Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996 nn nn AANEW
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#29 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/3/96
In This Edition...
* Candidate Says -- Post Commandments (It's Not REALLY Religious!)
* "For Your Own Good" ~~ The Smoking Ad Ban Controversy
* The "Supreme Truth" About Big Money, Big Connections
* TheistWatch Short Shots: "Sexual-Excretory Activities" and "Lascivious
CANDIDATE SAYS PUBLIC SCHOOL SHOULD POST TEN COMMANDMENTS
It's another case of "non-religious religion."
Richard Vinroot, former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina and now a
candidate for the GOP nomination in that state's gubernatorial race, says
that the Ten Commandments should be posted in all public school classrooms.
He made the remark during a campaign prayer breakfast during which a
minister criticized Supreme Court rulings that declared the posting to be
an unconstitutional, religious exercise.
But Vinroot doesn't see it that way. "Those are good rules to live by," he
told reporters yesterday, adding, "Is it any more offensive than having 'In
God We Trust" on coins? I don't think so so. Nor do I take it to be the
establishment of religion."
In a number of court cases, public officials have maintained that prayer,
posting of religious mottos, religious decorations during sacred events and
other activities are either "not really religious," or constitute a secular,
civic tradition. In the 1980's when members of American Atheists launched a
series of legal actions throughout the country to abolish prayer at city
government meetings, the inevitable response was that the "prayer" was not a
religious exercise, but a "call to order" or device used to create an aura of
solemnity. A recent unsuccessful suit to remove a stone monument with the
Ten Commandments etched on it from a public park in Colorado brought the
response that the religious slogans were, in fact, part of the area's
"cultural heritage," and not a religious statement.
Even so, critics charge that the interest displayed by religious groups
for having symbols and slogans with a definite, religious meaning in public
locations and government buildings is a significant fact in itself. During
the cold war era of the 1950's, for example, politicians and major clerical
figures supported legislation which placed religious graffiti on coinage,
and which declared the religious phrase "One Nation Under God" to be a
national slogan for inclusion in the Pledge of Allegiance. Statements made
in Congress in support of these actions made constant reference to Jesus
Christ, the importance of America as a religious (i.e . Christian) nation,
and the need to combat "godless Communism" by promoting religious imagery and
Curiously, the North Carolina spat may involve some one-upmanship in the
hunt for religious right votes. Mr. Vinroot's main opponent in the primary
race is State Representative Robin Hayes, who is being backed by the
IS THE ''MORAL CRUSADE'' SPILLING OVER TO HEALTH ISSUES?
It's not just the religious right that's trying to legislate how people
Over the past several years, liberal-to-mainstream religious groups have
become increasingly involved in a number of issues once considered the
privileged territory of the religious right and its prudish, fundamentalist
predecessors. They now involve themselves in campaigns to curtail
traditional religious bugaboos like smoking, drinking, gambling, or having
access to adult literature.
* Black churches throughout urban areas have become active in efforts to
eradicate billboard and other advertising for products which they insist
target their congregations. Kool cigarettes and PowerMaster Malt Ale have
been the focus of some recent prohbitionist crusades; squads of congregants
carrying buckets of paint cover up billboards they find offensive.
* Now, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a group
representing 275 Protestant, Jewish and Roman Catholic institutional
investors, is trying to pressure billboard advertisers to not carry ads for
tobacco products. Yesterday, 3-M Media, the country's third-largest
billboard advertising firm, caved in to pressure from the Interfaith Center
and announced that it would no longer accept contracts from cigarette
According to news reports, the Center threatened to raise the issue of
"corporate responsibility" during the upcoming 3-M national corporate
meeting. Rev. Mcihael Crosby, the anti-tobacco program coordinator for the
Interfaith group, also noted that his organization was threatening a boycott
of hospital products made by 3-M's giant corporate parent group, the
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, by religious affiliated
Rev. Crosby told the New York Times that the successful threats were "an
Not everyone agrees that this happens to be a good thing. A spokesman for
R.J Reynolds said it was disappointed with the 3-M decision, and was "leery
of attempts to restrict commercial free speech." Critics also raised the
point that more special interest groups, including those with a religious
agenda, might seek to ban other controversial products or services --
alcoholic beverages and even ads for abortion clinics or family planning.
And other advertising firms, including Eller Media and Gannett Outdoor say
that they will continue to allow ads for cigarettes.
More Than Just A Health Issue?
Ironically, many religious groups which failed in the past to eliminate
behaviors they found sinful, now use the "health angle" in their assorted
crusades. Activities such as drinking, smoking, prostitution, listening to
certain kinds of music and gambling -- traditional targets of religious
prohibitionists -- are again under attack, but with new arguments along with
the traditional doctrinal objections. Critics fear that while some of these
arguments have merit (cigarette smoking is not healthy), religious crusading
often overlooks the issue of free choice and personal responsibility, and
frequently endangers other controversial behaviors as well. They wonder, for
instance, if there is much difference between religious zealots demanding
that the government outlaw tobacco sales and calls for censorship of adult
magazines,books, or other controversial materials.
