Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 2, 1996 Date: Thu, 2 May 1996 10:04:21 -0700 nn nn AANEW

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 2, 1996 Date: Thu, 2 May 1996 10:04:21 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #28 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/2/96 In This Edition... * Religious Ignorance Discourages Birth Control Use * "Mr. Hyde" Turns Mean In GOP Abortion Flap * Single Moms & The Numbers Game * "Homosexual In Hawaii" OK With Legislature * TheistWatch Short Shots: What DO Preachers Really Watch? BIRTH CONTROL USE DROPS ~~ RELIGIOUS ATTITUDES, MISINFORMATION TO BLAME ACCORDING TO NEW SURVEY A panel of experts at Tuesday's national conference of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted that U.S. women lag behind their international counterparts in the use of birth control, and blamed religious attitudes and media misinformation as the culprits. Dr. Luella Klein, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta and the ACOP Director of Women's Health Issues, said that other nations "don't have the religious right wing that thinks the only thing you can teach teen-agers is absteinence. They've got a more realistic attitude." The panel also cited new surveys which show that nearly half of the six million pregnancies in the United States last year were unintended. More than 1/4 resulted in abortions: Klein called the statistical findings "an appalling rate of unwanted pregnancies." The meeting also heard testimony that American women are ill-informed about various birth control methods such as the IUD, which is used by only 1% of women who are of child-bearing age. The figure jumps to 20% in many other Western countries. Dr. Margaret Polaneczky of Cornell University Medical College charged that "The media has frightened women" about various birth control strategies. The conference discussion highlighted a long list of growing social problem aggravated by fundamentalist religious agendas -- expanding population, unwanted prenancies, the possibility that abortion may be banned, and lack of appropriate sex education being given to teens. ***** "NO RETREAT'' IN REPUBLICAN ABORTION SQUABBLE Amidst growing calls for the Republican Party to abandon its 20-year old plank calling for a ban on abortion, GOP platform committee head Rep. Henry Hyde declared yesterday: "I don't intend to weaken the pro-life position the party's had for the past four elections. My posture is not one of retreat." In our dispatch yesterday, AANEWS detailed how California Governor Pete Wilson had joined with other GOP officials in urging that the provision -- considered by many to be a religious "litmus" test -- be removed. Wilson's remarks came after similar calls from Governors Pataki of New York, Christine Whitman of New Jersey, and William Weld of Massachusetts. According to reports, Hyde's continued support for the anti-abortion plank is a "signal Dole wants the platform to retain its abortion opposition," a reference to GOP nomination frontrunner Senator Robert Dole. Religious right leaders, including Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, have spent the last several days warning the Kansas Senator to select a pro-life vice presidential candidate if he wants the continued support of the party's evangelical and fundamentalist wing. Meanwhile, it was learned that Pat Buchanan will form a third party ticket if the anti-abortion plank is altered. He welcomed Hyde's remarks, adding "If Bob Dole doesn't want to lead the fight to keep this Republican Party pro-life, Bob, step aside and I will." ********** SINGLE MOM ''EPIDEMIC'' MAY BE STATISTICAL FLUKE Ever notice how religious leaders are constantly bemoaning the high numbers of (gasp!) unmarried mothers? Ever since the Bush-Quayle administration attacked TV sitcom character Murphy Brown for deciding to have a child out of "wedlock", the religious right and its political handmaidens in government has been on a virtual crusade against the practice. But now, a new study suggests that the figures concerning single mothers may be distorted. In many states, including California which reports that 35% of infants are born to unwed mothers, the statistics are based on "inferential methods" including the parents' last names. The current USA TODAY notes that according to an official in the Vital Records Bureau of California, "If (new mothers) sign the certificates with their maiden name, and the baby has the father's name, they're presumed not married." That angers -- and amuses -- State Assemblywoman Martha Escutia who asks: "Can you believe it? I am an unmarried woman and my child was born out of wedlock? I can't wait to tell my mother-in-law." Escutia is one of many women who retain their maiden name after marrying. Even so, politicians like California Governor Pete Wilson often cite statistics about the rising numbers of unwed moms, insisting "All of the problems tearing apart the fabric of our society have deep roots in this exploding epidemic of out-of-wedlock births." Statisticians at the U.S. Census Bureau note that the California use of "inferential methods" is widely practiced in other states, too. **************** RELIGIOUS HOMOPHOBIA WIPES OUT IN HAWAII Religious anti-gay groups in Hawaii suffered a setback last week when that state's legislature voted down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriages. After