Date: Thu, 5 Dec 1996 15:08:38 -0500 Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS December 5, 1992 subjec

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Date: Thu, 5 Dec 1996 15:08:38 -0500 Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS December 5, 1992 Reply-To:, from: AMERICAN ATHEISTS subject: AANEWS for December 5, 1996 A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #208 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 12/5/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * First Amendment Victory In Pittsburgh * "Mr. Clean" Out For New Trial, But V-Chip Isn't Enough * Gift Ideas For Winter Solstice! * Salvi Death Raises Questions * About This List... PITTSBURGH CRECHE MOVED FROM PUBLIC BUILDING A "Win For The Constitution" An attempt to erect a religious nativity scene on public property in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has failed, thanks to the threat of legal action and a public outcry over the wholesale violation of state-church separation. Instead, the creche will be established at a privately operated office complex The controversy began when two Allegheny County Commissioners -- Larry Dunn and Bob Cranmer -- announced their support for an effort by the Catholic Holy Name Society to place the privately-owned nativity display in a public plaza at the local courthouse. The officials justified the action, saying that a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling permitted such displays on public land as part of free speech and religious exercise. The Christian creche was also to be complemented by secular holiday symbols, and Mr. Dunn promised that other religious faiths as well would be permitted to add their displays as well. Local American Civil Liberties Union members, though, protested the creche idea, and threatened to file suit if the nativity scene was erected. Allowing the display to be placed at the courthouse was a promise made by Dunn and Cranmer during their November election campaigns. The flap appears to be resolved, at least for now. The Holy Name Society decided earlier this week to move the nativity scene to privately owned land, and according to Associated Press, "denied that the threats (of lawsuit) played any role." In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that such creche displays were unconstitutional since they involved government promotion of religious belief. Church groups have used a variety of ruses to erect nativity scenes and other religious displays on public land, including the ploy of utilizing volunteer labor and private funds. In some cases, the displays were justified as being "holiday" oriented rather than statements of religious belief. But Commissioner Dunn made no such excuses. He told reporters: "I am very disappointed on behalf of the hundreds of citizens who wrote or called my office in the hopes of celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah instead of Sparkle Season," a reference to the holiday retail season. ** (Thanks to Gary Gahagan for following this story for aanews...) "Purity" Watch... ANTI-PORN CRUSADER SPRUNG IN S& L DEBACLE ~~ V-CHIP ISN'T ENOUGH FOR MORAL ''WATCHDOG'' GROUP The debate over church and state enforcement of "public morality" continues to simmer, with two stories marking the rounds in the media spotlight: * Charles Keating, best known for his role in S & L scandal and the collapse of Lincoln Savings & Loan, was released from prison yesterday after serving four years and nine months of his sentence pending a new trial. Keating, 73. was sprung from the California State Prison at San Luis Obispo, after U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer granted his plea for another trial. According to the Washington Post, Keating was known for his "largess to politicians, junk bonds sales to the elderly and arrogance toward regulators (and) epitomized the 1980's S & L debacle." Keating was twice convicted of fraud charges, stemming in part from the business activities of his American Continental Corporation which took over Lincoln and began using tax-insured deposits to invest in get-rich-quick schemes throughout the world. By the time the loans defaulted, the Resolution Trust Corporation had to liquidate Keating's empire with taxpayer losses of $3.4 billion. But while Keating"s business ethics and personal morality were being questioned, the influential tycoon was busy subsiding anti-pornography and censorship crusades. In 1957 he founded the Citizens for Decency (later Citizens For Decency Through Law) and remained active up to the time of his indictment. Meanwhile, ACC's hotel conglomerate which operated a sumptuous resort in Scottsdale, Arizona was boasting that its rooms did not feature "adult" fare on its television, or allow smutty magazine in its gift shops. According to the November, 1995 issue of "Freedom Writer," CDL openly identified itself with the bankrupt Master of the Universe, but earlier in the year had removed the words "Founded in 1957 by Charles H. Keating, Jr." from the back of its newsletter. The group later changed its name to become the Children's Legal Foundation (CLF). Keating and his moral-purity group often played fast-and-loose with the facts. The group's "research" was often included in anti-smut pitches from religious groups, with claims trying to link anti-social and violent behavior to girlie magazines. Keating also rubbed shoulders with many religious fundamentalist and evangelical activists, and powerful politicians on capitol hill who did their bidding. One was former Representative Robert K. Dornan whose ham-fisted attacks on women, gays, abortion rights activists, ethnic minorities and even fellow legislators have become legend in Washington. Dornan served as the official CDL spokesman from 1973-1976. As for Keating, his role in the scandalous S & L collapses typified what has happened to many anti-porn and decency crusaders who themselves became embroiled in questionable activities. The aristocratic Keating's fall from public grace was simply one of a long string of embarrassing disclosures for religious agendaists. The "Freedom Writer" noted that "Keating is to the savings and loan industry what Jim Bakker was to television evangelism," referring to the founder of the infamous PTL network. Other crusaders found themselves in hot water as well, raising questions about their emphasis on morality for others, but not ethical behavior for themselves. Jimmy Swaggart admitted his involvement with a prostitute for cheap-thrill masturbation sessions, Bakker was involved with PTL bimbo Jessica Hahn, and other televangelists like Peter Popov have been exposed are carnival-style hucksters. Amidst the ruin, the religious groups were essentially running for cover, changing the names of their respective organizations to include words such as "family" or "children. Keating sidekick Rev. Donald Wildmon, for instance, quickly morphed his National Federation for Decency into the American Family Association. (Another religion-decency booster, Rep. Henry Hyde, was involved in allegations of impropriety in Illinois-based Clyde Savings and Loan debacle which cost taxpayer's over $37 million.) * Morality In Media, a "national interfaith organization founded in 1962 to combat obscenity and to uphold decency standards in the media," says that the notorious V-Chip in televisions sets isn't enough. Yesterday, the group's President, Robert Peters, said that television standards and ratings used by the motion picture industry were "unacceptable." "What the American public has been crying out for is socially constructive TV programming, not a system which rates a glut of unacceptable programming," said the Morality watcher. The V-Chip was one of several controversial proposals included in the recent Telecommunications Act, and requires manufactures to include hardware in every TV set supposedly permitting parents to "lock out" unacceptable programs. But critics noted that technologically-savvy youngsters would simply find new ways around the chip, and that the device represented an intrusion of government into private life. Morality in Media has been involved in a number of controversial projects, though, which seem to go beyond the topic of salacious programs on the boob-tube. The organization has received considerable funding from the Coors family of Colorado; and in 1985, the group's Massachusetts affiliated organized a forum which covered the waterfront of religious-right issues. One speaker at the Morality in Media event proposed the use of an old leper colony for quarantining people with AIDS. Then MIM board member Jeffrey Coors was also active in the Council for National Policy (CNP), and schmoozed with professional homophobes like Jerry Falwell ("Moral Majority") and Christian Reconstructionist patriarch R.J.Rushdoony, who advocates the death penalty for gays, heretics, adulterers and other transgressors. Since then, Morality in Media has been a leading cultural hit man, and "monitors" hundreds of hours of television programming each week looking for salacious content. The group tabulates statistics measuring obscenity, bedroom scenes involving un-wed couples and other "vulgar" content. While the V-Chip and other nostrums allowed President Clinton to maintain a more pro-family image during the last election campaign (improving the public's perception of him as a philanderer), the move has not satisfied the more stringent demands of groups like Morality in Media and the Christian Coalition for more aggressive government actions. The V-Chip is also proving to be untenable and cumbersome. Yesterday's Morality in Media press conference also cited the results of a national PTA poll (announced late last month) which suggest that parents want information in order to make their own rating judgments on television programming. Robert Peters blasted the idea of allowing the entertainment industry to police itself, lamenting that "In a pluralistic society, any rating system based largely on subjective value judgments of a small number of individuals will often disappoint and mislead parents...It is like putting a mouse in charge of the cheese." ** STILL HUNTING FOR HOLIDAY PRESENTS? Remember that American Atheist Press offers a wide assortment of books, pamphlets and other products which make ideal gifts at this time of year. AAP also carries our famous Winter Solstice greeting cards, which range from the serious to the downright -- well, we'll let you decide. There's still time to order! Send e-mail to, and include your name and postal address. We'll RUSH our new American Atheist Press catalogue to you, in time for your order. You can save even more time by faxing your order, or shopping on line for some items. Go to our web site at, and check out the shopping catalogue. ***** A Special Report From AANEWS... SALVI DEATH MAY RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT ''PRO-LIFE'' UNDERGROUND There are more questions about John Salvi, the man convicted in the 1994 killing of two abortion clinic workers, and his death last week in a Massachusetts maximum security prison. On Tuesday, Governor William Weld announced that he had ordered an expanded probe into the apparent suicide of Salvi; that decision was made just hours after Salvi's family requesting an independent investigation, and charged that prison officials ignored repeated warnings that the 24-year old anti-abortion zealot should be transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Salvi had been serving two consecutive life sentences for the shooting deaths of two women during a murder spree at two neighboring clinics in suburban Brookline, Mass. A total of five people were injured. Salvi, an orthodox Catholic, justified his actions saying that the church was under attack by a cabal of Freemasons, mobsters and the Ku Klux Klan, and others. Witnesses to the shootings reported that Salvi shot one of his victims who was begging for mercy, shouting "This is what you get! You should pray the rosary." Salvi's trial focused on his state of mind; and while the defense produced evidence that the man was a delusional schizophrenic, the jury found