Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 11, 1996 n nn aa

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Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 11, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnn aanews nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu #8 4/11/96 COURT RULES DISCRIMINATION ON RELIGIOUS BIAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL The California State Supreme Court has ruled that landlords may not refuse to rent to unmarried couples for religious reasons. The cae involved a Chico, California property owner who claimed that her Christian beliefs prohibited her from renting an apartment to an unmarried pair. The controversy began in 1987 when Gail Randall and Ken Phillips paid a deposit for a rental unit owned by Evelyn Smith, a member of the Bidwell Presbyterian Church. According to the LA Chronicle, the couple told Smith "that they were married, but just before they moved in, they admitted that they were not. Smith promptly canceled the rental agreement and returned their deposit." Randall and Phillips then went to the Fair Employment and Housing Commission, charging that they were victims of discrimination. Then began a long legal battle which ended in this week's decision. The ruling was termed a "landmark decision" by the attorney for the Fair Employment and Housing Commission. The Chronicle quoted Marian Johnson as insisting that "We're not precluding her from exercising her religion...We're just saying that she can't bring it with her into the business world." The court agreed in a 4-3 vote, and Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote in the majority opinion that "Smith's religion does not require her to rent apartments." An attorney for Smith said that he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, and called the decision a "major blow to religious rights." The case attracted amicus ("friend of the court") briefs from a number of groups; the attorney for one gay rights organization noted that similar "religious freedom" claims have been raised throughout the nation, often as a way to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians. "Religious rights" property related cases are being promoted in other states; in addition to the California court, though, only the State Supreme Court in Alaska has ruled on a similar question and sided with tenants. *********** RIGHT TO MARRY, DIVORCE UNDER RELIGIOUS ASSAULT by Conrad Goeringer Get ready -- elements of both the fundamentalist religious right and their 'hip" counterparts on the liberal end of the social spectrum are getting ready for yet another assault on individual rights and bedroom privacy. Moves are under way to make it more difficult to get a no-fault divorce, and shore up the taboo against gay people who want to marry. The net results are more First Amendment state-church separation violations, and a "back to the past" attitude toward gays and divorcees. Gays who wish to marry for personal or other reasons (especially so they may share insurance and other benefits) are meeting considerable opposition from fundamentalist christians. A "marriage protection" rally took place on the eve of the Iowa GOP primary elections, just to let the candidates know that they had better tow the line on "family values" issues. But the movement to legitimize homosexual unions seems to be slowly gaining steam. In San Francisco, an "unofifical-official" ceremony was recently held with dozens of gay-lesbian couples tying the knot. The event was purely symbolic; it doesn't mean that homosexual couples will enjoy the same social benefits that heterosexuals now have, especially in being considered for loans, tax breaks or insurance benefits. In 1993, the State Supreme Court in Hawaii ruled that the state law banning same-sex unions was unconstitutional. The state must now demonstrate that it has a "compelling interest" in maintaining the ban; the legislature, responding to pressure from religious conservatives, though, quickly passed yet another law asserting the dubious proposition that marriage exists "for the propagation of the human race by man-woman units." An editorial in the New York Times noted that many heterosexual "man-woman units" are infertile, marry past their child-procreating years, or choose voluntarilly to not have children. It should be noted that stamping a "government seal of approval" on these baby-breeding "man-woman units" not only encourages unrestrained population growth, but creates a new group of social outcasts -- those who do not wish to breed. Religious groups, mostly on the fundamentalist-right part of the political spectrum, are leading the charge against homosexual marriage. Georgia recently passed legislation banning same-sex unions, and battles are raging in 15 other states. Strange Bedfellows? Another source of constipation in the religious community is the growing divorce rate, a phenomenon generally linked to the universal implementation of no-fault divorce laws. Since 1960, the number of divorces in the country has tripled to nearly 1.2 million annually; a study last year by the University of Oklahoma, though, indicated that only about 15% of that increase was due to the no-fault trend. Marriage rates have also been decreasing, and many couples (to the disenchantment of the