Update on American Atheists

The following is from The Match! no. 88, Summer 1993, p. 28 (P.O. Box 3488, Tucson, AZ 85722, $2.50; Fred Woodworth's The Atheist Cult [sic] is available for $2 from the same address)

Plunging even farther into richly deserved oblivion, American Atheists Incorporated, the ghastly cult [sic] rigidly controlled by Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her son and granddaughter, has lately undergone further fracturing. Last year the O'Hairs, in the corporate guise of the "Society of Separationists," sued one of their former major financial supporters, John B. Massen of San Francisco, for "misappropriation of trade secret"--- i.e., stealing the mailing list. Massen had resigned his chapter-directorship and asked that a friend of his take it over, when Madalyn began screeching that the replacement had stolen money from her 30 years before. The fellow tried to write her a letter clearing up the mistaken identification, but MMOH wouldn't read it because she didn't like his typing. (!) She then expelled Massen from the organization and has now instituted this suit.

Also named as parties being sued are 100 individuals specified only as "John Does" who are trundled in with this kind of legal language: "Each of the defendants was the agent of the remaining defendants, and in doing the things hereafter alleged, was acting within the course and scope of such agency, and with permission and consent of his/her co-defendants." The O'Hairs claim that when Massen left the organization, other members began to drop out also, thus proving that he contacted them and caused their defection. The suit refers to Atheists as "clients" and to their names as "trade secrets." It adds that "established relationships between members and the Society of Separationists normally continue unless interfered with." A very interesting claim for an outfit that supposedly encourages independence of thought.

Meanwhile, at "GHQ" in Austin Texas, more firings of employees and lack of support from the erstwhile faithful have left the O'Hair flagship publication, American Atheist Magazine, stranded high and dry and hard aground. In a letter in response to an inquiry about the publication, dated February 23, 1993, R. Murray O'Hair states: "During the past three years, we have faced greater and greater difficulties in publishing the American Atheist magazine on a regular basis. Because of the current irregularity of the publication schedule, we are no longer accepting new subscriptions to the magazine." Four days earlier, long-time employee Jim Steamer was fired by the O'Hairs with the typical rude, accusation-filled bluster that a large number of sadder but wiser atheists across the country have come to be familiar with.

In another split, former members of the Houston Texas AA Inc. chapter who left the O'Hair organization were accused of radio-show theft when they continued to produce their Atheist Hour under their own auspices. Apparently seeking to prevent these individuals from expressing their own views on their own time with their own money, the O'Hairs' ultra-loyal spokesman Don Sanders stated to newspapers: "When they broke away from the national chapter, they aired the show using the same format, with the same individuals, at the same location, with the same production staff." The O'Hair lawsuit for this one seeks $100,000 in damages and $10,000 attorney fees, and it demands that the Houston group cease their broadcasts.

As always, we here at The Match deplore religious authoritarianism that seeks to impose on society the dictates of some "holy" books or priests,and we add that all supernatural credos and theologies are, in our view, utterly mistaken. But mistaken also is any alleged "cause organization" that thinks it can subjugate its members and get away indefinitely with contemptuousness and viciousness toward everyone in the name of some "higher good." There is no higher good than dealing fairly and decently with your fellow beings.

-- F.W.

Commentary by Jim Lippard:

[The same issue of The Match! includes a letter to the editor reporting on the content of the American Atheist from August-September 1964, prior to Madalyn Murray O'Hair's control of the magazine. (At that time, it was published by the Freethought Society of America.) This issue contains criticism of O'Hair for claiming sole victory in the school prayer/ Bible reading Supreme Court case (Schempp vs. Abington Public School Board, which she joined with her own case two years after it was filed). Issue 87 of The Match! printed an extensive bibliography of published criticisms of the American Atheists and O'Hair (all from freethought publications) which I posted to this newsgroup about a year ago.]

Jim Lippard

Go Back to Shy David's Murray / O'hair Page.