Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 15, 1996 nn nn AAN
Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 15, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#38 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/15/96
In This Edition...
* Is "Parental Rights" Act Needed? Religious Groups Say Yes!
* Quotes From PRRA Testimony
* "Defense of Marriage" ~~ Slick Slogan, Bad Idea
* Iran & Women: No Olympic Swimmers Here!
* TheistWatch: We Finally Succumb...
NEW PUSH BEGINS FOR ''PARENTAL RIGHTS'' ACT
Religious groups across the country have begun a new effort to pass the
controversial "Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act," which is now before
the Senate Judiciary Committee. The proposed legislation is a centerpiece in
the Christian Coalition's "Contract With the American Family" announced last
year. It has drawn support from other religious right groups as well,
including the Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
According to the "Contract," the act would supposedly sanction "the right
of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, (which) includes
overseeing their children's education, health care, discipline and religious
In a press release yesterday afternoon, the Christian Coalition cited an
article from the April 27, 1996 "Washington Times" which discussed an
incident where girls at a Pennsylvania intermediate school were examined by
a female doctor. The procedure included a genital examination, which
according to School District officials, was "within the parameters" of state
health rules. Some parents apparently complained to the District. Mike
Russell, Communications Director of the Christian Coalition, said that the
incident "is only one of a large number of cases of the usurpation of
parents' rights to protect and direct the upbringing of their children."
Critics quickly responded however, pointing out that there are already
over 2,000 state statutes which protect children from abuse and neglect.
While these laws focus on the child, the PRRA deals with the "right of a
A Hidden Agenda?
Critics of the Parental Rights act say that the legislation is actually
meant to promote a religious agenda while scaring people with
misinformation. Charges include:
* The Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act is really a vehicle for
something which many people -- especially those endorsing the idea of
"parents' rights" -- are unaware of. School vouchers could well be the
primary result of this legislation. A pro-voucher attorney activist, when
asked about this possibility, said "It's (PRRA) a very harmonious parallel
movement because if you put it in terms of who should be sovereign over
children...then you just ease in to choosing where a kid goes to school."
Many groups, including educators, warn that the voucher system would
effectively gut the public school system which is already suffering from
financial cutbacks. There is also the question of whether religious schools
should be the beneficiaries of taxpayer monies; the Roman Catholic Church is
a major supporter of voucher schemes, and operates the nation's largest
network of private, religious educational institutions.
* While focusing on "Parental Rights," the Act will result in increased
abuse and neglect of children according to child advocacy groups. The
legislation would severely curtail the right of social service workers to
investigate and deal with reports of child abuse, especially if that abuse if
cloaked as a RELIGIOUS right involving "bible based" discipline. Many
religious right "family values" activists encourage corporal punishment. The
legislation could also end up protecting the "religious freedom" of parents
in cults such as Christian Science to withhold vital medical care or engage
in other behaviors which place children at risk.
* The Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act will "dumb down" school
curriculums, especially those dealing with controversial issues like
evolution, history, sex education and even AIDS awareness. School Districts
will be engulfed in parent lawsuits which take issue with any courses,
teachers, texts or other materials which happen to offend their religious
sensibilities. Some predict that schools -- already under the budget-cutting
axe -- would then have to establish religious courses and other programs as a
legal remedy. Curriculum control passes from the hands of school authorities
and educators, into those of religious right activists and
According to Americans United For Separation of Church and State,
religious groups are already targeting everything from books and videos to
entire subjects which they intend to challenge if the Parental Rights and
Responsibilities Act is passed. One group -- the Eagle Forum, founded by
anti-ERA zealot Phyllis Schlafly -- has sent its members a list of 94 topics
covering everything from "witchcraft" to divorce. Another list has 111
taboo-topics, and includes even vague categories like "creative problem
solving and team management."
Is PRRA Even Necessary?
Critics charge that many of the alleged problems which the Parental Rights
and Responsibilities Act claims to address are already covered by existing
remedies. They also note that many "problems" are simply programs and themes
which small groups of religious activists often object to -- such as sex
education or even AIDS awareness. Making such subjects "taboo" in the school
environment does not solve them, and will not magically make problems like
teen pregnancy or violence disappear. For these reasons, state-church
separationists say that Act is misleading, and can only result in more
litigation and divisiveness in communities.
Judiciary Committee Receptive?
The Senate Judiciary Committee, where the PRRA (S.984) is now undergoing
preliminary hearings, could prove to be a decisive factor in whether or not
the proposal lives or dies in this session of Congress. Even if the bill
makes it out to the floor, though, legislators -- especially if they see
considerable opposition to the proposal -- may table it for this election
RELEVANT QUOTES ABOUT THE ''PARENTAL RIGHTS'' BILL
* "The Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act...claims to 'protect the
rights of parents to direct the uprbringing of their children' including
providing for their children's education, health care, religious training and
discipline'...That, however, is not what this bill is about. This bill is
about making it more difficult for public schools to teach our children. It
is about lining the pockets of lawyers and draining the scarce educational
resources in our schools. It is about putting the health and safety of our
children in jeopardy. It is about playing politics with our children...
"It will force local school districts into costly legal battles over
everything from a curriculum to dress codes.
"It will drain scarce dollars from the classroom to the courtroom.
"It is an unnecessary, big government intrusion into local decision
making, taking debates that belong in local communities and turning them over
to the courts.
"It will jeopardize health-related programs and character building efforts
in schools for fear of litigation.
"It will have a chilling effect on schools intervening in abuse and
"Finally, it will not achieve its stated goal, it will undermine
communication and cooperation between parents and their local schools."
-- Sammy J. Quintana, National School Boards Association
Remarks before Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
December 5, 1995
"Although I support many of the goals of the Parental Rights and
Responsibilities Act, and believe that parents are and should continue to be
the primary source for their children's upbrining, I believe the current
legislation unwise and unnecessary. Family law and parental decisionmaking,
comes primarily from the work of state legislatures and courts. To invade
this state responsibility threatens federalism, and for Congress to purport
to establish a "fundamental right" encroaches on the judicial branch.
Finally,l believe the vagueness of the terminology in the Bill invites both
litigation in already overburdened federal courts and paralysis of state and
local administrative agencies. Specifically tailored legislation,
particularly at the State level, would answer many of the complaints of the
Bill's proponents without ossifying the development of family law. Finally,
many of the protections its proponents seek have already been guaranteed by
Supreme Court decisions."
--Margaret F. Brinig, Professor of Law
George Mason University
Testimony, December 5, 1995
"DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT'' HEARINGS UNDERWAY
As this edition of AANEWS is being sent out, the House Subcommittee on the
Constitution is holding a day of hearings on the "Defense of Marriage Act."
The proposal declares in no uncertain terms that "marriage is a union between
one man and one woman, which seems to restrict somewhat the Universal
Webster's definition of "any close or intimate union."
Why, you ask, would the resources of the United States Congress be
suddenly so preoccupied with this minutia? The answer is twofold; homophobia
is under assault by gays seeking equal protection and benefits -- a level
playingfield in the bedroom and courtroom, so to speak -- and the religious
right is having one of its fits.
Lead-off hitter in today's hearings is expected to be Gary Bauer of the
Family Research Council, one of a cluster of "pro-family" groups which would
just prefer 25 million or so gay men and women ride in the back of the
metaphorical cultural bus. Bauer held posts in the Reagan Administration,
serving as Under Secretary of Education (July, 1985), Deputy Under Secretary
for Planning, Budget & Evaluation (1982), and Director of the Office of
Policy Development at the White House. He chaired the Special Working Group
on the Family (June, 1986) and was a Senior Policy Analyst for the
Reagan-Bush election campaign.
