Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 17, 1996 Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 10:38:34 -0700 nn nn AA
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 17, 1996
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 10:38:34 -0700
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
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
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
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
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
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.
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