#5 . AANEWS .4/9/96 AANEWS is a service of AMERICAN ATHEISTS, a nationwide movement founde
#5 ...................................... AANEWS
AANEWS is a service of 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 more information on AA, send
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provided that credit is given to American Atheists and aanews. Edited and
written by Conrad Goeringer.
BUCHANAN AND THE U.S. TAXPAYERS PARTY -- THE ''DOMINIONIST" -
With the race for the GOP Presidential nomination all but locked up,
religious conservative candidate Pat Buchanan certainly has his options open.
His hard-hitting nationalist, "family values" and anti-free trade campaign
resonated with many voters throughout the country, even though his initial
victory in the New Hampshire primary was followed by a string of over
two-dozen losses to Senator Bob Dole.
Now, the pundits are wondering what's in store for Buchanan. He will
certainly remain a force in both GOP and national politics. But Buchanan's
candidacy was a a platform not only for his own ideology, but for agendas
that may well have been even further to the right. The Buchanan campaign was
plagued by embarrassing revelations of ties to racist-nationalists and other
bizarre movements. In Louisiana, for instance, Buchanan partisans allegedly
distributed hate-literature directed at another GOP contender, Texas Senator
Phil Gramm, accusing him of divorcing a "white woman" in order to marry an
oriental. Links between Buchanan's organization and members of the National
Association for the Advancement of White People, a movement founded by former
Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke came to light in several states. And
Buchanan's own statements on gays, immigration, affirmative action and
cultural diversity shocked many. He even equated Atheists with pornographers
and murderers, a statement which drew a strong rebuke from American Atheists.
But even with the primary campaign wrapped-up, Buchanan is still courted
-- some would say plagued -- by the beckoning call of far right movements.
The latest involves a group known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party founded by
former GOP political strategist Howard Phillips. Phillips' own ideological
journey is an interesting one; in the Nixon administration, he was a director
of the Office of Economic Opportunity, but left the department in 1974 to
start the Conservative Caucus and organize campaigns for conservative
candidates. Here, Phillips linked-up with other heavyweights on the New
Right, including direct-mail mogus Richard Viguerie, Paul and Judy Brown
(American Life Lobby) and Terry Dolan of the National Conservative Political
By 1980, Phillips was wired into the growing religious conservative nexus,
and was in on the meeting out of which the Moral Majority was born. As told
in Sara Diamond's "Spiritual Warfare, the Politics of the Christian Right",
it was Vigueri, Phillips and EdMcAteer of the Religious Roundtable who
invited Rev. Jerry Falwell to a strategy session; the group "wanted Falwell
to spearhead a visibly Christian organization that would apply pressure to
the GOP," specifically over issues such as abortion and school prayer.
The battle to put prayer back into the public schools had been an
objective of many groups ever since the Supreme Court case of 1963, Murray
vs. Curlett, which helped to end prayer and bible recitation in such venues.
Groups organized around the "voluntary prayer" issue blamed that decision
for a variety of social ills, from drug use to juvenile delinquency. The
issue was all the more volatile because Madalyn Murray (later O'Hair), a
plaintiff in the case, was an avowed Atheist. Murray-O'Hair was quickly
branded the "most hated woman in America" and "the notorious Atheist."
In May of 1982, President Ronald Reagan responded to growing pressure from
Phillips, the Conservative Caucus and other right-wing religious groups, and
endorsed a constitutional amendment permitting prayer in public schools, and
providing tuition tax-credits for parents wanting to send their children to
private and religious institutions. But it soon became evident that while
much of the Reagan economic package was being delivered, the social agenda of
the religious right wasn't faring nearly as well. Constitutional amendments
for school prayer or a ban on abortion required approval by 2/3 of Congress
and 38 of the State legislatures in the land.
Ever since the heyday of the Reagan White House, though, Phillips has
moved further to the religious right. He is now a Christian
Reconstructionist, and his U.S. Taxpayers Party reflects this extreme
"dominionist" view of religious and society. The modern Reconstructionist
gospel is promoted by R.J. Rushdoony and his Chalcedon movement based in
Vallecito, California. What the movement lacks in size, it makes up for in
vigor and influence. While it has many similarities to other far-right
religious conservative groups, the Reconstructionist movement differs on some
critical issues. One is the eschatological question of the "last days";
Reconstructionists are "postmillennialists" who believe that the Second
Coming will occur only after a 1,000 reign by Christians; during this period,
Christians are to be "Dominionists" who will "reconstruct" every conceivable
area of social and individual life. Rushdoony's Chalcedon Report (the name
is derived from the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451) insists that the movement
believes in separation of church and state "but not the separation of the
state -- or anything else -- from God."
Worse yet is the conviction of Reconstructionists that Old Testament law
was not suspended or overturned with the formulation of the New Testament.
