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December 1986

A Journal of Atheist News and Thought



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American Atheists - P.O. Box 2117 - Austin, TX 78768-2117

December 1986

Vol 28, No. 12

American Atheist
A Journal

of Atheist

Editor's Desk
R. Murray-O'Hair

Director's Briefcase
Jon G. Murray

News and Thought

The Probing Mind

Frank R. Zindler


"A Nativity Potpourri" will leave a distinct odor in the minds of Christians.

Report from India

Margaret Bhatty

Could creche decisions make the U.S. a

constitutional theocracy? "Our 'Inspired' Founding" hazards an answer.


Is "Time Running Out in Punjab" for

peace between Sikh and Hindu?

News and Comments


Greeneville, Tennessee - Center of

the Universe - The complete text of
the Greeneville textbook decision appears with some intriguing comments.




American Atheist Radio Series

Madalyn O'Hair
"The Solstice Season" is must reading
to prepare for your upcoming festivities.


Satan Claus
Christine A. Lehman
A short story mixes a Fundamentalist
mother, her daughter, and an unorthodox neighbor.

Mormonville: Life in a Theocracy

Fred Woodworth



Press Conference
Brian Lynch



"The Management of Information" debunks the "liberal press" myth.

How does a once-persecuted religious

minority behave when it is in control of a
town? Unpleasantly, indeed,

Book Review


A look at Evangelical Terrorism.


Religion and the Schools

Daniel E. Anderson
A professor gives his. views on the
spread of theism in the Classroom.

Blasphemy! (Part III)

Me Too


Letters to the Editor


Our cover is the "Existential Christmas Card" by
Theodore Ziegler, a St. Catharines, Ontario, artist.
It is from the collection of Martin Edmunds.

C. B. Reynolds was found guilty of abusing free speech by encouraging free

thought - just one hundred years ago.


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Austin, Texas

December 1986

Page 1

American Atheist
Editor/R. Murray-O'Hair
Editor Emeritus/Dr. Madalyn O'Hair
Managing Editor/don G. Murray
Assistant Editor/Gerald Tholen
Poetry/Angeline Bennett, Gerald Tholen
P. Beckwith,
Margaret Bhatty, Nawal El Saadawi, Merrill
Holste, Lowell Newby, Fred Woodworth, Frank
R. Zindler
Production Staff/Laura Lee Cole, Christina Ditter' Shantha Elluru, Keith Hailey, Brian J. Lynch,
Jim Mills, John Ragland, Virginia Schlesinger,
George Thomas
Officers of the Society of Separationists,
President/Jon G. Murray
President Emeritus/Dr. Madalyn O'Hair
Secretary/R. Murray-O'Hair
Treasurer/Brian J. Lynch
Chairman of the Board/Dr. Madalyn O'Hair
Members of the Board/Jon G. Murray (Vice
Chairman), August Berkshire, Herman Harris,
Ellen Johnson, Scott Kerns, John Massen, Robin
Murray-O'Hair, Shirley Nelson, Richard C.
O'Hair, Henry Schmuck, Noel Scott, Gerald
Tholen, Lloyd Thoren, Frank Zindler.
Officers and Directors may be reached at P.O.
Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768.
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Holste, John Marthaler
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Page 2

EDITOR'S DESK / R. Murray-O'Hair

each December - or Solstice A fter
issue, the American Atheist receives a

half dozen letters from various readers concerning the propriety of celebrating the Solstice. To put it more specifically, these individuals question the point of celebrating the
Solstice or any other day. Their argument is
that it is unreasonable to make a fuss over a
natural, cyclical event.
It is tempting to sympathize in part with
those arguments. Few of us completely
enjoy mandatory holidays, complete with
artificial and strained gatherings of individuals who either barely know one another or
barely can tolerate one another.
And there are few of us alive who deep in
their hearts have never held dark thoughts
about "parties."
But here in the lap of the South it is a cold
and rainy day. After one goes home in the
dark damp and scurries indoors, it is infinitely cheering to curl up under a warm wool
blanket, with a nice hot toddy in hand and
the smell of a Solstice tree reaching one's
nose as it peeks from the woolen shelter.
And how much nicer it will be, on Solstice
day, not to brave the dismal dampness at all,
but frolic at home with a few friends. Then
surrounded by bright green and red, instead
of the cold gray of the outdoors, one may
obtain a high feeling of comfortableness. A
few family dogs lying under the old pine tree
is just the final touch needed.
It makes one want to warm up the hot
toddy mugs, just thinking about it.
And the point of these rambling paragraphs? Simply that we should, as Atheists,
savor life. Of course, most of us do that. But
the deliciousness of existence can be intensified by occasional days of celebration. Each
day may be wonderful to those of us who
only liveonce. But is it not a good idea to punctuate our lives with premeditated cheer?

If you are interested in adding a few

exclamation marks to your winter, you need
to know that Winter Solstice in the Northern
Hemisphere will be at 11:02 P.M. E.s.T. on
December 21. (It is, of course, the Summer
Solstice for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere.) And if you're not interested in
observing the Solstice, you can always lift a
toddy in honor of the eighteenth anniversary
of the launching of Apollo 8, the first moon

December 1986

Ifyou're a brand new reader of the American Atheist and not quite sure what all this
Solstice fuss is about, see this month's
"American Atheist Radio Series" for a discussion of the Solstice. You might also want
to glance over "Ten Years Ago" in the "Historical Notes" section; it has an excerpt
from our first call for an International Solstice Celebration.
And if you still have a few friends and
relations stuck in the Jesus Christ myth, you
might find that Frank Zindler's "A Nativity
Potpourri" is the perfect gift for them.

Speaking of gifts, this is our chance to

remind you of the present that keeps giving
all year long: newspaper clippings. The
American Atheist does need, use, and want
clippings of articles from newspapers and
magazines. Much of the information which
we give to our readers comes from such
sources. All, or nearly all, of the topics discussed on the American Atheist Television
Forum have their origin in clippings received
at The Center.
Don't assume that just because an article
appeared in your local paper that" everyone
knows about it." It may not have been carried by the wire service; even if it was, there
may be portions of the story printed in your
paper and not repeated elsewhere.
This month's "News and Comments"
article, for instance, is accompanied by several "sidebars" giving information relevant
to the understanding of the 'Greeneville,
Tennessee, decision. The sidebars were
derived from information given in the media.
Even though the news of the decision was a
wire story, the dozen clippings which we
received so varied that in the end we utilized
them all.
Please, though, when you send them in,
remember to attach the name of the source
and the date of publication to each clipping.
We hope that those of you not participating in what we have playfully dubbed the
"American Atheist Clipping Service" will
take up the habit as a Solstice gift to the
American Atheist and your fellow readers.
We, of course, thank those of you who have
helped so much in this project in the past.
So, please keep those clips and letters

American Atheist





he month of December is possibly, next

to April, one of the most unsettling
months of the year for many Atheists
because it is the "heat season" for the disciples of Judeo-Christianity. The festivities of
the winter season, stolen from the pagans,
reinforce not only a should-be-defunct theology but our capitalist economic system.
This season brings a major opportunity to
the god flaunters to strut on the public stage.
It is often too much for this author to stomach. The decorations, creches, menorahs,
and other religious symbols begin to go up in
cities large and small, and the din of carols
about the birth of a mythical savior spoil
almost every outing. The erection of various
religious symbols brings on the annual flurry
of litigation concerning them. This year has
been no exception.
American Atheists has, in recent years,
initiated litigation with respect to creches on
public property. We lost, and so have subsequent non-Atheist litigants in various
states. Thanks to Chief Justice Berger's
swan song in Lynch u, Donnelly (104 S.Ct.
1355) in 1984 with regard to a creche in
Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the issue of the
constitutionality of nativity scenes on public
property has virtually been laid to rest - at
least in the minds of the pious. THere are,
however, attempts being made on the local
level around the country to continue to challenge the constitutionality of creches on
public land by various denominational
groups. One of the quirks in our' theoretically homogeneous federal system is that
district judges are free to rule contrary to
appellate precedent, ifthat precedent is outside of their region. This has given various
groups a minor window of opportunity to
challenge state/church violations in a particular jurisdiction, hoping that the state will
choose not to appeal to the top. This makes
it possible for one city to have a nativity
scene, for example, while a city only five
hours' drive away has had one declared
I would like to focus in on one such challenge this month that took place recently in
Chicago. I have chosen this particular one
because it involves the Jewish community as
I must digress here to say that for many
years American Atheists has thought that
the Jewish community would have been a
natural ally in a number of litigable situa-

Austin, Texas

tions. Since the vast majority of symbolic

separation of state and church violation
cases involves "Christian" symbols, usually
centered around the character Jesus or the
alleged event of his crucifixion, one would
think that these symbols would be offensive
to the Jewish community as well since the
Jews claim to still be waiting with baited
breath for their "messiah." It seems, however, that a desire to avoid conjuring up the
ghost of anti-Semitism past has outweighed
the spirit of secular winter present. Instead
the Jewish communities have taken the tack
of preferring to become co-violators in the
race to neutralize the First Amendment by
insisting on the inclusion of their menorah
next to any creche or cross. American Atheists has always known better. You don't fight
an unconstitutional act by joining in on the
violation. American Atheists willnot ask for
a solstice display on a courthouse lawn or a
thought-for-the-day at school, but rather
that religion and its better half keep out of
the secular arena altogether. The Jewish
community has had their co-violator status
given the judicial stamp of approval once too
often, and now that practice has come back
to haunt it like the loud mouth of that boy
who cried wolf. The inclusion of Jewish
symbolism next to Christian has added fuel
to the argument that both are part of a secular tradition. You know the old saying: "a
rose by any other name." Well, a religion by
any other name is still a religion.
The Chicago Creche
In a decision that came down in The United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois Eastern Division on November 5,1986, a Chicago judge granted the
city's motion for summary judgment against
a massive array of powerful Jewish organizations which had challenged that city's
annual creche display as part of a yearly,
downtown Christmas pageant. The plaintiffs
in that case were the American Jewish Congress, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the United Synagogues of America, the Central Conference of American
Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly of America, one rabbi and five individuals (two
Catholics, two Jews, and one Atheist). This
highly kosher group's suit challenged "the
display by the City of Chicago of a Christmas creche," described in the complaint as

December 1986

"a free standing religious symbol," and a

menorah, similarly described, "in connection with the Christmas holiday and the
celebration of Hanukkah."
The history of litigation in regard to the
creche displayed in the Richard J. Daley
Center Plaza annually in Chicago is that the
practice began in about 1948. In 1978, some
thirty years later, a suit was filed by a local
taxpayer to "enjoin the city from expending
public funds for the erection and maintenance of a creche in City Hall and Water
Tower Park." That case was settled by
means of a consent decree which held that
public funds may not be used to erect or
maintain the creche and that any creche
maintained through private funds must displaya disclaimer of governmental endorsement. A consent decree is an agreement
between the plaintiffs and defendants in a
given case, prior to trial, to settle an issue
out of court, with the approval of a judge.
The Chicago Plasterers' Institute stepped
forward as the needed secular sponsor and
the creche has been erected since 1978
under its auspices.
In December of 1985 the complaint by the
American Jewish Congress, et a/ was filed,
and by April of 1986 the part of that complaint addressed to the "eight-foot free
standing Menorah" was dismissed by agreement of the plaintiffs and the defendants.
The Jewish community had to voluntarily
withdraw the issue of the menorah, for the
erection of which it had earlier lobbied. The
fact that the menorah was much larger than
the creche was used as a Part of the argument for the overall secular nature of the
display, an argument that eventually defeated the plaintiffs.
In 1984 the mayor's chief of staff had
ordered that season's creche dismantled
because of objections by some Chicago residents, but the outcry of the religious was so
great that the City Council Finance Committee passed a resolution "mandating the
re-erection of the creche in the City Hall
The Jewish community objected to the
erection of the creche in November of 1985
to the mayor's chief of staff, to which objection it received a letter saying that the creche
would be displayed as in the past. On
December 4, 1985, the Chicago City Coun- ,
cil passed a resolution "endorsing the public
display in City Hall of important and tradi-

Page 3

tional religious symbols, including the nativity scene and the Menorah."
That is a brief history of the fight over the
creche in the Chicago City Hall that lead up
to the filing of a lawsuit by various Jewish
community organizations. The plaintiffs'
position in their complaint was:
The erection and display of a creche
in the City Hall lobby violates the first
and fourteenth amendments of the
United States Constitution because it
is "... governmental endorsement of
religion generally, and some forms of
Christianity in particular ... " and that
this action constitutes the advancement of religion in general and some
forms of Christianity in particular and
concomitant discrediting of less favored religions.

the Sermon on the Mount." Our Founding

Fathers, almost to a man, were Deists and
not Christians in anything resembling a
twentieth-century context. Yes, they did
believe in a "creator" god (as stated in the
Declaration of Independence - "Nature
and Nature's God") but they did not share
the precepts of the Christian faith (such as
the efficacy of prayer) that was predominant
among the rank and file colonial citizenry.
They were all educated far and above the
average man of the time and had opinions
philosophical that cannot be equated with
the popular sentiments of the period. Furthermore they were educated mostly in
what was called English Common Law which
has its origins in property rights and not any
biblical commandments. The judge here
makes a "leap of faith" that a study of history
does not provide evidence to support.
He went on to add that in his opinion,

The Meese-Led Response

Enter stage left one Judge Frank J.
McGarr. In his opinion which accompanied
his dismissal of the American Jewish Congress, et al case, Judge McGarr put forth
some of the most ridiculous but politically
acceptable Meese-inspired interpretations
of the constitutional doctrine of separation
of state and church that I have ever read.
The basic central theme of his opinion was
an application to the particular fact situation
at hand of the soon-to-be legendary Meese
doctrine of "original intent." In between
every line was the question "Would the
Founding Fathers have objected to the
creche?" with the preordained negative
response. I willattempt here to hit the worst
Judge McGarr began by referring back to
documents drafted prior to the Billof Rights
in which phrases exist that point to religion
as a prerequisite to "good government."
This has been a favorite trick of Reagan
administration cronies who know that most
Americans are basically illiterate with regard
to their own history so that attitudes
expressed prior to the actual ratification of
our government can falsely be attributed to
have long ago established twentieth century
legal precedent. It is true that many colonial
documents contain quotes from the ranks of
our Founding Fathers speaking highly favorably about religion. Consider for a moment,
however, the theologically permeated climate in which they lived. Did that climate
leave them much choice but to speak favorably of religion if they desired to gain public
office? The giving of lip service to religion on
the part of politicians is nothing new. The
error arises when one extrapolates from
these quotes as did Judge McGarr when he
said that "They proceeded from an almost
universal belief in a supreme being and an
acceptance of the Judeo-Christian ethic
flowing from the Ten Commandments and

Page 4

History makes it clear that our

founding fathers believed religious
faith was conducive to the common
good and religious groups and their
churches and temples were respected
and encouraged in a variety of ways,
all subject to the overriding concern
that the government not discriminate
in favor of or against any religion or
religious group.
This position, that our founders meant
"separation of state and church" not to
include "separation of religion and government," as the evangelicals often now say,
may have in fact been true at least from the
popular perception of the colonial period.
We know tnat many of the founders had
substantive personal philosophical quarrels
with the dogma of the predominant churches
of their day, for many of them wrote extensively on those differences. Having a personal position and being able to translate
that into legislation are, however, two very
different things. Even Reagan has not been
able to force his social, moral, amd religious
agenda through a reluctant Congress. Perhaps in a like manner many of our first six
Deistic presidents could not turn their private personal views as to the unsoundness
of the Christian scheme into legislation, thus
leaving historians with the impression that
they "respected"
and/or "encouraged"
churches and temples. It is the Atheist position, however, that it makes little difference
now what the founders of this nation thought
in the mid-eighteenth century. We now find
ourselves in the twentieth century, closing in
on the twenty-first, with a political constituency of far different composition than the
one that was in place in the time of our
founders, with attendant problems that they
could not have envisaged. The modern day
religionist regards the words of the "founders" with the same solemnity as the words of

December 1986

his alleged Christ. The founders of this

nation never intended to lay down dogma for
future generations to worship. They did
intend to establish a working system of secular self-government that would be selfperpetuating and certainly flexible and amenable to change. I remain convinced that
they did not envisage being turned into
"gods" to be worshipped but merely thought
of themselves as establishers of precedent
that may well even be abandoned by future
generations on the basis of changing fact
Judge McGarr felt that even after the
Constitution was ratified "America grew,
marked by a widespread belief in God, ...
and a benign tolerance for nonbelievers."
This is directly contrary to statistical information from our first U.S. Census that
showed the vast majority of early Americans
to be "unchurched" with a benign tolerance
for religion. This common misconception
was followed by the infamous quote that the
Supreme Court willlive to rue the delivery of
in Zorach v. Clauson (343 U.S. 305, 96 Fed.
954, 72 S.Ct. 679) in 1952. "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose
a Supreme Being." Our institutions do
nothing of the sort, and the Court has done
its best to weasel out of this remark in some
subsequent decisions. Many of our institutions have in fact come into existence despite and overriding the objections of religion. Hospitals and free public education are
the two best examples.
Atheists And The Constitution
Judge McGarr then goes on to make a
rather complicated point. He begins by quoting Justice Black in the famous Everson v.
The Board of Education of The Township of
Ewing (330 U.S. 1, 67 S. Ct. 504, 91 L.Ed.
711) case of 1947 in which that Justice gave a
lengthy treatise based on the premise that
The "establishment of religion" clause
of the first amendment means at least
this: Neither a state nor the federal
government can set up a church.
Neither can pass laws which aid one
religion, aid all religions, or prefer one
religion over another.
McGarr then took particular exception to
the phrase "aid all religions," saying that it
embodied a concept that "the framers of the
first amendment did not intend or believe,"
citing modern establishments of religion
such as legislative chaplains, administrative
oaths, coin mottos, the Pledge of Allegiance,
and religious tax exemptions as evidence.
He then argues that the Founding Fathers
would not have defined Atheism as "a religion," and therefore it was a mistake when
the courts first took on separation cases of
that branch of government concluding that

American Atheist

Atheism was a religion and that even "nondiscriminatory tolerance" of religion discriminated against nonbelievers. He added that
conceiving of Atheism as a First Amendment protected "religion" leads to a court
position that any "benign attitude" of government toward religionists is seen as preferential treatment of them over Atheists
which consequently discriminates against all
religionists in deference to Atheists. Is that
To say this again more simply, this judge
feels that the court definition of Atheism as a
religion includes Atheists in First Amendment rights where they don't belong because
the founders only intended for those rights
to apply to god believers. If the "religion
clause" of the First Amendment only applies
to religious persons, then Atheists cannot
make application for protection under its
wording. Judge McGarr concludes then that
religion must be "limited by definition to
some form of relationship with a supreme
being" so that it cannot merely be regarded
as "a suitably fervent relationship with anything" that may tend to include Atheists and
thus bring them under the umbrella of First
Amendment protections which are reserved
for those who have a religion.
This judge then says that the end result of
application of the erroneous inclusion of
Atheists in First Amendment rights meant
only, for the religious in this nativity scene
case, that the government is being asked to
participate in the celebration of Christmas
"only in ways which deny its meaning."
His attack then turns to the legal principle
of stare decisis, which is "a doctrine or policy of following rules or principles laid down
in previous judicial decisions unless they
contravene the ordinary principles of justice" (Black's Law Dictionary), sayin'gthat it
is fine in theory but does not work because
over a period of time it distorts the "original
intent" of the laws. This is presumably like
the old grade school example of a. teacher
liningup a class of students and whispering a
phrase into the ear of the first student who
passes it down the line to the last who recites
something totally different than what the
teacher actually said. This judge is saying
that the true "original" meaning of the First
Amendment has been, in a like manner,
twisted by successive interpretations of various courts over the years. He would rather
have an immutable doctrine that once laid
down cannot be modified by fact situations
beyond the scope or imagination of the originator of the doctrine at the time that it was
first set forth.
After all of the above, Judge McGarr
throws in the argument that "Christmas in
America has clearly acquired a secular
meaning," and that the nativity scene "is so
widely accepted as a benign and salutary
symbol and message that it is an extraordinary reaction to see in it a threat to religious

Austin, Texas

freedom." There is also "no element of compulsion here." With respect to the disclaimer
sign the judge felt that "a disclaimer of the
obvious is of no significant effect." With that
I concur. A creche is obviously religious
regardless of a little sign placed in front,
although that is not what the judge meant,
preferring the expediency of considering it
to be a secular symbol.
We must keep in mind that the Chicago
decision is just one of many to come on this
issue. Some will concur and others will dissent. Take for example the case of the Birmingham, Michigan, creche. In August of
1983, after thirty-five years of its display, a
local resident and the ACLU filed suit. A
U.S. district judge in Detroit ruled in July
1984 in favor of the ACLU. The city
appealed, and the Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals upheld the lower court decision in
June of 1985. The city then appealed to the
U.S. Supreme Court. On November 3 of
this year the U.S. Supreme Court upheld
the Sixth Circuit ruling which prohibits the
city of Birmingham from placing a nativity
scene by itself on municipal property. The
19845-4 Supreme Court ruling on the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, creche said that that
scene did not violate the Constitution
because it had been erected with other
"secular" Christmas symbols such as Santa,
reindeer, and snowmen. Officials in Birmingham are now considering the addition
of this "secular" paraphernalia to their
creche to get around the Supreme Court
ruling (Detroit Free Press, The Daily Tribune, Birmingham, Michigan). The creche in
Chicago had the extra symbols, including "a
90 foot Christmas tree, Christmas lights on

it and other trees, a large Christmas packagetype box for items to be distributed to the
needy, and a five-foot figure of Santa Claus.
Christmas music is continuously broadcast."
We can see that even the Supreme Court
has taken two positions on nativity scenes
depending on the surrounding circumstances. I agree with the resident litigant in
the Birmingham case who said of the Pawtucket decision of 1984, "I think that was a
bad decision. A religious symbol is a religious symbol and you can't disguise it with
reindeer and snowmen."
In 1985 the Supreme Court permitted a
Scarsdale, New York, nativity scene in a
village park as long as non-religious displays
were also allowed there.
In Mukilteo, Washington, a county superior court judge ruled on November 10
that the classroom display of a nativity scene
and menorah and a "Happy Hanukkah"
greeting by a junior high school science
teacher were unconstitutional. That judge
also struck down the portion of school district policy that allows displays of religious
symbols because he felt that constant monitoring would be needed to decide if a given
symbol was displayed in a religious or an
educational manner. The judge there said
that the displays were unconstitutional
because they were not primarily secular and
educational. He said that the 1984 Pawtucket decision by the Supreme Court was
not applicable to the classroom in Washington (Everett Herald, Everett, Washington).
We have here a mixed bag, mostly dictated by "local option" with the Supreme
Court essentially giving a formula for cities
to follow for the "constitutional" erection of



.' "<DUR!;. MAt\.~;U>-





December 1986


\I,RG.\N _




TI-\~ '~'''\I\l(,' _ 1-\" I-\J\.I-\jl.\\A.""AAlh ..~~



religious symbols on public property. The

Supreme Court has simply said that mixing
the secular with the religious symbol is OK
but having a religious symbol stand alone is
not. The next step willsurely be to say that
the attendant secular symbols are of little
consequence in the public mind and that
little baby Jesus can stand alone. Only time
and the illogical religious mind willtell.
The Broader Danger
What is so foreboding about the Chicago
creche decision in particular is that it speaks
to broader court doctrine outside of the subject matter of creches demonstrating what
can and willcome out of an ultimate extrapolation of the Meese doctrine of "original
intent." It can be divined by the religious
mind that the First Amendment was laid
down by a group of apostles selected by god,
who, in the words of Reagan, placed this
continent here for them to find, intending
that amendment only for the protection of
their flocks and not to be inclusive of those
outside the fold. This was the premise of
Judge McGarr's decision in Chicago. This is
also exactly what Pat Robertson has been
saying in his campaign for the Republican
nomination for President in 1988, and Reagan has already placed legions of judicial

(Continuedfrom page 17)
The phone rang. Sarah nearly swore but
caught herself just in time. "Can you get
that, Katie?"
"No, Mama, I'm in the bathroom!" Katie
yelled from upstairs.
Now Sarah did curse. She'd ask for forgiveness later. Why did it always ring when
she was busy with a hundred and one other
"Hello!" she shouted, picking it up on the
sixth ring. "Hello, who's there?"
"Uh - uh, it's Billyfrom next door," said
the startled voice on the other end. "I -"
"Katie can't come to the phone right now.
Call back." Sarah told him, and started to
hang up. His yelp of dismay stopped her.
"No, Mrs. Young, I, can I talk to you for a
"Me?" Sarah was startled, but then an
unexpected thought hit her. He wants to ask
about the Lord! She rejoiced silently, and
immediately her voice became calm and
sweet. "Why, certainly, Billydear. What can
I do for you, sweetheart?"
"Well, it's about -"
The doorbell jangled, and Sarah nearly
dropped the phone. "Just a moment, dear,"

Page 6

appointees on the bench who believe this.

If our Constitution and Billof Rights can
be redefined by Meese, Reagan, and their
judicial appointees to be of some divine
origin and therefore immutable, then we as
Atheists can be excluded from our own
government as "unbelievers," just as the
Moslem theocracies of the Middle East have
been doing with "infidels" for thousands of
years. Our founders could not have envisaged themselves as being deified, and I am
sure that they would not have approved of
their writings becoming a kind of national
scripture. The dangers of transforming our
founding documents and those who authored them into a national cult should be
obvious to us all.
We should all have been able to foretell
such a transformation as inevitable, though.
Centuries of religious indoctrination and
intolerance could only have produced a
uniquely American-Christian mind-set that
would not foster a continued cognitive ability to accept change. The teaching that is the
most basic to the survival of religion is to
resist new ideas and change. Ifthat teaching
becomes basic to our political system in an
allegorical manner, we will find ourselves
trapped in a theocracy that would be like
stepping into the Bible - like Alice through
the looking glass - into a world in which we

could not, as Atheists, ultimately survive.

Governmental systems are for people and
need to be based on the reality of life as we
know it in a complex world. We cannot
transform theological fantasy into governmental reality by convincing ourselves that
government should be modeled after the
Bible. I see those now in power fighting to
make our system of laws mirror the Bible
where absolutes are handed down through
divine inspiration of apostles who spread the
word among the people. Logic directed by
situational analysis is the only basis for
The ayatollahs of the Middle East have
demonstrated the "how-to's" of achieving a
complete admixture of religion and government in which religious principles become
government principles and vice versa. The
blueprint is there; we only need to see to it
that it is not applied here. ~

she said to Billy. "Katie! Get down here,

right now, and answer the door! I'm on the
Katie barreled down the stairs, hurriedly
straightening her skirt, and pulled open the
front door - then stood and stared, unable
to speak, until Sarah hollered, "Who's there?
Katie, answer me!"
Katie opened her mouth, but nothing
came out. The visitor smiled at her, a kindly
twinkle in his eyes, and answered for her:
"It's just Santa Claus, Mrs. Young, come to
ask your daughter what she wants for
Billy was nearly deafened as Sarah
slammed the receiver down and burst into
the hallway, grabbing Katie and screeching
at the top of her lungs, "DEVIL! DEVIL!
To David's horror, she produced a small
but extremely vicious-looking pistol, seemingly out of nowhere (the police told him
later she'd kept it on a table by the door, just
in case), and waved it in his general direction. "JESUS HAVE MERCY ON YOUR
SOUL!" she screamed, blasting a hole in his
right foot.
"Daddy!" Billycried in horror, having run
over as fast as his legs could carry him. His
mother, two steps behind him, pushed him
aside and flung herself over David's body:
"You BITCH!" she shouted at Sarah, who

stared at the gun, the prone Santa, and the

screaming woman for about twelve seconds
before darkness overtook her and she
fainted dead away.

December 1986


A second generation Atheist,
Mr. Murray has been the director
of The American Atheist Center
for ten years and is also the managing
editor of the American Atheist. He
advocates "Aggressive Atheism."

"Mama, please wake up."
Sarah opened one eye, focused on her
child, opened the other, refocused, and tried
to sit up. The restraints stopped her.
"Hmmm?" Strange, even though she was
strapped to a strange bed, she felt no fear,
no pain. Everything felt wonderful. "How ya
doin', baby?" she murmured lovingly.
"Okay. Mama, why did you shoot Mr.
"Didn't," her mother muttered. "Satan.
Shot Satan. Satan Claus. Heh heh."
"I love you, Mama," Katie said stiffly. "I'll
come and visit you later."
"Do that little thing," Sarah said, smiling
vacantly. "Just leave that Devil at home."
David Jordan, still limping, winced as he
pulled the little girl towards the door. But
Katie held back, taking one last look at the
wreck of her mother, and said quietly, 'The
Devil's not so bad, Mama, once you get to
know him."
They left her then, to laugh and cry and
dream of Christmas trees, burning and
blackened. ~

American Atheist



On October 24, the media of our
nation pounced on a decision given in a
federal district court of Tennessee with
such fervor that the story made the
front page of just about every newspaper in the nation. The basic message
was that the Fundamentalists had won
a big one in the ongoing struggle between the public educational system of
the nation and the born-agains. Sensationalism sells newspapers and magazines and brings advertising dollars to
television and radio. It is not so important to know what happened as it is to
color it purple.
The American Atheist magazine in its
inception determined
that it would
always bring to the reader the full story
and let the reader evaluate what he
read, together with what guidelines the
editorial staff could give. In that spirit
now appears the "Memorandum Opinion" given by Thomas G. Hull, U.S. District Court of the Northeastern Division
of Tennessee.
The results obtained in this case are
the results of a dozen other earlier
cases. The United States courts have in
the past ten years so deliberately sustained religious contentions
that an
irreversible course has been set. JudeoChristianity, now held as sa,crosanct
and virtually beyond the rea~h of any
laws, cannot at this point in time be
gainsaid in its claims. Hull faces this
fact in the carefully reasoned decision
he reached. Hull, after all, was chosen
to be a federal judge because he is the
same kind of ideologue as are those
who appointed him to of/ice. Hull, age
sixty, a native of Tennessee, served for
ten years as a Republican member of
the state House. He also served as a
Tennessee state judge and, later, as
legal counsel to Gov. Lamar Alexander,
a Republican. When he was appointed
to the federal bench in 1983 by Reagan,
he described himself at congressional
confirmation hearings as a "strict constructionist" of the U.S. Constitution.
Knowing Ed Meese, you all know what
that means under the Reagan administration.

Austin, Texas

The facts are succintly given by the

judge. The decision, in its entirety, is
given here.
This is a civil rights action, 42 U.s.e.
1983, seeking injunctive relief and money
damages for the alleged violation of the
plaintiffs' First Amendment right to the free
exercise of religion. This controversy stems
from the compulsory use of the 1983 edition
of the Holt, Rhinehart [sic] and Winston
basic reading series (Holt series) in the
Hawkins County Public Schools. The plaintiffs, "fundamentalist" Christian school children and their parents, claim that their religion requires that they not be exposed to the
Holt series because its contents are offensive to their religious beliefs. The relief
sought by plaintiffs includes money damages
for the expenses incurred in sending their
children to private school and an order of
the Court requiring the school system to
accommodate their religious beliefs by providing alternative reading instruction,
It is important to note at the outset that
the plaintiffs are not requesting that the Holt
series be banned from the classroom, nor
are they seeking to expunge the theory of
evolution from the public school curriculum,
Despite considerable fanfare in the press
billingthis action as "Scopes II," it bears little
relation to the famous "monkey trial" of
1925. These plaintiffs simply claim that they
should not be forced to choose between
reading books that offend their religious
beliefs and foregoing a free public education.
The defendants, including intervening
defendant, Dr. Robert McElrath, Commissioner of Education for the State of Tennessee, take the position that broad state interests preclude the fashioning of educational
alternatives for the plaintiffs. They contend
that any attempt to provide acceptable textbooks for the plaintiffs would violate the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment through excessive state entanglement
with religion.
This action juxtaposes two of our most
essential constitutional liberties - the right
of free exercise of religion and the right to be
free from a religion established by the state.
Moreover, it implicates an important state
interest in the education of our children. The

December 1986

education of our citizens is essential to prepare them for effective and intelligent participation in our political system and is essential
to the preservation of our freedom and
independence. See, Wisconsin v. Yoder,
405 U.S. 205 (1972).
In January 1983, pursuant to state law,' a
textbook selection committee was appointed by the Hawkins County school district to
select a basic reading series to be used from
kindergarten through the eighth grade. After
evaluating several series of textbooks over a
number of months, the committee recommended purchase of the Holt series. This
was unanimously approved by the Hawkins County Board of
Education (Board) at its regular meeting on
May 12, 1983. The books were purchased,
and the. Hawkins County schools began
using them at the start of the 1983 school
Before the first month of school passed,
however, plaintiff Vicki Frost, who had three
children attending the Hawkins County public schools, discovered that the sixth grade
reading textbook contained material that
offended her family's religious beliefs. Mrs.
Frost and a friend, Jennie Wilson,2 organized a meeting which was held September 1,
1983, at the Church Hill Middle School. At
this meeting, which was attended by two
Hawkins County school principals, Mrs.
Frost, Mrs. Wilson and others objected to
the sixth grade reading textbook.
In September 1983, a group of Hawkins
County residents, including most of the
plaintiff-parents, formed an organization
named Citizens Organized for Better
Schools (COBS). Members of COBS spoke
at regularly scheduled school board meetings on September 8, October 13, and
November 10,1983, objecting, among other
things, to the use of the Holt series. The

IT.C.A. 49-6-2207.
2Mrs. Wilson is apparently the grandmother
of plaintiffs Heather and Vicky Baker.

Page 7


Beverly LaHaye is the founder and president of Concerned Women for America, whose lawyers represented the
Fundamentalist parents who brought
the case. She characterized the decision as "a strong endorsement of the
rights of parents over the training of
their children."

People for the American Way will aid

with an appeal of the decision. Its president, Anthony T. Podesta, said that the
ruling "will invite students from every
sect to pick and choose what they will
study and what they will not. I think we
will have havoc in the public schools."

W. J. Michael Cody, the attorney general of Tennessee, feels that the ruling
"puts the education system at risk." He
further warned that the proposed method of compromise would stigmatize participating Fundamentalist students.

COBS members apprised the Board that

they found the Holt series offensive to their
religious beliefs and presented petitions
requesting removal of the Holt series from
the schools.
At various times during the Fall of'1983,
six plaintiff-families- contacted Mr. Salley,
principal of Church HillMiddle School, and
requested that their children be provided
with alternative reading arrangements. Principal Salley apparently acceded ~o the
requests, and seven plaintiff-students at
Church Hill Middle School were provided
alternative reading arrangements." Two
other plaintiff-students were provided alternative arrangements at two separate elementary schools in the district.>
The Meads and the Bakers, two other
plaintiff-families, sought alternative reading
arrangements for their children at Carter's

Valley Elementary School. Principal MacMillan refused a proposal for an alternative text,
and no alternative arrangements were allowed.
Despite presentations by two plaintiffparents, the Board unanimously adopted,
without discussion, a resolution requiring
teachers to "use only textbooks adopted by
the Board of Education as regular classroom
textbooks"6 at the November 10, 1983,
school board meeting. In compliance with
this resolution, school officials at Church
HillMiddle School told seven of the studentplaintiffs that they would no longer be
allowed to use an alternative reader. At that
point, these students refused, on religious
grounds, to read the Holt series or to attend
the reading classes in which the Holt series
was used. They were suspended from school
for three days as a result. On November 22,
1983, they were again suspended, this time
for ten (10) days, because they continued to
refuse to attend reading class and/or read
the Holt books." Following this rigorous
enforcement of the Board's mandate, many
of the student-plaintiffs withdrew from public schools and enrolled in private, Christian

Plaintiffs filed this-suit in December 1983.
On March 15, 1983, this Court granted
summary judgment in favor of defendants.
This Court found that the plaintiffs' religious
beliefs were sincere and that certain passages in the Holt series might be offensive to
them, but that, because the books appeared
neutral on the subject of religion, they did
not violate.the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.
Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools,
_ F. Supp. 201, 202 (E.D. Tenn. 1984),
rev'd, 765 F.2d at 75 (6th Cir. 1985).
The Sixth Circuit reversed this finding
and remanded, instructing this Court to
determine whether the defendants infringed
on the plaintiffs' free exercise rights, whether
a compelling state interest would justify such
infringement if any, and whether a less restrictive means could accommodate both
plaintiffs and defendants without running
afoul of the Establishment Clause. Mozert v.

3The Frosts, Mozerts, Whittakers, Eatons,

Couches and Marshalls.
4The arrangements varied from child to
child. Usually the teacher would assign a
passage from another reader, and the student would go to another room to read.
5Sarah Frost at Church Hill Elementary
School and Samuel Couch at Mt. Carmel
Elementary School.

Page 8

6Joint Stipulation of Fact (Court File No. 205

at 44).

December 1986

70n December 8, student-plaintiffs Gina

Marshall and Travis Mozert were suspended
a third time, for an additional ten (10) days.
Gina Marshall was allowed to return to
school before the third suspension period
ended and was not required to read the Holt

American Atheist


Hawkins County Public Schools, 765 F.2d
at 78 (6th Cir. 1985).
With the agreement of the parties, the
Court determined that the issue of liability
should be decided by the Court without
intervention of a jury and that the issue of
damages would be tried by a jury at a later
date ifnecessary. The hearing on the issue of
liability began on July 14, 1986. Based upon
the evidence and testimony offered at trial,
and the record as a whole, the Court makes
the findings of fact and conclusions of law
which follow.

"When deciding a free exercise claim, the
courts apply a two-step analysis. First, it
must be determined whether the government action does, in fact, create a burden on
the litigant's exercise of his religion. Ifsuch a
burden is found, it must then be balanced
against the governmental interest, with the
government being required to show a compelling reason for its action." Mozert, 765
F.2d at 78. In addition, it must be determined
whether the state has acted in a way which
constitutes "the least restrictive means of
achieving [the 1 compelling state interest," as
measured by its impact upon the plaintiffs.
Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707, 718
The plaintiffs assert the free exercise
rights of both the students and the parents,
who assert that their religion compels them
not to allow their children to be exposed to
the Holt series. Plaintiffs have also alleged
that the Board's policy interferes with the
inherent right of the parents to "direct the
upbringing and education of children under
their control. ... " Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534 (1925), see also, Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972).
In deciding whether plaintiffs' free exercise rights have been impermissibly burdened by the state, the Court must first
determine whether the beliefs are religious
and whether they are sincerely held by the
individual asserting them. "[T]o have the
protection of the Religion Clauses the [plaintiffs'] claims must be rooted in religious
belief," Yoder, at 215; and, although the
truth of a belief "is not open to question,
there remains the significant question whether it is 'truly held.''' U.S. v. Seeger, 380 U.S.
163, 185 (1965).
Fortunately for the Court, these subtle
threshold determinations were made prior
to trial. The parties stipulated both that the
plaintiffs' beliefs were religious and that they
were sincerely held. Joint Stipulation 9.

Austin, Texas

However, before the Court may turn to the

issue of whether the exercise of these beliefs
is burdened by the Board's requirement that
all students read from the Holt series, the
defendants would have the Court decide
whether these beliefs are central to the
plaintiffs' faith. The defendants argue that
unless the beliefs are central to the plaintiffs'
faith, they are not entitled to protection
under the Free Exercise Clause of the First
In making this assertion, the defendants
rely on certain language in Yoder, supra, in
Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), and
also on two Sixth Circuit cases. Lakewood
Ohio Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses,
Inc. v. City of Lakewood, Ohio, 699 F.2d 303
(6th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 815
(1983); and Sequoyah v. Tennessee Valley
Authority, 620 F.2d 1159 (6th Cir. 1980),
cert. denied, 449 U.S. 953 (1980).
In Yoder, the Court found that compulsory school attendance past the age of fourteen "contravenes the basic religious tenets
and practices of the Amish faith." (emphasis
added). Yoder, supra at 218. In Sherbert,
the Court found that in refusing to work on
Saturday, a Seventh-Day Adventist followed
a "cardinal principal of her religious faith."
(emphasis added). Sherbert at 406. In both
of these cases, the Court did note that the
belief or practice at odds with a state regulation was one of utmost importance to, or
about which their was no disagreement
within, the plaintiffs religion.
However, at no point did the Court hold
that such a finding must be made in order to
prevail on a free exercise claim. Rather, as
mentioned above, the concern appears to
be simply that the belief or action be rooted
in religion. Accord, Thomas v. Review
Board, supra, at 713. That Saturday worship is a "cardinal" principal of the Seventh
Day Adventist religion simply makes it easy
to find that the belief is religious. No
Supreme Court decision has turned on the
issue of whether a particular belief was central to the believer's faith. The two Sixth
Circuit cases relied upon by defendants also
support the "rooted in religion" standard
and do not mandate a judicial determination
of the relative doctrinal significance of the
beliefs at issue.
In Lakewood, the desire to construct a
church building on the particular parcel of
land zoned residential had absolutely no
basis in the congregation's faith. Their religion did not compel them to build a church
on that parcel of real estate. Indeed, the
court determined that the building of a
church, either in the residential district or
anywhere else, had no religious or ritualistic

December 1986

significance for the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Thus, it is clear that no evaluation was made
by the court of the importance of the alleged
religious action for which protection was
sought. The case turned upon the fact that
the act of building a church was not "integrally related" to any underlying religious
belief of the plaintiffs.
In Sequoyah, certain Cherokee Indians
sought to enjoin the flooding of the Little
Tennessee River because it would destroy
sacred burial grounds which some felt compelled to visit and/or preserve. Although the
court stated that the claim of centrality of
the land to the practice of the traditional
Cherokee religion was missing, 620 F.2d at
1164, the case turned upon the fact that the
plaintiffs'objections were based primarily
upon a fear that their cultural heritage would
suffer if these "sacred" grounds were lost.
"The overwhelming concern of the [plaintiffs] appears to be related to the historical
beginnings of the Cherokees and their cultura~development." [d.
The plaintiffs believe that they must not
allow their children to be exposed to the
content of the Holt series. The Court is of
the opinion that it should determine whether
this belief is essentially religious and not
whether it is a central tenet of the plaintiffs'
faith. And this determination should be
made despite the fact that many people holding more orthodox religious beliefs might
find the plaintiffs' beliefs inconsistent, illogical, incomprehensible, and unacceptable.
Based on the stipulations of the parties and
the proof offered at trial, therefore, the
Court FINDS that the plaintiffs' beliefs are
sincerely held religious convictions entitled
to protection under the Free Exercise
Clause of the First Amendment.
The parties have stipulated that the plaintiffs find certain material in the Holt series
offensive to their beliefs. Joint Stipulation
55. Testimony at trial reinforced this position. The representative plaintiff-parents
clearly testified that the material objected to
was offensive "in the context of the Holt
series." The plaintiffs perceive certain objectionable themes running throughout the
Holt series. For example, the Holt series
contains a definite feminist theme," and the
plaintiffs have a religious objection to stories
which appear to denigrate the differences
between the sexes.
It appears to the Court that many of the
objectionable passages in the Holt books

8There is no question that the reading texts

teach more than just how to read.

Page 9


American Atheists' Reply

The following press release was issued by American Atheists on October
American Atheists today condemned the
decision of the federal district judge in
Greeneville, Tennessee. A 1983 Reagan
appointee, his decision is a harbinger of
what can be expected from eight years of
Reagan's packing of the federal judiciary
with judges more interested in Jesus than
justice. The effects of this decision will be
intimidation of teachers, school boards,
and publishers of school texts, and a further
dumbing- down of America's public education. It is a victory for religious fanatics in
their unrelenting attack on reason and
American Atheists charges that the premises on which fundamentalist Christianity is
based are irrational and idiotic - totally
outside and apart from the real world. They
are inappropriate for education.

would be rendered inoffensive, or less oftensive, in a more balanced context. The problem with the Holt series, as it relates to the
plaintiffs' beliefs, is one of degree. One story
reinforces and builds upon the others
throughout the individual texts and the series as a whole. The plaintiffs believe that,
after reading the entire Holt series, a child
might adopt the views of a feminist, a humanist; a pacifist, an anti-Christian, a vegetarian,
or an advocate of a "one-world government."
Plaintiffs sincerely believe that therepetitive affirmation of these philosophical viewpoints is repulsive to the Christian faith - so
repulsive that they must not allow their
children to be exposed to the Holt series.
This is their religious belief. They have
drawn a line, "and it is not for us to say that
the line [they] drew was an unreasonable
one." Thomas, supra, at 715.
Having made these findings, we must
determine whether the state's action has
burdened plaintiffs' free exercise of their
religious beliefs. The applicable test was set
forth in Thomas, supra, at 71718: "Where
the state conditions receipt of an important
benefit upon conduct proscribed by a religious faith, or where it denies such a benefit
because of conduct mandated by religious
belief, ... a burden upon religion exists.
While the compulsion may be indirect, the
infringement upon free exercise is nonetheless substantial."

Page 10

This decision will cause school text publishers, intimidated by fundamentalist parents, to further eviscerate their materials,
removing more science, history, and other
material from textbooks out of fear that
school purchasing officials willnot buy anything which may be objectionable to a parent's religious beliefs. The primary concerns
of textbook publishers are sales and profits;
quality content is secondary. This is evident
from the manner in which biology texts have
been purged of material on evolution over
the past twenty years. The decision willalso
intimidate school boards, teachers, principals, and other school officials, all of whom
will fear a federal case if they present anything to which a parent may object. Judge
Hull cited "free exercise" of religion, stating
that students "either read the Holt series or
forfeit a free public education." This is
wrong; public education is available to all,
and teaching religion is not the function of
the public schools or education in general.

American Atheists regards this as a pernicious, wrongheaded decision. It is one

which will lead to further deterioration of
American education, making America's
future graduates less competitive in the
global economy. Even today, major corporations are fleeing to Japan, Germany, and
other nations to find a well-educated work
force. Currently, the Soviet Union and
Japan are graduating twice as many skilled
engineers, scientists, and mathematicians
per capita as the U.S. This suggests that
they will be the world leaders of tomorrow
- not the United States. The federal judiciary should be more concerned about that
than the beliefs of a few ultra-religious nuts.
We should not permit the decline of American society through undermining of our
educational system, or dictating by religious fanatics hostile to appropriate education for a technologically advanced society.

In Thomas, a Jehovah's Witness resigned

his employment on religious grounds after
his employer transferred him to a department that manufactured armaments. The
state denied unemployment compensation
benefits. The Supreme Court held that this
violated his free exercise rights because it
put pressure on the plaintiff to either violate
his religious beliefs or forego the otherwise
available public benefit.
In Sherbert, a Seventh-Day Adventist
refused to work on Saturdays because of
her religious convictions. Following her discharge, the state denied her unemployment
compensation benefits. The Supreme Court,
based upon the reasoning subsequently used
in Thomas, held that this violated her free
exercise rights.
In Spence u, Bailey, 465 F .2d 797 (6th Cir.
1972), a high school student, who had a religiously based conscientious objection to
war, refused to attend state required ROTC
training.? The school refused to award
Spence a diploma. The Sixth Circuit held

that this violated his free exercise rights

"since it compels the conscientious objector
either to engage in military training contrary
to his religious beliefs, or to give up his public
education." ld: at 799.
In Moody u, Cronin, 484 F. Supp. 270
(C.D. Ill. 1979), Pentecostal children refused
to participate in co-educational physical
education classes because of their religious
objection to exposure to the opposite sex in
"immodest attire." The school mandated
that they attend these classes "under penalty
of suspension, expulsion, denial of credits
for graduation, and other discipline." Id. at
272. Based upon reasoning like that applied
in Spence, the district court found that the
children's free exercise rights had been violated. Cj., Graue u, Mead School Dist. No.
354, 753 F.2d 1528 (9th Cir. 1985), cert.
denied, 106 S. Ct. 85 (1985).10
On the basis of the foregoing, it seems
hardly possible to question the fact that the
plaintiffs' free exercise rights have been burdened. Plaintiffs' religious beliefs compel
them to refrain from exposure to the Holt
series. The Board has effectively required
that the student-plaintiffs either read the
offensive texts or give up their free public
education. This case is clearly in line with
Thomas, Sherbert, and their progeny. Accordingly, the Court FINDS that the plaintiffs' free exercise rights have been burdened by the school board policy.

9The state required every student to take

one year of physical education or ROTC. No
physical education classes were offered for
males at Spence's high school. He was thus
faced with state requirement that he attend

December 1986

American Atheist


"The mere fact that the [plaintiffs'] reli

gious practice is burdened by a governmental program does not mean that an exemption accommodating [their] practice must
be granted. The state may justify an inroad
on religious liberty by showing that it is the
least restrictive means of achieving some
compelling state interest." Thomas at 718.
Whether that burden is impermissible or not
willturn on the discussion to follow.

The state interest implicated in this action
is its interest in the education of its young. In
order for a state's interest to justify uniform

lOInGrove, a student objected on religious

grounds to reading The Learning Tree,
which was assigned in her high school English literature class. Her teacher assigned
another book and allowed her to leave the
room during discussion of the offensive text.
The student and her mother brought suit
seeking removal of the book from the school,
alleging that it violated the student's free
exercise rights as well as the Establishment
Clause. Because the school allowed her the
option of foregoing exposure to the offensive text, the court found that there was no
coercion against her free exercise rights.
"Plaintiffs allege that they believe 'eternal
consequences' result to them and their
children from exposure to The Learning
Tree or discussion of it. That allegation
would probably be sufficient to present a
free exercise question if Cassie Grove had
been compelled to read the book or be present while it was discussed in class." (Canby,
J., concurring at 1541-2).

application of a regulation which burdens an

individual's free exercise rights, it must be
"compelling," Thomas, "overriding," U.S. v.
Lee 455 U.S. 252, 258 (1982), "ofthe highest
order," Yoder at 215, and "especially important," Bowen v. Roy, _-U.S.
__ (1986)
(O'Connor, J. concurring in part and dissenting in part, Slip. Op. No. 780 at 5).11
No party disputes that the state's interest
in education meets these various tests. Providing public schools ranks at the very apex
of the function of a state. Yoder, supra at

11Defendants have indicated that in a case

such as the present action, challenging the
denial of otherwise uniformly provided
benefits, a lesser showing of state interest
may be required. This is based upon the
Chief Justice's opinion in Bowen. Chief Justice Burger's opinion was the opinion of the
Court in that case, but it is the majority
opinion only so far as parts I and II are concerned. It is in part III that the pronouncements relied upon by the defendants are
found. Part III of the opinion finds accord
with only two other members of the court.
Chief Justice Burger states therein that,
when a government regulation "indirectly
and incidentally calls for a choice between
securing a government benefit and adherence to religious beliefs," Bowen, Slip Op. at
12, "the Government meets its burden when
it demonstrates that [the] challenged [regulation] ... , neutral and uniform in application, is a reasonable means of promoting a
legitimate public interest." Id. at 14. This
Court finds itself in agreement with Justice
O'Connor, who notes that the test enunciated by the Chief Justice "has no basis in
precedent." (O'Connor, J. concurring in
part and dissenting in part at 4).


11-/ 71<164LU4RS


Austin, Texas

However, in the instant case, the state,
acting through its local school board, has
chosen to further its legitimate and overriding interest in public education by mandating the use of a single basic reading series.
The Court has found that compulsory use of
this reading series burdens the plaintiffs' free
exercise rights. In order to justify this burden, the defendants must show that the
state's interest in the education of its children necessitates the uniform use of the
Holt reading series - that this uniformity is
essential to accomplishing the state's goals.
Therefore, the Court must decide whether
the state can achieve literacy and good citizenship for all students without forcing them
to read the Holt series.
It seems obvious that this question must
be answered in the affirmative. The legislative enactments of this state admit as much.
Although Tennessee has manifested its compelling interest in education through its
compulsory education law, it has, by allowing children to attend private schools or to
be taught at home, also acknowledged that
its interests may be accomplished in other
ways and may yield to the parental interest
in a child's upbringing. Moreover, the fact
that the state has approved several basic
reading series for use in the Tennessee public schools tells us something of the expendability of any particular series.
In insisting upon the necessity of uniformity, the defendants point to legitimate concerns about the difficulty of administering an
alternative reading program. The Court
agrees that uniformity would make the testing, grading, and teaching of reading more
manageable. However, it is clear from the
evidence at trial that the state's interest in
uniformity is by no means absolute. Many of
the expert educators who appeared at trial

q.J YA !

WeLL wll4/,A8CVr .
"HOLy C~5v


December 1986

Page 11


indicated that teaching is best accomplished

through individualized instruction.v
The defendants also insist that any accommodation of the plaintiffs is impossible.
This position is based, in part, on the plaintiff's lists of objections to the Holt series.
Exhibits 22-37. It is true that many of the
plaintiffs' objections suggest that other elements of the curriculum besides the reading
program could easily be considered offensive to their beliefs. However, as indicated
earlier, it is the Court's perception that the
plaintiffs have drawn a line in regard to their
religiously mandated action. The Holt series
is on one side of the line as intolerable, and
apparently the balance of the books and
school curriculum remain, at this point, on
the other side of the line. The plaintiffs have
not made multi-subject, multi-text obiections; they have objected to the Holt reading
series. The defendants may not justify burdening the plaintiffs' free exercise rights in
this narrow case on the basis of what the
plaintiffs might find objectionable in the
Moreover, proof at trial demonstrated
that accommodating the plaintiffs is possible
without materially and substantially disrupting the educational process. See, Tinker v.
Des Moines Independent
School District, 393 U.S. 503, 509 (1969).
The students at the middle school were provided with an alternative reading arrangement for a period of several weeks. There
was no testimony at trial that those arrangements resulted in any detriment to the
student-plaintiffs. In fact, those children still
received above average grades for that
period. Even after the School Board mandate, compromise arrangements
worked out with some of the plaintiffs.P
A related concern of the defendants is
that if plaintiffs are allowed an alternative,
the Court willhave "opened the floodgates"
to a barrage of such requests. The state
argues that "[t]o permit individual teachers,

12Mrs. Evelyn Rodriguez, who has taught

elementary school in Hawkins County for
ten or eleven years, testified that she not
only divides her reading class into two or
three groups by reading level, but that she
always uses additional texts and materials
other than the basic reader. As much as
possible, she works with the students on
their individual reading level, particularly ifa
child is below grade level in reading skills. In
addition, children requiring special instruction in reading leave the classroom during
the reading period and go to a reading lab.

Page 12

students, parents or ministers to choose the

textbook of their liking would inescapably
result in widespread chaos not only within
the Hawkins County School System but
also every public school system within the
State of Tennessee.t'tWhile this is a very legitimate concern,
such a scenario seems unlikely to occur.
Proof at trial indicated that objections such
as those of the plaintiffs have never, to the
memory of Hawkins County school officials,
been raised in the past. Dr. J. Gordon Melton testified that, although there are a variety of sects in and around Hawkins County,
the area is relatively homogeneous from a
religious standpoint.v Accommodating the
beliefs of the small group of students
involved in this case probably would not
wreak havoc in the school system by initiating a barrage of requests for alternative
While the court must be sensitive to the
wide-spread implications of its decisions, it
must also limit its decisions to the facts of the
case before it. Bender v. Williamsport Area

13Steve Whittaker was allowed to return to

school after the suspensions and continue
reading from an alternative book until the
first of the year. Thereafter, Steve participated with the rest of his class upon the
assurance from his teacher "that she
wouldn't put emphasis on the stories that
were objectionable to us and violated our
religious beliefs." TR. at 925. His teacher
also wrote notes about some stories on
Steve's worksheets such as, "Don't believe
what's in the content of this story." Id. at
926. The Whittakers could not afford to
send Steve to a private school.
Gina Marshall was allowed to return to
school after the suspensions without participating in the Holt series. She simply worked
on English in the accompanying workbook
Her teacher put an "x" through the portions
dealing with stories from the Holt series.

School District, __ U.S. _ (March 25,

1986). The case before the Court is a narrow
one. The plaintiffs are objecting, on religious
grounds, to the mandated use of the Holt
series in the Hawkins County public schools.
The Court has already found that the plaintiffs' sincerely held religious beliefs are burdened by the defendants' requirement. In
order for the plaintiffs to be entitled to any
judicial relief, the court must also find that no
compelling state interest justifies this burden
on the plaintiffs and that the state's interests
can be served by less restrictive means. The
proof at trial overwhelmingly supports such
a finding.
Accordingly, the Court FINDS further
that, while the State of Tennessee has a
compelling and overriding interest in the
education of its children and the literacy of
its citizens, this interest can be accomplished by less restrictive means. The uniform, compulsory use of the Holt series in
the Hawkins County public schools is by no
means essential to furthering the state's


Given these findings, the Court must now

consider the plaintiffs' demand that they be
afforded alternative reading texts and the
defendants' concern that such relief would
violate the Establishment Clause.
Evidence at trial indicated that providing
alternative texts would require additional
preparation by existing teachers or the hiring of part-time reading tutors. However, it
was clear that this accommodation could be

14Pretrial Brief of defendant Robert McElrath, Commissioner of Education of the

State of Tennessee, at 9.
ISTR.at 1552, 1555. Churches in the area are
primarily Protestant.

