Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 27, 1996 nn nn AAN

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Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for May 27, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #48 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 5/27/96 In This Edition... * Garden State Pests: CC Fights For Control * Israeli Elections: Peace, Settlements, "Compromising Situations" * Culture Wars: Quayle Takes Flight, Dole-Headed Proposals, Paul Jones... * Salman Rushdie: "Defy Them." * Tehran ~~ Virtue, Vice, Nothing Nice * TheistWatch: Elvis Is Alive And Worshipped In India * A Great Career Opportunity... * Info On This List NEW JERSEY IS LATEST BATTLEGROUND FOR CHRISTIAN COALITION With elections less than six months away, the "cultur war" over issues such as gay rights, abortion, censorship and school prayer, is being played out in states throughout the nation. The latest battleground is New Jersey, where that state's Republican Party is under fire from religious fundamentalists, including the well-heeled Christian Coalition. The controversy is focused on who will be the GOP contender in a U.S. Senate race to fill the seat vacated by Bill Bradley. The frontrunner is Richard A. Zimmer, a moderate conservative who reflects the pragmatic N.J. party philosophy typified by the state's Republican governor, Christine Whitman. Her blend of fiscal conservatism and moderate social views -- especially on the abortion question -- had resulted in her name being considered as a possible vice presidential nominee in this year's White House race. Religious conservatives, though, made it clear several weeks ago to presumed GOP Presidential nominee Bob Dole that they would not accept Whitman on the November ticket, or anyone else who was not a staunch "pro-life" supporter. In the race for the GOP Senate nomination Zimmer is under attack by two candidates, one of whom enjoys the backing of the N.J. Christian Coalition. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Christian Coalition and its allies believe that a Zimmer nomination "would be a concession to Gov. Whitman and others trying to steer the party closer to what they say is the liberal social agenda of the Democrats." They have thrown their support behind Passaic County Freeholder Richard DuHaime who according to reports says that "true-blue conservatives believe in 'pro-family' values and tolerate no compromise on such issues as abortion, gay rights and prayer in the schools." DuHaime has also promised to eliminate the U.S. Education Department, a major target of religious political activists. In addition to the Christian Coalition, New Jersey Right to Life and other anti-abortion groups are pounding the pavement for the DuHaime candidacy. He also has the "enthusiastic" support of controversial New York radio talk show host Bob Grant, who recently got into hot water for remarks concerning the plane crash which killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. There is another candidate in the contest -- State Senator Richard LaRossa, who has attracted support from the NRA, various sportsmen's groups, and even antique car enthusiasts for his opposition to some auto emissions laws. While LaRossa opposes abortion rights, though, he has said he would make exceptions in the case of rape, incest or danger to the mother's life. So far, neither LaRossa or Christian Coalition choice Richard DuHaime can match the funding or campaign organization the state party has put together. Zimmer has over $2.3 million in his electoral account, and hopes to spend the bulk of it challenging the expected Democratic nominee, Robert G. Torricelli. While it appears doubtful at this time that DuHaime can stop Zimmer in the June 4 primary, a "walkout" from the GOP ranks -- and possibly a third party effort -- could endanger Republican hopes for capturing a key seat in the U.S. Senate. ***************** ISRAELI ELECTIONS FRAMED BY RELIGIOUS DEBATE Voters in Israel head to the polls later this week in elections which could determine the outcome of the current Israel-Palestinian peace process, and even contribute to the character of the U.S. Presidential race. Last night, Prime Minister Shimon Peres squared off against right-wing Likud party challenger Benjamin Netanyahu in a half-hour pre-recorded free- for- all which focused on the country's security, Jewish settlements in occupied territories and the question of Netanyahu's admission three years ago of adultery. But sound-byte reports of the debate in the U.S. media seemed to downplay the adultery issue, at least as it was reported in the foreign press. Today's London Times says that Netanyahu alleged that "political rivals" had videotaped him in "compromising romantic situations" -- a probable reference to Likud rival David Levy. There is a religious dimension to the Netanyahu affair involving the 46-year old candidate who was once voted "Israel's sexiest politician." The Times observed that "(Likud) Party officials fear that the affair could lose him votes among ultra-Orthodox Jews in whose neighbourhoods his political enemies have put up campaign posters bearing the injunction: 'Do not commit adultery'." Peres played the religious-right card at the end of the debate, making a passionate plea to voters to honour the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered six months ago by a fundamentalist activist opposed to the peace process. ***************** WAS ISRAELI DEBATE ''TESTING THE WATERS'' FOR MORALS ATTACK ON CLINTON? Although a number of issues are involved in this all-important Israeli election, the "morals" and religious question may have a bearing on how well U.S. President Bill Clinton fares as he