Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 1, 1996 nn nn AANE

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Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 1, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #53 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/1/96 In This Edition... * State-Church Separation Victory In Florida! * Weekly Roundup On The Culture Wars * Hillary Schmoozes With Muslims * Voucher Scheme In California * TheistWatch: Atheist Percentages & Alcoholics Anonymous Hangovers * Coming To A Screen By Your Computer... * About This List FLORIDA GOVERNOR VETOS CONTROVERSIAL PRAYER BILL Action Is Victory For First Amendment, Separation Lawton Chiles found himself on Friday between a rock and a hard place. Yesterday was the deadline for the retiring Florida Governor to either sign, veto, or allow to pass into law without signature a controversial measure which would have allowed student organized prayer in public schools throughout the state during graduation ceremonies, athletic contests and other events. Governor Chiles vetoed the hotly-debated proposal, linked to a larger education-reform package, and set off a political firestorm which may even have ramifications for President Clinton in the November elections. In his veto message, Chiles stated: "I have reached the conclusion that it is better for us to reverently honor prayer as individuals, in our places of worship, in our homes and in our hearts." The governor added that he "did not believe that the right to petition the divine should be granted or withheld by majority vote." The issue divided the state, and generated a record number of letters, e-mails, phone calls and faxes to public officials, including the governor's office. As of Thursday evening, the tally on incoming messages was 10,222 for the school prayer proposal, and 9,860 against. Florida's giant Christian Coalition chapter, which claims some 180,000 members throughout the state, flooded newspapers and other media venues with appeals. Few observers even as recently as March predicted that Chiles would be in such a position, though, or that the prayer issue would generate such controversy. Supporters have tried for years without success to enact some kind of school prayer, but yesterday's Tampa Tribune credit the legislative progress of the latest proposal to the fact that it was tacked on to a much-needed education reform package. That fact brought support for the measure from the Florida Secretary of Education. As pressure to enact the measure built, though, late last week the governor's legal advisor and close confident, Dexter Douglass, urged Chiles to veto the bill. Douglas called orchestrated school prayer "poor public policy" and an "imposition" of religious values." What's Ahead The school prayer battle in Florida, though, appears far from over. The measure, authored by two democrats (Rep. Randy Mackey and Sen. Charles Williams) could be re-introduced. And since Chiles is retiring from politics, school prayer can easilly become an issue in subsequent political campaigns, including any race for the governor's mansion. Senator Williams told The Tampa Tribune Friday after the veto was announced that "The issue is not over with. It will be back. I'm not sure when or how." Observers also note that the controversy could resurface during the presidential campaign, as Bill Clinton and presumed-GOP nominee Bob Dole battle for votes in Florida. The state has supported Republican presidents and would-be's during the past five elections; the battle there could well reflect the GOP strategy of attacking Clinton on "values" issues like prayer, in lieu of economic questions. An Atheist Perspective Unfortunately, much of the argument against the prayer proposal focused on "religious liberty" and the "rights of minority" religious believers. The local head of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League praised Chiles' veto, calling it "a victory for common sense and the Constitution, for education and religious harmony", ignoring the tens of thousands of students and parents who might have no religious belief whatsoever. Even so, the veto -- and the opposition to the school prayer measure -- still reflect mistrust of schemes for "student led" religious exercises and other rituals in the public square. ****** (Thanks to our Florida AANEWS correspondent for helping with this important story!) *** ABORTION ''MINEFIELD'' AWAITS DOLE AS CHANGES HINTED Political pundits are saying that the abortion question has now become a "minefield" for presumed-GOP Presidential nominee Bob Dole, who desperately is trying to negotiate some middle-ground path on the controversial issue. In developments this week: * During a CBS interview yesterday, Dole suggested that while "There will be a pro-life plank in the platform," some change in the present wording may be made in order to woo pro-choice Republicans. Dole admitted that abortion "is an issue which divides Republicans" and added that "we want to try to talk about issues that bring us together as a party and attract Republicans..." * Remarks like that have been muttered around Washington for the past couple of weeks. On Wednesday, Christian Coalition chairman Ralph Reed again reminded the GOP, and Dole, that the anti-abortion plank must stay, and that any Dole running mate had better be solidly anti-abortion as well. The result could be what the L.A. Times described as "The spectre of a contentious convention debate in San Diego on the plank," in part due to calls from GOP governor's intend on ending party support for the Human Life Amendment. That proposal would, in effect, outlaw all abortion. * On Thursday, Wisconsin Republican Governor Tommy Thompson again said that the Human Life Amendment plank in the party platform should be amended to make it clear that "those who support abortion rights are welcome in the party." Thompson told a press conference that he wanted "the party to be the party of the big tent," a phrase used often by GOP National Chairman Harley Barbour much to the consternation of the Christian Coalition and its allies. Thompson's name has come up as a potential Dole running mate. Related Developments Abortion and related issues were