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 # 69 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/17/96 ~~ A SPECIAL AANEWS BULLETIN! ~~ 4:45 E.T. CLINTON, LEGISLATORS MOVING TO GIVE DIRECT AID TO CHURCHES IN ARSON INVESTIGATION AANEWS has learned that at both the White House and Capitol Hill, plans are now being made to provide direct government (taxpayer) money to rebuild churches which may have been destroyed in a recent wave of alleged arsons.. This afternoon, the office of Senator Edward Kennedy is frantically trying to craft a proposal which, according to sources, would give money outright to the churches thought to be victims of racial or religiously-motivated arson. One plan being investigated involves the use of a special "victims compensation fund" where the churches would not be considered religious organizations, but instead "victims" of "hate crimes." Reportedly, Kennedy's office was given the task of writing this legislation by President Clinton. Clinton has already proposed a special $10,000,000 loan-guarantee fund to help re-build burned churches. The current USA TODAY notes: "To satisy concerns about the separation of church and state, the money might be made available to other community institutions damaged by arson or terrorism." Other efforts involve directing the money through intermediary community groups. We expect to hear more about these dubious proposals as the week goes on; Clinton is holding a meeting of governors, religious leaders and Attorneys General from states which have ostensibly had arson attacks on churches. Serious Constitutional Concerns The First Amendment to the Constitution enjoins government from establishing a religion. Courts have interpreted this Establishment Clause in a number of cases, most importantly the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision and the so-called "three-prong test." Government may engage in no activity which does not have a primarilly secular purpose, may not promote one religion or set of religious beliefs over others, and must avoid "excessive entanglement" between state and church. Mr. Clinton's loan guarantee, or possibly bolder direct-aid schemes by Sen. Kennedy, clearly promote religion and religious organizations. Indeed, the impetus for these schemes comes out of developments which involve religious belief -- a fact supported by the President's constant references to the primacy of religious worship in American life (and a statement which ignores the 10% of Americans who are Atheists, non-believers, agnostics, religious skeptics, or profess no religious beliefs.) Indeed, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition has proclaimed that the alleged church arsons demonstrate that "Religion is under attack." It may be noted that while church arson is an extreme case and thus tempts government involvement in the form of aid, there are other important issues concerning the relationship between state and church in America. They concern school vouchers, grants to religious educational institutions and hospitals, school prayer and other religious ritual in public schools, and other crucial state-church separation questions. Any "emergency aid" to religious groups, even under the ruse of "victim compensation," can only serve to establish a dangerous legal precedent in considering these other more prosaic cases of possible First Amendment violation. ********************* 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 more information about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and include your name and mailing address. You may post, forward or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and AANEWS. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send 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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