him guilty of premeditated murder. Before his trial, Salvi had issued his own statement demanding the death penalty for his actions. But unresolved questions about Salvi and his possible connections to a violent, pro-life "underground" which justifies murder in the struggle to ban abortion, have never been fully resolved. The circumstances of his death may end up being equally puzzling. A preliminary report issued on November 28 by the state medical examiner's office suggested that Salvi committed suicide from asphyxiation. But on Tuesday, defense attorney J.W. Carney questioned the suicide finding, noting "His (Salvi's) feet were tied. His hands were tied together. There was cotton stuffed in his mouth and a plastic bag over his head." Links To A "Phineas Priesthood"? Salvi's marginal lifestyle and own bizarre statements have already attracted the interest of investigators; by one reckoning, Salvi was involved in over 3000 violent or threatening incidents, some of which took place inside of churches and at anti-abortion demonstrations outside of clinics. Salvi reportedly attempted to run one doctor who worked at a clinic off the road with his automobile, shouting "I'm going to teach you, baby killer." And following his murder convictions, he told reporters inquiring about his prison lifestyle that "The grits (in prison) seem to have semen in them." Salvi was apparently not an official joiner, but investigators remain disturbed that a search of his personal effects following the December 30, 1994 murderfest, turned up the unlisted personal phone number of Donald Spitz. Spitz has been identified as an associate of Paul Hill, convicted for murdering a Florida physician at an abortion clinics, and a man with ties that many suspect involve a small but growing violent, pro-life "underground." Spitz in turn had been involved with David Craned, a coordinator of the American Coalition of Life Activists who now leads an organization called Justice for Children. In fact, Salvi was arrested outside a clinic where Mr.. Spitz regularly organized pro-life demonstrations; and Spitz later organized sympathetic rallies on Salvi's behalf, referring to him as as "hero." Both Crane and Spitz had signed the controversial "Defensive Action" statement, an endorsement of violent action "in defense of the unborn". ACLA grew out of the larger Operation Rescue group founded by Randall Terry; when efforts were made inside of Operation Rescue to renounce some forms of violent protest and harassment, ACLA arose as an alternative for more militant pro-lifers. Officially, American Coalition of Life Activists has limited itself to picketing and harassment of doctors and clinics performing abortions; but more militant ACLA activists maintain co-membership with smaller groups like "Defenders of the Defenders of Life," which issued a declaration in support of Paul Hill. While Terry maintains links to Christian Reconstructionism, other militant pro-lifer's are involved in "shock troop" groups like the Lambs of Christ, or the Missionaries to the Preborn. Even participants in these movements disagree on the moral worth and righteousness of acts by men like John Salvi and Paul Hill. Salvi moved in the nebulous world of militant, aggressive pro-life fringe groups, and seemed occupied by issued such as abortion, moral purity, and conspiracies against the Roman Catholic Church. While he apparently did not act in concert with any other individuals or groups, there is evidence that he absorbed the violent rhetoric of extreme anti-abortion zealots into his confused social and religious ideology. (Prior to sentencing, Salvi told the court that "I am against abortion...My position is pro-welfare state, pro-Catholic labor union..." Beyond even groups like Lambs of Christ and the ACLA are more shadowy affinity groups which have used a variety of labels, including Army of God and the Phineas Priesthood. These self-appointed "avenging angels" have been linked to everything from clinic bombings and arsons to harassment of clinic workers, even bank robbery. There has been speculation that abortion clinic shooter Paul Hill was either a Phineas Priest, or at least inspired by Old Testament lore which he included in his Defensive Action booklet, "Should We Defend Born And Unborn Children With Force?" More recently, the Phineas group has been linked to extreme Christian Identity groups and publications, including the tract "Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood." Along with the private telephone number of Mr. Spitz, investigators have also been puzzled by other aspects of Salvi's life including his sources of money. Answers may never be forthcoming; and it remains clear that Salvi, whatever his associations and ties to the violent pro-life underground, was a troubled, disturbed young man. The strange circumstances of his death only deepen this mystery. ** INTERESTED IN MEETING OTHER ATHEISTS? You can head for the local saloon or bowling alley, or endure the flame wars over at alt.atheism -- but if you want to meet other Atheists, here are a couple of suggestions... * Join American Atheists * Participate in our moderated, on-line discussion Forum for members, aachat. As a member, you receive the American Atheists Newsletter and American Atheists Magazine along with other benefits of membership. You can also join our Volunteer's Network if you wish to "do something extra" for Atheism and state-church separation in your community! For membership details, send mail to and include your name and postal mailing address. If you are already a member, why not participate in our on-line discussion forum aachat? There are daily exchanges about atheism, religion, the First Amendment and other related issues. For details, contact the moderator, Margie Wait by e-mail at ** 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 subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to 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 ( Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait, **


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