the Democratic National Committee. That revelation has set off a wave of concerns and charges about "soft money" and foreign contributions to political candidates. While it might at first seem bizarre to encounter Robertson's name in connection with key Democratic movers-and-shakers, one has to appreciate the nature of the evangelist's international media outreach. The story begins with the jumble of interests, business deals and personal relationships surrounding names well known to Clinton White House watchers, including some of the President's cronies from Arkansas days. It begins with the late Vincent Foster and Hillary Rodham Clinton when both worked for the Rose law firm, and provided legal counsel on behalf of a company known as Systematics which wrote software for tracking money and other data processing services. 49% of Systematics was owned by Jack Stephens; another related firm, Stephens, Inc. had participated in underwiriting Initial Public Offerings (IPO) of such corporate gians as Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods. Stephens had also acquired control of Worthen Banking Corporation, which in the early 1980's was Arkansas' largest bank holding company. Jackson Stephens had met Dr. Mochtar Riady in 1976, an Indonesian multi-billionaire whose Lippo Group was a major player in the Asian financial markets. (Present Lippo joint venture partners include Bankers Trust, Banque Nationale de Paris, Stephens Inc., USA, Tokai Bank Limited of Japan, and Swiss Banking Corporation, Zurich among others.) Riady was looking for an American bank to buy into; and by 1978, Riady and Stephens had set up a joint venture known as Stephens Finance, Ltd. based in Hong Kong; the Riady family ended up also controlling the Bank of Trade in San Francisco, as well as the Hong Kong Chinese Bank. Stephens had other ventures, of course, including a firm based in Ft. Smith, Arkansas which owned properties sitting over huge natural gas deposits. But the Riady-Stephens-Arkansas connection brought in the Riady family as contributors to Democratic causes. Estimates of Riady wealth today run as high as $6 billion. Another interesting connection between the Riady family and the Clinton's has been C.Joseph Giroir, a senior partner at the Rose lawf irm where future First Lady Hillary Clinton worked. Giroir has been a close friend of the Riady family patriarch, Dr. Mochtar Riady; and when William Clinton's bronze bust was ensconced in the Smithsonian Museum's National Portrait Gallery on July 8, 1994 at a private reception, it was noted that the statue was a gift of Giroir and his wife "in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Mochtar Riady." (The Clinton-Rose-Riady links have been grounds for considerable speculation, especially in connection with Whitewater, Filegate and other alleged improprieties. Thus far, though, the association appears to be nothing more than the usual political favor-courting between business and political interests.) Enter An Unlikely Evangelist... We have not been able to determine the exact circumstances of how Pat Robertson was introduced to the Riady family. According to the Los Angeles Times, Robertson has said recently on his TV program, "The 700 Club", that the Riadys "are friends of mine," and that he doesn't "understand exactly what the flap is all about," a reference to the latest imbroglio over Lippo contributions to the Democratic National Committee. Yesterday, Robertson's boy wonder, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, announced that the Christian political group was filing a complaint against the Democratic Party with the Federal Election Commission and demanding a full probe into a recent fundraising event at a Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles. At the Temple gathering, large sums of cash were allegedly handed over (presumably from "anonymous" Asian-Americans or even Asian interests) to Buddhist Temple personnell for conversion to checks and contributions to the Democratic National Committee. Strange Bedfellows? But why would a right-wing American televangelist -- and one who directs a major political assault against the Clinton White House -- be working closely with an Indonesian conglomerate which has a long history of supporting Democratic Party candidates? To understand this, one has to know something about Robertson's international ambitions, specifically those involving a company known as International Family Entertainment, Inc. With annual revenues of nearly $250 million, IFE was begun in April, 1977 to distribute "entertainment targeted at the family market." It operates with several names, including Christian Broadcasting Family Channel, The Family Channel, and CBN Family Channel, a reference to Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. The company is even listed on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker: "FAM), although filings and company data show that it paid no dividends for the years 1993, 1994, 1995. Even with depreciation schedules, IFE shows assets of over $481,000,000 last year. Over 730 people work out of the giant corporate headequarters in Virginia Beach; the President and CEO is Pat Robertson's son, Timothy B. Robertson. In addition to operating the Christian Broadcasting Network, IFE runs The Family Channel, "one of the largest advertiser-supported cable TV networks," according to the Washington Post. It also has acquired the Cable Health Club, Great American Entertainment Company, Dorothy Hamill International and MTM Entertainment. The Family Channel-UK operates in Great Britain. Robertson's global strategy of "world evangelism" consists of two major efforts. One is an advertising-proselytizing outreach in the so-called "10-40 Window", a goal to "bring the message of Jesus" to an estimated 500,000,000 to 1 billion persons living in the Moslem countries of the middle-east. The other is a slicker, high-tech plan to penetrate media markets, especially in Asia where governments -- including the Communist regime in China -- are scrambling to blunt what they perceive to be the cultural threat from the internet and related technologies, including cable television and direct satellite broadcasts. Robertson's "family channel" content seems to fit the bill, whether it is for authoritarian "directed capitalist" regimes like Indonesia, or hoary communist regimes like Peoples Republic of China. In 1995, Robertson's International Family Entertainment Inc. joined with the Riady-Lippo Group and a Malasian real-estate holding company known as MUI, to begin investing in China Entertainment Television Broadcast Ltd. The initial investment, as reported by the Virginian-Pilot, was $10,000,000 for each partner. CETV, as the firm is known, is carried on more than 500 Chinese cable TV networks. A financial analyst told the paper that "I know Pat Robertson has some cache in mainland China and the company has been trying to capitalize on that." The Pilot added that the analyst, identified as Paul Sweeney, had been informed by IFE executives that Robertson "had developed high-level Chinese government contacts." It was Robertson's son, Timothy B., who has led Family Entertainment's thrust into the potentially lucrative Asian markeptlace. An IFE vice president identified as Diane Linen Powell, said that Robertson "has been looking for some sort of strategic alliance" in the region, and "That whole part of the world holds more growth potential than anyplace else. They have a huge pent-up demand for entertainment products and a huge pent-up demand for consumer products." Indeed, the Robertson-Lippo alliance could prove to be one of the most significant moves the televangelist has made since embarking on his media career back in 1959 when he purchased a run-down television station in Portsmouth, Virgins, and began the Christian Broadcasting Network with a bank account of just $3.00. Lippo is mentioned frequently when analysts speak of an emerging, dynamic Asian marketplkace. The Riady family, through Lippo "has spread its tentacles across the region, particularly in East Asia," writes business colunnist Robert Chia. Lippo, working with IFE and the partnership in China Entertainment Television, is now poised to ride what Chia calls a "media tidal wave" where "media moguls and governments are jostling for a piece of the action." The "family values" content of Robertson's media faire -- nostalgic re-runs, and segments of "The 700 Club" -- fit squarely with the agenda of China Entertainment Television, and many of the governments in the region for "no sex, no news, no violence" programming. CET's Robert Chua, for instance, has business and political contacts throughout the region, including Singapore where he sits on the Trade Development Board, and where the ruling Lee family remains determined to limit the access of citizens to everything from the internet to unrestricted western-style television fare. Chua told the Viriginian-Pilot that the new alliance with Robertson and the Lippo-Riady group "would give him the financial muscle and extra entertainment experience to expand further into China and enter other Asian markets." He added that his new partners "share my programming philosophy" of "no sex, no news, no violence." And he boasted that this new business coalition had "outmaneuvered rivals like media mogus Rupert Murdoch's Star Television Ltd. because it recognized sooner than the others that Chinese authorities have little tolerance for racy or newsy programming." For Robertson, the alliance with Riady-Lippo has propelled him into the role of being a major player in the fast-growing telecommunications marketplace. IFE has plans to move into Australia, and The Family Channel is now carried via networks throughout Latin America. And in addition to working with Lippo, Robertson has signed agreements with a media firm based in Hong Kong, United Film and Video Holdings, Ltd., to distribue Robertson programming in 15 Asian nations. ** A Media Advisory... AMERICAN ATHEISTS National Media Coordinator Ron Barrier will a guest tomorrow for a call-in show on WTRR AM, Orlando, Florida, 1400 on the dial. Catch the action from 4:30 - 5:00 p.m. (Eastern). The subject will be "Prayer," and callers may participate with comments or questions at 407-321-8775. ** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS The U.S. Post Office yesterday announced during a staged ceremony that it will be releasing a stamp to honor the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, which becomes the only religious event other than Christmas to obtain such government recognition. Hanukkah stamps will feature a menorah or group of candles. USA TODAY noted that the issue "is the first in an annual series celebrating ethnic and culture holidays," but has also stirred-up controversy again over state-church separation violations. The Hannukah stamp also marks a change in direction for the Post Office, which two years announced that it was ending the traditional "Madonna and Child" Christmas stamp issue, and reversed itself following an outcry from religious interests and politicians. In keeping with the policy of masquerading religious symbols as "ethnic" or "cultural" icons, the Menorrah stamp will have a more "contemporary" design. The Christian Legal Society announced its support for the postal issue, and added that "Government does not send a message of endorsement when it simply acknowledges the religious traditions and holidays of the people." Really? Then why the outcry and charges of "anti-religious bias" against "people of faith" when the Postal Service tried to withdraw the Christmas stamps? The stamp is being co-issued with post offices in the State of Israel; but Marc Stern of the American Jewish Congress, a group that traditionally maintains a strong