THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 16, 1995 Contents: Washington, D.C. - CHRISTIAN COALITION'S SCHEDULE
THEISTWATCH FOR JULY 16, 1995
Washington, D.C.--CHRISTIAN COALITION'S SCHEDULE IN CONGRESS
Rome--"VATICAN RAG" OR "SHUFFLE 'N JIVE"?
United Kingdom--CHURCH PROPERTY DEAL IS "ONE OF BRITAIN'S
Washington, D.C.--WILL CLINTON JUST SAY "YES" TO RELIGIOUS
CENSORSHIP? (Editorial Comment)
World--THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
CHRISTIAN COALITION'S SCHEDULE IN CONGRESS ROLLS ON
by Conrad F. Goeringer
We begin this weekend edition of THEISTWATCH with some
important news concerning the proposed "Religious Equality
Amendment" and the latest activities of the Christian
An organization known as "C.C. Watch" which monitors the
Coalition, informs us that the hearing scheduled in Los
Angeles for this Monday, July 17, has apparently been
canceled. No rescheduled date has been announced. "Did the
Clinton announcement on religion in schools rain on the
parade?", asks "C.C. Watch," or "Did pro-REA forces feel like
they are not exactly having their way in these hearings, so
why do it again?" THEISTWATCH will pass along to you any new
developments on these hearings.
Meanwhile, "C.C. Watch" also warns that while people are
focused on elections in 1996 as a way of turning back the
political challenges of the religions conservatives, the real
action is taking place in Congress -- part of a strategy
described by an official of the Christian Broadcasting
Network as "chip away one block at a time."
Here are some crucial issues now being acted on in
---The "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act" is now in the House
Judiciary Committee (also charged with hearings on the
"Religious Equality Amendment") which is scheduled to
reconvene on Tuesday, July 18. The Christian Coalition has
sent out faxes urging their members to oppose all the
amendment to this legislation, such as the one offered by
Rep. Pat Schroeder "which would gut the bill by allowing for
a 'health of the mother' exception."
--- The Coalition says that it hopes "to take most of Planned
Parenthood's funding away by defunding Title X, and this
amendment would place further restrictions on political
advocacy by such liberal groups." This action is part of the
Labor/Health-Human Services/Education Appropriations bill. A
subcommittee has already voted to terminate 176 programs; it
comes to a full committee vote next week.
--- On Tuesday, July 18, the House Appropriations Committee
subcommittee on Commerce and Justice will vote on de-funding
the Legal Services Corporation. Abolishing the LSC is one of
the main objectives of the Christian Coalition's "Contract
With the American Family," in part because LSC has challenged
anti-abortion "nuisance" restrictions such as
husband/boyfriend consent and term limits.
--- Christian Coalition is also pushing an amendment which
would ban funds for Human Embryo Research. Establishing the
"official status" of clumps of fetal tissue will be an
important step in laying a foundation for the "life begins at
conception" argument. The Christian right may be getting an
unexpected boost in the medical-ethics twilight zone: right
after the Christian Coalition contract was released last
month, ANOTHER coalition of religious groups (most of them
"mainstream" liberals), organized by anti-technology guru
Jeremy Rifkin, demanded that Congress ban the patenting of
genetic materials. Surprisingly, the rhetoric in the document
was shockingly similar to anti-abortion propaganda.
There is a somewhat related debate now that the FDA has
approved a controversial process of using baboon bone-marrow
as a new, experimental AIDS treatment. The whole subject of
genetic technology and its manifold applications will be
"heating up" and linked to the abortion question.
--- Rep. John Istook of Oklahoma is also expected to offer an
amendment to clarify that states are permitted (but not
required) to use Medicaid funds to pay for abortions in the
case of rape and incest. The "states' rights" option means
that the local and state-level organizations of groups like
the Christian Coalition can then begin cutting back abortion
access (mostly to poor women) one state at a time.
Remember that Istook is the "point man" charged by
Speaker Gingrich with the task of drafting and guiding a
"Religious Equality Amendment" through the House.
THEISTWATCH will keep you up-to-date on these important
"VATICAN RAG" OR "SHUFFLE 'N JIVE"?
The Pope's Latest Manifesto on Women Has Contradictions and
Trendy, Pop-Culture New Speak
by Conrad Goeringer
Vatican flunkies are scrambling to interpret and clarify
Pope John Paul II's latest pronouncement on the status of
women. Last week's papal manifesto reaffirmed the Roman
Catholic church's opposition to both abortion and to the
ordination of women as priests. The anti-choice stance
surprised no one, but various pro-"Priestess" groups in the
Roman Catholic church were bitterly disappointed.
Now officials are in a spin-doctor mode as they try to
"clarify" the papal order concerning women in the church and
the status of various Protestant religions which happen to
have ordained women as part of their hierarchy. Cardinal
Eduardo Pironio, head of the Pontifical Council of Laity,
spent this week telling observers that the manifesto was some
grand letter addressed to "every woman in the world" and an
admission that the church had contributed to the cultural and
social oppression of women throughout history. The pope also
paid lip service to the struggle for women's rights,
especially in the economic sphere.
But while coming out and opposing the ordination of
women in the Roman Catholic church, the pope has a problem
with his efforts at "ecumenism," church unity. Protestants
are somewhat wary of the Vatican's call for what some
describe as a "World Church," naturally under the leadership
of the pope of Rome. After all, Protestantism began, in
large part, as a protest to various Roman Catholic church
practices, including the dictatorial leadership of the pope.
Since the Reformation, Protestant groups have gone their own
respective ways, even arguing amongst themselves over a
myriad of trivial details, rituals, and interpretations of
scripture. Many "cashed in" on the 1960s women's movement
by giving females a more active role in the mumbo-jumbo
ceremonies; now, women can be as ridiculous as men in
sporting church costumes, hats, and dispensing tasteless
wafers to throngs of gullible parishioners. As far as these
female Protestant functionaries are concerned, says Cardinal
Pironio, John Paul "reaffirms Catholic doctrine while
knowing that, on this issue, there are among the churches
differences of interpretation."
According to Ecumenical News, Pironio and other church
officials are also now suggesting that "read as a whole" the
papal manifesto "could be of great assistance to women, and
to the United Nations Conference on Women" scheduled in
September of this year in Beijing, China. But critics note
that the conference has Roman Catholic officials (and many
religious conservatives in the United States) worried; like
previous gatherings, the Conference will confront the obvious
need for birth control, abortion, and transforming the entire
role of women in society as a means to controlling explosive
population growth and combating rampant poverty.
It's doubtful that the Vatican has much to offer in
solving those pressing problems.
CHURCH PROPERTY DEAL IS "ONE OF BRITAIN'S LARGEST"
by Conrad Goeringer
If you thought that Pat Robertson has bucks, think
again. He's small fry compared to the giant Church of
England, the official, state church of the somewhat misnamed
Ecumenical News is reporting that the church is
unloading the bulk of its interest in one of Europe's largest
shopping malls, the giant MetroCentre. The shopping complex
was built in the late-1980s and cost some 270 million pounds
to develop. The Church has decided to back out of the
business venture in order to make cuts in an 800 million
pound investment loss.
Troubles began last April when the English House of
Commons Social Security Select Committee accused the
governing board of the Church of having "foolishly
speculated" and engaged in "ethically suspect" practices.
The Church Commissioners, responsible for some of the
Church's operating costs then admitted to "past mistakes,
learned from them and taken corrective action to secure
long-term financial stability."
The MetroCentre transfer is "one of Britain's largest
ever single property transactions." A spokesperson for the
Church Commissioners said that "By reducing our involvement
in the MetroCentre, yet at the same time retaining a
significant investment in it, we have taken a substantial
step forward in re-balancing our investment portfolio."
The Church Commissioners retain "freehold," de facto
ownership, of the land, and receive 10 percent of the rental
incomes from 330 tenants in the shopping complex.
WILL CLINTON JUST SAY "YES" TO RELIGIOUS CENSORSHIP?
by Conrad Goeringer
WARNING! The V-Chip may be coming soon to a television
set in your house, and will be hazardous for civil
The V-chip proposal, which mandates that television
manufacturers install a "blocking device" in all new sets
permitting consumers to tune out programs with certain
objectionable ratings, has passed the Senate and now enjoys
the support of President Clinton.
Clinton has spent the last week "tacking right"
(according to a spokesman for the Christian Coalition),
trying to compete with the traditional-family values crusade
the GOP is adroitly exploiting, rather than challenge it
altogether. Too bad. He spent nearly an hour at James
Madison High School in Virginia talking about America's
"religious heritage" and his own church background and
criticized the notion that public schools should be
considered "religion free zones." He's also chasing the coat
tails of Senator Robert Dole, who any day now may well shave
his head and begin sporting an earring, wearing a T-shirt
which reads "Mr. Clean." Not to be outdone by the Senate
Majority Leader's lambasting of Hollywood, Clinton is
defending the V-Chip, and with it an invasive, bureaucratic
ratings system which will electronically "tab" every program
sent out over the airwaves and cable networks.
Politicians simply cannot resist the lure of hopping on
trendy political bandwagons, especially if the issue involved
happens to be obscenity. Government leaders, preachers and
politicians (especially if they are male) thunder against the
evils of "smut" and then may head for the nearest prostitute
or strip-joint to satiate their own covert cravings. Jimmy
Swaggart couldn't resist the lure of a street walker and the
musty scent of cheap motel rooms. Even conservative solons
in Washington have been captured cavorting with young pages
or secretarial bimbos who couldn't type. Who are THESE guys
to demand ratings? As for Bill Clinton, we'll give him the
benefit of the doubt instead of Jennifer Flowers.
Should the V-Chip legislation make it through the House,
the television industry will have to set up an organization
to revue and rate everything coming out of the nation's
studios, production companies and, yes, even public access
offices. And the bill provides that failure to do so on the
part of the industry will result in a GOVERNMENT program to
accomplish the task. Hey! Where are those
budget-and-bureaucracy cutting conservatives when it comes to
this sort of proposal?
And what about television programming? We suspect that
TV evangeloids can salivate at the mouth while describing the
most violent and terrifying visions of "hell" that await
sinners who do not follow the Bible and never receive a
negative rating which would kick in the V-Chip. Programming
which describes for young children the sadomasochism of
Christ ("hanging on the cross, suffering for your sins!!!"),
or denounces "harlots," moneychangers, and the Whore of
Babylon, will surely be rated as "family viewing."
But what about the news? Surveys suggest that
youngsters are really most affected by what they might view
on the evening news broadcasts, not some "subtext" from
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers or the X-Files. If anything,
the real violence in Bosnia, the nation's sprawling prisons,
or even urban streets is becoming somewhat routine. If we
are becoming desensitized to it, don't blame the world of
fictional entertainment. There's enough in the real world to
do that job quite well, thank you.
Worse yet is the foolhardy attempt to pigeonhole all
programming into some convenient rating system, which
triggers the V-Chip to protect our kids -- and ultimately us
-- from ourselves. Dick Wolf, executive producer of such
award-winning programs as "Law and Order," noted in USA TODAY
(July 13) that stimulating programs such as "NYPD Blue" would
fall victim to the V-Chip, just like the "Texas Chainsaw
Massacre" (considered by many, incidentally, to be a
horror-genre classic). "NYPD Blue" was consistently in the
top 20, but "advertisers stayed away in droves because of the
adult-content warnings that ABC attached to it."
Let's get real about this; while Clinton, the FCC and
religious bluenoses are figuring out ways to convert
television fair into something about as stimulating as "700
Club" or "Mass for The Shut-In," kids are wiser, hipper, and
smarter than we give them credit for. Hey, mom and dad, they
already know what a condom is! And go ahead, trigger that
V-Chip . . . hopefully, the kids will figure out the code
with the same ingenuity that lets them get through the
ridiculous "parental control" options on the family
Rather than trying to ban sex and violence, or have
government play nanny in the home, perhaps we should think
about DISCUSSING these issues with youngsters in a sensible
and forthright fashion. "Sweeping it under the rug" merely
stimulates interest; blocking programs makes kids (and adults
for that matter) more curious. "What is it they DON'T want
me to see?" Is this a good way of fostering communications
The V-Chip is a bad idea, unless you want to see
government and religious prudery play even more of a role in
our social life.
Just say "no" to censorship.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
by Conrad Goeringer
The Department of Education has been ordered by the
president to let all public schools know about guidelines for
religion and religious exercise. In the "Religious Fashion"
category, students and teachers will be permitted to wear
yarmulkes and headscarves, and they may display "religious
messages" on their clothing if other messages are permitted.
If T-shirts with sports logos are permitted, then so would
"I'm pumped-up for Jesus!" or "God Rules!". Let's see,
however, if this same concern with "religious liberty"
translates consistently and protects the rights of students
who decide to display antireligious slogans and motifs.
There's already the "Bad Religion" logo for that popular
musical group, depicting a cross with the slash-bar. But
someday, somewhere, somebody is going to wear an American
Atheists T-shirt or one depicting the "Darwin fish" with
legs -- or my favorite which says "This Is Your Brain on
Religion." What will happen then?
Here is an interesting development about the Rachel
Bauchman case up in Utah. You may recall that Ms. Bauchman, a
sixteen-year-old, protested the inclusion of Christian hymns
in a choral class at her public high school. "No child
should feel like a second-class citizen in their own choir. .
. . I was left out, I was laughed at, I was whispered about."
The school failed to address her concerns, and when she took
legal action against the school, her class office campaign
posters were soon decorated with swastikas and other racial
Ms. Bauchman tried to distinguish between what she
called "musical" pieces such as Handel's "Messiah" and songs
such as "Friends," a 1982 Christian pop hit which is
considered "devotional." The controversy played out in the
Salt Lake City news media and reached fever pitch the night
of high school graduation. The capella choir performed two
substitute songs, but then a student led the assembled group
-- including parents -- in a rousting version of "Friends."
Columnist Frank Rich writing in this week's New York Times
(July 12) noted: "On videotape, you can see some school
officials sitting passively on stage, tacitly condoning a
high school assembly's disintegration into what one observer
called a 'hooting mob'."
Mr. Rich also informs us that Rachel Bauchman was given
the option by school officials of sitting out her choir class
when it rehearsed Christian songs and receive an automatic
grade of "A." It is obvious that these school administrators
knew quite well that performing such songs -- especially at a
graduation ceremony which is an official school function --
was wrong. Rather than deal with the issue, and open up a
Pandora's box of controversial topics such as tolerance and
diversity (anathema, it seems, in Mormon-dominated Utah),
they tried to essentially "buy off" the young woman. It
In my book, Rachel Bauchman is a 100 percent,
all-America heroine. She stood her ground against religious
bigotry and mindless social conformity. And best of all,
she resisted the quintessential American method of defusing
controversy -- the bribe.
Our correspondent from New Orleans informs us that
there's a new publication called Shamanic Applications
Review, which describes itself as a "Quarterly for Mental
If so, it looks like this "Review" might have some
serious flaws before the whistle blows on the first quarter!
We're informed that its pages will deal with topics such as
"Shamanic methods and treatment of trauma related disorders
such as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD/DID), Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Ritual Abuse and the
treatment of malignant alters." One danger in such
explorations is that these things may really not exist at
all. "Ritual Abuse" has become a buzz-phrase for the old
"Satanic cult"-conspiracy theories of fundamentalist wackos.
While this frightening urban legend was being promoted
through afternoon talk shows and Sunday sermons, innocent men
and women were often being accused of being "Satanic High
Priests" (or "Priestesses") molesting every kid in the
neighborhood. Lives were ruined, lawyers sometimes got
rich, self-appointed "therapists" and "counselors" were later
found to be manipulating the "patients" -- and the entire
sordid affair became a modern-day version of the old Salem
Multiple Personality Disorder may or may not exist; MPD
was inextricably woven into the fantasy of the "Satanic cult"
legend where victims -- prompted into "recalling" such
dubious memories as having been forced to drink blood, murder
babies, or copulate with numerous hooded men -- dealt with
these horrors by "fragmenting" into various "personalities."
Anyone up for a rerun of "The Exorcist"?
We'll have to wait and see, of course, just how
"Shamanic Applications Review" deals with these and other
issues, especially those which constitute a whole new
frontier of psuedo-science and new age crankery. I like the
part about studying "malignant alters." I'd just include the
"malignant altars" as well.
(Thanks to Ann Nunn down thar' in the Big Easy for this
If this installment of THEISTWATCH is proving to be too
cerebral and serious, we offer this for your entertainment
A Dutch scientist says that the "blood" from a statue of
the Madonna of Fatima is actually resin used to glue in the
artificial eyes. Yet for the past two weeks crowds have been
pouring into the southern Dutch town of Brunssum, after a
63-year-old pensioner began seeing "blood" flowing from the
foot-high statue which had been a gift from some friends in
According to Ecumenical News, Jan Couman's "deeply
religious" wife, Gerda, promptly declared that the red drops
trickling down the Madonna "must be blood." She informed
neighbors, who began spreading the word and crowding into
their small house. One neighbor insisted that suddenly "the
whole street was filled with the smell of heavenly flowers,"
while another claimed to have cured of her rheumatism.
Meanwhile, the "blood" was analyzed by Jan van Wersch,
head of the laboratory of the De Wever hospital in nearby
Heerlen. He determined that the drops were from resin used
toglue Mary's eyes in place, which had begun to melt owing
to a recent heatwave. He noted that "When put in a cool
place the drops become solid again. That's all there is to
But the faithful are still pouring into the town of
Brunssum. And Mrs. Coumans has told reporters that her
second son became "a religious maniac" following a cerebral
hemorrhage and thinks he is Christ. As for Gerda, she adds,
"I talk to the Madonna each night. . . . This is no
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