-Caveat Lector-

subject: AANEWS for May 7, 1999

     A M E R I C A N   A T H E I S T S
  #568 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 5/7/99

   "For Reason and the First Amendment"

   In This Issue...
   * Drug warrior calls for "Faith Initiative"
   * National Day of Prayer celebrated as Atheists protest
   * Canady ready to introduce new RLPA: ACLU balks at support
   * TheistWatch: Obedient, mindless kids?
   * Resources
   * About this list...

                                 "FAITH" INITIATIVE

White House drug czar Gen.  Barry McCaffrey yesterday told the
National Day of Prayer rally in Washington that the White House
intends to enlist churches and other religious groups in its latest
effort to combat substance abuse.  Citing fond memories of his days in
parochial school as well as the alleged power of prayer, McCaffrey
unveiled the Anti-Drug Faith Initiative, declaring "Never before in
our nation's history has it been more important to pray for our young

The Washington Post noted, "The initiative is one of a growing number
of partnerships between government, usually at the state level, and
religious institutions."  The drug war general declared that the
program would "preserve the separation of church and state," since his
Office of National Drug Control Policy would only make "suggestions to
churches" about the various outreaches they could implement.
"McCaffrey has already met with Christian and Jewish leaders around
the country to try to start drug programs in their community," added
the paper.

McCaffrey's announcement was made at the Washington, D.C.  rally for
the National Day of Prayer forum on Capitol Hill.  400 people crowded
into the Cannon House Office Building room, where Shirley Dobson --
wife of Focus on the Family head James Dobson -- opened the event.
Press handouts noted that McCaffrey was "representing the executive
branch" of government with his appearance at the controversial

Describing prayer and what he termed "the big S" of spirituality,
McCaffrey opined that just as praying had helped soldiers in Vietnam,
a generation later it could play a valuable role in the drug war.
"Prayer comes before change," he said.  "Insight precipitates

                                   "Faith-Based" Social Programs

For state-church separationists, McCaffrey's remarks are a disturbing
indicator of how far the rage with so-called "faith-based" initiatives
and programs involving government and religion has gone.
"Partnerships" between government agencies and religious organizations
are widespread, and states like New Jersey have even established
formal agencies to encourage such relationships.  There is little
oversight to guard against violations of the establishment clause.

McCaffrey's "Faith Initiative" was presaged in June, 1997, when
President Clinton signed into law the Drug-Free Communities Act.
Gushing about the new legislation, Rep.  Rob Portman (R-OH) declared
that the legislation would "benefit communities that have mobilized
key sectors -- parents, kids, businesses, churches, educators, law
enforcement and others -- to reduce teenage drug use."

While grants from such programs are theoretically not to be used for
religious proselytizing, there is little oversight to ensure that
faith-based organizations do not, in fact, use the funding in programs
that subtly or overtly meld religious doctrine and "drug war"
community efforts.  McCaffrey's enthusiasm for prayer, as well as his
willingness to share the podium with the fundamentalist-evangelical
leadership of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, suggests that
this "faith based" initiative could be another step in the goal of
putting religious groups on the public payroll.


   Related Story...

                      AS ATHEISTS PROTEST

Organizers of Thursday's National Day of Prayer claimed that nearly 2
million people throughout the country turned out for breakfasts,
lunches, rallies at government buildings and flagpoles and other
activities to celebrate this year's event.  20,000 community
gatherings were slated, including the NDOP rally on Capitol Hill at
the House Office Building.  Atheists responded with small but spirited
and effective demonstrations in San Jose and Redding, California, and
Dallas Texas.

* In Washington, 400 "prayer warriors" crowded into the Cannon House
Office Building to hear a battery of speakers introduced by National
Day of Prayer Task Force head Shirley Dobson.  Franklin Graham, son of
evangelist Billy Graham, told the group that "storm clouds are on the
horizon and God is warning America."

"We as a nation and we as a people must make a decision to accept
God's authority," declared Graham.  He added that the entertainment
industry was responsible for widespread sex and violence throughout
the culture.  Graham is still being criticized for his remarks made
recently at a state-sponsored memorial service for dead students in
Littleton, Colorado.  There, some religious leaders say that they were
"hit over the head" by the Christian proselytizing of Graham and
others, who turned the event into a pulpit for sectarian religious

The most controversial speaker at the Washington, D.C.  gathering was
Etowah County (Alabama) Judge Roy Moore, who has generated national
controversy for displaying a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom,
and opening judicial proceedings with a Baptist invocation.  Citing
the use of phrases such as "God save the court" at Supreme Court
hearings, Moore scolded the nation's highest judicial body for
restraining mandatory prayer and bible verse recitation in the public
schools.  "It is incongruous to forbid the states, in their courts or
in their public schools, to acknowledge God in prayer."

"The solution is not just to pray for schools," Moore declared.  "The
solution is to put prayer back in schools."

Others speakers at the rally included drug czar Gen.  Barry McCaffrey,
Senate Chaplain Rev.  Lloyd Ogilvie, Chicago Cardinal Francis George,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and Rep.  Steve Largent (R-OK).  Congressman
Largent told the congregation that "the single root problem" behind
the Littleton shootings, the violence in Kosovo and disagreement in
congress is alienation, which he said can be solved by prayer.  "God
has given His people a mandate when it comes to alienation."

Chaplain Ogilvie declared that despite newspaper headlines in the
secular press, "Some people in the political world are having an
authentic experience with God.

* Dallas was one of the two cities where Atheists actively turned out
to protest National Day of Prayer activism.  "Several hundred people"
gathered in front of the "Old Red" courthouse, according to the Dallas
Morning News.  Also present was a contingent of First Amendment
activists organized by Randall Gorman, Texas State Director for
American Atheists.  Mr. Gorman estimated the size of the NDOP crowd to
be closer to 200, and noted that Atheists from as far away as Conroe,
Texas made the trek to protest.

"While the prayer group was setting up," noted Randall, "some of our
protesters were mingling with the crowd which prompted two of the City
of Dallas policemen on scene to lecture me on what our group could and
could not do..."  Local Christian radio talk jock Scott Wilder served
as NDOP Master of Ceremonies, but singled out the American Atheist
group to defend "our right to be there and our right to protest."
Wilder interviewed Mr. Gorman later on his radio program.

County Commissioner Jim Jackson also participated in the prayer
events, insisting that the Atheist demonstration was a "compliment" to
the Lord.  "We had a couple of signs saying 'HONK IF YOU SUPPORT
CHURCH/STATE SEPARATION,'" added Randall.  "We got quite a bit of
support from the passing motorists..."  Other signs declared DON'T
informs us that a good time was had by all who participated, and that
following the successful protest action, the contingent adjourned not
for prayer and meditation, but a celebration at a nearby TGI-Fridays

* Atheists in San Jose and Reddington, California protested their
local National Day of Prayer activities.  We are still awaiting a
report on the Reddington action, but in San Jose, activist John
Messina attracted a crowd with his famous "Uncle Sam" outfit and signs
defending the separation of church and state.  Photos are now up on
our web site at http://www.americanatheist.org

* Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Mind" Ventura, an Atheist, refused to
issue a proclamation supporting the National Day of Prayer.  "I
believe in the separation of church and state," the former wrestler
declared.  "We all have our own religious beliefs.  There are people
out there who are atheists, who don't believe at all.  They are all
citizens of Minnesota and I have to respect that."

* In Colorado, the National Day of Prayer event in Denver was quickly
turned into a memorial service dwelling on the religious implications
of the Columbine High School shootings last months in Littleton.
Former U.S.  Senator Hank Brown told an audience of 1,100 "All of us
must go out and make a difference from this moment on," adding that
the gun play would reshape Coloradoans forever.  Also in attendance
were Gov.  Bill Owen, Lt.  Governor Joe Rogers and Public Safety
Director Butch Montoya.  According to a story in the Denver Rocky
Mountain News, "The governor added that Coloradoans have a choice --
to forever associate Columbine with 'two horribly flawed killers,' or
to associated it with two other teen-agers, Cassie Bernall and Valeen
Schnurr, who at the point of a gun professed their belief in God."

