Date: Sun, 7 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 7, 1996 nn nn AANE
Date: Sun, 7 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 7, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 89 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/7/96
In This Edition...
* Military Provides More Aid to Churches
* Church Blasts Air Force Ban On Political Acitivity
* TheistWatch: Too Many Drunks, Too Many People, Raquel Welch
* About This List...
GOVERNMENT AID TO DESTROYED CHURCHES CONTINUES
A series of possible church arsons during the last year-and-a-half has
prompted not only media and political interest, but something which even
advocates of parochaid and vouchers have yet to achieve -- direct government
aid to religious organizations. The Senate last week passed its version of a
Church Arson Prevention Act which called for up to $10,000,000 in loan
guarantees to rebuild churches which have been ruined as the result of
"racial or religiously motivated hate." Other proposals call for outright
grants and give-away schemes to rebuild churches, mosques, synagogues and
other reveligious venues.
But now, churches are receiving thousands of dollars of surplus chapel
furniture and other equipment free of charge, thanks to the U.S. Army.
According to news reports, military officials on Friday announced that items
from chapels at the Ft. Bragg military base in North Carolina will be donated
to churches. According to United Press International, the items include
pews, altars, pulpits, hymnals, baptismal fonts, musical equipment and even
public address systems.
The base chapels are closing due to "low attendance and high heating and
cooling costs": Fort Bragg will continue to operate 15 other on-base chapels,
though, for military personnell.
An Illegal Give-away, But With Precedent...
The disposal of surplus government property for religious organizations
violates both the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and the
Surplus Property Act of Oct. 3, 1944. In her book "Freedom Undier Siege,"
Madalyn Murray O'Hair chronicled what she termed "The impact of organized
religion on your liberty and your pocketbook." In the chapter titled "This
Land Is Their Land," O'Hair analyzed the enormous post-world war II give away
of public resources for the benefit of religious organizations -- even though
such policies violated the Surplus Property Act.
That legislation was the brainchild of the old War Assets Administration
which was charged with disposing of federal property that had been acquired
through the war effort. Section 1(A) of the Act listed schools and other
educational institutions, along with medical research facilities and
hospitals as lawful recipients. While noting that the government could give
tax exemptions to religious groups, O'Hair's research confirmed that "It is
also emphatically clear from the wording of the Surplus Property Act that the
property, upon distribution, had to be for the public interest or for the
legitimate needs of the United States representing all its people." There
was no provision in the legislation for any aid or granting of property to
churches or other religious groups.
Even so, the churches cashed-in on a post war land boom; the first to slop
at the public trough were the Baptists, who on Octobner 23, 1947 received
part of the old De Land Naval Air Station in Florida, a total of 120 acres
and six buildings. It had been valued at $218,000 in 1947, but was given
gratis to the Baptists through their church-run John Stetson University.
Other religious groups paid bottom-dollar for land and buildings. The
Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y. received 7.58 acres and two buildings for Bishop
Duffy High School; those assets had cost taxpayers $169,076 dollars at the
time, but were promptly de-valued and then discounted again.
Not all of these taxpayer rip-offs were used for "educational
institutions" operated by churches; many were more blatant. Unfortunately,
the constitutionality of such fraud was not challenged.
It is a requirement of Federal Code that surplus government property be
either destroyed if it can not be used, or sold at a fair auction. Clearly,
the outright gift of furniture and equipment to churches by officials at Ft.
Bragg violates such strictures, and the First Amendment.
The move may also be a military publicity stunt. In the past year,
information has surfaced that racist skinheads and neoi-nazi groups have been
organizing at the base, which is home to the famous 82nd Airborne Division.
Internal military investigations have uncovered several soldiers with ties
to white supremacist groups; some wear swastika tattoos. Giving furniture
and equipment away to black churches is a good PR move for the base; but it
may obscure the need to take substantive action concerning racism in military
In the meantime, the emotional climate surrounding the church fires
appears to have minimized any outcry from civil libertarians or First
Amendment separation activists over government aid to churches.
CATHOLIC OFFICIALS DENOUNCE BASE RESTRICTIONS ON
When the Roman Catholic Bishops flooded churches across the country last
Sunday with 27,000,000 pre-printed postcards for believers to mail to
Congress about the abortion issue, they didn't achieve quite their full
objective. That's because a U.S. Air Force directive ordering Catholic
chaplains not to participate in the postcard drive was distributed in a June
7 memo from Washington to all senior chaplains.
Clearly, the Air Force felt that the drive -- which urges parishioners to
write Congress abour overturning President Clinton's veto of the Partial
Birth Abortion Ban -- came dangerously close to involving the service in
The move was immediately denounced by a special church office known as the
Archdiocese for the Military Services USA headed by Archbishop Joseph T.
Dimino. In a statement released last week, Dimino said that the Air Force
Judge Advocate General (JAG) had made "a most unfortunate interpretation" of
Defense Department regulations which place a ban on political activities by
members of the armed forces while on active duty.
"We are not discussing politics: we are discussing morality," said Dimino.
"We are discussing the need to stop partial-birth abortions; we are
discussing the need to struggle constantly in order to maintain high moral
standards in our country." He added that "Catholic chaplains, as they stand
in the pulpits of our military chapels, must not be prohibited from
prolcaiming the teachings of their Church, especially moral teachings."
The Air Force memo told military chaplains that "Your military
status...carries with it unique responsibilities and limitations that have
been imposed by Congress to insure the separation of our military forces from
A public affairs officer with the Air Force later told the Catholic News
Service that while the directive did not prohibit chaplains from preaching on
the subject of abortion, it did restrict political activity like the postcard
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS...
Israel is a well-armed society, a fact which raises for TW the prospect of
fundamentalist militias in that country similar to some of the christian
identity-noids running around within our own borders. Benjamin Netanyahu's
victory, and the success of religious political parties in recent elections,
has progressive Israelis concerned. Groups like the Shas Party and United
Torah want to transform the relatively secular country into a giant
synagogue, a goal which already been announced for the parliament or Knesset.
One goal of fundamentalists in Israel is to virtually shut the country
down during the sabbath. They've already gotten the government to turn off
the Amos communications satellite which was launched into space a month ago;
places like movie theatres, cafes, dance halls and even non-kosher
restaurants may be next.
Yesterday, several thousand ultra-orthodox Jews rioted in Jerusalem along
the main drag called Bar Ilan, to demand the closure of the street during the
sabbath. Cops had to use horses and water cannons to disperse the
fundamentalists, who were also throwing stones at troops -- a practice widely
denounced when used by Palestinians.
In India, religious fundamentalists exploit any number of social issues
for their own political gain. In the state of Haryana, for instance, Hindus
have banned the sale of alcohol, following an election promise supposed
targetted at housewives disgusted with their menfolk spending too much of the
family paycheck on booze. Prohibitionists exploited social fears using
worst-case examples -- such as drunken men beating their wives and kids.
Throughout the province, hundreds of liquor outlets have been shut down, and
the new law sentences anyone caught producing, possessing or consuming booze
to a three-year jail sentence.
They should have taken an example from the pages of American history,
though, where the great failed experiment of Prohibition put little dent in
the consumption of alcohol, and led to the rise of organized criminal gangs
(not the government, stupid!). At best, in promising a "magic bullet" to
solve the worse problems of alcohol addiction, Prohibition simply drove the
situation underground, created a generation of crooked cops and gangsters,
and, alas, flooded the nation with bad liquor.
Now, liquor stores are opening up shop right across the border from
Haryana. Shops in neighboring New Delhi are predicting a four-fold increase
in sales. Prohibitionist experiments actually have very little to do with
teaching people about moderation or how to handle opiates of any kind -- but
they do create new opportunities for corruption. Another attempt to mandate
religious zealotry at the point of a gun -- or through legal fiat -- fails
While Catholic Bishops are hard at work to overturn President Clinton's
veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and take a major step toward
outlawing abortion in toto, world population is just chugging along and may
be leading to problems in the not too distant future. According to the
British Independent Commission on Population and Quality of Life, the
explosive growth of population is extracting a heavy toll on our planet's
resources. From a population of one billion in 1830, we now number 5.8
billion -- and growing. Thanks to economic development and changing social
values (among them a rejection of religion), growth rates have begun to taper
off; but we can still expect to have more than 10 billion people by the
middle of the next century.
Scientists and population experts still debate the "carrying capacity" of
the earth, of course. And there are legitimate differences of opinion on how
to proceed in terms of creating a wholesome, sustainable environment for
everyone. But in many areas, rampant population increases are outstripping
the ability of native economies to provide jobs and resources; such explosive
growth is also destroying important ecological habitats. Perhaps the Church
Fathers should consider these facts before they continue on their crusade to
ban abortion and birth control measures.
Correspondents in New Mexico have told AANEWS that the state Board of
Education is debating a new proposed standard for teachers, and that some
members want to have creationism given "equal time" along with evolution in
the classrooms. Creationism is the religious doctrine masquerading as
scientific theory that a deity (usually the Judeo-Christian flavor) created
the universe, earth and life as depicted in biblical accounts, specifically
Members of the group known as New Mexicans for Science and Reason have met
with Board of Education members to emphasize the need for reputable
scientists to be heard on this issue. One member said that "School teachers
and administrators need to know that scientists are overwhelmingly in
opposition to the presentation of creationism as science, and for the
uncompromised teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific paradigm."
NMSR declares that "Creationism does not fit the definition of a scientific
theory because it cannot be validated by the scientific method. The false
portrayal of creationism as science is confusing to students and undermines
the teaching of science. Therefore creationism is inappropriate in the
We agree, and hope that NMSR succeeds in keeping this bogus religious
doctrine out of the schools. Biblical accounts of how the universe began are
not rooted in scientific fact. But there IS the problem of Raquel Welch
and that movie, "1,000,000 B.C.", right?
About This List...
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