Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 1, 1996 nn nn AANE
Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 1, 1996
Reply-To: email@example.com, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#53 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/1/96
In This Edition...
* State-Church Separation Victory In Florida!
* Weekly Roundup On The Culture Wars
* Hillary Schmoozes With Muslims
* Voucher Scheme In California
* TheistWatch: Atheist Percentages & Alcoholics Anonymous Hangovers
* Coming To A Screen By Your Computer...
* About This List
FLORIDA GOVERNOR VETOS CONTROVERSIAL PRAYER BILL
Action Is Victory For First Amendment, Separation
Lawton Chiles found himself on Friday between a rock and a hard place.
Yesterday was the deadline for the retiring Florida Governor to either
sign, veto, or allow to pass into law without signature a controversial
measure which would have allowed student organized prayer in public schools
throughout the state during graduation ceremonies, athletic contests and
Governor Chiles vetoed the hotly-debated proposal, linked to a larger
education-reform package, and set off a political firestorm which may even
have ramifications for President Clinton in the November elections.
In his veto message, Chiles stated: "I have reached the conclusion that it
is better for us to reverently honor prayer as individuals, in our places of
worship, in our homes and in our hearts." The governor added that he "did
not believe that the right to petition the divine should be granted or
withheld by majority vote."
The issue divided the state, and generated a record number of letters,
e-mails, phone calls and faxes to public officials, including the governor's
office. As of Thursday evening, the tally on incoming messages was 10,222
for the school prayer proposal, and 9,860 against. Florida's giant Christian
Coalition chapter, which claims some 180,000 members throughout the state,
flooded newspapers and other media venues with appeals. Few observers even as
recently as March predicted that Chiles would be in such a position, though,
or that the prayer issue would generate such controversy. Supporters have
tried for years without success to enact some kind of school prayer, but
yesterday's Tampa Tribune credit the legislative progress of the latest
proposal to the fact that it was tacked on to a much-needed education reform
package. That fact brought support for the measure from the Florida
Secretary of Education.
As pressure to enact the measure built, though, late last week the
governor's legal advisor and close confident, Dexter Douglass, urged Chiles
to veto the bill. Douglas called orchestrated school prayer "poor public
policy" and an "imposition" of religious values."
The school prayer battle in Florida, though, appears far from over. The
measure, authored by two democrats (Rep. Randy Mackey and Sen. Charles
Williams) could be re-introduced. And since Chiles is retiring from
politics, school prayer can easilly become an issue in subsequent political
campaigns, including any race for the governor's mansion. Senator Williams
told The Tampa Tribune Friday after the veto was announced that "The issue is
not over with. It will be back. I'm not sure when or how."
Observers also note that the controversy could resurface during the
presidential campaign, as Bill Clinton and presumed-GOP nominee Bob Dole
battle for votes in Florida. The state has supported Republican presidents
and would-be's during the past five elections; the battle there could well
reflect the GOP strategy of attacking Clinton on "values" issues like prayer,
in lieu of economic questions.
An Atheist Perspective
Unfortunately, much of the argument against the prayer proposal focused on
"religious liberty" and the "rights of minority" religious believers. The
local head of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League praised Chiles' veto, calling
it "a victory for common sense and the Constitution, for education and
religious harmony", ignoring the tens of thousands of students and parents
who might have no religious belief whatsoever.
Even so, the veto -- and the opposition to the school prayer measure --
still reflect mistrust of schemes for "student led" religious exercises and
other rituals in the public square.
(Thanks to our Florida AANEWS correspondent for helping with this important
ABORTION ''MINEFIELD'' AWAITS DOLE AS CHANGES HINTED
Political pundits are saying that the abortion question has now become a
"minefield" for presumed-GOP Presidential nominee Bob Dole, who desperately
is trying to negotiate some middle-ground path on the controversial issue.
In developments this week:
* During a CBS interview yesterday, Dole suggested that while "There will
be a pro-life plank in the platform," some change in the present wording may
be made in order to woo pro-choice Republicans. Dole admitted that abortion
"is an issue which divides Republicans" and added that "we want to try to
talk about issues that bring us together as a party and attract
* Remarks like that have been muttered around Washington for the past
couple of weeks. On Wednesday, Christian Coalition chairman Ralph Reed again
reminded the GOP, and Dole, that the anti-abortion plank must stay, and that
any Dole running mate had better be solidly anti-abortion as well. The
result could be what the L.A. Times described as "The spectre of a
contentious convention debate in San Diego on the plank," in part due to
calls from GOP governor's intend on ending party support for the Human Life
Amendment. That proposal would, in effect, outlaw all abortion.
* On Thursday, Wisconsin Republican Governor Tommy Thompson again said
that the Human Life Amendment plank in the party platform should be amended
to make it clear that "those who support abortion rights are welcome in the
Thompson told a press conference that he wanted "the party to be the party
of the big tent," a phrase used often by GOP National Chairman Harley Barbour
much to the consternation of the Christian Coalition and its allies.
Thompson's name has come up as a potential Dole running mate.
