Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 23, 1996 (Weekend

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Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 23, 1996 (Weekend Edition) Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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... 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: info@atheists.org, and include your name and postal address in the message body. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to AANEWS and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, 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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