Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 19 1996 (Special Edition, Part One) Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 19 1996 (Special Edition, Part One) Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 18:04:20 -0700 From: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #99uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu7/19/96 In This Special Issue... THE RELIGIOUS EQUALITY AMENDMENT: AN ATHEIST RESPONSE (Editor's Note: This Tuesday, July 23, The Consitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will be conducting a hearing on the so-called "Hyde version" of a proposed Religious Equality Amendment. This legislation has been a centerpiece in the Christian Coalition's "Contract With the American Family." The current versions would legitimize "student led" or "student initiated" prayer in public schools, and open the door for a range of religious exercises (including the teaching of pseudoscientific creationism) in public educational establishments. One of the legal battles which helped to end mandatory prayer and bible-verse recitation in schools was Murray vs. Curlett. It was initiated by Madalyn Murray (later Madalyn Murray O'Hair), who founded the organization American Atheists, and her son, William J. Murray. Since that case over thirty years ago, Bill Murray has become an evangelist and an exponent of so-called "voluntary prayer" as a panacea for the ills of the country. One unique feature of this case was that unlike other legal efforts to restrict mandatory prayer, this suit was filed by an Atheist, and argued from an Atheist perspective. In fact, the introductory brief in the Murray vs. Curlett case began with the salutation to the court, "Your Petitioners Are Atheists..." Madalyn Murray O'Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray, and her granddaughter Robin Murray O'Hair disappeared in early September, 1975. Immediately prior to that time, they were involved in an effort to defeat the Religious Equality Amendment. The House Judiciary Committee held a series of public meetings throughout the country on this controversial subject. American Atheists is attempting to have the new President of the organization, Ellen Johnson, called before The Constitution Subcommittee this coming Tuesday to present an Atheist perspective. Unfortunately, those representatives bold enough to oppose school prayer are still timid when it comes to Atheism, and permitting Atheists to have "equal time." Most of the "church-state separation" groups like to drag in select clergy and other religious types, who often oppose prayer for fear that it might "offend minority religious people." Atheists -- especially any who would dare employ the dreaded "A-word" -- are often not included in the witness testimony list. It is estimated by some surveys that about 10% of the population of the U.S. is either Atheist, or some form of "non-believer." That's 25,000,000 Americans, a figure larger than most of the "minority" and even mainstream religious cults like the Episcopalians, Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, Hindus, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Unitarians. It is a travesty to NOT call for input from Atheists on this important issue. Privately, we have been informed that there is "no way" that an Atheist will be permitted to address The Constitution Subcommittee, although we have launched an aggressive fax, e-mail and letter writing campaign to members of this body asking to be heard. For Atheists, this is not a "religious liberty" issue; after all, pick up a typical, metropolitan area phone book and check under the heading of "Churches." You'll see that there are plenty of venues, including chapels, churches, mosques, synaogogues, cathedrals, temples and other places where religious people may chant, sing, pray, kneel, burn incense, gyrate, speak-in-tongues, hallucinate, mumble, dance, clap hands and do anything else they believe in to appease the god or gods of their creed. This IS a state-church separation issue. And it is also an issue of civil rights for Atheists and non-believers. What follows is a transcript of a letter sent last July 25, 1995 by the founder of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O'Hair. It was sent to the counsel for the Subcommittee, Mr. Robert Rabin. We reproduce it here, as it is one of the finest statements concerning Atheism and its relationship to a proposed Religious Equality Amendment.) ************************ Mr. Rabin: 1 At the behest of the Christian Coalition, the United States Congress, under the auspices of the Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, has been undertaking hearings in regard to the possibility of returning prayers to the public schools of the nation under the guise of "restoring" religious equality. American Atheists GHQ, Inc. is a non-profit, non-political educational organization which acts as a "watchdog" for governmental state/church separation breeches which undermine the constitutionally protected right of freedom of conscience of those Americans (10 percent of the population) who are Atheists. In full knowledge that such prescribed prayers are both unconstitutional, unacceptable and unconscionable, the Congress has, in collaboration with the Christian Coalition and certain other fundamentalist religious leaders, advanced the return of such prayers through a proposed constitutional amendment cleverly presented under the euphemism of a "Religious Equality Amendment." The exercise has been propped up first with an in-Congress Committee hearing and later with contrived "field hearings" of little substance. Such a prayer amendment is the first on an agenda of Ten Commandments given by the Christian Coalition to Congress under the rubric of a "Contract With The American Family." II Having carefully followed the charade, it is necessary that the American Atheists makes the following analysis and submits it for inclusion in the record of such hearings. Please construe this to be an educational effort on behalf of the persons affiliated with American Atheists. III The basis for the Congressional desire to intrude prayer into the public school system is, fundamentally, a hunt for votes to keep incumbents in office. This, unfortunately, speaks both the gullibility of the voters and their lack of sensitivity to and knowledge of religious history. The introduction of the proposed permissive legislation into both houses of Congress is based upon the currently accepted theoretical premise that all public life must be infused with religion. IV A number of allacies gird up the proposed amendment. The public school system in the United States is predicated on the need for an educated work force. Children are in compulsory attendance there to learn the skills necessary to be competitive in the business marketplace. In order to qualify one's self as a carpenter, a bricklayer, a hamburg, chef, an on-line factory worker, a truck driver, an insurance salesman, a private entrepreneur, a teacher, a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer or other professional, religion is not needed in the educational equation. In fact the divisiveness introduced into public schools by the injection of multitudinous sect religions therein is detrimental to the learning process. The public schools system is not there to give a forum for individual children to express religious opinions; it is there for teachers to advance the secular knowledge of the students in preparing them for the free enterprise market place. V In response to the proposed reintroduction of prayers into the public schools the arguments of (1) constitutional constrains and (2) the DE FACTO presence of religion already in the schools are advanced. These, however, are not the real issues since both are inherently supportive of religion in the cultural base. The more compelling argument to avoid religious practices and instructions at all costs is that the A PRIORI doctrines upon which religions are predicated have not been demonstrated to be valid. The four underlying doctrines of religion have been held sacrosanct by the government of the United States. These are: (1) that there is a superintending force in the universe concerned with and governing, not alone the thoughts but, the ultimate fates of individual persons; (2) that each individual person, or an agent (a minister, priest, rabbi, guru, a mallah, or other babbling idiot) of such a person, can be indirect communication with that governing authority by the use of prayer; (3) that conformity to the wishes of that outside, ethereal invisible power will cause the death of our material bodies to be insignificant; in (4) that an invisible essence (the soul), housed in each person's material body, is in reality the only existing form of life which is significant to all. (End of Part One of Two) *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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