Date: Sun, 30 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 30, 1996 (Part On

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Sun, 30 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 30, 1996 (Part One of Two) Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #81 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/30/96 (Part One of Two) In This Edition... * Religion in the Illinois Classroom * GOP Frosh Want "Partnership" With Religion * Russian Elections: Candidates, Tough Guys Hunt Religious Votes * Iran ~ Mullah's on a Holy Terror * From The Fringe: Long Island UFO-Murder Plot? Far Out! * TheistWatch: Odinists, Baptists, Pigs & More * About This List... ILLINOIS GOVERNOR AMENDS DOCUMENT TEACHING BILL Legislation which would allow public school teachers to use historical documents -- including those who religious references -- has been amended by Illinois Governor Jim Edgar to conform to state-church separation guidelines. In a veto message to the State General Assembly, Edgar said that "Historical documents should not be censored because of religious references, but public school teachers should use such documents for academic rather than religious purposes." Among the changes made by the governor: * Historical documents that have religious references will be used only in "classrooms" rather than displayed in school "buildings." * All documents "shall be used exclusively for academic purposes and shall not be used for religious or devotional purposes." In a letter to Edgar, Rob Sherman of the National Civil Rights Foundation suggested that the original bill was "simply an attempt to sneak Christian religion into the classroom and pretend that it is being done for a secular purpose." He said that noteworthy historical documents should be used only "in proper context and with proper explanation as to the secular educational purpose for such display." The governor's changes now go back to the General Assembly for consideration during the fall term. If approved, the legislation will go back to Edgar for his signature. ****************** GOP HOUSE FRESHMEN WANT ''PARTNERSHIP'' WITH RELIGION With voting just a few months away, one of the most vulnerable political groups -- Republican House freshmen -- has stepped up the election-year rhetoric, and called for "a renewed partnership" between government and families, churches and businesses. Their proposal, known as "New America," was presented this past week to House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Pundits said that the ceremony reminded them of the unveiling of the GOP's "Contract With America," which was presented two years ago. "New America" is desribed as a blueprint for the 74-member frosh GOP Representatives. "We believe that reducing government should not, and cannot, occur," declares the statement, "without a renewal of family, religious/civil and business institutions in American society." According to United Press, "The freshmen chose two chairs to symbolize their 'New America'. One of the chairs had four uneven legs, characterizing what they said was the current uneven partnership between (sic) the four essential groups." Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.) added that "The whole goal of 'New America' is to free up the other institutions of our country so they can extend and expand their influence." That has state-church separationist activist a bit worried, though. "Freeing up" institutions like churches has been a rationale for voucher schemes, direct financial grants and "privatizing" programs such as welfare and other social services. Freshman Republicans have been the most vocal supporters of such projects, and have supported other religious-right proposals, including efforts to limit abortion rights and promote school prayer legislation. Polls show that many of the new Republican representatives are vulernable, and are often perceived as "extremists" on controversial issues. There have also been scandals in the ranks. Rep. Enid Waldholtz of Utah has divorced her husband following revelations that he was allegedly involved in a massive check-kiting scheme. And Rep. Wes Cooley of Oregon has been charged with exaggerating his military past on official documents. There is also evidence that his wife continued to receive veteran's benefits as a widow even though she had remarried. Unlike Waldholtz, Cooley is running for re-election and denies the charges. ****************** RUSSIAN SECURITY BOSS PROMISES TO BAN FOREIGN RELIGIONS Religious Jingoism Playing Big Role in Election With the major Presidential election slated for this coming Wednesday, Russian politicians are following their American counterparts, and cranking up the level of rhetorical bombast. It seems that the respective camps supporting incumbent President Boris Yeltsin and Communist challenger Gennadi Zyuganov are also using religion as a "hot button" issue. In his role as Yeltsin's national security advisor, Gen. Alexandcer I. Lebed called this past week for a ban on many foreign religious movements, including the Mormon Church. Yeltson brought the retired military commander into the government after Lebed finished a surprising third in the June 16 Presidental elections; his stable of nationalist and religious orthodox supports are seen as vital if Yeltsin is to fight off a serious challenge from the resuregent communist movement led by Zyuganov. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lebed declared that many foreigners come to Russia "only to steal," and added that the growth of "foreign" religious cults in Russia is now a vital issue of national security. "We have the established, traditional religions -- Russian Orthodox, Islam, Buddhism. As to all these Mormons, Aum Supreme Truth, all this is mold and scum that is artificially brought into our country with the purpose of perverting, corrupting and breaking up our state." He made the remarks to what news reports described as a "congress of nationalist organizations." Lebed's focus on the issue of foreign religious groups worried international observers, some of whom noted that with anti-semitic propaganda now reaching new levels in Russia, it was significant that Jews were not mentioned among the "established" religious groups. Competition from foreign religious sects has been a major headache for the Russian Orthodox Church which has enjoyed a popularity boom since the demise of official communism. American and Eurpopean evangelical groups have flooded the country with missionaries and literature; and there has been an astounding proliferation of new age style cults. The Aum groups which Lebed referred to is the Japanese-based sect believed to be responsible for last years poison gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system: the cult had expanded to Russia, and it is believed that Aum purchased weapons and chemicals on the black market there. Meanwhile, both the Yeltsin and Zyuganov campaigns have been courting the religious, especially those voters identified with the Orthodox church and the "old believers." On Friday, Zyuganov spoke to a forum of Russian Orthodox members and officials, and delivered what the London Times described as "an aggressive speech...that reinforced his reputation as a xenophobic nationalist with anti-Semitic leadings." The Communist candidate told the audience: "I am a believer and first of all I believe in Russia," and delivered a "program of national revival" the called for government reconstruction of ruined church buildings, and a crackdown on pornography. He also raised the nostalgic image of Soviet empire days by advocating "the recreation of a single Russian state" to incorporate the surrounding Slavic regions. Observers note that both Lebed and Zyuganov have carefully avoided much discussion of the Roman Catholic Church, which has been forming congregations and winning new believers since the 1991 breakup of Soviet power. Nor is it clear why Lebed, considered a mouthpiece at times for Yeltsin (but still a man with his own nationalist agenda), chose to mention the Mormon Church, which has gained only 3,700 converts in the past five years. *************** IRAN STEPPING UP RELIGIOUS TERRORISM, SAYS REPORT A report issued last week warns that Iran has embarked on a new campaign of religious terrorism, which has already exceeded the bloodshed and terror which existed during the 10-year rule of the infamous Ayatollah Khomeni. According to Britain's Parliamentry Human Rights Group, there have been more than 150 attacks on the lives of Iranian dissidents living in 21 different countries, and more than 350 persons have been killed or injured as a result. According to The London Times, "The report notes that more than two thirds of the attacks have occurred in the last seven years, during the rule of President Rafsanjani, and only one third in the 10-year rule of Ayatollah Khomeni that prceeded it." The Times added that these statistics "give the lie to the view that President Rafsanjani's government is either reformist, or significantly more pro-Western than that of his predecessor." It also quoted certain exiles who insist that Rafsanjani is "now effectively powerless," with the real governmental power in the hands of Ayatollah Khamenei, the country's spiritual leader. But that contention may be ignoring Rafsanjani's important role in the Supreme National Security Council. This is Iran's top political decision-making body, and includes Intelligence Minister Fallahian, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Ayatollah Khamanei, and Parliament vice president Hassan Rouhani. All are responsible for directing the "hit-squad" activities of VEVAK, the Iranian secret service. According to the Electronic Telegraph, the Iranian regime "is becoming increasingly nervous as opposition to it grows, both inside and outside the country." The economy is also stagnant; these factors may account of a series of high-profile fundamentalist outbursts in the country orchestrated by fundamentalist leaders, including attacks on movie theatres showing even mildly suggestive films, or mixed-sex parties of bicycle riders. The human rights summary also notes that Iran has announced for itself a doctrine of "Velaya-e-Faqieh", or guardianship of religious law. The Telegraph notes that "This doctrine places Tehran above all earthly laws, and permits it to carry out any action necessary to uphold the law of God, as Iran's own religious authorities interpret it" The reports also agreed with the suspicion of European analysts, who say that VEVAK and other Iranian terrorist efforts are focusing on the Paris-based Iranian National Council of Resistance, headed by Maryan Rajavi. Her husband, Massoud, leads a guerilla army against the Tehran government known as the National Liberation Army. Both NLA and the National Council of Resistance ( seek to establish a secular, free-market, pluralistic state with full rights for women and ethnic minorities, and separation of government and religion. Originally, VEVAK and the Tehran-based Revolutionary Guards concentrated on associates and ministers of the former Shah of Iran. (In May, a former imperial minister named Reza Mazlouman was murdered in France, and a VEVAK agent identified as Ahmad Djayhouni is believed to been involved.) But as the Iranian theocracy has retreated further into religious and cultural loonacy, the government has devoted more efforts to stamping out dissent both within its border, and from without. Last month, an Iranian hit squad was caught on a Belgian freighter with a cache of weapons and bomb making materials. It is believer that their target includes the leadership of the National Council of Resistance, and possibly the international cultural festival known as Women, Voice of the Opprssed. The festival is scheduled to feature Marzieh, a popular Iranian singer whose flight from Iran two years ago led to the arrest of her daughter in Tehran. Even at age 72 she is considered the "Diva of Persian music," but was banned from performing in public in Iran. ******************** (End of Part One of Two)


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank