Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 23, 1996 (Weekend
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 23, 1996 (Weekend Edition)
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 73 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/23/96 (Weekend Edition)
In This Edition...
* Sorry, Bob, the Abortion Issue Fat Lady is STILL Singing -- In Texas!
* Creationism at Washington Grade School
* Zodiac Killer Toted Bible, Quoted Verse, Attended Church
* Cults in Europe Thriving ~~ Creation, Destruction, Making Money
* TheistWatch: Vatican Bucks, Phoney Legends in Mexico!
* About This List...
TEXAS ABORTION FIGHT ~~ GOP PLATFORM WOES PERSIST
National Leadership Worried Over Anti-choice Zealotry ?
Senator Bob Dole was picturing himself as the great internal peacemaker
for the Republican Party last week, but that may end up being a false hope
considering what has happened at the Texas GOP state convention. Yesterday,
religious and anti-choice forces within the party, led by Ralph Reed and the
Christian Coalition, turned back an effort by several prominent state
Republicans considered soft on the abortion issue to win delegate slots at
the national convention. Most of the candidates were delegates from the Bob
Dole camp; and while they generally opposed abortion rights, they had earlier
refused to sign pledges vowing to oppose any changes in the GOP platform and
oppose a Dole running mate who was pro-choice.
It was a clear and sobering message to candidate Dole, who spent last week
trying to promote a "tolerance" declaration in the GOP platform, admitting
that Party ranks reflected a diversity of opinion on the heated abortion
question. The Republican platform officially supports passage of the
controversial Human Life Amendment which would effectively outlaw abortion in
the United Strates by classifying a fetus as a human being with rights.
CC Director Reed told The New York Times that "It was always our goal that
the Texas delegation would be overwhelmingly pro-life and pro-family." He
called the floor elections a "major victory for the pro-family movement."
For pro-choice or "tolerance" Republicans at the San Antonio meeting, it
was like the battle of Alamo replayed. Tempers reached a peak over the
struggle to keep Senator Kay Baily Hutchinson off the state's 123-delegate
contingent to the national convention, mostly due to her stance as a
pro-choice Republican. That effort failed by one lone vote, and calls for a
recount were adroitly quashed by the Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken.
Hutchinson was one of the few "tolerance" Republicans who can smile about
yesterday's convention squabble; others lost their delegate slots to
anti-abortion religious activists.
Along with the Christian Coalition, another powerful group at the San
Antonio meeting was Texans United for Life. The president of the
organization, evangelist Bill Price, helped to orchestrate the drive to boot
Hutchinson off the delegate list. His remarks to the convention were
frequently punctuated by "Amen!"s from the crowd, and Price declared: "When
it comes to killing unborn children, there is really no room for tolerance.
We're not sending pro-aborts to San Diego to try to change our party
platform." He later said that while the effort to deny Hutchinson a delegate
post failed, "we sent a signal that a lot of people didn't think we could
send." Part of that signal is the fact that anti-choice activists won 88 of
the 123 delegate slots.
Mrs. Hutchinson told CNN that she was the target of "a small group that is
not in the mainstream of our party."
Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that top-Republicans are worried
about their love-hate relationship with the religious conservatives, who seem
focused on abortion as the main issue in the GOP agenda. Both Sen. Phil
Gramm of Texas and House Speaker Newt Gingrich supported Mrs. Hutchinson
enthusiastically; Gramm reportedly threatened that he would not serve as a
delegate if she were not permitted to represent the Texas organization at the
national convention in San Diego. And behind the scene, Dole handlers were
busy trying to avoid the floor fight over Hutchinson, and seemed frustrated
that the abortion question had once again become a lightning rod issue.
Dole Meets With Hyde to "Talk Tolerance"
On Friday, Senator Dole huddled with Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, a major
Christian Coalition supporter and chairman of the GOP Platform Committee.
Not much has been made public about that meeting so far. Meanwhile, groups
like the National Right to Life Committee kept up the pressure on the
presumed nominee, and even made a statement about pro-life Democrat.
Spokeswoman Carol Long declared that "we're waiting to see if Bill Clinton
is going to tell party leaders that he wants the same statement in his
platform as well," referring to Dole's proposed "tolerance" declaration.
Other 'culture war" issues were also being fought in San Antonio over the
weekend. The Log Cabin Republicans, an independent gay-rights GOP group, had
lost a court fight earlier in the week to obtain an information booth at the
state party gathering. Members protested outside. Anti-choice delegates
inside the Alamodome took an aggressive stance from the opening gavel,
ignoring warnings by former Gov. Bill Clements to avoid "catfights over small
issues" (presumably abortion), and declared that "we're the majority here,
and the chairman better listen."
According to the Times, many delegates wore lapel stickers passed out by
the Christian Coalition which read: "Tolerance, inclusion for Unborn
Republicans" and "My Big Tent is Big Enough for Babies."
On Saturday, Pat Buchanan and Alan Keyes worked the convention. Keyes
"drew a far more rousing reception here than either of the state's two
Senators," noted the Times. Buchanan's role in the August national convention
remains problematic, and the fundamentalist-Reconstructionist US Taxpayers
Party is still courting the former nomination contender as a third party
candidate in November.
