Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 19, 1996 Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 15:46:26 -0700 nn nn AA

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 19, 1996 Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 15:46:26 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn # 98 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/19/96 In This Issue... * "Prayer Warriors" Descend on Atlanta * Voucher Scheme "Sneak Attack" Launched in Congress * One Man's Opinion ~ Hypocrites Behind the Collar * About This List... RELIGIONISTS READY TO PROSELYTIZE AT OLYMPIC GAMES Is Atlanta A Sports Venue, or Tent Revival Meeting ? What's bigger than the army of security agents and police guarding the Olympic games in Atlanta? What has some five million pieces of literature, including some one million "hospitality packets" ready to hand out to the millions of American and foreign guests who will be pouring into the sports complexes, restaurants and hotels eager for a glimpse at the international games? And what segment of society sees the Olympics in Atlanta as an "unparalleled opportunity"? If you guessed the Chamber of Commerce, or the numerous corporate sponsors of the games, or even political candidates, you'd be wrong. Along with athletes, cops, vendors and spectators, there are over 100,000 volunteers in and around Atlanta who are working on one of the largest religious proselytizing efforts in recent history coordinated by an interfaith group called "Quest Atlanta '96." The expected 2,000,000 tourists flocking to the Olympics will be deluged, pamphleted, approached, prayed for, proselytized, even entertained. Here's a survey of the events based on site-reports, news accounts and other sources: * Atlanta's 1800 churches representing 29 denominations are concentrating on efforts to pamphlet all 2,000,000 Olympics visitors under a so-called "Games Outreach." Part of the plan includes an innocent-sounding program called "Hospitality/Atlanta Host," which would offer bed and breakfast accomodations for families of atheltes. The churches will also be erecting "air-conditioned santuaries" for visitors who battle the Atlanta humidity and heat, including "Christian-based" entertainment and refreshments. * The Southern Baptist Convention has established Atlanta International Ministries with a budget of $2,000,000 and 5,000 volunteers. The church's Woman's Missionary Union will be distributing religious literature at interstate rest stops outside of Atlanta. The literature uses sports as a "hook" for religion, and creates the impression of being some "official guide" to the events; the so-called "interactive pocket guides" list games, records and even a space to use in recording the results from the current athletic contests. There is also a four-page "plan of salvation." Christianity Today reports that "millions" of the booklets have been printed. SBC will also be distributing one million "hospitality bags" with their own "interactive guide" to the events, along with a six-page religious tract, a container of sunscreen, wet wipes and snacks. The Baptists will also have "hospitality centers" for tourists at all game sites and along highways in Alabama and South Carolina leading toward Atlanta. * Youth With A Mission (YWAM) intends to field its 5,000 or so volunteers for "street evangelism" (usually shouting on street corners) and "prayer intercession" (?). CT notes that "About 1,000 of the YWAM volunteers will be official greeters at the Olympic Village." USA TODAY notes that 1,000 YWAM members will also "help with Olympic security and translating." * American Bible Society has printed up more than 5 million different items, including a "More Than Gold" pamphlet. * USA TODAY notes that Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has "made several objections with Olympics organizers to make sure that religious freedom is not inhibited during the games." * The official Olympic Village is staffed with 37 chaplains, including representatives of Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu and Moslem cults, all of whom will work out of a Religious Services Center. An official of the Interfaith Advisory Group to the games told the news media that efforts to convert athletes will be "off-limits," but that chaplains will become "friends, and in a sense, surrogate parents" to Olympic competitors. * Despite the "off limits" on conversion, USA TODAY identified one of the official chaplains as Madelina Manning Mims who won a gold medial in the 1968 games, and a silver medal in 1972. But Manning Mims is linked to the International Bible Society, which uses her in their "More Than Gold" tract. "Following Jesus is the highest calling in life and the most rewarding," she wrote. * Salvation Army and the SportsNet youth ministry have printed up a 32-page bookled with the sporty title of "Time Out" which includes testimony of Olympic champions and a religious "game plan" for one's life. * At least four rallies are planned in Atlanta to coincide with the games, under the "More Than Gold" banner. Christianity Today quotes Leroy Burrel who won the gold in 1992 in Barcelona: "We're more than athletes; we're Christians. We believe that Jesus Christ died for us, and he is our salvation." While Quest Atlanta '96 is serving as the umbrella organization for the proselytizing effort, a representative told the media that it is trying to steer the various missionary groups away from issues like politics, abortion and homosexuality. Quest specifically recommends that "prayer warriors" avoid these subjects, but admitted that the organization "can't stop the overzealous." Already, mass media is picking up on the religious dimension surrounding the athletic games. Cable News has begun coverage of "Christian athletes." In addition, NBA players on the Olympic Dream Team have announced that part of their expected earnings from a medal will be donated to rebuild black churches destroyed by fire. ***************** VOUCHER SCHEME BURIED IN ''COMMUNITY RENEWAL'' ACT While public attention in the coming weeks is expected to focus on proposals to legalize prayer in public schools, religious groups are busy promoting another part of their political agenda. Despite the repeated failure of school voucher schemes at the state level. church groups are mobilize to support the "American Community Renewal Act" (H.R.3467) introduced by Representative J.C.Watts (R-Oklahoma) and Rep. James Talent (R-Missouri), which would create a voucher program to give parents financial aid in order to send their children to prive schools. Critics charge that programs like the Renewal Act threaten the integrity of public education, and constitute government aid to private, often religious schools. Like voucher proposals which have been introduced at the state level, H.R.3467 starts off relatively small, appropriating $200,000,000 for voucher credits. But Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United, warns that it could -- within seven years -- end up with a price tag of as much as $5 billion. Catholic Conference -- "Pressure From Below" This timing of this latest voucher scheme is significant, especially in lieu of two developments. * Like the proposed Religious Equality Amendment, a