Date: Sat, 20 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 20, 1996 nn nn A
Date: Sat, 20 Apr 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for April 20, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#19 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 4/20/96
VATICAN MOUNTS PRESSURE ON CLINTON OVER ABORTION VETO
The Roman Catholic Church stepped up its criticism of President Clinton
yesterday for his decision to veto controversial anti-abortion legislation.
In a statement issued by the Vatican, spokeman Joaquin Navarro-Valls charged
the president with jeopardizing human morality and moving the country "one
step further toward acceptance of infanticide," because of Clinton's veto of
the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban." The president's action was termed "an act
of brutal aggression against innocent human life" and "shameful."
Reuter news service described the Vatican statement as "unusually
strong"and "extraordinarilly blunt." It followed a "letter of rebuke"
addressed to Clinton which was issued last week by a group of U.S. Cardinals,
Archbishops and Bishops who condemned the veto.
The "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" was recently enacted by Congress. It
outlaws a specific type of late-term abortion procedure known as D & X, or
"Dilation and extraction", which often involves the use of forceps and other
methods to remove fetal material. Abortion rights supporters note that the D
& X is used mostly in extreme cases, and accounts for about 500 of the
nations 1.3 million annual abortions. They fear, however, that the ban --
the first legislative restriction on a specific abortion procedure -- opens
the door to other efforts which ultimately could restrict or even prohibit
abortion in the United States.
Critics also charge that the terminology used in describing the "Partial
Birth Abortion Ban" is not medically accurate, and injects even more
emotional overtones into the already heated abortion debate.
Clinton said that he vetoed the ban because it did not provide for
exceptions where the life of the mother could be in danger.
Continuing on the theme of "fetal rights," the Vatican statement charged
"The presidential decision against the position of the American Congress is a
shameful veto which in practice is equivalent to an incredibly brutal act of
aggression against an innocent human life and against the inalienable human
rights of the unborn."
Echoicing the earlier threat by U.S. church prelates, the Vatican added
that "This situation makes the need even more urgent for greater solidarity
all round in defense of the not-yet born who cannot speak for themselves."
Ambassador's Role Questioned
Clinton's veto also drew opposition from the man charged with representing
U.S. positions to the church, Ambassador Raymond Flynn, a Boston Roman
Catholic. (The Vatican is the only religion in the world which enjoys "dual
status" as both a faith and a political entity in the form of official,
diplomatic recognition -- a policy instituted under the Reagan
administration.) Flynn was criticized last month for his role in being the
"Vatican's Man in D.C." when he blasted budget changes opposed by domestic
and international Catholic organizations.
According to Reuter, Flynn expressed his opposition over the veto to
Clinton "in the strongest possible terms." Reuter also repeated its earlier
report that Church condemnation of the White House decision was a "veiled
threat to seek retribution in the Nov. 5 presidential election."
RELIGIOUS OPPOSITION TO CHRISTIAN COALITION IS DISORGANIZED, VAGUE
They call themselves the Call to Renewal, a shaky coalition of religious
groups which is trying desperately to reclaim various social issues that have
been "taken over" by the Christian Coalition and other groups of the
religious right. But judging from recent developments, including a meeting in
February which attracted 250 moderate and liberal church activists, there is
still disagreement in the ranks over what to say and do as the November
elections draw closer.
Call to Renewal represents a number of individuals and groups which are
identified with "mainstream" religion in the U.S., including the "Sojourners"
group and Evangelicals for Social Action. Christianity Today says that the
movement has "an emphasis on the issues of poverty, the environment, race
relations, and family life..." and is "working to educate voters before the
November elections." This involves setting up "local and state networks,"
and hosting "regional town meetings and candidate forums."
But there seems to be a good amount of confusion and in-fighting within
the Call To Renewal ranks. Some of the rhetoric echoes the traditionalist
sloganeering of the Christian Coalition. Indeed, at the Washington
gathering, the President of ESA insisted that the group should "affirm
heterosexuality as the societal norm," a declaration that was "not well
It was noted that the Call to Renewal is attracting little concern from
the Christian Coalition, partly due to confusion in the Call's basic goals
and objectives. One of the evangelicals noted that "There are about fifteen
competing agendas, and the reason they're competing is because the thing that
drew them together is a vague, nebulous call to 'renewing the nation' and
'renewing the church,' all of which sound really good but have no content."
"No one knows what they're agreeing to because it's never been said,"
noted Dwight Ozard of ESA.
But the call for town meetings and other political activities is already
raising concerns that this is simply more of the sort of thing the Christian
Coalition does -- foster the intermingling of religion and politics.
State-church separation activists point out that even mainstream religious
movements now actively lobby government bodies for their own respective
social agendas, all the while enjoying their tax-exempt status.
Call To Renewal faces sharp internal disagreement over the abortion
question in particular. Some participants in the Washington meeting insisted
that the tenuous coalition "is unlikely to go anywhere unless they make a
very clear statement on the sanctity of (unborn) human life and a clear
statement on Christian marriage," according to Christianity Today.