It is still unlikely that the "culture war" flap over questions like
abortion can be a winner for the Republicans. Despite revelations about
Whitewater and Filegate, President Clinton remains mostly unscathed, and
holds a commanding lead over Bob Dole in the latest polls. Studies indicate
that it will be the economy that could be the make-or-break factor when
people head to the voting booths in four months.
CREATIONISM CONTROVERSY HITS WASHINGTON SCHOOL
In the town of Cheney, Washington, the local school district last week
voted to suspend a teacher for two days for showing a class of eight-graders
a video tape and sponsoring a guest speaker on creationism.
The teacher, Aaron Mason, insisted that he was not teaching religion to
the students, merely "presenting science facts that support both these
theories" (evolution and young-earth creationism). But he did admit to not
following procedures when he invited a speaker who presented a creationist
viewpoint. Mason said that he turned in the necessary paperwork late, and
added "That's my mistake and I need to be held accountable."
The Cheney case highlights the dual-role which creationism wants to play
in the classrooms. "Scientific" creationism makes the controversial claim
that the earth is much younger than most scientists think it is, and that
evolutionary accounts of the planet's origin and the formation of life should
be considered highly suspect. But Eugene Scott of the National Center for
Science Education points out that this "young earth" theory central to
creationist doctrine is bad science, and that evidence against it is
overwhelming. Critics also charge that creationism is also a rationale for
biblical fundamentalist accounts of the origin of life, and is a way of
advancing a religious -- specifically Christian -- agenda in public schools.
Often, creationists cite data which they insist undermines mainstream
scientific findings, such as rates of magnetic decay, or the accumulation of
dust on the moon. Jim Marish, the guest speaker in Mason's class, told the
Spokane Spokesman-Review that "I told them as far as the formation of the
Earth, there are two theories: One's evolution and one's creationism."
Critics charge that it is unfair to present creationism as a "competing
theory" with evolution though, since it is based on poor reasoning,
inaccurate interpretation of data, and ultimately certain religious,
faith-based premises. They also charge that teaching of creationism in public
schools masks a religious agenda, and ultimately amounts to religious
proselytizing -- not discussions about scientific evidence.
Marish, head of an organization known as Creation Outreach, had spoken
last year in Mason's class. But this year a parent complained after his son
returned home and began talking about creationism.
(Thanks to AANEWS Correspondent Rich Andrews for this information)
ZODIAC KILLER A BIBLE TOTIN' MAN O' GOD?
Last Tuesday, when Heriberto Seda decided to shoot it out with the New
York City Police Department, he probably took that one big step into the
history books as the infamous Zodiac killer. For several hours, Seda held
off a small army of cops after shooting his half-sister. When the stand-off
finally ended and his fingerprints were run through a local data base, it was
revealed that they matched those of the Zodiac killer who had terrorized the
Big Apple from 1990 to 1994. Seda later confessed to those crimes which
consisted of eight attacks, three of them fatal; the killer targetted victims
based on their astrological sign, and taunted investigators with cryptic
notes and symbols, and was soon dubbed the "Zodiac Killer."
But it now appears that the early profile put together by psychologists
about the Zodiac killer has to be updated a bit. Include "religious zealot"
on Zodiac's criminal profile, based on what is now being learned about Mr.
Seda. Seda was often seen walking around his run-down Brooklyn neighborhood
at night clutching a bible and quoting verse to drug dealers and other
nightlife. " He was always preaching, talking a lot about God," one neighbor
told the New York Times. An NYPD detective added that "He was very
religious. He kept talking about Jesus and good and evil and salvation."
Zodiac/Seda was also a regular attendee for Sunday mass at the St.
Fortunato Roman Catholic Church. He told parishioners that he was waiting to
get god's permission in order to have sex. Other sources note that Seda was
obsessed with "drug dealers and trouble makers," and was angry at his sister
because she was "hanging around with the wrong people."
Mr. Seda may go down in the annals of crime as one of the nation's most
infamous serious killers; and his religiosity and devoted church attendance
and bible quoting certainly leads to questions about the psychological
benefits of such practices.
When confronted with fraudulent evidence that participation in church and
other religious affairs promotes humane behavior, Atheists may wish to point
to Mr. Heriberto Seda -- the Zodiac Killer -- as a problematic example.
CULT ACTIVITY, CONCERNS GROWING IN EUROPE
An outbreak of cult activity is sweeping Europe, prompting fears of
millennialist violence as well as concerns over free expression and religious
liberty. In France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and Germany, there are
major investigations underway into groups ranging from the Church of
Scientology to the Order of the Solar Temple and the Holy City of Mandar'om.
* The New York Times notes that in France, authorities suspect "that
behind a religious facade, some groups launder money or carry on
inappropriate business: some extort money from their members, pressing them
to give large donations."
* In Germany, the government has a "continuing battle" with the Church of
Scientology and says the group should not have a tax exemption "because it is
a business organization that also disseminates totalitarian views." In
France, a Scientology office was recently shut down because of tax debts.
European officials are also worried that with the approach of the
millennium and the year 2000, apocalyptic sects like the Order of the Solar
Temple could be triggered into violent acts against their own members, or
others outside the group. In December, 16 members of the Order were found
dead after a ritual murder-suicide. This followed a 1994 death ritual which
took the lives of 53 other cult members in Switzerland and Canada. In
subsequent probes, investigators were shocked to learn about the wealth and
influence amassed by the cult -- a fact which has also surprised Japanese in
revelations about the Aum Shinryo "Supreme Truth" sect in that country.
* The number of cults and "fringe" religious sects throughout Europe is
growing, say reports. A government report in France claims that there are
172 major groups in that country alone, with another 800 smaller sects
commanding the allegiance of over 250,000 people. That figure may actually
be larger when hanger-on types and covert sympathizers are included. Worried
observers point to the Solar Temple murder-sucides, the disaster at Wacto,
and the gas attacks in the Tokyo subway by Aum followers as a warning sign.
Even so, some of the concern over cults and fringe sects is coming from
established, mainstream religious groups which have a history of identifying
competing religions in pejorative terms. Human rights and civil liberties
groups warn against a "witch hunt that could threaten religious freedom," and
point out that sometimes very little distinguishes a "cult" from a
respectable "church." In France, Interior Ministry officials told the Times
that they are mostly concerned with apocalyptic cults that "break the law or
endanger the lives of members, including children." They cite a pamphlet
from the leader of a burgeoning group who calls himself the Cosmic Messiah,
and heads the Holy City of Mandar'om; it warns that "God has invested upon me
the powers of creation and destruction." The group had recently planned to
erect an emormous $5 million pyramid-shaped temple with four great towers on
their mountaintop compound in Provence; environmentalists objected, though,
saying that the monstrosity was really a "religious theme park" in the midst
of great natural beauty.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Here's another example of "Do as I say, not as I do," this time from the
Vatican. Recall that Mother Church -- especially in the United States --
isn't exactly leading the charge for equitable taxation. Millions -- make
that billions of dollars in church property is tax exempt, along with
revenues from business investments, stock portfolios, wills and other
sources. We're NOT just talking about the Sunday collection plate here,
folks. So isn't it a bit hypocritical when church leaders start talking
about "sharing the wealth" to ostensibly help the poor? At Habitat II, for
instance, the Vatican delegation called for a massive investment in housing
and other social programs, all well-and-good, but at everyone ELSE'S expense.
Now, even the Vatican admits it's making money. The Vatican LOSING money,
of course, makes about as much sense as those Hollywood studios who claim a
loss on a picture which brings in $200 million in revenue; someone is
engaging in creative accounting! But according to Cardinal Edmund Szoka of
the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, the Roman Catholic Church took
in $194.1 million last year just to operate the Pope's offices, with expenses
of $1.7 million less. Reuter notes that "Much of the Holy See's income
derives from investments -- mostly bonds -- rent from real estate holdings,
and contribution from the faithful..."
This year's surplus comes after a string of 23 years of deficits, which
peaked allegedly in 1991 when the Vatican ran $87.5 million in the red. Just
like it is absurd for a group of (ostensibly) celibate, geriatric males to
instruct the rest of the world about sexual matters, it it also lunacy for
them to proscribe economic nostrums as well.
Remember our recent story about the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe?
How the abbot in charge of the shrine where the "lady" appeared to a local
peasant -- thus establishing one of the great national religious myths in
Mexico --said that the story was just so much bunkum? Abbot Guillermo
Schulenburg (also listed in reports as "Schulemburg") must be receiving some
pressure and arm-twisting. Reuters now says that "he believes in the
existence of the dark-skinned virgin despite press versions of his cynicism."
He now insists that the popular religious icon is "the Empressw of the
America's, the Lady that is in all of our homes, that is not only in our
wallets but also in our hearts."
The flap began when Schulenburg was quoted in several relatively obscure
publications as saying that Juan Diego, the peasant to whom the Virgin
allegedly appeared, was simply a legend. The story was then picked up by
Mexico's daily press, and resulted in near-riots, threats, even vandalism.
Religious Mexicans were just outraged to hear that Ma' Guadalupe was just
another cheap religious stunt, a "legend." (Hey, Atheists in Mexico and
elsewhere suspected that all along!)
The Mexican Catholic church is pushing for sainthood for Juan Diego --
another "saint" who probably never existed -- and the Vatican is "reviewing"
the matter of Abbot Schulenburg. Reuter adds that "Anthropologists and
historians have said that there has been a debate within the church over the
historical nature of the appearances since 1531 and that the 'cult of the
Virgin' is a deliberate blending of Catholicism with Indian tradition." One
last note in this amusing if not pathetic story: un-named sources, accordng
to Reuters, also suggest that the controversy also reflects a struggle for
internal control within the Mexican Catholic ecclesiastical establishing over
the Basilica which commemorates the Virgin. It's important "not only
symbolically", but as "the greatest source of church income in Mexico."
About This List...
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