clergy) choose to simply cohabit. Religious and social critics of no-fault, though, are already cooking up a strange pseudo-statistical stew to argue their case for tougher divorce laws. One example has been the claim that children growing up in single-parent homes have a greater risk of drug abuse, suicide and criminal behavior than their "nuclear family" counterparts. Critics charge, though, that simplistic conclusions such as this often leave out other factors such as job opportunity, race and education. No-fault divorce has rapidly become a joint target for both religious liberals and conservatives. While the latter group is still wringing its collective hands over the gay-rights issue (Should gays be "annointed" as "priests"?), both agree that divorce should be made more difficult and cumbersome to obtain. There are strange aspects to the no-fault divorce climate, though. A recent news article from CHRISTIANITY TODAY told the story of a Michigan couple who nearly divorced after enjoying a "married singles lifestyle." The man was actually able to use an antiquated state law which made adultery a felony; laws against adultery, prostitution, cohabitation and other consensual-adult activities date back to the efforts of earlier religious groups who wanted to "legislate morality." Many of these statutes remain on state law books, though are either ignored or selectively enforced. The religious campaign against no-fault is generally cloaked in a benign language; rather than say that churches should go out and lobby against such bills, Christianity Today reported that "As at least nine states consider new legislation this spring, many Christian leaders are urging churches to consider their own role in addressing crumbling family structures..." Some of the states being targeted for divorce law "overhauls" include Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In Michigan, for instance, the "overhaul" limits no-fault divorce to cases of physical abuse, adultery, drug use, desertion or imprisonment. There is also an attempt to coerce prospective married couples into "counselling" by reducing marriage license costs and waiting periods. And just who does this "counselling"? Some 38 cities throughout the nation have now adopted a "Community Marriage Policy" which involves local clergy in what Christianity Today terms a "unified commitment to 'radically reduce the divorce rate'." (Some see a disturbing parallel between clergy involvement in marriage policy, and the growing use of religion-based "drug rehab" programs for those convicted of drunk driving or drug law violations.) Statistics indicate that "clergy community policing" has lowered divorce rates for now, but it does not measure any sort of "misery index" for those who linger in disfunctional or illusion-filled marriages. The legal and ideological justification for such clergy involvement in government-sanctioned divorce is already being promoted by conservatives like Harvard's Mary Ann Glendon. The Michigan Family Forum, an affiliate of James Dobson's Focus on the Family group, is backing the proposal in that state to limit no-fault divorce, and the state's Catholic Conference has thrown its muscle behind the bill as well. Meanwhile, civil liberties and women's groups are warning that bills like the Michigan proposal could make abused wives into new victims -- they would have to muster considerable proof that they had, in fact, been victims of violence. Even Christianity Today noted that "Some sociologists have expressed concern that reforms making marriage and divorce more difficult may simply encourage people to live together outside of marriage, promoting even more consequences for the brekdown of marriage and the family." Others argue that ending no-fault, while it may create the illusion of a society populated by happy married couples, would simply cause an escalation in "behind closed doors" bitterness and fighting. Religious "marriage savers" are pushing for more than simple voluntary counselling for people considering divorce; they are promoting ways of having government intervene in personal lives in an unprecedented way. Ironically, a 1995 study by the Hartford Seminary shows that 25% of female clergy and 20% of male clergy have themselves been divorced. Clergy are also mobilizing against no-fault for other reasons. With religious values slipping away in favor of rationalism and secularism, the clergy are in danger of losing their privileged role as social decision makers. A professor from Hood Theological Seminary told Christianity Today that "...I think the church shouldn't have to wait for society to set the standards of morality." *************** THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS Ever notice how people often begin their spiel by saying the opposite of what they really mean? How many book-banners and censorship fiends have you encountered who open their mouth and say, "I'm not for censorship, BUT..." What follows is a long list of what they are in favor of censoring. So, a remark by the Rev. Lloyd Ogilvie, the new official Chaplain to the U.S. Senate caught our eye when the good reverend expressed his views on the Establishment Clause. "I do believe in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe in the separation of God and the state. God has a special place in his plan for our nation. And as the Senate goes, so goes the nation." If Ogilvie really supports separation, he can prove so be refunding his taxpayer-provided salary. He can also refrain from opening sessions of that august body with prayers or dribbles of biblical inspiration. In fact, Rev, why not just resign altogether and REALLY support the separation of church and state? ******* Word is that the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention is aghast at possible links between a firm hired to "restructure" the organization of the church and the Texas lottery. A representative of the denomination's Executive Committee has declared that "We regret that there is the connection, however minimal, between Coopers & Lybrand and the lottery, and we regret that we did not know about it when the contract was signed..." Which raises a bit of cultural history. Ever heard of the expression "Baptist wall"? No, it's not a proposal to surround the bible belt; the phrase actually refers to brick or wood walls erected next to liquor stores, gaming outlets, and probably bordellos, so that the self-righteous driving by will not recognize the cars belonging to the self-righteous inside. We're not insinuating that the Convention leadership makes use of these "Baptists walls", of course, but perhaps they should try the custom just once. *********** Those "B.C." comic strip frames which the Christian Coalition raised such a fuss over did finally run in the (godless) Los Angeles Times. The Coalition said that the newspaper refused to run the strips which depicted events on "Good Friday" because there was an explicit religious message. This was yet another insult to "people of faith," or so said Director Ralph Reed. The strip ran last Saturday along with a news story about the dispute. ******* There is always a danger in "linkage politics" where two or more important social issues are suddenly joined in the thinking process of clergy or politicians. This is what's happening with the abortion and euthanasia issues. Last Sunday, Cardinal O'Connor in New York told a standing-room-only crowd of 4,500 (who had to put in for advance tickets for the Easter Sunday hoedown) that a federal court ruling striking down the state's sucide ban was "unspeakable." "What makes us think that permitted lawful suicide will not become obligated sucide?," asked O'Connor. "How frequently will people be told that it is their ogligation to get out of the way?" O'Connor may have a small point on this one; obligating people "to get out of their way", though, is a bit of a euphemism for capital punishment. Bishops may be split on that question, of course, but many fundamentalists just love the Old Testament flavor of cooked-flesh in the electric chair. Some hard-liner Reconstructions even want to kill the adulterers and homos in our midst. But the real issue isn't hypothetical cases of "what if...?" but people who are in great pain and wish to end their suffering. Anyway, I can't help hearing O'Connor's name and remembering the Salman Rushdie case. When Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" appeared and brought howls of protest from Muslims, O'Connor joined the mob and condemned the book. Had he read it? Of course not. So whenever this Prince of the Cloth opens his mouth and swirls his ecclesiastical robes for the audience, I can't help but think of the guy who did in fact dislike a book he had never read. ***************** Ok, just remember that this is something I did not say: "The North American church is out of touch with global realities." That's the word from a recent story describing the sorry state of mission outreaches by Christian churches, a conclusion coming from Baptists, the Evangelical Foreign Mission Association and others. A representative of the Global Center religious group described missionary outreaches, saying "We're male, pale, and aging." *********** A word from AANEWS... Welcome to the dozens of people who have subscribed to this service in the past day. We hope you find your experience with aanews a rewarding and enlightening one. Those of you who are Members of American Atheists may wish to participate in another forum establish by AA On-Line Services which is known as aachat. This is a moderated list operated by our Internet Representative, Margie Wait; it is for the discussion of organizational issues, Atheism, First Amendment concerns and related topics. If you are a current Member in good standing, send e-mail to: aachat@atheists.org . Include in the body of the message your name, address and zip code. Thanks to all of you who have forwarded AANEWS to friends, or posted our dispatches through the net. C. Goeringer, --LISTMASTER uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu AANEWS is distributed by 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 American Atheists, send e-mail to: info@atheists.org . Include yourname, mailing address and zip code in the message. Additional background on this list may be obtained by mailing to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org , and putting "info aanews" in the body. You may forward this dispatch; material may be quoted or reproduced, provided that credit is given to American Atheists and aanews. Edited by Conrad F. Goeringer.

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