Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 1, 1996 nn nn AANE
Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 1, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#54 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/1/96
(Part Two of Two)
VOUCHER BILL ENACTED IN CALIFORNIA
The California Assembly yesterday approved a controversial school voucher
program by a 41-35 margin following prolonged and at times heated debate.
The bill (AB3180) would make available government "opportunity
scholarships" for students, but only those enrolled at schools performing in
the bottom 5% of the state based on test scores. The voucher could then be
used for tuition elsewhere, including private religious schools. The measure
was pushed by Governor Pete Wilson, who said that as many as 250,000 students
could be eligible.
Critics charged that the bill was unconstitutional and undermined the
cash-strapped public school system. Senate Leader Bill lockyer told the L.A.
Times that "We're against using public funds for private education." That
sentiment was echoed by Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni who said "It's about
vouchers and public dollars going to private schools, religious schools."
The bill, also known as the Pringle measure after Assembly Speaker Curt
Pringle, was similar to a voucher measure which voters rejected in 1993.
During heated debate, Pringle defended the measure, though, and at one point
cited parents who are sending their children to the McNair Christian Academy
"because the public schools have failed."
AND MORE STATE-CHURCH SEPARATION PROBLEMS...
The Assembly also enacted a bill which is sure to result in litigation and
a good deal of religious opposition. Introduced the Assemblywoman Valerie
Brown, it requires members of the clergy to report "suspected" cases of child
molestation under penalty of criminal law. According to the Times, "The
Bill...does not apply to confidentiality of the confessional." The measure
was prompted by the case of a Catholic priest accused of molesting children
over a period of some 23 years.
Despite the "confessional exemption," this measure is sure to generate
considerable controversy. Religious groups, including the Roman Catholic
Church, have displayed a pattern of "handling" pedophile, sex-abuse cases
internally. Several Archdiocese, including those in Chicago and New York,
have been recent targets of litigation and charges that ecclesiastical
officials engaged in a pattern of buy-off and cover-up. The California law,
which passed by a 58-9 margin, is sure to generate more public focus on this
Ever notice how easy it is for a distinctly non-religious minority to get
subsumed and ignored by their religious counterparts? Take Hillary Clinton's
schmooze-fest last week with Muslim officials in LaLaLand. The First Lady
noted that "Islam is the fastest-growing religion in America," and added
"That is why an understanding of Islam is long overdue."
Or take the recent flap about the ordination of gays into the ranks of the
Episcopal Church. Long considered a high-brow, "mainstream" sects, the
Episcopalians number about 2.7 million people. That's way ahead of the
500,000 Muslims in the country, although Nation of Islam/UFO buff Louis
Farrakhan likes to put the figure at 40 million (which testifies to HIS grasp
And look at the attention that gays -- rightfully -- seem to generate in
I'll tell you about another minority, though, which probably is equal to
the number of gays in the country and far exceeds the numbers found in the
ranks of Muslims, Episcopalians, Mormons, Scientologists, Methodists and
others. Atheists. That's right -- Atheists. Surveys indicate that around
10% of the population consider themselves to be Atheists, or something either
very close to that position, or label themselves with a term suggesting that
they are POTENTIAL Atheists -- "rationalists," "freethinkers," "religious
Take the controversy over school prayer in Florida. Thursday's edition
of USA TODAY had a breakdown on religious belief based on the book "One
Nation Under God" by Barry Kosmin and Seymour Lachman. In response to the
question 'What is your religion?', 8.2% identified themselves as "None or
agnostic." Leading the statistical pack in Florida were Roman Catholics at
23.2% and Baptists at 22.2%. Other groups included "Christian" at 4.1%,
Jewish at 3.6% and Lutheran at 3.3%.
There were some odd things, though, about this numerical recipe being
served up for public consumption.
* Percentages of the "Top nine" responses came to 85.7% of the Florida
population, and 86% of the national profile.
* Percentages for the Florida groups were all slightly different from
those on the national profile. For instance, 3.6% of Florida respondents
identified themselves as Presbyterians, while 2.8% of those polled nationally
did so. Nothing unusual here, of course; one would expect state-by-state
variations. But the 8.2% figure for "None or agnostic" in Florida matched the
8.2% national figure as well -- the only group which matched in both
What to make of this? Identification with religious groups is still very
much a "respectable" thing to do in American society; I submit that it
requires more fortitude to identify one's self as non-religious than it is to
"go along" and say you are a Catholic, or Protestant, or Jew. Non-believers
are still known to lurk behind these religious labels; we hear from these
"lost Atheists" constantly, as their letters flow into our American Atheist
offices. They are timid and reticent about "coming out of the closet."
