Date: Sun, 30 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 30, 1996 (Part On
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 30, 1996 (Part One of Two)
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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Legislation which would allow public school teachers to use historical
documents -- including those who religious references -- has been amended by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In a veto message to the State General Assembly, Edgar said that "Historical
documents should not be censored because of religious references, but public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* Historical documents that have religious references will be used only in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 He said that noteworthy historical documents should be used only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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 (http://www.iran-e-azad.org) 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