Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 17, 1996 Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 10:38:34 -0700 nn nn AA

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 17, 1996 Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 10:38:34 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #95 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/17/96 * School Prayer Amendment Ready for Congressional Action? * Christian Coalition Warns Dole on Molinari * Scientology Loses Case Against Time Magazine * Canadians Fund "Sweat Lodge" * South Carolina: Fetus a Person * About This List... SCHOOL PRAYER AMENDMENT READIED FOR HOUSE VOTE? AANEWS has learned that congressional backers of the so-called "Religious Equality Amendment" are once again moving to push the proposed legislation into the House of Representatives hopper. This coming Tuesday, July 23, hearings on the modified Hyde amendment version have been scheduled before the House Constitution Subcommittee. It is one of the two slightly different versions of the Religious Equality Amendment, and was introduced by Rep. Henry Hyde. It reads: "Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to further protect religious freedom, including the right of students in public schools to pray without government sponsorship or compulsion, by clarifying the proper construction of any prohibition on laws respecting an establishment of religion. "In order to secure the right of the people to acknowledge and serve God according to the dictates of conscience, neither the United States nor any State shall deny any person equal access to a benefit, or otherwise discriminate against any person, on account of religious belief, expression, or exercise. This amendment does not authorize government to coerce or inhibit religious belief, expression or exercise." Is "Student-Led" Prayer Really Voluntary? While the amendment says that it does not "authorize government or coerce..." religious belief or exercise, critics charge that its legalization of so-called student led or student initiated prayer during official school functions is clearly unconstitutional and coercive. Some suggest that "student led" prayer is simply a ruse that will eventually result in either mandated, official prayer, or create a climate in schools whereby those who do not choose to pray are effectively pressured, bullied and coerced into doing so. Indeed, a number of recent court rulings concerning student-led or student initiated prayer in public schools mention that those youngsters who do not participate in prayer are often isolated by classmates, and even subjected to verbal and physical harassment. When Linda Herdahl, a mother of five school-aged children sued in the Pontotoc, Mississippi school system over their policy of broadcasing prayers and religious verse over school public address systems, her children were quickly harassed and ostracised, and taunted with accusations that they were devil worshippers, Atheists, and immoral. Courts have found that student-led prayer during the official school day which is directed at all students is inherently coercive, and can isolate students who profess minority religious beliefs, or no supernatural beliefs at all. Passing a so-called Religious Equality Amendment has become a major objective of groups like the Christian Coalition. Ironically, most religious organizations do not agree that such a law is needed; the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty has over 70 denominational members, including the National Council of Jewish Women, American Baptist Churches USA, Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church. Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists, told AANEWS that in her opinion, the REA was not even a "religious liberty" issue. "American is the most reliigious nation in the entire western world. This IS about undoing Supreme Court decisions which the religious right has objected to over the past twenty years. It's about eliminating or erasing the Establishment Clause from the First Amendment." ********************* COALITION WARNS DOLE, GOP ON KEYNOTE SPEAKER Senator Bob Dole's choice of Rep. Susan Moilinari (R-N.Y.) as the August convention keynote speaker is already drawing the wrath of religious right and anti-abortion groups throughout the country. In a hurried press release sent out yesterday, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition said that having Rep. Molinari -- a pro-choice Republican -- deliver the keynote speech "could well be perceived among religious and social conservatives as the senator (Dole) moving in the wrong direction for a crucial vice-presidential selection...It remains our view that Senator Dole should select a pro-family, pro-life running mate to ensure that the activist base of the GOP enthusiastically supports the ticket." Reed added that his group stresses Dole "must remain sensitive and committed to the needs of social conservatives, who could turn out in record number in November, and provide him with the margin of victory." But even religious conservatives in GOP ranks were distancing themselves from Reed. Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said that it was misguided to criticize Molinari just on her pro-choice abortion stand. "I just don't think we ought to be nit-picking every candidate's position on every issue," he told CNN. Molinari, 38, is seen by experts to be a badly needed addition to the GOP image to prop-up Dole's floundering campaign. There have reports over the past week that panic has set in among Dole's tight -knit circle of influential supporters and handlers; the presumed candidate lags badly in the polls, and is drawing hardly any support from target groups such as blacks. Dole also seems to have a problem with women voters who are solidly backing President Clinton. The flap over Molinari suggests that despite grumblings from GOP leaders, the party remains firmly indebted and beholden to religious conservatives, who already control or have substantial influence in nearly 40 state Republican organizations. The CC press release also shows that abortion is the key litmus-test if the party wishes to retain the support of fundamentalists and evangelicals. Meanwhile, Britain's Electronic Telegraph is reporting that Dole may have a floor fight at the convention if he goes through with plans to have Molinari as the keynote speaker. "Patrick Buchanan's delegates at the convention in San Diego can be relied upon to heckle Mrs. Molinari if she uses the platform to speak out in favor of abortion rights," notes today's issue. The paper also says that with polls showing Doll slipping further behind Clinton, "many Republicans now privately doubt that Mr. Dole can salvage his campaign." A Phoenix Strategy? Pro-choice Republicans and other party leaders who express reservations about the role of fundamentalist groups like the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family though, may be "coming out" of their closet and looking past a November debacle for the GOP. In the past six weeks, GOP governors have spoken out against the abortion "litmus test", and yesterday even Senator Alfonse D'Amoto of New York who is Dole's national advisory committee chairman, told the presumed candidate that he should not cave in to the GOP's religious wing on issues like abortion. Even Dole himself, who says that he is an abortion opponent, said that his selection of Rep. Molinari as the keynoter was a "statement about women." The Telegraph described his choice as "meant to signal that the Republican Party was a broad church concerned about the cities, the future and the young." "Let's be realistic: we cannot be a one-issue party. We want to win the election." Under a "Phoenix strategy," it may require the sacrifice of the Dole ticket -- and a sound Democratic victory in November -- to provide GOP leaders with enough incentive to start reigning in the religious wing and groups like the Christian Coalition. A Clinton win, especially by a hefty margin, would demonstrate that the religious-agenda, "culture war" ticket does not play successfully with voters. Meanwhile, Dole continues to hedge over who he intends to nominate as his VP running mate. He has already been firmly warned by Coalition Director Ralph Reed and party stalwarts including Rep. John Istook that he must choose a decidedly anti-abortion candidate, or risk the consequences. ***** SCIENTOLOGY TO APPEAL LIBEL VERDICT A federal judge dismissed a multi-million dollar libel suit Tuesday brought against Time Magazine and its parent company, Time Warner Inc., by the Church of Scientology. And today, according to CNN, Scientology officials said they would appeal the ruling. U.S. District Judge Peter Leisure dismissed the suit, which pertained to a 10-page article that appeared in Time Magazine in 1992 titled: "Scientology: The Cult of Greed." The suit claimed that the article contained false and defamatory statements. Time alleged that Scientology was not so much a religion that it was an organized system for making money, and that one source of funds for the church was "the notorious, self-regulated stock exchange in Vancouver, British Columbia, often called the scam capital of the world." The court dismissed part of the Scientology case last year, but waited until yesterday to rule on the remaining issues. In a related development, actor Tom Cruise -- a high-profile member of the Scientology religion -- is in Germany to promote his "Mission:Impossible" movie, and was asked by the media about his involvement with the organization. Last January, the German government initiated a campaign against Scientology saying that it was a threat to democracy, and brainwashed and exploited followers. During a press conference in Hamburg, Cruise curtly remarked: "I'm a Scientologists, that that's an entirely personal matter." Scientology grew out of so-called Dianetics, the brainchild of pulp science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard's theory says, in part, that human aberrations and even physical maladies are the result of "engrams" or residual memories, some of which originate even during conception and from past lives. Among the latter are the experiences from "Thetans," beings who lived tens of millions of years ago as part of a galactic confederation. When first presented in 1950 to mental health professions, the American Psychological Association told its members to avoid Dianetics, and the American Amedical Association said that it was quackery. Even so, Scientology has attracted a faithful following, including "celebrity Scientologists" like Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta. ****** CANADA BUILDS $9.2 MILLION ''HEALING LODGE'' FOR INMATES With prison populations in the U.S. and Canada growing to record highs, "religious liberty" suits and calls for the accomodation of often new-found religiosity are resulting in hefty bills for taxpayers. Case in point: Canada's new $9.2 million Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge near Maple Creek, a town of 2,500 folks in southwest Saskachewan. It is the first Canadian prison specifically designed for Indian inmates, and places a strong emphasis on tribal customs and religious events including sun dances, sweat lodges and ceremonial rituals. Prisoners are referred to as "residents" and live in individual town-house style units, which can also house children; plans for an on-site nursery are awaitng final approve. Practically the entire staff is made up of Indians as well. According to the New York Times, the idea of special treatment based on culture and religion may not be entirely successful, though. Indians comprise about 3% of Canada's population but "are a far greater proportion of the prison population." In Saskatchewan, they make up 10% of the population, but nearly three-quarters of prison inmates there are Indian. The Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples last February charged that: "The over-representation of aboriginal people in federal, provincial and territorial court systems and prisons casts a long shadow over Canada's claim to be a just society." Even so, is a government-taxpayer funded religion-based program just, or even effective? Some have doubts. One woman told The Times that "From someplace that's a glorified resort, they're going to release them into the real world. The real world is nothing close to the way they are living up there." A local rancher added that "Any time you separate one group from another you're going to have hard feelings between the groups." So far, we have found no legal challenges to the Canadian program at Okimaw Ohci. It will be interesting to see whether the use of religious indoctrination has any substantive effect on the recidivism rate. ******** DANGEROUS PRECEDENT FROM SOUTH CAROLINA CASE? On Monday, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a pregnant woman on drugs may be prosecuted for child abuse and other mis-deeds. The 3-2 decision determined that earlier rulings and extant state laws "make clear that a healthy fetus is a person." (CNN). Critics and supporters of the decision quickly fired verbal salvos on the ruling. The former said that it will discourage pregnant addicts from getting badly needed pre-natal care, but supporters insist that it will discourage drug use. But the decision could have unforeseen effects in the abortion battle. While much of the abortion rights question involves whether a fetus is "viable," that is capable of existing outside the womb, pro-life advocates insist that a fetus is a person and as such is entitled to legal protection. The new South Carolina decision clearly points in that direction. An appeal on the ruling is expected. ********************* 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, send 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 AANEWS and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send e-mail to: and put "info aanews" in the message body, minus the quotation marks. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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