Date: Wed, 19 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 19, 1996 nn nn AA
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 19, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 71 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/19/96
In This Edition...
* Gov't, Religious Leaders Say Fires Are "Attack on Christianity"
* Will Prayer Help?
* Our Thoughts AFTER the National Day of Prayer! Earthquakes, more....
* TheistWatch: "Teen Pregnancy Rates Down After 25," More Wisdom...
* About This List...
CHURCH ARSONS NOW DEPICTED AS ''ATTACK ON CHRISTIANITY''
Black Religious Leaders Wary of Christian Coalition - "Trojan Horse"
The case of alleged arsons against black -- and now white -- churches has
taken another round of new twists, as investigators continue to probe fires
at two predominantly black congregations which occurred on Monday night.
* A meeting in Atlanta yesterday between the religious-right Christian
Coalition and representatives of other groups, many of them representing
black organizations, had mixed results. Director Ralph Reed declared: "We
come with broken hearts, a repentant spirit and ready hands to fight this
senseless violence," and said that the alleged arsons are reminiscent of a
time when "people took the cross of Christ and twisted it into the crooked
swastika of bigotry." He added that the Coalition would contact the 100,000
churches on its mailing list in an effort to raise $1,000,000 during a
special July 14 collection drive. (That amounts to $10 from each
congregation.) The $25,000 reward originally offered by the Coalition for
information on the church arsons has reportedly been raised to $100,000.
Some of the mostly-black participants reacted with enthusiasm. The New
York Times quoted Rev. David Upton of the Inner City Church in Knoxville:
"What I'm hearing now is something I want to hear."
"But some civil rights leaders voiced skepticism," declared the Times,
"saying the Christian Coalition had inflamed the racial tensions that they
blame for the epidemic of church burnings." A director of the NAACP wanred:
"We have to be wary of any Trojan horse when the issue is used to get into
our community to achieve other goals that may not be in our best interests."
* Evidence supporting a nationwide or regional "church arson conspiracy"
continues to elude investigators. Yesterday, the fire at the Hills Chapel
Missionary Baptist Church in North Carolina was ruled accidental, due to an
electrical problem in the fluorescent lighting. Meanwhile, a pastor at a
mostly-white church in Mississippi discovered "an incindiary device" while
mowing the lawn of the church. The Times noted that investigators "were not
prepared to say that the discovery of the device...(was) linked" to other
nearby suspected arsons.
* A fire early this morning at a small black church in Berlin, Maryland
was apparently caused by a worn electrical socket, according to
* Rabbis in New York have begun a fund-raising drive to raise money for
burnt churches, and according to CNN "likened the fires to Nazi Germany's
Kristallnacht attack on synagogues in 1938."
* The House of Representatives unanimously enacted legislation designed to
broaden federal authority to prosecute crimes against religious property.
* James Cavanaugh, a regional agent in charge for the federal Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said that investigators have been instructed to
be "sensitive" when conducting their probe. According to the Times, this is
in response to complaints by some religious leaders that invesigators "were
treating them like criminals rather than victims."
"But he said this did not mean that they were going to ignore or avoid
questions about church finances or internecine disputes that could lead
someone close to the church to set a fire."
The direction of the investigations could be behind a strange demand from
the Christian Coalition that originated in yesterdays summit. The Coalition
now wants the BATF taken off the arson probes.
* President Clinton's meeting with governors, religious leaders and
Attorneys General from states where church arsons have occurred is scheduled
for later this afternoon. It is expected that one result will be a call for
some kind of federal aid to help rebuild churches.
* Robert George of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights told media today
that the arsons are "an attack on Christianity." Ralph Reed again declared
that the fires showed that "religion is under attack in America, including
houses of worship for Christians, Muslims and Jews."
More Facts, Less Fright
According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR), only about 16% of arson
cases are "cleared" nationwide. And many of the church fires involve older
buildings in rural or isolated areas; vandalism usually occurs at night while
the facilities are empty.
According to "Underwriting Update: The Price of Worship" by William Rodda
(Best's Review, Property/Casualty Insurance Edition) 87, June,k 1986, "In the
years 1980 to 83, approximately 1700 fires occur (sic) in church santuaries
and another 3100 fire occur in in other church properties (including halls,
The UCR report for this same time gave a total of 50,000 structures
damaged by arson, almost half of which were "Single-occupancy residential."
These figures generally agree with later statistics which have been
reported in recent editions of AANEWS. Indeed, CNN quoted an insurance
industry actuarial analyst who said that reports of arsons this year for both
black and white congregations was "about average" and "on track."
WILL ''DAY OF PRAYER'' ABOUT CHURCH FIRES REALLY HELP?
Our Colorado correspondent, Margie Wait, has some interesting and even
humorous thoughts about these "church arsons." Religious and political
leaders are calling for more investigators, rebuilding funds, and of course
prayer as a way of mobilizing the nation on behalf of religion. Writes Ms.
"The news reports that here in Colorado church officials are calling for a
day of prayer in the wake of church arsons in the South. Clinton called for
a day of prayer last Sunday for the churches destroyed by fires.
" Now, this doesn't make any sense. Did the government not just have a
National Day of Prayer last month? What happened? Didn't the "lord" hear
their prayers? Doesn't this prove that prayer doesn't work? If they prayed
last month, and the arsons were taking place then, why must they now offer
prayers for this problem again? I think they should consider stopping the
prayer-thing for a while; maybe it would do more good!"
OUR THOUGHTS -- POST-"NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER"
After all of the prayer marches, declarations and exhortations of an
unconstitutional nature from local mayors, state representatives, U.S.
Senators and Congressmen and even the President of the United States,
consider what has happened SINCE the National Day of Prayer (May 2, 1996):
* There has been ruin and devastation thanks to a drought in the west.
* Bankruptcies may hit a record 1,000,000 filings this year.
* A volcano is erupting in New Zealand.
* Churches have burned to the ground, the result of everything from
apparent racial hatred (often rationalized by religious belief!) to bad
* The Clintons are still plagued by Whitewater and an FBI file scandal.
* Christian Coalition favorite Bob Dole lags in polls
*Alas, the Sonics lost.
All this, in spite of all of the prayers.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
If you thought that Montana was the only state plagued by Freemen-style
theopolitical lunacy, you should check out what's happening in California.
There, a "Sovereignty" movement which wraps itself in peculiar
interpretations of constitutional law and biblical scripture is busy clogging
the legal system. Nine members of one outfit called the Juris Christian
Assembly are awaiting charges that they assaulted a local Recorder in her
garage in 1994.
But using the term "anti-government" to describe this rag-tag collection
of cranks may be doing a real disservice to protesters, human rights
activists, labor organizers and freethinkers who for years challenged
arbitrary governmental and ecclesiastical authority in order to advance human
society -- not bilk it. A shocking number of the "Sovereignty" folks seem to
have been involved in Freemen-style check cashing schemes and the issuing of
phoney financial instruments. Hey, these folks should be working on Wall
Street, or maybe in Congress!
And over in Colorado, there's a whole family of "Sovereignty" types, the
Tebedo family. Meet Mary Ann, Linda and Keven Tebedo. Kevin used to be
executive director of Colorado for Family Values, and Mary Ann is a
full-fleged state senator running for re-election. Colorado-watchers
remember her somewhat fondly as the lady who in 1993 accused black teens of
being "sexually promiscuous," and last year made the remarkably stupid remark
that "teenage pregnancy rates drop off dramatically after 25," according to
the Denver Post.
"That faux pas eventually made its way to the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno,"
notes the paper.
On second thought, best stay away from Wall Street.
Money talks, even if it does come from a collection plates. Yesterday, we
again reported on the collission between LA's Cardinal Richard Mahoney and
local preservationists over the possible demolition of St. Vibiana's
cathedral. Mahoney wants to put up a new "house of worship" which could cost
up to $50,000,000. HE apparently doesn't need Ralph Reed's help on this
project, to be sure!
Yesterday, after what the LA Times described as "an emotional hearing in
which parishioners wept and many speakers invoked God's will," the City
Council voted 13-1 to remove the old cathedral from the city's list of
historic monuments. City Councilman Richard Alatorre said that only a bigger,
earthquake-proof cathedral would be safe (which says something about the
intentions of the Allmighty if He is indeed punishing us with earthquakes.)
We could care less whether the old building stays or succumbs to the
wrecking ball, but the $50,000,000 religious "theme park" Mahoney wants to
build says something about the sheer financial power of organized religion in
America. And the way the City Council promptly fell into line following
Mahoney's threat to take his new cathedral-building project elsewhere -- even
out of Los Angeles -- says something about Ma' Church's political clout as
Our London Correspondent (yes, we now have one!) sends us more grisly
quotes from the newsletter Al-Huquq (mistakenly titled "Rights") published by
Mohammed al-Masair, the Islamic fundamentalist and phoney "dissident" we
profiled in Monday's AANEWS.
"The Jews are a cowardly people and not men of war. It would not be
difficult for the Moslems to get the better of them."
"Islam imposes a duty on the Islamic nation to fight the Jews. It is a
basic duty of the Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, and Lebanese
to eliminate the Jews because the Jews have occupied their lands."
Our correspondent notes that al-Masairi's "complaint against the medieval
rulers of Aaudi Arabia is that they are not intolerant enough. He rails
against them for not being sincere or extreme enought in their repression and
Agreed. And statements like this from fundamentalists on all sides of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict do not result in a peaceful, humane resolution.
Perhaps Mohammed al-Massari needs to enter an "ultimate fighting" contest
with a representative of the Shas or United Torah Movement! At the least, he
should read up on some recent military history. In the meantime, enlightened
secularism and tolerance remain the necessary preconditions for peace in the
British society seems to be falling victim to the same constipated fears
and misgivings that religion is so successfully promoting here in the United
States. According to The Times of London, "The Archbishop of Canterbury is
so concerned about declining public morality that he is to initiate an
unprecedented full-day debate on it next month."
Not surprisingly, as in the United States the "morality debate" is linked
to political grandstanding. The Times notes that Archbishop George Cary "is
determined to raise his profile," especially since major politicians like
Prime Minister John Major and Tony Blair both "claim the moral high ground
for their parties."
Sound familiar, gentle readers? Do you recognize the
"I-am-holier-than-thou" shouting match between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole?
And we say "hoorah!" for one unidentified politico in Britain who told The
Times: "This will just be one, boring sermon from the Archbishop but there is
nothing we can do to stop him if he wants to navel-gaze. Then we will get
all the right-wing peers ranting about bringing back hanging and sex
education in schools. It will be a self-indulgent farce. Morality should be
left to individuals' consciences."
The Times adds that other politicians welcome the forthcoming "culture
war" style debate. "They want to bring up pornography on television, the
lottery and the dangers of violent video films."
Meanwhile, concerns about the so-called "new vulgarity" in Britain are
catching on. A columnist in today's edition of The Times lamented the
existence of everything from sprippagrams to provocative brassier ads.
Nigella Lawson did stop short of calling for government censorship, though,
and added that if a social climate free of sexual taboo and repression, "the
age of the double entendre would be dead." Maybe so, but tell that
About This List...
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank