Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 10, 1996 nn nn AAN

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Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 10, 1996 from: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #35 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/10/96 In This Edition... * Legislator: Bible Says YES! To Slavery * Gay Marriage Battle Continues * Bright Receives Templeton Bucks, Schmoozes With Pope * TheistWatch: Would You Believe ~~ Lorena Bobbit! * Plug In And Help Out! LEGISLATOR QUOTES BIBLICAL PASSAGES, SAYS SLAVERY ''BENEFICIAL'' A candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives who is also a state senator in Alabama declared yesterday that slavery "Southern style" was beneficial for blacks, and was justified in the bible. The controversial statements were in a prepared speech to have been delivered by State Senator Charles Davidson, a first term Republican who is currently one of six candidates vying for the party nomination in Alabama's 4th District. His remarks were to have been delivered in a Senate debate over his proposal to fly the Confederate battle flag atop the state Capitol building; but the measure was quickly tabled on Tuesday before he could deliver the talk. Davidson passed out printed copies of the speech instead. According to reports, Davidson quoted passages from Leviticus which read: "You may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you." Other quotes included First Timothy, which exhorts servants (slaves) to "regard their own masters as worthy of all honors." Davidson also wrote that modern-day opponents of slaveocracy "are obviously bitter and hateful against God and his word, because they reject what God says and embrace what mere humans say concerning slavery." He also accused abolitionists of embracing "humanistic thinking...while southerners and most northerners embraced what God said in the Bible." The speech also stated that the institution of slavery has existed throughout history, and that "abuse, rape, broken homes and murder are 100 times more common in the housing projects (today) than they ever were on the slave planations in the Old South." Reaction to Davidson was quick, even from somewhat embarrassed Republicans. State GOP National Committeewoman Martha Foy said "It's shocking to me." Meanwhile, the head of the Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. Laura Hall, declared "It's sad to think we have anyone who has that type of thinking in 1996. That may have been appropriate in the 1930's or the 1940's, but not in 1996." A Rallying Point for Religious Bigotry? Davidson's remarks and proposal to fly the Confederate flag highlight an issue which has again surfaced, particularly as Southern states modernize and traditional political boundaries blur. Organizations like the Southern League and Heritage Preservation Society are promoting what critics charge is a "whitewashed" version of civil-war and Reconstruction history which minimizes the inhumanity of slavery, and creates a false, nostalgic view of regional genteelness. "Dixie Net" and other on-line sites, for instance offer Confederate flags and logos, bumper stickers with slogans such as "Southern Nationalism, Always in Style," and books or pamphlets dealing with Civil War battles and personalities. During the recent round of GOP Presidential primaries, candidate Pat Buchanan got into hot water with his stand on the Confederate flag issue, when he defended flying the battle standard as a "symbol of defiance." During campaign sweeps through Southern states, Buchanan mixed his economic-nationalist and anti-abortion message with a strong "states rights" theme, Buchanan also serves as an advisor to Southern Patrisan magazine, and according to editor Oran P. Smith, is "a big fan. Partisan dispenses what it terms a "Scalawag Award, a term which describes "Southerners who sucked up to the enemy for profit." The first award was to a Republican state legislator who voted to haul down the Confederate flag from the capitol in Virginia, calling it a "divisive symbol of ... slavery." Among the claims made by Southern League representatives is that "War is being waged against the Southern identity and its traditional symbols." "On a spiritual level, we take our stand squarely within the tradition of Christianity," declares the organization's "New Dixie Manifesto," adding "we oppose the government's campaign against our Christian traditions." While many "New Dixie" style advocates insist that they are not racists, and that their concerns deal with heritage and history rather than ethnicity, critics suggest that this is simply a fancy cover for traditional racism and intolerance. ************ LATEST RELIGIOUS PHOBIA: ''GAY MARRIAGE'' If it's not abortion, porno-on-line, blasphemy or evolution in schools, it's something else. The latest bette noir for the religious right seems to be gay marriage, a form of recognition that gay men and women say is necessary to make them first-class citizens along with the 90% of the American population who happen to be heterosexual. Gay rights advocates notes that since they cannot legally marry in most states, they do not qualify for the economic breaks and other privileges which others enjoy, such as insurance benefits, health-coverage, even a perk from the tax system. Religious conservatives ranging from the Christian Coalition and Eagle Forum to the Focus on the Family have waged