A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
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In This Issue
* "People Of Faith" Resent Gay Rights Ruling
* "Billboard Mary" On The American Road
* Send A Winter Solstice Card This Season!
* About This List...
RELIGIOUS GROUPS BLAST HAWAII COURT RULING ON GAYS
Religious organizations reacted quickly yesterday following a decision by
a Circuit Court Judge in Hawaii which enjoined the state from prohibiting
same-sex marriages. The ruling by Judge Kevin S.C. Chang marks the first
legal decision in U.S. history permitting couples of the same sex to legally
wed. Chang noted that Hawaii's attorney general had "failed to present
sufficient credible evidence...that the public interest in the well-being of
children and families, or the optimal development of children would be
adversely affected by same-sex marriages." The ruling also found that the
government did not demonstrate a "compelling" interest in banning homosexual
While the ruling elicited praise from civil libertarians and gay rights
supporters, opponents of gay marriage blasted the court decision and vowed to
appeal the case. Taking a holiday break before the new Congressional session
next month, Rep. Robert Barr (R-Ga.) promised to continue his fight against
what he called the "homosexual lobby."
"Thank God we were able to get the Defense of Marriage Act passed and
that the president signed it," Barr told the Washington Post. DOMA was a key
agenda item for religious right groups, which have also pushed through laws
in sixteen individual states prohibiting same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice -- a
Christian legal action group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson -- issued
a press release calling the decision an "outrage." Rev. Lou Sheldon of the
Traditional Values Coalition declared that "Just because we've lost this
battle doesn't mean the war is over," and vowed "We have just begun to
fight." He described the Circuit Court decision as "judicial tyranny."
The reaction was much the same from other groups as well. Robert Knight,
a director with the Family Research Council told the New York Times that the
Hawaii ruling was a denial of "not only the wisdom of generations but the law
of nature and nature's God."
More Fights Ahead
Both sides in the case had predicted a lengthy appeal process regardless
of the judge's ruling. The Hawaii case opens the possibility of individual
states taking different positions concerning the legal recognition of gay
marriages. Same sex unions may be recognized in certain states, but not in
others. States were given the "option out" by the Defense of Marriage Act
passed earlier this year. Although the administration denounced DOMA as "gay
baiting," the President went ahead and signed the legislation which also
withholds pension, health and other benefits for members of same-sex unions.
Appeals to the case can be expected to retrace the ground covered in the
Hawaii decision, and raise new issues as well. There may be challenges to
DOMA and the state laws prohibiting homosexual marriages based on both the
"full faith and credit" clause and the equal protection portions of the U.S.
''BILLBOARD MARY'' SPREADING MESSAGE OF APOCALYPSE, DOOM
Roadside billboards proclaiming that "Virgin Mary Speaks to America
Today," and enticing motorists with a 1-800 number are popping up on the
nation's highways in greater numbers. The latest apparition of "Our Lady of
the Billboard" is in Columbus, Ohio where the virginal countenance of Mary
looks down on pedestrians and automobile drivers on Rt. 33, or the Kings
Avenue overpass. Billboard Mary is also appearing on major interstate
highway routes, including the heavilly-trafficked I-95 on the east coast.
It's all part of a burgeoning epidemic of Mary and Jesus sightings, and the
growing millennialist fixation with supernatural messages of apocalyptic
Symptoms of Millennialist Hysteria
Cultural observers and social scientists acknowledge a growing number of
claims concerning apparitions of either the Virgin Mary or Jesus.
Historically, such reports have been linked to conditions of social
uncertainty, disruption and economic dislocation; and in the United States,
where such reports have been on the rise, there is already a long tradition
of belief in biblical prophecy involving everything from the Second Coming to
the end of the world. With the society approaching the year 2000,
millennialist expectations continue to escalate. A poll taken back in 1992
by Time Magazine and Cable News, for instance, indicated that 53% of
Americans questioned anticipated the return of Jesus Christ sometime within
the next millennium.
Millennialist angst, of course, can manifest itself in numerous ways from
jingoistic cultural and ethnic nationalism, to religious or political
fundamentalist movements, and fascination with new age, occultist themes.
But in America, millennialism has traditionally existed as a prophetic
belief in biblical scenarios of the so-called "end times" or final days. In
the 1840's, an obscure farmer and freelance Baptist preacher named William
Miller gave his followers three different dates on which the world was to
end. The failure of such predictions -- known in history as "The Great
Disappointment" -- did little to defuse such anticipations, and Miller's
faithful later coalesced into groups like the Seventh Day Adventist movement.
Indeed, the thread of Millerite apocalypticism has persisted even in
churches and cults today; the Branch Davidian sect of David Koresh can trace
a long and convoluted organizational history back to the teachings of Miller
and subsequent oracles of doom.
Much of the popularity of millennialist anticipations in the United States
stems from Protestant theology. According to Dr. Belden Lane, a theologian
at St. Louis University, even in the twentieth century many "mainstream
Protestants live in hope of the return of Christ." And like Roman Catholics,
they see the upcoming millennium (generally argued as being either the
beginning of 2000 or 2001) as a temporal marker of sorts, as either the
anniversary of the birth of Christ, or the demarcation between respective
biblical "ages" or seclorae.
Epidemics of Mary-Worship
While Protestants reject any divinity or special status in the biblical
tales about Mary (even challenging the notion that she was a Virgin and
remained so after giving birth to the god-man Jesus), a "cult of the Virgin"
has been growing within the rank-and-file of the Roman Catholic Church.
Often, the enthusiasm of ecclesiastical officials is being surpassed by the
laity amidst claims of apparitions, miracle cures and prophetic utterances.
Pope John Paul II may have inadvertently contributed to the flourishing
worship of Mary this past summer when he reaffirmed the Church's teaching
that Mary's virginity was not just in terms of myth or thematic metaphor, but
was rooted in biological fact.
Mary cults are thriving in Western Europe, Latin America, the former
Soviet eastern block countries and now in the United States. In the former
Yugoslavia, the so-called "Miracle at Medjugorje" has become a lucrative
tourist attraction, and spawned a world-wide movement complete with books,
magazines, and internet site and speakers who carry the "message of the Lady"
throughout the world. Most of the "messages" -- hundreds of them ground out
in the utterances of children in this remote village -- are a mixture of
sappy, homespun advice and vague apocalyptic warnings. Sociologist Stjepan
Mestrovic ("The Coming Fin De Siecle," Routledge, 1991) places the Medjugorje
phenomenon in a different perspective, though, noting that the "cult of the
Virgin Mary is the only surviving remnant of primitive female goddesses in
modern, Western culture," and chronicles the interest in Mary during
historical periods of considerable social stress and anomie.
The Bayside Movement
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, most major claims of
apparitions involving the Virgin goddess took place in Europe, including the
sightings at Lourdes and, later, Fatima. The first American apparition was
reported during the 1920's, and involved a string of sightings in
Massachusetts by one Eileen George. In the 1970's, though, a New York
housewife, Veronical Lueken (1923-1995) claimed that she was being visited
regularly by the Virgin Mary, and became the focal point of a group soon
known as the Bayside Movement, named after a Catholic church in the Bayside,
Queens section of the city.
Publicity about Lueken may have spawned "copycat" sightings of Mary; the
mid-1980's, American-based reports of such visitations were becoming more
popular, with the Virgin popping-up in such unlikely locales as Cleveland,
Ohio (1985), Conyers, Georgia (1987), Phoenix, Arizona (1988), Marlboro, New
Jersey (1989) and even Falmouth, Kentucky (1992). In most cases, these
reports attracted considerable media curiosity, and thousands (sometimes tens
of thousands) of people descended on the apparition site. Some situations
involved the image of Mary (or Jesus) on a tortilla, wood grain cabinet, the
side of a rusty grain silo (the "Soybean Savior"), a grease and oil spill
under a car, or the reflection of light from an automobile windshield.
Witnesses often made public testimony of ecstatic feelings of well-being and
religiosity, while others claimed miraculous healings and prophetic
But the Bayside Mary as "channeled" through Veronica Lueken resulted in a
thriving, organized movement of followers, and carried a distinctly menacing,
apocalyptic message. "Our Lady of the Roses" demanded the building of
shrines and pavilions, and laid down a strict ritual for all to obey during
the apparitions to Lueken. Followers drank in the Lady-Lueken message, and
even began publishing highly dubious photographs which, they claim,. clearly
depict an image of the Virgin.
A Message of Menace
"Billboard Mary", unlike most of the other Virgin visits, is distinctly
apocalyptic and mean-spirited, making the Bayside Movement one of the loudest
drumbeaters for millennialist doom and gloom. The group's "Directives From
Heaven" claim to be excerpts culled from over 25 years of regular apparitions
to Lueken, and cover everything from the need for orthodoxy within the Roman
Catholic Church to the evil of homosexuality and the special status of New
York City as a modern-day Babylon. Mary is offended by "immodest dress," for
instance, and tells the faithful that "Shorts, slacks, shall not be worn in
the presence of My Son! There will be no rationalization accepted for the
commission of these acts of impurity." Dancing in the aisles is taboo as
well: "Pagan practices of diabolical music is not condoned by the Eternal
Father, nor shall We condone dancing and all manner of worldly entrance
within the holy houses of God."
And Billboard Mary's socio-political agenda is strictly theocratic and
reactionary. She warns that despite the overthrow of communism in the Soviet
Union, "Russia has but one plan: to Capture (sic) the whole world," and that
"being an atheistic country, My children -- Russia, you cannot believe what
they tell you, nor what they print in their tabloids."
There are also stock-in-trade warnings that resemble earlier outbursts of
phobic nationalism and paranoia from extreme ends of the political spectrum.
Lueken reported alleged conversations with both Jesus and Mary warning of a
secret international cabal ("The Octopus" or "The Illuminati") run by a
council of "Grand Masters" intend on controlling the world and establishing a
"false religion." While Billboard Mary doesn't specifically mention Jews,
Lueken's dark visions suggest that she was aware of traditional anti-semitic
materials and conspiracy theories involving Freemasons and other groups. And
The Big Apple has a special significance for Billboard Mary. "Because of the
major role the city of New York plays in the world governments and the
governing of your nation, the United States, My child, it is for this reason
that Satan chose that area for his start to bring into your country a full
overthrow of Christian belief. It is his endeavor now to replace the Church
of My Son with the church of Satan."
A Vortex of Villains and Villainy?
The "Directives From Heaven" chronicle a lengthy list of villains, all of
whom are said to be united in a common conspiratorial enterprise against "My
Son" (Jesus), and the integrity of the Catholic Church.
"All of you who now plan in conspiracy in My House," Luekens warned in
1977, "to bring about a new world religion, a religion that is not of the God
you know, but a religion that is coming up from the depths of hell! Deluded
you are, Oh pastors..." Villains include theologians "who now consider
themselves as gods upon earth", a one-world religion "based on humanism and
modernism," "Third Worlders" who "seek to destroy My Son's Church and build
one on the creation of man," and Protestant and Catholic Charismatics who are
compared to "children (who) have lost their way."
One also wonders about the sources of Luekens fantasies, some of which
seem to closely parallel the more serious conspiracy theories of Lyndon
LaRouche . Among the "Directives" is a conversation the "Seer of Bayside"
claimed to have had with St. Michael in September of 1975 wherein the
identity of "a man who hides behind the mask ruling your country!" was
conveniently identified. "He is the man who compromises your country for the
love of power... Step down and reveal yourself, the leader... Oh, my
goodness! Oh, my goodness! The man behind the mask, Mr. Rockefeller, the
man behind the mask!"
In the modern conspiratorial mind-set, mere mention of the Rockefeller
name is often associated with other old chestnuts of cabal-politics,
including Freemasons, devil worshippers, money holders (a police revision of
"Jews") and Illuminists. Bayside Mary promises "Listen well, My children,
and understand that I ask you to remove all diabolical musical recordings
from your homes. Your children are bringing demons into your homes because,
at the time that these records were produced, called rock, 'hard rock,' they
were produced in the temple of Satan -- consecrated to Satan!" And it's not
just wiccan musical writers one has to fear, either. Look out for the masons
and other fraternal regroups, warns Billboard Mary, "Because they worship
false idols! My children, man has accepted gods of nature! Pagans you have
Satan As Abortionist
The hot topic of abortion occupies an exhalted status in the "Directives"
of Billboard Mary. Lueken claimed that in one conversation with Jesus, she
was told that the devil "entered your city on January 21, 1971. He was in
Albany first to promote the murderous evil of the killing of the young."
Jesus, though, may have his dates off; New York was one of the first states
to liberalize a draconian anti-abortion law, which took effect on July 1,
1970. Even so, Jesus warns that "All who become part of or condone abortion,
the murder of the young, shall be destroyed!" He added, in subsequent
conversation that Nuns are even in collusion with the abortion industry (a
theme popular in certain anti-Catholic Protestant tracts), adding: "This is
one of the reasons Theresa is crying constantly when she looks into the
convents and sees what is going on. Many (nuns) now believe in abortion, the
murders of the children; and many have committed this act upon themselves."
Abortion is just one of many ills Baysiders are warned against. Billboard
Mary told Lueken: "You must remove from your homes these diabolical agents of
hell, the recordings of Lucifer (rock-and-roll), that will put into your
child a spell, a hypnotism leading to promiscuity, deviant sex,
homosexuality, drugs, murders, abortions and all manner of foul deeds that
could only be conceived in the mind of the prince of darkness, Lucifer
Roaming Homos, The End Of The World
Along with New York Babylon, abortion and rock music, Billboard Mary saves
perhaps her greatest wrath for homosexuals, and paints a cataclysmic vision
of apocalypse that out does the special effects of old Irwin Allen movies, or
the warped dreams of the Japanese Aum Cult. New York, of course, is to be
destroyed by a "killer comet", a "tremendous fire ball" which wreaks havoc on
the east coast. That and other terrible events are foretold as the
"Chastisement" -- but there are so many punishments, one wonders about their
order of occurrence. Jesus, Billboard Mary and Lueken seem to have concocted
a slew of events that, somehow, are part of the apocalyptic demise. They
include an invasion from Russia, a missile parked on a train (presumably in
New York City), terrorism, the antics of 13 witches covens (mostly on Long
Island), flash fires, explosions, an impact from a comet, and "roaming bands"
of homosexuals. The west coast doesn't get off easy, either. Billboard Mary
purportedly provided Lueken an end-times preview of houses slipping into the
sea, a theme popular in many new age circles and especially in the writings
of the late Edgar Cayce. Indeed, Lueken was grinding out her Prophecies on a
regular basis throughout the mid-to-late 1970's, and the printed rendition
abounds with capitalized references and underlining, and promises dire
consequences if followers do not pray sufficiently.
By the late 1980's, Lueken had refined her attacks and warnings of
"roaming bands of homosexuals'" intent on "seducing the young", and begun
including admonitions that AIDS was cosmic karma from God for bad behavior.
"Homosexuality shall never be accepted," warned Billboard Mary.
Jesus-Leuken put in his two cents of cosmic wisdom: "We warned you over and
over again, through years of visitations upon earth, My Mother going to and
fro to warn you, that homosexuality, birth control, abortions and all other
aberrations that bring sorry to My Mother's Heart, this must be stopped now."
AIDS was soon to be followed by yet another plague, and Lueken prophesied: "I
tell you now that there shall not be a cure found for the disease of AIDS.
It is a punishment from the Eternal Father."
Billboards For Doomsday
The prophetic vision of Veronica Lueken is already percolating into the
American cultural scene, and promises to be both a competing vision and a
complementary scenario in some respects to other depictions of Doomsday.
With her forebodings of catastrophic floods, comet impacts, "balls of fire,"
famine and other maladies, the Bayside Seer joins the swelling ranks of
prophetic hucksters, everyone from Nostradamus to Edgar Cayce, Ellen White,
backwoods evangelists, eco-catastrophists, and whatever Hollywood can
frantically grind out in the next few years as we approach 2000 and
Official ecclesiastical authorities within the Roman Catholic Church do
not officially recognize either Lueken or the Bayside Movement she inspired.
But there has always been a gap between apocalyptic millenarians and the
establishment church. The Vatican is more reserved, less frantic and more
couched in its public stance concerning millennialist prophecy, and officials
insist that we cannot know precisely when and how the world might end. Early
apocalyptics were often branded as heretics; their enthusiasm for the "end
times" was seen as a threat to the more mundane exigencies of the
institutional church with its systematic organization and special interest
hierarchy. Indeed, millennialist movements like Bayside represent a kind of
"religious populism" unrestrained by the practical requirements of modern
With the Millennium just a few more calendar pages away, the Bayside
Movement -- along with a slew of other end-times prophets and cults -- is
busy galvanizing the faithful, warning sinners, and spreading the word.
Followers are encouraged to visit the Bayside apparition site for prayers
and cures, and to participate in the group's aggressive billboard campaign.
There are books, magazines, cable television shows in dozens of states, a
platoon of Baysiders on the lecture circuit, and even a web site
(http://www.roses.org). Best hurry, though; you never know when that Ball of
Fiery Retribution could strike.
And stay out of New York City.
Thanks to Frank Zindler for material in this
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