pro-separation record, is wary of the whole scheme. He told USA TODAY: "I'm just waiting to see the post office's reaction when the satanists get together and demand a stamp." ** A tip 'o the aanews hat to an unidentified female doctor in the beleaguered Afghan capital of Kabul. Britain's Electronic Telegraph reports that despite signs of an impending showdown amongs competing bands of fundamentalist bullies (including the Islamic idiots of the Taliban movement), women there are slowly trying to get out in public and back to their jobs, despite being banned from from the workplace. "Women who hid at home at the start of occupation are daring to go out again," says the paper. Slowly, medical centers -- run mostly by women -- are beginning to re-open. "This chador business doesn't make any sense," one female doc told The Telegraph, referring to the absurd, Taliban-mandated robe which covers women from head to toe. "How am I supposed to look after people with my hands tangled up in cloth? I can hardly say to them, 'hold on while I roll up my veil'." And what about the Taliban? "These are people who have dead a thousand years." ** Our article yesterday on bogus "Haunted House" attractions run by Christian fundamentalist groups seems to have anticipated a piece in the current New York Times which says that Halloween has become a "mercantile event." The National Retail Federation says that revenue for decorations and other items associated with Halloween now exceed even Mother's Day and Easter. "Some church leaders, citing what they see as the day's glorification of pagan rites or of Satanism, have called for a boycott," notes The Times. School districts -- as if they didn't have enough to worry about from creationists and anti-sex phobes -- are placing restrictions on what kinds of costumes children may wear. We're told that monsters are out -- too scary; hobo barb insults the homeless (how else do you know a fallen inside-trader?); and anything with guns is, well, politically incorrect. There exist an abundance of theories as to why Halloween has taken off and become another major American excuse for partying. Like "The Burning Man" event and ersatz-solstice parties, Halloween may be a manifestation of the growing diversity in the culture's religious-belief markeplace, a trendy atavism and search for community and tribal roots, or a manifestation of modern-day neo and techno-paganism. But maybe a party is just a party. We expect that as the popularity of Halloween continues to grow, so will reaction against it from conventional religious groups ** Word continues to be that many religious right groups are bailing out on the Dole-Kemp ticket in '96, instead wondering about their strategy for the year 2000 and beyond. Most seems to agree that Dole's last chance to close the gap with President Clinton was in his recent debate -- something which most observers agree was a flop. Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council told the Washington Times that "There is something terrible wrong when we have two presidential campaigns in a row, George Bush's and Bob Dole's, in which our nominees are unable to articulate the values of the overwhelming majority of their likely voters." And both anti-feminist maven Phyllis Schlafly and anti-smut crusader Donald Wildmon of American Family Association charged that Dole failed to "energize" his potential voter base. With the exception of Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition, there appears to be growing disenchantment on the religious right with the Republican party. And religious columnist Cal Thomas -- a bellwether of what the country's fundamentalist christians are up to -- laments in his recent column that "religious conservatives have had virtually no impact on this campaign." Thomas has some frightening suggestions, though, on what his co-religionists must consider doing. He quotes ex-Watergate crook turned prison evangelist Charles Colson who , says Thomas, declares that "we are approaching a time when Christians, especially, may have to declare the social contract between Enlightenment rationalists and biblical believers -- which formed the basis of the Constitution written at our nation's founding -- null and void because it has been breached." Thomas adds that "so as not to incite militia groups," Colson "frames his arguments with admonitions against violence." Colson reportedly believes that "a showdown between church and state may be inevitable." Future election debacles could drive much of America's fundamentalists and evangelicals back into the relatively separatist closets which they hid in, at least before Jerry Falwell started organizing them in large numbers in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Others may gravitate toward militant Reconstructionist groups like the US Taxpayers Party, and become, in effect, "America's Taliban" preaching the death penalty for gays, adulterers and other miscreants. Still others could become members of an emergent "Phineas Priesthood," engaging in random acts of violence in the belief that they are either executing god's will, or saving humanity from the wrath of the lord. The Christian Coalition may remain a powerful political movement regardless of how the November election turns out. But the tenuous alliance of different religious groups which wonder boy Ralph Reed managed to cobble together for the Republican Convention may not last. The coalition "public face" of well-healed campaigning and talk about reconciliation may take on an uglier, more vengeful and even more menacing countenance. ** 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 mailing address. Or, check out our cool 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. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER ( Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait,


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