THEISTWATCH FOR MAY 4, 1995 Cyberspace - A WORD FROM THE THEISTWATCH MODERATOR Mississippi
THEISTWATCH FOR MAY 4, 1995
Cyberspace--A WORD FROM THE THEISTWATCH MODERATOR
Mississippi--AT&T ACCUSED OF 'PROMOTING HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA'
United States--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
Ecuador--STATE/CHURCH BATTLE IN ECUADOR: A LESS FOR THE U.S.?
Mississippi--COORS BREWING COMPANY NOW FACING A.F.A. WRATH
United States--OKLAHOMA BLAST ISN'T FIRST CASE OF "DOMESTIC
A WORD FROM THE THEISTWATCH MODERATOR
My apologies for the day in delivering TheistWatch during
this week. There have been some technical difficulties
(translation: I accidentally erased the TheistWatch files two
days in a row).
This does, however, give me an opportunity to thank all of
you for subscribing to THEISTWATCH. American Atheists first
started this news watch on its BBS and later made it available on
as an echo on Fidonet, volunteer network of BBSs. It was just
last month that we were able to put all the pieces together to
make it available as a mailing list.
As moderator, I value any comments Atheist readers may have
about the format or content of the mailing. (For example, would
you prefer to receive each news article individually, rather than
as one long mailing?). Contributions of news items are also
Please also note that we have a second mailing list
available, ATHEIST-L, which concentrates on state/church
separation news and information about American Atheists'
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--Robin Murray-O'Hair, Moderator
AT&T ACCUSED OF 'PROMOTING HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA'
Right-Wing American Family Association Could Face Legal Action
by Conrad F. Goeringer
The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the nation's largest
phone company has "an option" in suing the American Family
Association in a flap over AT&T's support of gay rights.
The AFA is a Christian fundamentalist media watch-dog opposed
to profanity, homosexuality, violence and blasphemy. It is
based in Tupelo, Mississippi and headed by Donald Wildmon.
Among the charges leveled by AFA:
--AT&T "participated" in an event called 'OUT Loud," the first
annual Lesbian and Gay Cultural and Business Expo which featured
"a haunted house where visitors journey through the twisted mind
of the radical right."
--The company has a policy allowing gay employees to place a pink
triangle in work areas, supposedly identifying a
homosexual-friendly" zone and, according to Ecumenical Press,
"approves of this lifestyle and employees who disagree are out of
step with company policy."
--AT&T participated in the Northalsted Market Days Festival which
"offered product awareness to Chicago's gay and lesbian
community, having a sales booth staffed by AT&T people at the
--AT&T "has been among the top sponsors of pro-homosexual
programs on television" and ""used radical homosexual Brian
McNaught's video 'On Being Gay' to indoctrinate AT&T employees."
Other charges attacked an AT&T management policy of dealing
with homophobia in the workplace and making available video
cassette tapes for employees which "help promote homosexuality."
American Family Association has begun a boycott of AT&T,
urging people to instead use a company called "Lifeline." Ten
percent of "Lifeline" charges will be donated to AFA as a
"ministry of choice."
Meanwhile, the phone giant defended its anti-homophobic
policies. An AT&T spokesperson said that AFA ads had
mischaracterized company policies. "We just do not brook
intolerant behavior aimed at gays," said AT&T representative
Now, that's a True American Voice speaking.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
by Conrad F. Goeringer
Cops in Harvard, Illinois, arrested a fifteen-year-old boy
for wearing the Star of David. As a part of a crackdown against
"gang clothing," police are on the prowl for youngsters who "wear
known gang colors, emblems, or other gang insignia." The youth
was not Jewish and faces a fine of up to $500. "Crime experts"
said that the Star of David could be a gang symbol, but two weeks
later, police stopped and then released another person for
wearing a similar emblem when it was learned that he had
religious reasons for doing so.
Sooner or later it had to happen -- THEISTWATCH had to say
something in connection with, what else?, the O. J. Simpson
According to the television tabloid show EXTRA, prayer is a
secret weapon" being used by the defense team. It appears that
defense attorney Johnny Cochran, a Baptist, has asked Simpson-pal
Rosie Grier to organize prayer sessions during the trial. Grier,
a former NFL hulk, believes O.J. is innocent; he is now a "lay
We only wonder -- what happens if Marcia Clark subpoenas the
TV evangeloid Robert Tilton -- the guy who lived a "Rich and
Famous" life-style and quickie-prayed over stacks of mail from
followers -- used to thunder on and on about family values. Now
he's ditched wife #1 in divorce proceedings and hooked up with
Leigh Valentine who has her own thriving ministry. Maybe Tammy
Faye started a trend.
And you think YOU'VE got problems with junk mail and appeals
for support? Even former President Jimmy Carter got back in the
act asking god for partisan political help. According to a press
release from Carter Center, the former president said that he had
asked god "that people like Newt Gingrich would be defeated and
Democrats would win the election in a proper way." God must be a
Republican now, considering the outcome of the November voting.
Maybe Jimmy still has too much "lust in his heart."
STATE/CHURCH BATTLE IN ECUADOR: A LESSON FOR THE U.S.?
Roman Catholic Church Accused of Manipulating Law
by Conrad F. Goeringer
One argument against prayer recitation in public schools has
consisted of the fear that religious indoctrination ultimately
benefits a particular faith, and that differing religions simply
cannot agree on how all should worship. In fact, the history of
prayer in public schools in the United States is one filled with
conflict and even bloodshed. Protestants and Roman Catholics once
battled each other in full-scale riots over whose version of the
BIble would be read in city school systems. (That argument
conveniently left out whatever non-Christians were around,
including Atheists and other nonbelievers.)
But with school prayer on the agenda for the new GOP
"Contract with America," we might learn something from recent
events in Latin America, specifically Ecuador. A national
petition is being circulated there in protest of a law enacted
last year mandating religious education in the government school
system. That law was passed after a Roman Catholic conference
demanded that religion be taught to "struggle against the loss of
While the Roman Catholic church claims 90 percent of the
country's population, Ecuador enjoyed over a century of sectarian
education for children and youth. And many point out that, as in
other nations, claims of allegiance by religious organizations
are usually based upon baptisms, not the actual number of church-
Ironically, it is Protestant groups which are disturbed with
the new law and sabre-rattling of the Roman Catholic
establishment. They see the law, which was passed in November
and requires up to two hours of government-funded religious
indoctrination each week in all schools, as a threat to their own
organizing efforts. Anglican Bishop Walter Crespo staged a week-
long hunger strike in January, and in demonstrations against the
legislation, two students were killed by police, twenty injured,
and some sixty arrested.
A spokesman for the Latin American Council of Churches,
Cesar Parra, is quoted by the Ecumenical Press news service: "It
is an unconstitutional law because it discriminates against
religious minorities. . . . We must say that this Roman Catholic
initiative on religious education in Ecuador is not an isolated
one." Parra continues, "It is part of a project that was born in
the assembly of Latin American Catholic Bishops in Santa Domingo
in 1992, during which several strategies were designed in order
to start a new Catholic evangelization in the continent."
Despite its long history of dominating religion and politics
in Latin America, the Roman Catholic church is now being
challenged by a number of aggressive Protestant sects and other
groups. Mormons have established a major recruiting effort in the
region, as have evangelical Christians. The church considers
these groups to be "sects."
Meanwhile, a diverse group of workers, indigenous natives,
human rights groups, and students have formed the Front for the
Protection of Laity in an effort to repeal the new law. Roman
Catholic church leaders have rejected a compromise plan which
would allow local churches to provide schools with teachers for
religious education, fearing that Protestants and others could
"move in." The national petition now being circulated hopes to
gather over a million signatures to repeal the law.
Lessons for America?
Not only do laws such as the one in Ecuador end up promoting
specific religious beliefs, but they effectively "write off"
segments of the population which profess no religion and support
the separation of government and religion. A law -- in Ecuador or
anywhere else -- which would compromise and allow any or all
religious groups to have access to the public school system,
would still hold students hostage to indoctrination. It is
doubtful that an Atheist, or someone else who questions religious
assumptions, would be given "equal time" to respond to claims
made by religious instructors of any faith.
And the geo-political "game plan" of the Roman Catholic
church should be a concern for all people in the United States
who support First Amendment state/church separation. Are
activities such as the National Day of Prayer designed to create
support for mandatory school prayer? No doubt just about EVERY
religion would like to be in the privileged position of having
its own peculiar prayer, holy book, and theology promulgated in
schools through mandatory instruction.
Finally, there is a deep-rooted cynicism not only in the
latest evangelizing campaign by the Roman Catholics, but the
tendency of Protestants to see the religious instruction law in
Ecuador (and elsewhere) as sort of "turf battle" for the
gullible. Perhaps this is the best reason for having NO religious
indoctrination, even that which gives "equal time" to various
groups in public schools. A population, particularly a group of
young students trying to learn, should not be a recruiting field
for religion-peddlers facilitated through the coercive power of
In Ecuador, the United States, and everywhere else -- it is
best to keep religious indoctrination out of the schools and
maintain separation of state and church.
COORS BREWING COMPANY NOW FACING A.F.A. WRATH
by Conrad F. Goeringer
The Coors Brewing Company -- a long-time underwriter for
right-wing political and religious groups -- now faces the wrath
of the evangelical American Family Association for being at the
top of the organization's "Dirty Dozen" list.
Based in Tupelo, Mississippi, A.F.A. describes itself as a
"Christian organization promoting the Biblical ethic of decency
in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media."
The group has called for boycotts and censorship in its battle
against homosexuality, violence, profanity, and extra-marital
sex. The "Dirty Dozen" includes corporate sponsors of
organizations which A.F.A. claims sponsor programs with these
themes. Other "Dozen" members include Sony, Hormel Foods, First
Interstate Bancorp, Time Warner and Sara Lee.
Although it leads the "Dirty Dozen" list, the Coors family and
its firm have a long history of association with right wing
Christian movements. Joe Coors was notorious for his battle
against union representation for beer plant workers. In 1971,
Coors joined with Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for
Christ) and strategist Paul Weyrich to form a political alliance.
By 1974, the trio had established the Heritage Foundation and the
Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress. Heritage
Foundation went on to become one of the most influential think
tanks in America, providing support and research for Ronald
Reagan and, later, George Bush. The Committee was established to
select and fund candidates in Congressional races who represented
right-wing evangelical sentiments, particularly on issues such as
abortion and Gay rights.
Holly Coors was active in funding Pat Robertson's 700 Club and
the Christian Broadcasting Network. She served on the board of
CBN University as well.
And Coors was a major backer in Bill Bright's "Here's Life,
America" campaign, an attempt to proselytize Christianity on
college campuses in the tumultuous 1970s.
A variety of popular programs have attracted the criticism of
A.F.A., especially those appearing on the Fox Network, such as
"Married With Children" and "The Simpsons" (a target of George
Bush in his "family values" theme).
The "Dirty Dozen" and other offenders are selected on the
basis of counts which tally incidents of sex, violence and
profanity on an hourly basis during prime time. The monitoring
report which found Coors at the top of the list covered the
period of October 16 to November 12 of last year. A.F.A.
bluenoses tabulated 8.5 incidents of violence each hour, 14.15
sex encounters, and 22.93 uses of profanity. "A total of 91
percent of all sex was depicted outside marriage," said A.F.A.
And it's not even counting the soaps.
OKLAHOMA BLAST ISN'T FIRST CASE OF "DOMESTIC TERRORISM"
Blacks, Women, Gays, Workers and Political Dissidents Often
Victims of State-Organized Violence
by Conrad F. Goeringer
It has become a symbol in the press, electronic media, and the
public consciousness -- a bombed-out building, the front ripped
away from a powerful blast, floors collapsed; helmeted rescue
workers scramble over piles of rubble, still searching for the
bodies of the dead, adding to a grisly arithmetic. 117 people
are dead; many more have been seriously injured; and as workers
move into "the pit," the part of the building where the blast
seems to have taken its worst effects and which housed the day-
care centers, rescue crews are preparing for the worst -- more
bodies of dead kids. The government -- and plenty of everyday
citizens -- are angry. About 70 percent according to surveys
would give up some liberties they say in order to combat
"domestic terrorism." The law enforcement establishment is happy
to comply, and the FBI seems to be leading the pack in demanding
tough legislation, more agents, and of course more control in
fighting the specter of home-grown organized violence. Both FBI
Director Louis Freeh and the news hounds in Oklahoma City are
calling the blast the "worst," even the first case of terrorism
on American soil.
But terrorism isn't necessarily some crank militia or loner,
and Oklahoma City is certainly not the "first," or even the worst
case of "terrorism" in our nation.
Columnist Stanley Crouch, writing in Sunday's N.Y. Daily News,
reminds us that violence and bloodshed -- often by police and
other government officials -- marked the history of the civil
rights movement in America. Men, women, and children died as
buildings were bombed; civil rights workers both black and white
were murdered; and the violence sustained a long tradition of
"legal lynching" against Southern blacks, going back to the days
of slavery. And what about slavery? Slaveocracy was a thriving
and legal institution throughout much of the South, receiving the
sanction of both government and church. Slaves were
"Christianized" to keep them subservient, placid, easy to control
-- and intimidate. It was all legal too.
In our yuppie "service economy," we also often forget another
history --the struggle of millions of workers for better wager,
better working conditions and union representation. It may be
fashionable to insist that unions are "obsolete," but auto
workers, steel workers, mill and textile employees and millions
of other folks didn't think so in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
Unions meant a lunch break, a chance to go to the restroom, a
pension, and a slice of the American dream. Companies brought in
squads of cops to bust heads when the unions began to organize,
and backing them up were armies of "legal goons," including the
notorious Pinkertons. A UAW organizer named Walter Reuther
decided to fight back, and organized "flying squads" to protect
striking workers and their families from the legal terror of the
cops and the company thugs.
A lot of people were killed in that struggle, too.
And there was domestic terrorism of another sort as well,
aimed at political dissidents. Women who tried to organize for
everything from the vote to birth control were beaten, jailed and
suppressed. "Mother Jones" achieved fame as a union organizer;
Emma Goldman became "Red Emma" for her tireless work on behalf of
civil liberties, freedom of thought, and other issues. Margaret
Sanger was targeted because she said women should have access to
birth control. That fight still continues.
Perhaps the biggest case of "domestic terrorism" was the
systematic extermination of native peoples throughout North
America by the incursions of White, Christianizing European
culture. Indians had been fighting amongst themselves for
centuries, of course, and their cultures were not the idyllic
paradise some "wannabees" like to picture them. But the first
chemical warfare in history was carried out by the U.S.
government -- giving typhoid infected blankets to expatriated
Indian tribes as they were forcibly relocated onto government
While government and church terrorism have often been used
against blacks, Indians and others, terror is sometimes color-
blind -- directed even against dissident whites. Thousands of
young men were sent to Vietnam in a war which many top officials
knew could not be won. A disproportionate number were black
(about 40 percent), but the whites sent to 'Nam were often
working-class backgrounds, unable to afford college and
deferments. 50,000 Americans were killed, and up to 40 times
that number -- over 2,000,000 Vietnamese --suffered the same
fate. Cardinal Spellman of New York, a close confidant of
President Kennedy, convinced JFK and other government leaders
that it was a "war against godless communism." Diem was
installed as the Roman Catholic president of South Vietnam even
though the majority of the country was Buddhist. More firepower
was expended in that war by the United States than by all the
belligerents in World War II combined. The napalm, artillery
rounds, cluster bombs and other weaponry make the Oklahoma City
blast look like a water balloon in comparison.
And we're not alone. Governments throughout the world are
spending record amounts of money each year in building up their
arsenals. Armaments have become the crack-cocaine of many
national economies, including that of the former Soviet Union.
The U.S. remains in the top three or four; our aerospace industry
is hooked on foreign arms contracts. Countries like Brazil,
Israel, even South Africa have moved into this lucrative market.
It's legal terrorism.
Don't get me wrong; Oklahoma City's carnage was the work of
evil people intent on imposing their wills and bizarre theo-
politics onto other people. Violence is rarely, if ever, the
solution to complex social and personal problems -- it often
transforms the perpetrator into the very thing which he or she is
fighting, and at the cost of innocent victims.
But "domestic terrorism" can have many faces. Some stare out
at you in a frightening silence, the look of a lone madman or
self-righteous cult that imagines itself a "vanguard". Others
are impersonal, bureaucratic, draped in the vocabulary of
defending the "national security," or fighting "enemies, both
foreign and domestic." That kind of terrorism is by far more
dangerous; it is carried out often as the will of god, and an
official order. It's all perfectly legal.
TheistWatch is a regular news survey on religion and religious
belief, and the foibles and follies of religion, as reported from
an Atheist standpoint. TheistWatch originates from the
headquarters of American Atheists, Inc., in Austin, Texas, as a
service to members and potential members and all Atheists
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superstitions. Unless otherwise noted, articles appearing in
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