Family Research Council has had an on-and-off relationship with the
larger, more influential Focus on the Family, led by "Mr. Bible Discipline"
himself, James Dobson. Back in 1988, the groups merged, but then had their
own organizational divorce in October, 1992. Bauer co-authored the book
"Children at Risk: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Kids," with
Focus president Dobson.
The category of "Pro-Family Issues" reads like a laundry list of religious
right concerns, covering 66 topics. Among them: abortion, abstinence, child
custody, contraception, condoms, divorce, drugs (illegal) family-friendly
Work Policy, family values, gambling, homosexuality, gays in the military,
pornography, school prayer, out of wedlock births, sex education, and even
women in combat. The "Defense of Marriage" act is just one thread in a much
larger, sinister tapesty woven into the braincells of Family Research Council
and its allies.
So why the fright?
Last month, the Hawaian Legislature voted down a bill which would have
banned the licensing of marriage for homosexual couples. Across the country,
religious groups immediately swung into action, introducing a total of 34
bills in various legislatures. 17 of those have been defeated or pulled, and
only 8 got a nod from the state solsons. As John Heilemann notes in today's
rant ("Married to the Status Quo) on hotwired (http://www.hotwired.com),
"Public opinion on gay marriage turns out to be remarkably squishy." The
numbers are split according to opinion polls, "But they're not so different
from how the public broke down on the subject of interracial marriage just 30
years ago -- when black-white wedlock was still illegal in many places."
GOP nominee-to-be Bob Dole signed on as a sponsor of the Defense of
Marriage Act, and it even appears that Bill Clinton -- no dummy when it
comes to sniffing out the political winds -- won't be going to bat on behalf
of gay rights, at least this time. Clinton may have learned his lesson from
the beating he took over the gays-in-the-military issue; in answering the
challenge from the right, Clinton movess "further center." On Monday, the
White House let slip that the President "opposes same sex marriages," and
would "have to look carefully at the legislation that's under consideration."
Just as Dole has worked overtime to shore-up his credentials as a social
religious conservatives, Clinton has been embracing some of the rhetorical
style and appearance of the "family values" crowd. He wants kids in school
uniforms, he's pledged to "put street gangs out of business," and hardly a
press gathering passes without SOME reference to god, religion and other
apple-pie style buzzwords.
IRAN AND WOMEN ~~ MORE RELIGIOUS DIS-UTOPIANISM
When Islamic revolution swept Ayatollah Khomeni and his fellow clerics
into power 17 years ago, the way was paved by throngs of shouting,
fist-shaking males waving copies of the Koran, and vowing to sweep away any
vestige of western liberalism or secularism. That imagery rings true today,
even after the death of Khomeni; and no where is the domestic agenda of the
clerical regime better typified than in the status of women in Iranian
Much of the recent violence in Iran carried out by Muslim fundamentalists
deals with the social and family position of women. Last weekend, about 50
Islamic activists ran amok at two Tehran theaters, protesting movies which
showed young girls dancing; last month, clerical police raided a private
party which was celebrating a woman's educational achievements. There have
even been attacks carried out against women riding bicycles in public,
something which fundamentalists have openly denounced as obscene and
At this summer's Olyympics in Atlanta, Iranian women will be taking part
only in activities which allow them to be fully covered. Reportedly,
horseback riding has become not only an approved sport, but a break from the
drab routine imposed by Islamic culture and law. Like American blacks four
decades ago, Iranian women must ride in the back of public transport buses,
and they must stand in separate lines at movie theaters. Anything smacking
of public eroticism or sexuality is strictly prohibited; there are no
mixed-sex workout gyms. In public, women must wear "modest garb," including
the notorious veil -- a habit widely enforced throughout the rest of the
Men control most of the parliamentary seats -- even there, candidates for
office must first pass inspection by the clerical Council of Guardians,
before elections take place. Women occupy a few token positions, though, and
Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani's daughter sits on the country's Olympic
While the Islamic revolution provided some room for women, particularly
those who came from poor households, observers say that women are much worse
off legally. Girls can be married or "given away" at age nine.
