The Woman Who Kicked God Out of Public Schools

Madeline Murray O'Hair

The story of Madeline Muray O'Hair can be summed up in one word... bizarre.
The following are short excerpts from a variety of sources about this woman's life.

My mother: the most hated woman in America
Interview with William J. Murray

by Robert Doolan

"William Murray’s mother is perhaps America’s most famous atheist—Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She used him, while he was a student in 1963, to convince the United States Supreme Court to ban prayer and Bible-reading in public schools.

She has filed lawsuits against Pope John Paul II and evangelist Billy Graham and has battled through the US courts to try to stop astronauts from praying in space."

What William J. Murray says about his mother, Madalyn Murray O'Hair..

"My mother was not just Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the atheist leader. She was an evil person who led many to hell. That is hard for me to say about my own mother but it is true.

"When I was a young boy of ten or eleven years old she would come home and brag about spending the day in X-rated movie theaters in downtown Baltimore. She was proud of the fact she was the only woman in the movie house watching this filth. My mother’s whole life circulated around such things. She even wrote articles for Larry Flynt’s pornographic magazine, Hustler."

"William’s mother began to make head-lines in 1960, when he was at high school. He recalls that in Baltimore, Maryland, after the family’s unsuccessful attempt to defect to the Soviet Union, his mother flew into a rage when she noticed William’s school began each day with prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the American flag."

"She declared war on the practice. While she enraged many Americans over her lack of patriotism, she finally convinced the Supreme Court on June 17, 1963, to ban prayer and Bible-reading from the nation’s public schools. No Christian group filed a brief opposing them."

"In 1979, William had an idea to help get rid of his mother’s reputation as the most hated woman in America."

"He told her of a hospital which desperately needed new equipment. He suggested she buy the equipment and put a plaque on it saying, ‘A gift from Madalyn Murray O’Hair—atheist.’

‘I told her we’d call a news conference and get the story publicized all over the United States. Then people would say she’s not such a bad old gal after all.’

She fumed. ‘She said, “Why would I want to take perfectly good money and use it to buy hospital equipment? I could use that money to file lawsuits to bar pastors, priests and rabbis from being allowed to go into hospitals.”’

In what many saw as a bizarre turnaround in his life, William then found God. This son of America’s high-profile atheist, evolutionist and religion-hater, read Taylor Caldwell’s book Dear and Glorious Physician, about Luke, one of the Bible’s Gospel writers.

William rushed out at 3 o’clock one morning in a desperate search for a Bible. He found one in an all-night store. He said that as he read about why Jesus Christ had lived and died, it finally put meaning into his life. ‘I got down on my knees and repented of my sins and asked Jesus Christ into my life as Lord and Saviour.’

Excerpts from an interview with Madayn Murray O'Hair

"DOOR: Are most Atheists in the United States members of the Republican Party?
O'Hair: I think if you stop for a minute, you will understand why Atheists are Republican. They are highly individual persons. A great percentage of Atheists are people who are singularly capable of ordering their own lives. By that I mean that they are doctors, lawyers, dentists, and veterinarians; they have nobody else to tell them what to do. They are people who are able to stand-alone economically. An extraordinary number of small businessmen are Atheists across the nation. So here you have one out of every four people in the country claiming to be Atheists, according to the Gallup Poll, who want to think for themselves, do for themselves, stand independent economically, philosophically, and theologically."

DOOR: Let's go back to that time. Your son was in Junior High School. What happened, he made a decision not to pray when everyone was praying and he was persecuted for it?
O'Hair: Yes. What concern is it of anybody's if we don't pray? Why should they coerce my family, brutalize us, destroy our home and our cars, go to our employers, ostracize us, and persecute us, because we don't want to participate in what they're doing? I think that the most ugly, vicious, brutal, hate-filled persons in the world are Christians. I think that a very fundamental core feeling of Christianity is intolerance. Here you had a family professing something that the Christians did not profess and they were intolerant of my holding that opinion.
DOOR: And that was your motivation then for the court action?
O'Hair: Our country was predicated on the proposition that religion is and ought to be a private affair between a man and his God. Here was a situation, which was enforceable by existing law. I was an attorney at the time and the only way to remedy an existing law is to have that law struck down the United States Supreme Court, or have a new and different law passed. So I took legal action. It was also something personal having to do with my child and the coercion upon him to pray whether he wanted to or not.
DOOR: If they had not taken the position to make your son pray, if it had not been personal, would you still have taken it to court?
O'Hair: Yes, the persecution on my family was just an incident in the battle.
DOOR: How much did it cost to get Christian doctrine dismissed from schools? And how do you feel about some schools still openly teaching religion?
O'Hair: Ninety-five percent of schools across the nation are in compliance with the United States Supreme Court ruling. Schools that are flagrantly teaching religion are showing children defiance of the law and our Constitution, and teaching our children to be criminal. They are saying primarily that you can get away with breaking any law if the reasons are religious. As for the financing, personally it cost me my employment, my home, my reputation, and my family. But as an organization, we relied almost entirely on the American Atheist community to support the Bible prayer case. In actual legal fees and court costs it was about $25,000. The average Atheist sent me $2.67 over the four-year court fight.
DOOR: You said earlier that Christians are the most ugly, hate-filled persons in the world. Do you see any difference between someone who says they are a Christian and somebody who says they are a born again Christian?........

Read More of the interview:

An even more bizarre end to her life:

O'Hair founded the group American Atheists in 1963 and remained its leading spokesperson until 1995, when she and two of her adult children vanished after leaving a note saying they would be away temporarily. The trio appeared to have taken with them at least $500,000 in American Atheist funds; one private investigator concluded that they had fled to New Zealand. Eventually suspicion turned to David Roland Waters, an ex-convict who had worked at the American Atheist offices. Police concluded that he and accomplices had kidnapped the O'Hairs, forced them to withdraw the missing funds, and then murdered them. Waters eventually pled guilty to reduced charges and in January 2001 he led police to three bodies buried on a remote Texas ranch, which proved to be O'Hair and her children.

The whole story in a nutshell:

O'Hair Radio Interview: Her views in her own words.

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