Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 18, 1996 nn nn A

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Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 18, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #16 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 4/18/96 UTAH SOLONS TO VOTE ON PROHIBITION OF GAY STUDENT GROUPS As this dispatch of AANEWS is being released, we are awaiting word on developments in Utah, where the legislature meets today in a special session. Religious conservatives in that state are desperately trying to pass legislation which would specifically ban clubs for lesbians and gay students, while allowing all other groups (including bible clubs) to meet. The controversy dates back to February when the Salt Lake City school board was faced with the prospect of either permitting a gay-straight alliance student group to meet at East Side High School, or ban all student organizations. The gay-straight club was citing its right to meet under Federal equal access law; ironically, that legislation had been promoted by Utah Senator Orin Hatch as a way of permitting religious groups to hold meetings in public schools. But the school board voted to ban all student groups, rather than permit gay or lesbian organizations to enjoy the same rights as others. Demonstrations by students and protests from civil libertarians and state-church separation movements quickly ensued. Utah's religious establishment, particularly the LDS (Mormon) church, began pressuring for new laws which would permit "approved" student groups to meet, while banning gay-lesbian clubs. The result of that effort will be voted on sometime today. Should it pass, immediate court challenges based on equal access provisions of the law are expected. RUSHDIE CRITICIZES NATION OF ISLAM LEADER'S CALL FOR 'RESPECT' Continuing to speak out against religious orthodoxy and authoritarianism, noted author Salman Rushdie yesterday criticized religious leaders who demand agreement with their views under the guise of "respect." He singled out Nation of Islam potentate Louis Farrakhan, saying "To respect Louis Farrakhan, we must understand, is simply to agree with him...If dissent is now also to be thought of as a form of 'dissing,' then we have indeed succumbed to the thought police." Rushdie has been living under an edict of death or Fatwa since 1989, pronounced by the late Ayatollah Khomeni, because of his controversial novel "The Satanic Verses." The book's publication sparked riots and demonstrations throughout the Islamic world, and demands that the work be censored for promoting disrespect of religion. Many Jewish and Christian leaders agreed, and suggested that governments should take a more active role in prohibiting literary works which "insult" any religious belief. Rushdie quickly went into hiding. He has published books since then, including a new best-seller, "The Moor's Last Sigh." Though Khomeni is now dead, the Islamic theocratic regime in Iran is not withdrawing the death sentence. Rushdie also told Reuters news service that "If I were asked for a one-sentence soundbite on religion, I would say I was against it." **************** THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS There's dissent and disagreement "brewing" in the National Spiritualist Association of Churches in Maine. According to reports, a church official has been suspended because of charges that she practices witchcraft. Hmmm...let's get all of this straight. Spiritualists are those folks who insist that they can communicate with dead souls through tapping, game boards and trances. But it seems that one Valerie Van Winkle who operates the group's summer camp on the main coast, has been ordered to stop doing her thing for five years -- this after an internal probe of the organization's finances. Seemed that Van Winkle "hissed" at a local municiple official during a meeting on overdue taxes, and threatened to put a hex on her. The Spiritualists's president claims "She (Van Winkle) has publicly states that she was a witch, which is a non-related religious organization separate from our organization, which is in violation of our constitution and bylaws." Witch Van Winkle, though, insist that she has been falsely accused, and compares the whole affair to -- you guessed it -- a witch trial! Spiritualism began in the 1940's when two young girls, sisters, claimed that they could communicate with the dead. The Fox sisters became an American legend, attracted a considerable following, and then surprised everyone years later by admitting that it was all a hoax. The Spiritualist church still lives, though with members and congregations throughout the nation. But in this confrontation we wonder: which witch is which? ************* With major powers scrambling to put a lid on the latest war between Israel and the Hezbollah, Iranian fanatics aren't making the job any easier. Yesterday, about 400 Muslim students demonstrated outside of the United Nation's office in Tehran, and volunteered to join the Hezbollah -- if it would have them. "We suggest that Muslims all over the