Date: Sat, 20 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 20, 1996 nn nn A

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Sat, 20 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 20, 1996 from: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #19 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 4/20/96 VATICAN MOUNTS PRESSURE ON CLINTON OVER ABORTION VETO The Roman Catholic Church stepped up its criticism of President Clinton yesterday for his decision to veto controversial anti-abortion legislation. In a statement issued by the Vatican, spokeman Joaquin Navarro-Valls charged the president with jeopardizing human morality and moving the country "one step further toward acceptance of infanticide," because of Clinton's veto of the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban." The president's action was termed "an act of brutal aggression against innocent human life" and "shameful." Reuter news service described the Vatican statement as "unusually strong"and "extraordinarilly blunt." It followed a "letter of rebuke" addressed to Clinton which was issued last week by a group of U.S. Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who condemned the veto. The "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" was recently enacted by Congress. It outlaws a specific type of late-term abortion procedure known as D & X, or "Dilation and extraction", which often involves the use of forceps and other methods to remove fetal material. Abortion rights supporters note that the D & X is used mostly in extreme cases, and accounts for about 500 of the nations 1.3 million annual abortions. They fear, however, that the ban -- the first legislative restriction on a specific abortion procedure -- opens the door to other efforts which ultimately could restrict or even prohibit abortion in the United States. Critics also charge that the terminology used in describing the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" is not medically accurate, and injects even more emotional overtones into the already heated abortion debate. Clinton said that he vetoed the ban because it did not provide for exceptions where the life of the mother could be in danger. Continuing on the theme of "fetal rights," the Vatican statement charged "The presidential decision against the position of the American Congress is a shameful veto which in practice is equivalent to an incredibly brutal act of aggression against an innocent human life and against the inalienable human rights of the unborn." Echoicing the earlier threat by U.S. church prelates, the Vatican added that "This situation makes the need even more urgent for greater solidarity all round in defense of the not-yet born who cannot speak for themselves." Ambassador's Role Questioned Clinton's veto also drew opposition from the man charged with representing U.S. positions to the church, Ambassador Raymond Flynn, a Boston Roman Catholic. (The Vatican is the only religion in the world which enjoys "dual status" as both a faith and a political entity in the form of official, diplomatic recognition -- a policy instituted under the Reagan administration.) Flynn was criticized last month for his role in being the "Vatican's Man in D.C." when he blasted budget changes opposed by domestic and international Catholic organizations. According to Reuter, Flynn expressed his opposition over the veto to Clinton "in the strongest possible terms." Reuter also repeated its earlier report that Church condemnation of the White House decision was a "veiled threat to seek retribution in the Nov. 5 presidential election." ***************** RELIGIOUS OPPOSITION TO CHRISTIAN COALITION IS DISORGANIZED, VAGUE They call themselves the Call to Renewal, a shaky coalition of religious groups which is trying desperately to reclaim various social issues that have been "taken over" by the Christian Coalition and other groups of the religious right. But judging from recent developments, including a meeting in February which attracted 250 moderate and liberal church activists, there is still disagreement in the ranks over what to say and do as the November elections draw closer. Call to Renewal represents a number of individuals and groups which are identified with "mainstream" religion in the U.S., including the "Sojourners" group and Evangelicals for Social Action. Christianity Today says that the movement has "an emphasis on the issues of poverty, the environment, race relations, and family life..." and is "working to educate voters before the November elections." This involves setting up "local and state networks," and hosting "regional town meetings and candidate forums." But there seems to be a good amount of confusion and in-fighting within the Call To Renewal ranks. Some of the rhetoric echoes the traditionalist sloganeering of the Christian Coalition. Indeed, at the Washington gathering, the President of ESA insisted that the group should "affirm heterosexuality as the societal norm," a declaration that was "not well received." It was noted that the Call to Renewal is attracting little concern from the Christian Coalition, partly due to confusion in the Call's basic goals and objectives. One of the evangelicals noted that "There are about fifteen competing agendas, and the reason they're competing is because the thing that drew them together is a vague, nebulous call to 'renewing the nation' and 'renewing the church,' all of which sound really good but have no content." "No one knows what they're agreeing to because it's never been said," noted Dwight Ozard of ESA. But the call for town meetings and other political activities is already raising concerns that this is simply more of the sort of thing the Christian Coalition does -- foster the intermingling of religion and politics. State-church separation activists point out that even mainstream religious movements now actively lobby government bodies for their own respective social agendas, all the while enjoying their tax-exempt status. Call To Renewal faces sharp internal disagreement over the abortion question in particular. Some participants in the Washington meeting insisted that the tenuous coalition "is unlikely to go anywhere unless they make a very clear statement on the sanctity of (unborn) human life and a clear statement on Christian marriage," according to Christianity Today. ***** NEW STAMP ISSUED: PHILATELIC BATTLE COULD WIDEN With disgruntled employees and the battle to contain costs, the U.S.Postal Service may be taking on even more trouble, all thanks to its new Jewish commemorate stamp issued last month as part of its "Holiday Celebrations" series. The new Hanukkah stamp commemorates the Jewish "festival of lights," based on an event of dubious historical foundation. The tale is told that Judah and his Maccabean followers reclaimed Jerusalem from the Syrians more than two millennia ago; but while celebrating their victory in a temple, they could not find sufficient oil to burn a "Holy Light" for more than a day. Legend insists that the light burned "miraculously" for eight days and nights -- hence, the eight candles of the menorah. Clearly, this festival is religious. Church & State magazines quotes the stamp's designer, Hannah Smotrich, as saying that she chose bright colors to "emphasize the upbeat nature of a playful, joyous holiday." But wouldn't the more accurate word be "holyday," since this is a religious event? Other religious motifs adorn postage stamps, including nativity scenes. While church-state separationists have often protested the inclusion of religious themes on postage stamps, the new hanukkah stamp may simply encourage other religious groups to clamor for recognition of their symbols and "holy days." What if Scientologists, Muslims, Hindus or Satanists demand this sort of commemoration? The prospect is not unrealistic, especially when we consider what happens during the "Christmas" holiday season when religious groups compete for recognition in public squares and other venues. Last Christmas, the operators of Grand Central Station in New York City took down all religious decorations when competing groups insisted on "equal space" for their respective displays. The possibilities are endless though, for motifs on postage stamps. Scientologists could demand a picture of their guru, L. Ron Hubbard. There wouldn't be room on a stamp for all of the Hindu deities, so perhaps they could settle on one or two each season. What about voodoo practioners? Perhaps a colorful, bloody chicken would do. ****** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS I'm not sure of the spelling, but you might recognize the name "Bob Bopeill" from those obnoxious "infomercials" promoting everything from food mixers to a can of chemicals which grows "instant hair." And what about that fellow who waves around wads of cash, assuring us that there's "plenty of room" in the "booming" 900-number industry? And whatever became of the ginsu knife? It seems that late last month, Vatican officials decided that they too would enter the infomercial arena, and begin running ads on "qualified television channels" to promote religious events like Holy Week. A Vatican spokesman said that one commercial shows the Pope reciting the rosary while walking with the aid of a cane in a forest in Canada in 1984." The pitch is to sell "products" including rosaries, photos of John Paul II, and CD's and audio cassettes of the Vatican Choir. There is even a promotional package which can be yours for 79,000 lire, or around $57. Unlike the short-and-sweet labels of gizmos like the "Bamboo Steamer" or "Mr. Mircophone," though, the Vatican offering is called "I enter all homes to enter all hearts." Vatican officials are promoting the new products through a virtual pyramid sales scheme with over 26,000 participating parishes in Italy; they have plans to expand the marketing focus to Europe and the rest of the world shortly. ******** If you think that things are bad right now in Israel, there are plenty of other religious-war powderkegs just waiting to blow. Consider Indonesia, which has the world's largest concentration of Muslims; 90% of the archipelago's 193 million people adhere to Islam, and some muslim fundamentalist groups are crying for political separation and the establishing of an "Islamic Republic" like the clerics in Iran have. Now, the Armed Forces Commander has warned all mosque leaders to "keep their mosques free from political agitation, which he said could trigger conflicts," reports Reuter. Political analysts worry, though, that the booming Indonesian economic revolution could be short-circuited by religious upheaval. **** Christians throughout the country are cranking up their proselytizing efforts on behalf of the National Day of Prayer, scheduled for May 2. Religious conservatives promote this event, and often goad public officials into issuing proclamations and declarations about the "religious heritage" of the country, and the need to endorse religious ritual -- specifically prayer. It's a big event especially in cities like Houston, Texas; in past years, Atheists and other state-church separationists have protested the Day of Prayer celebrations which are held on the steps of City Hall. The National Day of Prayer Task Force involves many religious conservative groups like John Dobson's Focus on the Family, and is based in Colorado Springs, Co. This year, some 12,000 local events throughout the country are sceduled. We'll keep you posted. Who knows? Maybe it will rain. ********* With all of this dreary religious news, we definitely need a respite. Consider for personal amusement and inspiration (!) these authentic postings to church bulletins... * The service will close with "Little Drops of Water. One of the ladies will start quietly and the rest of the congregation will join in. * Next Sunday, a special collection will be taken to defray the cost of the new carpet. All those will to do something on the new carpet will come forward and do so. * The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind and they may be seen in the church basement Friday. * A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow. * At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice. *************** 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: Please include your name, address and zip code. Additional background on this list may be obtained by mailing to:, and putting "info aanews" in the message body. You may forward, quote or reproduce this dispatch, provided that credit is given to American Atheists and aanews. Edited and written by Conrad Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank