Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 25, 1996 (Evening Edition) Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 17:30
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 25, 1996 (Evening Edition)
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 17:30:04 -0700
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#108 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/25/96 (Evening Edition)
In This Issue...
* Welfare Reform Bill: "Socialism For The Church"
* TheistWatch: Phillipine Church As Political Boss?
* About This List...
"WELFARE REFORM'' LEGISLATION THREATENS FIRST AMENDMENT
The debate about welfare rages on, with a new proposal passed by both the
U.S. House and Senate now in conference committee. A final version is
promised to be on President Clinton's desk early next month. White House
spokesman Mike McCurry says the administration is "very hopeful" for a bill
the President can sign, but Republican leaders in both the House and Senate
vow that they will not make major changes to appease Mr. Clinton.
So far, much of the national debate about this welfare reform package
concerns the amounts of money being appropriated, and provisions such as time
limits for welfare eligibility. But buried in the new welfare package is an
unconstitutional provision concocted by Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO), which
will begin "privatizing" social services by funneling government money to
religious institutions and churches.
Religious groups ALREADY receive money from government, often in the form
of Community Development Block Grants and other schemes for administration of
social programs. There are theoretically stringent guidlines about such
programs; they must be secular in nature, and the funding cannot be used for
"pervasively" religious activities. A religious organization can receive
money to operate a rescue mission, for example, but it may not use worship
services as a requirement for clients.
Currently, it is estimated that up to 60% or more of "religious charity"
is actually funded by taxpayers through government grants. American Atheists
has traditionally opposed even this practice, maintaining that religious
groups often cross the thin line between social outreach and doctrinal
The new reform package, with the notorious Ashcroft Amendment, demolishes
what few restrictions now limit the way religious groups may use government
funds. The legislation has been a major objective of groups like the
Christian Coalition, in its goal to "shift" welfare administration from
secular or government agencies to "faith-based organizations", i.e. churches.
Among other provisions, the bill calls upon government to:
"involve religious and charitable organizations, voluntary associations,
civic groups, community organizations, nonprofit entities, benevolent and
fraternal orders, philanthropic entities, and other groups in the private
sector, as appropriate, in the provision of services and assistance to needy
individuals with the funding States receive under this Act."
Under a separate portion of the Amendment titled "NONDISCRIMINATION AND
INSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS FOR RELIGIOUS PROVIDERS," it states:
"PURPOSE -- The purpose of this section is to allow the participation of
religious and charitable organizations as providers of assistance funded
under this Act, on the same basis as any other provider, without impairing or
diminishing the religious character or freedom of such organizations.
"(b) NONDISCRIMINATION -- Religious organizations are eligible as
providers of food assistance to needy individuals as provided for under this
Act. Neither the Federal Government nor a State receiving funds under this
Act shall discriminate against an organization which is or applies to be a
provider of assistance on the basis that the organization has a religious
mission or purpose..."
While the legislation theoretically prohibits religious groups from
refusing aid "on the basis of religion, a religious belief, or a religious
practice," it accomplishes an important mission on the agenda of the
Christian Coalition and its allies -- it brings religious groups and churches
even further into the welfare system. It gives "faith based" organizations
government monies, and essentially allows churches to become subsidized
aministrators of welfare funds.
"Socialism For The Churches"
Can religious groups resist the lure of using such an opportunity to NOT
proselytize clients? For decades, people have even grudgingly "defended
religion" pointing to all of the "good works" churches supposedly do. But by
far, the largest social service outreaches have come from secular
institutions, including the government; whatever effect this has had (and
whatever problems have been encountered), at least this policy avoided the
problem of religious proselytizing. Besides, religious groups have
benefitted from government hand-outs in numerous ways prior to this latest
welfare reform scheme. Government has provided churches with buildings,
land, equipment, enormous tax breaks, and payments in the form of block
grants and other types of funding.
The proposed legislation, with the Ashcroft Amendment, strengthens the
misperception that religious groups and churches are "just" or "primarilly"
charitable organizations helping the poor and needy. It is a brazen device
to use public funds to subsidize church social programs, thus trying to
enhance the reputation of religious groups. Should Atheists and others be
compelled to finance such a scheme?
Whatever beneficial programs churches insist they can run with government
funding can be done by secular organizations; indeed, secular administration
may be more amenable to public scrutiny and accountability. When Society of
Separationists began a probe into hospitals in Utah operated by the Mormon
Church as "charity," an immediate howl went up about interfering with
"freedom of religion." Not surprisingly, that investigation resulted in
revelations of impropriety and changes in the tax law and status of church
Our Constitution, through the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,
enjoins the government from using taxpayer funds to assist "pervasively"
religious groups, even if they are claiming to operate social services.
Besides, how fair will those services be? Catholic groups will not operate
family planning or abortion clinics; religious ideology is bound to color the
counsel they provide to clients on issues such as reproduction, sexuality,
population control and abortion.
Many agree that genuine welfare reform is badly needed; this legislation,
however, is not the way. If private institutions are to assist in providing
social services, the Constitution clearly mandates that they be non-religious
(Those who wish to express an opinion on this proposed welfare reform
legislation may do so via the White House Comment Line at 202-456-1111.
Comments may be faxed to the White House at 202-456-2461.)
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
OK, here's one for the Bad Idea File. The Catholic Church in the
Philippines is planning to form its own political party and field a candidate
in the 1998 Presidential election. According to Bishop Crisostomo Yalung of
the Bishops' Conference, the clerics "want to respond to changing times and
issues that beset the church and the laity." Formal strategy will begin
during a Second Provincial Council meeting in Manila, Aug. 12-15 when some
250 bishops, priests and flunkies hunker-down for backroom power brokering.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church remains a powerful force in the
Philippine culture, and claims the allegiance of some 80% of the country.
One reason for the formation of a Vatican-front political party may be due
to disagreement with the secular government's population restraint campaign.
Dialogue! Dialogue? Well, that was the theme anway on Wednesday during
an "interfaith gathering" held in Cairo, Egypt. Trouble was, the audience at
"Islam and the Future of Dialogue Between Civilizations" was pretty narrow,
limited to a handful of politically-and-religious correct Muslims. If
anything, the meeting reflected the fact that Islam -- like Christianity --
is not always a monolithic entity. According to Sheik Mohammed Gouzou, a
mufti or Muslim clergyman from Lebanon, "Dialogue is very important, we want
dialogue." But another official at the meeting said that Iraq clergy were
not invited, since that would offend the Gulf Arabs still resentful of the
1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iran's mullah's were a no-show; Bahrain is still
recovering from an Iranian plot to topple its government. The Vatican's
representative was curiously missing from the plenary session, and only a
handful of Christians made the event, including former German chanellor
Our award for confusion and mis-statement goes to Ahmed Abu-el-Majd, an
"Islamist intellectual" who said: "People hate what they don't know and part
of the discord between Islam and Christianity is based on ignorance. They
think Arabs run around with swords to chop people's heads off and we think
they are atheists in a loose society."
Millions are dying from starvation and disease throughout the world, but
the Vatican is deeply concerned about the fate of 6,000 frozen embryos which
are scheduled to be destroyed next month. They are the result of in-vitro
fertilization processes where an egg is fertilized in a test tube, and then
implanted into the woman. Extra embryos are made, though, since the implant
procedure only has a current success rate of between 5%-20%.
The Vatican newspaper says that the embryo destruction is "prenatal
slaughter" and wants married Catholic women to volunteer for implantation.
That raises numerous ethical and legal problems, though. The Church doesn't
own the pre-fetal clumps of tissue; and if the embryos were brought to term,
there could be squabbling about who has legal responsibility for the
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