Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 16:13:34 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 8, 1996 A M E

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Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 16:13:34 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 8, 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 #195 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/8/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org In This Issue... * Does Ralph Still Have A Job? A Look Ahead For The CC... * Coalition Survey: Statistics DO lie * TheistWatch: Your Prayers, Broadcast To God NEW SENATE LEADERSHIP MAY DETERMINE FATE OF COALITION AGENDA What's ahead for groups like the Christian Coalition, and the religious right's "culture war" agenda focusing on school prayer, abortion rights, vouchers and censorship? So far, there are mixed-signals on whether the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and Senate will pay much heed to those issues; plenty depends on how much rapport is established between Capitol Hill and the White House, whether President Clinton remains "teflon" in the swirl of allegations over Whitewater and other alleged improprieties, and the mood of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. * The Washington Times, a bellwether of religious conservative sentiment, suggests that the new class of incoming GOP legislators are more conservative on economic issues, but mentions none of the "culture war" topics. The paper reports that Senator Lott intends to emphasized deficit reductions, reform of the Internal Revnue Service, and a balanced-budget amendment; no Republican insiders, though, are talking about abortion or the Religious Equality Amendment, at least now. * Some of the GOP economic agenda will still require cooperation with the Clinton White House; the price for that may be a "hands off" attitude on abortion and school prayer. * Can Clinton weather the storm? "Nearly a dozen House and Senate panels are planning to expand probes into Whitewater, the travel office firings, the FBI files affair, and the fund-raising tactics of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign," notes the Times. Reporter Paul Bedard adds: " Mr. (Kenneth) Starr, the Whitewater counsel, is widely expected to seek indictments of senior White House officials and perhaps first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton." The bleak scenario, however, may be more style than substance. So far, the Clintons have survived investigations which have chewed up over $15 million; and, in a blow to partisan investigators, it was announced recently that Ms. Clinton's fingerprints were not on any of the FBI dossiers that constitute the "filegate" allegations. There could be image problems, though, for Clinton on the Paula Jones sex case; Mr. Clinton may find himself defending against sex harrassment charges as a sitting president. The Supreme Court may not be warm to the Solicitor General's argument that an in-term president should be immune from such civil cases. As for campaign "soft money," this is one case where both Democrats and Republicans have a common interest in gingerly avoiding exhaustive investigations in favor of cosmetic campaign spending reform. * Expect the "loyal opposition" to spin doctor just about everything that goes inside the Clinton administration. The resignation of top administration officials immediately following Clinton's Tuesday night election victory (a not-unusual event between the terms of a President), prompted headlines like the one in today's Washington Times: "Clinton aides charge for the exits." The ever-present un-named news source supposedly informed the paper that departing administrative operates were "all nervous about what's going to happen. The inner circle is apprehensive about the scandals and other related issues..." Focus on Lott The Christian Coalition had problems getting House Speaker Newt Gingrich to move on parts of its social agenda following the 1994 Republican sweep which gave the GOP control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40-years. Indeed, religious conservatives used words like "betrayal" to describe the attitude of the Gingrich congressional freshmen who emphasized economic issues, and put the Coalition's religious and social programs on the legislative back burner. Like Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Lott is considered a player and deal-maker. But he represents Mississippi, a state with powerful fundamentalist and evangelical religious constituencies; Lott was also vocal in supporting calls for a school prayer amendment at the time of the Lisa Herdahl case. Herdahl challenged the policy in a Mississippi school district which permitted "student led" prayers to be broadcast over the public address system. Lott was among supporters of a "God and Country" rally which attracted over 3,000 people to the steps of the Pontotoc County Court House. ** COALITION SURVEY DISTORTS ''FIREWALL'' ROLE IN ELECTION The Christian Coalition is continuing to publicize its much-touted survey conducted by the firm of Wirthlin Worldwide, but the statistics don't add up to justify the role claimed by