Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996 nn nn AANEW

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Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 3, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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 Ways" 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 phrases. 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 Christian Coalition. **************** IS THE ''MORAL CRUSADE'' SPILLING OVER TO HEALTH ISSUES? It's not just the religious right that's trying to legislate how people should live. 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 companies. 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 hospitals. Rev. Crosby told the New York Times that the successful threats were "an important breakthrough." 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 to cure. ********** 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 to come." "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 simple." 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 psychoanalysis." ************** 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 families. 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 Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about AA, send e-mail to: info@atheists.org. Include your name and mailing address. Additional information about this list may be obtained by sending to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org. Be sure to put "info aanews" in the message body. You may forward, reprint or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and the AANEWS. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.

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