"M4 father sa4s that Abraham lincoln wasn't reouq assassinated ... he
just had the wind knocked out of him."
December 1986

American Atheist


achieved without substantially disrupting
the education process and without substantially inconveniencing either the plaintiffstudents or the rest of the student body.
Moreover, such an accommodation might
promote a spirit of religious tolerance in the
school system and impress upon the student body the high regard this society has
for religious freedom,
On the other hand, considerable evidence
indicated that no single, secular reading series on the state's approved list would be
acceptable to the plaintiffs without modifications. Reading assignments might have to be
tailored to the plaintiffs' needs, and the average reading teacher might not readily recognize those portions of the texts which offend
the plaintiffs' beliefs. The defendants are
rightly concerned that any accommodation
of the plaintiffs in the schools would have the
effect of advancing a particular religion and
would involve an excessive entanglement
between the state and religion, See, Lemon
v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971). It is hard
to imagine any reading program for the
plaintiffs offered at the schools which would
not present Establishment Clause problems.
Under these circumstances, the Court
FINDS that a reasonable alternative which
could accommodate the plaintiffs' religious
beliefs, effectuate the state's interest in education, and avoid Establishment Clause
problems, would be to allow the plaintiffstudents to opt out of the school district's
reading program. The State of Tennessee
has provided a complete opt-out, a total curriculum alternative, in its home schooling
statute. T.CA 49-6-30S0. The Court perceives that this alternative could also work
effectively for a single subject. Allowing the
student-plaintiffs to opt out of reading class
would relieve the school system' of any
burden that would have been caused by
providing alternative teaching arrangements
and would relieve the plaintiffs of the burden
on their religious freedom. Although it will
require extra effort on the part of the
plaintiff-parents, these parents have demonstrated their willingness to make such an
effort as the price of accommodation in the
public school system.
As the Court envisions the opt -out program, each of the student-plaintiffs would
withdraw to a study hall or to the library
during his or her regular reading period at
school and would study reading with a parent later at home. The home schooling portion of the child's education would be proportionally subject to the provisions of the
statute. T.c.A. 49-6-30S0 (b). The child's
reading proficiency would be rated by the
standardized achievement tests used by the

Austin, Texas

Little Ado About Much

The national news media made a
great fuss about objections to The
Holt, Rinehart, Winston Basic Reader
series for kindergarten through eighth
grade by Tennessee Fundamentalists.
In fact, the case, Mozert v. Hawkins
County Public Schools, was frequently
called a modern "monkey trial."
But what the media neglected to
mention was that the Holt series had
already been forbidden in other states
- just more quietly.
For instance, when Texas reviewed
readers for public school use in 1980,
Mel Gabler, a semi-professional, Fundamentalist textbook critic, raised

objections to the Holt series. He recently reminisced about it: "We thoroughly reviewed the series in 1980 and
found them to have a consistent theme
that was anti-biblical and anti-Christian." The Texas State Board of Education reviewed a new list of elementary
grade readers during November 1986.
(The material chosen then would be
used for six years.) The Holt series was
not under consideration at all.
The publisher of the series says that
the readers are in use in 15,000 school
districts. But how many has it already
been quietly kicked out of?

state. If deficiencies develop, the parents

and school officials should confer to facilitate improvement. The Court finds that
these children are bright and capable of
completing such a program without serious
detriment to their reading skills or citizenship. The specifics of this program willbest
be developed by the professional educators
and the parents.
The home schooling opt-out does not
contravene the Establishment Clause. There
is neither state sponsorship, financial support, nor active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity. This holding is in
accordance with Spence, supra, and Moody,
supra, which granted similar relief without
an Establishment Clause problem.
Accordingly, the defendants are hereby
ENJOINED from requiring the studentplaintiffs to read from the Holt series and
ORDERED to allow the student-plaintiffs to
attend the Hawkins County public schools
without participating in the course of reading instruction, as long as the parents submit
written notice of their intent to provide
home school reading instruction in accordance with T.CA 49-6-30S0. During the
normal reading period, the student-plaintiffs
shall be excused from the classroom and
provided with suitable space in the library or
elsewhere for a study hall. No student shall
be penalized for exercising this option.
This opinion shall not be interpreted to
require the school system to make this
option available to any other person or to
these plaintiffs for any other subject. Further
accommodations, if they must be made, will

have to be made on a case-by-case basis by

the teachers, school administrators, Board,
and Department of Education in the exercise of their expertise, and failingthat, by the

December 1986

Finally, we turn to the individual defendants' assertion that their good faith immunity bars the plaintiffs' claim for damages.
"[G]overnment officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from
liability for civil damages insofar as their
conduct does not violate clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known."
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818
(1982). The standard for invoking the good
faith defense is objective, not subjective.
In the case at bar, where Free Exercise
rights clash with Establishment Clause protections, considerable doubt existed to
whether the defendants' actions violated
clearly established constitutional rights. This
Court's initial appraisal of the situation was
that the constitution did not protect the
plaintiffs from exposure to offensive ideas
and that the Board was not in violation of the
plaintiffs' rights as long as the Holt series was
neutral on the subject of religion. While the
application of the sequential reasoning
required by the Sixth Circuit's on remand
has now lead the Court to a different conclusion, the individual defendants cannot be
expected to have anticipated this ruling and

Page 13


That Filthy Stuff

The seven parents involved in Mozert v.
Hawkins County Public Schools pointed
out various passages and sections of the
Holt reading series which they felt were
anti-Christian. Generally, they objected to
passages describing or seeming to advocate nontraditional family life, magic, pacifism, situational ethics, male-female role
reversal, and telepathy, or givingsolely nonbiblicalviews of science. A few of the stories
to which they objected and their complaints
against them specifically were:
The Wizard of Oz: It depicts courage,
compassion, and intelligence as being traits
which are self-developed and not Godgiven. It also describes one witch as being
Shakespeare's MacBeth: This play depicts
withcraft and magic.
The Diary of Anne Frank: Among other
things, the book encourages religious tolerance toward all religions in the passage:
"Oh, Idon't mean you have to be Orthodox.
... I just mean some religion.... It doesn't
matter what. Just to believe in something."
Cinderella: This children's story presents
magic in a positive way.
The Revolt of Mother, by Mary Wilkins
Freeman: This seventh-grade short story
depicts a woman challenging her husband's
authority. Thus it attacks the "biblical
With the exception of the last, all American Atheists could object to those same
stories. Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz
can be said to encourage children to rely
upon wishful thinking (i.e., prayer) rather
than upon constructive action. MacBeth
can be construed as advocating the idea of
fate - otherwise known as predestination,
a well-known Christian doctrine. The passage pointed out in Anne Frank is blatantly
offensive to American Atheists, who know
that no one "needs" to believe in anything at
all. But the Fundies, of course, did not
object to the passages because they are
anti-Atheist or anti-rational.
The New York Times reprinted two
segments from articles in the Holt series to
which the seven Fundamentalist parents
involved in the case had objected. The editors of the American Atheist could think of
some objections to the stories mentioned
above. But we are at a loss as to what's

Page 14

wrong in this piece titled ''Tidal Waves":

You know from your own experiences that pushing water in a bathtub makes waves. The great pusher
on the ocean is the force of the wind.
When it blows, waves begin to form
and move across mile after mile of
the ocean's surface.
A tidal wave or tsunami (tsooNAH-me), however, is not caused by
the force of the wind. A tidal wave
may start in anyone of three ways. A
large landslide in the soft deposits of
mud and sand along a steep continental shelf may occur. Ifmillions of tons
of these deposits slip down, the
nearby water may be given a tremendous push. The explosion of a
volcano may also send tidal waves
moving across the oceans. Earthquakes underneath the sea do the
same thing; if an area of the ocean
floor moves up or drops down
rapidly, the water above the area is
moved, too.
Most tidal waves are caused by
earthquakes, also known as seismic
disturbances. The push given to the
water by an earthquake is not great
when you think of the ocean as a
whole. But the surface in one area
only has to move up and down a few
meters to start a tidal wave. From a
ship in deep water, this wave may not
be noticed at all.
Tidal waves are very different from
wind waves. They are quite low and
perhaps as much as 240 kilometers
(150 miles) long. But as tsunamis
come close to shore, their speed
slows down and their height builds
up. They may rise to over 30 meters
(100 feet) high.
Only a few tidal waves may reach
the shore, or there may be as many
as two dozen.
If tidal waves approach during the
day, the first small waves may not be
noticed by people at the beach. What
does attract attention, more often, is
the way the sea withdraws. It may roll
back like a very low tide and expose
more of the bottom than people have
ever seen before, grounding small
boats and leaving fish flapping on the

December 1986

must be accorded good faith immunity from

money damages.
Accordingly, the plaintiffs' claim for damages against defendants Cloud, Bailey,
McKee, Elkins, Silvers, Price, Dykes, and
Salley is hereby DISMISSED.
The Clerk willnotify the parties of the date
for a hearing on damages against the Hawkins County Board of Education.

In summary, the Court has made the following findings of fact and conclusions of
(1) The plaintiffs have sincerely held religious beliefs which are entitled to protection
under the Free Exercise Clause of the First
Amendment and which are offended by certain recurring themes in the Holt series.
(2) In forcing the plaintiff-students to read
from the Holt series or to forfeit a free public
education, the defendants have burdened
the plaintiffs' right of free exercise of their
(3) The State of Tennessee and the Hawkins County Board of Education have a legitimate' compelling, and overriding interest in
the education of public school students; but
this interest does not necessitate uniform
use of the Holt series and can be achieved by
less restrictive means.
(4) For this reason, the plaintiffs' civil
rights have been violated, and they are
entitled to both injunctive relief and money
(5) The defendants cannot accommodate
the plaintiffs' needs within the context of the
school system without risk of violating the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
(6) The plaintiffs are therefore entitled to
opt out of the Hawkins County public school
reading program while still enjoying the
benefit of the rest of the curriculum (with
appropriate provisions for home instruction
according to state law).
(7) The individual defendants are protected from any financial liabilityto the plaintiffs on the basis of their qualified good faith
(8) And finally, the plaintiffs are entitled to
a hearing on damages, to be assessed against
the Hawkins County School Board, for any
harm the plaintiffs may have suffered as a
proximate result of the Board's interference
with their First Amendment rights.

American Atheist


Michael Ferris, an attorney with Concerned Women
for America: "It was a major victory for fundamentalist
Christians everywhere. Except for a sentence or two, we
couldn't have written it better ourselves."

dren coming in and out of school for parts of the day, so

what you'll have is the formation of lowest common denominator education, that which is not objectionable to anyone."

Anthony Podesta, president of People for the American Way: "We're not talking about objecting to one story.
We're talking about objecting to pluralism, to science, to
religious diversity. We think it would really create havoc."

C. Dewey Branstetter, chairman of the Nashville

school board: "If it gets to the point that a parent could
come in and say this particular part of a textbook offends
me, and I don't want it used, then we've got some serious

Beverly LaHaye, founder and president of Concerned

Women for America: "Today's decision is a tremendous
step forward for religious freedom in America." "[Y]ou have
to respect the rights of parents to train their children according to their beliefs."
Austin American-Statesman editorial (October 25,
1986): "A federal judge in Tennessee has committed a
judicial offense against reason ... The ruling is surely absurd
on its face. How, possibly, can school districts or textbook
selection committees manage to pick books that willoffend
no one - and still teach children anything?"
Rachel Baker, litigant: "We're just elated. We are thankful
and very grateful for the decision. That comes from the
depths of my heart."
Mrs. Vicki Frost, litigant: "I'm a born-again Christian.
The word of God is the totality of my beliefs."
Nat R. Coleman, Greeneville attorney who represented the school board: "I'm very, very concerned for
the public school system as we know it. I think this will
destroy it." The decision will"allow individuals with all kinds
of views to clothe them in religion and impose their values on
the majority."
John Workman, speaking for CBS, Inc., owner of Holt:
"As publisher of the Holt basic reading series, we firmly
disagree with the allegations made by this group of parents
and we willsupport the School Board's position on appeal."
Gerald Skoog, professor of education at Texas Tech
University in Lubbock: "Curriculum is going to become
meaningless because more and more topics will be off
Sarah Harden, president of the American Association
of University Women: "The future of education depends
on a population informed on all sides of the issue. A decision
of this kind absolutely stands in the way of students doing
Timothy Dvk, Washington attorney who represented
. the school board: "The schools don't want to have chil-

Austin, Texas

Isaac Northern, Jr., Nashville school board member:

The ruling is "a real setback for education and the freedom
of education."
W. J. Michael Cody, Tennessee attorney general: "The
court's decision leaves a gaping hole in our total curriculum
and places terrible demands on classroom teachers .... It
puts the education system at risk. Every time a parent raises
an objection about a textbook, the teacher has to worry
about making an alternative text available or face litigation .
. . . The state believes that the serious constitutional questions raised in this case should be addressed by the appellate courts."
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of Tennessee
Civil Liberties Union: "The case focuses on whether a
student's freedom of religion is affected by what he's taught
in the classroom ... We don'tfeel secular humanism is a
religion, and as ACLU sees it, no religious freedom was
broken. The decision gives some kind of credence to secular humanism being a religion. Groups are saying that secular humanism negates belief in God. It simply says what role
man plays in the world. I think we see the court in this case
condoning censorship and lets religious beliefs affect what is
taught in public education. Religious groups are going to be
able to bring their religions into schools."
Paul A. Snider, pastor of Grace Presbyterian church,
Nashville: "This could be the beginning of the end for the
unquestioned presentation of secular humanism in the public schools, and for that I am grateful."
Jordan Lorence, a Washington lawyer representing
the parents: "We're very pleased. The judge is saying if a
text is offensive, you can learn at home. The schools can't
throw these people out. Judge Hull struck a Solomon-like
balance: The parents are getting constitutional protection
and the schools aren't being crushed under an intolerable
burden. The judge is saying to the parents: Put your money
where your mouth is."

December 1986

Page 15

Christine A. Lehman


arah Young never meant to shoot her

'next -door neighbor. After all, she was a
founding member of the West Hollister
RightTo Life, and Jesus was well-known for
his disapproval of murder. But, darn it, she
had only been trying to save her only child's
~oul 'from Satan incarnate. How could
anyone fault a mother for that?
She remembered how innocently it had
'~Mama,willyou help me?"
"Sure, sweetheart, whatcha doin'?"
"Writing a letter to Santa Claus."
Sarah frowned slightly, not at allsure what
to say to her small daughter.
"Will you help me, Mama?" Katie persisted.
I "No, sweetheart," said Sarah firmly.
"But why?" Katie pouted, and her brown
eyes'threatened to brim over.
I Sarah's lips tightened. "Because Reverend.Thomas says Santa Claus is the Devil in
disguise. And I won't have my child consorting with Satan."
! Katie's small forehead furrowed. "But Santa. Claus is nice. He brings presents.
How can he be the Devil when he's so nice?"
, ."He's the Devil," Sarah explained patiently, "because he distracts children's eyes
frorn'our precious Savior. You know Christmas-is Jesus' birthday." Katie was silent.
"Don't you know that?" Sarah prodded.
: j'Well ... yes," Katie said doubtfully.
I ,"~nd anyway," Sarah went on, more confidently, " 'Santa' is just an anagram for



, "What's a - an anagram?"
~3t means the same letters mixed up in
different ways. Like a puzzle," Sarah said
hastily, seeing her daughter's confusion. She
wondered for a moment if she was making
too much of the matter. After all, Katie Lee
wasonly five years old. Still, she decided, it
was never too early to start them on the right
i !~IBut, Mama," Katie tried one last time,
"allithe other kids -"
being raised by heathens. But I'm a
Christian, and I promised the Lord the day
you were born that I'd raise you the way He
wanted me to. So remember, just don't
listen to those evil children. They'd take you
to hell with them if they could."
"Gee." Katie heaved her shoulders in an
exaggerated sigh.
"And don't say 'gee,' " Sarah snapped.

Page 16

December 1986

American Atheist

"It's the same as swearing."

"Yes, Mama."
"Hey, Katie! Want to go to the mall with
me and see Santa Claus?" BillyJordan hollered from his front yard across the street.
"Uh-uh." Katie rubbed a blade of grass
against her skirt and pretended to be fascinated with the streak of green it left on the
white material.
Billy ran across the street, giggling as an
exasperated driver honked angrily, and
plopped down next to her on the sidewalk.
"Aw, come on!" he pleaded after he caught
his breath. "It'll be fun!"
"Can't," Katie said firmly, avoiding his
friendly eyes. "Santa's bad. Evil."
"He is not!" Billy was astonished. "Who
told you that?"
"My mama."
Billysearched her face for a moment, then
shrugged. "Well, your mama's dumb."
"She is not!" Katie cried.
"Is too!"
"Is not! She's a Christian, and she knows!"
"Well, my mama's Christian too, and she
thinks Santa's super," Billy informed her
"That's 'cause she don't know any better.
She's de - deluded."
"Deluded. It means she's going to hell.
And you are too."
"You take that back, you little brat!" Billy
leaped to his feet, scowling fiercely.
"I won't." Katie smoothed her skirt. "You
go right ahead and see Santa if you want to,
BillyJordan. Just see if I care."
"You're nuts!" Billy laughed scornfully.
"Merry Christmas, dumbo!" he shouted as
he raced back across the street. Katie sat
alone for a long time, staring at the ground.
"Yes, sweetheart?"
"Billy Jordan invited me to go 'see Santa
with him."
"Did he?" Sarah tried to keep her voice
"Yes. Only I told him you said Santa's
"Well, good for you!" Sarah smiled,
"But he laughed at me and told me I was a
little brat," Katie said hesitantly. "I'm not, am
"Well, of course not. You're a good soldier of the Lord."
"Really. Now scoot while I get dinner
started. And don't talk to Billyanymore."
"Okay." Katie headed for the door, then
stopped. "Mama?"
"I - I don't want Billyto go to hell."
Sarah smiled tenderly, "Of course you
don't, honey," she said, stooping to hug

Katie. "You're a Christian and you're full of

Jesus' love. Just pray to Jesus for Billy's
salvation, and someday he'll see the light."
"Hey, dumbo! Santa's gonna bring me a
new bike for Christmas!"
"No, he's not. Your mom and dad are
going to buy it for you and put it under your
tree. There isn't any Santa, they're just lying
to you."
"Oh, yeah, I forgot." Billy snorted. "He's
really Satan."
"That's right," Katie said stoutly.
"You know, you are really something. Do
you really believe that crapola?"
"Don't say dirty words to me!"
"Aw, crapola ain't dirty, my mom says it all
the time."
"That figures, she's a heathen. You're
going straight to hell, Billy."
"Maybe so," Billyagreed, "but at least I'm
going there on a new bike."
"Yes, Billy?"
"You know Katie, next door."
"Yes." Tessie Jordan's brow furrowed as
she recalled her first, and last, meeting with
Sarah. She didn't remember exactly what
the argument had been about, but knew it
had been something religious and extremely
freaky. "What about her?"
"Well- her mama told her Santa Claus is
the deviL"
Tessie slammed the book she was reading
against the table, startling the cat, who raced
into the bedroom. "She what?"
Billy was unperturbed; he enjoyed his
mother's temper. "Said Santa is an anasomething for Satan."
"Damn," Tessie said softly. "What a horrible thing to tell a child."
"And she told her you and me are going to
hell because we're heathens," Billywent on
"Give me strength," Tessie muttered.
Just then her husband walked by, heading
for the kitchen.
"David," she called, and he stopped in his
"Hark," he sang, "dost I hear milady's
voice?" Billy giggled furiously.
"You hear your wife and equal," she told
him, trying not to grin. "Did you hear the
latest about St. Teresa of Assisi next door?"
"That's Avila," he informed her. "Or
Francis. Depending on which gender you're
reaching for."
"Female, of course, and what difference
does it make?"
He shrugged. "None, I guess, if you're a
"Now don't you start! That's just what she
He grinned and patted her head. "Well, if
the shoe fits -"
"Stop it!" Tessie jumped up and con-

fronted him, no longer amused. "That

woman is telling her daughter that Santa
Claus is the Devil and that Billy is going to
hell for believing in him. Now I don't mind
her attacking me, but I draw the line when it
comes to our child." She was embarrassed
to find herself in tears, and David, no longer
smiling, pulled her into his arms and stroked
her hair.
"Sweetheart," he said softly, "we've been
through this a million times, ever since that
woman moved in. She's hooked on one of
those churches that doesn't allow any deviation from the 'truth' as they see it. She probably has her sleepless nights just like everyone else, only she's scared to death to admit
it. Billyunderstands, don't you, kiddo?" Billy
nodded, eager to please, and Tessie snorted
a little.
"The hell you do," she muttered, playfully
swatting his butt, and her two males relaxed.
Things were back to normal. For a while.
But David couldn't stop thinking about
what his wife had said. A child told that
Santa Claus was evil, for heaven's sake!
Why, he'd believed in Santa Claus since the
age of three and had never really stopped,
even after he found out that his parents
really bought all the toys. He decided that
Santa had told them what to buy. Even now
he had a soft spot in his heart for anything
Christmasy and wept at the end of Miracle
on 34th Street, to his son's acute embarrassment.
Santa evil? David shook his head slowly.
That little girl was being abused. Deprived.
She needed help. But what could he do?
That's when he got the idea.
"Dad, you're crazy!"
David sniffed and looked down his nose at
his son. "Maybe I am and maybe I'm not, but
I'm going over there."
"But she won't believe you're Santa
Claus!" Billylooked at his father, decked out
in full Kriss Kringle regalia, and burst out
laughing again. "You don't have enough
padding! You look like a string bean!" He
doubled over at his own wit.
"Nevertheless," David repeated, pushing
his stomach out a little more, "I'm going to
teach that sweet little girl that Santa Claus
has nothing to do with the Devil. And if her
mother doesn't like it, well - let her call the
"Can I go?"
"Absolutely not," his father informed him.
"You'd giggle and turn red, and she'd know
who I was. She's not dumb, Billy - just
"Well, yeah, but what about her mother?"
Billyasked. "What ifshe answers the door?"
David smiled fondly. "Aha," he said, laying
his finger aside his nose, "a good question.
And that's where you can help me."
(Continued on page 6)

Austin, Texas

December 1986

Page 17

Fred Woodworth


The following essay is reprinted from
the Winter/Spring 1984 Black.Star,
o the winds of Arizona and Utah came
the religious zealots of the late nineteenth century. Bands of Mormons, trundling their possessions in covered wagons to
the western part of what is now the United
States, settled in the high mountain country
away from the prying eyes of the world, and
formed clannish towns of large families with
deep-lying traits of patriarchy and suspicion
of outsiders. In isolation for decades, some
of these communities retained virtually
complete religious purity through the nineteen sixties, resisting contamination by secular civilization's books, schools, or ideas.
Here the will of the Latter Day Saints
Church ruled, through the moral policeman,
the censor, the propagandist, and even the
night rider, with the ranks of the faithful
constantly swelled in giant polygamous families where the word of the father was stern
Books and articles about these Mormons
usually stress their self-reliance, their preparedness for emergency with stores of
food, and their retreat from religious intolerance in the rest of the Christian world. But
little is said of their own violent intolerance
to others or the authoritarian nature of their
church which, even in its expressed concern
with preparedness by its people, appears
more preoccupied with insuring that it as an
institution continues to exist, than witb.acting out of humanitarianism.
Since the most often heard statement
about the Mormons has to do with their
alleged rejection of religious intolerance, a
glance at this people must linger first on its
own treatment of those who do not belong
to the Latter Day Saint (LOS) religion. And
we should examine the quality of life in the
Mormon theocracy too, because without
freedom - individual self-determination for all their stores of food and busy activity
they are no better than a colony of ants. As a
typical LOS community, let's visit the small
town of Mormonville, in the mountains
above Arizona's Mogollon Rim, just north of
the Fort Apache Indian reservation.
Mormonville in 1957 had a population of
about 850, nearly every single one of whom
was a member of the LOS Church. Every
teacher at the local school was a Mormon,
as were all town officials, policemen, bank

Page 18

officers, postal workers, and even the doctor. If you wanted to buy a magazine, you
bought it from the Mormon who owned the
newsstand, and if you needed gas for your
car, you made a trip to a Mormon-owned
service station. Now this may not appear at
first too surprising, but what makes such
unanimity somewhat odd in this instance is
the fact that Mormonville lay squarely on a
major transcontinental highway, U.S. 60,
which in fact formed the main street of the
town. Surrounded by attractive forest land,
transfixed by a busy road that carried people
from every part of the country, Mormonville
nonetheless kept its sectarian character,
and even by 1964, when the population had
grown to above 2,000, there were still only
two or three non-Mormon families in town.
One way the Latter-Day Saints (this is
what they call themselves) discouraged outsiders was by stopping other religions from
coming in. When Baptists attempted to build
a hall on property they had obtained just
outside of town, in the late fifties, the construction site was repeatedly visited by
thieves and vandals, and some of the original
proponents of the church ended up leaving
the region. While the Baptists did manage to
complete their project eventually, it took
them several years, and even when finished,
the church had to collect its congregation
from farms and outposts scattered far
throughout the countryside.
Incoming business establishments found
it hard to get bank loans if they weren't
Mormons, unless credit was extended long
enough to set up a business, after which it
could be maneuvered into the hands of an
authentic Mormon. The local radio station,
started by an outsider with cash borrowed
from the town bank, was made the subject of
a campaign to bankrupt it soon after it went
on the air, so that members of the Church
could repossess it and turn it completely to
Mormon interests. Although the station survived after the owner illegally boosted his
power output in order to be able to reach
non-Mormon communities some miles
away, vicious sabotage and violence were
leveled against the installation by the Mormon populace after the station began running preaching shows featuring Methodist,
Baptist, and Holy Roller ministers. Telephone and power lines to the station were
cut in the night with an axe after a Methodist
preacher challenged Mormons to an on-the-

December 1986

air debate about doctrines. Technicians

were shot at while on the job, and announcers were made objects of terror
One young non-Mormon who lived in the
town was followed to work most mornings
by a policeman who drummed up traffic
tickets against him as the two-car caravan
moved through the- empty streets. Moving
violations resulted not only in fines but in
higher insurance rates, allof which tended to
discourage the non-Mormon resident. (One
ticket cited him for traveling at 26 miles per
hour in a 25 mph zone.)
Meanwhile, in the public schools, Mormon teachers who were relatives of the
Mormon principal showed Mormon films on
history of the LOS Church in the classroom,
dismissed students early when their "stake,"
or church ward, was conducting some activity, and gave lectures on topics peculiar to
Mormons' beliefs, such as diatribes against
Coca-Cola. Coke was firmlyclaimed to have
properties of removing shellac from old furniture, "so think what it must do to your
stomach." A beefsteak submerged in a
bucket of Coke for a week, one teacher
declared, would rot away to pieces. One
pupil inquired what effect a bucket of water
would have on a similar steak over a week's
time, whereupon the teacher visited the
lad's parents to urge that he be prohibited
from reading so much.
School activities like graduations were
usually held not in public school buildings,
but actually in the Mormon church itself,
over the protest of an occasional non"Saint." In 1964 one high-school student circulated a petition to gather signatures of
those opposed to holding graduation ceremonies in the church, but he managed to
collect only three names, one being later
erased by its owner, a Japanese exchange
student from Tokyo who had qualms after
pondering the fact that a Mormon family had
sponsored his stay in the U.S. following a
Mormon missionary's marriage in Japan to
his sister. Foreseeing possible ramifications
to his signature's appearance on such a
document, he asked to have it obliterated,
although, as he explained at the time, "I'm
not a Mormon, I'm a Buddhist, but I go to
church because the family I stay with
expects me to." Frightened by even this miniscule show of resistance and disagreement,
school officials - remember, this was a pub-

American Atheist

lie school - held a special assembly for

Mormon students only, which the few nonMormons were barred from attending, and
decided to proceed anyway with plans to
hold graduation in the main hall of the local
Church-State separation was held in contempt on many other occasions also by the
supposedly law-abiding Mormons. An LOS
Seminary class was offered at the high
school, and was taken for credit by students
during normal school hours. The only concession that was made to legality was that
the building where seminary classes were
held was off-campus, one foot from the
property line of the school.
While such Circumventions were unhesitatingly carried out whenever their own
wishes were in conflict with the law, Mormons nonetheless put forward a sternly
right-wing attitude of strictness and unvarying obedience on subjects that suited them.
A drunken Indian from the nearby reservation would wind up in jail as soon as he had
spent all his money, whether he was outraging the public peace or not, and a minor
might well be arrested for possession of
tobacco. The draft board, with mostly Mormon staff, wasn't inclined to leniency with
non-Mormons, but young men of the Church
obtained repeated deferments for religious
work and missionary activities.
But in allmatters that permitted latitude of
treatment, none was so biased as the stance
of Mormon society toward Black persons. If
a non-Mormon family somehow settled in
the community, as long as its members were
whites or orientals, the outsiders could get
by with mere ostracism and probable economic failure. Blacks, however, were kept
out entirely. One Black man almost got a job
at the local radio station after applying by
mail and sending an audition tape to KQVM,
but he failed to include a photo. After being
told on the telephone that he had the job, the
manager thought to ask a last question: "Ah,
you are Caucasian, aren't you?" On hearing
the would-be announcer confess to negrohood, the manager instantly cancelled the
hiring and told the man that "the area wasn't
ready" for him yet.
The basis for the Mormon distaste for
association with Black persons arose from
passages in their bible, "The Book of Mormon," which is supposed to be the divinely
inspired message translated from hieroglyphics on golden plates by Joseph Smith. Smith,
of course, made sure that nobody else got a
look at those plates besides himself, before
"an angel came and carried them away." In
Smith's "translation" one finds passages
such as 1 Nephi 12-23:"And it came to pass
that I beheld, after they had dwindled in
unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, fullof idleness and
all manner of abomination." Verse 21 claims
that "wherefore, as they were white, and

Austin, Texas

exceeding fair and delightsome, that they

might not be enticing unto my people, the
Lord God did cause a skin of Blackness to
come upon them."
Plainly these statements reveal the existence of an organized discriminatory attitude based in so-called religious revelation.
As amplified by thinkers of the Mormon
Church in other published works, the passages were readily taken up as justification
for depriving certain people of fair treatment. One prominent Mormon, Bruce R.
McConkie, wrote in his book, "Mormon
The negroes are not equal with other
races ... (p. 477). Racial degeneration,
resulting in differences in appearance
and spiritual aptitude, has arisen since
the fall. We know the circumstances
under which the posterity of Cain, and
later of Ham, were cursed with what
we call negroid racial characteristics.
The Book of Mormon explains why
the Lamanites received dark skins
and a degenerate status (p. 554).
In Mormonville these ideas were believed
with self-righteous intensity, and no Black
man, woman, or child lived there, worked
there, or went to school there. You found no
exchange student from Ghana, and you certainly found no Mormon family whose son
had married a Black man's sister. No debate
of these ideas was permitted, and even if
debate had somehow occurred, no reportage of it would have appeared in the local
newspaper, which was Mormon-owned, or
on the local radio station, which was soon
profoundly intimidated by Mormons, to the
point that it often ran five-hour Mormon
"conferences" in the middle of the day, to
the exclusion of other programming. Even
fiction was scrutinized to some degree, and
in the public library a Sherlock Holmes
anthology containing the story, "A Study in
Scarlet," which portrays Mormons very
negatively, had the offending pages torn out.
This, then, was life in a theocracy - distant from the centers of enlightening cosmopolitan civilization, swayed by the ignorance of authorities, teachers, and citizenry.
In a theocracy the "holy book" rules, no
matter what its absurdities, and almost at
every turn theeordinary person is subjected
to controls over his behavior and attitudes.
The ideals of freedom that lifthuman society,
in some times and places, somewhat out of
the mire of bigotry, arbitrary rule, inequality
of treatment, censorship, and religious statism, are neglected and forgotten.
Throughout the world the voice of theocracy is again beginning to be heard. In Iran, a
religious regime cuts off the hands of political enemies, which means almost anyone;
executes schoolgirls; hounds and harasses
women to force them back to a subservient

December 1986

position. And to what purpose is society

thus disrupted? A "moral code" spelled out
by a "holy book."
In italy, the Catholic pope attempts to
maneuver the introduction of laws that
enforce Romanism. In Mexico, Brazil, and
the rest of Latin America, Catholic culture
has forcefully tied itself to imperialism
through the Spanish language, and imposes
through law the arrogant proclamations
emanating from the Vatican. Again a "holy
book," interpreted by opinionated authoritarians, enchains the life of human beings.
In Utah the Mormons' theocracy is practically undiminished, and a variant wave
based on yet another "holy book" washes
over the rest of the country, drowning principles of individual freedom, in the form of
fundamentalist Christians' ravings and frenzied work to halt sexual freedom and
ownership of one's own body. Although it
seems incredible that the progress of recent
decades could be wiped out, the history of
mankind has after all been one of prevailing
illiberal regimes, while the freedom to think
and question authority, to doubt religious
certainty, and to scoff at the absurdities of
holy books is barely seconds old.
A peek at the future wanted by authoritarian religionists reveals a horrifying picture of
the small-town mentality expanded to the
scale of an entire culture. Repressive politics, control of lifethrough economic, social,
and juridical sanctions, combine with overthrow of the real purpose of education to
subvert creativity and independent thought
to the yoke of rote-learning and obedience.
Patriarchy, authoritarianism, enforced moralism, censorship, constant exposure to
propaganda, paranoia, watchfulness, suspicion ~ these are the true fruits of religion in
the world today, and the religious enthusiast
is, thus seen, more dangerous than any
other type of political power-grabber.
Mormonism, like the other freedomcrushing cults of Sun Myung Moon, Scientology, Roman Catholicism, or the diverse
sects of protestant Christianity, is the attitude of faith, or denial of reason, combined
with force, or denial of liberty. There is no
more potent fulminating infection of human
attitudes than this; and after nuclear weaponry, the Atheist sees religious belief and
action as the worst horror stalking the globe.

Fred Woodworth is the editor of The
Match, an internationally known
anarchist journal, of which he has been
the publisher since 1969_ Ever radical,
he succinctly dissects the issues
of the day from his home base in
Tucson, Arizona,

Page 19

Daniel E. Anderson


the issue of teaching religion in
Whenthe schools
is raised we are as likely

as not to be told that ifwe don't go along with

it Western civilization will crumble around
our ears; that we will be struck down in a
nuclear holocaust by an angry god; that the
United States, in punishment for its sins, will
have its markets flooded with Japanese
goods; we will find godless, Atheistic communists tapping the microphones the FBI
has put under our beds; and that children
willturn against their parents, and we willbe
forced to bus them off to the nearest ghetto
to have their throats slit by monsters of
another race. And so forth.
I suppose I should deal with each of these
issues in turn - but I guess I won't.
In the first place, the issue clearly is not
one of teaching religion in the schools. If we
were to try to do so we should, in order to be
fair, have to teach all the sects of Christianity, at least three or four versions of Judaism, two or three versions of Islam, several
hundred sects of Hinduism, of Buddhism, of
Taoism - to say nothing of the Jains, the
Sikhs, the Confucianists, the Shintoists, and
Haitian voodoo. We don't have the expertise to do that - and if we did, we would
have time to teach little else in our schools.
Moreover, ifwe taught anything outside the
Christian - or at most the Judeo-Christian
- tradition, the very people who are
screaming loudest to get religious education
into the schools would set up a howl about
our teaching "paganism" or something of
the sort, and thereby corrupting their children and setting them on the road to Hell.
When you try to sort out what is real from
what is fundamentalist fantasy, there are
probably three claims given in support of
teaching religion in the schools that may be
viewed as having content. The first is that
teaching religion in the schools supports and
reinforces morality; second, it imbues the
student with a sense of our cultural heritage;
and finally, Christianity, or at least the
Judeo-Christian tradition, is so deeply embedded in Western thought that we can't
understand where we are, or how we got
here, without first understanding that tradition.
This time I willtry to deal with each in turn.
I have three major objections to the claim
that such teaching supports morality. In the
first place, let's admit that morality was
around a long time before Christianity came

Page 20

on the scene, and people behaved morally

long before their priests began to tell them
what to do. In fact, ethics, as a subject for
humans to study, had its origin in a Greek
named Xenophanes, who was morally
shocked at the behavior attributed to the
Olympian goddesses and gods. Christian
morality itself has Greek and Roman
sources that were themselves never associated with religion: Plato, Aristotle, and the
Stoics, to name a few.
Secondly, serious questions can be raised
as to what notion of morality might be
gleaned from that tradition. Certainly Western European culture has never suffered
from an overdose of morality, and many of
our worst crimes have been defended in
terms of that tradition. The first recorded
instance of genocide was committed by
Joshua at Jericho. The witch-hunts of the
Middle Ages that lasted through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were grounded in the message of Samuel that "Thou
shalt not suffer a witch to live." I have heard
racism - and even slavery - defended in
the name of the story of Shem, Ham, and
Japheth - and the Afrikaaners today claim
that apartheid is divinely ordained by a god
who declared that the sons of Ham are
forever condemned to be "hewers of wood
and carriers of water." And all that because
his daddy flashed him.
But if you would be more comfortable
with the New Testament, what might we
learn from the fact that when a Canaanite
asked Jesus for help he first told her that he
"was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,"
and that it is therefore "not fair to take the
children's bread and throw it to the dogs"!
Even Hitler made good use of the story of
Jesus going into the temple with a whip and
solving his disagreements with violence.
And finally, the Crown Jewel of Christian
morality - the Brotherhood of Man - not
only can be read as excluding women, it
happens in fact frequently to be read, along
with much of the rest of the Christian tradition, as a directive from god to perpetuate
Thirdly, this penchant we have for trying
to hang morality around the neck of the local
deity turns out upon examination to run
directly counter to what morality is all about.
We are told that we should not steal or
murder or whatever; we are told to love one
another - not because ours would be a

December 1986

better world if we did, but because a god

commands it. Once one has accepted that
thesis, what is important is not that our
actions be moral, nor that our world be the
better for our actions; what is important is
that we do whatever a god commands us to
do. And from that the conclusion follows
that ifthat god wants us to commit genocide
or whatever, we should do it. In short, that
view of morality grounds morality in just that
kind of blind obedience that lies at the root of
the worst crimes humanity has ever perpetrated - from Jericho to the Inquisition, to
the destruction of the Armenians in Turkey
and of the Kulaks in the Soviet Union, to the
Holocaust, and to the genocide presently
being committed in the name of Christianity
in South Africa.
In short, although I admit that Christianity
has something to say on the subject of morality, exactly what it has to say is by no
means clear. And the claim that teaching
religion in the schools willhelp make people
more moral, in my estimation, runs contrary
to the evidence.
The second claim is that teaching religion
in the schools will imbue the student with a
sense of our cultural heritage.
That is parochial, to say the least. We
pride ourselves in the United States on being
not the reflection of a single (white AngloSaxon Protestant male) heritage, but on
being the "Melting Pot" in which all heritages
find their places, and each makes its own
unique contribution to the pluralistic society
we claim to be.
OK. That's more true of the society we
aspire to become, than of the society we are
- or have ever been. But the teaching of a
single religious tradition in the schools, and
justifying it on the ground that it willgive the
student a sense of what our culture is all
about turns such aspirations into a handful
of smoke that drifts away on the morning
breeze. If you take a closer look at what is
implied by the teaching of religion in the
schools, I think you will see that it is incompatible with the most cherished ideals which
we claim to espouse and which we claim
should be taught in the schools. For example, I am an Atheist. How should I expect to
feel if my kids are taught that Christianity is
somehow an essential feature of being an
American? How willmy kids feel about that?
And what of our immigrants from Iran, the
Near East, India, and the Far East, where the

American Atheist

dominant religions are Islam, Hinduism, and

any of several varieties of Buddhism, Taoism, or Shintoism? Are they thereby excluded from the American heritage? What of
the Black people who have come recently or
in the more distant past from sub-Saharan
Africa? What of the Native Americans? Are
they not to be considered a part of our heritage? How do we expect their children to
react when, as all children do, they feel a
desperate need to be accepted by their
peers? The answer is that the schools, by
convincing the children that their parents
are not yet fully "Americanized," will be
creating splits between parents and children
that need not exist. So not only does the
teaching of religion in the schools stand in
the way of our professed respect for family
life,but also it is destructive of any claim that
we respect individualism and the capacity of
the individual to think things through for
herself. It is destructive of the whole notion
of an "open society."
And I would add to this that we live in a
world that can be circumnavigated in an
hour and a half. We can watch the Olympics
in Tokyo from our living rooms with a delay
of only the tiniest fraction of a second. We
can deliver - or receive - nuclear destruction half a world away in a matter of
minutes. Ifwe cannot make the open society
work, we are doomed. And ifwe can't make
it work in the United States, we can't make it
The third claim is that we cannot understand where we are, or how we got here,
without understanding the Judeo-Christian
tradition. Here again, I would suggest that
our white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male
parochialism tends to blind us to our
sources. Freedom of religion was first
expressed and defended by two women living in Puritan Massachusetts in the early
colonial period. We hanged them both on
Boston Commons.
Ben Franklin got the idea for representative democracy - our greatest contribution
to the understanding of statescraft - from
the Iroquois nation and their symbol of the
White Roots of Peace. Guitars, banjos, and
other such plucked, stringed instruments
almost certainly came into Europe from
Islam at the time of the Crusades. American
music - jazz - came out of a curious amalgam of attempts by slaves to translate an
octave into a pentatonic scale, the music
and rhythms of West Africa, and the German street bands that played in New
Orleans. The abolition movement originated
among, was sustained by, and was for
decades inseparable from the feminist movements of the nineteenth century. Much of
the last half century of the American experience grew out of the writings and actions of
Mohandas Gandhi, especially as they were
brought to the forefront of the civil rights
movement of the early sixties by the Rev. (I

Austin, Texas

admit it) Martin Luther King, who (Rev. or

not) opposed religious education in the
schools. The later use of Gandhi's writings
has occurred in the anti-Vietnam War
movement of the late sixties and early seventies and the feminist movement of more
recent times, to say nothing of the antinuclear movement that has been gaining
momentum both here and abroad in the
eighties. And, of course, Gandhi himself got
many of his theories from Thoreau - a
Transcendentalist, not a Christian. '
But there seems to be no great pressure
for the teaching of Native American history,
Black history, feminist history, jazz, or passive resistance as necessary to understanding where we are and how we got here.
Proper teaching picks up on these things
as they relate to other things we are trying to
teach. American history cannot be taught
properly without devoting a great deal of
time and effort to the experience of Native
Americans, Black Americans, and women,
and to the roles they played in our development. If a student is reading Shelley, that
student should know that Shelley was an
Atheist, and that both his mother-in-law and
his wife were outspoken feminists - and the
student should understand both well enough
to be able to see that much of Shelley's
poetry was profoundly influenced by those
aspects of his life. If the student is reading
Paradise Lost, she should be given an
understanding of the mythology upon which
it is based, just as she should understand
relevant aspects of Greek mythology in the
reading of Sophocles, or something of voodoo in New Orleans, and the life of the
woman herself when listening to a Dixieland
rendition of Marie Laveaux.
But religion as a teaching subject in the
What I have been trying to do thus far is
knock down the usual arguments given for
teaching religion in the schools. I'd like now
to take up a broader, more philosophical
question that, in my estimation, is profoundly important to any such discussion. In
particular, I am concerned with the question
of why totalitarianism has been such a pervasive characteristic of Western Culture;
why the vocabulary of liberty has always
turned out to be little more than bright paintings of flowers on the armored weaponry of
dictatorship; and why the decline from freedom to fascism has been a recurrent pattern
in the history of the Indo-European peoples.
The most deeply held beliefs seem to be
those that never come in for any discussion.
Like the lens in your own eye, such beliefs
are always present, always unseen, but
screening, conditioning, shaping all that you
see. In this sense there is in Western culture
a profound, unshakeable, and virtually
unnoticed conviction that there are absolutes, that there is a true answer to every

December 1986

meaningful question. Any other answer is

less than completely true. And whatever the
true answer might be, it remains and does
not change.
We believe, in fact, that Truth does not
change, that it is immutable. But ceasing to
exist is a kind of change. It follows, therefore, that Truth is Eternal. Philosophy, in
fact, is sometimes called the study of Eternal
Nevertheless, as a philosopher, I am dedicated to the effort to disabuse students of
that conviction, to suggesting the possibility
(not the "Absolute Truth") that absolutes
can exist only within carefully constructed
and tightly bound conceptual schemes that
rest on wholly arbitrary assumptions.
The nearest I have come to success in that
endeavor has been in convincing students
that the beliefs they happened to hold are
not true. The very wording points up the
nature of my failure. That deeper, unnoticed
conviction goes serenely along, untouched
by my best efforts. If the beliefs held up to
this point are not true, they must be abandoned, and we must search for better
beliefs. But the phrase "better beliefs" is
never taken merely to mean "more adequate than those we have been compelled to
abandon." The phrase has always meant
"better" in the sense of "closer to the
This brings us to two different perspectives on "freedom" imbedded in the two different conceptions of what is meant by "a
better belief." If "a better belief' means
"more adequate than some other belief,"
there is no commitment to there being some
one belief thatis "best." The claim that some
given belief is the "most adequate" in no way
entails the claim that it is also the "most
adequate possible." In this sort of framework the learning process must be viewed as
a process of changing beliefs, of seeking
"better" beliefs where the only criteria of
"betterness" are to be found in the comparison of the new belief with the old.
But ifthat comparison is furidamental, the
possibility of a new, and still better belief,
must be kept open, regardless of the apparent adequacy of the belief one might have
arrived at. Moreover, if, in addition to this,
one should find that the world is continuously changing, any given belief would
necessarily be viewed as gradually becoming
less adequate as the circumstances to which
it applied became something else. Thus, in
such a framework, freedom must be viewed
as indispensable to the learning process, and
in a changing world the learning process
must be viewed as indispensable to survival.
The other view, that "a better belief'
means "closer to the Truth," has a definite
commitment to the presupposition that
there is a Truth, that some belief or other is
best in an absolute sense, that - even
though we may not yet have found it - there

Page 21

is some belief such that no better belief is

possible. In this framework the learning process must be viewed as closer and closer
approximations of that Absolute Truth,
which in turn rests on some Absolute reality
of which it is a reflection.
Thus, although we may be convinced that
we do not have the Truth, a view of this sort
does not give the power of necessity to the
claim that we should keep open the possibility of a better belief. Changes, in the final
analysis, must be viewed as of only momentary significance. Reality is Absolute and
Immutable, as is the Truth that reflects it.
Freedom, under such circumstances, must
be viewed as a means, not an end, and its
sole justification is to be found in human
fallibility.Ifthat end should ever be achieved,
if we should find the Truth, then freedom
would at that moment become obsolete. It
would, in fact, be dangerous, since the only
way we could exercise it would be by falling
into error. Thus the concept of human fallibility - the Doctrine of the Fall - is tied
irrevocably to the concept of complete,
immutable Truth - the Perfect Being. And
Free Will,as the Fathers of the early Church
had pointed out, is only the freedom to err.
If there is an Immutable Truth, and it has
been attained, then the only matter of
importance that remains is to protect it.
I would not suggest that it is reasonable to
claim that there are absolutes - certainly
not in this world. And if there are absolutes
independent of this world it is unreasonable
to suppose that we in this world of change
could have access to them.
But we in the Indo-European culture do
believe that there are absolutes. That claim
does not in any way entail that anyone
should ever know an absolute (though what
grounds one would have for claiming that
there are any is a little difficult to get at ifone
doesn't also claim to know at least one).
Nevertheless there is a high probability that
people will appear in such a culture from
time to time who believe they have an absolute. And in such a culture they will from
time to time receive widespread social support and acceptance of that belief.
Their cry is the cry of Joshua: "Those who
are not with me are against me." And, like
Joshua, they march forth in solemn processions to carry out the terrible, but necessary
task of committing genocide in order to protect the Truth.
If the world is always changing, then
anyone who believes that the Truth is immutable, and that she has it, must become ever
more desperate in her attempt to protect
her belief. She must see each novelty as
another stage in the Fall - as another step
in the disintegration of her heritage. Over a
long period this becomes a myth of a Golden
Age, of Eden. Over a shorter span it is social,
religious, political conservatism. The conservatives, after all, are those who believe

Page 22

they have what is best and whose sole aim is

to conserve it.
The world does change. The change may,
as in Ancient Egypt, take place so slowly as
not to be visible in the span of a single lifetime - or it may, as in the seventeenth
century or the twentieth, take place so
rapidly as to be almost cataclysmic. But our
history goes back far enough now for us to
say with some confidence that none of our
beliefs have had the kind of stability we
might attribute to an Immutable Truth.
What is left is change - a world of change
inhabited by organisms that survive through
change. As the organism ages, the rate of
growth slowly decreases until, somewhere
in the early twenties, it about matches the
rate of deterioration. From that point on the
body is unable to repair itself as rapidly as
the deterioration progresses, and over the
longer haul we find ourselves slowing down;
we find the changes necessary for survival
more and more difficult. Our main advantage as we grow older is the fact that we
learn by categories, and we can fit new ideas
and events into the older categories and deal
with them fairly easily and without having to
go through a whole new learning process
every time. Such categories are sometimes
called universals, and we are quick to reify
them, to elevate them to the status of Eternal Truths.
They are not Eternal Truths. They are
convenient ways of grouping experiences ways that have in the past proven successful
and been reinforced. Thus, as conditions
change, they are reinforced less and less,
and the Eternal Truth gets a bit wobbly. That
is the point at which we are faced with the
enormous task of generating new categories
or else dropping farther and farther behind.
In a culture that conditions us to believe that
there are Eternal Truths, we opt for the latter. We fail to adapt. We die a little.
But we don't call it that. We call it a world
going to hell in a baby carriage piloted by a
lot of irreverent young punks who have
respect neither for their elders nor for the
hard-won lessons of their elders.
And so forth.
But the culture is structured in such a way
that power, except spasmodically, always
rests in the hands of the elders. By the time
you reach a position where you can change
something, you have 'reached an age when
you don't want things to change. You have
become a Tribal Elder.
This brings me to the question of the relationship between institutions of higher learning and the society in which they exist. From
the time of Pythagoras (who is believed to
have suffered political assassination)
through Plato and his Academy, the Roman
and medieval centers of learning down to the
present, the academic world has been
embroiled with whatever Establishment
might surround it .at the time. The stereo-

December 1986

type of a "quiet, scholarly life"is a contradiction in terms - and always has been.
The university by definition is a community of scholars. It is not a family and by its
nature cannot function as one. The academic world is too torn by dissension and
controversy to build its unity on love. More
importantly, perhaps, the university is not
an organ of the society in which it exists. It is
older by -two millennia than the postRenaissance culture that produced the
bomb and the moon rocket. It has survived,
and been intimately involved in, the development and the disintegration of the cultures of Greece, Alexander, Rome, Byzantium, Islam, and Medieval Europe - and to
claim that the university is an organ of our
society, and that we must therefore submit
to it, is almost as silly as the landlord's claim
to own a piece of a planet that was here
some billions of years before it bothered to
produce her - or her species - and that
win remain some billions of years after the
last human has submitted to the destiny we
have created in our industries and our
The university is a community of scholars.
Its fundamental function is scholarship the search for what is better - regardless of
where that search might lead and regardless
of the consequences for society of that
search. This pursuit of understanding must
remain unbridled, and it must not be
reduced to vacuity by any qualifications
regarding what one is permitted to find, or
having found, to act upon. This search is, at
its foundation, the critical examination of the
most basic values and the most cherished
beliefs of the society in which it takes place.
From this it follows that in any society that
is less than perfect the university is in its
essence a revolutionary institution. And it is
in this deep sense that the university is special, that it is a community which by its
nature must transcend the society it has
produced, or cease altogether to exist.
And our secondary schools must not be
less. In this world to be is to change. We
must not saddle the upcoming generations
with Eternal Truths - nor with the belief
that there are such things. And teaching
religion in the schools in the way people
seem to want it taught willlock them into just
that kind ofthinking that, in the end, willlead
us all to our destruction. ~
A graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College
(B.A.) and Tulane University (Ph.D.),
Dr. Anderson has been on the faculty
of Ohio Wesleyan University for
twenty-one years. He served with the
U.S. Navy during the Korean War as a
pilot and still flies regularly, He writes
that "God is not my co-pilot."

American Atheist

he American Secular Union, a nineT
teenth century freethought association,
tried to spread the "secular message" by

nearly illiterate judge. Testimony against

Reynolds from individuals unable to recount
what he had said was admitted, but Reynolds's witness was barred from testifying
sponsoring lectures across the country.
Since most halls would not rent to "blas- because he did not positively believe in both
phemers," the Union purchased tents in heaven and hell. Bail was set to await the
which to hold these lectures. One traveling action of a Morris County grand jury.
educator representing the group was C B.
The August 14, 1886, Truth Seeker examined New Jersey's laws. The Constitution
Reynolds, a former Seventh-Day Adventist.
Reynolds pitched his "Liberal Tent" in adopted by New Jersey in 1844 guaranteed
Boonton, New Jersey, on July 26, 1886_ freedom of speech and the press: "No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil
Soon after, he was arrested for blasphemy.
right merely on account of his religious prinThe Truth Seeker was at that time associated with the American Secular Union, ciples." Blasphemy was, however, a crime
and it followed the developments of Reyn- punishable by twelve months hard labor or a
fine not exceeding two hundred dollars.
olds's arrest closely. In a three-part series,
the American Atheist is reproducing the While the Revised Statutes of New Jersey
news of the Reynolds case as it appeared in did not exclude nonbelievers from testifying,
the common law allowed only a person who
The Truth Seeker.
In Part I (October 1986) C B. Reynolds's
believed "there is a God who willpunish him
first Liberal program in Boonton, New Jerif he swears falsely."
In Part II (November 1986) Reynolds
sey, on Monday, July 26, 1886, proceeded
calmly enough with a "fair-sized" audience.
returned to Boonton on Wednesday, August
11, 1886, to distribute pamphlets on blasLate in the evening some very minor vandalphemy, one being the August 14 Truth
ism occurred.
Tuesday night the tent was filled - and Seeker editorial.
surrounded by a hostile mob, Reynolds
The Truth Seeker of August 21, 1886,
completed the planned lecture quickly. That
revealed that Reynolds had not learned his
lesson: He was actively organizing the New
night two of the tent's guy ropes were cut.
Reynolds entered a legal complaint against
York state convention and planned to give
the leaders of the mob the next morning,
lectures in both Long Island and in Norwalk,
Wednesday, July 28. The justice who re- Connecticut, later in the month. The Truth
ceived it reluctantly issued arrest 'warrants
Seeker of that date also published a letter
only after Reynolds deposited $5. At Reyn- from Robert G. Ingersoll, in which he offered
olds's request, the mayor ordered the city to aid in Reynolds's case.
To show the general sympathy in New
marshall's presence at the tent that evening.
But before the lecture began, Reynolds was Jersey for free speech, The Truth Seeker of
arrested by that marshal for blasphemy. He August 28 reprinted an editorial from the
Beverly Banner which stated:
returned to give his lecture, but the crowd
was so disruptive that he could not. Reynolds and his comrades abandoned the tent in
[W]hen a man who has fallen so low as
order to save themselves from a literally
to take a public stand and announce it
howling mob. The next morning, Thursday,
as his belief that there is no God, and
the tent was found to have had the main and
no hereafter, and try to persuade, and
auxiliary guys cut, its top ruined. To add
in some instances succeed, in inducinsult to injury, on Friday Reynolds was
ing men and women to follow him in
ordered not to hold any further meetings in
his infamous career, a tar-and-feather
overcoat would be too good for him.
On Saturday, July 31, 1886, Reynolds's
indictment for blasphemy was recorded by a No religious journal mentioned the Reyn-

olds' arrest.
On Tuesday, October 19, 1886, the Morris County grand jury indicted Charles B.
Reynolds for blasphemy, not for the alleged
blasphemy which occurred on July 28 (for
which he had been arrested), but for the
alleged blasphemy which occurred when he
distributed the pamphlets on August II.
Fifty witnesses had been called against Reynolds on this new charge. The district attorney did not bother to inform Reynolds of the
indictment - he learned of it from the
newspapers. The trial was set for October
27, despite the fact that the court was
informed that Reynolds's counsel, Robert
Ingersoll, could not appear, having had
surgery to the throat. Reynolds was simply
told, "Get other counsel." No other counsel
could be found in New Jersey. At risk to his
health, Ingersoll did appear at the court on
October 27 to ask for a postponement of the
trial until the next term since his doctor
"forbade him to try any case lest he should
permanently lose his voice." The judge
adjourned the case until the third Tuesday in
January 1887. Reynolds was on bail.
Meanwhile, the district attorney refused
to move against the individuals who wrecked
Reynolds's tent.
The New York Sun published an editorial
on November 1 which condemned the New
Jersey proceedings because they were giving too much publicity to "a strolling lecturer." The November 13 Truth Seeker
emphasized that the issue was free speech.
In a letter in the December 18, 1886, Truth
Seeker, Reynolds stated that he expected to
be convicted, but would rather "endure the
penalty than to make the slightest of our
principles or rights."
Finally notice was received that the trial
would be postponed to the May term of the
Morris County court. The Truth Seeker of
February 5, 1887, expressed the opinion
that the authorities of Morristown were
embarrassed and would never bring the
case to trail.
But ifthe authorities were embarrassed, it
wasn't enough to make them give up the
case, as you shall see.

Austin, Texas

December 1986

Page 23

May 14,1887
The Weary Way of the Blasphemer.
still no district attorney emerged from the
The Morristown court opened at 11 grand jury room. Mr. Reynolds's friends tipo'clock Tuesday morning, the third instant,
toed their way out of court, for The Truth
and C. B. Reynolds occupied a front seat
Seeker had to go to press, and walked
rapidly to the depot. Mr. Reynolds and his
therein. He was accompanied by his bondsman, Edwin Worman, of Boonton; John
bondsman kept their fidgety seats, waiting
Maxfield, of the same place; L K. Wash- for Jersey Justice to pull the bandage from
burn, and the Editor of The Truth Seeker.
her eyes, and recognize his right to know
The civil branch of the court had the first when he would be wanted to answer the
innings, and it was not until a grand jury had charge of having defended the almighty from
been impaneled, and the civilcalendar called, the slanders of his friends. Wednesday
that the judge who presides in criminal cases
morning the Editor found this note upon his
took the middle seat on the bench. Then two desk:
or three men were naturalized, a young law"Cutler and the judge set the case down
yer made a motion, and the court adjourned
for a week from Monday - Monday, May
without referring to Mr. Reynolds.
At the noon recess District Attorney
"C. B. R"
Cutler was interviewed. He said he would be
At what hour of the day or night this decibusy all the week with the grand jury, had sion was arrived at we do not know. Enough
some other cases to try the next week, and that it came at last, for at one time it was
was not very certain when he would move thought that Mr. Reynolds would have to
Mr. Reynolds' trial. At this Mr. Reynolds
permanently settle in Morristown to find
modestly suggested that the case be dis- out. The district attorney is a genial young
missed, which the judge would probably do if gentleman, but he seems to be a very busy
asked by the district attorney. The idea was man.
not favorably entertained by the district
Mr. Reynolds lectured in Philadelphia last
Sunday, the 8th, and willno doubt be happy
attorney. He should, he said, try the case
this term, and the court would probably
to visit other places between then and the
adjourn in two weeks. He would see the
16th, for he must linger in this vicinity tillthat
judge, and have the day set; so at 2 P.M.Mr. time, if no longer. Mr. L K. Washburn will
Reynolds and his friends wandered wearily replace Mr. Reynolds at Philadelphia on the
15th inst[antj., and would also be glad of
back to the court room, hoping that the
district attorney would keep his word and other engagements in this section of the
country. IfMr. Reynolds is tried on the 16th,
interview the judge in time for them to take
the afternoon train back to New York.
The Truth Seeker willcontain a fullreport of
His honor came in and ascended the the proceedings. But we suspect that the
bench, the district attorney looked at him a authorities of Morris county are not overanxious to employ further the legal machinemoment, spoke to a lawyer, and then
gathered up his papers and made for the ry of their inquisition.
grand jury room. Mr. Reynolds and friends
squirmed on the hard seats of the court
room, and thought bad thoughts. The Court
took up the calendar, called it over again,
Mr. Reynolds's Case.
and at last found a case in which the lawyers
were ready for trial. Mr. Reynolds kept his
Between the going to press of The Truth
Seeker and the date of issue will occur the
eyes on the door of the grand jury room,
trial of C. B. Reynolds. When Mr. Reynolds,
through which Mr. Cutler had disappeared,
and his friends kept vigilant watch of the his counsel and bondsman, appeared in the
clock. The sheriff was ordered to impanel a Morris County court last Monday morning,
jury, and twelve men of the vicinage re- District Attorney Cutler was not ready for
trial. He had not had time to prepare. But he
sponded to the lottery, took their seats,
had found ample opportunity to get out
kissed the Bible, s'helpmegod, and the attorney for the plaintiff addressed them. Mr. another indictment against Mr. Reynolds for
Reynolds and his friends never relaxed their distributing the pamphlets in Morristown.
watchfulness, and the door of the grand jury This he handed Colonel Ingersoll with great
room and the clock were indented by the deference, just as though it pained him. The
looks directed at them. The case was one of trial was then set down for Thursday, May
19th, at 11 A.M.
assault and battery, where one railroad
engineer had pounded another railroad , For this second indictment Mr. Reynolds
engineer because the latter had been guilty is probably indebted to the friendly offices of
of ministerial conduct with the former's wife. the Methodist editor of the Boonton BulThe plaintiff swore that he had been well letin, who was on the grand jury for the
thrashed, a doctor corroborated him, and present term, aided by the pleasant and
the clock traveled on toward train time, but pious Mr. Cutler.

May 21, 1887

Page 24

December 1986

A daily paper of this city says that in several of the churches of Morristown prayers
have been offered touching this trial, and in
one church in particular divine assistance
was implored to enable the young men of the
church to restrain themselves from attending the trial, on account of the pernicious
influence it might exert upon their minds.
Our readers will know the result next

May 28, 1887

Convicted and Fined.
After many postponements and delays,
Charles B. Reynolds has been given a trial
for the crime of blasphemy, and New Jersey
is happy over her relapse to savagery. On
Friday night, the 20th instant, the church
members of Morristown slept sounder than
they had before since last fall - with more
peaceful consciences and happier hearts,
for they had done their duty by their God,
and convicted and robbed the heretic. The
statute of two hundred years of age in New
Jersey, and in the rest of the world dating
back to the gorillas of the forests, has been
reverently awakened and religiously rehabilitated. The law enacted by the baboons of
the past has been enforced by twelve jackasses of the present, and the rest of the
animals of Morristown grunt their approval.
Thursday, May 19th, in the year of grace
1887, the Court of Common Pleas of Morris
county, New Jersey, U.S.A., assembled at
half-past nine and waited until eleven o'clock
for Colonel Ingersoll and his client. Three
judges were upon the bench when the latter
arrived - Mr. Francis Child in the center
and presiding, with lay judges DeWitt C.
Quimby and Charles H. Munson on either
hand. Lay judges Munson and Quimby are
sensible-looking, level-headed men, but Mr.
Childs has the peculiar facial characteristics
that denote the tyrant. From his cheeks up
his head narrows rapidly; downward it expands enormously, and upon his neck rests
a double chin of great volume. His eyes are
black and small, and twinkled viciously when
he looked at the defendant. His manner
upon the bench reminded us of Judge Benedict, and his general make-up of the picture
of Lord Howe in the school histories. One
rather cruel comment made by a man present was that the bench stood for 101 - one
on each side and nothing in the middle. The
courtroom and gallery were crowded to suffocation; all the approaches thereto, and
every spot where the proceedings could be
even occasionally heard, were utilized by the
friends or foes of free speech. The whole
town was intensely excited, and many people had come in from the surrounding country. Before Colonel Ingersoll had said anything, probably nine out of ten of the

American Atheist



spectators would have rejoiced piously to

see Mr. Reynolds sentenced to the penitentiary; if,when the colonel was stopped by the
presiding judge in the afternoon, the verdict
could have been given by the audience they
would have unanimously declared that the
suppression of free speech, as attempted by
the prosecution, was the most heinous of
crimes. As soon as Colonel Ingersoll had
forced his way through the crowd and found
a seat, Judge Childs cautioned the people to
keep quiet, and ordered the clerk to impanel
the jury. The defense was allowed six challenges only, and they were necessarily used
by Colonel Ingersoll in a very short time, for
from the start the judge was plainly against
Mr. Reynolds; and no matter how bigoted a
talesman confessed himself to be in response
to the questions of Colonel Ingersoll, the
double-chinned cipher in the center of the
bench ruled that he was a competent juror.
And such men as had been called for jury
duty! Ignorant Roman Catholics from the
mines, stolid carpenters - with no thought
but of the six days of toil and one of worship
- superstitious Methodists, and bigoted
Presbyterians formed the material selected
to try a man for expressing his honest
thought concerning the Christian deity.
There were little snakes of prejudice, as
Colonel Ingersoll put it, lurking in the minds
of all of them, but the judge held that that
made no difference so long as they thought
they could acquit Mr. Reynolds providing
the evidence showed that he had not distributed the pamphlets in Morristown! As
that was not disputed, it is easily seen what
the jury must have been, When Colonel
Ingersoll had exhausted all his challenges,
and the jury had been seated, and stood up,
and sworn, and counted and recounted with
all the pompous formality of ancient rules,
the list stood as follows: Jacob Odgen,
church member, denomination not stated;
Lewis Boing, no church; Andrew B. Cogan,
Roman Catholic; Paul H. Mandeville, no
church; George Schuyler, no church; Michael Rourke, Roman Catholic; Eugene Buchanan, Methodist; Leo De Hart, no church;
Horace L. Dunham, church member, denomination not given; Lemuel E. Pierson,
ditto; Benjamin Flaharty and John McTiernan, Roman Catholics. There were but two
or three of these men with faces indicating
any intelligence whatever, and their verdict
proved that each one ought to be marked on
the forehead, J. J. - Jersey jackass.
When these animals had been secured in
the pen, District Attorney Cutler told them
that the crime charged upon Mr. Reynolds
was circulating a blasphemous and impious
pamphlet. He then called as witness John
W. Babbitt, a constable of the court, who
was armed with a copy of the pamphlet,
which he swore he had religiously preserved
locked up in his bookcase ever since it was
given to him by Mr. Reynolds in person.

Austin, Texas

Winfield West, bill poster, testified that he

too had received a pamphlet, besides which
he had warned Mr. Reynolds not to distribute them in Morristown as it interfered with
his, the witness's, business. Thomas Cleary,
Benj. McLean, Matthew Lowe, Mr. Dutton,
George L. Clark, David L. Fox, Charles
Thursten, Lewis Armstrong, all received
pamphlets from the hand of Mr. Reynolds
last October, and the pamphlets they
received were copies of the one offered in
evidence by the prosecutor, who rested his
case when the last witness had stepped
down from the chair.
The witnesses used up the time of court
till recess. Upon the reopening of court
Colonel Ingersoll began the defense. He had
no witnesses, for the circulation of the pamphlet was admitted, but began at once his
address to the jury. Time and lack of space
prevent the publication of the speech this
week, but we shall give it verbatim in our
next issue. No summary published in any of
the daily papers gives the faintest idea of its
beauty and grandeur. All the hot summer
afternoon he held the audience spellbound
- not a man moved from his seat; scores
were touched to tears, while often times it
seemed impossible to prevent the people
from breaking into tumultuous applause to
express their approval of his sentiments.
The lay judges listened intently, and more
than once their hands seemed desirous of
meeting in approving contact. The gavel of

December 1986

the presiding judge was constantly busy,

though when not actually pounding the little
square of marble before him he leaned back
in his chair, looked out of the window, up at
the ceiling - anywhere to find an object to
employ his attention that he might not hear
the burning sentences flowing from the eloquent lips of the greatest man this century
has produced. Colonel Ingersoll spoke low
and soft, pleading with the stumps before
him for a verdict which should leave the flag
unstained, and the pages of New Jersey's
history unsoiled by the most infamous of
acts, the suppression of free speech. His
voice has recovered its strength and tone,
and its lowest note was heard in the farthest
corner of the court room. The speech was
full of imagery, the purest patriotism, and
grandest of pleas for liberty, and the most
exquisite and touching pictures. He made
point after point against the law, following it
from the dens and caves of savagery up
through the centuries of religious persecution to the present, when, as he said, he had
hoped the battle for human rights had been
fought and won. Mercilessly he denounced
the law, and with flawless logic showed that if
Mr. Reynolds had not the right to express
his sentiments, then no man on the jury had
the right to speak his. He touched every
chord of the human heart and had the
audience with him in every thought, but ifhe
implanted even the feeblest sentiment of
tenderness, of loyalty to principle, of patrio-

Page 25

tism, or of right into the clods before him in

the jury box, the illegal and brutal charge of
the judge must have torn it up by the roots.
Among the whole twelve images of humanity
there was not one man.
About half past four Judge Childs interrupted Mr. Ingersoll with the announcement
that the hour of adjournment had arrived,
and after a caution to the jury not to permit
discussion of the case in their presence, the
court room was cleared. Friday morning at
half past nine Colonel Ingersoll resumed his
argument, continuing until nearly half past
ten o'clock. The morning address was a
complete speech in itself. He summed up the
points he had made and emphasized the
legal grounds upon which he asked for the
acquittal of Mr. Reynolds. As he neared the
end of his appeal, the judge poised the gavel,
ready to suppress the applause which the
audience seemed bound to give the pleader
for liberty. The last word had scarcely left
the Colonel's lips when the wooden hammer
fell, and silence was enforced. District
Attorney Cutler was upon his feet at once,
and attracted the attention of the jury. Mr.
Cutler is a youngster of some thirty years,
pleasant to look upon, but inclined to be a
trifle deceptive in what he promises. He is
not a good speaker and shows but little of
that deep learning in the law which, as district attorney, he must of course possess.
He stated to the jury that the law against
blasphemy was on the statute books. With
its wisdom or unwisdom they as jurors had
nothing to do. Their duty was to say whether
the words of Mr. Reynolds as copied in the
indictment came within the meaning of the
statute. Whether the statute is constitutional or not must make no difference to
them; that was for a higher court to determine. They must judge of the facts only.
Except by giving a sonorous roll to the
words, "Gentlemen of the jury!" and occasionally emphasizing the last word of some
other sentence in an equally meaningless
manner, Mr. Cutler made no attempt to
speak interestingly. What he told the jury
ought to have been in the judge's charge,
and he must have the credit of making no
appeal to the evident religious prejudices of
the twelve men who were to decide the case.
He spoke for ten or fifteen minutes. When
he sat down, the presiding judge, Mr. Francis Childs, began his charge.
We have previously described Mr. Childs,
but that description of him was as he appears
in calm judicial repose. When he has a religious opponent in his power, he changes his
looks. His passions send the blood to his
face in a flood, his black eyes twinkle with
malice, and he speaks with such enthusiasm
as we may imagine Cotton Mather exhibited
when he argued for the execution of witches
in early colonial times. Displacing one of the
lay judges at the end of the bench, that he
might be nearer the jury, Judge Childs
Page 26

entered upon his argument. It was evident

after the first five minutes that the district
attorney and the judge had "swapped jobs."
Mr. Cutler had been cool and comparatively
mild. The judge was the opposite. His words
were not a judicial charge to a jury, but a
heated and very slightly disguised appeal for
conviction. He raised his voice in temper,
pounded the bench to emphasize his points,
and throughout his speech was the advocate
for his religion and the prosecutor of him
who had brought it into contempt. His zeal
betrayed him. Legally expressed, the case at
this point was Colonel Ingersoll for the
defendant, Judge Childs for the plaintiff; and
the plaintiffs attorney made it a matter of
personal pride to win. It was not often he got
the chance to argue against so distinguished
a man as Colonel Ingersoll, and the opportunity must be made the most of. With the
superstitious reverence which the average
juror feels for the high dignitary upon the
bench, he might have won it in any event;
but with the jury he had before him, it was
the easiest thing in the world. We quote his
speech for the sole reason that it possesses
historic interest as showing the worst that
can be done by even a New Jersey judge:
You willnotice that the defendant is
on trial for libel, and it is called a blasphemous libel, because it denies and
contumeliously reproaches the holy
name of God; because it contumeliously reproaches Jesus Christ and
the holy word of God. Blasphemy
consists in the denial of the being,
attributes, or nature of, or uttering
impious and profane things against,
God or the authority of the holy scriptures; but it is only committed by
uttering such things in a scoffing and
railing manner, out of a reproachful
disposition, as it were, in the speaker,
rather than with any purpose of propagating his irreverent opinion. If he
has merely asserted his disbelief in all
the popular notions of Christianity,
without attempting by impious and
abusive or blasphemous remarks to
wound the feelings of the whole Christian community, he will not have
committed an offense of which the law
can take notice.
You will further observe that the
defendant is not on trial for the principles of his religious belief. The laws of
this state recognize no standard of
faith, nor any established form of worship. There is no offense known to our
laws as heresy or nonconformity.
If you are satisfied from the evidence that the defendant circulated
the alleged libel, and that the same is
blasphemous, and that the same was
written, published, and circulated for
the purpose of scoffing at, or railing

December 1986

and bringing into disrepute the Christian religion in that respect, and out of
a reproachful disposition in the writer,
and calculated and intended to wound
the feelings of the Christian community, then the defendant is guilty in
manner and form as he stands
It has been said, gentlemen, that the
words contained in this indictment are
not blasphemous; that is, that they are
not scoffing and railing, that they are
not uttered with a reproachful spirit,
and that they are not calculated to
wound the religious sentiment entertained by a large portion of the community. That is a question for you to
judge. You can read them over. You
can read them with care, as found in
the indictment, and after having read
them, then you are to pass that judgment on those words that you think
under your oaths, and acting in the
discharge of an important duty, they
are entitled to.
But it is said in this case that the law
under which this prosecution is maintained is obsolete - that it is dead.
The law on this subject is not obsolete
or dead. It is today the living expression of the will of the people in reference to this particular matter, and you
have no more right to disregard or
make this law a dead letter, or refuse
to enforce it, than you have to repeal
or abrogate any other law on the statute books protecting citizens in their
rights of person or property.
You, gentlemen, are not possessed,
as has been well remarked, with arbitrary powers. You do not have legislative functions. It is your duty to pass
on existing laws, and as you find them
- not to cavil at, not to question, the
wisdom or propriety of that enactment. It has been enacted by a power
far above you, by a power representing the people, and it is the expression
of the will of the people that comes
before us here as the law, and it is a
mistake that a jury or a member of a
jury has a right to do as he pleases. He
has not that right. He is bound as a
good citizen, he is bound by the oath
he has taken, he is bound by his conscience, to administer justice in this
case according to the law of the land
- not as he wishes it, not as he would
have it, but as he finds it. He is under
the law, restrained by the law, protected by the law, directed by the law,
as much in the jury room as he is out
of it.
Now, gentlemen, what is the history
of this case? And I will say here that
there may be an honest difference of
opinion, as there undoubtedly is an

American Atheist

honest difference of opinion, as to the

propriety of this enactment. You may
have your individual views. I may have
my individual views. It may be that I
would wish the law different from
what it is. You may wish the law more
stringent than we find it. So it is with
every law. There is not a law on the
statute books but what you willfind an
honest difference of opinion in reference to. As to the law in reference to
capital punishment - the punishment
visited for the gravest offenses committed against the law - men differ,
and differ widely, but can it be held
that because a juror differed as to the
wisdom of that law that therefore a
person arraigned before him on a
charge of murder, with evidence proving his guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt, that that man should be acquitted because a juror doubted the wisdom of the law?
What is law? We say the law forbids
this, or commands that - what do we
mean by law? We have heard the
learned advocate for the defendant in
this case. With beautiful words, impassioned manner, and with speech
so glowing as to send a thrill to every
heart, he has pictured the beauties of
liberty. But where is the essence of
liberty - where is the evidence of it?
Is it not in the great power vested in
self-government? And where is the
evidence of self-government save in
the power to enact laws by the people
for the government of all the people?
And what is law, I ask you? The
learned commentator says it is a rule
of action prescribed by the supreme
power of the state. And where d'o we
find here the supreme power lodged?
Where is sovereignty here? It reposes
in the people. Then what is law? It is a
rule prescribed by the people (or the
government of the people. It is not the
willof a legislature, not the say-so of a
body of men who are in power today
and away tomorrow - that is not law.
And so, when we say that there is on
the statute books of the state of New
Jersey a law that says, "No man shall
commit blasphemy," that is the same
as saying that the power of the people
exercising the sovereignty reposed in
them has declared that thus is the will
of the people of the state of New
What secures freedom of speech?
What guarantees to a defendant the
right to trial by jury? What gives the
processes of court to compel the
attendance of witnesses? What is it
that prevents the courts from closing
the mouth of his counsel? It is the law.
And how long, gentlemen - think of it

Austin, Texas

- could freedom of speech exist

without law?
Now, gentlemen, does this law interfere with the freedom of speech? On
that question I have an opinion delivered by probably one of the most eminent students of the Constitution that
this country ever saw - a gentleman
whose writings are found in every
library, whose opinions are quoted
almost as gospel; and he, passing on a
case exactly similar to this, says: "The
free and equal and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever
it may be, and free and decent discussion on any religious subject is guaranteed and secured; but to revile with
malicious and blasphemous contempt
the religion professed by almost the
whole community is an abuse of this
right." And in that same case this law
under discussion - and I so charge
you - was held to be perfectly constitutional, and that it was no invasion of
the rights of the citizen so far as freedom of speech was concerned.
Now, gentlemen, it is said that this
is an obsolete law. This law is found
first, so far as we are concerned, back
in the colonial days of this state.
Almost at the first formation of the
state government it was enacted as a
law. In 1844 the law was again adopted
by the people as the rule of conduct
with reference to this particular subject matter. In 1874 - not fourteen
years ago - only a little over thirteen
years ago - the people of the state of
New Jersey represented in the legislature by their representatives, enacted
this same law again as the rule of conduct that they prescribed for the government of all the people of this state.
There it is.
And, gentlemen, Idesire to call your
attention again to this fact, that your
duty as jurors is limited solely to passing upon the question of the existence
of the law and the question of the violation of the law. With the wisdom of
the enactment you have nothing to
do. That power is vested in the people
and exercised by them through the
legislature. Since this very bill was
formed, since this indictment was
presented, the people of this state
have assembled through their representatives at the state capital. The
doors were open. This case had notoriety. If it was the desire and wish of
the people that this law should be
stricken from the statute book, there
was the proper tribunal to appeal to,
and power vested with ample jurisdiction over this matter.
But it is enough for us to know that
it is the law, and being the law, we are

December 1986

bound to enforce it; and if this defendant has been proved to your satisfaction, beyond the reasonable doubt I
have referred to, to have committed
the crime of blasphemy, it is your duty
to convict him. If he has not, it is your
duty to acquit him. Let him be acquitted, or let him be convicted, because
he has either violated, or has not violated, the law. Do not acquit him by
violating the law yourself.
When the judge finished, silence fell. Everyone was astonished, amazed, stupefied
with the plain bias and heat exhibited. The
listening lawyers present glanced at each
other and winked suspiciously. The spectators sat in open-mouthed wonder. The
reporters for the New York dailies, used to
court scenes and tyrannical rulings, were
taken so far aback by the speech that they
forgot to write. "Do not aqcuit him by violating the law yourselves!" What could a spineless juryman do after a command like that?
The silence was broken by the judge, who
commanded the clerk to swear the officers
who were to have charge of the barn doors
when the jury went out. Soon the jury chairs
were empty, the spectators, lawyers, and
judges scattered, subject to call when the
jury returned. Opinions were about even on
a verdict of acquittal; strong that it would be
either acquittal or disagreement; few believed that conviction could follow after
Colonel Ingersoll's speech. These good opinions simply proved that the people didn't
know the kind of a jury they get up in Morristown. Being used to juries of men, however,
this mistake was natural. Besides, the judge
had supplied every quality of prejudice the
jury lacked, and had driven them into a
The jury retired just before eleven o'clock;
just after twelve o'clock they sent word that
they had agreed. The court was again in
session,and the jury returned in single file, a
dozen jackasses along a narrow path.
Ranged in a row, they elected the foreman to
speak for them. Mr. Jacob Ogden looked at
the clerk and said, "Guilty!" The judge said,
"Gentlemen you are discharged," and the
twelve disappeared.
All through the trial Mr. Reynolds bore
himself firmly. The anger against him was
intense throughout the town, the only resident who spoke civillyto him being the clerk
at the Mansion House. This, however, did
not seem to cause him any anxiety, and he
certainly was not visibly afraid of the court.
He looked the jurymen square in the face,
and the eyes that were cast down were not
behind his spectacles.
When the jury pronounced their verdict,
the prosecutor had gone to dinner and could
not be found. After waiting for him awhile,
the court took a recess to go to dinner,
reassembled at one o'clock, but still no pros-

Page 27

ecutor. Becoming tired, Judge Childs assumed a judicial demeanor, and said sternly,
"Charles B. Reynolds, stand up." Mr. Reynolds stood up. "You have been convicted,"
continued Mr. Childs, "of circulating blasphemous matter. Inasmuch as the law has
for so long been unused, you may reasonably be expected to have been ignorant of it.
And while ignorance of the law excuses no
man from its penalties, the court feels bound
to take the fact of your ignorance into consideration in passing sentence. The judgment of the court is that you pay a fine of
twenty-five dollars, together with the costs
of prosecution, and stand committed till
This backdown was not altogether unexpected. When the verdict was rendered,
Colonel Ingersoll at once moved for a new
trial, but during the hunt for the prosecutor
it was found that the two lay judges, Messrs.
Quimby and Munson, were opposed to the
punishment of heresy, and insisted upon a
light fine as the penalty on the conviction
secured, and a dismissal of the other indictment. The prosecutor was also willing that
the matter be disposed of in that way. With
the exception of Childs, the court felt, as a
daily paper put it, willing to let up on Mr.

Page 28

Reynolds if Colonel Ingersoll would let up on

the court. After his speech on Thursday, the
Baptist and Methodist preachers of the
place approached Colonel Ingersoll and told
him they agreed with "every word he had
said." A young lawyer, the son of the Presbyterian parson of the place, said the same.
Though the ministers doubtless exaggerated their agreement, there was no doubt
that the speech had had a great influence
upon public sentiment. The judges knew of
this, and when Colonel Ingersoll told them
that if they tried Mr. Reynolds upon the
other indictment, he would come down and
convert the whole town, they thought the
joke might have a serious side. Had Childs
been left to himself, he would probably have
imposed the full penalty of the law. But
Colonel Ingersoll had softened public sentiment and won over the lay judges, and Mr.
Reynolds escaped state prison.
When the bill of costs had been made out
by the clerk of the court, with the fine added,
Colonel Ingersoll made out his check for the
amount - seventy-five dollars - and passed
it over, remarking that if they wanted any
more to let him know and he would send it to
them. It is not likely that he will be called
upon for more, however, for when the Morristown Jerseyman gets a chance to foot up
a bill against a New York heretic, he is not
apt to forget many items of importance. By
the time the clerk had pocketed the check
Prosecutor Cutler had returned from dinner, and in response to a question from the
judge said he desired to enter a nolle prosequi as to the other indictment. The judge
granted this, ordered Mr. Reynolds' bondsman, Mr. Edwin Worman, to be exonerated,
and dismissed the court.
In the little speech to the "prisoner at the
bar" it willbe noticed that the judge ate the
words he uttered in the charge. Before he
had ascertained how the associate judges
stood in the matter, Mr. Childs had been hot
for conviction. The district attorney also
wanted a conviction to the end that his descent might be made easy. The extraordinary lack of intelligence and manhood in the
jury, and the extraordinary abundance of
prejudice and venom in the judge, who sunk
his office in that of the advocate, secured it.
They had their way to that point, when they
were overruled, and compelled to retreat.
When Childs was charging the jury, therefore, the law was a liveand breathing statute,
the latest expression of the sovereign people, whose will it undoubtedly was that it
should be enforced. When he came to sentence the prisoner, the law had become
obsolete. It was one of the most rapid cases
of dissolution known in the annals of jurisprudence. At a quarter before eleven
0' clock, when he charged the jury, and again
at a quarter past twelve o'clock, when the
verdict was rendered, the law was remarkably healthy, and bade fair to live another

December 1986

two hundred years. At a quarter past one

o'clock it had died of old age, and was buried
in the cemetery of the past! Let us hope that
Christian hate and prejudice willnever again
find a Gabriel to resurrect it.
Mr. Reynolds is now free from the toils of
New Jersey savagery, and will resume his
labors for intellectual liberty. He realizes
that he has been very near to prison, and
escaped only by the ability of his counsel.
Nevertheless, he willagain take the fieldwith
his tent, ifthe Liberals want him, and it is not
likely that he will again be put in danger.
For his sacrifices and services in this case
Colonel Ingersoll will be thanked by every
true man and woman in the world. The others willprobably mourn that he succeeded in
keeping a heretic out of prison.

June 4, 1887
A Letter from Mr. Reynolds.
Dear Truth Seeker: Rejoicing with my
loved ones at my return to our happy home
- from which I have been absent since last
December - I desire to return my grateful
thanks to each and everyone of the kind
friends whose sympathy and aid sustained
me during the annoyance, worry, and expense attendant on my persecution by the
bigots of New Jersey.
To Col. R. G. Ingersoll, who, when I first
informed him of my arrest in Boonton,
generously promised to defend me, no words
can express my gratitude or that of my wife
and children. Never was promise more
royally kept. His grand effort in behalf of
liberty of speech will for all time continue to
do wondrously effective work for Liberalism.
I am sure all the friends will heartily
indorse the views of Dr. E. B. Foote in regard
to the reimbursing of Colonel Ingersoll for
the money expended, and I very highly
appreciate the generous donation, by Dr. E.
B. Foote and son, of the entire amount of the
fine. But it is just like them - genuine Liberals - the study and happiness of their lives is
the alleviation of human suffering and the
promotion of liberty.
To attempt to correct or contradict the
many sillyand malicious misrepresentations
in some secular and many religious papers
would be useless. But I do desire that all
Liberals should know the facts. Even according to the Jersey law I was not guilty of
blasphemy. There is no low, improper, or
obscene word in my pamphlet, "Blasphemy
and the Bible," for the free distribution of
which I was indicted. The pamphlet was
written in self-defense, simply with the desire
to prove that the Bible and those who insist
that its every word is inspired of God were
the real blasphemers; that the Bible was not
a safe moral guide, nor the best saints of the
Old Testament, indorsed by the New, persons whose example it was safe or creditable

American Atheist

to follow.
I did not, in my Tent at Boonton or elsewhere, ever use abusive or blasphemous
words, only in reading the Bible, always giving chapter and verse and carefully omitting
the filthy and obscene words. The bitterly
prejudiced bigot, Judge Childs, in his charge

issued by The Truth Seeker Company.

They will mail a copy to any address on
receipt of price, ten cents.
C. B. Reynolds.
North Parma, N. Y., May 28, 1887.

thing has been forcibly pictured to the people at large, as it has been done in his recent
trial through the willand the ability of Ingersoll the invincible. It can be nothing but a
farce for a handful of fanatics to call upon the
civillaw to defend a supreme divinity against
a human being.
We expected nothing better from that
ignominious section of this so-called land of
Blasphemy is only committed by
liberty than that the fulJ penalty of the law
The Case of Charles B. Reynolds.
uttering such things in a scoffing and
I am glad that our friend Reynolds has would be his portion. But the backdown of
railing manner out of a reproachful
been instrumental in bringing to light the the court is obviously significant. The nardisposition, as it were, in the speaker,
infamous law on blasphemy in New Jersey,
row souls of New Jersey should come in
rather than with any purpose of propand the bigotry and hate of her people, with- contact with manhood and womanhood
agating his irreverent opinion. If he
out having to go to states prison for it. On imbued with broader and more philanthrophas merely asserted his disbelief in all
the whole it has been a great victory. That
ic ideas of personal and intellectual liberty.
the popular notions of Christianity,
great champion of mental freedom, Colonel . What a judge! And yet, what better matewithout attempting by impious and
Ingersoll, had a magnificent chance to lash rial could be expected from such a source?
abusive or blasphemous remarks to
the religiously conservative populace, and
Mr. Childs's charge to the jury is believed to
he did it well. It will have a healthy effect
wound the feelings of the whole Chrisbe without precedent for its shallow reasontian community, he will not have
upon that community, the state, and the
ing, the novitious significance of its interrogcommitted an offense of which the law
entire country. Further than that, he has
atories, its assumption of things not suscepshown himself to be the fearless man we who tible of proof, its colorable phases, its bias,
can take notice.
are personally acquainted with him believed
and its deplorable lack of judicial dignity by
It was because I did confine myself to the
him to be. Some may think that discretion is falling to the argument and plea of an interthe better part of valor, and that he lacked
Bibleand did not use any indecent language,
ested advocate of the cause of a bigoted
but so fully and convincingly laid bare the
people, who he claims instituted and still
that discretion, but whether so or not, he,
facts, that Christians, realizing their inability with the prison doors open before him, sustain such an unjust law.
dared to stand by his honest convictions,
Uncle Lute.
to answer me or refute my assertions,
endeavored to imprison me.
and this is glory enough for himself and his
The pamphlet, "Blasphemy and the Bible," friends.
was simply a defense of my views and princiWhen the self-alleged servants of Jehovah
ples. The cartoon mayor may not be in bad
call upon the sovereign willof the people to
taste. I call attention to the fact that it was
Reynolds continued to lecture for freeimprison an honest, fearless, liberty-loving
not referred to in the indictment under
thought after his trial in New Jersey; he had
man because he publishes views contrary to
which I was tried.
theirs, on the plea of wounded feelings, it is a not been taught his lesson at all. In 1889, for
The edition of "Blasphemy and the Bible"
blessing to the country and a safeguard to its six rrionths, he lectured weekly to the
is exhausted, but a new edition has just been
members of the Liberal Club of Walla Walla,
free institutions that the farce of the whole
Washington, in Small's Opera House. In
May 1892, he began to perform the same
service for the Tacoma Secular Union, lecturing weekly. After becoming president of
that club, he organized the first state convention of liberals in Washington. That convention occurred in 1890 and was the
momentum needed for the formation of a
statewide organization of Liberals .. That
group was active in many state/church separation areas and succeeded in abolishing
paid chaplains in the Senate and House in
Olympia, Washington. It also obtained a
favorable decision from the state attorneygeneral which almost entirely excluded religious teaching and prayers in the public
schools. On August 6, 1893, Reynolds
inaugurated the Tacoma Secular Sundayschool. Until his death, he spoke regularly at
the Secular Church of Portland, Oregon .
Reynolds was a frequent contributor to the
Boston Investigator, the New York Truth
Seeker, and the Indiana Ironclad Age.
Reynolds died of concussion of the brain
sustained when he fell from a swing in which
he was sitting. The death occurred at his
home in Seattle, Washington, on July 3,
"So far I've found three honest transvestites."
1896. ~

June 11, 1887

A Note

Austin, Texas

December 1986

Page 29

THE PROBING MIND / Frank R. Zindler

Solstice/Christmas season is a time
Theof more
than usual merriment for callers

of my Dial-an-Atheist service in Columbus,

Ohio. At that time, my messages (which
usually change daily) deal mostly with the
nativity legends and other absurdities associated with the holiday of Christmas. Some
of the messages are serious in tone, but
many of them are satirical. For this special
December article, I have adapted a number
of these messages - both serious and
The Births Of The Messiah
The oldest of the gospels, the Gospel of
Mark, knows almost nothing of the ancestry, birth, or childhood of Jesus. Neither
does the latest of the gospels, John's, * seem
to know much about his human origins.
Although Jesus is said to have had a father
and mother, as well as brothers, John is
more concerned with proving the divine and
eternal existence of Jesus than giving him a
human biography. Only the gospels of Matthew and Luke (among the "canonical" gospels) have given Jesus ancestries and childhoods. Why is this?
At the time Mark was written, it was still
supposed that the end of the world was near
and that any day Jesus would return trailing
clouds of glory. There was no need for biography, only a need to heed the warning: "Be
alert, be wakeful. You do not know when the
moment comes ... you do not know when
the master of the house is coming ... ' Keep
awake" (Mark 13:33-37).
By the time the authors of Matthew and
Luke got around to writing their own gospels
- even though they plagiarized most of the
gospel of Mark, including the passages indicating the world would soon end - it had
become embarrassingly clear that the world

*For the sake of simplicity, we shall refer to

"Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John" as if they
were real authors of the gospels which
belatedly came to bear their names. In point
of fact, there is no evidence to support the
notion that any gospel was written by a man
bearing the superscribed name. To the contrary, it is evident that all of the gospels are
composite creations, the composition of
each involving several authors and editors.

Page 30

had not ended and that Christians might be

in for a long wait. Now evidence was needed
to show that this prophet so tardy in returning really had been the Messiah, the Christ,
the anointed one for whom everybody had
been waiting. More urgently, evidence was
needed to encourage people to continue to
"Evidence" had to be added to flesh out
the gospel skeleton provided by Mark. For
this purpose, both the genealogies and the
birth stories were created - partly out of
thin air and partly out of the pagan and Jewish mythologies which so permeated the
Greco-Roman empire of which Matthew
and Luke were a part.
The most critical need was for a genealogy
proving that Jesus was of the lineage of
David, since it was widely believed that the
Messiah would be a descendant of the lascivious king. So the genealogies were the first
additions to be forged and added to the
Markan account. Although both Matthew
and Luke had copies of Mark's gospel, they
did not know of each other's efforts. Fortunately for those of us who love truth, they
were unable to conspire with each other to
invent a consistent genealogy, and the
genealogies they forged contradict each
other almost totally - making it now obvious
that both authors were liars. (See the
accompanying "No Contradictions Here?")
Despite the contradictions, the two Davidic genealogies did their job for a while. But
rather soon it was not enough to prove that
Jesus had been the Messiah - especially
since his career had been such a fizzle. It
became necessary to prove that Jesus had
been a god. This required the addition of
extra miracles, fulfilled prophecies, and
legends to the basic story told by Mark and
the first editions of Matthew and Luke.
Some problems had to be solved, however.
In the ancient world, anybody who was
anybody - even mortals - supposedly had
been born of a virgin. Not only the Egyptian
Horus, the Greek Dionysus, Buddha, and
the Persian sun god Mithra - so popular in
the Roman Empire at the time of the evangelists - had been born of virgins, even Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were
believed to have lacked human paternity! So
a virgin birth story was made up for Jesus.
The only problem, however, was the fact
that a virginal birth of Jesus vitiated the
genealogies which had previously been con-

December 1986

cocted. For the genealogies to have force,

Jesus had to be the biological son of Joseph,
the biological son of Jacob (or Heli, take
your pickl), and so on back to David. But if
Jesus had been born of a virgin, since both of
the genealogies in the New Testament are
genealogies of Joseph, it follows that the
genealogies could no longer prove the
Davidic descent of Jesus, if Jesus were not
the son of Joseph. What to do?
The smartest thing to have done would
have been to remove the genealogies. But
there were too many copies floating around
to be able to get away with that. In fact, the
oldest Greek and Syriac manuscripts we
have of Matthew say plainly that Joseph
begat Jesus. So the mythologists had to content themselves with rewording the genealogies at the critical points to imply a virginal
origin of Jesus and hope that no one would
notice that the remainders of the genealogies were now "inoperative" - to borrow a
term from Richard Nixon.
Thus, verse 16 in chapter 1 of Matthew
reads, in one of the oldest surviving manuscripts (the Codex Sinaiticus Syriacus):
"Jacob [was the father] of Joseph, and
Joseph, to whom Mary, a virgin, was
betrothed, was the father of Jesus." This
was later changed in a number of different
ways, but the most commonly used Greek
manuscript reads: "Jacob [was the father] of
Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave
birth to Jesus called Messiah."
So it was that Jesus came to possess the
distinction needed in order to receive the
Good Universe-Keeping Seal of Approval: a
virgin birth. That the Josephan genealogies
are wholly irrelevant if Jesus is not the biological son of Joseph seems to be noticed
only by heretics.
Prophecies Of Jesus?
In the nativity fictions as elsewhere in the
gospel stories, the evangelists sought to
bolster their defense of the messiahship and
divinity of their client by showing that he was
the fulfillment of various Old Testament
prophecies. Since space allows us only to
touch upon this interesting facet of our
story, we wish to remind readers of the fact
that a very detailed and devastating analysis
of these "prophecies" was done two centuries ago by Thomas Paine, one of the nonChristian fathers of our republic. Paine's

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analysis was published as Part II of The Age

of Reason and was titled, appropriately,
"Examination of the Prophecies." Just try to
find it in your neighborhood library!
The first alleged Old Testament prophecy
of Jesus that Iwish to consider is in Matthew
2:23. After claiming that Jesus and his family
returned from Egypt to Nazareth instead of
Bethlehem, Matthew comments, "this was
to fulfil the words spoken through the
prophet: 'He shall be called a Nazarene.' "
Unfortunately for our evangelist, there is
no such prophecy to be found in the entire
Old Testament. In fact, the village of Nazareth is completely unknown before the writing of the New Testament. Now you might
think that this would be very embarrassing
to theologians and the makers of bibles. But
in fact, such inconveniences don't seem to
faze them at all. In the margin of my King
James Bible, right beside Matthew's Nazarene pseudoquotation, is a reference to
Judges 13:5 - allegedly the source of the
Turning to Judges, chapter 13, what do
we find? Do we find anything about Nazareth? Do we find anything about a Messiah?
Do we find anything at all referring to the
time of Jesus? You guessed it!The answer is
"no!" We do, however, find a prophecy
addressed to the barren wife of a guy named
Manoah, telling her that despite her sterility,
she is going to become the mother of Samson. The passage reads, "You willconceive
and give birth to a son, and no razor shall
touch his head, for the boy is to be a Nazirite
consecrated to God from the day of his
Our evangelist either did not know that
the Hebrew word nazir was unrelated to the
Aramaic-Greek word Nazara or Nazareth,
or he was dishonestly trying to fool his readers. A nazirite is merely a hippy-type ascetic
- devoted to god and the avoidance of
alcohol and personal hygiene. A nazirite is
not the same thing as a Nazarene.
Perhaps the best known but most misunderstood Old Testament proof-text claimed
to be a prediction of Jesus and his virgin
birth is the passage in Isaiah, chapter 7,
verse 14. According to Matthew 1:23, Isaiah
is supposed to have said, "Behold, a virgin
shall be with child, and shall bring forth a
son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel." But when we turn to the Hebrew text of
Isaiah 7:14, we find a somewhat different
Behold, the young girl [no specification of virginity] is with child, and will
give birth to a son, and she willcall his
name Emmanuel. [my translation]
The differences are striking. Whereas
Matthew has the term virgin, meaning a
woman who has never had sexual intercourse, the Hebrew has the word alma - a

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word which simply means a young woman.

Hebrew has a word for virgin - bethulah and Isaiah would certainly have used it if
"virgin" is what he meant. But far more
important than the difference in the type of
woman involved is the verb in the sentence.
Matthew reads Isaiah with a future verb, as
though Isaiah is predicting the distant future.
But Isaiah tells us the young girl is already
pregnant. If Jesus is the babe in question,
this is the longest pregnancy in history, and
the really miraculous part of the nativity
story has been overlooked for nearly two
We may note a disagreement also as to
just who it is that will do the Emmanuelcalling: In Matthew we read "they willcall his
name Emmanuel," as though it is something
that undefined people in the future will do.
But in Isaiah the Hebrew reads "she willcall"
- meaning the mother of the child. Since
Mary did not name her baby Emmanuel, we
see how irrelevant this prophecy is to the
case of Jesus. Moreover, no one in the New

No Contradictions

The genealogies of Jesus in Matthew
and Luke compared [adapted from
Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the
claim that there is
no contradiction between these two
genealogies! Those who are capable of
reading try to argue that the genealogy
in Luke is really that of Mary. For an
answer to that argument, see the accompanying "Jesus the Son-in-law."
1. Jesus
2. Joseph
3. Heli
4. Matthat*
5. Levi*
6. Melchi
7. Jannai
8. Joseph
9. Mattathias*
10. Amos"
11. Nahum
12. Hesli
13. Naggai
14. Maath*
15. Mattathias
16. Semein
17. Josech
18. Joda
19. Joanan
20. Rhesa
21. Zerubbabel
22. Shealtiel
23. Neri
24. Melchi
25. Addi
26. Cosam

1. Jesus
2. Joseph
3. Jacob
4. Matthan
5. Eleazar
6. Eliud
7. Achim
8. Zadok
9. Azor
10. Eliakim
11. Abiud
12. Zerubbabel
13. Shealtiel
14. Jechoniah
15. Josiah
16. Amos
17. Manasseh
18. Hezekiah
19. Ahaz
20. Jotham
21. Uzziah
22. Joram
23. Jehoshaphat
24. Asaph
25. Abijah
26. Rehoboam

December 1986

Testament ever refers to Jesus as "Emmanuel." The only occurrence of the word in the
entire New Testament is right here, in this
misquotation from Isaiah.
Finally, we may note that Isaiah's prophecy is aimed at King Ahaz, who is told that
before the child Emmanuel grows up, "desolation willcome upon the land before whose
two kings you cower now" (New English
Bible [NEB]). There is no hint whatsoever
that events hundreds of years in the future
are being predicted. The whole Geschmutz
deals with Ahaz, King of Judah, and the
mess he was in. No Jesus or Messiah is to be
found either in the vocabulary or the
Bethlehem And The Roman Census
Having seen how the genealogies of Jesus
came to be invented and how the authors of
Luke and Matthew twisted Old Testament
passages into prophecies of Jesus, we proceed to the question of why Jesus was made
27. Elmadam
28. Er
29. Joshua
30. Eliezer
31. Jorim
32. Matthat*
33. Levi*
34. Simeon
35. Judah
36. Joseph
37. Jonam
38. Eliakim
39. Melea*
40. Menna'":
41. Mattathan
42. Nathan
43. David
44. Jesse
45. abed
46. Boaz
47. Salmon
48. Nahshon
49. Amminadab*
50. Admin*
51. Arni*
52. Hezron
53. Perez
54. Judah
55. Jacob
56. Isaac
57. Abraham
Luke's list continues back for a mystical total of 77 generations, to Adam,
who in turn is the
"son of God." Asterisks indicate names
missing in some versions, manuscripts,
or citations of Luke.

27. Solomon

28. David
29. Jesse
30. abed.
31. Boaz
32. Salmon
33. Nahshon
34. Amminadab
35. Aram
36. Hezron
37. Perez
38. Judah
40. Isaac
41. Abraham
Matthew claims
there were three
sets of 14 generations in his genealogy from Abraham
to Jesus, but lists
only 41 names!

Page 31

Jesus The Son-in-law

Adapted from a Christmas Dial-anAtheist message.
When the two genealogies of Jesus were
fabricated by the authors of Matthew and
Luke, the mythmakers contradicted each
other almost totally, but did agree in one
thing: Namely, they both traced Jesus' lineage through Joseph, even though one says
Joseph's father was named Jacob and the
other says Heli.
For centuries the churches have lied
about these contradictions and have taught
that the genealogy in Luke is actually that of
Mary, and that what the text really means
to say is that Joseph was the son-in-law of
Heli. There is, of course, no evidence for
this whatsoever. The text in English reads
simply: "Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi," and so on,
Now both the Hebrew and Greek languages have perfectly good words for "sonin-law" and surely would have used them if
that is what they had intended. Furthermore, the only time the name Heli is mentioned in the entire Bible is here in Luke 3,
verse 23. So apologists can't cite other texts
to support the notion that Joseph was really
to have his debut in Bethlehem.
Because it was supposed that the Messiah
would be a descendant of David, it was natural for the evangelists to search the scriptures to hunt for Davidic details which they
could use in support of the case of Jesus.
That they would have to grasp at straws
should not surprise us, but what does surprise us is the fact that some incredibly
shaky reeds have served the Christian apologists so well over the centuries.
Long before the time of the evangelists,

Heli's son-in-law, or that the Greek word

huios used here doesn't really mean "son."
But there is a funny side to this attempted
imposture to save the inerrancy of scripture. When one consults the Greek text
itself, one discovers that the word son is
used only once in the entire genealogy!
That is to say, when we read in English: "A
son of B, son of C," and so on, the Greek
text actually reads: "A son of B of C of D,"
etc. The idea "son of' is sort of dittoed, so
that whatever the word huios in Greek is
supposed to mean, its meaning is to be
dittoed all the way through to the end of the
genealogy. Applying the so-called logic of
the apologists to the case, we would find
that Adam was god's son-in-law, not his
son! And since the word they say actually
means "son-in-law" is printed out only once
- when describing the relationship between Jesus and Joseph - we would have
to conclude thatJesus was actually the sonin-law of Joseph! We never even knew that
Joseph had a daughter, let alone that Jesus
had married her. If Jesus really did marry a
woman, he couldn't have been born of a
virgin. Due to chromosomal problems, only
females can result from virgin births!
the village of Bethlehem in Judea had been
known as "the City of David." So it was only
to be expected that apologists should try to
find a tie-in between Bethlehem and the
Messiah to come. As Matthew searched the
bull (rushes) of scripture, he found a weak
reed in the Book of Micah:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
small as you are to be among Judah's
clans, out of you shall come forth a
governor for Israel ... (Micah 5:2;

Unfortunately for Matthew, Micah was
not referring to a city, but rather to a tribe or
clan descended from a guy named Bethlehem. In I Chronicles 4:4 we learn that
Bethlehem was the son of Hur by his wife
Ephrathah, Although the context of Micah 5
gives no indication that a distant future is
being predicted, Matthew took the passage,
changed Bethlehem Ephrathah into Bethlehem in Judea (thus making it a city instead of
a person), added part of a passage from II
Samuel 5:2, and came up with:
For thus it is written by the prophet:
"And you, 0 Bethlehem in the land of
Judah, are by no means least among
the rulers of Judah; for from you will
come forth a ruler who will shepherd
my people Israel" (Matthew 2:5-6).
Thus biographies of Jesus came to be fabricated in which the would-be savior was
born in Bethlehem. Matthew (2:11) takes
care of this in straightforward manner, having Jesus born in a house in Bethlehem, as
though that is where his parents lived. Luke,
however, seems to have heard a tradition
that Joseph had been living in Nazareth in
the northern kingdom of Galilee, and so he
has to contrive an incredibly wacky story to
have Jesus be born in Bethlehem in satisfaction of the pseudoprophecy in Micah. In
order to move Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Luke turns the entire
Roman Empire upside down. In Luke, chapter 2, we read:
In those days a decree was issued
by the Emperor Augustus for a registration to be made throughout the
Roman world. This was the first registration of its kind; it took place when
Quirinius was governor of Syria. For

Jesus The Twelve-year-old

Adapted from a Christmas Dial-anAtheist message.
If Isaiah actually had Jesus in mind when
he prophesied that people would "call his
name Emmanuel," we are forced to conclude that Isaiah was wrong. Jesus was
never called Emmanuel. But then he wasn't
called Jesus either - at least not after he
was about three or four years old. Although
none of the gospels record the fact, it is
certain beyond question that Jesus almost
always was referred to by appellations such
as "the twelve-year-old," or "the twentytwo-year -old."
This curious fact derives from the cir-

Page 32

cumstance that Herod, King of the Great

State of Wickedness when Jesus was born,
had all the kids of Jesus' age killed, for fear
that one of them would become the "King of
the Jews," as had been falsely predicted by
certain "wise men" and prophets. Jesus
happened to escape the massacre because
he and his parents were on a vacation in
Egypt checking out.some delta investment
acreage. They 'didn't get back to Palestine
until all the funerals were over and Herod
himself had died.
When Mary tried to enroll Jesus in kindergarten at the Caesar Augustus Playtime
Academy, the principal of the school was
completely stymied. "A five-year-old!" he

December 1986

exclaimed. "We don't have any other fiveyear-olds this year, and we can't waste a
whole classroom on one kid. You'll have to
put him in first grade with the six-year-olds."
And so, all through first grade Jesus was
known as "the five-year-old" - the only one
in the whole country. The next year, when
all his other classmates had turned seven,
Jesus became known as "the six-year-old."
And so it went. Year after year, his name
changed to reflect his age and his uniqueness.
Considering that he never had any playmates his same age, is it any wonder that
the thirty-three-year-old came to a bad end?

American Atheist

this purpose everyone made his way

to his own town; and so Joseph went
up to Judaea from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to register at the city of
David, called Bethlehem, because he
was of the house of David by descent;
and with him went Mary who was
betrothed to him. She was expecting a
child ... (Luke 2:1-5; NEB).
In contrast to the legend in Matthew,
Luke has Jesus born in a stable and laid in a
manger, and there is no hint that Joseph had
a house of his own in Bethlehem. In fact, we
are told that there was no room for the holy
family in the inn - a detail which would be
quite irrelevant if Matthew's version were
Luke's deception would have been more
successful had his knowledge of Roman history been less defective. Although Augustus
ruled from 44 or 42 B.C. until A.D. 14, there is
no record of any empire-wide census ever
having taken place. While Quirinius as governor of Syria did conduct a census, it was in
the years AD. 6-7 - 10 to 11 years after the
death of Herod. It willbe recalled that Herod
supposedly stillwas king of Judea at the time
of Jesus' birth, and he allegedly ordered a
slaughter of all boys two years old or under.
(See accompanying "Jesus The Twelveyear-old".) Apart from the minor difficulty
that Herod never did any such thing - his
biographers would have just loved to have
added one more sin to Herod's catalog there is the problem that Herod died in the
year 4 B.C. So Jesus could hardly have been
born both in the reign of Herod and at the
time of the Census of Quirinius in A.D. 6-7!
There is another minor problem. Although
Quirinius did conduct a census, it was a
census of Judea, not Galilee, and there
would have been no reason for Joseph to go
from one jurisdiction to the other. He could
have stayed in Nazareth - assuming of
course that there was a Nazareth at the
time. Although we have archeological evidence of stone-age occupation at Nazareth,
and of occupation from the second century
on, no certain archeological evidence has
yet been found to show that there was a city
called Nazareth in the year AD. l.
We conclude this critique of the nativity
tale in Luke by noting that the Romans were
not excessively stupid people, and would
never have ordered anything so insane as a
census which required everyone to return to
his ancestral city. The Empire would have
fallen apart if, in the primitive state of contemporary transport, Spaniards had to
return from Egypt, people at the Indian
frontier had to return to North Africa, etc.
There is absolutely no extrabiblical scrap of
evidence to support such a harebrained
It is sometimes claimed that an ancient
papyrus (Lond. 904, 20f) describes such a

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census. What that papyrus actually describes, however, is a so-calledkata oikian

census conducted in Egypt in the year AD.
104. In that census, according to Raymond
E. Brown (The Birth of the Messiah, Doubleday, 1977, p. 549), temporary dwellers in
various towns had to return to the cities in
which they had their regular domiciles in
order to be registered. The census does not
appear to have extended beyond the borders
of Egypt. There is nothing in that papyrus or
elsewhere to make one conclude that the
author of Luke knew what he was writing
about or that he wrote truly.
Careful study of the nativity tales in the
gospels makes it evident beyond question by
objective scholars that the stories of the
birth of Jesus are on no firmer foundation
than those told about Horus or Buddha.
Persons wishing to understand the origins of
the Christ myth might do well to examine

the way in which the myth of the "childhood"

of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has
developed in our own times. ~
Formerly a professor of biology and
geology, Frank R. Zindler is now a
science writer. A member of the
American Association for the
Advancement of Science, the
American Chemical Society, and the
American Schools of Oriental
Research, he is also co-chairperson of
the Committee of Correspondence on
Evolution Education, and director of
the Central Ohio Chapter of
American Atheists.

Follow That Star!

Adapted from a Christmas
Atheist message.


We are come, once again, unto the silliest

season of the ecclesiastical year - the season when preachers begin to read aloud the
birth legends in the gospels of Matthew and
Luke which purport to tell of the miraculous
birth of Jesus.
It is interesting that the oldest of the gospels, Mark, knows nothing of those legends,
and it was only later - after the fish story
had grown with the retelling - that Matthew and Luke were written, with their contradictory versions of the genealogy and
birth of Jesus.
In chapter 1 of Matthew, we begin with an
imaginary genealogy - totally at odds with
the one in the third chapter of Luke, and
grouping the generations into what it claims
are three groups of 14 generations between
Abraham and Jesus Christ. Unfortunately,
the author doesn't count very well, since
only 41 generations are named between
Abraham and Jesus, and there is no way to
make 3 x 14 = 41! We then read the myth of
the virgin birth and are told that a supposedly unfulfilled prophecy - that a virgin
shall conceive .and have a son named
Emmanuel - is actually fulfilledin Jesus, a
guy who never was called Emmanuel! We
then proceed to the wonderful story of the
Magi, or astrologers, who come from the
East to Herod, seeking the "King of the
Jews." Matthew 2:9 reads:
The star which they [the astrologers] had seen at its rising went
ahead of them until it stopped above
the place where the child lay.

December 1986

This following-the-star story is the most

delightfully mad fairy tale known to me.
How does one follow a star, anyway? If you
start to follow a star, such as described
here, shortly after its rising you willbegin to
head east (after all, it is said to have risen in
the east). Thus, the Magi would have begun
to head back home to Iran. By midnight,
however, the star would have been south of
our wise guys and the Magi would have
been heading toward Saudi Arabia. As the
night wore on toward morning, they would
head westward toward the Mediterranean
Sea. With the beginning of a new night of
travel, this mad hatter behavior would
replay again, the path of our unwise men
describing a series of curlicues on the
earth's surface. Depending upon how fast
they walked, how regular their rate, the
absolute sizes of these curlicues would
differ greatly, and the final destinations
would be incredibly different.
Even allowing for the miraculous stopping of the star over the nativity scene - an
impossibility of literally astronomical dimensions - how would the wise men know
which house was under it? Every time they
came to a house apparently under the star,
if they just walked around to the other side
of the house, they would find the star
apparently had moved to be over the next
house, and so on! If there are any true
believers reading this message, I have a
challenge. Tonight go out and try to follow a
star - any star except the North Star. See
where it gets you!
On second thought, don't exclude the
North Star. Go for it! When you get to
Santa Claus's house, give my regards to the

Page 33

REPORT FROM INDIA / Margaret Bhatty


headline in this morning's paper
A June
12 reads "Panic Conversions

Punjab." The report tells of how some terrorized Hindus are hastily embracing Sikhism
to save themselves from being gunned down
by murder squads roaming the state, indulging in both random and selective killings.But
even if a man sports a beard, turban, and
other outward tokens of a Sikh, he may not
escape death. Though attacks on Hindus
are more common, Sikhs have been killed
. because of bitter infighting within the community. Many Hindus isolated in the countryside in dominantly Sikh villages are moving out of the state. The present strategy of
Sikh terrorism is one which the fanatic, Sant
Bindranwale, had sworn to achieve - a
demographic shift in the Hindu and Sikh
communities which would create a Khalistan without any outside help, by sheer force
of numbers.
The killing of innocent Hindus has led to
reprisal killingsby militant Hindus. Sikh businessmen in Delhi have received murder
threats. For some time now newspapers
have been advertising properties and industries in Punjab in exchange for ones in other
states. Many Sikh businesses in outside
states are moving their assets to Punjab.
The signs are ominous, reminding us of prePartition times in 1947 when one ofthe
bloodiest migrations in human history took
place with the exchange of masses of Hindus
and Muslims in the creation of Pakistan. Are
we now destined to witness a similar bloodbath, this time engulfing Hindu and Sikh?
When the Punjab accord was signed in
July 1985 between Rajiv Gandhi and the
Sikh political leaders of the Shiromani Akali
Dal, few cared to comment on the fact that
the central government had given in to religious militancy. The accord was not a political breakthrough at all.
In the elections held subsequent to the
signing of the accord, Mr. Gandhi's Congress (I) party was almost delighted to concede victory to the Akali Dal, which set
about forming a government. People who
had watched five years of bitter civil strife,
largely instigated by the Dal and countless
other Sikh religious factions, were glad to
see them left holding the baby. But with each
warring group claiming to speak in the name
of Sikhism, the political scenario in the past
ten months has been one of dog eat dog.

Page 34

Confused Roles
Today there is no single group with which
New Delhi can negotiate a new political
accord. The Akali leadership has painted
itself into a corner, and the chief minister (a
Sikh) daily does an ignominious tightrope
walk to placate fanatical elements on one
hand and to function effectively as an
elected representative of a mixed electorate
not all Sikh by any means. He has found it
impossible, however, to break free of the
religious nexus.
He has brought the office of chief minister
into disrepute by submitting himself to the
high priests of the Sikh community. On their
urging he called in paramilitary personnel
and police to cleanse the Golden Temple of
terrorists. Having done so, he was promptly
ordered to appear before them and receive a
sentence of penance in expiation for having
"desecrated" the shrine and hurt Sikh religious sensibilities! He therefore submitted to
dusting the shoes of worshipers in the
Golden Temple and smaller shrines, along
with other penance. He declared he gladly
undertook this penance as a pious Sikh,
quite forgetting that he was voted into office
by non-Sikh as well as Sikh electors, and
therefore his position as chief minister cannot be transcended by Sikh religious sanctions. Also, in sending the police into the
shrine he was dealing with a law and order
situation, for which he was not answerable
to the Sikh priesthood.
This confusion of roles can be traced to
the nature of the accord signed between Mr.
Gandhi and the Shiromani Akali Dal. A
number of dangerous precedents were set,
the chief being the recognition by the central
government of a regional religious party as
its coequal at the negotiating table. This
negated the secular character of our federation. The accord was a sellout of the rights of
the non-Sikhs in Purijab. To it can be traced
the present insecurity which is making Hindus leave the state.
The accord allowed one religious group to
impose its views on other groups, thus violating a basic democratic norm.
In handing power on a platter to the Akali
Dal, the government conceded that violence
and terrorism can effectively replace constitutional methods of negotiation. It also conceded that it was helpless to prevent shrines

December 1986

from being used as safe houses by religious

The Anandpur Sahib Resolution
Mrs. Gandhi's inconclusive meetings with
the Akalis brought into prominence a document called the .Anandpur Sahib Resolution. She refused to endorse it, even though
all the Akali rhetoric centered on it. But Mr.
Gandhi agreed to refer the Resolution for
scrutiny by a justice.
The political questions such as the sharing
of river waters with states neighboring Punjab, the transfer of Chandigarh as capital
(presently shared with Haryana), and the
shifting of state lines on a basis of language,
etc., do not concern us here.
But a closer look at some clauses of the
Anandpur Sahib Resolution willgive readers
an insight into the kind of lunacies that keep
Sikh militancy constantly on the boil.
The Anandpur Sahib Resolution was
drawn up by a committee of the Akali Dal in
eleven sittings over nine months in 1973. It
was formally endorsed and accepted by the
general house of the Dal in 1977.
The document justifies the Sikh obligation
to carry arms:
All those persons, male or female,
who have not been convicted of any
criminal offence by a court of law,
should be at liberty to possess all
types of small arms, like revolvers,
guns, pistols, rifles, carbines, etc.,
without any licence, the only obligation being their registration. Argued one Akali Dalleader, Kirpan, the
small ritual dagger is no longer enough. One
must move with the times and carry modern
arms! Ironically, he was gunned down by his
opponents. The Sikh have a ceremonial
worship of their arms and regard them as
their pirs, spiritual mentors.
Regarding the Sikh identity, the Resolution declares Sikhs as a separate nation and
commits the Akali Dal to establish the political supremacy of the Sikhs, making use of
"all possible means." The Dal also undertakes to mold Sikhs into a strong and sturdy
nation, highly educated, and fully aware of
its fundamental rights.
To achieve this end, the Dal shall strive for

American Atheist

the propagation of Sikhism and its code of

conduct, denunciation of Atheism, and
preservation of the concept of a distinct and
independent identity for the community. It
will also inculcate fervor and pride in "their
rich religious heritage," and to this end it lists
ten duties to be laid on the faithful.
Among these duties is the affirmation of
the concept of the oneness of god, recitation
of Sikh scriptures, and renewal of faith in all
the ten holy Gurus and the holy scripture.
Preachers, poets, musicians will spread
the faith after training in a Sikh Missionary
College. Sikhs will be baptized on a vast
scale, study circles established, and tithing
encouraged. Respect will be generated for
Sikh writers, intellectuals, and preachers.
Other clauses demand control of all Sikh
shrines the world over so that anywhere on
this planet where Sikhs are found, the holy
writ willrun, emanating from the precincts of
the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

This stridency is merely a reflection of the

current mood among militant Sikhs in the
state. Not surprisingly, it has provoked a
Hindu backlash, with a number of armed
groups responding with violence to attacks
on members of their community.
The slide downhill in the state is alarming.
Nobody knows who rules - the Akali Dal
ministry? the five high priests of the Golden
Temple? or roving murderous bands who
belong to countless splinter groups of
The hideous jinns that have been let out of
the bottle are not going to prove easy to
exorcise. If anything, Punjab should be a
lesson to all those who naively believe that
secularism means being polite about other
people's beliefs. Religion and politics make a
lethal mix, and Sikhs make no bones about
it. Their militancy is a religious obligation.
This was one aspect of the sect which perplexed the British during the Raj. They con-

stantly dreamed of recapturing a glorious

past. One author remarked that Sikh nationalism was a constant source of danger
because it tended to give the Sikhs a "wind in
the head"! I couldn't have put that better
myself. ~
In 1978, your editors, assisted by
Joseph Edamaruku, editor of an Indian
Atheist publication, combed India
seeking writers who would
consistently offer an interpretation of
Indian religious events. Margaret
Bhatty, in Nagpur, a well-known
feminist journalist, agreed that she
would do so in the future. She joined
the staff of the American Atheist
in January 1983.

Five Reasons You Shouldn't Think of Missing the Upcoming

American Atheists Convention

April 17-19, 1987
1. Improved Socialization. At the annual Amencan Atheists Convention in Denver, Colorado,
you will be able to see and (most importantly)
talk to Atheists from all over the United States.
Chapter Directors,National officers, andjust plain
members of American Atheists will be there.
(Remember: An AA Convention party is the only
party where it's absolutely safe to talk about your
2. A Spot of Education. AA Conventions always
feature speeches by foreign and domestic experts on Atheism, state/church separation, and
other issues. Not only would you have the
chance to listen to such unique lecturers - but in
all cases you would have the opportunity to
question them.
3. Something to See. While you're at the Convention, you can take a short trip over to American Atheist Books, the United States' only
exclusively Atheist bookstore. See what such a
bookstore would look like in your hometown.
4. The Pride March. This coming April there will
be the first Atheist Pride March in America. Bob
Fenn's nationally famous picket signs, which
will be available for the use of all participants, will
thrill you and chill the theists.
5. Economy. When else will you be able to sleep
in Denver - or any convention city - for only
$42.94 a single/double or $53.81 a triple? The
Radisson Hotel Denver [ 1550 Court Place, Denver, CO 80202; Telephone (303) 893-3333J is of-

Austin, Texas

fering such excellent rates to American Atheist

conventioneers. Just remember to make your
accommodation reservations with the hotel.
That will not be the only savings available to
conventioneers, though. United Airlines is giving
special rates for American Atheists. For information on how you can take advantage of those
discounts, just write American Atheists.
Of course, we can think of dozens of reasons
more that you should attend - such as the special video presentations, the Rocky Mountain air,
the convention's "Book Room."
But why don't you come and take part in the
excitement rather than just reading about it?
The early registration fee is only $50 per person (or $25 for students and elderly on a fixed
income). After March 27, registration will be $60
per person ($30 for students and elderly).
Yes! Please register me:



I am enclosing a check or money order

for $
, payable to American Atheists.
Card #
Bank NO'; Letters
Expiration Date

December 1986

Page 35


100 Years Ago ...

In the December 2, 1886,Index of Boston,
Massachusetts, William J. Potter, president
. of the Index Trustees, made the saddening
announcement that The Index would be discontinued as of December 30, 1886.
In the same issue, however, a new journal
was made known. B. F. Underwood wrote:
"The first number of a new radical journal,
to be established in Chicago - the publication of which is made possible by the philanthropic liberality of a Western gentleman,
whose name is, for the present, by his
request withheld - will be issued early in
1887;just as soon as the necessary arrangements can be completed. The new journal,
the name of which willbe, in all probability,
The Open Court, will be under the management of B. F. Underwood, ...
"The objectives of The Open Court willbe
to encourage freedom of thought, untrammelled by the authority of any alleged revelations or traditional beliefs; to afford an
opportunity in its columns for the independent discussion, by able thinkers, of all those
great ethical, religious, social and philosophical problems the solution of which is now
demanded by the practical needs of the hour
with an urgency hitherto unknown; to treat
all such questions according to the scientific
method and in the light of the fullest knowledge and the best thought of the day; to
advocate the complete secularization of the
State, entire freedom in religion and exact
justice for all; to help substitute catholicity
for bigotry, rational religious thought for
theological dogmatism, and humanitarianism for sectarianism; to emphasize the
supreme importance of practical morality in
all the relations of life, and of making the
well-being of the individual, and of society,
the aim of all earnest thinking and reformatory effort."
20 Years Ago ...
American Atheists was a little bit proud of
itself when it celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 1983. But it has an "older brother"
- older by ninety-seven years - in England
by the name of the National Secular Society.
The NSS willcelebrate its 120th birthday
in 1987. We salute it by reprinting part of an
article from the December 30, 1966, issue of
the Freethinker. Titled "A Toast to the Next
Hundred Years of the NSS!" it began:
"In two days' time the National Secular
Society starts on its second hundred years.
Even so, 1966 has not just been a year of
patting the old man on the back and asking
him what it was like in the days of Bradlaugh.

Page 36

It has, like all other years, been a year of

activity with plans for the future ....
''The society has an excellent record of
providing information to the self-educated
(rather than to the intellectuals) but it now
reports that the largest groups in its increasing membership are of lecturers, teachers
and then of students ....
"The NSS knows that it is not enough just
to knock the churches and the Bible, the
Pope and the parsons. Although (as Margaret Knight put it) 'if you have a diseased
appendix removed, you don't ask "but what
can I put in its place?" , just because of the
churches' enormous wealth and opportunities, they have been able to provide services
which must (until or unless taken over by the
state) be matched in some degree by similar
secular-Humanist services, from adoption
to community welfare. Our Agnostics Adoption Society is a beginning, ...
"The NSS has fought an important battle
for secular education over many years, with
packed public meetings and informative
literature. Christianity, we say, should be
taught in the home, churches or Sunday
Schools, and not in the form of indoctrination by the schools ....
"Frequent and responsible Press Releases
have brought the society into the public eye.
We can no longer be ignored, and it is always
encouraging when serious motives and
efforts are taken seriously, as ours now are.
Another important field which demands a
great deal more activity (and perhaps a
Secularist Committee) is broadcasting.
There must be constant pressure and lobbying and requests for the right to share the air
and screen with Christians. This links up
with the concern of the NSS for the arts and
for cultural life in our society.
"The NSS of course supports such projects as the Rensburg School in Bechuanaland, the anti-famine project in Bihar and the
Humanist Housing Association. It has fought
on too many fronts to mention, from education, abortion, homosexual and divorce law
reform to the attack on the Sunday Observance laws, and it is active wherever bigotry,
injustice or obscurantism dribble their poison into the bloodstream of our society ....
"When Swinburne wrote his Hymn of
Man he referred to the 'Lord God of tyrants'
with his name written in 'hell-fire'; he wrote
'thy death is upon thee, oh Lord' as if any
god had been real and living and was thus
capable of death. But the hymn ends
And the love-song of earth as thou
resounds through the wind of her

December 1986

Glory to Man in the highest! For Man

is the master of things.
This is the spirit behind the whole SecularHumanist movement, and the National Secular Society is one of the tools that Man has
created and needs for the 'mastering.' Here's
to its second hundred years!"

10 Years Ago ...

Here's a little something for all the merry
Solstice celebrants out there from the
December 1976 American Atheist editorial.
''Tradition always has the antecedent of a
time when the tradition did not exist.
"If the traditions associated with Atheism
are to exist then we must bring them into
existence. In the year 2976 our descendants
cannot celebrate the one thousandth year of
history of certain Atheist memorials unless
we cause those events to occur now.
It is in this spirit that we ask you to participate with us in the First Annual International
Celebration of the Winter Solstice. As of this
year, 1976, we are seizing four moments of
time generated by the functioning of our
solar system. We plan to recognize and
celebrate these moments on an international basis. They transcend any limitations
of national border, all religions, or anything
having to do with race or sex. These are
moments to be recognized by all mankind.
They are, of course, the Summer and Winter Solstices and the Vernal and Autumnal
Equinoxes ....
"This year, the Winter Solstice will be at
12:36 P.M., Eastern Standard Time, on
December 21, 1976.
"At that time, in Austin, Texas, we willbe
celebrating the central festive occasion and
we are instructing every State Chapter to do
the same.
"Celebrate with us!! We are going to trim
our home with ivy and holly and mistletoe,
with two big solstice trees fullof natural decorations ... and we are going to wassail and
sing and eat roast game and baked apples.
But, just two minutes before the time of the
Solstice, at 12:34 P.M., we are going to stop
to read a small, solemn, poetic statement
about the Solstice and its meaning to mankind all these years. Then, at 15 seconds to
Solstice we are asking everyone to observe a
silence until the Solstice ticks in. At exactly,
12:34P.M. we are going to light a candle
(symbolizing the "rebirth of the sun") and at
that instance, we are all going to sing "Auld
Lang Syne" - for this is indeed the new
year, the new swing of the earth around the
sun, and the beginning of the lengthening of
the days again."

American Atheist



When the first installment of a regularly scheduled, fifteen-minute, weekly American Atheist radio
series on KTBC radio (a station in Austin, Texas, owned by then-president Lyndon Baines Johnson) hit
the airwaves on June 3, 1968, the nation was shocked. The programs had to be submitted weeks in
advance and were heavily censored. The regular production of the series ended in September, 1977,
when no further funding was available.
The following is the text of American Atheist Radio Series program No. 30, first broadcast on
December 23, 1968.
In 1968, the first year of broadcasting
for the American Atheist Radio Series,
we sent out, all over the United States,
copies of what we called "The Solstice
Season" program. We printed it in our
literature and distributed it in a small
When the American Atheist magazine was issued later (we could not
afford to publish it in 1968), we reprinted the article as the featured radio
program script in December. Since
then, for a number of years it has been
repeated yearly in the magazine.
We are happy to do so again this year.
We hope that our new subscribers will
come to love it as much as have our old

subscribers who have requested a repeat of it in our "American

Radio Series."


omeone stole something from me. I

don't like it. What was stolen from me
- and from you - was one of the most
beautiful holidays in the world. Robert G.
Ingersoll (an American Atheist hero of earlier days) was also angry about thistheft, Let
me read to you what he had to say.about it.
He wrote a very famous "Christmas serman." It was printed in the Evening Telegram newspaper, New York City, New
York, on December 19, 1891. The ministers
of the day attacked the newspaper and
demanded a boycott of it. The Telegram
accepted the challenge and set off an issue
across the country. The paper printed the
Rev. Dr. J. M. Buckley's attack, and Robert
Ingersoll's answer. It developed into a real
Let's hear what Ingersoll had to say:
The good part of Christmas is not
always Christian, it is generally Pagan;
that is to say, human and natural.
Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of
eternal grief. It came with the threat of
everlasting torture on its lips. It meant

Austin, Texas

war on earth and perdition thereafter.

It taught some good things, the
beauty of love and kindness in man.
But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of
joy, it has been a failure. It has given
infinite consequences to the acts of
finite beings, crushing the soul with a
responsibility too great for mortals to
bear. It has filled the future with fear
and flame, and made god the keeper
of an eternal penitentiary, destined to
be the home of nearly all the sons of
men. Not satisfied with that, it has
deprived god of the pardoning power.
And yet it may have done some
good by borrowing from the Pagan
world the old festival we know as
Long before Christ was born, the
sun god triumphed over the Powers of
Darkness. About the time that we call
Christmas the days began perceptibly
to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors
were worshipers of the sun, and they
celebrated his victory over the hosts
of night. Such a festival was natural
and beautiful. The most natural of all
religions is the worship of the sun.
Christianity adopted this festival. It
borrowed from the Pagans the best it
I believe in Christmas and in every
day that has been set apart for joy. We
in America have too much work and
not enough play. We are too much
like the English.
I think it was Heinrich Heine who
said that he thought a blaspheming
Frenchman was a more pleasing
object to god than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am
in favor of all the good free days, the
more the better.
Christmas is a good day to forgive
and forget, a good day to throwaway
prejudices and hatreds, a good day to
fillyour heart and your house, and the
hearts and houses of others with

December 1986

Would you believe that such a warm
Christmas sermon could cause religious
people to launch a vicious attack on a newspaper for publishing it? Ingersoll used the
word "borrow." He said that Christians borrowed the Pagan holiday. I use a stronger
word. They stole it. They stole the most
beautiful holiday of man - and for what?
They claim that this is the birthday of
Jesus Christ. Let's look at their scholars and
their history and see if this is a fact. You
most probably all know of A. T. Robertson,
the late professor of New Testament Greek
at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He had written
a standard textbook on the so-called Broadus Harmony of the Gospels, and it is used
in every school of religion across the land. In
this book is summarized all the findings of
religious scholarship in relationship to Jesus
Christ and, among other things, the date of
his birth.
After a lengthy explanation of when Jesus
Christ may have been born, Dr. Robertson
sets the date at - hold on now - the
summer or early fall of the year 6 B.C. or 5
B.C. Did you hear that? He set the date in the
summer or the fall. Recently the idea of the
first week in January has gained some following. But no one who is a religious scholar
any more accepts or believes December 25.
One must calculate from the possible
death of Herod, or the appearance of the
so-called star in the East, which could have
been a comet recorded by the Chinese or a
conjunction of the planets Jupiter and
Saturn. But the Greenwich Observatory
says that the conjunction appearing as a
single star was very unlikely. Or one can
judge the "time of the universal peace," that
is the "time of no war" about which the
heavenly host sang. But there was never any
stoppage of war in that time.
One can guess from the so-called ministry
of John the Baptist, or the age of Jesus upon
his entry into the ministry, or the building of

Page 37

the Temple of Herod, or the closing of the

temple of Janus, or the so-called census of
Augustus Caesar. All of these lead the poor
theologians in ever-increasing directions
away from the idea of Christmas and the
year "zero" or "one" of our present calendar.
Actually, the idea of December 25 is untenable. Allthe ancients in Christian history had
various days for Christ's birth. Clement of
Alexander, who was closer to that alleged
event in time, said it was May 20. April 20
and January 6 have always appeared as possible dates. Why did the Christians want the
twenty-fifth of December? Why that particular date? Why did they deliberately steal this
very important date from the Pagans?
There are four points in our calendar
which we use and which we call "Solstice" or
"Equinox" points, two of each. The latter is
easy: we say that the equinox is when the
sun crosses the equator of the earth, and
day and night are everywhere of equal
length. The sun does not actually cross the
equator; we all know that. But with the
earth's natural tip on its natural axis as it
whirls around the sun, this seems to be so.
Then, either one or the other part of our old
ball of earth gets the most sun. But on these
two occasions, the days are equal in length
everywhere, and this occurs about March 21
and September 23 by our current calendar.
The Solstice is something different. We
don't go around the sun in a circle; we tour
around it - on our earth - in an ellipse,
which is a flattened circle, or oval. When we
are in the points furthest away from the sun,
we have another phenomenon. That, along
with the 23 inclination of the earth, causes
the solstices. Twice a year, when the sun is
at its greatest distance from the celestial
equator, about June 21 when the sun
reaches its northernmost point on the celestial sphere, or about December 22 when it
reaches its southernmost point, w.e call
these moments the solstice. The solstice in
December is the time when the days of the
year, in our hemisphere, are the shortest.
Primitive man and Pagan man were not
idiots, you know. They saw this. Apparently
at the first, they feared the days would get
shorter and shorter and shorter and finally
- what if there were only night! What a
frightening thing, when the sun was so
necessary for life, from common observation. So when the day came for the sun to
overcome the darkness, and for the sun to
cause the days to be longer - even ifjust a
minute longer - it meant that there was not
going to be eternal night. The sun had won a
fight again. Darkness had had to recede and
slowly the days would get longer and longer
until spring and summer, with food growing
again and the lifecycle being renewed again,
would be everywhere on the earth.
And so every primitive culture had a festivalor a feast on this day. It was celebrated in

Page 38

China, in India, in South America, in Mexico, in Africa, in every single place where
man could watch days and nights and seasons. There were presents given on this
great day, exchanged as a symbol, for the
sun had brought the most precious gift of all
to man: the warmth needed for life and a
recycle of the seasons again. The ancient
men noticed other things too. Certain trees
stayed green all year round, a promise of the
abundance of spring and summer to come
again after winter, a reassurance that all the
greens would return in their seasons. The
light of the sun and the twinkling light of stars
became important in symbolism as well as in
fact. The mysterious parasite, mistletoe,
ever green, intrigued primitive man. It all
needed to be celebrated, to be noted with
awe. If one could not give life as the sun did
- one could give else, such as a sharing of
food or the precious few personal items one
had. But, above all it was a time of revelry.
Life had been renewed. It was the most
joyous of all human occasions. There was
universal singing and dancing and laughing
and well-being. It was wild and wonderful
and human and warm. It was the best of all
festivals. It was the gayest of all feasts. It was
the warmest and best of all collective human
The Christians were no fools. If they permitted the Pagan holiday to continue to
exist, it could challenge the basis of the
mournful Christian religion, with its great
emphasis on death. First came edicts outlawing the Pagan holiday. But nothing so
wildly wonderful and natural as this could
ever be outlawed. And then the solution
came: incorporate it into the Christian religion. Oh, it took some time. It took many
years to effect the change. It took much
propaganda. It took many reprisals and
sanctions against those who continued with
the old festival. But, eventually the Christian
religion won the day. There were changes in
calendars too. When the Julian calendar
was changed to the present-day calendar,
Solstice - or Christmas - shifted a few
days also, so that December 25, by our
calendar, came officiallyto be designated as
a Christian day.
It took a thousand years, and more, to rob
the people of the earth of this grand holiday
and to replace it with a personalized myth
story of a "new god born," a god of a horrible, punitive, new religion called Christianity.
But, it is even easier now, with mass
media. There are many of you in the listening
audience old enough to remember Armistice Day. That was the day that World
War I ended and it was celebrated for thirty
years or more until a second world war
broke out. After we veterans came home
from that second war we found that there
was no more Armistice Day. Instead, there
was a Veterans'Day. All the people in the

December 1986

listening audience tonight who are twentyfive years old or younger, never even heard
of Armistice Day. They only know Veterans'
Day, for that is all that they were ever taught.
That's how it is with Christmas. That is
how it was with the Solstice. Finally, no one
ever heard of the Solstice and its festivities
- and everyone came to believe that the
Christians were celebrating the birthday of
Christ and that was all that this holiday had
ever been.
But Bible scholars know better and Atheists know better and we celebrate that old
and wonderful and joyous season. We even
sell Solstice cards for this season of Solstice
and the New Year (which, really, are both
one day). Let me read to you what we print
traditionally on our Solstice cards.
Joyful and cheerful, with mistletoe and
signs of the season, the greetings are to wish
one and all the glad tidings of a wonderful
Winter Solstice season. The legend inside
the card says:
December 25, by the Julian calendar, was the Winter Solstice. This
day, originally regarded by the Pagans
as the day of the nativity of the sun,
the shortest day of the year - when
the light began its conquering battle
against darkness - was celebrated
universally in all ages of man. Taken
over by the Christians as the birthday
of their mythological Christ, this
ancient holiday, set by motions. of the
celestial bodies, survives as a day of
rejoicing that good will and love will
have a perpetual rebirth in the minds
of men - even as the sun has a symbolic rebirth yearly. ~

The Atheist Symbol

What is that funny atom supposed to
Atheism is, of course, based upon materialism, the idea that all is "matter" - that
there is no supernatural or "immaterial."
And the atom is the basic distinguishing
unit of all matter.
American Atheists chose the twoelectron spiral symbol of helium as its
symbol. Helium, the product of hydrogen
fusion, is present in the sun's atmosphere.
In the American Atheist symbol, however,
one of the symbolic whirls is open-ended,
or broken, to show that although Atheists
rely on the scientific method for increase of
knowledge, they know that all of the
answers are not "in" as yet. That open
whirl forms an A to represent Atheism.
The smaller letter in the center represents

American Atheist


That thing
we have been taught to call
"Original Sin."
Was in fact committed
by the satan
that first used that phrase.
It is beyond my fantasy
beyond my nightmare
beyond my reason
as to why anyone or anything
would ever want to introduce
so merciless, so brutal a myth.
What followed is in our history
people went out to kill
over so obvious an irrationality.
Name the criminals that went on to teach
to defend this inhuman cruelty?
Each child guaranteed a place in Hell!
Artists frescoed walls
philosophers and the religious
worked in papered books
not to expose the fabrication
but how to defend it.
Certainly the nobility and the military
found ways to use the myth,
to help justify their deeds.
Immoralists discovered soon
that faith paid off very well.
The greatest of the crimes however,
is that it was
the ignorant and the poor
that turned this lie into a,Creed!
Salvatore Galioto

where do you run?
To the sun! To the sun!
Come children come.
is this the way to the sun?
Yes, sinners,
through worship of death,
Come children come.


A garish model of a bleeding heart
oozes ghastly crimson blood drop by drop
onto a pale-cream-colored classroom wall
and slowly down over the chalked-up scrawl
of a teacher's turbid exposition.
Above another blackboard is affixed
Christ on the Cross with his eyes fixed below
on the heat-cycle of Sadi Carnot.
On certain special evenings set aside,
a scholastic philosopher proposes
by means of some salutary doses
of the illogic of Saint Aquinas
(those fatuous proofs of God's existence)
to purge potential paganism from
a captive group of graduate students
who learned logic and the nature of proof
in mastery of relativity,
quantum and statistical mechanics,
and the mazes of thermodynamics.
A peremptory summons is received
from the office of the Graduate Dean
for failure to heed some regulation.
"But I thought ... " began my explanation
interrupted brusquely by the Dean with,
"You don't think here. You do what you are told."
In such manner, the incident was closed
and, thereafter, I did what I was told.
At the counter of a campus bookstore,
I wait long in patient perplexity
for return of the vanished Brother clerk
with my requested set of The Great Books.
On the bookstore door the small bell tinkles
and a shepherd of souls glides to my side.
"What are you up to?" I hear with surprise.
"Don't you know some of those books are proscribed?
Do you want to risk your immortal soul?"
Slowly, comprehension by suffusion
dissipates momentary confusion.
"I am very sorry. I didn't know.
I am not a Catholic," I reply.
The cavalry called down from Calvary,
visibly relieved, replies with a sigh,
"Brother, for his soul's sake you understand,
can not sell the set with some forbidden."
Therefore, The Great Books set was bought and sold
in town where immortal souls are more bold.
Thus, you see, an education can be
an educational experience.
Robert R. Hentz

James Holland

Austin, Texas

December 1986

Page 39


s the watchdog really a lapdog?", read the
in an advertisement circulated

military projects.
But a "free press" is one of the important
by Times-Mirror. The rest of the ad copy symbols of democracy; ifit is perceived to be
was a slick dual effort to give the appearance ' a reality, the general public will remain
quiescent. One of the underlying assump(to the general public) that Times-Mirror
was genuinely concerned about freedom of tions of any republic or democracy is that
the press and maintaining independence
the people are informed and are thereby
from "powerful interests and institutions."
able to make intelligent choices in elections.
On closer inspection, it is clear that the real They are also able to advance their own
audience was the special interests and insti- interests through the political processes tutions which control and influence most of or so the theory goes. While the media are
the wealth in the United States.
not controlled directly by government, they
Times-Mirror wanted to assure the major are directly controlled by the same ecobanks and financial centers that it was keep- nomic interests which control government.
ing tabs on public perceptions and would The aim of this essay is to show how the
repeat its studies of how the public viewed
media do not "inform" the public; rather,
the press and make the results available. It they work with their major backers to isolate
listed all of the consumer-interest maga- individuals and keep the public from "interzines, major newspapers, broadcast and fering" with the interests of the economic
cable interests; made a point of emphasizing
elite who own most of the media. This elite is
principally interested in making sure that the
its size and profits (139 and 79 respectively
on the Fortune 500); and noted that it was media are employed to generate public supdiversifying into new growth industries. The port for, and subservience to, those in control. It willalso be made clear that religion is a
answer to the question, "Is the watchdog
really a lapdog?," depends on what people
powerful tool in this endeavor.
think the watchdog should be watching, and
whether or not the watchdog is able to ,conThe Liberal-Press Myth
vince people that it is doing a good job of
watching. In order to answer the question,
The general characteristics of any instituthen, it is necessary to define what role the tion are principally defined by the dictates
media are expected to play by the people
and predilections of its owner( s), So in order
who own them, by those who sustain them,
to understand the media, it is necessary to
and by those who receive information from look at who owns them. All of the major
them. And it is also necessary to understand
broadcast networks are owned by the
what role the media actually do play.
Rockefeller, Morgan, and Mellon interests
and major religious interests - Jewish and
Roman Catholic. The major "independent"
Freedom Of The Press
media are owned by extremely wealthy Protestants. None of these people are "liberals"
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids government restrictions on or leftists: Luce, Hearst, Knight, Annenberg,
press freedom. Because it is necessary and Gannett, and Turner. A quick glance at the
desirable for those in positions of power to Boards of Directors of major media reveals
control or restrict the press at times, several
the same names in many spots - officers of
laws have been passed that allow the Morgan Guaranty Trust, Chase Manhattan,
government to violate the First Amendment
First Boston, and other banks; officials from
in specific circumstances and that exempt
the major auto, oil, and consumer goods
certain types of press freedom from First industries; and a large number of former
Amendment protection. For example, in government officials -principally conservawartime the government can try reporters
tives (Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, William
and editors for treason if they print "classi- Simon, to name a few) - are all exercising
fied" information. And the government
control over the media. The media, then, are
owned and defined by extremely powerful
occasionally imprisons and even kills people
for disseminating information about "secret"
business and economic interests devoted to

Page 40

December 1986

oligopolist or monopolist forms of capitalism.

In addition, the nation's schools of journalism are controlled by these same interests.
Even the names of the schools reflect this
fact: Carnegie-Mellon, Annenberg, Hearst,
etc. It is no mere coincidence; in order to
ensure that each new generation supports
the prevailing social and economic order, it
is necessary for those who will use sophisticated communications technology and resources to assume a role which willtransmit
only views which are acceptable to the ruling
class. The most effective tools developed in
journalism schools for achieving this are the
elimination of courses dealing with the theories of different economic or political systems and an emphasis on accurate quoting
of" officials" as the purest form of" objective,
fair journalism." Investigative or "muckraking" journalism is only encouraged when the
story is about unions, other nations or politicians - never when it willbe injurious to the
economic system in the U.S.
The inherent biases of media which are
totally controlled by concentrated private
capital are so consistent and widespread
that they are rarely even noticed by most of
the public. Let's examine a few.
In global affairs, the U.S. is portrayed as a
benign provider of opportunity whose interests are often thwarted by "terrorists" or
"aggressors." When U.S. forces bombed
Libya early in 1986, all of the media dutifully
quoted the government officials and military
leaders who labelled Gadhafi a "terrorist."
The major U.S. media all stated that only
military targets were hit, and that any civilian
deaths were "incidental" or "accidental."
The actual story, reported in every nation
outside the U.S., was that hardly any military targets were hit, nearly all of the people
killed were civilians, and Gadhafi is not considered to be a terrorist. Europeans in particular were appalled by the U.S. actions and
generally denounced the exercise as needless warmongering.
In Central America, Nicaragua is portrayed as an instrument of "Soviet terrorism" which must be destroyed. The police
states of El Salvador, Chile, and Brazil are
called "democracies"; the elections, in which
a local military leader runs against a CIAbacked candidate, are termed fair, and the

American Atheist


police repression of other parties is totally

Back home, striking workers have troublesome "demands" which they pursue
against corporate "interests." Others with
"demands" are the elderly, the unemployed,
racial and ethnic minorities, and women. Military "needs" are contrasted with social service program "costs." New Deal and Great
Society programs are all "failures" because
they have not eliminated crime, disease,
poverty, or pollution, while military projects
are deemed successful as "peacekeepers" if
a war doesn't break out. Union corruption is
always "news," while management corruption is not - until it reaches a stage when a
scandal is too large to ignore. People who
are for peace are "protestors," as are people
who want job-training programs, medical
benefits, expanded higher education benefits, or equal rights. No such labels are
branded on those who vote against these
things; instead they are said to be "balancing
the (narrow) interests of the 'protestors'
against the general interest." In short, people who challenge the ruling capital interests
are negatively portrayed, while those who
advance or support these interests are portrayed favorably.
Taking Aim:
The Rise Of The Radical Right
Like a tumor on the American political
scene, which was largely benign but is now
dangerously malignant, a radical right wing
coalition of business and religious leaders
has formed to challenge the existing conservative power structure. The growth of the
radical right movement has occurred largely
because of defections from the conservative
order which have allied capital with groups
favoring political repression in the U.S. One
of the main thrusts of the radical right
movement has been to seize control of the
media. Churches and religious broadcasting
have been the major organizing instruments
up to now. But since the election of President Reagan, there has been an increased
effort by the radicals to crush dissent and
seize control of education, government
agencies, Congress, and the economy. But
in order to accomplish these goals, the radical right wing must first seize control of the
nation's communications media.
In the 1950s, groups of radical right wingers attempted to do this with McCarthyism.
This effort self-destructed when McCarthy
accused the U.S. Army of protecting communists. Laying low until the early 196Os,the
radical right organized to seize control of the
Republican Party - and almost succeeded
by nominating Goldwater. When their candidate was repudiated by voters, these
groups blamed the "liberal" media. In 1968,
the right, now influential in the Gap, supported the nomination of Nixon and forced

Austin, Texas

the ultra-right (and largely unknown) Agnew

onto the ticket. Immediately, Nixon and
Agnew attacked the media.
Attacks on the media were a hallmark of
the Nixon Administration. The verbal attacks on the "leftist bias" of the media were
backed up by a conscious program of intimidation and coercion. Reporters who reported unfavorably were barred from briefings, while those whose reporting favored
the Administration were given inside scoops
and special access.
The FBI was permitted (in some cases
instructed) to keep dossiers on reporters,
editors, and executives in the media. A list of
favored journalists was also kept. Many of
these people were given CIA and FBI disinformation and misinformation stories, which
were presented to the public as news. The
Nixon Administration came to power at a
critical point in broadcast history and used
the powers of the executive branch to
greatly expand the voice of the radical right.
The FCC approved portions of the FM radio
band for public use, setting aside a 3.6 MHz
band for noncommercial use. Under the
Nixon-directed FCC, most of the newly
opened noncommercial bands were given to
right wing religious organizations. The Administration was so intent on controlling the
media, that at one point it threatened to
initiate proceedings to revoke the television
networks' broadcast licenses if they continued to show federal police actions in the
U.S. and U.S. military actions in Vietnam in
unfavorable ways.
The Nixon Administration's efforts were
interrupted by Watergate and the ensuing
arrest and conviction of several of the aides
for felonious acts. It was the conservative,
business press which played a major role in
forcing Nixon out of office. Its primary disaffection with Nixon was over the four-phase
wage/price control program, which gave
selective favors to industries based on how
much they did to reelect Nixon in 1972.
Most of the right wing radicals in religion,
politics, and business who benefited from
and supported Nixon regrouped, with new
financial support, in the Reagan years. An
organization started in the early 1970s by
Rev. Donald Wildmon and Reed Irvine called
Accuracy In Media (AIM) suddenly found
new life.Aided by private direct mail organizations and political action committees
formed by wealthy individuals and religious
organizations, the far right drew up hit lists
of state and federal election candidates and
targeted them for defeat by largely unknown
radical right wing religious candidates.
AIM has been a surprisingly effective and
well-camouflaged organization. It appears to
be a small, almost eccentric outfit, but it is
backed by leading business and political figures who use it to force more radical right
views into the media. AIMhas forced reporters who report unfavorably on U.S. military

December 1986

activity out of media (Ray Bonner, New

York Times: El Salvador 1982), and through
the computerized direct mail operations of
NCPAC, has forced many local television
stations to report stories from a radical right
point of view. Recently, AIM has "branched
out" to intimidate "anti-Christian, anticapitalist, and Marxist" university professors. The principal aim of AIM is "proAmerican, Christian views in schools and
the media."
AIM is supported by, among others,
Richard Scaife (a Mellon heir and co-founder
of the Heritage Foundation), Joseph Coors
(a staunch anti-worker beer magnate), Walter Annenberg (a major publisher whose
wares include TV Guide), Richard Nixon,
Spiro Agnew, George Barusch (head of the
Allied Foundation, an anti-union, promilitary organization), Maurice Stans (former head of CREEP under Nixon), Henry
Hurt (close business associate of Sun Myung
Moon), Charles "Bebe" Rebozo (an alleged
liaison between organized crime and the
CIA), David Packard (a kingpin in many preReagan radical right causes), and William
Casey (Reagan's appointed CIA director).
Corporate support is provided by Mobil Oil,
Texas Air, and the Hunt brothers of Texas.
AIM has attempted to organize corporate
boycotts of papers and television and radio
stations which did not tow the right wing line
in reporting of news. These have not been
publicized nearly as well as the rather
unsuccessful attempts to enlist public support in boycotting products advertised in
these media, and their actual effectiveness is
hard to gauge. But the fact that it is impossible to turn on a commercial television network, to read a major newspaper or magazine which critically examines right wing
capitalism, or which criticizes the Reagan
Administration, the CIA, or religion in a
general sense, suggests that AIM's threats
against the media themselves have worked.
The Military And Press Control
"The Selling of the Pentagori," a late 1960s
CBS documentary on the propaganda
apparatus used by the military-industrial
complex to generate public support for ever
increasing, and unnecessary, military spending, was one of the last attempts by any
major media to hint that public opinion was
created: The public had no voice and was
being told what to think. It was also about
the last time any major medium used prime
time to criticize the military.
To digress briefly, the military exists to
extend and preserve U.S. capitalist interests
around the world. In order to keep a steady
supply of young people willingto enlist in the
military and comfortable about wasting their
lives and possibly dying while serving the
impersonal property and political interests
of others, religion is promoted. Concern for

Page 41

oneself must be eradicated, and the willto be means to strike back and control the media.
obligated to a life characterized by subjecThe book was extensively reviewed and
tion must be instilled in its place. It is, therepraised by every right wing journal and
fore, intolerable for there to exist prominent
exposed through the radical right electronic
critics - especially Atheists who advocate
media. The author appeared on the "700
peace and who point out the long history of Club," was quoted often by Billy Graham,
close association between religion and Jimmy Swaggart, James Robison, and othmilitarism.
ers, and his ideas have been incorporated
With that in mind, Caspar Weinberger
into several Roman Catholic publications
and military officials met secretly with media which purport to examine the Vietnam War.
owners in Washington, DC, on October 3, The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF),
1984. The meeting topic was the proper role supported by many of the same people who
of media in war reporting. A set of curbs and support AIM, and which is the legal arm of
limitations of press coverage was proposed.
the Heritage Foundation, handled the actual
The centerpiece was a "war press pool" case. Formed by former Nixon Administrawhich would work under the direct supervi- tion lawyer Dan Popeo, the WLF first came
sion of the Pentagon, to which the major to public attention when it pushed for Conmedia representatives agreed. This meeting gressional hearings against Geraldine Ferinstitutionalized the existing limitations on arro over her finances in mid-1984.
informing the public about military operaThe Westmoreland suit was suddenly
tions and virtually assured that the De- dropped when CBS and Westmoreland's
partment of Defense would be unchallenged
backers announced they had reached a setin UPI, AP, several newsweeklies, and the t~ement. Daniel M. Burt, the lawyer who
major TV networks.
managed the case for Westmoreland, told
On October 10, a formal announcement
reporters that "the objectives of the case
came: From now on, only a limited pool of had been achieved." He didn't mean he got
journalists, approved by the' Pentagon,
the $120 million; he meant that the press had
would be allowed to cover military actions.
been effectively silenced and would no longer
Under the arrangement, the secretary of report unfavorably on the military. As the
defense (Caspar Weinberger) was given the Reagan Administration continues to pack
authority to dictate a national policy for the federal judiciary with radical right wing
press coverage of U.S. war efforts. A few ideologues, it may become impossible for
days later, General William Westmoreland
any legitimate criticism of the government to
filed his multimillion dollar suit against CBS, be given a fair hearing. The Westmoreland
claiming he was libeled by "The Uncounted
settlement should be taken as an ominous
Enemy," a timid look at misinformation
warning by anyone who might entertain
given to President Johnson and the Ameri- thoughts of going public with their dissent.
can public about U.S. Army "success" in
The Hidden Efforts
The documentary alleged that Westmoreland's command had lied to the public
While the Westmoreland trial and Pen(through the media) about troop strength in tagon efforts attract publicity, other more
Vietnam in order to convince Americans to stealthy endeavors by the radical right are
support military operations there. It also often overlooked. Ever more limits are
alleged that the military command had de- placed on the Freedom Of Information Act,
stroyed computer tapes and other records
and major media have become wary of prein order to create an impression of "prog- senting anything but right wing orthodoxy.
ress," when there was really none. Finally, it Religious groups have forced private indusalleged that Westmoreland himself had lied try to restrict the distribution of several pubto Johnson. That final allegation was the lications, and now even major newsweeklies
only one challenged in court.
. are getting the message. Time and NewsThe Administration, the CIA, the Pen- week have both retreated on women's
tagon, and the private radical right organizarights, minority rights, peace, abortion, and
tions all supported the Westmoreland case
critical economic or political analysis. Their
- on Westmoreland's side. To them, it principal editorial focus is telling people that
wasn't Westmoreland's "honor" that was at everything is all right or getting better. And
issue, it was whether the press could be discouraging activism.
intimidated and silenced through the courts
The most insidious and brutal efforts have
and forced to concur with the views of the been directed at getting radical rightists onto
radical right. Ever since Freedom House, a major media staffs and setting up competing
publishing company with CIA-backing, pub- media with the goal of knocking out the
lished a book attacking media coverage of established outlets. Since private capital in
Army and CIA actions in Indochina (Big the form of advertising supports most U.S.
Story, How the American Press and TV media, a forum can succeed in the marketReported and Interpreted the Crisis of TET place if it can attract sufficient ad dollars. In
1968 in Washington and Vietnam by Peter
the last few years, old-line right wing magaBraestrup), the far right has looked for a zines have all become more right wing, and

Page 42

December 1986

new magazines and newspapers have been

formed to disseminate news and other
information from a restrictive, religious, right
wing perspective. All of these have been
financed by the same people who formed the
radical right PACs and foundations. Religion
has been an important organizing tool for
the radical right, because it is either insulated or exempt from most public scrutiny,
and because the tax-exemptions enjoyed by
religious organizations enable them to build
up funds more rapidly than a normal taxpaying firm would.
Because U.S. military and capital interests are now global, with the U.S. supporting
right wing military governments to protect
corporate plundering from the indigenous
populations, the leaders of these foreign
governments have a material interest in
supporting U.S. media which is favorable
toward the governments and corporations.
South Korea, the Vatican, South Africa, and
other U.S.-backed nations have worked
with the radical right leaders to acquire
ownership of newspapers, magazines, and
cable television which are filled with far right
political views and trivial, non-news stories.
Gannett, the largest seller of newspapers
in the U.S. (including USA Today), is partially financed ($3 million annually) by South
Africa through the South African Information Ministry, set up in the late 1970s by
Eschel Rhoodie to buy space in American
media for pro-apartheid reporting. With the
threat of sanctions looming in the U.S.
Capitol, this figure has probably increased.
Gannett's Board of Directors includes officers of Merrill-Lynch, the nation's largest
brokerage, which profits from corporate
exploitation of South Africa and shares
directors with Kerr-McGee, McDonnellDouglas, Phillips Petroleum, Eastern Airlines, SOHIO, and 20th Century-Fox.
The Washington Star and New York
Tribune were recently purchased by Panax
Corp., owned by John McGoff, a right wing
activist. Much of that money came from military governments and international capital
interests which funneled money through
foreign banks. The papers are extremely
right wing. Like other new radical right papers, both feature radical right and religious
columnists, including Patrick Buchanan, Cal
Thomas, and Phyllis Schlafly. While none of
the new media have toppled the existing
outlets (the Post in DC, the Times in New
York, etc.), they have forced a swing to the
right. That is why the New York Times gave
editorial support for Contra aid and has run
articles sympathetic to' the proposals for
"drug testing." The success of new competitors at attracting advertising and other support from major centers of power and wealth
has encouraged more established media to
adopt radical right views also, both in hope
of getting the money and neutralizing the

American Atheist

Post-Reagan Restructuring
The radical right differs from the conservative coalitions of the past in two major
ways. First, unlike the conservatives, they
do not believe problems can be resolved
within "the system." Second, they are intent
on destroying the existing social and political
system - uprooting it and replacing it with
something else (hence, the designation radical right)_ Nearly all of the people who are in
visible positions in the radical right movement are from outside the traditional power
centers in the U.S. The Reagan Administration has caused a shift in the relations
between these two groups: The radicals
have access to the President, and they are
the ones who have been placed in key positions as department and bureau chiefs in the
executive branch of government. The conservatives hoped that they could "use" the
radical right to get votes for Reagan and put
him in the White House in 1980, and then
proceed to implement the conservative
economic agenda of cutting taxes for major
corporations and wealthy individuals, raising taxes on working people, cutting Social
Security, eliminating government regulation
of commerce, and shifting government
spending from social programs to military
ones. But the radicals had a separate noneconomic agenda which would place them in
positions of power.
Since the end of World War II,the radicals
have used religion as the vehicle for pushing
their social and political agenda. This has
been useful for reasons mentioned above.
Now it is necessary to continue to use religion because there is no use or benefit to be
derived from the radical right agenda and
because most of the radical leaders are
visionless ideologues.
In order to sustain their momentum, the
radicals have broadened the scope of their
agenda to include the protection of concentrated wealth and have attempted to
draw the conservatives into their camp. To a
large degree, it has worked. The directors of
major banks and other centers of capital
have become increasingly disenchanted with
democracy and an affluent society. The Trilateral Commission's report, Crisis of Democracy, let it all hang out, stating that
democracy and capitalism weren't compatible. The problem is, there is still some vestige of democracy in all of the capitalist
The actions of the radicals, with increasing support from the conservatives, are
aimed at destroying the institutions which
protect the public, while fortifying those
which expand the power of the owners of
capital in government. They are also attempting to ensure that the legal system is
directed at stifling dissent and eliminating
conflict, rather than assuring anything resembling justice. Finally, they want to crush

Austin, Texas

all nongovernment organizations which

assert or protect the rights of average citizens (unions, for example).
The radical right sees seizing control of
the media as the key to retaining power. As
Terry Dolan, leader of NCPAC, put it,
"We're framing the issues - finding out how
people feel, and presenting our case in a way
that people can accept and support." The
emphasis is not on accuracy or any semblance of fact; it is on getting the public to
accept lies by finding out what they believe
and then playing on fears or insecurities.
Some of the most alarming sections of
David Stockman's book, The Triumph of
Politics, deal with the radical right view on
deliberately giving false information among
administration officials. Beliefin the ideology
and the fact that they were in power was
considered sufficient evidence of veracity in
nearly all matters. This means that they do
not consider the dissemination of falsehoods
to be lying or even unethical; it's a necessary
part of the commitment to the overall
agenda. People who were not "believers" in
the administration had to be lied to, because
they didn't "understand," Stockman wrote.
For the record, Stockman is still totally
committed to the conservative economic
agenda and states that the public should not
be permitted to "interfere" with capitalism,
and that to prevent "meddling with the
integrity of the nation's currency," he advocates keeping real interest rates high and
reducing the liquidity of savings. In other
words, capitalism works best when a few
people run it and everyone else quietly goes
There is no politician on the far right who
has any popular appeal or who has credibility with voters on any substantive issue.
Therefore, in order to maintain control of
the executive branch of government, continue to pack the judiciary with radical right
ideologues, and win more control of the
legislative branch, it willbe necessary for the
far right to simply "create" candidates. Reagan has provided an excellent practice subject as he has physically deteriorated and
slid into senility during his term. In every
speech, his voice is electronically enhanced
so that this dying old man sounds robust and
powerful. He rarely appears in public for
press conferences, since he knows nothing,
and often makes a fool of himself with idiotic
answers to questions. The press conferences he does hold are carefully orchestrated affairs, at which nearly allof the reporters are ones judged by the White House staff
to be supportive of the president. Reagan
was successful as a candidate because he
knows how to act and play to the public on
television. His prepared speeches are not
designed to convey information; they are
efforts to tap into subconscious feelings and
use the fleeting nature of television to stir
unthinking emotions in people, while provid-

December 1986

ing them with rationalizations for accepting

the radical right agenda. By 1988, the radicals hope to be able to take anyone in their
camp and present him as "the people's
A Democratic Alternative
The reason that the media are so easy for
a few powerful institutions to control and
dominate is that few people bother to consider the problems posed by minimal restrictions on the ownership of communications
media by private capital. There is no restriction .on the ownership of print media, and
there is an effort, led by the churches and
the radical right, to remove the ownership
restrictions on broadcast media. (Currently
six television and six radio stations are the
maximums, and no two may be in the same
market.) The only way to break up a
monopoly or oligopoly is for laws to be
passed which make them illegal. In the case
of the media, it will be necessary to restrict
the ownership of newspapers and other
print media in a manner similar to that of
television and radio.
Because a free flow of information is
essential to the continuance and integrity of
the media
should never be turned over to a few private
interests and run for their profit. The restrictions on media ownership I am proposing
would have no effect on the small and independent publications or presses in the U.S.,
who are not multiple outlet owners, and who
are not supported by advertisers who are
interlocked to the media outlet through
directorates or bankers.
As I hope this article makes clear, the
"press" in this country is not free; it is a tool
for social, economic, and political control
which is serving the interests of a small, concentrated minority. It is not used to inform; it
is used to indoctrinate and to manipulate
public opinion. Because of this, whatever
democracy is still extant in the U.S. is in
jeopardy. ~
Brian J. Lynch is the former Director
of the Massachusetts Chapter of
American Atheists and the current
Media Coordinator for the
national office. With a BS/BA from
Babson College, he has often debated
on such topics as religion, Atheism,
politics, the arms race, history,
and science.



Page 43


Evangelical Terrorism

Falwell, Robertson
The Seamy Side of
Christian Fundamentalism

by Arthur Frederick Ide

Irving, Texas
Scholars Books
1986, 193 pages, Paperback
author hates the Baptist religion, its
its church history, its hier-

archy, its institutions, and its current fundamentalist proponents of televangelism.

He also hates the complacency of America's
citizens, their social insensitivy, judicial
injustice, and the political fraud and intimidation of the Reagan "misadministration."
He loathes Ed Meese, Ronald Reagan, Jerry
Falwell, Pat Robertson, Larry Speaks,
Charles Colson, Phyllis Schlafly, an assortment of Texas ministers (most particularly
W. A. Criswell), the Dallas Morning News,
and its publisher, Rupert Murdoch - considering most of them to be a part of the
lunatic fringe.
To explain it all, he begins with "the Baptist connection" in England, where he finds
the minister, John Smyth, said to be responsible for the denomination's birth. He traces
him to Amsterdam where he organized his
first eighty followers in 1608 and where he
later came under the influence of the Mennonites. Smyth and some of his followers
returned to England where other minor
leaders were found. Baptist history in that
country, as recounted by Ide, showed only
the extremes of irrational conduct and religious fanaticism.
In the early 1600s, one of the ministers,
John Lathrop, took thirty Baptists to New
England. Roger Williams followed in 1631.
Ide sees no heroism or intellectual thought in
either. His succinct descriptions of church
history and subsequent leaders outline the
shadows of mental illness rather than ideology. He scoffs at Bible literalism and ideas
of sin. All of Baptist dogma is found, he
explains, in Hebrews 6:1-12 from which the
church derives its six principles of faith: baptism, eternal judgment, faith, laying on of
hands, repentance, and resurrection.
Baptist power came only from political
intimidation and coercion as it won the illinformed and the self-haters to its ranks
where humankind was impotent to self-help
before an all-powerful and capricious god.
He traces Baptist brutalization of the Blacks
and the American Indians and the evil influ-

Page 44

ence of its clergy in the Civil War.

In citing the work of a Dr. George B. Ide,
pastor of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia - a factor in the breakaway of the
Southern Baptist Convention from the Baptists of the North - the author, himself an
Ide, may well be giving a clue for his basic
animosity to the Baptist faith.
The public activities and professions of
Falwell and Robertson are given separate
lengthy chapters - thirty to forty pages
each. They are equated to the terrorism of
McCarthyism when the Roman Catholic
church was attempting to demonstrate its
power in our nation. A great deal of the
information has to do with attempts of censorship of sexually-related material- ranging from sex education courses in our public
schools, through motion picture classification boards, the Meese commission report,
and to the sale of dildos and other apparatuses in adult "Porno Palaces." His review of
child sexual abuse in Christian homes is
explicit down to the children's cases of
gonorrheal tonsillitis - a gift from bornagain daddies.
He sees much of it as a product of the
apathy of average Americans who have
"cried out for a 'single answer' so that they
would not have to think for themselves."
That answer, of course, is Jesus - while the
Baptist televangelists rake in billions of dollars each year. He literally screams out
against "local option" and defines these
local, usually church-based, groups as "conniving coteries of coarse Christians" which
desire to fasten their moral standards upon
local communities everywhere.
It has long been the position of American
Atheists that pornography is the result of the
Judeo-Christian treatment of sex and womenfolk. In his long (fifty pages) chapter of
"Sex, Pornography, Violence & The Bible"
the author, independently, comes to the
same conclusion. He emphasizes that the
debasement of women in Western culture
stems from misogynistic biblical concepts,
as well as from the first theorists of Christianity. One of the greatest theorists he dismisses with the clause, "the one-time pagan
whoremonger Augustine who became a
Christian bishop of the City of Hippo after
he put away his mistresses and baptized his
bastard son." Christianity is, of course,
based on Judaism, and this religion more
than others of the same era of conception
has held women in the lowest esteem.
The author, also, is an ardent defender of
homosexuality as being one expression of
normal human sexuality.
Ide takes a dim view of America's future
and cannot understand why all our citizens

December 1986

do not see what he sees. He draws extensively on newspaper articles in just one U.S.
city, Dallas, Texas. Citing their sources,
which are generally news services (Associated Press, United Press International), he is
convinced that evidence for the Christianization of the country is everywhere evident.
It is obvious to him that these forces of evil
were able to dominate the nation as early as
1980 and that the worst is yet to come.
"Ultimately this crimson path of calloused
clerics culminates into the liquidation and
execution of all human freedom."
The book was issued by a small press and
it is unfortunate that it is marred with a
number of typesetting errors.
Each chapter is followed by extensive
notes, most often as many as ten to fifteen
pages. They are, however, set in very small
type. This is regrettable, for the author uses
the notes extensively to add further historic
and contemporary information. One on the
studies concerned with incest is extremely
important and replete with all available citations. A large group of notes deals with the
Southland Corporation's 7-ELEVEN stores
being the battleground between Playboy,
Penthouse, and the Meese Commission.
Still another aids in understanding the beginnings of the feminist movement. Further, it is
now necessary to research those first antigay encyclicals of Gregory VII (1020-85),
who was the pope from 1073 to his death in
1085. All of the notes are extensive enough
to inform the reader, in depth, concerned
with every aspect of the fight against the
return of the Dark Ages.
Even in these notes, the author is angry.
He cannot restrain himself from taking a
poke at one or the other of our nation's
current "saviors."
In the last four pages of the notes he lists
over fiftybooks most currently under attack
by the Neo-Fundamentalists. It is not the
isolated instance you read about in your
newspaper, as only a part of the recent history of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn
attests. For that book was challenged at
Winnetka, Illinois, in 1976; in Warrington,
Pennsylvania, in 1981; in Davenport, Iowa,
in 1981; in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1982;
in Houston, Texas, in 1982;in State College,
Pennsylvania Area School District in 1983;
in Springfield, Illinois, in 1984; and in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1984. Please note in this list
all of the "backward, Southern" states and
you will see why Ide is worried.
So, also, is American Atheists worried.
This is a recommended book. ~

American Atheist

"Me Too" is a feature designed to
showcase short essays written by readers in response to topics recently covered by the American Atheist or of
general interest to the Atheist community.
Essays submitted to "Me Too" (P.O.
Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117)
should be 700 to 900 words long.
to express my views on the subject
of the celebrations of the seasonal solstices and equinoxes. I am totally in favor of
such celebrations. First, by celebrating the
Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, in
particular, corresponding to Christmas and
Easter, we can do our part in exposing the
mythological origins of these religious holidays.
We Atheists all know that the Bible is one
huge myth interspersed here and there with
a little history. We know that most, ifnot all,
Jewish holidays have their origin in pagan
Canaanite/Babylonian festivals commemorating the agricultural cycle of planting and
harvesting, in short, the fertility cycle. We
also know that the two main Christian holidays are also derived from pagan agricultural celebrations. The Feast of Saturnalia in
honor of Saturn, Roman god of agriculture,
is celebrated December 17-December 25,
which includes the shortest day of the year
(Winter Solstice). This was a time of rejoicing, as it meant that after the shortest day of
the year the days would gradually become
longer, signifying the rebirth of life. Christmas is always celebrated on December 25
for the simple reason that it was already a
popular and customary time for celebration
and that Christ became a substitution for
the agricultural cycle commemorating birth,
followed by death, followed by rebirth.
Hence, we come to Easter, originally a
pagan holiday commemorating a feast to a
pagan goddess. However, Easter always
occurs on the first Sunday after the full
moon occurring on or next after the 21st of
March (Spring Equinox), originally a time to
celebrate the spring resurrection or ascent
of the goddess, and in Sumerian/Babylonian
mythology, for example, her physical reunion with her husband/lover coinciding
with spring planting and resulting in renewed
life.Question: IfJesus is the most important
person/god who was ever born, why then
doesn't anyone know his actual birth and
death dates? Answer: A real christ was
never crucified or resurrected in the springtime; for that matter, he was never even
born, neither in December nor in any other
month. To religionists Iemphasize the pagan

Austin, Texas

origins of Christmas and Easter and stress

that if it were not for such pagan festivals
connected to the seasonal planting cycle,
they would not be celebrating their inane
Christian holidays. It should be noted, however, that the seasonal changes in the pagan
religions personified by goddesses and gods,
while they had to do with life and death,
emphasized rejoicing in life on earth.
Which brings me to my second reason life.Even the Christians would never be able
to pray their way into heaven ifthey were not
already livinglifeon earth. The solstices and
equinoxes all denote the change of seasons,
but these seasonal changes could never take
place without one very important factor the sun. How many persons are consciously
aware or even know that the sun is the principle source of all heat, light, and energy for
the entire solar system; that it is the reason
we have weather, generating the heat
necessary to change the atmosphere, which
determines weather. How many know that
the sun is 93 million miles away from earth,
and yet on a hot sunny day it seems so near.
Just imagine how small earth is in comparison! This natural atomic heating plant hits

earth with 126 trillion horsepower/energy

every second. It's been inexistence before
and since the beginning of life because without it there would be no life.
Of course, other components and forces
of nature, molecules, atoms, nuclear fission,
nitrogen, oxygen, etc., to name a few, are
essential to or are components of all living
things. But without heat, light, or energy,
could life ever have evolved as we know it? I
think not. Therefore, I feel that we Atheists
ought to recognize (not worship) the sun as
essential to life because it is life on earth
which we are all concerned about. Isn't that
what makes us different from the religionists
who are preparing for their imaginary life
after death. And what better way to recognize the sun's life-givingattributes and nature
in general than to celebrate the solstices and
the equinoxes. It makes a lot more sense to
me to drink and be merry celebrating a natural event such as a solstice than an unnatural
one such as the birth of a nonexistent god.
- Janet Akulin
New York


'" KNOW the Atheists are a lot of trouble, but if we ignore them the others
will get suspicious."

December 1986

Page 45


In The Matter Of Rufo Baes

Some time ago, the American Atheist
asked for contributions for several months
running for Rufo Baes in the Philippines,
following a cyclone which hit the island on
which he lived. I have wondered what happened to Baes during the revolution which
removed Marcos and installed Aquino and
also, just generally, how he is doing. Can we
have an up-to-date report?
Keegan Brown
American Atheists first issued a plea for
assistance for a fellow Atheist, Rufo Baes,
and his family in the February 1985 issue of
this journal. On November 5, 1984, the
super typhoon "Undang" had wiped out his
home and his small independent business.
His baby daughter (age seven months) had
died from meningitis and he was inundated
with medical and hospital bills in addition to
the loss of his possessions.
American Atheists began a fund for him
with an initial$100 and requested tha't U.S.based Atheists help as they could. Money
was received in a sporadic way and dutifully
sent to the Baes. In April 1985 we reported
in the journal that a total of $770 had been
received at The Center and sent to ire Philippines in several transfers. Whatever the
amount sent, each transfer of funds cost
$8.00 U.S., and Baes was required to pay 1
percent of money received to the Philippine
Baes wrote on January 18, February 1,
February 25, and March 9, the basic part of
which letters were also dutifully reported in
that April 1985 issue.
A follow-up report appeared in the June
1985 issue of this journal that another $175
had been sent to the Philippines, all from
small contributions of Atheists in the States.
By the end of summer, a total of $1,550.55
had been sent to Rufo Baes.
On August 7 another letter was received
from Baes, advising that the money sent in
August had arrived. He reported that 25
percent of the money he had received was
going to the repair of his home, that "some
of the money" was to be shared with his

Page 46

Rufo Baes (far right) and his family.

poorest sisters and brothers to repair their
damaged houses hit by the typhoon, and
that the rest, approximately 50 percent,
would be "used properly as our capital in my
sariling sikap, piggery, duckery project" to
improve his economic condition. He had at
the time wanted to send a picture of his
family but upon payment of the cost of the
same, the photographer disappeared with
the money. He had no picture.
In explaining the situation in the Philippines he noted:
These months of July and August
are the months' of economic crises
due to the scarcity of rice and high
cost of prices of the commodities.
People here like us are eating China
Another letter was received on August 14.
This related that the money received earlier
in August had been put into "our government bank for clearance." Subsequently,
the bank refused to return cash for more
than 50 percent of the deposit.
On August 21 another letter was received
again with a promise of a picture which he
felt essential for the American Atheist magazine. At this point he had added his "poor
brothers and sisters" (an unknown number
of each) to the appeal for funding. He had
spent one week in the hospital in June and
two weeks in his home "resting." He had
"returned again to college." The cost of
building material had risen 10 percent. Some
repair work had been done, "but they had

December 1986

not fully finished the lower down of the

house." He had started his piggery and
duckery projects, then expected "to be sold
in the months of November and December."
Scarce rice had to be mixed with corn for
food consumption. Each of the three letters
was somewhat stereotyped with thematic
repetition of the above and lengthy appeals
for what appeared to be the need for longterm financial aid.
On September 17 another letter was
received, and this did contain the picture
printed here. Baes wrote (excerpted):
This picture was taken last August
6, 1985. Nursery houses of my pig-

gery, duckery made of Nipa and bamboo were totally damaged. : . washed
out last Nov. 5, 1984.
From your fund sent, we were able
to pay all of our accounts in the hospitals and some debts.
My poor sisters were also affected
by the Super-typhoon and I was able
to share [with] them 10percent of the
amount sent.
The aid or fund sent to us is of great
help to us especially [in] this time of
economic crisis. It will take us three or
four years to recover our loss of property and livelihood projects.
We are very much grateful to you
and all American Atheists for the
great help extended to us.
We sincerely ask for another appeal for the Rufo Baes Fund.

American Atheist


At this point, about $1,750 U.S. had been
transmitted to Rufo Baes, in a country
where $250 a year is a good salary. He had
received from his American Atheist friends
the equivalent of what a steady worker
would have for income in seven years.
It was felt that perhaps another appeal
should not be made until Baes reported on
the results of his piggery, duckery sales later
in the year. American Atheists had begun
with the object of assisting Ruio Baes, a
single Atheist with his wife (after their child
had died), and had apparently ended up
giving financial assistance to a large clan.
The picture revealed five able-bodied adults
and a very substantial (for the Philippines)
home. This gave The American Atheist
Center some pause.
An American businessman wrote that he
was going to the Philippines, and we asked if
he could visit the Baes family, which he
promised to do.
October 14 another letter was received,
the thrust of which was that another appeal
for the Rufo Baes family must be made.
We already paid all our accounts
for the hospitalization and medical expenses of my deceased baby daughter. For the partial roofless damage of
my house, we had finished the repair
and reconstruction by 80 percent. For
my sariling sikap, 1had initiated capital such as piggery, duckery, etc. 1
had also shared my poorest sisters by
10 percent to 15 percent of the fund
sent to us.
For my house, there was a remaining 20 percent to be repaired. There is
need of 75 percent capital to finance
my sariling sikap projects. The most
important for us to exert more efforts
is the sariling sikap projects. My sariling sikap projects need capital to
completely finance [them}.
My family, sisters and relatives
acknowledge grateful thanks for your
kind donation or help.
Other letters were received on October
22, November 4, and November 25, 1985.
They were stereotyped, repetitious appeals
for more funds, as was another in early
1986,on January 18 which appealed primarilyfor sariling sikaps capital.
Frankly, wehadnot-ofcourse-made
that "last appeal" to our readers for we had
suddenly become wary of the situation.
Even in the last letter there was no mention
that the raising of pigs, ducks, or vegetables
had been attempted at all during the entire
year of 1985.Also, suddenly American Athe-

Austin, Texas

ists had been put into the position of aiding

an entire clan. With the Roman Catholic
church claiming 85 percent of the population and Rufo Baes being very careful not to
designate anyone other than himself in his
family as Atheist, it was thought that caution was the better part of our approach.
On February 22 Ferdinand Marcos fled
the Philippines and "the deeply religious"
Corazon Aquino took power - as she says
- only with the aid of the Roman Catholic
church and its Cardinal Sin, now her mainstay advisor.
Inquiries were then made by American
Atheists as to the effect of the political
upheaval. And, after the downfall of Marcos
a letter was finally received on April 16. In
this, Rufo said that his "relatives and family"
were appealing for funds again. Meanwhile,
American Athiests had heard nothing from
our member who had hoped to visit the
Baes family. From Rulo there was no mention of the change of government and its
Letters dated August 16, September 12,
and October 16 were then received. There
was no mention at all of the sariling sikaps
project. Instead Rufo sent his employment
resume and asked for employment. Basically he stated that he was age thirty-six,
had a bachelor's in elementary education
and a master's in administration and supervision. His employment record listed twentyone years of full employment primarily as a
teacher and school administrator.
He has been employed continuously, as a
teacher, during the entire period of time that
aid has been sent to him by members of
American Atheists. He is currently still employed in that capacity. He feels, however,
that his salary as a teacher cannot adequately support "his family." American
Atheists is in the embarrassing position of
not knowingjust exactly of whom his family
consists, how many children he has, or if he
considers his brothers and sisters to be a
part of his (extended?) family. Baes was not
dependent on his sariling sikap for primary
income at all.

His letter explained that his father had

died when he was age ten and that he had
taken a job as a newsboy to put himself
through school. He describes his family as
poor, then and now.
We do not know if we have made a
proper decision or not. The money which
American Atheists furnished to Rufo Baes,
according to his recounting of it, paidfor the
entire medical, hospital, and funeral expenses of his small child; assisted him to
repair his home from typhoon damage; gave
him some money toward continuing his own
business; and even furnished him enough
money to share with his brothers and sisters. Perhaps that is sufficient outreach, at
this time. We tend to think that it is. Atheists
are self-sufficient. This is the core of their
way of life. A death in the family in 1984, a
typhoon in late 1985 ... these are tragedies
which can come. We understand, and we
have reached out.
The Philippines are not heaven on earth.
But we feel that it is not proper for American
Atheists to assist one stricken family alone
and to support them for a projected three or
four years ahead - for we do not even
know to whom that support goes, or really
You should let us hear from you if you
have a different opinion concerning the Rufo
Baes situation.
"Letters to the Editor" must be
either questions or comments of
general concern to Atheists or
Atheism. Submissions should be brief
and to the point. Space limitations
allow that each letter should be two
hundred words, or preferably, less.
Please confine your letters to a single
issue only. Mail them to:
American Atheist
P.O. Box 2117
Austin, TX 78768-2117

the show-me state of mind
Atheists hardly take anything for granted, even if it's in their own
magazine, the American Atheist.
So if you have a question, objection, projection .:speculation,
comment, or critique, don't just say it to yourself. Say it in the American Atheist. Write a letter to the editor. Or compose a short essay for
"Me Too." Or, if something puzzles you, send a note to "Ask A.A."
Remember, the American Atheist can't be the voice of all Atheists
unless you add your voice, too!
December 1986

Page 47




The telephone listings below are the various services where you may listen to short comments on state/church
issues and viewpoints originated by the Atheist community.

Phoenix, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Atheist Hotline
San Diego, California
San Francisco, California
Sonoma County, California
South Bay (San Jose), California
God Speaks
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Greater District of Columbia
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Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Northern New Jersey
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(313) 721-6630
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(914) 626-4647
(518) 346-1479
(614) 294-0300
(503) 771-6208
(215) 533-1620

Austin, Texas

(512) 458-5731

Houston, Texas
Outspoken Voice of Freedom
Salt Lake City, Utah

(713) 522-5964
(713) 527-9255
(801) 364-4939




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December 1986

American Atheist

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by Robert Ingersoll
Printed originally in the Evening Teiegram
on December 19, 1891, it aroused the wrath of
the clergy, naturally, because it was so honest. The "holey-bookers" attacked Mr. Ingersoll to the extent that he said, "Whenever an
orthodox editor attacks an unbeliever, look
out for kindness, charity, and love."
As he said in his "sermon," "The good part
of Christmas is not always Christian - it is
generally pagan; that is to say, human,
"Christianity did not come with tidings of
great joy, but with a message of eternal grief.
It came with the threat of everlasting torture
on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition
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Solstice Fantasy


The weirdest way to fantasize

While frigid Solstice thaws
Imagine Christless Christmastime!
Replaced by ...
"Jesus Claus"?







G. Tholen



















.ro uo