Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996 14:30:59 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 4, 1996 A M E

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Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996 14:30:59 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 4, 1996 Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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 event... * ========== 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, 1797. * 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:, 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: Dear Editor: 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 elected president. "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 to respond." 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 cuts. 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." * 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 more information, send mail to and include your name and postal address. Or, check out our cool site on the web at You may post, forward 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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