A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 199 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/15/96
In This Issue...
* "Firewall" Turns To "Meltdown" In Two Late Races
* Rushdie Allowed Into Denmark For Prize Ceremony
* "Parental Rights" Group Faces Inquiry
* Vatican Plays Political Hardball At Food Summit
* Books & More
* About This List...
COALITION ''POSTER BOYS'' FAILING IN ELECTION RE-COUNT ?
Among The Casualties -- Rep. Robert K. Dornan
The Christian Coalition, which has been scrambling to emphasize its role
as a "firewall" on behalf of religious right candidates in the recent
election, may be losing two key races where challengers are separated by only
a handful of votes.
* In California, "Mad Dog" Richard Dornan refuses to concede a tight race
with political underdog and outsider Loretta Sanchez. Strategists say that
Dornan underestimated his own resources in the otherwise-Republican bastion
of Orange County; and with several thousand votes still under consideration
by election officials, Sanchez holds a thin lead of 46,932 to 46,697.
What makes the Dornan-Sanchez race interesting is the contrast between the
two candidates. Dornan, 63, has served in the House of Representatives for
nine years and gained a reputation as a tough, combative advocate for
religious fundamentalist agendas. Called everything from a "curmedgeon of
Capitol Hill" to "Mad Dog," Dornan has has railed against abortionists, gay
rights activists and other groups. He described political opponents as a
former election race as "all lesbian spear-chuckers," and accused President
Clinton of being a "womaniser-adulterer," "disgraced draft-dodger," and asset
of the KGB when he visited Russia as a Rhodes Scholar. Dornan produced
plastic models of fetuses during debate on the House floor, saying that the
replicas showed a baby "sucking its thumb and fighting an abortion."
Interestingly, some GOP leaders may not be unpleased to see Dornan leaving
the House. Last summer, House Speaker Newt Gingrich nixed Dornan as a
conferee in the 1997 defense budget; pundits said that this was in
retaliation for Dornan's confrontations with Rep. Steve Gunderson, a
Wisconsin Republican who happened to be gay and a personal friend of
Gingrich. Dornan was considered a strong voice in the defense department
funding debate pushing measures against abortion, pornography at military
base commissaries, and the inclusion of gays in the military.
Yesterday, he refused to give up the ghost in this latest election round,
saying "I will not concede to an inarticulate, flaky, non-qualified person."
At stake in the California race are charges of thousands of possible voter
fraud, although a spokesman for Dornan said that the incumbent thus far lacks
* In Louisiana, Democrat Mary Landrieu is asking a judge to dismiss a
lawsuit filed by her opponent in that state's race for the U.S. Senate.
Republican Woody Jenkins enjoyed the support of groups like the Christian
Coalition; and statements made by Roman Catholic prelates, including former
Archbishop Phillip Hannan that it would be a "sin" for voters to support
Landrieu because of her pro-choice stance on abortion, have already
generated a complaint by an Atheist to the Federal Elections Commission (see
aanews #197). Landrieu's margin of victory was 5,788 votes, but it was still
one the closest elections in the state's history.
DANISH GOVERNMENT RECANTS: RUSHDIE RECEIVES AWARD
The on-going saga of novelist Salman Rushdie took another strange twist on
Wednesday night, when officials in Denmark reversed an earlier ban and
welcomed the famous writer into the country to accept an international
Rushdie has been under a "fatwa" or sentence of death since 1989, when
Iranian clerical strongman Ayatollah Khomeni pronounced the novel "The
Satanic Verses" as blasphemous. The decree mobilized Islamic militants
throughout the world who demanded that copies of the book be destroyed,
supposedly for insulting religious sensibilities. The incident ignited
debate in the west, splitting secularists and civil libertarians from
religious leaders of various faiths who criticized Rushdie. Few defended the
Atheist novelist, and many like New York's Cardinal John O'Connor, while not
openly supporting the death sentence, nevertheless branded the book as being
anti-religious and blasphemous.
