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: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 1, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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 problem. ************ THEISTWATCH SHORT-SHOTS 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 on reality!). And look at the attention that gays -- rightfully -- seem to generate in the media. 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 skeptics." 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. Consider: * 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 categories. 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 liberties suffer. 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 home." 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 two-timing. 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 drink. 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. ********** About This List... 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 information about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and include your name and full mailing address. You may post, forward or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send e-mail to:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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