Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 17, 1996 nn nn AA

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Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 17, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn # 68 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/17/96 In This Edition... * Atheists Warn Clinton on Church Arson Loans * This "Lord's Prayer" is Warm, Fuzzy and Temptation-Free! * Saudi Bigot Masquerades as "Dissident" * TheistWatch: Going Topless to Pack Churches! * What's Happening in Your Community? Let Us Know! * About This List... CLINTON DUCKING FIRST AMENDMENT TO AID BURNED CHURCHES? Arson Probe Continues ~~ Need a Motive? Let Satan Help... "Buried news" about a proposed $10,000,000 loan guantee program to help rebuild churches damaged from arson was back in the spotlight today, thanks in part from efforts by American Atheists. Portions of an AA press release were carried in Monday's edition of USA TODAY: "Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, said Clinton is promoting a religious agenda by proposing a taxpayer-funded program to aid the burned churches. 'As wrong as any arsons may be, the Constitution specifically enjoins the government from aiding or subsidizing religion,' she said." USA TODAY then added that President Clinton would seek approval of the special loan package, but noted that "To satisfy concerns about the separation of church and state, the money might be made available to other community institutions damaged by arson or terrorism." Meanwhile, the church arsons continue to be a field day for religious and political interests... * The Christian Coalition is still proceeding with plans for a meeting tomorrow in Atlanta with representatives of various religious groups, including ministers from black churches. But remarks made by Coalition Director Ralph Reed are not playing well throughoutall of the religious community. On Sunday, during an appearance on the NBC program "Meet The Press," Reed declared that white evangelicals should now be awash with guilt and seek "repentance and reconciliation" for neglecting the cause of black civil rights for so long. He added: "There was a time in our nation's history when the white evangelical church was not only on the sidelines, but on the wrong side of the most central struggle for social justice in this century." News reports linked Reed's remarks to a decision last year by the powerful Southern Baptist Convention to finally renounce its traditional support of slavery, and ask "forgiveness." Reed noted that "There are white evangelicals in the South who justified Jim Crow and segregation and quote scripture to do it. But when a community seeks repentance and reconciliation for doing that, I think all people of faith ought to welcome that and not turn it away." There is skepticism, however, of the "olive branch" that the Christian Coalition seems to be holding out to the black churches. Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said that 1.7 million member Christian Coalition is guilty of "contributing to the hateful climate behind the burning of 34 black churches over the past 18 months." (Charlotte Observer). Reed called the comments "irresponsible." Ronald Waters, chairman of the political science department at Howard University, told reporters that "The reason why blacks feel this olive branch is duplicitous is this organization has spent most of its time denying the legitimate interests blacks have." He added that "You have to think they (Christian Coalition) are doing this for some political motive." It is still not known how many representatives of black church groups will show up in Atlanta for tomorrow's 9:30 a.m. meeting, although Lowery now reportedly says that he will attend the meeting with Reed. * Early this morning, fire damaged the offices of a church in suburban Atlanta, Ga. According to CNN, "The fire in the former sanctuary of the Pine Lake Baptist Church in Stone Mountain did not touch the main church building and new santuary. Authorities said they don't know whether the fire was caused by arson or is related to a rash of more than 30 fires at Southern churches with predominantly black congregations over the last 18 months." * A suspect in the Enid, Oklahoma arson is to appear in court today. The mother of suspect Christopher Harper says that her son is "mentally handicapped and was fascinated by fire as a child," according to CNN. * CC Director Reed told a press gathering yesterday that the arsons show that "religion is under attack in the United States." * Reports in the foreign media are giving substantially more background on the arson investigation; much of the material does not appear to be showing up in the U.S. press or televised reports. The Electronic Telegraphy (Great Britain) reports that the FBI "has found no evidcence of a 'national conspiracy'," in connection with the church fires, and notes that eight out of 23 church arson cases in the last three years have been solved. In addition, there is evidence that white racist Skinhead groups may be involved in some of the church fires. Over the past several years, Skinhead organizations have established ties with the Christian Identity movement and more traditional groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. * In North Carolina, Governor Jim Hunt is forming a "Governor's Task Force on Racial or Religious Violence and Intimidation" to be headed by the state's Attorney General. Meanwhile, at least one of the arson cases is taking a bizarre twist, with concerns of satanic cult activity involving teenagers. After giving extensive coverage to religious activities over the weekend -- including a lavish spread on the evangelical group Promise Keepers -- the Charlotte Observer ran articles about satanism and teen devil worship, and the involvement of the 13-year old girl believed link a church arson in the area. Police had earlier characterized the teen as "very troubled," adding that racial bias did not appear to be a motivation. Authorities have purportedly pursued "connections" to anti-church or satanic beliefs, according to the Observer. One story in today's edition quoted experts in the law enforcement and academic fields who say that "Teen satanists are mostly just dabbling." The paper also noted that "Schoolmates of the girl charged in the fire say she often dressed in all-black, had a pale white face and wore her hair long, straight and dyed jet black. They said she was a loner and didn't appear to have close friends." Sources quoted in the article, including a professor of religion from Duke University, said that satanic faddism was "a form of rebellion" and was "on the decline." Even so, the paper also included "Warning Signals" for parents that their kids may be involved in satanism, including "a change in personality; radical mood shifts; an obsession with death and dying." The paper admitted that so-called "satanic lyrics" ostensibly spouted by heavy-metal bands like King Diamond and White Zombie were "probably only for shock effect" and "pretty oblique." ************************ LORD'S PRAYER BATTLE ~~ MORE ''WARM AND FUZZY'' RELIGION Consider this a follow-up to yesterday's story of how religious publishers were busy re-writing the violence, profantiy, blood-letting and other gore out of the biblein an effort to render religion more palatable for children. In England, a battle is underway to change the wording of "The Lord's Prayer" and drop the word "temptation." Mainstream religious groups, including the state-sanctioned Church of England, want to substitute the phrase "Save us from the time of trial." That re-write has gained support from Roman Catholic bishops in England and Wales and some "nonconformist churches," according to The Times of London. The proposal isn't getting a warm reception from many Islanders, though, including Members of Parliament who last night vowed to fight any alteration of the wording in the prayer. One MP declared that "This is the prayer of Our Lord Himself and in my view it should not be violated by trendies or busybodies or anybody else. The Lord's Prayer has stood for 2,000 years." The Church of England attempted to remove the "temptation" reference during the 1970's when church liturgy was revised; a rebellion by traditionalists, though, thwarted the effort. According to The Times, the "Prayer and Millennium Group, part of the ecumenical group Churches Together in England, believes the millennium is an ideal opportunity to 'encourage the teaching of a modern version'." While Catholic and Anglican officials agree on the revision, there are still obstacles to the re-unification of the two cults which have been separated for centuries. Supporters of the Movement for the Ordination of Women which seeks to admit females into the priesthood, announced over the weekend that they are beginning another campaign to break the males-only monopoly in the church. The Times noted that "The consecration of women as bishops would put an end to hopes of unity with the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches." ************** MUSLIM SAUDI "DISSIDENT'' CALLS FOR JIHAD Authorities in Britain are concerned over the recent activities of Muhammad al-Massari, a political dissident who says he's trying to end "political oppression" in Saudi Arabia. Two months ago, Masari won a court fight to stay in the country following government efforts to deport him to the Caribbean after he denounced the royal Saudi family as corrupt. But instead of being a liberator and advocate of human rights, Massari is now attracting publicity for his hate-filled rants against Jews and calls for Jihad or "holy war." Critics say that the Muslim leader is masquerading behind his image of political dissidence to promote a fundamentalist religious agenda. According to The Times of London, Masari's newsletter (ironically called AlHuquq or "Rights") calls for war against Jews. One edition declared: "Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him salvation, said, 'Not an hour shall pass before the Muslims will fight against the Jews and kill them." The newsletter masthead says that it is published in the "Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful." Masari also insists that "The establishment of Israel is a violation of Islamic law. They (Jews) must be fought until they are exterminated." Unfortunately, the remarks have set off a new round of debate on the status of Britain notorious Blasphemy Laws, and other legislation that threatens to censure unpopular speech in the interest of "public order." The Times notes that Masari "may be prosecuted under public order laws for urging his fanatic supporters to 'annihilate' Israel. And the Board of Deputies of British Jews, rightfully condemning Masari's call for Jihad, added that those comments could be a breach of law. The Rushdie Connection: Serious Problem, Worst "Solution" Provocative and even irreligious speech has become a touchy issue in Great Britain, especially since the 1989 controversy over author Salman Rushdie. When his controversial book "The Satanic Verses" was condemned by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeni, Muslims in Britain demanded that the book be censored, saying that the popular novelist had "insulted" the Islamic faith. Muslims, supported by many Christian and even Jewish groups, demanded to be included under that country's Blasphemy Laws, which provide stiff penalties for insulting the "person" of Jesus Christ, or the official Anglican Church. Civil libertarians worried that an extension of the Blasphemy laws, or the use of other strictures on behalf of "public order" constituted a chilling effect upon freedom of speech. Groups such as the Muslim Parliament, led by Mohammad Ghayaussudin (AANEWS # 64, June 13, 1996) have been agitating for protection under the Blasphemy Act and other official statutes which might outlaw statements that "insult" or "undermine" religious belief. Statements made by religious groups -- even against each other -- "could be a breach in the incitement to hatred provisions of the Public Order Act of 1986," according to Chris Myant of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality. Unfortunately, noble goals like racial equality -- and the more questionable objective of "protecting" ethnic, sexual or religious groups from uncomfortable or insulting remarks -- may end up working to everyone's disadvantage, as civil liberteries and free speech are underminded. Worse yet for Atheists would be laws which prohibit "insulting" the religious superstition of other individuals or institutions. That's a very real prospect as countries like Britain which have boisterous and diverse religious groups, sacrifice freedom in the name of "public order." ****************** THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS Germany is being showcased to the world as a new "Mecca" of religious tourism. AANEWS has told readers how even Roman Catholic Church promoters are dragging out such humbug religious relics as the Holy Coat of Trier (supposedly the garment worn by J.C.) and rotting pieces of carcass from dead "saints," all to cash in on the upcoming festivities and millennium madness. The Lutherans are promoting the country as the home of Martin Luther, the great "reformer." Even so, keep in mind that in Germany, religion basically feasts at the public trough. Churches receive an automatic 9% of the income tax bill paid annually by registered believers. But even with this subsidy, the churches are now in trouble. Last year, more than 400,000 Germans abandoned organized religion, and the figure is expected to be greater this year. That's putting a real strain on revenues for both Catholic and Lutheran cults, which claim some 55 million believers in the country. But sometimes necessity is the Mother of Church Invention -- and innovation. The churches are reportedly so desperate that some services now include dinners and even rock 'n roll-style "rave" parties for the more youthful. According to the Sunday Times of London, "It is the priests who are suffering the most as they wrack their brains to find ways of filling their coffers and aisles." One Berlin church rents its space to a theater company which performed "Christ With a Gas Mask", described as "an avant-garde play featuring a topless actress." A Father Helmut Kornemann told the paper that "During mass there may be 30 people attending. At least this way we may succeed in filling the church for once." Alas, church officials now realize that like the rest of society, they must work for a living. Father Volker Meiling of the Church of Christ in Cologne lamented "We have no alternative but to turn to busines," justifying his decision to turn part of the church building into a restaurant. Apparently the idea is flying with locals, and a newspaper has suggested that the priest includes items like "Beef Hallelujah" and a "Credo Cocktail" on the menu. ************** What's Happening in Your Area? Is there news taking place in your community or state that AANEWS readers should know about? We are inviting interested readers to become unofficial AANEWS Correspondents; these are people who e-mail or fax us information about developments in their region having to do with Atheism, religious foolery, and the important fight for state-church separation. If you would like to help out, just contact us at: *** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from 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 mailing address. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to AANEWS and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe instructions, send e-mail to:, and put "info aanews" in the message body -- minus the quotation marks, please! Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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