Date: Mon, 6 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 6, 1996 n nn AANEWS

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Date: Mon, 6 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 6, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #32 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/6/96 CHRISTIAN COALITION, ALLIES TAKE HARD-LINE IN GOP ABORTION DEBATE Republican leaders like Haley Barbour didn't exactly have a Michael Jordan-style weekend. While the Bull's superstar was have another round of near-perfect shooting, GOP officials, including the party chairman, were caught in the middle of the perennial abortion issue debate. The latest flap began last week, when Pat Buchanan turned up the heat on nomination shoe-in Sen. Bob Dole. The message was pretty clear: there was to be no backing down on the support for a total ban on abortion and passage of the so-called Human Life Amendment in the Republican Party Platform. Religious right leaders have spent that last couple of weeks agonizing over who Dole might select as his running mate to round out the GOP ticket. Everyone from Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed to Focus on the Family honcho James Dobson had sent the word that only a pro-life true believer was acceptable if the Republican nominee wanted the support of the religious evangelicals and fundamentalists. On Saturday, though, the New York Times quoted Ralph Reed as saying that "he would accept changes in the party platform" -- presumably on the abortion issue -- "without specifying what those changes might be." The Times added that Reed "also said in the interview that he would accept a compromise on a law banning abortion." At first, the only qualification to the abortion ban was " if the mother's life was endangered." Then, Reed supposedly declared that he would "reluctantly" accept exceptions in cases of incest and rape "if that were the only way to get an anti-abortion law passed." By Sunday, the story had taken another twist, though; Reed declared that he had been misquoted, saying curiously that he had been referring "only to laws, not to a constitutional amendment." A new round of media speculation begun. Was there a kinder 'n gentler Christian Coalition? The timing of this flap was remarkable in its own right. Last week, California Governor Pete Wilson joined fellow Republican governors George Pataki of New York and Christine Whitman of New Jersey, in urging that the abortion "litmus test" be dropped from the Republican Platform. That could well have been political balm for Chairman Barbour, the constant object of attention from Coalition Director Reed, who gently reminds the GOP about the price of religious right support. On Sunday, the controversy was front page news on the New York Times. And Governor Whitman graced the pages of the Time's Magazine, with the legend: "Christine Whitman of New Jersey wants to make Bob Dole HER kind of Republican. Move Over, Pat Buchanan...It's My Party Too." Pat Buchanan's campaign organization -- definitely down, but not out -- began beating its own drums. Buchanan echoed last week's refrain that "If Bob Dole won't lead the GOP, I will," and called again for the full support of an abortion ban. A Party Beholden? The tug-o'war between GOP governors and the religious right is testament to the years of hard work, patience and organizational savvy that groups such as the Coalition have devoted to capturing the Republican infrastructure. Over half of the GOP state organizations are thoroughly controlled by religious fundamentalists and evangelicals, and they exercise "considerable control" according to some studies in another dozen states. Even their opponents grudgingly admit that they are the hard-working "foot soldiers" laboring in the precincts and districts throughout the land that helped win both houses of Congress for the GOP in the 1994 elections, for the first time in four decades. No mean feat, indeed. But while the economic portions of the Republican "Contract With America" have been fulfilled to varying degrees, the social agenda so dear to the religious conservatives has languished in a forgotten holding-pattern well outside of the D.C. beltway. House Speaker Gingrich failed to deliver on a Religious Equality Amendment as promised by July 4, 1995; two versions of that legislation wallow in Congress while Republicans and the White House trade volleys over gas taxes and Medicare. A ban on abortion seems unlikely for now, and Bill Clinton even has the religious right on the ropes with his veto of the "Partial Birth" Abortion Ban. A Split In Religious Right Ranks? Ralph Reed, who once compared Christian right victories in local school board elections to stuffing political enemies into "body bags", seems determined to remain within the ranks of the Republican Party. His brethren a bit further to the right on the religious spectrum, however, are less committed to that strategy. James Dobson of Focus on the Family is estimated to have a precinct-level army of over 500,000 dedicated followers, and ten times that number on his various mailing lists. He speaks openly of supporting a third party effort if the Republicans don't stay theo-politically correct, and start delivering on the religious-social agenda with school prayer and abortion ban amendments. While Reed publicly likes Pat Buchanan, he knows what everyone else in the GOP does -- Buchanan can't win against Clinton. But the feisty commentator can take sufficient votes with him to build enough of a religious right third party movement. That would lessen the influence of religious conservatives inside the GOP; but it might also remove from the party ranks large numbers of hard-working, precinct walking volunteers to cause trouble for Bob Dole. **************** AND THE FIGHT GOES ON... Can Republicans "agree to disagree" over issues like abortion? Party Chair Harley Barbour says "yes," and compares the GOP to a "big tent" with different views and philosophies. Religious conservatives, though, aren't so sure -- or, they insist that on issues like abortion and prayer in schools, there is only ONE Republican answer. It seems that Republicans can't even agree on disagreement... * On Saturday, NY Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato, speaking to the party's Northeast Leadership Conference, accused Pat Buchanan of being a divisive element in the GOP ranks. "We have a guy running around who wants to exclude this one, that one, the other one, who beats up on women, beats up on gays, beats up on immigrants," charged D'Amato. He branded Buchanan a "philosophical ayatollah. Left out of D'Amato's list, though, were the Atheists, who Buchanan compared to smut peddlers and murderers early in his primary campaign. * Bay Buchanan, the candidate's sister and campaign manager, lashed