#5 . AANEWS .4/9/96 AANEWS is a service of AMERICAN ATHEISTS, a nationwide movement founde

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#5 ...................................... AANEWS ............................................4/9/96 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 e-mail to: info@atheists.org . Include your name, mailing address and zip code. Additional background on this list may be obtained by mailing to: aanews-request@listsev.atheists.org and putting "info aanews" in the body. You may forward this dispatch; materials may be quoted or reproduced, 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" - RECONSTRUCTIONIST CONNECTION... 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 Action Committee. 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 Calvinism. 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 miss." 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 perhaps tomorrow. ******************* THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS 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 to? 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 human language. 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 banning something. ************** 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, malevolent disutopia. 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 compiled. 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 again would like to thank all of those who have subscribed to AANEWS since its recent debut. Many of you were on the old TW and AAFWD list; alas, some of the names on the latter are no longer active e-mail addresses. If you know the whereabouts of someone who used to be an AAFWD subscriber, please let them know that AANEWS is now operational. If they are not getting these dispatches, they can send mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and put "info aanews" in the body of their message. Thanks for your support! C. Goeringer *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************


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