Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 17, 1996 A M E
Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 17, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#178 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/17/96
In This Issue...
* Biased Study In Abortion-Breast Cancer Link?
* Colorado Tax Initiative ~~ "Religious Storm"
* Taliban Fostering Its Own Rebellion?
* Atheist Viewpoint On The Cable...
* About This List...
STUDY LINKING BREAST CANCER, ABORTION WIDELY CRITICIZED
A controversial study which purports to find slightly increased rates of
breast cancer among women who had undergone abortions is providing fuel for
anti-choice organizations, and at the same time attracting critical scrutiny
from medical researchers. A research summary appears in the October issue of
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health; among the investigators was
Joel Brand of City University of New York, an expert on hormones who
according to news reports has been involved with the anti-abortion movement
as both an expert witness in court proceedings, and a speaker on religious
The study was quickly hailed by anti-abortion groups who have charged the
"medical establishment" and the pro-choice movement with concealing
information about any possible links between abortion and maladies like
breast cancer. The head of Christ's Bride Ministries in McLean, Virginia,
Brad Thomas, praised the study and charged that "The abortion industry has
had a very malicious, malignant effort to keep this information from being
But other medical researchers were either cautious or highly critical
about the Brind study. Some insisted that even using the study's own
statistics, the increase in breast cancer is "barely statistically
significant." They also point out the the authors of the report call the
increase ''relatively low."
Others criticized the methodology of Brind and his team. Yesterday's
report was actually a combination of 23 different epideiological studies done
over a period of 35 years. This "meta-analysis" technique was originally
designed to detect statistical fluctuations and effects too subtle to show up
in small, individual trials. Critics note that "meta-analysis" is not always
useful, and cannot take into account the different designs and control
factors used in different research trials and studies. Even Harvard
epidemiologist Karin Michaels, who says that she opposes abortion, announced
that she was rejecting the findings of the Brind study, and dismissed
meta-analysis as "inappropriate." She added that "studies to date are
inadequate to infer with confidence the relation" between abortion and breast
USA TODAY noted that Dr. Brind is "convinced" that his study is valid,
"even though he and his colleague included all available studies, regardless
A Range of Findings...
Supporters of the Brind report maintain that the findings are
"consistent" with earlier studies. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,
though, 23 separate studies massaged into Brind's "meta-analysis" report
found no pattern linking breast cancer and abortion. Ten other reports
detected varying degrees of increased risk, and another ten studies found no
increased vulnerability. Three studies actually suggested that abortion had
a "protective effect" against breast cancer! Boston University medical
epidemiologist Lynn Rosenberg rejected the new study as "invalid," and asked
"Why would one want to combine contradictory studies and say the average must
be the truth? It makes no sense."
Many scientists concur that there could be a link in some cases between
abortion and breast cancer since abortion does result in hormonal changes.
How significant that relationship might be -- and whether it exists for all
women during their fertile years -- remains to be seen. In the meantime,
despite its weaknesses and methodological flaws, Brind's report will probably
become part of the repertoire for anti-choice groups busy fighting the
COLORADO TAX INITIATVE GAINS NATIONAL ATTENTION
"Religious Storm Nears Colorado"
What started as a movement in Colorado to tax non-profit organizations,
including churches and religious groups, may spread far beyond the Rocky
Mountains after the November 5 election. That's when citizens will get the
chance to vote on a controversial proposal known as Amendment 11, a measure
that would put churches and most other nonprofit groups on the tax rolls for
the first time. Behind the effort is John Murphy, an attorney and critic of
institutionalized religion. When Murphy began his crusade and founded
Coloradans for Fair Property Tax, most of the pundits thought the measure
wouldn't even make it on to the ballot. But 66,000 signatures later,
Amendment 11 is causing what one paper describes as a "religious storm," and
shaking up some powerful religious groups which over the past decade have
moved into towns like Colorado Springs, and become a potent force in local
and state politics.
Murphy's proposal is no longer being dismissed as a long shot. On Friday,
USA TODAY noted that poll in September showed that 38% of the voters agreed
with Amendment 11, while 52% opposed it and 10% were unsure. "But both sides
agree the numbers are shaky," says the paper, and as a result many
non-profits are worried.
Indeed, Mr. Murphy's call for fair taxation has united just about all of
the religious groups in the state, from evangelicals and Catholics to
mainline Protestants, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu groups. The Colorado
Association of Non-Profit Organizations has built up a huge $750,000 war
chest to fight the initiative, and joined with other organizations including
the Church Management Association, Colorado Council of Churches, and even
religious right groups such as James Dobon's Colorado Springs-based Focus on
the Family. Estimates of the total amount being used to fight Amendment 11
run as high as $2,000,000.
Supporters of the proposal estimate that taxing non-profits would yield
between $70 million and $100 million each year. But for Murphy and others,
there are deeper issues than "just the economy, stupid." The underlying
question is who should pay for basic services, everything from trash pick-up
to fire protection. And Murphy told USA TODAY that the tax free status for
many non-profits is unfair, in that it gives them an advantage in competing
in the markeptlace with private businesses. He used the example of a wealthy
church which offered day care for its members. "These are people who can
pay for their damn day care," he told the paper. "Why do I have to pay for
wealthy people's kids?"
Critics have howled in protest, though, that the Murphy initiative would
hurt people who benefit from the outreach of both secular and religious
non-profits who provide a wide range of social services -- everything from
soup kitchens to clinics and food banks. And the Rev. Lucia Guzman of the
Colorado Council of Churches warned that up to 700 churches in the state
might have to shut down if Amendment 11 wins at the ballot box.
But critics note that more and more of the "charity" claimed by religious
groups and other non-profits is really government, taxpayer money which the
organizations simply administer. Even the enormous Catholic Charities, USA
now depends on government block grants for 65% of its budget. And the Fair
Tax groups points out that "If this proposal passes, taxpayers can then
contribute the extra money from their decreased tax bills...to the church or
non-profit of their choice. It would be their choice, not the governments."
Church and State
While religious groups have closed ranks and raised their own
anti-Amendment 11 campaign budget estimated at $500,000, the squabble
transcends question of money. Supporters of the initiative say that it will
strengthen state-church separation by treating religious groups in the same
way private businesses and other organizations are taxed. A representative
of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, though -- a
Baptist-funded organization which usually supports First Amendment efforts
and opposes school prayer or partisan politicking by churches -- warned that
Amendment 11 could ensnare government in religious matters. A spokesman for
AU told the Ogden, Utah Standard Examiner that the initiate "would allow
religious schools to be tax-exempt, but not the actual buildings in which
people worship, while the whole point of religious schools is to support
what's being taught in those churches."
Support Growing ?
Whatever flaws might exist in the Murphy proposal, though, the basic
concept of making all non-profits, including religious groups and churches
pay at least part of their share seems to be growing. Religious leaders fear
that the concept behind the Murphy Amendment could take hold elsewhere,
especially as local government scramble to find new sources of funding. A
Portland, Maine City Council representative told USA TODAY that "The era of
simply allowing nonprofits to hold a larger and larger tax umbrella over
themselves is over. "
Some cities like Philadelphia are now "asking" non-profits to pay at least
some share of their property taxes to help alleviate red ink in the municipal
budget. Other towns like Buffalo, N.Y. have begun charging all users for
basic services like garbage pickup.
The issue of taxing religious and other non-profits is also being raised
on the legal front. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on
whether local and state governments can void the property tax exemption for
charitable groups if most of the people they serve are not local residents.
That case involves a Christian Science summer camp within the jurisdiction
of Harrison, Maine, which has been presented a $22,000 a year property tax
bill. The city points out that 95% of the campers are from outside the
state. Last year, the Maine Supreme Court ruled that the town had the legal
right to tax the camp, a decision which according to the New York Times
"alarmed religious groups and other nonprofit organizations around the
The idea of taxing non-profits, or at least charging for services which
until now have been provided either free of charge or at reduced rates may
appeal in certain urban areas which have seen a serious erosion in the
ratable tax base. But win or lose, John Murphy's feisty call for fair
taxation has struck a chord; it may prove to be one that the churches cannot
TALIBAN ''SWEEP'' MAY BE HALTED: KABUL TO BE DM ZONE?
A battle for control of the Afghanistan capital of Kabul appears to be
shaping up, as former government troops and elements of the Taliban
religious militia consolidate their forces against a background of tenuous
political and tribal alliances. Yesterday, Taliban officials and
representatives of Gen. Rashid Dostrum, an Uzbek warlord who controls
provinces in the northern part of the country, agreed to hold peace talks
following a five-hour summit. That followed the formation of an alliance last
week between Dostrum and the former government military commander, Ahmed Shah
Massood, whose forces remain firmly entrenched in the Panshir valley and have
been carrying out a guerrilla-style war north of Kabul against Taliban
But the prospect of peace talks may turn out to be a Taliban diversion.
Since Tuesday, thousands of Taliban militia have been marching toward Kabul,
ostensibly to repel attacks by Massood. The Taliban Information Minister,
Amir Khan Muttaqi said that the new clerical regime, which has instituted
strict, authoritarian Muslim law in the areas under its control, "can defend
against any attack by the enemy." But the new force heading toward Kabul
consists of an estimated 4,000 troops plus supplies from nearby Pakistan
which has backed the Islamic warriors in its battle for control of the
There are now two accounts in the international press of what might be
shaping up in the next 24-48 hours...
* Taliban may consolidate its forces for a new push into the Panshir in an
effort to destroy Massood and his estimated army of 20,000 - 40,000 troops.
In the field, Taliban has lost two strategic villages, Charikar and Jebul
Siraj; but yesterday Taliban jets, allegedly flown by former government
pilots, bombed Charikar killing civilians and international aid workers.
Taliban remains in control of the important air base located at Bagram
which is located about 30 miles from Kabul and is a possible staging area for
an assault on the Panshir. The base is also the new objective for raids by
Massood's troops who could use it as a platform for air attacks on Kabul and
other Taliban strongholds. The outcome on this phase of the civil war could
depend ultimately on who ends up in control of Bagram.
* At the United Nations, there is some movement in efforts to have Kabul
declared part of an open, de-militarized zone, possibly as a precondition to
peace talks among the various factions. Yesterday, an unlikely coalition of
representatives from Russia, the United States and Iran urged the Afghan
groups to begin mediated discussion.
Another factor in the outcome of the war might be Pakistan, which is the
Taliban's main source of weapons and other material. Despite efforts by the
Taliban to control the movement of refugees throughout the nation, and
especially in Kabul, there are reports of large numbers of people pouring
And Taliban may be sowing the seeds of rebellion within its own controlled
areas, thanks largely to the imposition of draconian Islamic rule. In Kabul,
men are being ordered to pray in public mosques five times a day and grow
beards. Women have been confined to homes, and ordered to wear full body
covering during the few times they are permitted to go out in public. And a
ban on women working has created a crisis, particularly in the health care
field where they played a vital role in delivering medical services through
clinics and hospitals.
"What is left in Afghanistan except death and bombs and killing," asked a
Kabul resident to an Associated Press reporter yesterday. "We have nothing
left. Even God has forgotten us."
A Call To All Atheist Couch Potatos!
PROMOTE THE ATHEIST VIEWPOINT ON YOUR CABLE SYSTEM
One way AA members can help American Atheists expand its outreach is to
sponsor our weekly cable TV program THE ATHEIST VIEWPOINT in your community.
If your local cable system has a public access channel which accepts outside
or "imported" programming, The Atheist Viewpoint may be what your community
needs as an alternative to boring Sunday TV evangeloids, or local level
religious nuts. This 30-minute program is hosted by American Atheists
President Ellen Johnson, and Ron Barrier, our National Media Coordinator. It
features news, commentary, guest interviews and the notoriously profane and
amusing segment "Fruits to Nuts," a lighthearted look at religious foolery.
If you are a member of American Atheists and would like to host The
Atheist Viewpoint in your community, just send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Often, all it takes is just a little paperwork; and our video production
facility can provided tapes in any required format.
Atheist Viewpoint is now airing in over 45 cable systems throughout the
country; our goal is to re-capture our original network of 135 cable systems
by the end of the year, and expand that. You can help! Contact us today if
you would like to sponsor the Atheist Viewpoint.
About This List...
AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement
founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the
total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about
American Atheists, send mail to email@example.com and include your name and
postal mailing address. Or, check out our cool new site on the web at
You may forward, post, or quote from this dispatch, provided that
appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. For
subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org and put "info aanews" (minus the
quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad
F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (email@example.com). Internet Representative for
American Atheists is Margie Wait, firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank