Date: Thu, 9 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 9, 1996 n nn AANEWS

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Date: Thu, 9 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 9, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnnn #34 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/9/96 In This Edition... * Colorado Prayer ~~ A Religious Chain Letter? * South African Constitution Separates State & Church * FBI Says "No Way!" To The AFA! * "Decency Cop" Finds Site Shut Down * Iran: Moral Righteousness With An Iron Fist * A Note To Readers: Mind Your P's and Q's...And Thanks For Your Support! PRAYER IN LEGISLATURE WAS ORCHESTRATED STUNT Anti-Abortion Script Caused Similar Problems in Kansas A prayer delivered in the Colorado legislature last Monday which lead to a walkout and other protests, was really scripted by anti-abortion groups and caused similar problems in the state of Kansas.. Apparently, the prayer is "making the rounds." The Colorado invokation was delivered by Rep. Mark Paschall, who originally insisted that "This was a prayer between me and my God." But it now appears that Paschall was simply reading a pre-scripted invokation which had been given to him by a legislative liaison from the Colorado Right to Life group. Fellow lawmakers found Paschall's original actions to be distasteful and intolerant; his "prayer" asked "for God's forgiveness for abortion, homosexuality and 'multiculturalism'." Rep. Marcy Morrison described the prayer as "offensive", and a Jewish legislator suggested that Paschall had "deliberately offended" Jews. But the revelation that Paschall's invokation was a scripted device being promoted throughout the nation, has resulted in further controversy. Rep. Glenda Lyle termed the prayer "racist and divisive," and suggested that Paschall "knew this would happen (controversy), that he planned it." House Minority Leader Peggy Kerns scrambled to differentiate between what she termed "organized" prayer and individual statements -- as if even the latter should be encouraged in government affairs. "The whole issue of saying a prayer as a personal statement is one thing, but to have this done as dogma...ought to make people sit up and take notice." The House Speaker in Colorado is reportedly encouraging another look at the policy of permitting members to offer a daily prayer on the house floor. And Rep. Morrison added: "Perhaps it's time we considered putting an end to the practice." ************** SOUTH AFRICA CONSTITUTION ADOPTED: GUARANTEES STATE-CHURCH SEPARATION, BUT MAY PLACE LIMITS ON FREE SPEECH Wednesday was a landmark day in the history of South Africa. After two years of acriminious debate, that nation's Assembly voted to pass a 150-page document which is to serve as the Constitution; it guarantees equal rights to both blacks and whites, a major change from the old apartheid system. And it officially separates government and religion, ending a special privilege enjoyed for decades by the established Reformed Church. Both Zulu nationalists and right-wing Afrikaners either boycotted the proceedings, or abstained or voted against the new provisions. The measure passed by a 421-2 margin, with 10 abstentions. The new constitution takes effect gradually over the next three years, The document drew fire from various religious groups, including the African Christian Democratic Party. ACDP leaders Rev. Kenneth Meshoe and Louis Green voted against the constitution, objecting to the preamble which excluded the phrase "In humble submission to Almighty God. Negotiations between the right-wing National Party and the African National Congress, though, resulted in a reference to God at the end which states, "May God protect our people" and "God Bless South Africa." ACDP had wanted inclusion of the phrase: "In humble submission to the Almighty Trinity of God...", but withdrew that proposal following objections that it offended Muslim and Jewish elements. The proposed use of "In humble submission to Almighty God" drew support from both Christian and Muslim organizations, though. Religious conservatives also object to the phrase "sexual orientation" in the document's Bill of Rights, which says that the government "may not unfairly discriminate against citizens." Another point of contention is the provision that "everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, including the right to make decisions concerning reproduction and to security in and control over their bodies." According to the African Christian group, that could allow prostitution and abortion on demand. Vouchers -- South African Style Other parts of the new South African constitution seem to evoke religious opposition in a way reminiscent of the on-going "culture wars" in the United States. The minority National Party which ruled the country under the apartheid system, is fighting for the right to have children attend government-funded Afrikaans schools, which teaches religious instruction. ANC and others, though, see this as an entrenchment of the overwhelmingly white, Afrikaans-only education system at taxpayer's expense. The new Constitution also guarantees "freedom of conscience, religion, though, belief and opinion" in Article XV. It permits "Religious observances...at state or state-aided institutions provided that those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities; they are conducted on an equitable basis; and attendance at them is free and voluntary." The same section uphold the right of "marriages concluded under any tradition or a system of religious, personal or family law..." Mixed-Message on Free Expression While Article XVI provides for "freedom of expression" in the form of press and other media, it states that "advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm" is not included. This "politically correct" stipulation worries some that "freedom" may not extend to unpopular groups, elements and ideas, and that criticism of religion may be blunted. Similar language has been proposed throughout the world by assorted religious groups promoting "Blasphemy Laws" which would, effectively, prohibit anything which criticizes or "insults" religious