Date: Sun, 7 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 7, 1996 nn nn AANE

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Date: Sun, 7 Jul 1996 12:25:24 -0700 from: Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 7, 1996 Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 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 ranks. 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 POSTCARD CAMPAIGN... 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 political activity. 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 political issues." 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 campaign. ******************** 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 again! ********** 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 Genesis. 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 science classroom." 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... 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 information about American Atheists, send e-mail to:, and include your name and postal address. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and AANEWS. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send e-mail to:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.


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