Brown, President of the University of Northern Colorado, cited Bible
passage passages from the Book of Job, and questioned the idea that
good people can expect to lead comfortable and safe lives.  "What if
the purpose of our earthly existence is not to live in a paradise, but
to test and train us for the next life?"  he mused.



Amidst reports on capitol hill that Rep.  Charles Canady will be
introducing a new version of the Religious Liberty Protection Act
(RLPA) , a key organization which had supported similar legislation
has broken ranks and says it will oppose the rewritten bill.

In midweek, the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed earlier
rumors, and formally announced that it could not support RLPA or other
attempts to trump the nation's anti-discrimination laws under the veil
of religious practice.

The move was made public in a letter to the U.S.  House of
Representatives released Wednesday, May 5 and signed by ACLU Director
Laura W.  Murphy, Legislative Counsel Christopher E.  Anders, and
Legislative Analyst Terri A.  Schroeder.  "The ACLU regrets that we
have no choice but to ask you to refrain from supporting RLPA,"
declared the organization.  Citing the group's long-standing
commitment to the First Amendment and civil rights, it added "We are
no longer part of the coalition supporting RLPA because we could not
ignore the potentially severe consequences that RLPA may have on state
and local civil rights laws..."

ACLU had been a founder of the Coalition for the Free Exercise of
Religion, the group which crafted and promoted the earlier version of
RLPA known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA.  The
coalition included Roman Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Scientologists,
Humanists, Muslims, Hindus and others, as well as ACLU and other
separationist-civil liberties groups.  American Atheists, however,
opposed RFRA from the beginning, charging that the legislation was
violative of the First Amendment and created "special rights" for
religious groups.

RFRA and RLPA both require government to use a "compelling
interest/least restrictive means" test when dealing with churches and
other faith-based organizations or practices.  Ellen Johnson,
President of American Atheists, charged that the measure "clearly
favors religious groups over private individuals, secular
organizations and businesses," and fostered a "dual standard of

The U.S.  Supreme Court struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration
Act in the 1997 BOERNE v.  FLORES case.  The Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of San Antonio had gone to court and cited RFRA when it
was denied a permit to demolish most of an old church which had fallen
under the control of local historic preservation laws of the City of
Boerne, Texas.  Concurring with the 6-3 majority in BOERNE, Justice
John Paul Stevens declared that RFRA was violative of the
establishment clause, and provided churches and other religious groups
"with a legal weapon which no atheist or agnostic could hope to

Technical aspects of the BOERNE v.  FLORES decision, though, left the
door open for state-level versions of RFRA, which have proliferated
across the nation.  In addition, the Coalition for the Free Exercise
of Religion created a new "son-of-RFRA" measure which has been
promoted as the Religious Liberty Protection Act.  Different versions
have been presented and are currently in legislative limbo in the
House and Senate.

ACLU now charges that under the version of RLPA about to be
reintroduced by Rep.  Canady, "applicants may soon find themselves
without legal protections under state and local laws against landlords
or employers who base their hiring or rental decisions on personally
invasive questions...  " They included, "Is that your spouse?  Are
those your children?  Are you straight or gay?  Are you pregnant?
What is your religion..."

                   Behind The Scenes: RLPA Supporters Divided Over Wor
In addition to requiring a "compelling interest/least restrictive
means" test which government must employ when dealing with religious
groups or practices, RLPA legislation incorporates certain clauses to
justify the application of the test.  One version, for instance, used
a "commerce clause" that empowered and justified the legislation,
since money passed through churches or faith-based groups.  Language
in the proposal enjoined government from substantially burdening
religious liberty "in or affecting commerce."  This led to concerns
among certain RLPA/RFRA boosters, though, such as the Home School
Legal Defense group headed by Michael Farris.  They feared that the
"commerce clause" could backfire, and be used as a rationale to
eventually tax churches.  Farris warned the Constitution Subcommittee
of the House Judiciary Committee last July that Congress could not
"employ an expansive theory of the commerce clause to protection
religious freedom without violating crucial constitutional principles
and without denigrating the role and meaning of religious faith in our
society."  The clause was dropped in the last legislative session
after behind-the-scenes dealing between Farris and capitol hill

The "money" or "finance" clause is even more convoluted and obscure in
its application.  As with earlier versions, Canady's soon-to-be
introduced Religious Liberty Protection Act will rely on Congress'
constitutional power to spend public funds.