belief and superstition. Article XLVIII declares that members of the National Assembly must "swear or affirm faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution," and makes no reference to a deity. ************ (Thanks to Margie Wait, American Atheists Internet Representative, for much of this useful material and research) *** FEDS NIX INVESTIGATION OF COMPUSERVE DEMANDED BY AFA The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department announced yesterday that the government will not investigate a complaint filed by the American Family Association, the self-appointed Christian media watchdog group that charged CompuServe with promoting "obscenity." AFA recently demanded a criminal investigation of the giant online service, alleging that it's "MacGlamour Forum" violated the newly-enacted Communications Decency Act. The CDA is being challenged in two separate lawsuits by a growing coalition of cyber-rights and civil liberties groups; although it was signed into law by President Clinton as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it may be overturned in Federal court. AFA had earlier charged that the Decency Act was too weak and gutted in Congress to appease computer-industry interests. Following passage of the law, though, AFA immediately wrote to the Justice Department, charging that CompuServe offered "pornography and other sexually oriented materials...to its users, including children." The complaint singled out MacGlamour because it had photos of naked women; although the area is labeled as offering adult material and could be blocked by parental-control devices, American Family Association said that this was not sufficient. A History of Intolerance, Censorship American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., was founded in 1977 by Rev. Donald Wildmon; the group focuses most of its efforts on mass media, and often objects to printed or broadcast materials which depict sex, nudity, "obscenity," pre-marital relations or homosexuality. It has threatened convenience stores which carried adult magazines ("porn"), including the giant Southland Corporation, owner of 7-Eleven. Other targets include the National Endowment for the Arts, and the ABC television network for its top-rated program NYPD Blue. AFA also targeted Match Box Toys, which stopped production of 160,000 Freddy Krueger dolls, a novelty item based on the popular horror-movie series. Rock star icon Madonna has also been an AFA target; the group was part of a coalition which persuaded Pepsi Cola to withdraw commercial ad support and sponsorship of the pop-singer's world tour, which it labeled "sacrilegious." In August, 1995 , Rev. Wildmon and his crusaders also took on the Calvin Klein firm, charging that an ad campaign for their line of bluejeans used provocative photos of young teens. AFA was distressed because some of the photography showed underwear peeking out provocatively from beneath the jeans; this was aggravated by Klein's slogan that "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." ********************* TESTIMONY IN 'DECENCY LAW' SHOWS CHILLING EFFECT Two court cases against the recently-passed Communications Decency Act continue to display problems with the legislation, including a distinct "chilling effect" on freedom of expression. On Monday, the audience in a Manhattan courtroom witnessed actual on-line images, and a web site that declared "Sorry, but my page has been shut down due to its content." There were no nude photos or depictions of sexual acts, but the web creator had dubbed his site simply "Nude Women." Howard Schmidt, a government "decency cop" affiliated with the Air Force as a computer crimes investigator, showed that parental control software designed to block access to sexually explicit sites does not always work. According to the New York Times, entering the keyword "Babe" at a search engine resulted in pointers to sexually explicit sites, as well as the web site for the popular children's movie about a loveable pig named "Babe." And when Schmidt tried to bring up the Nude Women site, all he -- and the rest of the courtroom got -- was a message urging people to write to President Clinton and protest the Communications Decency Act. AANEWS reported back on April 24 that Schmidt made other blunders in his courtroom testimony. During testimony then, he said that while he would not prosecute an on-line image depicting how a condom is put on an erect penis, a cover from the popular Vanity Fair Magazine which depicted a naked and very pregnant Demi Moore WAS obscene, and would be prosecuted under the new law. Schmidt declared that the Demi Moore photo was "for fun, not education," which prompted us to ask "What does Agent Schmidt think a condom is for, anyway?" More "Chilling Effect" Another consequence of the Communications Decency Act could be an end to popular on-line "chat rooms" operated by services like CompuServe and America On-Line. The CDA essentially makes providers responsible for the content of anything on their server. Last month, Director of Public Policy for AOL William W. Burrington said "If the law (CDA) is upheld, the logical outcome is we will have to consider blocking or shutting down whole sections of our service and the Internet." He specifically mentioned the "chat rooms" which allow people to communicate in real time over their keyboards. Burrington also noted that the Act "effectively reduces online content to the level suitable for a child," and could affect even areas of online services which discuss breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, birthing techniques and other bodily processes. CDA was a major objective of religious rights groups, including the Christian Coalition which included the legislation as a key element in its "Contract With the American Family." The language was crafted by Senator James Exon, a religious conservative, whose office also worked on the "Religious Equality Amendment" which is currently winding its way through congress in two different versions. Testimony in the CDA court challenge is expected to continue for several weeks; many observers speculate that it will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. **** FUNDAMENTALIST RAMPAGES MASKS SPLITS IN IRANIAN GOVERNMENT? But N.Y. Times Goofs in Not Linking Islamic Terror Groups The attack on a Tehran movie house last week by Islamic fanatics linked to the "Hezbollah" may reflect a growing power struggle within the Iranian government, according to a number of observers. In recent weeks, militant muslims have wrecked two theaters, raided private weddings and other social events, and assaulted women who happened to be bicycling in a public park. But all of this might well reflect a backlash against a slight "liberalization" trend pitting the government of President Hashemi Rafsanjani, and even more militant conservatives. Among the players: * Council of Guardians, a government-appointed agency made up of Islamic clerics to oversee specific events such as elections. The "Guardians" must approve the moral and religious credentials of anyone seeking public office in Iran before their names can be put on the ballot. * Society of Militant Clergy, a group which won a plurality in the recent Parliamentary elections but still lacks control of the Mahjilis. * Supporters of the Party of God, referred to as "Hezbollah" or "Hizbollah." This organization is behind most of the recent terror attacks within Iran in recent weeks, and has been criticizing the Rafsanjani government for being lax on issues such as western liberalization, and not doing enough "to stop social problems and corruption." Army of God activists object to the content of movies like the "Present From India" which they disrupted last weekend; they also want to put an end to the practice of allowing men and women to sit together in public, even in movie theaters. Some western observers believe that Rafsanjani and his followers want more liberalization and economic ties with Europe, Russia and even America. Today's issue of the Times carried an article by Douglas Jehl, titled "Iranian Militants Enforce Religious Standards," which elaborated on this scenario. Jehl wrote that "The use of the word Hezbollah has nothing to do with the Iranian-backed Lebanese organization of the same name," insisting that the term refers to "grass-roots supporters of Iran's Shiite Muslim theocracy." But that is not entirely true. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah or Party of God operates at the largess of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and his intelligence service; but advisors, planning and material resources come from Iran, and are the specific responsibility of VEVAK, the Iranian secret service. Pulling the strings of for VEVAK is Intelligence Minister Fallahian, 45, an ardent follower of the late Ayatollah Khomeni, who also directs the "Party of God" apparatus inside of Iran. Following the 1979 theocratic revolution, Fallahian became a religious magistrate, winning a reputation as a "hanging judge". By 1982, he was the Iranian state's Chief Prosecutor, and took over the Intelligence Service in 1988. Part of his handiwork involves the operation of a far-flung network of agents who hunt down Iranian dissidents opposed to the clerical government. In October, 1993, the German government released a report detailing at least two dozen operations involving VEVAK against murdered opposition leaders. In August, 1992, Fallahian boasted on Iranian television that "We track them (enemies of the regime) abroad, too" Referring to dissident movements, he added: " Last year we succeeded in striking fundamental blows to their top members." Those on the Fallahian hit-list become the business of a special branch within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds or "Jerusalem Force." This is headed by Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, who also trains foreign-ops Hezbollah members. Too Much Of Too Little? Whatever minor disagreements there might be within the Iranian leadership over the war on "moral laxity," Iran continues an aggressive outreach against its enemies and on behalf of proseltyzing for a worldwide "Islamic Republic." Iranian militants tried again to disrupt the annual Haj in Saudi Arabia, and there is no let-up on its terror campaign against dissidents, particularly in Europe. Any "split" may be more way of wishful thinking than hard, political reality. *************** A Note to Readers... We consider most of you to be pretty savvy and sophisticated when it comes to cyber-technology. Even so, remember that when dealing with these dumb computers, the smallest error can have unfortunate consequences. We occasionally hear of some poor lost soul who insists that he or she sent mail to us, and had it returned by the nefarious MAILER DAEMON as "undeliverable." In nearly every case, that is due to a spelling error or typo goof. Our address is at "listserv" and not "listserve." It would make more sense, perhaps, to have the latter at least in the interests of literacy, but the silicon gods have decided otherwise. And with this number, AANEWS is just a little over one month old. This began over a year ago actually when American Atheists sent out its "TheistWatch" dispatches, which have subsequently been incorporated into aanews. There was an interim publication and list known as AAFWD. The re-birth of American Atheists resulted in AANEWS and other on-line activities such as our moderated discussion group, aachat. Finally, this list has thrived beyond our expectations in a very short period of time. We appreciate the kind mail, suggestions, and other words of support we have gotten back from subscribers; we promise to continue in our efforts to bring you a quality on-line news publication. **************** 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. For more information on American Atheists, send e-mail to: info@atheists.org. Kindly include your name and mailing address. Members of American Atheists may also join our moderated aachat forum; contact the LISTMASTER at aachat@atheists.org. Further background on this list may be obtained by sending mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and putting "info aanews" in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.

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