A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nn nn AANEWS nn # 199 u 11/15/96 http://www.atheists.org e

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A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn # 199 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/15/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org ftp.atheists.org/pub/ 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 proof. * 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 literary prize. 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 hunger directly." 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. ** **** BOOKS, BOOKS, AND LOTS MORE! Interested in learning more about Atheism, state-church separation and other topics? The latest catalogue from American Atheist Press is out, with hundreds of books, brochures and other products you might be interested in. If you would like a copy, just send e-mail to: catalogue@atheists.org and include your name and postal mailing address. Or, browse our on-line catalogue at http://www.atheists.org. ** 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, send mail to info@atheists.org and include your name and postal mailing address. 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. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. Edited and written by conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). 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