A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
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#204 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/24/96 (Weekend Edition)
In This Issue...
* The Trial Will Go On, And So Will Prayer!
* "Family Values" Guru Molested Teen
* Scientology Head Convicted In France
* TheistWatch: Miss World Or Ma' Teresa?
* AACHAT: Update Woes
* About This List...
JUDGE SAYS HE'LL CONTINUE COURTROOM PRAYER DESPITE RULING
An Alabama county judge says that he will continue to open courtroom
sessions with prayer, despite a ruling by another court that the practice is
unconstitutional. Etowah county circuit court judge Roy Moore has been
embroiled in legal problems over a number of practices, including displaying
a copy of the Ten Commandments in the courtroom and beginning judicial
proceeding with a prayer. Last week, Judge Charles Price ruled that while
Moore may display the Ten Commandments, he must cease the prayer ritual in
But Judge Moore now insists that he will defy the ruling. The feisty
jurist told Alabama Radio Network that "acknowledgement of God is not now, or
ever has been, a violation of the U.S. constitution." Dean Young, head of
the Alabama Family Association and a close confident of Judge Moore, said
that if fines are imposed they will not be paid, and that mass arrests are
Moore also told The Birmingham News that "I consider it my duty to
acknowledge God. To take down the Ten Commandments and to stop holding
prayer would be a violation of that duty. I will not take down the Ten
Commandments and I will not stop holding prayer."
The order from Judge Price declared that the courtroom prayer must
"immediately cease and desist." Copies of the ruling were distributed to all
court clerks and judges throughout the state."
Moore also defended the prayer by saying that it was a "tradition" in
Etowah County, "and also because of the message it sends to children
"Moore recited the history of the founding of the United States and the
role that prayer played in it," reported the paper. "He (Moore) said the
separation of church and state does not divide God and country. And he
declared that Americans have been misled into believing that public prayer is
a violation of the U.S. Constitution."
Moore's decision to defy the circuit court order was supported by a rally
of about 75 people outside the Etowah county courthouse. Young warned that
"If Judge Moore is found in contempt of court for defying this order, I hope
Judge Price will think very seriously about being found in contempt of the
Almighty Judge." The News reports that Young is circulating a petition to the
Alabama State Supreme Court to review the case and "acknowledge that the
nation was founded on God's law."
Meanwhile, Huntsville Atheist Larry Mundinger reports that Birmingham
radio talk show host Hank Irwin has stated that Governor Fob James might use
the National Guard to keep Judge Moore in the prayer business. "Normally I
would chalk that up to big talk and bravado," said Mundinger, "but I'm not
sure about this bunch."
LDS RADIO GURU PLEADS GUILTY TO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
A leading Mormon representative and "family values" junkie who often
admonished his radio show audience about the evils of pornography, sex,
addiction and abuse, admitted that he is guilty of child sexual abuse
involving a 14-year old girl. Lloyd Gerald Pond admitted his role in the
latest scandal sweeping the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(LDS); Pond hosted a weekly radio program for the Church known as "Times and
Seasons" carried on over 600 radio stations nationwide.
Pond was charged with two counts of first-degree felony forcible sodomy
just last week. The charges involved his involvement with a 14-year old girl
who modeled for Pond in lingerie, bikini swimsuits, bras and panties. Court
documents say that the affair took place every Wednesday over a three year
period after Pond told the girl that he would assist her with a career in
modeling and radio. Things escalated, though, and according to yesterday's
edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, "Pond also instructed the girl to record
sexually explicit audiotapes which he told her were to be sold out of state
or used on a phone-sex line." The girl reportedly was paid $10 for each call
by Pond. The Tribune adds that "Pond also befriended the girl's mother, who
apparently trusted him enough because of his position with the church to send
her daughter with him."
Lloyd Pond is now free on a $20,000 bond, and faces a possible prison
sentence of up to 15 years. Prosecutors will reportedly will support
probation if a psychological evaluation of the LDS representative indicates
that Pond's involvement with the 14-year old was an "isolated incident."
SCIENTOLOGY LEADER IN FRANCE CONVICTED OF FRAUD CHARGES
A French tribunal has found a former head of the Church of Scientology in
that country guilty of fraud and involuntary homicide in the death of a
follower who committed suicide after incurring heaving financial debt to pay
for religious counseling. Jean-Jacques Mazier was ordered to serve 18-months
in prison, and pay a $100,000 fine.
The verdict stems from an eight-day trial held last month, which looked
into charges of fraud involving 22 other Scientology officials or supporters
in France. Fourteen of the defendants were convicted, including a Catholic
priest, Louis-Michel Brolles. But the charges against Mazier stem from
complaints that he pressured Patrice Vic, a 31-year old industrial designer,
to borrow large sums of money to pay for what Vic's wife described as a
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
We've almost become jaded in listing the outrages of the Muslim
fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan, now that the civil war there
seems to have settled into another prolonged period of glorified trench
warfare. Early this morning, for instance, militia leaders announced that
their Islamic armies had retaken a strategic village north of the capital of
Kabul in a heavy assault involving artillery barrages and jet attacks. All
sides in the current phase of the civil war want to impose some variation of
Islamic authoritarianism on the people of Afghanistan, although the Taliban
is surely the worst. Schools have been closed, televisions and musical
cassette tapes confiscated, men are herded into mosques five times a day for
a mandatory prayer ritual... indeed, chronicling the Taliban religious
excesses could become a full time cottage industry!
Women seem to have borne the brunt of this institutionalized religiosity
(which reminds us, anyway, of the pitfalls in having "One Nation Under God".)
Is there anyone happy with this arrangement, besides the gun-toting,
near-illiterate village clerics who now run 80% of Afghanistan?
Apparently, one group most please with the current state of things is
merchants who sell the Burka, a hot, cumbersome body robe that women
throughout the Taliban-controlled regions (including the once-relatively
cosmopolitan capital of Kabul) must now wear. A recent Los Angeles Times
carried a dispatch from Kabul, telling the history of this garment which was
shed in the twentieth century in the more emancipated areas of the middle
east, including Afghanistan. The Burka is "the most public sign of women's
traditionally subservient status," reports the dispatch, adding that "For the
uninitiated, the burka can feel claustrophobically confining, with only a
narrow mesh-covered slit for the eyes that gives the wearer tunnel vision and
requires her to tilt her head downward to see where she is putting her feet."
One woman, forced to don the religious cloak, "stumbled three times and
Confining women in such a fashion may excite the hormones of some decrepit
mullah, or even a stadium full of Promise Keepers types intent on reasserting
their male role as "head of household." The women obviously don't like the
Burka, and there are reports that when and if the uprising against the
oppressive Taliban regime comes, women may well be in the vanguard
dispatching their bearded masters with knives, guns, pots or whatever else
happens to be handy. But the Times report notes that vendors peddling the
Burka garment are doing one; business for one merchant has jumped over 25%
since Taliban captured Kabul in late September and began publicly whipping
women who evince the audacity to go out in public wearing "un-Islamic" dress.
We suspect that payback will be hell.
A New Hampshire federal judge ruled Friday that the town of Barrington,
R.I. must stop providing free snow plowing services for church parking lots,
saying that the practice was unconstitutional. American Atheist Regional
Director Gil Lawrence reports that the suit, brought by the ACLU, had to be
decided by a higher court since local judges had excused themselves from the
case. We'll have a full update in a subsequent issue.
Former President George Bush contributed to the slavish legitimization of
religious cult leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon by speaking at a banquet yesterday
inaugurating a new weekly newspaper owned by the Unification Church leader.
Bush addressed nearly 1,000 guests at a shindig for the Tiempos del Mundo
newspaper, the latest Moon publishing venture which already includes the
Washington (D.C.) Times. The event raised eyebrows in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, though where Tiempos is based: President Carlos Menem and his
cadre of government officials decided to duck the last Moon-atic event.
The banquet closed with a 50-minute address delivered by Rev. Moon,
"dealing chiefly with religious themes," according to the Washington Post.
The cult leader, who served prison time in America for income tax evasion,
described the United States as "a nation of extreme individualism, a nation
whose people are pursuing private interests, overindulging themselves,
gluttonous, practicing free sex."
Perhaps the world would be a better place if more people did so, instead of
repressing themselves on behalf of authoritarian, self-described messiahs
like Mr. Moon.
Throughout the world, an assortment of prudish religious zealots, snoopy
government officials, would-be do-gooder blue noses and the just plain
politically ambitious are stumbling over each other in the race to find ways
and reasons to regulate cyberspace. To paraphrase a biblical reference,
their reasons for doing so "are legion," and often regurgitate the thread
worn phrases of past efforts on behalf of censorship of other media. Whether
it's books, magazines, movies, tv shows, radio commentary or digital images,
someone out there wants to make sure that Big Brother (or Big Sister) is
watching to insure that you don't don't see, hear or think anything "harmful"
or sinful. We know, of course, from the history of such experiments that
those doing the monitoring and censoring are often corrupt and debauched;
scroll this page of text up a bit, and read about the Mr. Clean spokesman for
the Mormon Church who, while imploring others to beware the temptations of
the flesh, was boosting his own hormone level by photographing some 14-year
old in panties.
In Germany, the government has always taken a "pro-active" role in telling
people how they must lives their lives. Atheists there and in other countries
like Austria have even been jailed for the "crime" of questioning the
historicity of one Jesus Christ and spreading "blasphemous material." And
the government seems ever-willing to police the culture, especially the
somewhat anarchic and uncontrolled medium of the internet.
