Does Prayer Make Sense?
by Conrad Goeringer

August 5, 1996

We like to lampoon those who seek divine intervention for such mundane activities as sporting events -- after all, how would "God" decide which team to support? the one whose followers manage to launch the most prayer heavenward?

The same might be said over those who pray for rain, or sunny weather, or against the prospect of hurricanes and other natural calamities. Is "The Divine" slow on the uptake? a sort of cosmic dullard who needs to be reminded to "get busy" every time tragedy is about to strike His imploring faithful?

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Hearing of King David's
Taste for Bloodshed,
Rightly So!

Star of David
Identified as Gang Emblem
by Conrad Goeringer

May 4, 1995

Cops in Harvard, Illinois, arrested a 15-year-old boy for wearing the Star of David. As a part of a crackdown against "gang clothing," police are on the prowl for youngsters who "wear known gang colors, emblems, or other gang insignia." The youth was not Jewish and faces a fine of up to $500. "Crime experts" said that the Star of David could be a gang symbol.

Two weeks later, though, police stopped and then released another person for wearing a similar emblem when it was learned that he had religious reasons for doing so.

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Fob James Explains
Alabama's Success
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

Two months after Gov. Fob James came to the defense of a Jewish family whose children were being harassed by school officials in Pike County, Alabama, first lady Bobbie James told reporters that the reason Alabama was attracting so much new business (Boeing, Mercedes-Benz, others) was because God was blessing the state for being friendly toward Israel.

The Pike County school superintendent admitted that officials ordered the children to remove Star of David pins because he thought they were gang symbols.

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Newspaper Ad Announces
Judgement Day
by Woody Johnson

May 8, 1995

A quarter-page ad in the May 8 issue of USA Today warned that "Christ Is Coming 'Very, Very Soon'" and listed eight reasons why he'd make the trip:

Though most of these things aren't really happening (there is no measurable increase in eqrthquakes, for example), Christ will save us from these non-tragedies anyway.

With news this important, don't you think a crucified savior could at least afford to buy a full-page spread or even a double truck?

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American Family Association
Could Face Legal Action

Wildmon Accuses AT&T of
'Promoting Homosexual Agenda'
by Conrad Goeringer
from TheistWatch by American Atheists

May 4, 1995

The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the nation's largest phone company has "an option" in suing the American Family Association (AFA) in a flap over AT&T's support of gay rights.

The AFA is a Christian fundamentalist media watch-dog opposed to profanity, homosexuality, violence and blasphemy. It is based in Tupelo, Mississippi and headed by Donald Wildmon.

Among the charges leveled by AFA:

Other charges attacked an AT&T management policy of dealing with homophobia in the workplace and making available video cassette tapes for employees which "help promote homosexuality."

American Family Association has begun a boycott of AT&T, urging people to instead use a company called "Lifeline." Ten percent of "Lifeline" charges will be donated to AFA as a "ministry of choice."

Meanwhile, the phone giant defended its anti-homophobic policies. An AT&T spokesperson said that AFA ads had mischaracterized company policies. "We just do not brook intolerant behavior aimed at gays," said AT&T representative Burke Stinson.

Now, that's a True American Voice speaking.

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Coors Brewing Company
Now Facing A.F.A. Wrath
by Conrad Goeringer
from TheistWatch by American Atheists

May 4, 1995

The Coors Brewing Company -- a long-time underwriter for right-wing political and religious groups -- now faces the wrath of the evangelical American Family Association for being at the top of the organization's "Dirty Dozen" list.

Based in Tupelo, Mississippi, A.F.A. describes itself as a "Christian organization promoting the Biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media." The group has called for boycotts and censorship in its battle against homosexuality, violence, profanity, and extra-marital sex. The "Dirty Dozen" includes corporate sponsors of organizations which A.F.A. claims sponsor programs with these themes. Other "Dozen" members include Sony, Hormel Foods, First Interstate Bancorp, Time Warner and Sara Lee.

Although it leads the "Dirty Dozen" list, the Coors family and its firm have a long history of association with right wing Christian movements. Joe Coors was notorious for his battle against union representation for beer plant workers. In 1971, Coors joined with Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) and strategist Paul Weyrich to form a political alliance. By 1974, the trio had established the Heritage Foundation and the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress. Heritage Foundation went on to become one of the most influential think tanks in America, providing support and research for Ronald Reagan and, later, George Bush. The Committee was established to select and fund candidates in Congressional races who represented right-wing evangelical sentiments, particularly on issues such as abortion and Gay rights. Holly Coors was active in funding Pat Robertson's 700 Club and the Christian Broadcasting Network. She served on the board of CBN University as well.

Coors was a major backer in Bill Bright's "Here's Life, America" campaign, an attempt to proselytize for Christianity on college campuses in the tumultuous 1970s.

A variety of popular programs have attracted the criticism of A.F.A., especially those appearing on the Fox Network, such as "Married With Children" and "The Simpsons" (a target of George Bush in his "family values" theme).

The "Dirty Dozen" and other offenders are selected on the basis of counts which tally incidents of sex, violence and profanity on an hourly basis during prime time. The monitoring report which found Coors at the top of the list covered the period of October 16 to November 12 of last year. A.F.A. bluenoses tabulated 8.5 incidents of violence each hour, 14.15 sex encounters, and 22.93 uses of profanity. "A total of 91 percent of all sex was depicted outside marriage," said A.F.A.

Imagine that.

And it's not even counting the soaps.

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Judge Pulls 'Sexual Orientation'
from Job Discrimination Rules:
State Senate says 'No'
to 'Domestic Partners'

Set-Back for Gays in New York
by Conrad Goeringer

May 5, 1995

Responding to political pressure from right-wing Christian evangelicals, the New York State Senate has barred "domestic partners" from receiving health insurance benefits if one of them happens to be a Senate employee. Joseph Bruno, newly elected majority leader of the State Senate, declared: "It was never the intent of the state to provide health care benefits to homosexual lovers. The intent was to have it for individuals, married couples, parents and their children."

Meanwhile, New York's newly elected Republican attorney general has removed "sexual orientation" from the list of protected categories governing employment in his office. Dennis Vacco has been sharply critical of the gay community; he defeated a lesbian candidate in last November's election. According to the New York Post, Vacco will now be able to fire "political appointees who happen to be gay" without risking what were termed "groundless 'civil rights' lawsuits."

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Embezzlement Case Reveals
More Church Wealth
by Conrad Goeringer

May 5, 1995

Skimming money requires two things: a competent and larcenous personality and enough cash "flowing through the system" so that nobody notices. And often, the more money which "flows," the less impact stealing appears to have -- at least for a while.

In the Episcopal church, the cash has indeed been flowing, and not all of it to the coffers. Some allegedly lined the pockets of Ellen F. Cooke, former treasurer of the church, who embezzled $2.2 million in a buying spree which included college tuition for the kids, jewelry, and a new home. Cooke has not been formally charged, though, and is cooperating with the investigation into church finances.

Not that Cooke was hard-pressed for funds, she earned a hefty $120,000 salary as the treasurer of the denomination.

But the two million came out of a yearly budget which totalled $42.6 million in 1995, and over $46 million in 1994. The stolen loot was funneled from church accounts in Washington and a New York City brokerage house to personal accounts. In addition, Cooke allegedly ran up another $325,000 on credit cards, and $225,000 from church checking accounts to third parties. The scam operated between February of 1990 and January, 1995.


Tip of the Iceberg?

The Cooke scandal gives the public some insight into the budget and holdings of one of the nations wealthier religious groups relative to its size -- it has only about 2.5 million members. According to news reports, the national office staff of the church was cut by about one-third during the past four years.

But the annual budget does not reflect total church wealth, nor do the revelations from the Cooke affair reflect total church earnings, since large, institutional investors (like religious organizations) spread their holdings "across the board" through numerous banking and brokerage houses. There is no sure way of knowing exactly how much wealth a particular church has -- churches are tax exempt and do not have to file the types of rigorous paperwork and reports which other profit-making enterprises do.

