Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 25, 1996 Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 09:26:09 -0700 nn nn AA
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 25, 1996
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 09:26:09 -0700
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#107 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/25/96
* The Religious Equality Amendment & Political Grandstanding
* Newt Snubs Dornan: Split In The Ranks?
* David Barton: Pied Piper Of "Christian Nation" Mythology
* About This List...
RELIGION HEARINGS BECOMING POLITICAL LITMUS TEST?
After lanugishing in the Congressional bill hopper for more than a year, a
proposed Religious Equality Amendment is suddenly a hot and urgent priority
for supporters on and off Capitol Hill. As reported yesterday in AANEWS, the
hearings on Tuesday quickly turned into a forum for Rep. Henry Hyde, who
insisted that a constitutional amendment is the only way to protect religious
liberty in the United States. But after months of dormancy, why the sudden
The so-called "Hyde version" is one of two proposed texts for a Religious
Equality Amendment. Eagle Forum, Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the
Family and other groups have each supported their own pet version; both texts
have remarkably similar language, but the Hyde amendment was considered
unacceptable and weak by some religious conservatives, including evangelist
William Murray, who along with his mother Madalyn Murray O'Hair was a
plaintiff in the Supreme Court case which helped to end prayer and bible
recitation in public schools.
But suddenly, Number 2 House Republican Dick Armey of Texas appeared, and
took over the job of massaging the language in the Hyde Amendment. The
powerful Christian Coalition put out the word, and the Amendment was on the
dock for another round of hearings.
The Christian Science Monitor newspaper notes that since Senate GOP
leaders have not scheduled any hearings or vote on the measure, "The sudden
push for the amendment...appears politically motivated. Election day is fast
approaching, and the Christian Coaltion wants a vote on a religious freedom
amendment in time to include the results in its voter guides..."
But despite the attention the proposal has generated in religious, media
and political circles, AANEWS suggests that there are "problems in the
ranks," and that Senate GOP leaders might be re-thinking their relationship
with the religious right. This raises a question: is House Speaker Newt
Gingrich trying to distance himself from the destructive political
consequences of an alliance with groups like the Christian Coalition? His
treatment of Rep. Robert Dornan may tell the tale...
DORNAN SNUB REFLECTING SPLIT IN GOP RANKS WITH COALITION?
At the center of an emerging split is Rep. Robert K. Dornan, a staunch GOP
religious conservative and poster-boy for the Christian Coalition.
Religious right elements are now furious that Speaker Ginrich has nixed
Dornan from the prestigious conferee slot on the 1997 defense budget, a move
which the Washington Times said leaves "the House-Senate conference devoid of
a strong voice to push measures against abortion, pornography and homosexuals
in the military."
Dornon has been a steady supporter of the Christian Coalition, and led the
charge on a number of CC agenda items, including efforts to ban adult
material from being sold at military bases. Dornan also pushed for the
mandatory discharge of all HIV-positive soldiers, a ban on gays from the
military, and a ban on abortions in military hospitals.
But it may be Dornan's confrontations with Rep. Steve Gunderson, a
Republican congressman from Wisconsin who is openly gay and who happens to be
a personal friend of Ginrich. The Times notes: "Mr. Dornan openly criticized
House leaders for issuing spousal cards to the roommates of Mr. Gunderson and
Rep. Barney Frank, Masssachusetts Democrat and an open homosexual."
Axing Dornan -- curtailing his influence within GOP ranks and his
high-profile in crafting a Republican agenda -- may be the first step in a
campaign by Gingrich & Co. to re-exert some moderating influences within a
party which some critics say is now beholden to Ralph Reed and the Christian
There are other indictations of this effort as well. News reports are
circulating that Pat Buchanan will not be permitted to speak at the GOP
national convention next month slated for San Diego; and the Dole campaign
seems to be in a backlash mode to the demands of the Coalition that the
Kansas senator choose a vehemently pro-life running mate for the vice
Ginrich and his supporters also seem to be emphasizing an economic attack
on President Clinton as the best (if only) campaign strategy. Clinton has
skillfully managed to coopt "family values" issues, often appearing to mimic
the Republican language. Britain's Electronic Telegraphy says the President
is using a "Happy Families" election pack, concentrating on social metaphors
like Mr. Deadbeat dad, the absentee father, and Mr. Savage, the wife beater.
Clinton has managed to shed his image as an extra-marital philanderer and
created a solid, middle-class persona by supporting curfews for kids, school
uniforms, community policing and other measures.
In addition, Clinton's experience with Whitewater, gurugate, even his veto
of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban seems to have done little damage in the
polls, where he holds a commanding lead over Dole. GOP pundits may now be
realizing that "Teflon Bill" is not vulnerable on the social agenda issues
which have been the centerpiece for the Christian Coalition and other
religious conservative groups. And the culture war issues like abortion may
be backfiring; American women remain committed to a pro-choice position,
which may reflect in their preference for Clinton at the polls.
''CHRISTIAN NATION'' MYTHOLOGISTS USED PHONEY QUOTES
David Barton, a major religious author and lecturer whose 1989 book "The
Myth of Separation" ignited a round of attacks on First Amendment
state-church separation, used fraudulent quotes attributed to major
historical figures in supporting his argument that "America is a Christian
nation." The full expose appears in the current issue of Church & State
Magazine, in a "Consumer Alert!" article by journalist Rob Boston.
For nearly a decade, Barton has been stumping the religious right lecture
circuit arguing that state-church separation had no foundation in American
history, until the Supreme Court began foisting in on the country. "The Myth
of Separation" has been a hot seller in many Christian bookstores, and
appears at political confabs for groups like Focus on the Family and the
Christian Coalition." A video version has been promoted by Barton's
WallBuilders organization, airing on public access and religious stations
throughout the country. In addition, Barton's claims often appear in
literature distributed by groups such as the Christian Coalition. In 1992,
for instance, a state convention of the Colorado Republican Party was
pamphleted with Barton quotes, including:
"The Separation of Church and State is l) Not a teaching of the founding
fathers; 2) Not an historical teaching; 3) Not a teaching of law (except in
recent years); 4) Not a biblical teaching."
Barton also seems to be the source in a now often-repeated claim that the
"wall of separation" is "one dimensional (sic)" or "one directional" or that
"It keeps the government from running the church but it makes sure that
Christian principles will always stay in government."
Rob Boston's investigation into the Barton quotes reveals that many are
either "questionable" or outright false. Now, Barton has admitted that many
of the quotes and claims are bogus, and WallBuilders has issued a terse
one-page statewment aptly titled "Questionable Quotes." But Mr. Boston
notes: "Barton's sloppy research and predilection to rely on questionable
sources never stopped Religious Right activists from recommending his
materials. Television preacher and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson
has lauded Barton as a 'wonderful man.' 'I admire him tremendously for his
breadth of information,' Robertson gushed."
Among the "Questionable Quotes":
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation
was founded, not be religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on
the gospel of Jesus Christ!"
-- attributed to Patrick Henry (Questionable)
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
-- attributed to George Washington (Questionable)
"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the
power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our
political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern
ourselves...according to the Ten Commandments of God."
-- attributed to James Madison (False)
"I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the
Sacred Volume will make us better citizens."
-- attributed to Thomas Jefferson (Questionable)
"The only assurance of our nation's safety is to lay our foundation in
morality and religion."
-- attributed to Abraham Lincoln (Questionable)
Barton's pseudo-history has become a tool for those arguing on behalf of
issues such as school prayer, vouchers, and a Religious Equality Amendment.
Rob Boston refers to an ad-hoc "Christian nation" movement comprised of
religionists who echo many of the themes found in Barton's materials, and
even notes that another Barton video -- "America's Godly Heritage" -- was a
factor in Lisa Herdahl's Mississippi prayer case. Ms. Herdahl, the mother of
six children, objected to the broadcast of prayers and religious verses over
a public school PA system in Pottotoc County, Mississippi. In June, U.S.
District Judge Neal Biggers ruled against the practice, noting that it was
unconstitutional. Rob Boston notes that "A less- noticed part of her lawsuit
challenges a class at the school known as "A Biblical History of the Middle
East," which used Barton's "America's Godly Heritage" video and other
Boston adds that David Barton continues to speak at gatherings around the
nation, and that his "Christian nation" mythology is echoed by other
propagandists like Reconstructionist preacher Gary DeMar, and TV preacher
Peter Marshall. Meanwhile, "The Myth of Separation" has been "updated" and
given a new title, "Original Intent" sans the phoney quotes and historical
errors which characterized the early work. Rob Boston, though, notes that
the new, santizied version appears to echo the same "Christian nation" pitch
which has typified other Barton materials.
(Interested readers may check out the Church & State web site at:
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