And How Much Financial Clout?
The use of financial clout as a method of enforcing the religious vision
of corporate or social responsibility is also an issue of concern for many
First Amendment activists. The 275 "institutional investors" of the
Interfaith Center are mostly religious organizations which have amassed huge
amounts of tax-free holdings. And the threat to use networks of
church-affiliated hospitals raises the wider issue of the status of those
institutions. Many of these hospitals receive government funds, including
Medicare/Medicaid payments, yet generate money as profit-making institutions
for their clerical overseers. In Salt Lake City, Utah, for instance, local
Atheists challenged the tax-exempt status of hospitals affiliated with the
Mormon Church; those hospitals turned out to be money makers for the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and engaged in a disproportionately low
rate of charity care for the community.
For many civil libertarians, the latest "victory" for the Interfaith
Center is a setback for those wishing to maintain important social and
political issues in a secular light, and restrict churches from tampering in
matters which ideally should be left up to individuals. They fear a "wedge
effect" where religious organizations have more and more economic and social
power in setting the tone of society, and regulating personal conduct. We
may discover that religious prohibition is worse than the diseases it seeks
AUM CULT TRIAL UNCOVERS MORE INTERNATIONAL TIES
The trial of Aum Shinri Kyo cult guru Shoko Asahara continues to reveal
more information about the massive international connections of the Japanese
doomsday cult. Asahara is implicated in the March, 1995 sarin gas attack in
the Tokyo subway system which killed 12 people and hospitalized over 5,500
more. The Aum or "Supreme Truth" sect teaches a bizarre mix of Buddhist,
Hindu, New Age and Christian mysticism; it predicted the end of the world for
1997, and according to experts was engaging in acts of terrorism to
accelerate the apocalyptic timetable.
Yesterday, the Japanese weekly Mainichi reported that cult officials
traveled frequently to Russia and North Korea, and received technical
assistance in building their deadly sarin gas production facility.
"So-called Construction Minister Kiyohide Hayakawa traveled to Russia 21
times to buy small arms, a helicopter, LDS and tanks," the magazine reported.
Other information is emerging in the trial as well:
* Hayakawa and Yoshimi Tanaka, a member of the Japanese Red Army,
allegedly met in North Korea. Tanaka was later linked to a counterfeiting
ring operating in Thailand; some say that he was part of a group which
providing training to Aum cult members.
* Questions about whether the Aum cult enjoyed special protection from
elements of the Japanese government continue to be raised. Following the
Tokyo gas attacks, journalists began wondering why Japanese police had failed
to take action against Aum, even after receiving over 60 reports of abuse,
illegal drug use, beatings and other activities between 1991 and 1995. In at
least three cases, Aum members trying to escape cult compounds were
re-abducted in broad daylight in front of witnesses -- and nothing was done.
There is also some evidence that cult officials had advanced warning of
police raids, and managed to dispose of chemicals and weapons.
Finally, there is the matter of the group's huge financial assets. One
source reported that "Japan's Finance Minister Masayoshi Takemura called for
an examination of Aum's finances, but he was rebuffed by police who are
unwilling to disclose the information even to those who have proper
jurisdiction. He acquiesced to police desires saying that the National Tax
Administration Agency would cooperate fully with the police. There will be
no investigation." The cult ran dozens of businesses throughout Japan, and
by some estimates had a net worth of over $1.2 billion. Some Aum financing
may have come from religious-nationalist politicians, including a
behind-the-scenes "kingmaker" named Shin Kanemaru.
* Mainichi also reports that Asahara may be "holding out in court to swing
some sort of special deal with police" which could lighten his sentence.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Margie Wait, Colorado State Director for American Atheists, just knew that
something was amiss as she watched developments concerning the "Washington
For Jesus" March earlier this week. We reported that opening day for this
two-day religious bash was a bit of a dud, with only about 10,000 of the
flock showing up. On the second day, the Rain Gods must have been cranky,
visiting the D.C. area with severe downpours.
But that got Wait thinking hard and digging back in her mental archives.
She noted a press report on the March which said "The Rev. Pat Robertson was
scheduled to speak but send word that the weather made it impossible for him
"Now I ask you," says Wait, "isn't Pat the guy who, while running for
President in '88, condemned his opponents because they 'couldn't stop a
hurricane'? He reportedly stopped a hurricane from hitting the U.S. with his
almighty powers...makes me wonder if Pat Robertson is losing his 'touch' !"
She's right. Hurricanes, famines, blizzards and other events in nature
are eschatological "signs" that the Last Days are a comin', folks, so you
best send those donations in to the 700 Club right NOW!. During the last
hurricane season, in fact, Pat urged his "prayer warriors" to plead with the
almighty, and make sure that high winds didn't hit the U.S. coast, and
specifically the area of Virginia Beach -- which is were Pat and his
Christian Broadcasting outfit are located.
We agree with Margie. A guy that can turn away hurricanes, or at least
get a god to do so on his behalf, should have been able to conjure clear and
sunny skies for the Washington for Jesus March.
America is not the only postmodernist nation suffering the ills of
rampant religiosity, superstition and pseudo-science. In France, a country
which is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of rationalist
philosopher Rene Descartes, seers, psychics, clairvoyants and other peddlers
of mystical mumbo-jumbo are doing a thriving trade.
According to the New York Times, there are nearly 50,000 professional
psychics, numerologists, astrologers and other mystics in France. That's a
bit ahead of the 36,000 priests, and the country's 6,000 practicing
psychiatrists. "A wide variety of esoteric services is advertised on Minitel,
the state-owned on-line system that can be found in millions of French
homes," notes the Times.
In the past, women seemed to make up the bulk of the clientel asking for
psychic services like rune reading ($80 per session) or astrological
horoscopes, but men are now flocking to the pseudo-science bazaar in equal
numbers. A self-described "Druid" psychic told The Times: "We've become too
scientific, too intellectual. People want something direct, something
Even belief in more traditional religious metaphors seems to be thriving.
A poll last year revealed that 34 of the French believed that the devil
actually existed, up from a 25% figure reported in 1986.
The Times added that "Some say all of this activity shows the great fear
of the end of the millennium. Others see it as a result of the erosion of
other systems like institutional religion, Marxist ideology and
Focus on the Family, James Dobson's Colorado-based organization that is a
key player in religious right politics, has a new crusade. Mom's should quit
their working careers and, according to an FOF "Christian financial
counselor" named Larry Burkett, stay at home and "shop discount stores and
garage sales." The Nation magazine found this tidbit of evangelical advice a
bit much, however, and noted that "What working women need is not garage
sales but a raise." Indeed, about 60% of all workers at or below minimum
wage happen to be women. A single mom with two kids working at that wage
scale falls 30% below the federal poverty line.
And NO discount store is going to solve that problem...
You'd think that Congress would have better things to do, especially when
it comes to the Defense budget. Some say that the Department of Defense is a
wasteland of cost over-runs and unnecessary projects, like $5,000 toilet
seats and $165 bolts which you can find at the local hardware store for less
than a George Washington. But nooooooo....the REAL villan is now "smut"
infesting the PX's and newsstands of military bases.
We chuckled at this story. Was it a delayed April fools prank? Then we
saw that Republicans on the House National Security Committee were actually
calling for a ban on the sale or rental of any sexually explicit material,
including tapes, recordings, books or magazines. There was no surprise when
we saw exactly who was in the choir boy's club behind this latestest
moralistic grandstanding, none other than Rep. Chris Smith and Christian
Coalition posterboy Robert Dornan.
As usual, this latest blatant attempt at censorship is justified on the
basis of "family values," along with that old stand-by, military
preparedness. The Congressional Crusaders warned that "Aside from
representing an attack on military families...that in some cases have no
alternative but to shop at these facilities, military porn sales can also
compromise our defense readiness."
Yeah, right guys. Some fighter jock cruising along at around mach 1.5 is
going to screw up his computerized targeting system because he's busy turning
the pages of "Penthouse." Or maybe the Special Ops commandos will be too
exhausted to make their HALO jumps after watching "Debbie Does Des Moines."
And I can just see a mob of overweight, morally-debauched smut merchants
"attacking" the square-jawed hulks of the 82nd Airborn Division and their
Fortunately, the ACLU has stepped into this latest fray. Their
legislative counsel noted earlier this week that the proposed ban, as usual,
would go far, far beyond the intended target. Ban "Playboy" or Des Moines
Debbie, and you also have to censor medical journals, Michelangelo's "David",
romance novels, and even that perennial target of religious angst, J.D.
Salinger's classic literary masterpiece "Catcher in the Rye."
Of course, some of that probably needs banning as well, at least in the
eyes of certain constipated religious bluenoses. For that matter, we might
as well ban this bill as well. It's arousing enough in its enthusiasm to
limit anything "the dominant theme of which depicts or describes nudity,
including sexual or excreatory activities or organs, in a lascivious way."
Where DO they come up with those phrases?
We wish good fortune to the town of Barrington, Rhode Island, which after
nearly fifty years is finally going to start charging local churches and
synagogues for the collection of trash and other refuse. According to
"Freedom Writer" magazine, though, the city government will continue the
unfair practice of plowing parklots on church-temple property for free until
the issue is resolved in court.
AANEWS is a service of American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank