Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996 14:30:59 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 4, 1996 A M E
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996 14:30:59 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 4, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#191 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/4/96
In This Issue...
* High Court Won't Rule On School Prayer
* Anniversary Of Tripoli Treaty ~ More From Ed Buckner
* A Lighthearted Look At JP-2's Dilemma From Frank Zindler
* TheistWatch: Who's Guides, Who's Vote, Who's God
* About This List...
SUPREME COURT WON'T REVIEW SCHOOL PRAYER DECISION
The U.S. Supreme Court this afternoon announced that it would not review
lower court rulings pertaining to a Mississippi law which permitted so-called
"student led" prayer in public schools. The jurists made no comments in
their decision to leave intact circuit court decisions which struck down the
1994 state law as a violation of First Amendment state-church separation.
That Mississippi law was tested earlier this year, when a District Court
ruled in favor of Lisa Herdahl, a mother whose children attended a public
school where daily prayers read by students were broadcast over the school's
PA system. That case also involved bible classes taught by instructors
chosen by local churches, and the use of the school gym for a "voluntary"
prayer session for elementary students at the beginning of the day. While
Judge Neal Biggers found the gym prayer session to be permissible, he
declared as unconstitutional any religious indoctrination in classrooms
during the school day, or the use of the school's public address system for
prayer broadcasts, even if they were led by students. In his decision,
Biggers noted that "The Bill of Rights was created to protect the minority
from tyranny of the majority."
While today's announcement is not technically a ruling on the merits of
lower court decisions, it does send a signal that the high court may be
reluctant to involve itself in a major First Amendment challenge at this
time. Religious groups which had been hoping to see a reversal on lower
court rulings, and in favor or student-led prayer have been frustrated in
their efforts to see some form of religious exercise in public schools. The
Supreme Court's reticence on this matter may increase efforts on behalf of a
constitutional amendment to legalize school prayer; there are several
versions of such legislation in congress at this time.
ATLANTA GROUP BUILDS SUPPORT FOR TRIPOLI AWARENESS
Today is THE day. It was 200 years ago (November 4, 1796) that the Treaty
of Tripoli was sanctioned, which included the words that "the United States
is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
The Atlanta Freethought Society has been urging Atheists and others
concerned with state-church separation to not only learn more about this
important historical fact, but to use it in building public awareness of the
First Amendment. The Treaty is also useful in refuting the argument that
"America is a Christian nation," or that the Founders of our Republic
intended to construct a society based upon "religious" values. If anything,
the Founders -- many of whom were deists -- were tapping into the spirit and
intellectual currents of the Enlightenment which enshrined reason and
liberty, and rejected theocratic oppression.
The AFS's Ed Buckner has done a considerable amount of research on the
Treaty and has shared his information in a previous AANEWS dispatch. Here is
an update being released today by Mr. Buckner on the bi-centennial of this
========== 200 YEARS AGO (November 4, 1796) THE FOLLOWING =======
WORDS WERE AGREED TO BY THE UNITED STATES IN A TREATY WITH
THE BEY AND THE PEOPLE OF TRIPOLI...
"As the government of the United States is not
in any sense founded on the Christian religion..."
-- from Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli.
The Treaty was signed on November 4, 1796, near the end of George
Washington's second term. It was UNANIMOUSLY ratified by the U.S. Senate the
next spring and signed and proclaimed by President John Adams on June 10,
* The author was Joel Barlow, a good friend of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas
Paine, and James Monroe and the U.S. diplomatic representative assigned the
task of reaching peace with the pirates of the Barbary coast. When French
radicals arrested Thomas Paine, it was Barlow that Paine hurriedly entrusted
with the manuscript of the first part of The Age of Reason.
* The treaty was superseded by a second treaty with Tripoli a few years
later and no longer has any legal force, but the significance of the words is
not that those words created a non-Christian nation or gav us a godless
government -- the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment did that. What
is important is 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 strong reinforcement of the plain original intention of
the framers and founders that is significant.
* The original, in Arabic, may not have even had the famous words in it,
but the English version (WITH those words) was the one voted on by the
Senate, signed and approved by the President and proclaimed to the nation on
June 10, 1797. It is the English version that was widely reprinted in
newspapers of the day and has always been treated as the official treaty in
all U.S. records and reprints of treaties.
* All Senators present voted, in a rare recorded vote, in favor of the
treaty. The treaty was read aloud on the floor of the Senate and copies of
the treaty were printed "for the use of the Senate." The treaty was quite
short -- printed, in its entirety, on but one page (sometimes the front page)
of U.S. newspapers of the day. The lack of any recorded argument about the
wording, as well as the unanimous vote and the wide reprinting of the words
in the press of 1797, suggests that the idea that the government was not a
Christian one was widely and easily accepted at the time.
(A note to AANEWS readers. AFS would like to hear from those of you who
might be writing local media or officials about the Treaty bicentennial, or
doing other things to build public awareness over this issue. You can
contact the group via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or snail mail at P.O. Box
813392, Smyrna, Ga. 30081-3392. Ed Buckner is vice president of AFS.
And Speaking Of Even EARLIER History...
UNNATURAL SELECTION AND JOHN PAUL II
Frank R. Zindler, Editor of American Atheist Press, shares his comments
about John Paul II's recent "wake-up call" on the question of evolution. He
made the following remarks in a letter to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch:
Someone should welcome Pope John Paul II to the nineteenth century, but
there aren't too many representatives of that century still alive to do it.
The glacier-quick advance in his thinking beyond that of Pius XII is little
short of underwhelming. But allowing the human body to evolve from ape-like
forms while disallowing the evolution of "souls" has a humorous implication
of which the pope should be warned.
Considering the fact that, through all the generations that connect us to
the denizens of the Proterozoic ooze, no generation has differed from its
parents much more than we differ from ours, there must have been some
unnaturally selected generation into which immortal souls were infused to
make it fully human in the eyes of the Church. Imagine that generation
telling its parents, "Hey, mon and dad! You're just animals that are going to
die and rot. We, however, are humans with souls and we're going to heaven."
Talk about a generation gap!
Frank R. Zindler
EDITOR, American Atheist Press
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Evidence of a split within religious fundamentalist/evangelical ranks
continues to mount. At the time of the Republican National Convention last
August, AANEWS noted that many of the faithful were bolting the GOP ranks
organized by Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, and
heading for the ideological wilderness of Christian Reconstructionism and the
likes of the U.S. Taxpayers Party. USTP is essentially a mouthpiece for
Reconstructionist theology -- they're the folks who would trash the First
Amendment guarantee of church-state separation, and instead create a
theocracy patterned on the doctrines of John Calvin and the Old Testament.
We like to think of them as "America's Taliban": like those Islamic crazies
half-a-world away, the Reconstructionists would mandate the death penalty for
a number of transgressions, including adultery and blasphemy.
The latest split involves U.S. Taxpayer Party disenchantment with the
Christian Coalition "voters guides," some 45,000,000 of which were pumped-out
by the CC's network of 120,000 church on Sunday.
On Sunday, USTP presidential candidate Howard Phillips (a former GOP
operative-turned Reconstructionist) told C-SPAN's "Washington Journal":
"One of the reasons that we don't have a broader awareness of the need not
to vote for Bob Dole, is that some organizations that are parading as
conservative or Christian have been lying about his record. One of them is
the Christian Coalition. They have put out voter scorecards that do not
mention Howard Phillips or Harry Browne or John Hagelin, and which present
Bob Dole's record in a way which is distorted to fit their desire to see him
"In the same way that they lied about his record against Pat Buchanan in
South Carolina, they are lyingt about his record now, making it appear that
he is significantly more in sync with the concerns of the Christians and the
conservatives than, in fact, his voting record would suggest..."
Phillips may have a point. The disingenuous "voters guides" have been
called political campaign literature rather than an objective tally of a
candidate's views on issues. The national guide (depending on the version)
lists 8 to 10 issues where Mr. Dole is made to appear in agreement with the
Christian Coalition position.
There are reports that in some states, even Christian Coalition operatives
are unhappy with the blatant proselytizing for Dole; according to "CC Watch,"
an organization which monitors the Christian Coalition, one state CCofficial
charged that the guides distort Dole's abortion record, saying that the GOP
standard bearer voted against taxpayer funding for abortion when in fact he
was in favor of it.
Incidentally, don't be too fast to cast Mr. Phillips and his USTP in the
role of being champions for third parties, political underdogs and those
on-the-out. A Reconstruction government wouldn't tolerate the individuals
and groups Phillips threw his lot in with. Harry Browne is the presidential
candidate of the Libertarian Party, and in Reconstructionist culture such
toleration of social rights as espoused by libertarians would be blasphemous.
Ditto that for John Hagelin of the Natural Law Party. That's the group
founded upon the principles of the Mahareshi something-or-other. But at
least in a Reconstructionist theocracy the NLP folks could levitate to
another realm. Or so they say...
And just what are the Christian Coalition "voters guides" rating the
candidates on, anyway? A typical piece of legislation these days has more
baggage aboard than the Queen of England when she steps on the deck of her
royal yacht, Britannia. And the finished product which is spewed-out at the
end of the legislative process may have so many amendments, "and's," "but's,"
and other qualifications that the original bill is evidence of some kind of
Darwinian evolutionary process applied to politics.
Even so, the Christian Coalition has managed to reduced these complexities
to a simple matter of "Opposes/Supports" for the consumption of the "people
of faith," who, insists Ralph Reed, will trapse to the polls tomorrow and
vote in record numbers. Here are the issues which most of the "guides" have
rated the two leading presidential contestants on, with the Clinton and Dole
positions given respectively...
Balanced Budget Amendment Opposes/Supports
15% Federal Income Tax Cut Opposes/Supports
Banning Partial Birth Abortion Opposes/Supports
Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Supports/Opposes
Voluntary School Prayer Amendment Opposes/Supports
Public and Private School Choice Opposes/Supports
Goals 2000/Outcome-based Education Supports/Opposes
Homosexuals in the Military Supports/Opposes
Term Limits for Congress Opposes/Supports
FDA Regulation of Tobacco Supports/Opposes
The battle over "voters guides" -- whether the churches should hand-out
the Christian Coalition literature, or some other version -- or whether they
should participate at all -- is causing what Associated Press today describes
as a "religious war." AANEWS has received reports from across the country of
furious disagreements among different religious sects, all of which, of
course, claim to represent the will of the Almighty.
More liberal and mainstream religious groups, for instance, disagree with
the Christian Coalition political agenda, but nevertheless have one of their
own. And other churchmen take the attitude of one member of the Washington
State Interfaith Alliance, who told AP that "It is inappropriate to have
partisan politics in a house of worship."
While the Coalition mobilized a record number of churches -- 120,000 in
all -- to help pump out the guides, even some of the group's potential allies
were less than enthused. In Washington state, for instance, Roman Catholic
and Mormon churches decided not to distribute the screeds; Associated Press
noted that "They contend the guides fail to show the basis for positions
ascribed to candidates, including distortions or overly broad
generalizations, and are distributed too close to Election Day for candidates
Even so, the Interfaith Alliance has ITS OWN voters guides -- which means
that "people of faith" are getting it from all sides when it comes to
divining what the word o' god happens to be on abortion, the budget and tax
Isn't it interesting to see quarreling churches and clerics having a
rhetorical slug-fest over whose version of the bible is "true" (or even which
"holy book" to believe), and how all of this applies to politics and daily
living? Even if there is a benign deity looking on, at least some of these
folks would have to be wrong. Indeed, religious creeds are not a rational,
sensible guide for human existence -- regardless of which flavor you choose,
or which "voters guide" you happen to pick.
Our thanks to Mr. John Price for catching an error in a recent aanews.
Discussing the trend in religious themes percolating through Hollywood board
rooms and production meetings, we incorrectly identified "Heaven Can Wait" as
a TV show about a helpful angel starring the late Michael Landon. We goofed.
The show was "Highway to Heaven."
How come religious fare on the tube is often about sappy angels and
helpful spirits instead of the real thing? How about a show on, say, the
Taliban? For thrills and chills, you don't even have to call in an army of
script writers -- just report the news.
You could for instance show female Afghan employees of the International
Red Cross agency scurrying away from the agency's headquarters in Kabul -- as
they did yesterday -- when the Taliban militia showed up and threatened to
hang them for violating Islamic law. According to news services, Red Cross
employees were warned: "If we see any Afghan women in the compound, we will
hang you, along with the women."
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