Now, Compuserve -- a major on-line provider in Germany -- has announced
that it is transferring its administrative operations out of Munich because
of government efforts to compel Internet firms to "control pornography" and
other content on their networks. A posting at the cyber-rights Electronic
Frontiers Foundation (http://www.eff.org) reports that Compuserve will
continue to provide access in Germany, but is shifting its offices to a
country "that does not hold on-line companies responsible for obscene
material" on the net.
The excuse for this latest blatant attempt at censorship is the existence
of child pornography; Germany's lower house of parliament (the Bundestag) is
considering legislation that would require internet service providers to
block access to "child pornography, neo-Nazi materials or other extreme
pictures or writing on the internet." EFF reports that German authorities
raided Compuserve last year "on suspicion that customers used the network to
distribute child pornography." The firm then came under attack from civil
libertarians when it agreed to the government's request that it block access
to more than 200 internet sites.
Practically speaking, this may be just so much posturing and grandstanding
by politicians who understand neither the technical problems involved nor the
principle of free speech. Today's justification for censorship may be
kiddie-porn (especially in light of the hysterics taking place in Belgium
where, at the present rate, the entire population may well stand accused of
child abuse by the end of the year!), but that is surely the thin edge of a
much wider wedge.
And something needs to be said about the issue of "kiddie porn." Many
zealots are fixated on making possession or transmission of such materials a
crime, and seem to say very little about the children involved. Indeed,
forcing children into sexual acts is part of a larger problem and raises
questions about OTHER forms of authoritarian coercing, not the least of which
is participation in often destructive religious rituals. It appears that
often the same folks crusading for a crackdown on kiddie-porn represent the
same religious ideologies which try to justify "Bible discipline" in the
home, and the "rights" of parents to brainwash children in religious
Frankly, the danger to children posed by sexual abuse doesn't come from
some unshaven, beer-swilling stranger who masturbates in a public park. The
majority of child abuse cases involve members of the much-touted "nuclear
family" and trusted authority figures, including clergy. Indeed, the best
protection for children against ANY form of abuse may be recognizing the need
for a "Child's Bill of Rights," whereby kids are free from the intrusive acts
of crazed adults, be they coming with their pants down or a Bible clutched in
Quick, which is worse -- the Miss World Pageant in India, or the image of
that country being sent to the world by the cult surrounding Mother Teresa?
We say the latter. Miss World (admittedly just another excuse for
voyeuristic, second-hand eroticism more easily available on reruns of
"Baywatch") has become a focus for all manner of groups concerned with the
problems of modernity of globalization currently sweeping the Indian
continent. Even many of the women's groups protesting the event -- often for
good reasons -- quickly undermined their own cause with threats of mass
suicide, and by identifying with reactionary Hindu nationalist groups out to
shut down the pageant. Was this REALLY a protest against the objectification
of women, or just a sanitized version of prudish reaction?
It's unfortunate that many of these same groups aren't fighting the
growing wave of religious nationalism sweeping India, or the flaccid cult
which now surrounds the Roman Catholic nun, "Mother Teresa." In our book,
Mother Teresa is an authoritarian, media-fabricated, religious pop-culture
icon, whose contributions to India pale in comparison to the efforts of
scientists, technologists and other developers who are working to modernize
the culture. Note, for instance, the controversial documentary called
"Hell's Angel" produced by a British company which aired on England's
commercial station in 1994, and which criticized the much-exaulted Nobel
Prize Winner, caller her a mixture of "hyperbole and credulity."
"The documentary accused the Albanian-born nun of preaching the message
that the poor must accept their fate while the rich and powerful are favoured
by God," noted a Reuter news dispatch earlier this year. Journalist
Christopher Hitchens who wrote the script to "Hells Angel" added: "She lends
spiritual solace to dictators and to wealthy exploiters, which is scarcely
the essence of simplicity, and she preaches surrender and prostration to the
poor, which a truly humble person would barely have the nerve to do."
That is surely a wretched sense of life that contrasts with at least some
of the themes found even in the Miss World Pageant -- cosmopolitanism,
sexuality, material gratification. Ma' Teresa poses more of a threat to
India than Miss World ever could.
And A Word About AACHAT...
Patience, patience. Those of us who have experienced the excruciating
problems caused by software conflicts must surely empathize with Internet
Representative Margie Wait, who moderates the American Atheist on-line
discussion forum known as aachat. There haven't been any dispatches since
the middle of the week; but Ms. Wait assures us that she is working on the
problem, and expects to be receiving additional software from her Internet
provider shortly. In the meantime, if you are an aachat participant, hang in
Incidentally, those of you who are not yet on aachat may find this to be a
stimulating forum for ideas connected with Atheism and state-church
separation issues (as well as plenty of other topics!). Participation is
open to all members of American Atheists; for more information, contact the
moderator by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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