takes on presumed-GOP nominee Sen. Bob Dole. In recent developments: * Dole has worked hard to position himself as a strong ally of "family values", while behind the scenes, GOP and religious right activists try to re-shape Clinton's image as untrustworthy, a draft dodger, and a philanderer. This past weak, tempers flared on the Senate floor when Republicans introduced a resolution chastising Clinton for suggesting that his commander-in-chief status warranted a delay in the controversial Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. News reports noted that "Republicans for a second day pounded the president with rhetoric that focused both on his alleged womanizing and on his avoidance of the Vietnam draft." Paula Jones alleges in a pending U.S. District Court suit that Clinton made sexual advances toward her in 1991 while he was governor of Arkansas. Clinton has denied the charges. *Today, with emotions running high over the symbolism of the Memorial Day weekend, a group known as Coalition of American Veterans has taken out newspaper advertising in the form an "Open Letter to the President of the United States from Medal of Honor Recipients." The ad asks Clinton to "withdraw your claim to armed service under the Soldiers' and Salilors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 in defense of the embarrassing legal charges confronting you today." * Former Vice President Dan Quayle, whose attack on the Murphy Brown sitcom in 1992 is seen as a major watershed event in the Culture Wars, is on the stump again writing columns and promoting his new book "The American Family: Discovering the Values that Make Us Strong." Quayle has even picked up support for his attack on single moms from unlikely places, including the prestigious Atlantic Magazine, and even from Clinton who remarked that there were "a lot of good things in that Murphy Brown speech." Quayle's May 19, 1992 oration declared that "It doesn't help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown -- a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman -- mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another 'lifestyle choice'." The attack on single mothers and bearing children out-of-wedlock seems to have resonated with a broad range of social and religious elements, from the Promise Keepers movement to right wing fundamentalists, baby-boomers and even the spirit espoused in the Million Man March. * This past week, Dole cashed-in on the call by religious groups such as the Christian Coalition to "privatize charity" and turn social welfare programs over to churches, when he proposed changes in tax laws. During what news media termed a "values speech" before the Catholic Press Association, Dole called for new rules which would allow individuals to claim a new $500 tax credit for donations to private and religious charities. He said: "It would present Americans with a stark choice. Give your money...to the Department of Health and Human Services or to Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity..." ************************ ANOTHER SUPRISE APPEARANCE BY SALMAN RUSHDIE Although controversial novelist Salman Rushdie still lives under a "fatwa" or order of death by Islamic bullies in Iran and elsewhere, that hasn't stopped him from making surprise public appearances and continuing to speak out against religious hooliganism. In a recent un-announced talk to graduates at Bard College in New York, he called on the young people to "defy their gods." He said that the graduates would soon discover themselves up against "big and little gods, corporate and incorporeal gods, all of them demanding to be worshiped and obeyed." Rushdie added: "Defy them." In 1989, Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses" brough condemnation from Islamic authorities in Tehran, as well as from other religious leaders throughout the world. He was forced into hiding, and a reward (believed to be as high as $6 million) was put on his life by Ayatollah Khomeni. Even so, Rushdie has made surprise appearances in bookstores, meetings, and even on television, and published more novels and short stories, including "The Moor's Last Sigh." Despite appeals on his behalf by civil liberties and human rights groups, the government and religious authorities in Tehran continue to hunt the author, considering him to be an enemy of Islam. ***************** MEANWHILE, BACK IN TEHRAN... Islamic militants kept up pressure against any possible reform movements in that nation during a demonstration Saturday. Some 4,000 Muslim activists -- described as men in black shirts, and women clad in the black chador or veiled-garment -- held a rally officially named "Defense of the Islamic Revolution." It was all part of a bigger event known as the "Week for Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Vice," which encouraged Iranian citizens to follow Islamic proscriptions on personal conduct and dress. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who last week denounced women riding bicycles or wearing "immodest" clothing, called for support of the fundamentalist Hizbollah movement, saying that the group's members are "ready to die for the leader in the front line of fighting foreign culture." Saturday's rally may have been in part a response to grumblings within the Iranian Parliament over the excesses of the Hizbollah, or Party of God. Last week parliamentarian Ali Mohammad Gharibian criticized "illegal acts" such as attacks on movie theaters supposedly showing "un-Islamic" films. Jannati asked the crowd of supporters "Who else but Hizbollah will defend us in case of trouble, unrest or war at our borders? Why is Hizbollah not appreciated? If there were no Hizbollah the murmurs of compromise with the U.S. and Israel would become clearer." ******** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Does "god" reward his own? For believers, anyway, one religious promoter is doing pretty well, according to the Sunday London Time's ranking of the wealthiest people in Britain. Sir John Templeton, the 83-year old founder of the Templeton Religious Prize, ranks 40 in the top 500 well-to-do, with assets of about 320 million pounds, or a bit over $500 milliion by our count. He'll be giving away about $16 million this year, "mainly to religious and spiritual causes", including the world's richest prize which bears his name. The most recent winner of the $1 million-plus Templeton Religion award is Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. So, remember these figures the next time you get a fund-appeal from American Atheists! ************ Significant in this week's Israeli elections -- a whole new generation of young people who have matured since the establishment of the Israeli state, and may have new, secular ideas about the world. According to USDA Today, the new Israelis are "more materialistic" and less religious than their parents; they may be more focused on economic development than religious ideology, especially considering the booming Israeli economy which is up 23% since 1992. The prospect of economic abundance may appeal to both young Israelis and youth Palestinians, and could -- in the long run -- cement a peace accord against the corrosive effects of racial and religious differences. *** Critics of religion have often pointed to the establishment of ornate churches, temples and other venues of "worship" amidst squallor, poverty and economic blight. Those religious monoliths have served important organizational and psychological functions, though, impressing believers with their own cosmic insignificance and the "Oh! So Great!" grandeur of the various gods being worshipped. Huge edifices, raised altars, elaborate costumes -- all are important elements in the religious game. So, don't be surprised to learn that in in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, the Roman Catholic church has opened its first church in the traditionally Buddhist country, a $1 million building staffed with six priests and monks. That's quite a chunk of cash, considering that there are only about 2,500 Christians in the whole country, and not all of them are Catholic. Still, it's a beachhead for the Vatican which had to import the priests from Belgium and the Philippines, and was holding services in a rented hall that once was occupied by Soviet army troops. We just can't decide whether this is an improvement. ************* Last week, AANEWS carried several reports about the situation in India, where Hindu Nationalists have taken over after years of rule by the somewhat secular and (unfortunately) corrupt Congress Party. Now the good news -- the regime of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seems to be headed for defeat in Parliament later this week, despite its charade of dropping parts of its election manifesto that alienated Muslims and other elements. According to reports, the Congress Party and 13 other political parties who control two-thirds of Parliament will be giving a "no confidence" vote to the Hindu Nationalist regime -- which makes the BHP the shortest-lived government in the country's history. We'll have an in-depth report for readers in tomorrow's dispatch. ********** The Hindu Nationalist government in India did get into trouble last week with new legislation protecting the millions of well-fed "sacred cows" which roam the streets, a vestige of religious superstition. Even my vegetarian friends admit that the situation is a bit ludicrous. But this doesn't top what's going on in the Indian state of Karnataka, where a Hindu temple appears to boast as one of its deities the True King -- to some, anyway -- none other than Elvis Presley. According to India Today magazine, a portrait of the hip-grinding rocker is displayed along with other religious icons and "the faithful...come to worship Elvis just like the other deities." The temple is maintained by a man who last year published a booklet under Presley's name titled "Why my daugfhter married Michael Jackson." Now, there's one Cosmic Mystery we'd really like to figure out! ************ EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY (?) Interested in good pay? A company car with expense account? 401-K retirement plan with perks, AND dental? That's nice to know, but so are we. Unfortunately, we can't offer any of the above -- but aanews DOES have openings for a those who would like to help in keeping us posted on what's going on in their state and neighborhood community. We're hungry for information about Atheist and state-church separation issues. Is organized prayer being recited in your local public schools? Are elected officials using their position to proselytize on behalf of religion? Have Jesus, aliens, or Elvis appeared at the local diner? If so, we would like to know about it. It helps to have a fax machine, but you can still be one of our un-official correspondents using just your computer and e-mail. Interested? Let us know: just send us some mail via the "reply" function, and we will contact you. ************* 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 American Atheists, send mail to: info@atheists.org, and include your name and mailing address. Additional information on this list may be obtained by sending e-mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org. Put "info aanews" in the message body. You may post, forward, 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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