More Atheists and religious skeptics may also be lurking in that big 15%
category not included by the top nine slots. They could well be describing
themselves as just about anything other than Atheist.
So, no matter how you divide the belief/non-belief pie, one is confronted
with the fact that Atheists and "close-to-Atheists" number in the millions,
even tens-of-millions. We are far larger than the membership of mosques,
temples, and many denominational churches. Isn't it about time for Hillary
to recognize US and our potential role as moral, caring and ethical
participants in American society?
And shouldn't officials like Governor Chiles consider US along with the
"minority religions" whose sensibilities are so often conjured during school
prayer debates? Should everyone from elected office holders to school
administrators (who themselves may be Atheists) acknowledge the presense of
Atheist children and adults?
Now, there's a cause we can cheer for!
Gimme an "A"!...
It is unfortunate to see Mr. Clinton and so many self-proclaimed
"liberals" bootlicking at the issues altar of religious fundamentalism. The
President is surely trying to steal the "values" thunder of religious outfits
like the Christian Coalition, and appear as more of a solid-statesman, family
kind-of-guy, disciplinarian, all the while reminding us that, he too
believes in God Almighty.
Trouble is that, in the process of such political whoredom, civil
Consider the latest stunt, namely, a call for teen curfews. Clinton
insists that curfew laws (which may just happen to inconveniently violate a
little document known as the U.S. Constitution) are simply "just like the
old-fashioned rules most of us had when we were kids." Last week, before a
gathering of black clergy, the President added "when the lights come on, be
And curfews have suddenly become the rage for everyone from police
departments to preachers, from school officials to politicians thirsty for a
"family values" issue. Like so many other public stunts, though, curfews are
based upon questionable, often faulty premises.
Nearly three-quarters of cities with populations over 100,000 have curfew
laws which provide for a range of check-in times and penalties. Some work;
others don't. And not surprisingly, the odds of success are pretty much a
flip of the coin. Despite their popularity as a "hot topic," curfew
regulations don't always work, or can't be enforced.
They may not reduce teen crime, either, which according to statistics
gathered by the FBI, mostly takes place between 4p.m. and 6 p.m. Some cities
like Dallas report decreases in juvenile crime, which is often attributed to
curfew laws; but cities without curfews often report similar trends, in part
because certain types of crime are dropping nationally, and for a
multiplicity of possible reasons.
Curfews are just another example of how Mr. Clinton is hopping on a
"culture wars" bandwagon formerly the exclusive property of religious
Republican types. His stance on the V-Chip, the Communications Decency Act,
the "Sanctity of Marriage Act" are testament to this craven ideological
Too bad, because this is one bandwagon definitely out of control.
It may be enough to drive a sane person to church, or perhaps even a
According to a release today from Scripps-Howard News Service, certain
"hard line" types inside of Alcoholics Anonymous are claiming that the
group's success rate is slipping because the movement has lost "spiritual
moorings." According to Rev. Paul Everett, "There are a lot of people for
whom the 12-step program is not working because they are not in touch with
the power that is going to make the difference."
The S-H release adds that "While the 12 steps have never been explicitly
Christian, they are based on biblical premises." Indeed. There is guilt,
"soul-searching," "repentance" and "sin." "In fact," says today's story,
"the first premise of the 12 steps is the very Christian notion that human
nature is so flawed that people cannot overcome their worst problems without
help from a higher power."
Last week, however, there were stories of more breakthroughs in finding
possible genetic components related to certain forms of addiction, including
alcohol. And even Scripps-Howard noted that "atheists have paid the most
homage to the theological nature" of Alcoholics Anonymous, by establishing
alternative recovery programs which are not based on theism.
But some old-time AA hard-liners forget their own injunctions about being
hyper-judgmental, and now take aim at the "watered down" theological content
of the program. Some are forming overtly "Christian chapters" of the
organization; and Rev. Everett, a long time associate of the original AA
founders, is blaming everything from a "free-flowing mishmash" of New Age pop
psychology to the fact that "the culture no longer assumes that people are
frail beings in need of God's grace."
AND COMING SOON ~~
We've been building this event up for weeks. The American Atheists site
on the world wide web is nearly ready for launch. We are "fine tuning" the
site, which will allow you to browse a number of informative, interesting
pages. And you'll be able to order everything from a membership to any of
our 40 top sellers from American Atheist Press. You'll even be able to "talk
back" to us, or download select issues of American Atheist Magazine, our
Newsletter, and AANEWS.
The site has been long 'a coming, we know. Patience. Good things will
come to those who wait, and then click.
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