The vindictive and punitive Jehovah was not to be superceded by some wimpy,
all-loving Jesus. Old Testament should be applied to society, say the
Reconstructionists. According to Diamond: "A Reconstructionist society would
include no prison system -- criminals would either die fore their crimes or
work as indentured servants to make restitutions to their victims. Likewise,
there would be no credit system; indigents would be forced to work off their
debts. The economy would be based on the gold standard, children would be
educated at home, and there would be no property or income tax -- instead,
everyone would give a ten percent 'tithe' to the church which would then
administer welfare projects."
Reconstructionist "justice" would be quick and brutal. Homosexuality and
adultery would be capital offenses punishable by death, specifically,
stoning. Most Reconstructionists, of course, downplay the more severe
aspects of their ideology, instead presenting a "family values" agenda for
modern political consumption.
But Reconstructionism, even with its extreme and brutal views, has
influenced other segments of the religious right who are not all
postmillennialists. The "dominion theology" movement, writes Diamond, with
its "concept that Christians are Biblically mandated to 'occupy' all secular
institutions has become the central unifying ideology for the Christian
Right. Indeed, the slogan of "One Nation Under God" has taken on a distinctly
authoritarian, anti-diversity and anti-libertarian resonance which has little
to do with meaningful notions of freedom and voluntarism.
There is considerable that Reconstructionists, Dominionists and other
extreme religious conservatives moved even beyond the orbit of the Christian
Coalition, and threw their energies behind the candidacy of Pat Buchanan. It
is a marriage of strange bedfellows, though, especially since Buchanan is
Roman Catholic and the Reconstructionists are rooted in strict, authoritarian
In late March, Phillips and his U.S. Taxpayers Party began an effort to
entice Buchanan to be their Presidential candidate. Buchanan declined,
citing a desire to remain within the GOP, but this does not rule out a
Reconstructionist-USTP ticket in the future.
Within the platform of the USTP lurks the not-so-subtle Reconstructionist
agenda. Planks call for apointing "only judges who acknowledge the legal
personhood of the unborn child," and ending "Federal interference with
imposition of the death penalty for capital crimes." The Party also calls
for ending funding of Planned Parenthood, all AIDS education projects, Legal
Services Corporation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Preamble
of the group states, "We, as members of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, gratefully
acknowledge the blessings of thge Lord God as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of
the Universe and this Nation...The U.S. Constitution established a republic
under God rather than a democracy. Our Republic is a nation governed by a
Constitution which is rooted in Biblical law..."
Domonionist theology rears its head in nearly every platform plank. Under
"Education", for instance, the Party declares that "All education is
inherently religious, in the sense that all teaching is related to basic
assumptions about the nature of God and man..." The "Individual Rights"
category says nothing about the Bill of Rights, only that "Each and every
citizen should be free to choose his friends and associates, to offer, seek
or refuse employment, and to rent or sell his property to whomever he
chooses," along with clauses opposing affirmative action and quotas. There
is nothing about Freedom of Speech, or separation of church and state.
As a document, the USTP Platform echoes much of the angst of the religious
right, including opposition to the "New World Order" and economic
arrangements such as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), along
with calls for school prayer and religious displays on public property. The
group plans its National Convention in San Diego for August 15-18, and bills
the event as a "gathering of great American patrios...you don't want to
Buchanan and the USTP/Reconstructionist movement are certainly beyond the
political orbits of more pragmatic groups like Christian Coalition. While
the Reconstructionists promote a cranky, even brutal Dominionist agenda (one
that might even be too much for Pat Buchanan!), Ralph Reed and other
religious conservatives have been seeking to rehabilitate their images in
favor of "slicker" political styles and toned-down rhetoric. Even so,
Phillips' own ideological journey, and the growth of the U.S. Taxpayers Party
and other Reconstructionist-linked movements, suggests that there is an
audience for such an ideology -- and one which is politically active. USTP
does not have to win elections; it only has to adopt a long-standing "third
party" view of the electoral system, where elections become simply another
podium or pulpit to spread a message.
Throughout American history, the "third party" phenomena has been tenative
and ephemeral ; it is considerably different from the European experiences
with multiple parties being given slots in "coalition governments," a
characteristic especially of the post-World War II era. In the American
experience, third parties often meet their demise when the "major" political
groups simply adopt portions of their platforms. With time, even the most
extreme ideas can disseminate into the culture and its political
institutions. It is that slow diffusion of Dominionist ideas which
Reconstructionist strategists hope for and anticipate...if not today, then
Remember all the hoopla last month when the Vatican released its list of
"approved films"? Some of the picks were a bit surprising; we could expect a
movie like BEN HUR, of course, but what about the D.W. Griffith classic
INTOLERANCE? Or even WIZARD OF OZ, which some fundamentalists have objected
Even the Vatican has some decent film critics who can appreciate true film
artistry. Who WOULDN'T consider some of the movies listed as true greats?
But something else about the Roman Catholic Church's selection caught our
critical eye -- three of the films ("LaStrada", 1954 by Fellini; "The Bicycle
Thief", 1948, Vittorio De Sica; and "Open City," 1954, Rosselllini) were
blacklisted by the old Legion of Decency outfit, the precursor of the
Catholic Film Office. They were considered pornographic, erotic, sinful and
evil...labels once reserved only for Elizabeth Taylor and her numerous beaus
like Richard Burton. In fact, Taylor's performance in "Cleopatra" has only
been appreciated with time.
The import of this development has not been lost; Gustav Niebuhr of the
New York Times properly used the term "rehabilitation" to describe the
phoenix-like rise of these three films (out of a total of 45) as cinematic
masterpieces. Some of the 42 other works appear to have little or no
religious content whatsoever. And then there's cinematic fare like Bergman's
Seventh Seal. That one we're still trying to figure out...
Speaking of the constipated bluenoses from the Legion of Decency. One of
the groups which sprouted from that erstwhile organization was an outfit
called Citizens for Decency, later the Citizens for Decency Through Law. CDL
snoops occupied their time combatting adult movie theatres and complaining
about the site of a naked breast on the big screen, anal retentive tasks
since taken over by Tipper Gore, Donna Rice and various "family values"
groups. But one of the big CDL backers was a fellow named Charles Keating --
remember him? Yeah, that's the guy, same fellow who was knee-deep in the S &
L scandal, a lifelong conservative Republican who hob-nobbed with the rich
and famous, and built plush resorts and extravagant hotels WOPM (With Other
Peoples' Money). When his Continental Savings collapsed, the dapper Keating
who had been so worried that kids might get a peek at dad's Playboy, was
mired in charges of scandal, misappropriation and fraud. My latest word is
that he is still a guest of the government with his case on appeal. Wonder
what he reads in his cell...
Your humble correspondent has always enjoyed Banned Book Week with its
exhibits of great literary prose and verse which managed to run astray of
either church or state. So imagine the surprise at learning that the Banned
Book Exhibit slated for an Independence, Missouri library had itself been
banned! The exhibit focused on banned books as an artform; and last month,
an artist handling the exhibit received word that it was "not appropriate"
for a town named Independence. The showing offers 12 pieces ranging from
"Tarzan" (banned in Los Angeles in 1929 because the muscular jungle man lived
in sin with his girlfriend Jane) to "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland",
excoriated by Chinese authorities in 1931 because animals in the book used
The fact that so innocent a display would STILL be considered opprobrious
reveals something not only about self-righteous culture, but casts doubt on
the contention that censorship is now necessary due to the "extreme", more
contemporary offerings in books, music, television and even comics. Today, a
movie like "The Lion King" meets with howls of protest from paranoid
fundamentalists, and rap music (which even its devotees barely understand)
draws the wrath of the nation's Second Lady. But the lesson is clear;
censorcrats, with their theopolitical agendas will ALWAYS find a reason for
Are we sending a harmful, even paranoid message to children?
First it was dope-smoking fiends a la "Reefer Madness". Then, commies.
Then, dope-smoking hippies in the sixties, followed by killer cultists in
the '70's and satanic baby-killers in the 80's. Come the '90's, it was a
suspected pedophile lurking in every school yard. Kids were warned not to
talk to strangers, and look upon the world as some kind of a hostile,
The greatest physical threat to kids, of course, hasn't been hippies or
devil worshippers or even free-ranging child molesters. It has been good ol'
mom and dad, and relatives, who have traditionally been doing most of the
beating and sexual molesting of boys and girls. Throw in a growing number of
priests with a handful of scout masters, and...well, you've got the picture.
But we may be experiencing the birth of yet ANOTHER piece of classic,
paranoid-style American folklore. This time, it involves computers. No, it
isn't the pedophiles who ostensibly lurk in chat rooms and on-line services
waiting to ensnare kids for their own sick pleasure -- although groups like
the Guardian Angels with its battalions of self-appointed "cyber cops" would
have you believe otherwise. I mean, to them the whole world is like the N.Y.
subway. The villan this time is database companies which sell personal
information about kids. Concerned parents are busy bombarding Washington
with messages extolling the need to prevent information like this from being
What is this information? It is generated from public record sources
including birth records; clients of these information firms mail to
households with kids that offer appropriate products and services. Well
before the computer, of course, this practice was done by savvy life
insurance sales people, even diaper-cleaning firms.
But now, there is another bogeyman in the national popular consciousness.
A spokesman for one firm told USA TODAY recently that yet another law was
simply not needed: "There is no evidence to suggest criminals are using
direct mail lists to harm children." Said another from the Direct Marketing
Association: "There is no way to tie direct marketing to the stalking and
abduction of children. That connection doesn't exist."
Even so, evidence DOES indicate that Americans are more and more disposed
into "believing" things which lack good credible evidentiary support. Public
policy -- and who is elected to office -- should be sufficient proof of that.
Along with satanic cultists and bug-eyed aliens, we can add direct mail
pedophiles to the American "enemies list."
From the LISTMASTER...
Part Two of our report on the Freemen group and Christian Identity is now
in preparation. We hope to have that in the mail system to you shortly. We
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