heated debate, the measure was defeated by a 15-10 margin. It would have buttressed Hawaii against a 1993 state supreme court ruling which found that denying same-sex couples a marriage license was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the battle against gay marriage -- often fought by religious groups such as American Family Association, Focus on the Family and Eagle Forum -- continues. Six states have banned same-sex marriage (Utah, South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Idaho and Georgia), and three states have bills in the legislature which would outlaw the practice as well. They are Alaska, Arizona and Illinois. An Alabama proposal would have fined ministers up to $1,000 for performing a same-sex wedding ceremony. The Colorado measure was backed by that state's well-organized religious establishment, and presented as both a moral and a "states rights" issue. State Senator Charles Duke insisted that the proposed legislative restriction on gay marriage was a "states rights" concern, adding "We sacrifice our sovereignty to a judge in Hawaii," if Colorado allowed same-sex unions. ********* THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Guess it's a classic example of "Do as I say, not as I do!" when it comes to professional preachers and temptation of the flesh. According to a recent edition of "Freedom Writer" put out by Institute for First Amendment Studies, there's some interesting news about a gathering held a few years back by the National Religious Broadcasters in Washington, D.C. The host hotel offered the typical pay-TV fare, including stimulating "adult" movies which groups like the American Family Association want banned -- even for adults who have to punch in codes and pay through the wallet in order to see heavilly edited soft-core porn. "Freedom Writer" informs us that "After the conference, someone took the trouble to find out how many of the radio and TV evangelists took advantage of the adult movies. It seems that more than half of them did. When asked to explain, one evangelist said 'Research!' ." Now, even Jimmy Swaggart didn't use THAT excuse! ************** The largest democratic election is underway in India, with 543 seat in that country's lower parliamentary house up for grabs. There are ten "major" parties, plus dozens of independent groups and minor political movements. And along with the usual political squabbles over issues like trade, wages and taxes, there is the backdrop of controversial religious questions as well. Keep an eye out for some of the following: * There is an influx of the so-called "untouchables" into the political system, members of the "lower castes" stigmatized as the result of religious and political bigotry dating back several centuries. The caste system places restrictions on what occupations people may pursue, even those whom they can associate with or touch. "Untouchables" perform the most menial tasks, but increasingly they are moving up the political ladder. The Indian Vice President, K.R. Narayanan is an "untouchable", as are a number of ministers and legislators. * The Muslim-Hindu conflict remains a volatile issue. The Hindu Nationalist Party or BJP won 120 seats in parliament in 1991, and could come out of this month's elections with even more power. The right-wing group wants to continue an aggressive nuclear arms build-up, ostensibly to defend India against neighboring archenemy Pakistan. Muslims blame the BJP for the 1992 destruction of their Babri Jasjid mosque. While most of India is Hindu, there are 120 million muslims; their defection from the ruling Congress Party could result in extreme Islamic groups picking up more power. The Muslim factor has prompted the government to beef-up security in polling stations. ************** There are so many reincarnated beings in the Buddhist pantheon that I've lost track of even those folks said to be the "real" Dali Lama. Recall the feud between the Dali Lama-in-exile faction which has picked their own successor in this mystical daisy-chain, with the Chinese Communist government that, naturally, has groomed its own candidate-for-godhead. Now there's squabbling about who becomes the so-called Panchen Lama, the second-highest spiritual authority. Seems that two boys NOT chosen in a cosmic lot-drawing ceremony are being named to other posts in Tibetan Buddhism. One candidate is to be enthroned in a monastery, but only with Chinese government approval; the Peking government, though, installed their own monk in November, and charged that the current Dali Lama had violated religious tenets and was trying to stir up independence movements in Tibet. No one seems to know the whereabouts of the boy supported by the Dali Lama, which seems pretty dumb for a religion which claims to have all sorts of cosmic insight. ***************** ON LINE RESOURCES FROM AMERICAN ATHEISTS... Interested in learning more about American Atheists? Just send e-mail to: , and include your name, address and zip code. There is a moderated discussion group for members of American Atheists. Lively exchanges about Atheism, religion, state-church separation, AA activities and other issues take place. For more details, contact: AANEWS readers may post, forward or quote from these dispatches, provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. 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