NEW STAMP ISSUED: PHILATELIC BATTLE COULD WIDEN
With disgruntled employees and the battle to contain costs, the U.S.Postal
Service may be taking on even more trouble, all thanks to its new Jewish
commemorate stamp issued last month as part of its "Holiday Celebrations"
The new Hanukkah stamp commemorates the Jewish "festival of lights," based
on an event of dubious historical foundation. The tale is told that Judah
and his Maccabean followers reclaimed Jerusalem from the Syrians more than
two millennia ago; but while celebrating their victory in a temple, they
could not find sufficient oil to burn a "Holy Light" for more than a day.
Legend insists that the light burned "miraculously" for eight days and
nights -- hence, the eight candles of the menorah.
Clearly, this festival is religious. Church & State magazines quotes the
stamp's designer, Hannah Smotrich, as saying that she chose bright colors to
"emphasize the upbeat nature of a playful, joyous holiday."
But wouldn't the more accurate word be "holyday," since this is a
Other religious motifs adorn postage stamps, including nativity scenes.
While church-state separationists have often protested the inclusion of
religious themes on postage stamps, the new hanukkah stamp may simply
encourage other religious groups to clamor for recognition of their symbols
and "holy days." What if Scientologists, Muslims, Hindus or Satanists demand
this sort of commemoration? The prospect is not unrealistic, especially when
we consider what happens during the "Christmas" holiday season when religious
groups compete for recognition in public squares and other venues. Last
Christmas, the operators of Grand Central Station in New York City took down
all religious decorations when competing groups insisted on "equal space" for
their respective displays.
The possibilities are endless though, for motifs on postage stamps.
Scientologists could demand a picture of their guru, L. Ron Hubbard. There
wouldn't be room on a stamp for all of the Hindu deities, so perhaps they
could settle on one or two each season. What about voodoo practioners?
Perhaps a colorful, bloody chicken would do.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
I'm not sure of the spelling, but you might recognize the name "Bob
Bopeill" from those obnoxious "infomercials" promoting everything from food
mixers to a can of chemicals which grows "instant hair." And what about that
fellow who waves around wads of cash, assuring us that there's "plenty of
room" in the "booming" 900-number industry? And whatever became of the ginsu
It seems that late last month, Vatican officials decided that they too
would enter the infomercial arena, and begin running ads on "qualified
television channels" to promote religious events like Holy Week.
A Vatican spokesman said that one commercial shows the Pope reciting the
rosary while walking with the aid of a cane in a forest in Canada in 1984."
The pitch is to sell "products" including rosaries, photos of John Paul II,
and CD's and audio cassettes of the Vatican Choir. There is even a
promotional package which can be yours for 79,000 lire, or around $57.
Unlike the short-and-sweet labels of gizmos like the "Bamboo Steamer" or
"Mr. Mircophone," though, the Vatican offering is called "I enter all homes
to enter all hearts."
Vatican officials are promoting the new products through a virtual pyramid
sales scheme with over 26,000 participating parishes in Italy; they have
plans to expand the marketing focus to Europe and the rest of the world
If you think that things are bad right now in Israel, there are plenty of
other religious-war powderkegs just waiting to blow. Consider Indonesia,
which has the world's largest concentration of Muslims; 90% of the
archipelago's 193 million people adhere to Islam, and some muslim
fundamentalist groups are crying for political separation and the
establishing of an "Islamic Republic" like the clerics in Iran have.
Now, the Armed Forces Commander has warned all mosque leaders to "keep
their mosques free from political agitation, which he said could trigger
conflicts," reports Reuter.
Political analysts worry, though, that the booming Indonesian economic
revolution could be short-circuited by religious upheaval.
Christians throughout the country are cranking up their proselytizing
efforts on behalf of the National Day of Prayer, scheduled for May 2.
Religious conservatives promote this event, and often goad public officials
into issuing proclamations and declarations about the "religious heritage" of
the country, and the need to endorse religious ritual -- specifically prayer.
It's a big event especially in cities like Houston, Texas; in past years,
Atheists and other state-church separationists have protested the Day of
Prayer celebrations which are held on the steps of City Hall.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force involves many religious conservative
groups like John Dobson's Focus on the Family, and is based in Colorado
Springs, Co. This year, some 12,000 local events throughout the country are
sceduled. We'll keep you posted. Who knows? Maybe it will rain.
With all of this dreary religious news, we definitely need a respite.
Consider for personal amusement and inspiration (!) these authentic postings
to church bulletins...
* The service will close with "Little Drops of Water. One of the ladies will
start quietly and the rest of the congregation will join in.
* Next Sunday, a special collection will be taken to defray the cost of the
new carpet. All those will to do something on the new carpet will come
forward and do so.
* The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind and they may
be seen in the church basement Friday.
* A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music
* At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is Hell?"
Come early and listen to our choir practice.
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