Madalyn Murray O'Hair and William Murray
Fighters for Religious Freedom

Greatness is often "thrust upon" people. They often do not seek to be great: their greatness comes about out of circumstance, while they go about the job of living their lives.

This was true of Madalyn Murray and William Murray. She herself was an atheist at the time. She raised her two sons to be critical thinkers, and she allowed them to make their own decisions about religion and the existance of gods. When her thirteen-year-old son William told her one day that he could no longer, in good conscience, participate in reciting coerced prayers in school, she supported his decision. They talked it over, and William decided that he would ask the school to excuse him from the daily occult ritual.

The school (Abington School District) refused. I for one cannot imagine why they refused--- the issue would have been so quickly, easily resolved if they had allowed William this right.

Having no other recourse, William decided to stay home from school and educate himself at home, until such time as the school board acknowledged his right to refrain from coerced occult rituals. His mother again agreed to support his decision, and she wrote to the school board members and superintendant informing them of William's decision.

Nearly two months passed before William's story was published in a local newspaper. The school board was furious at the publicity: it claimed they had no idea why William was not in school, and they threatened to charge him with truancy.

William decided to go back to school, on the condition that every time his class performed the daily occult ritual, he would stand up and object. Again his mother agreed to support this.

Somehow word of William's plan got to the school board before he got to class the next day, and the principle locked the door of William's classroom and preventing William from joining his classmates inside. (Can you imagine?!) For the next week, William was bodily, physically prevented from attending class in the morning, as teachers and board members ambushed him in the hallways and physically restrained him from attending class.

Until one day he managed to evade the teachers by out-sprinting them, and attended morning class. When the ritual was about to be enacted, he stood up and objected.

This was the day the beatings, death threats, vandalisms, economic sanctions, and terrorism started. William was beaten by his school mates constantly, while the school board and his teachers did nothing. One day he was beaten by about a dozen boys while the principal himself stood no more than twenty feet away, saying and doing nothing. When his mother picked him up from school, his face and shirt were covered in dried blood.

A lynch mob of boys showed up at the Murray house, demanding that Madalyn "give up" William to the mob, which of course she refused. The Police Department was given the names of the boys who were beating William and making death threats, but they did nothing.

The Murray house and car was constantly vandalized. They were spat upon when they went out in public. They were called all manner of vile names.

Remember that these were CHRISTIANS persecuting the Murrays. Hardly what Jesus is said to have taught. Certainly this was not the behavior overtly taught in churches in the mid-1960s (covertly is another matter).

Coerced ritual was eventually recognized as the evil it is: a violation of a citizens fundamental right of conscience, and a violation of the First Amendment.

Americans owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Murrays. They fought the good fight, supporting religious freedom for every citizen. If the school board had allowed William to refrain for coerced occult rituals in public schools, perhaps these rituals would still be enacted these days, here in the 1990s.

The Murrays and O'Hairs seem to have vanished utterly, and there are rumors that they have absconded after engaging in shady, if not illegal, activities. I dunno. One theory is that they are hiding in New Zealand.
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