world form Hezbollah cells...threaten the interests of world imperialism in whatever way they can," one of the students told Reuters. ***** Is it free speech, cursing, or protected "religious speech." Well, you decide. Yesterday in Cincinnati, an official hearing officer upheld the suspension of a local high school youth who was suspended for two days because he said "Jesus Christ!" in class. His mom insists that the words are just an expression, not a curse or form of profanity. "We do not consider saying 'Jesus Christ' any more of a curse word than saying 'red sneakers'," declared the mother, adding that she was a non-Christian. The boy reported that after he uttered the fatal words, he was yanked to the principal's office and was informed that he "had taken the Lord's name in vain and ....could go to hell for it." Expect another court fight over this one, folks. Jesus Christ! *************** It is this writer's opinion that public hysteria over "terrorism" , fueled by the government and supplemented with religious sloganeering is being used to by-pass important provisions of the Bill of Rights. There is the self-imposed "deadline" of tomorrow, April 19, for the passage of the anti-terrorist legislation in the House of Representative; it may even be passed this afternoon. Strangely, provisions of the measure don't directly relate to terrorism, and do not seem pertinent to the bombing in Oklahoma City. One part would limit appeals by death-row inmates, and compel Federal courts to "defer" to their state underlings. This is constitutionally questionable, of course, but sits well with public opinion which is "fed up" with crime. Another provision would prohibit U.S. citizens from raising money or giving support to "terrorist groups": one might ask, of course, just who has the responsibility for deciding what groups happen to be "terrorist." And finally, there's another chunk of money for "research and development of counterterrorism technologies" and the hiring of more cops and attorneys. Would any of this have stopped those charged in igniting the Oklahoma City blast? Doubtful. As with so many laws, we exchange little bits of freedom, here and there, for the illusion of a greater security we never seem to achieve. What's wrong with this picture? Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in all of this, though; beware when public officials appeal to us to "pray, close ranks and fall into step." We should remain critical, skeptical, and inquisitve; we shouldn't be afraid to ask where we're marching to. ********* The sight of mainstream religions suffering the angst of conscience over gay rights is truly something to behold. If gay rights is such a good thing, why didn't "god" get his followers to accept it decades or centuries ago? Has he changed his mind? Take this week's General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Denver. Yesterday, a female bishop-priestess in the church called upon delegates to "repent" of their homophibia, declaring (in that typical, hip, contemporary religious parlance) "Can we speak God's forgiving, nurturing word in 21st century languages and practices? Oh, please God (sic) make us able to answer with a resounding 'Yes'!" The lady went onto to deplore church policies that "favor Caucasians and males in overt and covert systematic exclusion." Well, perhaps channelers and spiritualists know what the 4,000 or so Methodist delegates will decide. They have to grapple with 3,000 policy changes for the church, including the provocative issue of ordaining homosexuals into the priesthood. For a ten-day agenda, that works out to re-writing the history and practes of the 184 year old cult at the rate of about 300 per day. Frankly, I wish they'd be consistent and get back to Bible basics. The "good book"is a mean, snarling, vengeful, homophobic document which many Christians are trying to modify, Bowdlerize, re-write, exculpate, cover-up, re-phrase and sugar-coat for popular consumption (including their own). Why not just reject the whole thing, and be done with it? ****************** Hot off the fax machine -- the Christian Coalition is sending out its latest "Media Advisory" declaring that it will hold a press conference this coming Monday, April 22 "regarding recent African-American church arsons." Nearly two-dozen churches throughout the South with predominantly black congregations are believed to have been recent targets of arson. The Advisory states that Coalition Director Ralph Reed and the group's Director of Urban Development, Earl Jackson, "will issue a call for Congressional hearings and ask Attorney General Janet Reno to make the church arson investigations a top priority." Wonder if Ralph would do the same for all those torched and bombed abortion clinics. ***** 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. Please include your name, 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, quote or reproduce this dispatch, provided that credit is given to American Atheists and aanews. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.

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