voucher plan -- if rushed to the floor of Congress for a vote -- could be included in "voters guide" planned for distribution by the Christian Coalition. As reported in yesterday's AANEWS, an estimated 45,000,000 copies of the guide highlighting candidates' voting records on abortion, gay rights, school prayer and other issues, is scheduled for distribution through the Christian Coalition's network of some 100,000 churches in October. * The biggest beneficiary of voucher schemes would be the Roman Catholic Church, which in states throughout the country has organized pro-voucher campaigns complete with ads, letter-writing and lobbying. But while the church is beating the drums for vouchers, it is putting more pressure on a financially-strapped public school system. Yesterday, the United States Catholic Conference urged President Clinton to veto a bill which permits individual states to remove children of undocumented immigrants from public school classes. Ironically, the church is "pro-state's rights" in opposing any federal recognition of homosexual marriage, but insists that states which are deep in debt may not attempt to cut expenses (see commentary below - ed.) Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarrick called the bill "harmful legislation," and while Clinton is expected to veto the measure, it will be difficult in Congress this year to generate more funding for the public school system. **** One Man's Opinion... HYPOCRITES BEHIND THE COLLAR It's time for the churches to pay up or shut up. I'm not sure which is worse -- religious groups who want to use the government to invade our bedrooms and personal lives in the form of "family values" legislation, or those churches which are constantly whining about re-distribution of wealth and the need for more social programs. The latest action of the U.S. Catholic Conference is a case in point; the Conference doesn't like the idea of states removing the children of undocumented immigrants from public schools. On this issue, I happen to agree with them -- but not for their reasons. The legislation DOES have the effect of punishing children for whatever their parents have done. Atheists are not all of one mind on this issue, or the wider question of immigration; but I think we should focus on the hypocrisy of the Bishops and their church, at least on this one particular issue. Throughout the country, public schools are badly in need of funds and support. That problem won't be alleviated by expelling children whose parents happen to be in this country illegally. But what does the Catholic Church -- and many fundamentalist and evangelical Protestant groups -- demand? Whatever their dfferences on social issues may be, groups like the Catholic Conference and the Christian Coalition certain concur on the desirability of government aid to private, religious schools. "Parochaid", a controversial issue during the 1950's and 1960's, has now attracted the support of non-Catholic religious groups , including the "home schooling" movement. "Parochaid" lives on through the voucher schemes which have been presented throughout the nation. It is hypocritical for the Catholic bishops -- indeed any religious groups -- to demand that taxpayers subsidize their private religious schools. It is also hypocrisy when religious groups demand that individuals and businesses support the social platform of churches, especially when religions are tax-exempt. If the bishops are indeed concerned over the quality of education children (of both American citizen's and non-citizen's) happen to be receiving, the first thing they should do is place their own property on the tax rolls. They should also be willing to have their secondary-earnings taxed at a rate equal to, say, private individuals, businesses and corporations; church wealth generated through stock dividends, business schemes and other financial instruments should be taxed. Perhaps some of this money can be used to alleviate the crisis condition which exists in many public school districts. Several years ago, I wrote a guest editorial in my local newspaper similar to one you're reading now. It was in response to the political activity of a group known as the County Interfaith Council. Supposedly representing most of the different churches in the area, along with a handful of synagogues, the Council "invited" local government officials to attend their meetings. Often, the mayor, or county supervisors, or government department heads would sit on a raised dais, while the hundreds of people in the audience resembled the delegates to a full-blown political convention. Signs were everywhere, identifying the member-congregation: "St. Cyril's RCC Church," or "Shepherd of the Hills." Representatives would march up to a microphone, and identify themselves, noting the number of congregation members in that particular church. It was no secret around town in either political circles, or in the news media, that the phrase "I represent the 250 members of St. John's Church" really meant:"We've got 250 votes to deliver, so you had better do as we say -- or else!" The politically astute and ambitious learned to tow the line. What was remarkable about the County Interfaith Coalition was that it was not only a political machine, but that it demanded huge expenditures of money on numerous social projects -- homeless shelters, summer youth jobs, drug-and-alcohol rehab centers. Many of the goals were well-intended and admirable, even if they were enunciated in the tone of a political ward-boss. My editorial about the Interfaith Coalition, though, raised the issue of hypocrisy. Wasn't there a bit of a double standard here with the Interfaith honchos promoting their social agenda at the expense of individual taxpayers and businesses, while tens of millions of dollars of their property was tax exempt? Was't it hypocritical for the Coalition to demand, say, a 1% hike in the local sales tax, when their own earnings from stocks, businesses and other sources of income went untouched? Weren't the clerical ward-bosses,in effect, demanding that others fund their pet programs? I suggested that Interfaith Council leaders immediately head down to the County Assessor's office, and volunteer to place their properties on the tax rolls, and do something to ameliorate the burden which exists on private individuals. It didn't happen. Now, the hypocrites behind the collar want a federal program to fund private religious schools, at a time when public schools are desperately strapped for cash. While fundamentalists howl that public schools promote a "religion of secular humanism," they want taxpayer funds to build and expand religious schools of their own choosing. The "American Community Renewal Act," if passed, would be a financial windfall for religious groups across the country. Enrollment at religious schools would soar; millions of students would be subject to a academic curriculum which included not religious history but religious indoctrination. And who would pay? We would. ********************** 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 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 mail to:, and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. 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