an intense battle against homosexuals, based in part on biblical admonitions against the practice. Even more moderate religious faiths have gone through excruciating internal fights over whether or not gays should ordained as priests/priestesses, receive communion, or be recognized as anything other than "sinners." So-called "Family values" groups see sex education and AIDS awareness instruction in the schools as an "open door" for "homosexual recruitment." These culture-war battles are often waged at the community level before School Boards and other bodies, but increasingly the fight is now being taken to the federal level. On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Bob Barr introduced a "Defense of Marriage Act" which defined marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman." The proposal stipulates that states would be free to ignore a same-sex marriage which was carried out in another state. Barr's proposal drew immediate support from Rev. Lou Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition, who helped draft the legislation. He said that the bill was a response to a court challenge in Hawaitt that would force recognition of gay marriages. That case involved a state Supreme Court ruling issued in May, 1993 that declared unconstitutional a denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Noting that the state must prove a "compelling government interest" in discriminating against gay marriages, the Court remanded the case to a lower jurisdiction, where another trial is scheduled for August. Rev. Sheldon also warned "This is the beginning of a cultural meltdown if you have homosexual marriage sanctioned by the court." The Hawaii case has prompted battles in nearly three-dozen state legislatures; bans on gay marriage have been enacted in eight states, but anti-gay legislation was either defeated or withdrawn in 17 others. Barr's proposal would have strange consequences if enacted. Couples in states which recognize gay marriages, for instances, would be able to file a joint-state tax return, but would still presumably be required to file separate forms with the Internal Revenue Service. A relocation to another state with different laws could also affect a gay couple's payment on insurance. In other developments: * In Canada, the House of Commons voted on Thursday to add the words "sexual orientation" to a list of characteristics which may not be used to discriminate in hiring or promoting. The action now goes to the Senate. The House vote was 153-76. A religious conservative group known as "REAL Women" warned that the legislation "will alter Canadian society fundamentally." * In Utah, the Legislature recently voted to specifically ban gay student clubs in that state's public schools. Now, gay rights and civil liberties groups plan to protest the Olympic torch relay when it passes through the state. One demonstration is planned for today, when the torch marathon takes the Olympic standard by East High School, and another demonstration is slated on Saturday in the "This Is The Place" State Park. ********************** TEMPLETON PRIZE CEREMONY LINKS VATICAN, AMERICAN EVANGELICALS Last night, evangelist and religious political activist Bill Bright received the prestigious Templeton Award during a ceremony at the Roman Catholic Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome. He joins other recipients, including Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Britain's Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakovits, who have been awarded the coveted and lucratize prize which was established by wealthy financier Sir John Templeton in 1927. The prize carries the world's largest award, and is more valuable in monetary terms than even the Nobel prizes. In a previous AANEWS, we detailed Bright's activities as founder of the Campus Crusade for Christ, a religious activist movement focusing its programs mostly on the nation's college campuses. According to Reuter news service, Bright will be using the $1.1 million in prize money for promoting fasting and prayer, which he described as the best way for religious believers "to truly humble themselves to see God's face." In addition to the activities of Campus Crusade, though, Bright has other ties to a theopolitical agenda linking the mostly Protestant fundamentalist-evangelical right to the Roman Catholic Church. * Bright recently participated in a joint petition to the Republican Party urging it continue its support of the "Human Life Amendment," which would outlaw abortion. * This evening in Rome, Bright meets with Pope John Paul II. Yesterday, Bright told a press conference that "One of the greatest things I like about Pope John Paul is his adamant position against abortion which I share." He also emphasized the need for ecumenical dialogue, saying "progress in spiritual matters is more important than in any other matter. (The Republican Platform Committee, and the Party leadership, remain under siege from both Catholic ecclesiastical elements and the rest of the religious right. The Vatican's Conference of Bishops in the United States has condemned President Clinton for his veto last month of the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban," which had been an objective of the Christian Coalition. Meanwhile, religious right groups including Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and even the Pat Buchanan campaign, have stepped up their own efforts to make