One of the few studies into church wealth, including the holdings of the Episcopalian religion, was done over 20 years ago in the book Freedom under Siege by Madalyn Murray O'Hair. While the figures are by now out of date (and probably quite low for their times), her research of public record sources indicated that the economic wealth of the Episcopalian church was considerable. And it was somewhat disproportionate compared to other religions. The Roman Catholic church, for instance, with over 40,000,000 claimed followers, had admitted real estate holdings in excess of $374 million; the Episcopalians, however, with less than 5 percent of that membership, boasted nearly $165 million in real estate. Per Capita, the church surpasses holdings for Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians as well, confirming the reputation of being an "establishment" religious organization.

Total church wealth in America is a closely guarded secret; much is tied-up in stock investments, land, business operations, trusts and other financial instruments. And it's all tax free.

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Christian Fixation with
Homosexual 'Abomination'
Alive and Well
by Conrad Goeringer

May 15, 1995

It was been a sleazy week for gay men and women in America. After being told that lesbians were wrecking the golf game, and that they weren't worthy of human rights protection in Cincinnati, they had to put up with the likes of California Republican Duke Cunningham talking about "homos in the military."

Yesterday, Cunningham apologized ("sort of," said the New York Post) for making the tasteless statement on the floor of the House of Representatives. He had originally dismissed the ensuing flap, saying that he had "used a shorthand term for homosexuals." Democrats were quick to excoriate Cunningham, though; Nita Lowey (D-Queens and Westchester) chided: "It's unfortunate that we have to gather together so often to remind our Republican colleagues of the limits of public decency." Come to think of it, Congress is sounding like a post-game locker room. In January, GOP Congressman Dick Armey referred to openly-gay colleague Rep. Barney Franks (D-Massachusetts) as "Barney Fag." Whatever happened to issues like budget reform, anyway?

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Marriage Eliminates Temptation

Dowry, Mass Weddings,
Still Alive in Iran
by Conrad F. Goeringer

June 7, 1995

Obsolete and oppressive practices such as the dowry exist in reactionary countries like Iran, and often continue to create problems for the powers that be. In May, 3,300 couples were married in mass ceremonies organized by Islamic mullahs, satisfying dowries and, according to Reuters news service, "heading off what religious leaders fear might be physically harmful temptation."

A relief committee organized by Imans ("holy men") paid the dowries. There is also the practice of "mahrieh," a fee that the groom has to pay the bride on demand. High prices for both of these reactionary practices "are making marriage next to impossible for many young people," much to the dismay of the clergy.

Maybe the country needs a good dose of guilt-free and liberating free love!

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But Don't They
Sing in Church!?

Sunday 'Blue Law'
Shuts Down Club Concerts
by Conrad F. Goeringer

June 10, 1995

It's getting harder and harder to hear good, live rock 'n roll music in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Don't blame Bob Dole with his attacks on salacious lyrics. The state Bureau of Liquor Control has cited an obscure provision which bans "vocalization" on Sundays without a special permit a remnant of the notorious "Blue Laws" states used to discourage any activity other than church-going on Sundays.

Many Blue Laws have been declared unconstitutional. But just a decade ago, numerous statutes were "on the books," largely as the result of fundamentalist religious groups which insisted on "Keeping the Sabbath holy." In some places, you couldn't purchase food that needed preparation, buy a drink, purchase cigarettes or gasoline or have a venue for live music, as in Lancaster.

So, in moved the boys from Liquor Control, to cite the Chameleon Club in Lancaster for having live rock performances on two Sundays in April. Ironically, a jukebox blasting out CD sounds was permissible, and the supervisor of the bureau's local office said that the law "gets very, very technical."

Unfortunately, the club owner has no plans to contest this absurdity, and told Associated Press that the Sunday Fest was a good way for teens to have fun on weekends.

We agree. Sure beats going to church!

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