In late October, the Danish government announced that it would bar Rushdie
from coming into the country to receive the European Union's Aristeion
literary prize. There were later reports that Islamic militants were
planning to "hit" Rushdie, although the novelist told Associated Press that
he was "not convinced there is a specific threat." Indeed, earlier accounts
suggested that Danish security forces were preoccupied with an wave of
violence involving outlaw biker gangs.
Rushdie criticized the cowardice of the Danish government late last week,
saying that he was angry at the decision to bar him from the country and that
"The way not to be defeated by a bully is to face the bully."
Mr. Rushdie accepted the prize without incident. "It was a marvelous
event and not dangerous at all," Rushdie told reporters. The crowd of 400,
all of whom had been searched before entering the ceremony, gave Rushdie a
standing ovation. Rushdie won the Aristeion prize for his novel "The Moor's
Last Sigh," and shares the award with novelist Christoph Ransmayr of Austria
for his book "Morbus Kitahara."
COLORADO ''PARENTAL RIGHTS'' BOSSTERS FACE ELECTION HEARING
The group "Of The People" which spearheaded an unsuccessful effort in
Colorado during the last election to pass a "Parental Rights" Amendment lost
another decision yesterday when a judge OK'd a probe into whether the group
violated funding disclosure laws. "Of The People" funnelled over $400,000 in
anonymous contributions supporting Amendment 17, an initiative which declared
that the parents had the primary responsibility for the education and moral
upbringing of children. The proposal is similar to other measures being
promoted across the nation by the "Parental Rights" movement, a coalition
which includes numerous religious fundamentalist and evangelical groups.
Critics charge, though, that the proposed legislation has nothing to do with
rights, but is a ruse to prevent schools from teaching controversial subjects
like sex education, AIDS awareness and even evolution. The Colorado measure
was defeated in the November 5 by a surprising 2-1 margin; opponents ranged
from secularists and educators to therapists, who charged that the Amendment
would make it more difficult to investigate and prevent cases of child abuse.
The judge's decision yesterday is in response to a complain charging that
"Of The People" is a political action committee, and violated election laws
by not disclosing a list of donors. Under Colorado law, a PAC is any
organization "raising funds and making expenditures...to influence passage or
defeat of any issue."
In Denver, Administrative Law Judge Nancy Connick agree with activist Dan
Willis who had originally lodged the complaint with the Colorado Secretary of
State. She rejected three separate arguments for dismissal of the case made
by an attorney for the "Of The People" group.
Meanwhile, opponents of the measure told the Denver Post that concealing
the names of donors was "standard operating procedure" for groups such as "Of
The People." A spokesperson for the Colorado Employee Rights Campaign
Committee warned that "Despite crushing defeat...they're ('Parental Rights'
groups) going to move forward in other states."
Over two-dozen states currently have neardly identical "parental rights"
measures in the legislative hopper, and at the national level groups like
Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition are busy promoting a
"Parental Rights & Responsibilities Act."
(Thanks to Margie Wait for monitoring this news development.)
VATICAN EXPLOITS U.N. FOOD SUMMIT FOR ''LIFE'' AGENDA
Rome Gathering Will Revive Abortion Fight, U.S. Family Planning Programs
Dignitaries from around the world, including heads of state from fifty
nations, have gathered in Rome for what promises to be a heated and
controversial U.N. summit on food production and international hunger. The
meeting has already ignited controversy, drawing flak from Pope John Paul II
and religious groups in the United States who object to the decision by the
State Department to promote family planning along with efforts at increasing
the world's food supply as a solution to hunger.
It is expected that the Rome meeting will re-open old arguments which have
surfaced in previous gatherings on population and the status of women. U.N.
conferences in Cairo and Beijing became the center of disputes between
population-control and womens rights supporters on one side, and religious
groups which objected to the "anti-family" tone of the gatherings, or any
support for abortion and other family planning programs.
On Wednesday, the pope denied any link between overpopulation and hunger
during the opening address to the World Food Summit. John Paul II declared:
"We must renounce the sophist view which holds that 'to be many is to condemn
ourselves to be poor'." (Ed. note: For centuries, clerical officials have
used the term "sophist" to describe any position contrary to church
doctrine.) Affirming the Catholic church's opposition to birth control, he
added that "It would be illusory to believe that an arbitrary stabilization
of the world population, or even its reduction, could solve the problem of
Previous summits have come under harsh Vatican attack whenever subjects
like abortion or birth control were discussed. In fact, the Church has so
successfully frightened U.N. officials away from those questions that
according to the New York Times, "One of the guiding principles of this
conference -- where governments will take a nonbinding pledge to halve the
number of hungry people by the year 2015 -- is not to re-open the debates
over issues like population control and abortion..."
A Response From Congress
The U.N. summit is also expected to have an impact when the 105th Congress
meets in January. Already, the State Department decision to quietly promote
family planning has resulted in an attack from Rep. Christopher Smith, the
New Jersey congressman who has helped lead the religious attack on capitol
hill against funding for abortion or family planning in foreign aid budgets.
A Smith aide is quoted in today's Washington Times as calling support for
family planning a "culture of imperialism resulting in a disproportionate
number of Third World and minority babies being killed."
The Times also suggests that the State Department support for family
planning will fuel efforts to elimate three foreign affairs agencies which
have been targets for some politicians and groups. They include the Agency
for International Development, the U.S. Information Agency and the Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency. Consolidating or gutting those operations
could become a major point of contention between Republicans on the Foreign
Affairs Committee and the Clinton White House. While family planning is just
one of the issues involved in this controversy, it remains a major concern of
many religious fundamentalists with assets in congress.
Geopolitics Vatican Style ~ Cuba
But perhaps the most adroit political moves at the Food Summit won't have
anything to do directly with grain shipments and agricultural production.
Instead, the pope is finessing a link between the church's stand on
abortion, its economic platform enunciated in the U.S. earlier this week by
the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the crisis in Zaire and the
future of the church in Latin America and, specifically, Cuba.
* The Vatican has already linked the call for economic reform and what the
pope denounces as the "contrasts between poverty and wealth," to a tough-line
on the abortion and family planning question. It is a skillfull blending of
compassion-politics and rigid theological doctrine. The church is growing
fastest in countries which still have high birth rates (especially on the
Latin American and African continents), yet losing influence in relatively
stable areas like the United States and Europe, and in the fast-developing
sector of the Asian marketplace. Indeed, the Vatican knows that stable
population and the social attitudes which underpin demographic growth --
economic expansion, consumerism, technology, erosion of tribal, ethnic and
nationalist consciousness and empowerment for women -- often clash with
medievalist church doctrines.
* Cuba remains an objective of the Roman Catholic Church, and John Paul is
essentially "trading issues" with strongman Fidel Castro. The two are
expected to huddle at the Food Summit conference this weekend. The Vatican
has already called for an end to the 34-year embargo against Cuba, and
applauded the U.N. General Assembly vote on Tuesday (337-3) urging the U.S.
to end economic sanctions. Yesterday, John Paul sweetened the deal for
Castro by criticizing the use of economic embargoes which are "imposed
without sufficient consideration."
In exchange for economic investment and a possible capital infusion,
Castro would probably have to meet several church demands which have already
been discussed by a Vatican advance-team planning a papal visit to Cuba.
They include greater church "involvement" with the educational and medical
system in Cuba, and unlimited numbers of visas for priests and nuns that the
Vatican proposes to flood the country with.
The deal would also position the church for a role in post-Castro Cuba.
The "fall of communism" throughout eastern europe precipitated a series of
Vatican power grabs with varying degrees of success; and a thriving Vatican
presence in a new "Catholic Cuba" would be good news for the Roman Catholic
church which already faces serious obstacles even within its own ranks
throughout Latin America.
* Pope John Paul's attacks on economic inequality and the "weight" of
international debt focus mostly on countries like Zaire which is already a
focus at the U.N. Summit. There may be some interesting and contrasting
proposals, though, from representives of countries in the emerging Asian
block whose economies are growing several times faster than their western
counterparts, including the United States.
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