Constitutional attorney Marci Hamilton, who successfully defended the
City of Boerne, Texas in the BOERNE v.  FLORES case, thinks that the
Canady version will still be vulnerable not only on the First
Amendment establishment clause grounds, but from the "money" clause as

"There has to be some connection between the 'Spending' clause and the
purpose of the legislation," she told AANEWS in an interview
yesterday.  Hamilton cited the Supreme Court's decision in the 1987
case SOUTH DAKOTA v.  DOLE, where justices examined congressional
legislation that required states to raise their legal drinking age to
twenty-one as a condition for receiving federal highway funds.  South
Dakota challenged the stipulation, insisting that the requirement
violated congressional power under the spending clause.  The court
ruled 7-2 that federal grants to the states could include restrictions
if the spending was in the "general welfare," that the conditions were
"Unambiguous," that they could not be unrelated to "the federal
interest in particular national projects or programs," and finally did
not run afoul of "other constitutional provisions..."  Simply put,
since the funds were for highway construction, the federal government
could argue that drunk driving was a problem on highways and thus the
conditions passed constitutional muster.

Hamilton suggests that RLPA supporters may be hard-pressed to justify
the legislation using the spending or "money" clause.  She noted that
the court may be demanding even stricter standards than were used in
SOUTH DAKOTA v.  DOLE, and noted shifts in the make of the present
court.  Coming to the fore along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence
Thomas would be Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who dissented in the
SOUTH DAKOTA case; she argued that even tighter standards were
necessary, namely a "nexus" between the government financial
involvement and the conditional stipulation.  Thus, even a more
conservative high court may not look with favor upon the Religious
Liberty Protection Act if it attempts to use a spending clause as a

                                   RLPA -- What's Ahead?

Sources tell AANEWS that the national American Civil Liberties Union
began having serious concerns about RLPA late last summer following
congressional hearings.  In addition, organizations like the Christian
Legal Society may be supporting RLPA and RFRA legislation in hopes
that it will somehow allow religionists to trump local and state
anti-discrimination ordinances, especially those which protect
unmarried or same-sex couples.  Meanwhile, the defection of the ACLU
is a serious blow to the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion;
it could lead to an exodus of liberal faith and political groups,
including People for the American Way, which up to now have agreed to
work with religious right RLPA boosters such as Traditional Values
Coalition.  ACLU also objected to state RFRA proposals that exempted
prisoners from coverage of the legislation -- something which posed a
major obstacle in Michigan, California and elsewhere.

It is reported that Rep.  Canady hopes to reintroduce his "new"
Religious Liberty Protection Act shortly.


                                 THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS

In our AANEWS for April 28, 1999 we profiled a "character education"
program in Florida head by an evangelical extremist.  Children at the
Charter School of Excellence were being trained in this program, which
included the mindless and repetitive recitation of the following
frightening ditty...

   "Obedience is listening attentively,
Obedience will take instructions joyfully,
Obedience heeds wishes of authorities,
Obedience will follow orders instantly,
For when I am busy at work or play,
And somebody calls my name, I'll answer right away!
I'll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile
As soon as I can say 'Yes, Sir!' 'Yes ma'am!'
Hup, two, three!"

That promoted the following letter from AANEWS reader Christian Sturh:


I was born in war-torn Germany in 1942.  And my Grade One teacher was
a veteran of that war.  The first thing we learned was a little poem:

"Grade sitzen
Ohren spitzen,
Haende falten,
Schnabel halten."

It rhymes in German.  An English approximation:

"Sit up straight,
cock your ears,
fold your hands,
shut your mouth."

The second thing we learned was that if we did not do any of those
things, we would be caned mercilessly in front of the entire class.

This passed for education in immediate postwar Germany.  But hey!  It
did not require gifted teachers, and it enabled one teacher to
maintain effective control over a very large class.  So it was a

Apparently, it is a fine model for North American schools in the
cost-conscious 90s.

Christian Stuhr



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