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From owner-aanews@atheists.org Mon Aug 7 22:24:56 2000
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2000 18:08:18 EDT
Subject: AANEWS for Monday, August 7, 2000 -- Part One of Two
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To: brownh@hartford-hwp.com

subject: AANEWS for August 7, 2000

A Special Report on Sen. Joseph Lieberman--"Behind The Mask,"

American Atheists, #798 - 799
7 August 2000

V.P. Candidate's Role As Virtuecrat, Dangerous Record On State-Church Issue & "Tipper Stickers" Raises Concerns

Today's announcement that Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut will be Al Gore's running mate on the Democratic ticket is stirring up excitement in party ranks, and giving the press a field day over the fact that he is an Orthodox Jew. A Gore-Lieberman ticket breaks another American political barrier that some are comparing to John Kennedy's election in 1960. Up until then, no Roman Catholic had succeeded in winning the nation's highest elected office. A Vice President Lieberman would be another "first," since no Jew has ever successfully run for the coveted number two slot.

Lieberman has been a harsh critic, though, of Democratic foreign policy under President Bill Clinton and Vice President Gore, particularly regarding the Middle East. The Jerusalem Post notes in today's edition that Lieberman wrote to Clinton in 1997 that "our government's Mideast policy of evenhandedness, in contradiction with reality, continues. It is wrong. Evenhandedness has not been earned." The letter, signed by Lieberman and four GOP senators, characterized PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat as "the villain who is unwilling to stop the terror," and called for "no more concession."

The Connecticut senator, a founding member along with Clinton and Al Gore of the influential Democratic Leadership Council -- the group most responsible for moving the party more toward centrist politics -- was also a harsh critic of the president when the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal broke. At times, Lieberman sounded as strident and judgmental as GOP stalwarts or Jerry Falwell in attacking Clinton for his "immoral" dalliances inside the Oval Office. Indeed, Lieberman's presence on the Democratic ticket is seen as part of continuing strategy by both the party and the Gore campaign to incorporate "values" and religion in their public image, something which has become High Art for their Republican counterparts. St. Louis University political scientist Joe Goldstein, an expert on the vice presidency, told Associated Press that Lieberman's selection for the number two slot "is a declaration of independence from Clinton because Lieberman was so outspoken on the Lewinsky affair."

A Shoddy Record On Separation

Unlike others who were mulled for the vice presidential position -- they included Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, and Sens. John Kerry of Mass. and John Edwards of North Carolina -- Lieberman is noted for reaching out beyond partisan Democratic ranks and courting religious right extremists. He has ties to a number of religious conservative leaders and groups, such as former Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed and virtuecrat William Bennett. Lieberman is also plugged into various "interfaith" groups which include international religious extremists such as homophobe The Baroness Cox of the United Kingdom, and he is part of a "media morality" coalition which call for everything from warning labels on music CD's to a more conservative agenda inside the Hollywood entertainment industry. These latter associations could be a potential campaign issue for some younger voters, especially since Al Gore's wife, Tipper, established a notorious reputation as a censorcrat through her earlier activities with groups like the Parents Music Resource Center.

On capitol hill, Lieberman has established a poor record on separation and civil liberties. He voted for S. 1965, which overhauled the welfare system and gave state governments (under the threat of lawsuits) a green light for farming out social welfare administration contacts to religious groups. The measure seriously affected the balance between church and state, and under the guise of "charitable choice" and other schemes, threatens to put sectarian groups on the public payroll. Lieberman also backed H.R. 3734, another welfare reform scheme that brought faith-based groups another step closer to taxpaying funding.

Lieberman also supported school vouchers based on H.B. 2546. That legislation sought to establish a pilot voucher system in Washington, D.C. similar to the experiment in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most of the "private" schools to benefit from the proposal would have been sectarian, and the majority of these were Roman Catholic. Another charter school which would have benefited shortchanged black youngsters by teaching bizarre theories regarding history having to do with aliens and flying saucers. Opponents blocked the bill in the Senate with a filibuster, but Lieberman announced his stand as a staunch supporter of voucher experiments. Today's Jerusalem Post describes Lieberman's position, saying that he "also broken with the Democrats in his support for school vouchers that could be used by parents to help pay tuition at Jewish day schools and other private schools." The teachers unions, a core Democratic constituency, oppose such plans..."

As part of his outreach to Christian conservatives, Lieberman also voted yes for another hot button religious right issue, H.R. 3396, dubbed "The Defense of Marriage Act." This measure denied federal recognition of marriages involving gay couples. President Clinton signed this legislation that sailed easily through the U.S. House and Senate. On another gay-related item, S. 1124, Lieberman voted for legislation that compelled the military to discharge service members who tested positive for the HIV virus.

Lieberman & The "Empower America" Virtuecrats and Censorcrats

Sen. Lieberman is a founder of the "Empower America" group along with religious right values guru William Bennett. That group has worked with other organizations such as the Gore's PRMC and the Media Social Responsibility Project in demanding that movie producers, writers, musicians, lyricists and others in the entertainment industry take steps "to curtail excessive violence and sexual content." While there is occasional lip service to asking for "voluntary" compliance, civil liberties groups have noted that these same organizations often back legislative proposals to mandate "Tipper stickers" -- printed advisories which purportedly warn consumers about the content of a particular CD, movie or other item -- or even institute some form of more direct government censorship. The appeal of these groups, like Lieberman, crosses party lines and explicit political labels.

One example is Lieberman's involvement with the "Appeal to Hollywood" petition sponsored by the Institute for Communitarian Policy at George Washington University. The Empower America group is a cosponsor of the petition, along with a religious group called Entertainment Fellowship. In addition to Lieberman and Bennett, other high-profile signers of the "petition" include Gen. Colin Powell (a keynoter at the recent GOP convention); millionaire publisher and former GOP contender Steve Forbes; Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch; Reform Party honcho Pat Buchanan; several U.S. Senators including Kent Conrad, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Kyl; and entertainers Steve Allen, Naomi Judd and Carol Lawrence.

"The Appeal calls for a 'new social compact,' urging parents to take seriously their responsibility for supervising their children's exposure to entertainment media and urging the entertainment industry to devise a voluntary code of conduct..." declares a broadside from Empower America signed by Bennett and Lieberman. Continuing the theme of what some describe as "national nannyism," the release adds: "Creating a morally healthy and safe environment for our children should be a top priority for our society. Today it is one that will require moral leadership and courage from every officeholder, from the President on down...."

One close associate of Lieberman's has been C. Delores Tucker, Chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women and a veritable Molly Hatchet over the issue of certain musical lyrics -- a fascination she shares with Tipper Gore. In an op-ed piece published jointly with Bennett and Lieberman in the June 6, 1996 issue of USA TODAY, Tucker piggybacked on the politically correct issue of bashing media giants, accusing companies like Time Warner, EMI and Sony of promulgating "a steady stream of mental poison," "obscene albums," "Rap Rubbish," and "cultural pollution." The trio attempted the weighty task of trying to differentiate this musical genre from "some of the rocks songs of past decades that triggered minor controversies in our time."

The Lieberman-Bennet-Tucker trio soon became the brunt of jokes, criticism and scalding satire, especially from groups like The R.O.C. ("Rock Out Censorship") and civil libertarians. There were the usual First Amendment issues -- who should determine what is "smut"? -- and more than one critic noted that in the marketplace of ideas and tastes, many of the items which Tucker and friends were criticizing were wildly popular at the cash register. Writer John Woods of R.O.C. then plumbed Tucker's own background, starting with her Orwellian call to convert abandoned military bases into "labor camps" for (mostly black and poor) inner city youth.

While calling for the nation to improve its moral standards, it appeared that Tucker herself needed to take the message to heart. Wood noted, for instance, that in 1977, when she was on the short list for President Carter's appointments to the Treasury department, Tucker was abruptly fired by then-Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp because "she was running a private, profitable business at state expense," and had used state employees as speechwriters while raking in over $66,000 in lecture fees. Tucker later became involved in a legal imbroglio when she attempted to cut her own deal with one of the favorite targets of the Empower America trio -- Interscope Records. Even more bizarre were revelations about Tucker which appeared in the 10/24/95 issue of the Village Voice by civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, "Alleging a Conspiracy To Use Gangsta Rap for Ethnic Cleaning," The R.O.C., issue #20). The piece explores Tucker's relationship with Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, "who practices child and general psychiatry in Washington -- (and who) has helped shape Delores Tucker's thinking about racism."

"Gangsta rap, Welsing (said) ... is part of a conspiracy to set up black people 'as the trash that should be eliminated.' So, too 'prior to killing six million people, the Nazis waged a systematic campaign in the media to make the Semites of the Jewish religion look less than human, to make them deplorable to the German people as a whole. The same dynamic is happening now. The issue is setting up black people as the trash that should be exterminated..."

In a flurry of legal claims and counterclaims, Tucker -- and the whole bizarre campaign against "trash" lyrics -- have stepped into the background of the Empower America agenda. The latest rage is faith-based partnership, "charitable choice," and efforts to find ways of reinvigorating sectarian groups, even if they must be invited to feast at the public trough.

Joseph Lieberman has "reached out" to Christian conservatives on more than just the question of salacious cultural "pollution." One example is his strange, though rarely profiled working relationship with those supporting "charitable choice," "community renewal"and other efforts to bring organized religion into the administration of social service programs.

-- Lieberman is cosponsor of the Senate version of the "American Community Renewal Act," which would use a combination of tax credits and government grants to promote faith-based drug and alcohol rehab programs and other outreaches. A version of the legislation has been knocking around on capitol hill since 1996 when it was dubbed the "Talent-Watts" bill. (Missouri Republican Rep. James M. Talent cosponsored the measure along with Oklahoma Rep., J.C. Watts, Jr., a frequent guest a Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition "Road to Victory" rallies.) In the Senate, Lieberman has introduced mirror versions of ACRA with the help of Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan.

Along with its "angst" over salacious movies and uppity CD lyrics, Empower America has also been a supporter of forms of "charitable choice" and the "community renewal" fad. The group has already praised Gov. George Bush for support of a program to provide up $1,500 in voucher aid for parents wishing to send their youngsters to private or religious schools and a similar effort to spend $3 billion in tax money to establish 2,000 new charter (quasi-public) schools.

More Strange Company

Another Lieberman group is the Center for Jewish and Christian Values, operated by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The purpose is "to improve the moral climate in our country by bringing together Jews and Christians in support of a common set of principles and programs on which to build amore moral society in America." This includes effort to "protect religious expression in the public square and public schools," "Oppose derisive portrayals of faith and religion often found in films and on television," "Provide(s) practical ways for Christians to show their support for Israel and an undivided Jerusalem," and "Fight(s) worldwide persecution of Christians by supporting legislation that protects religious minorities overseas."

Joining Lieberman in the CJCV are:

  • Gary L. Bauer -- head of the influential, Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council and former GOP-presidential nomination hopeful.
  • Charles Colson -- Watergate crook-turned-evangelist, head of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and close pal of Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
  • William Bennett -- former drug czar, values guru and head of Empower America
  • Jack Kemp -- another Empower America founder, former VP candidate in 1996 with Bob Dole and a major "charitable choice," and "community renewal" booster.
  • Kay James -- Dean at Pat Robertson's Regent University, vice president of the Family Research Council, and member of the national commission which examined the impact of legalized gambling on society.
  • The Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury -- little known in the United States, the Baroness is a member of the British House of Lords, and heads Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Christian Solidarity International. CSW has claimed to have bought "slaves" in the Sudan, but has come under attack for what say are wild and unsubstantiated charges having to do with the status of Christian missionaries and others in Third World countries. Some Muslim groups have accused Cox of being part of an effort to undermine Middle East governments, and justify certain U.S. foreign policies which assist Christian political factions.

    Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network gave full play to Cox's allegations in November, 1998 with a broadcast focusing on the slavery allegations.

    The "Gay and Lesbian Humanist," U.K. in its Spring, 1999 issue links a homophobe group, The Christian Institute, to Baroness Cox. The goals of the Institute include "to challenge humanism, relativism and other ideologies, to proclaim Biblical truth as relevant to every area of life," and "to equip Christians for action."

    Cox was also a member of the "Commission of Inquiry into Fetal Sentence" sponsored by anti-choice groups in the U.K.
  • George Weigel is a biographer and "Catholic intellectual." He is affiliated with a number of groups promoting the involvement of sectarian organization in public affairs through advertising theories about "civic society." These include the Discovery Institute, which operates the Center for Renewal of Science & Culture," and has been linked to a "stealth agenda" to promote acceptance of creationism and make it palpable for public consumption and instruction in school classrooms. Weigel writes on international affairs for "The Christian Activist," ("A Journal of Orthodox Opinion.") and was selected by the pope to craft the official papal biography. He defines John Paul II as "the embodiment of transformed humanism," and said that the papal visit in January, 1998 to Cuba "caps the century's run from atheism to liberation by faith in God."

    Weigel was part of a "group of political destabilization specialists" operating various fronts linked to the intelligence community which seek to use religious indoctrination to advance political agendas. Sarah Diamond, author of "Spiritual Warfare, The Politics of the Christian Right," (Boston, South End Press, 1989) traces Weigel's ties through the Byzantine labyrinth of psy-war fronts and shadowy organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, Puebla Institute and the Peace, Freedom and Securities studies program.

  • Jeane Kirkpatrick is former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and linked to Weigel and others through a network of groups. She is also one of the four original founders along with Kemp and Bennett of Empower America, and shortly after the 1992 elections joined Bennett in release a document known as the "Index of Leading Social Indicators" which was a transparent blast at the Clintons who were dubbed "cultural revolutionaries" for their stand on gay rights and abortion.
  • Richard D. Land is executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention's "Christian Life Commission." In the early days of the George Bush administration, he warned the president that "active courting of the homosexual lobby by your administration goes far beyond any argument of being president of all the people ... (and) grievously damaged your administration's standing among many of my constituents. The elder Bush had committed the "sin" of first meeting with a group of magazine executives that happen to include Christie Hefner, daughter of "Playboy" founder Hugh Hefner, and allowing members of the gay ACT UP group to be spotted at a ceremony for the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Land is considered the liaison between many religious right groups and the SBC.

"Civil Society," "Renewal," "Faith-Based Partnerships"
New-Speak For Putting Religion On The Payroll?

Lieberman is part of a growing coalition of political liberals, conservatives and religious interest groups which see an important role in the future for faith-based organizations. In conferences, interviews and publications, there is constant reference to "civil society" -- networks of public and private organizations, including churches and other religious groups -- as a positive and stabilizing element in human affairs. Ideologically, while they may differ over details, this movement appears to agree on several essential points.

They denounce "moral relativism" and "postmodernism," suggesting that fixed principles -- inevitably religious teachings which, while promoted under different faiths, can reveal a common "truth." They attribute this "nihilistic historicism and relativism" to the logical breakdown of the Enlightenment, and its supposed "faith in Reason." What comes after this moral relativism will be a "reconstruction" of society along lines which emphasize "liberal, democratic civic culture and civil society," according to one advocate. While this vision lacks the hard edge of, say, Christian Reconstructionism (which seeks to implement a harsh, Old Testament law as the basis of a godly society) advocates of "civil society" would erode the separation of church and state, insulate sectarian movement from the interference of government, but promote an extensive role for faith-based institutions in daily life, often at public expense. Advocates of "civil society" also frequently speak of notions like "Authenticity" (becoming "who one really is.")

Lieberman, for instance, was a May, 1998 panelist in a seminar -- "A Call to Civil Society: Why Democracy Needs Moral Truths" -- organized by the Council on Civil Society. He shared the podium with Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), "End of History" theoretician Francis Fukuyama, and public opinion pollster Daniel Yankelovich. Among the suggestions from the "civil society" gurus -- instituting "family hour" activities in homes, making it more difficult to obtain "quickie" divorces, and reforming the tax code to facilitate charitable choice programs. The U.S. Supreme Court was chided for its ruling that supposedly create "a society sanitized of public religious influence," In its story on the conference, the Seattle Times noted: "Religious institutions are urged to reassert themselves into American life... Government is urged to embrace charter schools and school choice, and end state sponsorship of lottery games which 'purvey a counter-civics ethic of escapism and false hope.' "

Another example of the "civil society" agenda was enunciated at the founding of the Center for Judeo-Christian Values. An April 12, 1996 report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency ("Conservative Jews and Christians forge public policy") quoted Center President Yechiel Eckstein: "Our goal is to transcend and heal divisions -- those between Jews and Christians, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives -- and to seize those shared values in public policies that are unfortunately being ignored and shunned because of the polarization marking our differences..."

At a news conference to announce the formation of the Center, Lieberman told media: "When we do not respect and build on the religious impulse that is shared so broadly in this country, we are depriving ourselves of one of the great sources of strength and unity and morality that we have." Also at the microphone was Ralph Reed, then the Director of Christian Coalition, who gushed: "We believe there is far more that unites us as Jews and Christians than divides us..."

The Center announced that its first goal would be to support Sen. Coat's "Project for American Renewal," a 19-bill initiative "suggesting ways the government can strengthen families and communities through tax credits and grants."

Ecumenical "Unity" As A Threat To Separation, Freedom

Sectarian discord has long been a fact of life within religious movements. In the 19th century, for instance, "Bible riots" erupted on the east coast of the United States as gangs of Protestants and Roman Catholics battled over whose version of the Bible was to be read in the public schools of that era. Some evangelicals have offended their religious brethren by insisting that "God does not hear the prayer of the Jew," (or Muslim, or other group). The vision of ecumenical unity has eluded even the powerful Roman Catholic Church which has been attempting to absorb other religious bodies, including the Anglican and Orthodox.

While some applaud the efforts of "civil society" advocates, in their distrust of the Enlightenment and robust individual rights the separation of church and state is often a casualty of ideological war. Publications, think tanks and various nonprofit groups -- from the Discovery Institute to the Center for Judeo-Christian Values in America -- all propose what amounts to a serious realignment in the balance between church and state. The activist programs of "civil society" proponents often involve demonizing real or imagined enemies, use of polarizing language ("filth," "perversion"), and for civil libertarians call into doubt pledges that government should not be a tool of last resort in legislating morality. In the Council on Civil Society report, for instance, pop music sensation Madonna was denounced for her decision to have a child but not a husband. Will "civil society" boosters, when they fail to attain their political objectives through persuasion, turn to the power of government? Would civil liberties suffer as a consequence of crusades to stamp out certain types of expression?

The involvement of religious group in the "civil society" utopia raises questions about the separation of church and state. Sen. Lieberman joins a Democratic ticket where Vice President Gore has already enthusiastically embraced "faith-based partnerships" between religious groups and government. So has Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who has pledged several billions of dollars to encourage such programs. Lieberman's involvement with groups like Empower America, and his indirect ties to more hard-shell religious activists and political operatives (Ralph Reed, Baroness Cox, George Weigel) raise gnawing questions about what role the First Amendment would play in the brave new world of "civil society."

For further information:

(Various articles on the year 2000 election races)
(Special report on Marvin Olasky, a major architect in George W. Bush's call for expanded "faith-based" partnerships)
("Creationists hit capitol hill for congressional briefing," 5/25/00. The Discovery Institute organizes a seminar on "intelligent design" to promote its version of creationism, school choice and other proposals.)
("Gore wants 'New Partnership' between church, state," 5-26-99)
("Street Fightin' Believers," background on the Philadelphia/Baltimore "Bible riots" of the 19th century, from Madalyn O'Hairs Atheist Radio Series)

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