front-burner topics in other stories as well. On Friday, Pope John Paul II demanded that scientists and doctors immediately stop human embryo experimentation, and re-stated the Vatican's position that human life begins at the moment of conception. The pope called upon lawyers and international jurists to recognize the "inalienable rights that 'frozen' embryos have intrinsically acquired from the moment of fertilization." The Pope's message is seen as criticism of dissident American Catholics who support contraception and fetal tissue research, and a continuation of the ideas espoused in his 194-page encyclical of March 1995 which linked abortion and euthanasia as "evils no man could justify." The controversy over President Clinton's decision to veto the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" -- a major objective of the Christian Coalition -- is now spilling over into individual states. In California, a measure which would have outlawed partial-birth abortions except to save the mother's life failed a vote on Thursday in the State Assembly. Republican Assemblyman Rob Margett corralled only 33 of the need 41 yes votes; five GOP solons joined 27 Democrats to vote no. ****************** ''CULTURE WAR'' ISSUES ~~ THE WEEK IN REVIEW * Behind closed doors, Republicans are frustrated at the way President Clinton has coopted the "morals and values" take on issues such as gay marriage, and even brought up questional schemes (which still have high political impact) like teen curfews. Last week, White House spin-doctor George Stephanopoulos gave some Freudian insight into Clinton strategy, in a media-blitz defense of Clinton's support for the "Sanctity of Marriage Act," co-sponsored by none other than Senator Bob Dole. Stephanopoulos told "All-Politics" that "The president doesn't believe in same-sex marriages based on his belief that marriage should be reserved for a union between one man and one woman." Clinton thus undercuts any lurking suspicion of support for gays and manages to take a swipe at the whole Paula Jones scandal, which Republicans may still try to exploit. Paula Jones says that while he was Arkansas Governor, Clinton made "sexual advances" at her, a charge the president and First Lady deny. A tough line on the gay marriage issue is damage control on Clinton's image as a philaderer and skirt-chaser. Stephanpolous also said that "Republicans are looking for another Willie Horton issue in 1996," a reference to the skill of the late Lee Atwater who as an operative for the GOP delivered the White House to George Bush in 1988. * Kultur gurus William Bennett and C. DeLores Tucker were back in the headlines on Thursday, leading the religious charge against rap music, gangsta' rap and other manifestations of the First Amendment. Tucker has a reputation as a community activist and is chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women; but her association with Bennett and his Empower America movement has raised more than a few eyebrows, especially in the black community. On Thursday, the duo demanded that major record labels end their relationship with performers whose songs contain "explicit sexual and violent lyrics." Would this apply to "Onward, Christian Soldiers!"? Singled out for special attention in "Round 2" of the anti-rap war were popular artists like Geto Boys, Bone Thungs-N-Harmony and Tupac Shakur. It's not just black "gansta' rap", though, that Bennet and Tucker are taking on; they are now expanding their reach, and also called for shutting down two popular metal bands -- Cannibal Corpse and Lords of Acid. Record execs and artists displayed jading over the charges, and branded Bennett and Tucker as "political opportunists." Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, noted that all of the "offending" albums cited by Empower America already had the standard advisory notice which so enchanted Tipper Gore a few years back, and asked: "Do these people seriously believe that music is the cause of this country's problems? Dop they think banning these albums would suddenly make all the crime and corruption clear up?" Also hopping on board this latest lyrical cleanliness campaign: Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Joe Lieberman, who described this latest stunt as "the revolt of the revolted." Meanwhile, Tucker has problems on the public relations front; just about every story in the media about this issue now refers to accusations that "she profited from ownership of slum properties in Philadelphia." A suit filed against her by Interscope Records also suggests that she has an economic motive in criticizing select rap music artists. And while Bennet and Tucker were grandstanding for media on Thursday, their press conference attrracted members of Rock the Vote wearing t-shirts declaring "Censorship is Un-American." ****************** FIRST LADY SCHMOOZES WITH MUSLIMS ~ It's OK To Be Religious -- Or Else ? In a little publicized event last week, Hillary Clinton became the only first lady to address American Islamic groups outside of the White House. She called upon the 300 members of a Muslim prayer breakfast to get involved in the nation's political life, and according to the L.A. Times "served notice that Muslims in this country can no longer be ignored." The event was sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Muslim Women's League. Mrs. Clinton told the audience that "The values that lie at the heart of your experience as Muslims -- values of faith, family and community, and responsibility for the less fortunate -- are values that are powerful, and they are ones that you share in common with others of us who also seek to honor and live by our values every day." In the crowd were representatives of Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups. Monsignor Royale Vadakin of the LA archdiocese's office on ecumenical efforts, said that it was "a joy" to see a new generation of Muslims become active. (See our TheistWatch Commentary below for more on this spectacle.) **************** (End of Part One of Two...) 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. See the section "About This List" at the end of Part Two for more information.

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