back. "It would be my recommendation to Bob Dole to muzzle Senator D'Amato for the sake of the Republican Party." She then suggested "a long vacation in a quiet place" for the outspoken New Yorker. * While Christian Coalition chair Ralph Reed was reportedly talking compromise on the GOP abortion fight, Bay Buchanan charged the religious right leader with "sending up the white flag of surrender." *Frontrunner Bob Dole announced that he would NOT select N.J. Governor Whitman as a running mate; Whitman, of course, has joined the growing chorus within the GOP of those who want compromise on the abortion issue. ****************** HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS SLAM CATHOLIC "APOLOGY'' An apology given last weekend by the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina for its role in supporting years of military dictatorship received a chilly reception from human rights groups, including the famous "Mothers of Plaza de Mayo." The organization, started by mothers whose children had been victimized by government death squads, said that the lame Vatican apology "came 20 years too late and we don't believe them." Hebe de Bonafini, head of the Mothers human rights organization, referred to a 39-point document released by church authorities begging for public forgiveness in the clergy's role in supporting the Argentine government dictatorship from 1976-1983. The document "admitted that the church did not speak out enough against the dictatorship," according to Reuters news service. Bonafini added that "Those who should be asking for pardon are still presiding Mass and taking confessions." Meanwhile, 1980 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and human rights advocate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, denounced the church apology as "a laundered document, with evasive phrases and without courage." The much-touted, Vatican- ordered apology comes after over a year of internal wrangling within ecclesiastical cirlces. It whines for forgiveness for Church officials and members involved in the dictatorial repression, and even takes a slap at some of the guerrillas who waged an armed fight against the repression. "We implore pardon to God our Lord for the crimes then committed, especially by those involving sons of the Church, whether they be enlisted with the revolutionary guerrillas working for the state or members of the security forces." Even the staid Reuters observed that "The Church's declaration added to to a wave of mea culpas last year by the heads of the armed forces and their former guerrilla foes." THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS TW has always thought that when it came to the real world with its bread-and-butter issues, all of the preachin' about sin, hellfire and damnation was just so much bunk. Karma? Fate? Retribution? You'll have to decide on this one, though. Last Thursday, a disgruntled construction worker who claimed to have been injured on the job at the offices of Focus on the Family, walked into the Colorado Springs headquarters of the group and grabbed four hostages. Kerry Dore, 42, reportedly pulled out a gun and fired at least one shot into the air. Seems that back in the fall of 1992, Dore fell 65-feet and was impaled on a iron rebar while working on the Focus headquarters. The bar narrowly missed his spine, but Dore spent weeks in the hospital and eventually required four major surgical procedures. Reports say that he was "very distraught" over a settlement which, after attorney's fees, left him with a little more than $1,000 per month for only four years. He was reportedly in constant pain. After walking into the Focus headquarters, Dore allegedly claimed to be carrying explosives ; a security guard activated an alarm, sending over 500 employees of the religious group out of the main administration building. Ironically, one of the organization's main outreaches is a staff of phone bank counselors who offer advice on everything from divorce to teen sexuality. But what about a "Christian" workmens comp settlement? *************** We're told that new age guru Shirley MacLaine is not amused by remarks recently made on the David Letterman show. Dave was interviewing talk show gossip gal Ricki Lake, who co-stars with MacLaine in the film "Mrs. Winterbourne." "Shirley is nuts, isn't she?", Letterman supposedly remarked. MacLaine told newspapers that the remark "says more about David than it does me," and described Letterman as "a negative man." You'd think, though, that having lived through all of those past lives, and being so plugged-in to the "universe," that MacLaine could at least have told us exactly what Dave said that was wrong. *** Christian Republicans are the only ones slugging it out in the ideology wars. Recently, the question over publishing rights for a biography of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the late founder of the Lubavitcher sect, landed in a New York federal court. Seems that an uncensored version of Scheerson's life by fellow Rabbi Shaul Deutsch has been outlawed by a rabbinical court; fortunately, that decision affects only Judaic bookstores. The fact that a sanitized version titled "The Rebbe: A Biography" is kosher-approved angers the author, who became annoyed when "controversial" parts were excluded. Anyway, the company which published the un-censored version says "Our book has irked many people because the truth hurts. The rebbe may have been superhuman in regards to his accomplishments but he was by no means immortal." No kidding. Schneerson, who died a year-and-a-half ago, proclaimed himself a messiah and told his followers that "Our generation is the final generation of Galus (exile) and the first generation of the Geulah (redemption.) Some Lubavitchers are still waiting for Schneerson to rise from the dead. *********** ON LINE RESOURCES FROM AMERICAN ATHEISTS... If you would like to receive a membership information packet, just send e-mail to: info@atheists.org. Be sure to include your name, address and zip code. Members of American Atheists are invited to participate in aachat, our special moderated news group. We discuss Atheism, state-church separation, AA activities and related topics. To learn more, just send mail to: aachat@atheists.org. You may forward, re-print and quote from these dispatches, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and the AANEWS. Coming soon... the American Atheists site on the world wide web! Watch this space! ************* AANEWS is a free 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. If you'd like to subscribe or find out more information, just send e-mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org. Put "info aanews" in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER

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