Abortion and related issues were front-burner topics in other stories as
well. On Friday, Pope John Paul II demanded that scientists and doctors
immediately stop human embryo experimentation, and re-stated the Vatican's
position that human life begins at the moment of conception. The pope called
upon lawyers and international jurists to recognize the "inalienable rights
that 'frozen' embryos have intrinsically acquired from the moment of
The Pope's message is seen as criticism of dissident American Catholics
who support contraception and fetal tissue research, and a continuation of
the ideas espoused in his 194-page encyclical of March 1995 which linked
abortion and euthanasia as "evils no man could justify."
The controversy over President Clinton's decision to veto the "Partial
Birth Abortion Ban" -- a major objective of the Christian Coalition -- is now
spilling over into individual states. In California, a measure which would
have outlawed partial-birth abortions except to save the mother's life failed
a vote on Thursday in the State Assembly. Republican Assemblyman Rob Margett
corralled only 33 of the need 41 yes votes; five GOP solons joined 27
Democrats to vote no.
''CULTURE WAR'' ISSUES ~~ THE WEEK IN REVIEW
* Behind closed doors, Republicans are frustrated at the way President
Clinton has coopted the "morals and values" take on issues such as gay
marriage, and even brought up questional schemes (which still have high
political impact) like teen curfews. Last week, White House spin-doctor
George Stephanopoulos gave some Freudian insight into Clinton strategy, in a
media-blitz defense of Clinton's support for the "Sanctity of Marriage Act,"
co-sponsored by none other than Senator Bob Dole. Stephanopoulos told
"All-Politics" that "The president doesn't believe in same-sex marriages
based on his belief that marriage should be reserved for a union between one
man and one woman." Clinton thus undercuts any lurking suspicion of support
for gays and manages to take a swipe at the whole Paula Jones scandal, which
Republicans may still try to exploit. Paula Jones says that while he was
Arkansas Governor, Clinton made "sexual advances" at her, a charge the
president and First Lady deny. A tough line on the gay marriage issue is
damage control on Clinton's image as a philaderer and skirt-chaser.
Stephanpolous also said that "Republicans are looking for another Willie
Horton issue in 1996," a reference to the skill of the late Lee Atwater who
as an operative for the GOP delivered the White House to George Bush in 1988.
* Kultur gurus William Bennett and C. DeLores Tucker were back in the
headlines on Thursday, leading the religious charge against rap music,
gangsta' rap and other manifestations of the First Amendment. Tucker has a
reputation as a community activist and is chair of the National Political
Congress of Black Women; but her association with Bennett and his Empower
America movement has raised more than a few eyebrows, especially in the black
On Thursday, the duo demanded that major record labels end their
relationship with performers whose songs contain "explicit sexual and violent
lyrics." Would this apply to "Onward, Christian Soldiers!"? Singled out for
special attention in "Round 2" of the anti-rap war were popular artists like
Geto Boys, Bone Thungs-N-Harmony and Tupac Shakur. It's not just black
"gansta' rap", though, that Bennet and Tucker are taking on; they are now
expanding their reach, and also called for shutting down two popular metal
bands -- Cannibal Corpse and Lords of Acid.
Record execs and artists displayed jading over the charges, and branded
Bennett and Tucker as "political opportunists." Hilary Rosen, president of
the Recording Industry Association of America, noted that all of the
"offending" albums cited by Empower America already had the standard advisory
notice which so enchanted Tipper Gore a few years back, and asked: "Do these
people seriously believe that music is the cause of this country's problems?
Dop they think banning these albums would suddenly make all the crime and
corruption clear up?"
Also hopping on board this latest lyrical cleanliness campaign: Senator
Sam Nunn and Senator Joe Lieberman, who described this latest stunt as "the
revolt of the revolted."
Meanwhile, Tucker has problems on the public relations front; just about
every story in the media about this issue now refers to accusations that "she
profited from ownership of slum properties in Philadelphia." A suit filed
against her by Interscope Records also suggests that she has an economic
motive in criticizing select rap music artists. And while Bennet and Tucker
were grandstanding for media on Thursday, their press conference attrracted
members of Rock the Vote wearing t-shirts declaring "Censorship is
FIRST LADY SCHMOOZES WITH MUSLIMS ~
It's OK To Be Religious -- Or Else ?
In a little publicized event last week, Hillary Clinton became the only
first lady to address American Islamic groups outside of the White House.
She called upon the 300 members of a Muslim prayer breakfast to get involved
in the nation's political life, and according to the L.A. Times "served
notice that Muslims in this country can no longer be ignored."
The event was sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the
Muslim Women's League. Mrs. Clinton told the audience that "The values that
lie at the heart of your experience as Muslims -- values of faith, family and
community, and responsibility for the less fortunate -- are values that are
powerful, and they are ones that you share in common with others of us who
also seek to honor and live by our values every day."
In the crowd were representatives of Roman Catholic, Protestant and
Jewish groups. Monsignor Royale Vadakin of the LA archdiocese's office on
ecumenical efforts, said that it was "a joy" to see a new generation of
Muslims become active.
(See our TheistWatch Commentary below for more on this spectacle.)
(End of Part One of Two...)
AANEWS is a free service of 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. See the section "About This
List" at the end of Part Two for more information.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank