Date: Tue, 5 Nov 1996 14:45:03 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 5, 1996 A M E
Date: Tue, 5 Nov 1996 14:45:03 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 5, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
In This Issue...
* "Hard To Be Elected If You Were An Atheist..."
* Coalition Ready For Spin Doctor Mode?
* Atheists Praise Supreme Court Announcement On School Prayer
* Atheist Media Appearance
* TheistWatch: Majoritarianism
* About This List...
CAMPAIGN '96 ~~ A SHAMELESS PANDERING FOR RELIGIOUS VOTES
Mercilfully, the 1996 campaign is drawing to an end as people flock to the
polls to elect a president, senators, representatives and a slew of local
officials. Political pundits observe that at just about every level, the
1996 campaign season was a new low for mudslinging, innuendo and negative
ads. Was it any coincidence, then, that so many contests -- including the
race for the White House -- involved a surfeit of religious rhetoric and
posturing? That candidates went out of their way to emphasize their
religious roots and upbringing? That religious belief was framed not in the
context of state-church separation, but as a badge of distinction in the
culture-war battle for public approval?
In 1960, religion played a different role in the hotly-contested
presidential run between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. Despite running
under the Democratic banner, the Dixiecrat South was by no means a guaranteed
sweep for the Senator from Massachusetts; wherever he went, Kennedy was
grilled -- even by partisan supporters -- about his Roman Catholic beliefs
and his position on the role of church and state. He told the nation, the
media and especially his often-Protestant audiences that he remained a
staunch advocate of the First Amendment separation of government and
religion, opposed schemes such as parochaid, and considered religious belief
to be essentially a private matter.
Can you imaging a candidate today -- especially one seeking the
Presidency -- staking out the Establishment Clause and state-church
separation as a moral and political highground, a principle worth defending?
Thirty six years later, President Clinton and challenger Bob Dole have
both not only draped themselves in religious symbolism and rhetoric, but have
attempted to out-rival the other in establishing their credentials as "people
of faith." Hardly a trip to the podium or photo opportunity has been allowed
to pass where some reference to religious belief was not presented for public
consumption. In turn, religious ideologies and groups played an important
role in defining many of the cultural issues which occupied much of the
* USA TODAY quotes political scientist John Green of the University of
Akron, who says that many voters supposedly consider religion to be
important. It doesn't matter, says Green, if a candidate is Catholic or
Baptist or a regular churchgoer -- the voters want an individual with a
"It's an indication to voters that the candidates are moral individuals,"
says Green. "It would be very hard to be elected president if you were an
* Both campaigns worked hard at presenting their candidate as a
church-going and religious man. Clinton's roots as a Southern Baptist were
emphasized in White House hand-outs, and Dole remained to the bitter end a
political race horse for the Christian Coalition.
* The GOP convention remains an example of the political savvy and
influence of the Christian Coalition. A $750,000 high-tech "war room" kept
Ralph Reed's stable of over 1,000 delegates in line, and assured that the
Republican platform mirrored the Coalition's "Contract With the American
Family." When Dole finally settled on Jack Kemp as his VP running mate, he
huddled with Ralph Reed for the imprimatur of the religious right. Behind
the scenes, Dole and his handlers were frustrated in the badgering from
religious conservatives to emphasize a "culture war" agenda; at one point
Dole snapped "Who care's what Gary Bauer thinks, who's Gary Bauer anyway?"
referring to the head of the Family Research Council.
* Clinton managed to coopt his share of religious cache. GOP efforts to
portray the President as a corrupt philaderer whose administration was rife
with scandal fell largely on deaf ears. Clinton's speeches and public
appearances (often in churches or before religious groups) were laced
heavilly with bible quotes and exhortations to god. Surprisingly, Clinton
will probably carry the majority of votes from that segment of the religious
spectrum who define themselves as Evangelicals.
Clinton's religious upbringing and convictions were a major point for
Democratic strategists. In July, for instance, Clinton told interviewers
that he reads the Bible on a weekly basis. Even his decision to veto the
Partial Birth Abortion Ban -- a move which evoked an official letter of
rebuke from the Roman Catholic Church -- was framed in a religious context;
it was reportedly a decision Clinton arrived at "following much prayer and
COALITION READY FOR SPIN CONTROL ?
It is an important night for the Christian Coalition. For several weeks,
religious right organizations have essentially "written off" the Dole
campaign, blaming the GOP nominee's sluggish performance with focus groups
and polls on the refusal of Republican strategists to emphasize character and
culture-war issues. Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed said recently
that his group was concentrating on House and Senate races instead, a
strategy to prevent what he termed a "meltdown" within Republican ranks. The
Coalition's role inside the Republican Party could depend in large part on
how successful the GOP is at keeping control of one or both houses of
congress. The CC grabbed credit for the 1994 Republican sweep, which saw the
GOP gain control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate for
the first time in 40 years. Erosion of Republican presence, or a
worst-scenario case where the Democrats take control, could jeopardize the
Christian Coalition's role as a major player insidce GOP ranks.
The Coalition reportedly has several alternative scenarios of its own
which will be presented tomorrow during a 10 a.m. discussion at the National
Press Club in Washington.
* If Republicans manage to have a respectable showing, or even an upset
victory in the White House race, you can anticipate Ralph Reed to take a
large chunk of the credit. Last Sunday, the Coalition pumped out the bulk of
its 45,000,000 "voters guides," and has conducted an aggressive "get out the
vote" effort directed specifically at fundamentalists, evangelicals and
conservative Roman Catholics.
* If "meltdown" occurs and the GOP fails to maintain control in Congress,
the Coalition has an alternative back-up strategy. This involves shifting
the blame to Republican officials who advised Dole to avoid too much emphasis
on the "culture war" topics, including Clinton's character, his veto of the
Partial Birth Abortion Ban and issues such as vouchers and school prayer.
The Coalition will argue that Dole's "lack of leadership" failed to create a
coat tail effect and help out GOP candidates in House and Senate races,
including those "Gingrich freshman" from the class of '94.
Today, the Coalition is conducting its own exit polls -- not to see how
Dole is faring against Clinton, but to presumably track numbers of its own
choosing. Sharing the podium at the press club tomorrow with Ralph Reed will
be Bruce Blakeman of Wirthlin Worldwide, a polling agency which is measuring
"the number of religious conservatives voting as a percentage of the American
electorate." Reed will continue to play the role of spokesman for this
ATHEIST GROUP PRAISES COURT ANNOUNCEMENT ON PRAYER
American Atheists released the following statement last night to the
"American Atheists praises the U.S. Supreme Court today in its decision to
not review state legislation that would have permitted "student led" prayer
in public schools. Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists, suggested
that the reluctance of the Court to even hear the case demonstrated that
justices 'may prefer to stand by the existing, adequate safeguards for
state-church separation and avoid a potential activist role in legalizing
" Today's decision by the court was without comment, and left intact
circuit court rulings which declared a 1994 Mississippi State law permitting
so-called 'student led' or 'student initiated' prayers to be
"Ms. Johnson noted that today's Supreme Court announcement affirmed the
June ruling of U.S District Court Judge Neal Biggers in the case of Lisa
Herdahl, a mother who challenged the use of a public school announcement
system for daily prayers.
" 'The fact that a prayer is led or suggested by an individual student --
or a group of students -- doesn't change the fact that in a public school
setting, it is still a coercive actrivity,' noted Johnson. In previous
decisions, the courts have noted that students are a 'captive audience.' And
just because school prayer is student led does not make it acceptable because
we do not allow high school students to determine what activities are
"Ron Barrier, National Media Coordinator for American Atheists, was also
pleased with today's decision. 'Administrators, teachers and even other
students have no business trying to orchestrate religious rituals of any kind
in taxpayer supported public schools,' he said."
AN ATHEIST MEDIA EVENT...
Many AANEWS readers enjoy listening to our National Media Coordinator Ron
Barrier who has earned himself the distinctive title of the "slice and dice"
Atheist for his devastating style in debating religious proselytizers. Night
owls on the east coast can listen to Ron on Thursday, November 21 from
midnight to 12:30 a.m. when he appears on the PBS program "America with
Dennis Wholey." The topic will be "Atheist civil rights." Mark your
calendar; we'll carry more details in a subsequent issue.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Yesterday's announcement by the Supreme Court that it would not review
lower court rulings overturning Mississipi school prayer laws evoked the
expected wave of disapproval, along with some revealing remarks from certain
religious leaders. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice --
a religious counterpart founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to the ACLU --
said "I hope lower courts won't read into the court's action any disapproval
of legitimate student-initiated prayer and worship, such as prayer clubs."
He added that the Mississippi statute was "problematic at the outset," and
had "official sanction...all over it." If so, why does it take a series of
legal setbacks (including one from the nation's highest court) to get this
sort of response from Sekulow? Is this a case of "well, maybe we can get
away with it..."?
Meanwhile, Mississippi's attorney general Mike Moore whined that "I think
most Mississippians are for school prayer in all its various
forms...Unfortunately, the courts have not ruled that way." Hey, does this
guy even have a law degree? Did he study the Bill of Rights? Why is it
"unfortunate" that a court would happen to strike down so invasive a practice
as school prayer, even if the majority favored it "in all its various forms."
Does that include mandatory prayer where students are forced to mouth the
words of a prayer under threat of dismissal, or some other disciplinary
action? Say it isn't so, Mike, say it isn't so!
At one time or another, just about every foolish, idiotic and inhumane
notion has been accepted by the "majority" of some group somewhere. Slavery
was once it vogue, and pro-slave legislators were regularly elected
throughout the south, often with little or no abolitionist opposition. Of
course the slaves weren't voting...
Officials with the Episcopal Church in new York are investigating charges
that a priest transported youngsters from Brazil for use in orgy rites on the
altar of St. Gabriel's Church. According to the December issue of
"Penthouse," several priests dressed as female starlets and referred to
themselves as "the girls, and partied in the church after hours.
About This List...
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