the religious group that it is represents a broad and significant constituency which acted as a "firewall" in Tuesday's election. In fact, the study -- released to the media on Wednesday in a series of press releases, and discussed by Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed at the National Press Club -- uses highly selective statistical evidence to draw broad conclusions at odds with other more comprehensive autopsies of the 1996 election. * CLAIM ~ "Preliminary results from Election Night '96 indicate that the largest number of religious conservative voters in the presidential election turned out to the polls despite the fact that overall voter turnout was low... more than one out of every four voters was a self-described, born-again Christian who frequently attends church." FACT ~ Ralph Reed had promised to turn out fundamentalist and evangelical Christians as a block, presumably greater in number than gay voters, union voters or other identifiable segments. But the statistics begin to change when it is noted that only 53% of this segment voted for Dole, and 36% throwing their support behind President Clinton. In terms of delivering a monolithic block and preventing "meltdown," the 53% is not that significant when you consider the 47% "born-again Christian" segment who voted for Clinton, Perot or the other third-party candidates. If past elections are any indication, those who report being "evangelicals" and "born-agains" can be a diverse lot; a majority of this group, for instance, voted for Jimmy Carter. * CLAIM ~ "Soccer moms (white females between the ages of 25 and 49 with children) were nearly a dead-even race...Dole scored 43% to Clinton's 45% in this sub-group." * FACT ~ This claim by the Coalition stands at odds with all other surveys which we have found in the national media. "Soccer moms" voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, and in some exit-polls by margins of up to 57% to 33% for Dole and 9% for Perot. * CLAIM ~ "Fifteen percent of all voters said they are either members or supporters of Christian Coalition. Of the voters who describe themselves as members or supporters of Christian Coalition, the ballot was 67% Dole to 20% Clinton." * FACT ~~ While this indeed may reflect the responses of people in the Wirthlin survey, it is a strange item to include in the survey, and should be suspect on a number of counts. The 15% must be understood within the context that turnout in this election was low, near 50% of those eligible, and substantially under the 1960 peak of the Kennedy-Nixon race. In addition, why would 23% of Coalition "members" or "supporters" be throwing their vote to a candidate other than the one officially endorsed by their own group? The Coalition is not a political party whose members "cross the lines" to vote for members of opposition parties -- or is it? * CLAIM ~ "Bill Clinton's close ties to labor unions, feminists and the gay rights lobby proved to be a large negative. Forty six percent of all voters said they felt the president was too closely associated with these liberal special interest groups..." * FACT ~ Clinton carried 57% of the votes from those who described themselves as political moderates, a 10% gain over his performance in 1992 with this same category. And the 46% figure doesn't match the 59% of all union households who voted for Clinton. What The Survey DIDN'T Say Despite the attempt to show evangelicals and fundamentalists as a block which could "be delivered" by Christian Coalition handlers to any candidate the organization chose, there were too many other factors involved in the voter's choices to make this a significant claim. Coalition "hot button" issues like abortion, school prayer, gays in the military and even parental rights were not among the major concerns of most voters. They focused (in order of importance) on the economy and jobs, medicare social-security issues, taxes and the deficit, quality of education and foreign policy. Ralph Reed had been urging Dole (especially in the latter days of the campaign) to hit Clinton on "character" issues and the "culture wars" agenda, but even Dole realized that these were peripheral concerns for most voters. The Wirthlin-CC poll makes the redundant claim that "Dole's poor performance apparently rested with an inability to motivate self-identified Republican voters and to persuade independents that he was the better candidate." Blocks that the Coalition suggests it represents even voted for Clinton. The President took 53% of all votes cast by Roman Catholics, despite his veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban and his stand on abortion rights in general; indeed, that figure is up from the 47% he gathered in 1992 when running against then-President George Bush. And where "culture war" issues were presented on the ballot, they did not always do well from the Coalition's viewpoint. The "Parental Rights" proposal in Colorado was defeated by 2-1, for instance, a margin that stunned both supporters and even opponents. Also significant is that the Coalition's own data pertaining to "born again" Christians and "frequent church attenders." Polls concerning church attendance have been highly suspect; follow-up