A Youth Revolution Brewing?
There are subtle indications, though, that women may be helped by a "youth
revolution" percolating beneath the veneer of Islamic rigidity. According to
CNN's Christine Amanpour, a veteran observer of the region, half of the
population is now under the age of 14; for them, the events of 1979 exist not
as real-life experiences, but as reports in history books and on propaganda
posters. Amanpour notes that the emergent youth culture "feels stifled and
bored," and that "breaking rules has fast become a new pastime...The writing
is on the wall in Tehran: rap, heavy metal and graffiti replace religious
This process may well be accentuated by technological developments --
direct satellite broadcasts, computer networks like the Internet, even more
contact (and black market trading in western goods including books and
magazines) with foreigners. Many Islamic countries feel "under siege" to
what they consider they "corrupting influences" of western culture. In Saudi
Arabia and other countries, for instance, the government has banned the
ownership of satellite dishes; the "mutawah" or Clerical Police roam
neighborhoods looking for any trace of dishes or other equipment which could
violate the law. A number of Asian and Middle Eastern countries have
agitated in the United Nations for restrictions on direct satellite
broadcast, fearing the influence of international, cosmopolitan media.
Women and youth face substantial obstacles, though, especially in Iran.
Amanpour quoted one adolescent who said: "We can't be like Europeans because
of our country's social and religious beliefs. We can't be free like them,
but still we could do more."
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Rmemeber this date. On May 15, 1996, AANEWS lost its journalistic
virginity. We're doing a story about O.J. Simpson.
We have no comment about evidence, conspiracy, blood DNA or whether Chris
and Marsha are still hitting it off. And mum's the word about racial bias
and Mark Fuhrman, or whether the gloves really fit. It now seems, though,
that religion has become the latest trump card being used by OJ to
rehabilitate his much-tarnished public image. Tuesday night, he told Oxford
University students in England that "In Jail, what got me through my
experience was the Bible. I must have read the book of Job five or ten
times." Juice also says that other inmates were shouting out specific bible
passages for him to read.
Well, that's not quite what WE heard Simpson was up to in the slammer, at
least in between take-out meals and visits from Paula Barbieri, but what do
Listening to this panegyric of religiosity, one woman in the Oxford Union
audience just couldn't take it any longer, and shouted out "Shut Up!"
To which Mr. Simpson glibly replied, "They're not interested in religion."
A Federal judge has ruled that a Rockland County, N.Y. town must alter its
zoning codes to permit the establishment of synagogues in private homes. A
group of Orthodox Jewwish residents took their case to court, claiming that
the Village of Airmont -- incorporated in April, 1991 as a separate community
-- discriminated in allowing them to conduct religious services. The suit
maintained that the Village was actually formed in order to keep Orthodox
Jews out; indeed, Airmont has a population of some 8,000, and is within the
boundaries of the municipality of Ramapo, a town with 94,000 citizens of whom
about 25% are Orthodox or Hasidic Jews.
Even so, an attorney for the Village declared that "If a group of
charismatic Catholics wanted to hold services three times a day every day,
the village would not only have a right but an obligation to regulate."
The new decision does not dissolve the Village, as the plaintiffs had
wanted; the town must re-write its zoning laws, though, and make religious
worship an exempt activity.
More on yesterday's AANEWS report about Devils Tower, Wyoming, where
Federal park officials are restricting public access in recognition of
"sacred" Native American areas during the holy month of June. A U.S.
District Court Judge said yesterday that he will issue a ruling in the first
week of June. This came after testimony from two elders from the Grey Eagle
Society, a Sioux religious group, who said that the presence of climbers and
others at Devils Tower during the month of June was "disrespectful."
One of the elders compared it to climing a church or some other monument.
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