Monday, August 24, 2009

AANEWS for Tuesday, August 25, 2009

#1270 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 8/25/09
A Service of AMERICAN ATHEISTS, a nationwide movement that defends
civil rights for non-believers; works for the total separation of
Church and State; and addresses issues of First Amendment public
"ATHEIST is really a thoroughly honest, unambiguous term, it admits
of no paltering and no evasion, and the need of the world, now as
ever, is for clear-cut issues and unambiguous speech."
-- Chapman Cohen
In This Issue...
* Towey behind rumors of VHA "Death Book"
* Worth Noting: no nativity creche in WA. capitol
* Celebrate your intellectual independence, join American Atheists
* Sound off on Dave's blog
* Resources
* About this list...
The on-going rumor mongering over health reform legislation has
taken another bizarre twist, with allegations about a supposed
"death book" published by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
This time, though, the distortions are not linked to K-Street
lobbyists or giant healthcare corporations, but rather the former
head of President George Bush's controversial White House Office
of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Jim Towey. On the
Fox News Sunday program, Chris Wallace interviewed Mr. Towey who
recently penned an op-editorial piece for the Wall Street Journal
headlined "The Death Book for Veterans." Towey declared that a
VHA publication was a de facto "death book" -- a claim that seems
to resonate with charges that proposed federal healthcare reform
legislation now being hammered out would establish "death panels"
to determine who receives and does not receive treatment for
potentially life-threatening diseases.
The booklet, "Your Life, Your Choices," is one of several end-of-life
materials used by the VHA. The document touches on a number of
issues often raised in private consults between older or terminally
ill patients and their doctors. The sub-title reads: "Planning
for Future Medical Decisions: How to Prepare a Living Will."
The interior text states:
"There's only one person who is truly qualified to tell health care
providers how you feel about different kinds of health care issues
--and that's you. But, what if you get sick, or injured so severely
that you can't communicate with your doctors or family members?
Have you thought about what kinds of medical care you would want?
Do your loved ones and health care providers know your wishes?"
The booklet touches upon related issues such as quality of life,
and even discusses the end-of-life decision making process involving
family and religious teachings.
The Sunday Fox segment, though, painted a different picture of
the VHA booklet. Mr. Wallace re-enforced Towey claim that the
publication encouraged aging vets to "pull the plug," presumably
to save money on rising health care costs. In his Wall Street
Journal piece Towey had described the 52-page booklet as a chilling
"slippery slope" that "can start with cost containment but quickly
become a systematic denial of care."
Mr. Towey, though, may have both a religious conflict of interest
and a financial investment regarding healthcare reform and the VHA
booklet. A Roman Catholic and member of the Knights of Columbus,
Towey headed the Bush administration's Faith-based Initiative from
2002 to 2006. He actively promoted federal and other funding for
religion-based social programs, all the while decrying "militant
secularism" which, he said, stood in the way of such constitutionally
suspect practices. In 1996, Towey established Dying With Dignity
which promotes its own religious agenda for end-of-life decisions
making. More than 11 million copies of Towey screed have been
Critics have already jumped on the claims made by Mr. Towey and
even Chris Wallace during the Sunday Fox newscast. Inconsistencies
and distortions from the WSJ piece have also been exposed. In the
meantime, former Alaska Gov. and GOP Vice Presidential Candidate
Sarah Palin has already linked to the Towey claims from her Facebook
web site.
The injection of religious themes into the debate over healthcare
reform may spell the end of the road for President Obama's effort
to fix a broken system. Assertions that there are provisions for
"death panels" -- and now, claims that a major federal agency is
promoting a "death book" -- suggest that fear, rather than fact,
is shaping much of public opinion on a complex and important issue.
Links and Resources used in this report:
"Death book" distortions abound on Fox News Sunday On Fox News
Sunday, Chris Wallace hosted former Bush administration aide Jim
Towey to discuss his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, "The Death
Book for Veterans," and in doing so promoted numerous distortions
about an end-of-life educational booklet used by the Veterans Health
Administration (VHA). In addition to forwarding the smear that the
booklet is a "death book," Wallace promoted Towey's distortion that
the booklet encourages veterans to "pull the plug" --it doesn't;
Wallace and Towey both claimed that the Bush administration suspended
use of the booklet -- it didn't; and Wallace claimed that a VHA
document requires doctors to direct veterans to the booklet --
it doesn't.
The VA Pulls the 'Death Book' [UPDATE: Just One Local VA Website]
According to David Freddoso, the Department of Veterans Affairs
has yanked "Your Life, Your Choices: Planning for Future Medical
Decisions," a guide to writing a living will, from the main portion
of its web site. That's not quite right; a Website for the Puget
Sound VA has done this, not the VA itself. But it's the first buckle
in a campaign to turn the document into a cause for scandal.
The Death Book for Veterans
<>s new chief pledges to lead research agency 'as a scientist'
Newly sworn-in National Institutes of Health chief Francis Collins,
who founded an institute in May aimed at nurturing the coexistence
of science and religion, announced Monday he had resigned from his
foundation to focus on his research chief duties. "I want to reassure
everyone I am here to lead the NIH as best I can, as a scientist,"
Collins said, noting Internet and editorial page concerns about
Collins, as an evangelical Christian, leading a science organization.
Sex and the bible: The verses you didn't learn in Sunday school
As a kid I always viewed the Bible as one of the world's dullest
texts... until I realized my Sunday school teacher was just
glossing over the good stuff. Masturbation, threesomes, rape,
public urination, sodomy, bestiality, prostitution-it's like Andy
Dick's life story compiled into one compact book. In addition to
the daughter pimping and concubine collecting stories, there's
actually some surprisingly tender verses about the pleasure of sex
and the beauty of the female form (If you're a breast man then good
news-the Bible is, too).
Why atheists care about religion ATHEISTS, at least most of us,
would be happy to see the faithful lose their religion. Many of
us, indeed, are keen to disabuse them of their beliefs. We write
critically about religion, we advocate atheism, some of us even spend
money to put ads on buses. Our animus toward religion has struck
some observers as paradoxical, even inconsistent. It's like we're
on a crusade for a new religion. Just when the old religions have
sworn off proselytizing and taken up tolerance, atheists embraced
the project of converting the masses.
Reasonable Doubt: Creating a stir by supporting science All the
furor started with a seemingly simple question: What should be
taught in public school science classes? Science, obviously. But
it quickly became clear that many people are hazy on what science
actually is, especially biological science; and how it differs from
moral allegories in religious texts.
Afghan Elections Seen As A Setback For Women For women, Afghanistan's
recent elections appear to have been more of a setback than a step
forward. Early reports strongly suggest that voter turnout fell
more sharply for women than for men in Thursday's polls. Election
observers blame Taliban attacks, a dearth of female election workers
and hundreds of closed women's voting sites.
Wash. bans Capitol holiday displays, tree to stay The Christmas
tree can stay - but no more Nativity scene. That's the word from
Washington's Capitol, where protests erupted last winter over
competing private holiday displays. The furor focused on an atheist
placard, which said that religion was "myth and superstition." It
was stolen and recovered, and hundreds came to a protest rally. The
atheists were responding to a private Nativity scene, which was
set up next to a long-standing Christmas tree.
Here's a "stimulus package" for Atheists! We know that times are
difficult. Nonbelievers are like everyone else in the country
--you can get laid off or put on part-time, you can see important
investment and home value evaporate. And many people are cutting
costs, postponing vacations, cutting back whenever and wherever
they can.
So, American Atheists is making it easier than ever before to join
up in the fight for Reason, separation of church and state, and
the effort to give America's unbelieving community "a place at the
table" in the discussion over First Amendment public policy. You
can join American Atheists for only $20 per year; you receive the
American Atheist Magazine, a leading journal for news and opinion;
plus all of the discounts and other benefits of membership. It's
easy to do! Visit
to sign up using our secure, on-line transaction server.
Your membership in American Atheists shows that you care about taking
a stand for Reason, civil liberties for Atheists, and the total,
absolute separation of church and state! Membership is open to all
who agree with our Statement of Aims and Purposes. Joining American
Atheists, though, also has it rewards! Benefits and Privileges of
Membership include.
Membership dues and donations to American Atheists are tax
Your personal Membership card qualifying you at Conferences,
Conventions and other organizational activities for special
Membership Discounts.
A beautiful Certificate of Membership suitable for framing signed
personally by the President of American Atheists.
Participation in our on-line discussion group, AACHAT.
Participation in our special "Atheist Singles" program (see below).
A special 10% discount on ALL books and products offered through
American Atheists Press.
A special discount when you present your Membership Card for
registration at American Atheist Conventions, Regional Atheist
Meets and other select activities.
A subscription to the American Atheists Magazine - a leading source
of news about AA activism and First Amendment issues!
Eligibility in the new American Atheists Scholarship Program. The
Scholarships will provide generations of American Atheist families
with funds, and help to defer costly education expenses.
Members of American Atheists benefit from our Savings Partners
program of discounts on goods and services from both local and
national businesses. And there's a special gift waiting for you when
you join American Atheists! By joining American Atheists, you're
making a major contribution in helping to protect civil liberties
for Atheists, and preserve Jefferson's "wall of separation" between
government and religion. Let us hear from you today!
It is one of the fastest growing blogs in the
Atheist/Freethought/Secular Humanist community, and you can get in
on the discussion!
Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists is in
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wit, hot news, controversial opinion -- and polite, thoughtful
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