studies show that people often CLAIM to be church goers when, in fact, they are not. It is a fact which some are reluctant to admit on the phone or in person to a stranger. But within this category, fully 20% saw "taxes and the deficit" as the primary issue in Election '96, followed by 14% emphasizing "jobs and the economy." Only 28% of the "born again-frequent church attenders" category considered "moral issues like abortion and gay rights" to be paramount. Of THAT smaller category, 61% voted for Dole, and 22% supported Clinton THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Not so long ago, a British astronomer mused that efforts to contact extra-terrestrial civilizations by beaming radio messages into the depths of space may result in some unwanted, hostile visitors. After all, how do you think those slimeball aliens in the blockbuster movie "Independence Day" or NBC's "Dark Skies" series located us? We might want to speculate, though, on how a distant civilization might judge us based on the content of whatever THEIR radio astronomers happen to grab out of the sky. (I'm told that fortunately most popular broadcast frequences don't travel beyond our atmopshere with any coherence, but...) Would they consider us infantile? superstitious? violent? Might an invading fleet of aliens be deterred after picking up, say, Star Trek, or even a late-night Godzilla rerun? And what might intelligent aliens -- and brighter earth denizens -- think of the service offered by one firm in Phoenix, Arizona, called "Prayers Heavenbound." "Modern technology has finally caught up with mankind's spiritual needs," the firm tells us. "Here is a non-denominational, publicly accessible direct link to the Heavens that can electronically beam prayers, hopes and dreams into space, into time, ...into forever." For a mere $9.95 per page, "Prayers Heavenbound" promises to convert one's missive into a digital format which is then launched "electronically at the speed of light on a powerful microwave radio beam into deep space. As soon as they are sent, they become available to be intercepted by God." Potential prayer-trekkers are given a list of suggestions which may prompt them to use such a space age service... "Prayer of request, and of thanks -- declarations of your faith and love of God -- holy vows, including marriage -- obituaries, and prayers for souls -- something you wish you had said to a departed soul." In addition to having God de-scramble your electronic propitiation, you receive "a handsome 8.5 x 11 inch BROADCAST CERTIFICATE suitable for framing. This document certifies the transmission of your message with a signed and dated Authentication Seal." Is "Prayers Heavenbound" for real? Is this a spoof on the boundless credulity of many religious believers? Are these folks serious when they ask web surfers to "Click here to see what many believe is the face of Jesus in space"? Check them out for yourself at http://www.primenet.com/~prayers/, but remember that people are faxing prayers to Vatican City, and even the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where pieces of fax papers are wedged between the stones by conscientious rabbis. ** At times, the excruciating deliberations of theologians truly do tax one's common sense and hope for the progressive improvement of the human race. Case in point -- the debate in Israel among secularists and different religious factions over a proposal to shut down a major traffic artery in Jerusalem, Bar Ilan Street. Recall that ever since the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister, the religious fundamentalist political parties in Israel have basked in the glow of unprecedented power, and steadilly escalated their demands on how Israelis must conform to strict, orthodox religious law. In Jerusalem, thousands of Orthodox fanatics poured onto Bar Ilan street, demanding that it be shut down during the Jewish sabbath. The country's supreme court refused to acquiesce, and even the Likud Party -- which depends heavilly on the religious sects to hold together a tenuous coalition government -- was less than enthused. Secularists properly saw the call to shut down Bar Ilan as simply the first sinister step in a wider, pernicious "culture war" not altogether than different from the ones being waged by religious fanatics elsewhere. Enlightened Israelis, led by the Meretz political group, countered the Orthodox hooligans with their own demonstrations. The struggle over Bar Ilan street has become an icon for the battle lines separating progressive, secularist Israelis from their authoritarian, Orthodox foes. The government promptly formed a panel to study the problem further, and earlier this week the Zamaret Committee made public its report. The report is unlikely to please either side. It proposes that Bar Ilan be shut down during synogogue services, and that when work on an alternative transportation route is completed, Bar Ilan street then be closed for the duration of the sabbath. "The committee also recommended that the transportation needs of the secular community on Shabbat be taken into consideration and that suitable cultural venues should be open on Shabbat," added the Post. The compromise does not appear to please the religious, especially those who have vowed to enforce Orthodox law by shutting down restaurants, theatres, bars and other diversions during the sabbath. Kudos to the Meretz Party which is vowing to renew its struggle to keep Bar Ilan street open, especially its representative on the Jerusalem City Council, Arnon Yekutieli. Sooner or later, the Bar Ilan controversy will end up in Israel's supreme court, which already has been described as "the enemy" by the country's leading religious fundamentalists. ** A multitude of crimes and outrages can be "forgiven" with a quickie-conversion to religious ideology. That may account for why, according to some studies, Atheists are only 2% of the prison population, as compared with 10% of the overall demographic sample. The list of those who find succor (and preumably divine and public forgiveness) in high-profile conversions to religious righteousness is truly legion. From Watergate crooks to mass murderers, it is a rogues gallery -- and one which now includes the late Jean Bedel Bokassa, former "Emperor" of the "Central African Empire." While secularists like Nelson Mandella in South Africa were languishing in jail, or fighting for human rights, Bokassa was seizing political power and establishing a debauched regal dictatorship which was a combination horror show and lunatic asylum. He died last Friday in exile. Born in 1921, Jean Bedel Bokassa was educated in Roman Catholic schools in the Congo and initially planned on a career in the priesthood. In 1939 he joined the French Army, ending up as a sergeant who managed to survive the defeat of the once proud colonial power at Dien Bien Phu. Back in the Central African Republican, Bokassa led a military coup against his cousin, David Dacko, and immediately claimed titles such as president, prime minister, leader of the one permitted political party, and eventually Emperor of the newly-named "Central African Empire." His coronation gobbled up an estimated 15%-20% of the nation's total annual revenues, and was supposedly modeled after that of the Emperor Napoleon. Even as a buffoon, Bokassa turned out to be one of the most brutal and despotic leaders of his time. He bankrupted the country, and while for many years he was reliable surrogate for French interest, his outrageous, lavish lifestyle and bizarre behavior finally resulted in his Paris handlers overthrowing his government in September, 1979. Bokassa spent his final days in the Ivory Coast, where according to the New York Times he "returned to the intense religion of his youth, praying several times a day with a well-thumbed Bible." The man who had dozens of wives and concubines, and had been charged even with cannibalism and rivaled perhaps only Idi Amin for his brutish behavior, "told a recent visitor that he had renounced alcohol and sexual relations for several years." ** A military stand-off in Afghanistan doesn't mean an end to news about the religious Taliban militia which presently controls most of the country and has established a harsh Islamic dictatorship. Perhaps the two most telling significant signs of any religious or political movement is its stand concerning womens rights and good booze. In the case of the Taliban, it didn't take long to ascertain where the near-illiterate mullahs stand on either issue. The fundamentalists quickly shut down girls schools, banned women from the workplace, and commanded all females to wear the head-to-toe "chador" or heav veil and gown. As for the booze, much to the lament of the foreign diplomats and journalists (and not a small segment of the population in the capital of Kabul), the Taliban closed the only decent bar in town located at the International Hotel. That apprently hasn't stopped the Taliban -- and presumably their backers at Pakistan's Intelligence Service -- from running the opium trade at full blast. Indeed, says Britain's Electronic Telegraph, the mullahs have now been told by the head of the United Nations Drug Control Programme that they "must accept the link between it's illicit export and humanitarian aid." Despite the fact that Afghanistan has labored under different Islamic regimes in the last several years, production of opium rose to a record 2,400 metric tons, putting the country a close second to Burma in the production of the drug. It is popular knowledge that the Taliban clerics are now exacting the 10% tax on opium as their predecessors did. Indeed, during the protracted civil war with the Soviet Union, competing groups within the Mujahadeen all were involved in narcotics sales, a lucrative way of raising cash to purchase weapons on the international arms market. One of the shocking things about the Taliban regime has been the brutal crackdown on just about all segments of Afghan society -- especially women -- and its seamless integration into the opium economy. ** 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 site on the web at http://www.atheists.org. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that 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 written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait, irep@atheists.org.

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