Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 18, 1996 nn nn A
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 18, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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."
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
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
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
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: email@example.com. Please include your name,
address and zip code. Additional background on this list may be obtained by
mailing to: firstname.lastname@example.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.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank