Date: Wed, 19 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 19, 1996 nn nn AA

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Date: Wed, 19 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 19, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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 investigators. * 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, classrooms, etc.) 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. Wait: "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 wiring. * 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 well. *************** 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 religious bigotry." 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 middle east. **************** 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 Archbishop Carey. ************ 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 more information about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and put your name and postal mailing address in the message body. You may post, forward or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and the AANEWS. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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