sure that there is no compromise within the GOP of its strident plank opposing abortion and calling for passage of the Human Life Amendment.) ******************* THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS We really are NOT making this story up. Our ceaseless quest for artifacts of religious superstition both ancient and contemporary lead us down some pretty strange paths. A good example is the renewed interest in the alleged "prophecies" of Nostradamus, which we mentioned in our recent aanews dispatch dealing with the "Mysteries of the Millennium" program on CBS. Being an avid collector of religious and new age kitsch, though, your humble correspondent just could not resist the lure of a cheap booklet at the supermarket check-out rack, titled "Nostradamus The Man Who Saw Tomorrow." There was a surely idealized portrait of the 16th century sage peering out amidst competing offerings about "getting rid of cellulite," improving sexual performance, or losing astounding amounts of weight on various diet regimens. "Nostradamus" promised some exciting reading, including the prospect of "A brave new golden age" and "Earthquakes & Terror in 1999." Why not start building my library of millennium-hysteria collectables now, and for only the unusual price of $2.29? The brief contents were pretty much a re-hash of the traditional Nostradamus-New Age groupie fare, and the truly unusual material was in the back, nestled in with numerous ads for 1-900 number "psychic" hotline. And I assure you, gentle reader, I'm telling the truth. There is a Lorena Bobbitt Astrology Network 900-line. You remember her, right? Her estranged hubby, John Wayne Bobbit certainly does, and Lorena's reaction against sexual and emotional abuse quickly propelled her, and John -- and his, well, "attachments" -- into the public limelight. John seems to have had a somewhat tarnished career since that fateful night when Lorena took things into her own hands, but this "Astrology Network" should suggest to any sober observer that fame of any kind has its downside. The Lorena Bobbitt Astrology Network ad assures us that "Your call helps support Lorena Bobbit's Foundation for Abused Women and Children!" I wonder how much "Abused Women and Children" really get from the $3.99 per minute fee. But other ad copy is even better! "The future is in your hands! Let's us help you TAKE CONTROL of your life." ****************** Regular readers know that TW is constantly grousing over the postmodernist tendency of "warm and fuzzy" religionists to re-write portions of their own holy book, the bible, to render it more palpable for popular consumption. Oh, there are the "Sophia" faddists who insist that God is REALLY a woman; and the "liberation theology" folks tried to dress Jesus up in the robes of some biblical era revolutionary. Today, the bible is being "re-written" by some church groups, where offensive or embarrassing language is conveniently excised and replaced by more "politically correct" terminology. That's re-writing history, of course, and it is dishonest and evasive. Our story about Alabama State Senator Davidson, then, deserves a few more words. The "good book" really DOES overflow with quotes supporting slavery, at least the kind mentioned in the Old Testament and endorsed by a cranky, vengeful sky-god named Jehovah. Back in 1986, an article appeared in the May issue of AMERICAN ATHEIST MAGAZINE authored by Merrill Holste, and titled "Slavery and the Bible." Read it an weep, but for those who want a digest-version, try on some of these quotes: Heb. 13:17 states: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves..." Titus 2:9, 3:1 orders: "Servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again. And there's Col. 3:20, which should warm the hearts of everyone from Dan Quayle to John Dobson: "Children, obey your parents in all things...Servants, obey in all things your masters (owners) according to the flesh." Curiously, Davidson chose passages from Timothy, which has some outrageous statements about the responsibility of women to keep silent, obey husbands, and basically shut-the-hell-up and cook dinner. But Holste saved the best for last when he wrote: "The whole Bible was written by slave owners, and for slave owners. There is no hint of criticism of slavery anywhere in that book. Jesus made no objection to mistreatment of slaves. He indicated that selling of debtors into slavery would be continued his forthcoming kingdom of heaven as well as masters having the right to beat their slaves and put them to torture." ***** Hey, another area of "revisionism" is anthropology and ancient history. Take Shirley MacLaine, peddler extraordinaire of mystical nonsense, and the rest of her new age pals who insist that ancient civilizations like the Aztecs and the Incas were REALLY outposts for UFO's from distant worlds. Then consider the new flap over the fate of the frozen mummy which is to go on display in Washington, gratis the National Geographic Society. Some Peruvian scholars are worried about the mummy's condition; so the exhibit will include a special air-conditioned viewing area, along with freezing cases to maintain the integrity of the body while it is being shipped. But that's not all... the body happens to be that of a 13 year old girl who was sacrificed over 500 years ago to appease a god. The practice was fairly common; children were often taken to mountaintops during a time of crisis for the purpose of sacrifice. Now, you'd think that all of these folks who insist that the Incas were really some "advanced civilization" flying all over the galaxy and building wonderful temples and what some insist are "runways" or beacons for alien craft, would have something to say about this. After all, an "advanced civilization" would, presumably, have moved beyond the barbaric practice of murdering kids to appease the gods. In truth, the Inca civilization was autocratic, centralized, warlike and brutal -- which is not to say that the Catholic invaders from Europe were much better. But I still wonder if Shirley will bother to come to this museum openning... *********** More on the Aum Shinrikyo Cult in Japan, the group linked to the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway which killed 18 people and injured thousands more. Apparently, Aum members were divided into a strict hierarchy of 13 levels, with specially colored uniforms denoting rank. For those at the bottom of this mystical feed-chain, life was pretty bad, cruel and spartan. It's been revealed that children of cult members could bathe only once a week, and often endured beatings and even solitary confinement for minor infractions. Those who turned out to be disciplinary problems had their eyebrows died green and were subject to electro- shock and other torture. All of which raises a question for those supporting the "Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act," which if passed would permit parents to raise kids according to their own "religious teachings." We have wondered whether such legislation would in effect legalize murder for Christian Science believers who chose to withold appropriate medical care from ill children. But presumably this act would go much, much further; would it protect an Aum-like cult which abused kids for religious purposes? Even if it didn't, it would certainly make it more difficult for children's rights advocates to intervene in clear cases of religion-inspired abuse, especially if practices like "Bible-based discipline" were at question. Cranky, religious conservatives are very much on a "dare to discipline" kick, talking about whipping, spanking and other corporal punishments with an amost erotic glee. So, if none of that brings the little s.o.b.'s into line, what's a bit of shock treatment? ************** I may have a history as a bit of a "peacenik," but sometimes I really do empathize with troops in the armed services. It's ridiculous that men and women can join -- and in the case of guys, anyway, possibly be drafted -- into Uncle Sam's Army, but they can't buy cigarettes or order a cold brew in most states because of the drinking age laws. Age restrictions, of course, are a holdover from the days of Prohibition and other religious-political experiments which ended up creating more problems than they solved, but of course the prohibitionist spirit lives on today. Across the whole of the political spectrum, there is somebody who wants to ban something from being used or enjoyed by everyone. So, women have finally clawed their way into the military ranks, and in many cases have demonstrated that they can shoot, crawl, fist fight, sail, fly and kill with the best of men. And both men and women are supposedly better trained and conditioned than ever before in our nation's military history. So, if we're going to send this force of fighting men and women out into the world, what exactly are they fighting for? Freedom? Civil Liberties? The Bill of Rights? If they are, we have a strange way of expressing our gratitude. We earlier told you about Rep. Christopher Smith and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who along with Christian Coalition poster-boy Rep. Robert Dornan have introduced legislation called the "Military Honor and Decency Act," which seeks to remove from military stores any magazine, video or DC which "depicts or describes nudity in a lascivious way." TW tips its hat to Daniel Katz, a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, who responded to this piece of moralistic grandstanding by noting "This legislation sends an extremely disturbing message to soldiers who are risking their lives to uphold the Constitution." Even the military brass thinks that the Smith-Bartlett-Dornan idea, well, sucks. The Pentagon has released a statement saying that the legislation will bog them down in lawsuits and squabbles, and the issue is simply better left alone. ************** Wanna' be a Lois Lane? Or a Johnny Deadline? PLUG INTO THE AANEWS INFORMATION NETWORK! AANEWS is always looking for relevant local and state news which may of interest to Atheists, state-church separationists, and those who just want a bit of comic relief. If something is happening in YOUR area, we'd like to hear from you. You can send us information using e-mail by just hitting the "return" or "respond" function, or addressing your correspondence to: We have a fax number as well for clippings -- drop us a line and we will send you further information. ****** 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 about AA, send e-mail to:, and include your name and mailing address. You may forward, re-print or quote from the AANEWS dispatches, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and aanews. To receive more information about this list, send mail to:, and put "info aanews" in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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