HE ONCE HELPED
'THE MOST HATED WOMAN
AND NOW HE
SERVES THE 'KING OF KINGS' THROUGH RADIO
The incredible story of the radical turn-around for broadcaster,
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
November 16, 2005
NADU, INDIA (ANS) -- Charlie Butts
has a story to tell that you couldn’t make up. For he spent several
years booking atheist Madelyn Murray O’Hair on radio talk shows in
American so she could spread her vitriolic message of hatred against
God (who she didn’t believe in) and now he’s the religion editor for
USA Radio Network in Dallas, Texas, and a born-again Christian.
this extraordinary story recently during a bumpy bus journey in Tamil
Nadu, India, where we were traveling with a team of journalists to
report on the Tsunami-relief work of Gospel for Asia, and so I asked
him to share his incredible story.
Butts was born in Nebraska, but only spent about two years there. “I
actually grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, where I graduated from high school
and went on from there,” he said. “A lot of people ask me how I became
an atheist to begin with and, of course, we’re all born as
non-believers; we have to learn to become Christians. But I was a
victim of some very severe child abuse and, for that reason, I grew up
with a total disrespect for anyone; or a lack of trust for anyone that
said that they loved you.”
When I asked Butts if it was sexual or violent abuse or violent abuse,
he said, “It was a full gamut of abuse,” he said. “The earliest memory
I had was of being grabbed by my ankles, swung around, around, around,
and then thrown up against a living room wall, and I was never allowed
to ever go to a doctor.
“But, of course, as we know, Christ can take something like that and
make a mountain of a human being out of it. But in those days, I had
such a total lack of respect for authority, and also had a lack of
respect for the Word of God and preachers.
“The one church that I did go to a few times was basically had
hellfire-and-damnation type of preaching where if you had the slightest
flaw in you, you were going to burn in Hell for an eternity. I had
absolutely no use for that kind of authority or that kind of love. So I
made up my mind at an extremely early age that God did not exist, that
anybody that believed in Him would have to be a fool, some weak-minded
HOW HE FIRST MET MADELYN MURRAY O’HAIR
the kind of atmosphere in which I grew up. I met Madelyn Murray O’Hair
by mail first when I lived in El Paso. I corresponded with her and her
office. And, when I moved to San Antonio, I struck up a relationship
with her family. (Pictured: Madelyn Murray O'Hair).
“Madelyn Murray O’Hair was the type of person I wanted to be around,
because not did she deny God but she did it loudly, and utilized every
means possible to cram her belief down everybody’s throats. Madelyn
could be a very warm and cordial kind of person, but the closer you got
to her, the more she started pushing you away. I never encountered an
individual who could rip a person into a million pieces as easily as
Madelyn did, just strictly with her tongue.
“She had an amazing capability of cutting right straight to your heart
and making you feel like you were two inches tall. Madelyn knew the
Bible very well. She could quote from the Bible, and we had many
frequent discussions where she would use the Bible against Christians
to try to defeat their own arguments.
“She was my kind of gal there for awhile because of all the lawsuits
and the damage that had been done I felt like when she was in the
public eye that she was a little bit too aggressive, too much of an
acid-mouth person who would easily turn people against her, but she
seemed to kind of enjoy it. The family lived a very isolated sort of
life there in Austin, Texas. (Pictured: O'Hair protesting at the White
“I don’t know that they ever had any security there, but they generally
would go to the office, come back home, and they lived behind closed
doors to a large extent. They had a small group of friends, all of them
Butts said that at the time he was working as a volunteer for the
American Atheist Association, he had been working as a broadcaster
since 1961 at the time he was helping O’Hair, he was staffer at an
AM/FM combination station in San Antonio, Texas.
“My role as a volunteer for the American Atheist Association was to
help arrange radio talk shows for Madelyn,” he said. “And it was kind
of strange that I would call, very enthusiastic about what I was doing
for her, trying to arrange a show for her, and she’d come on the line
and immediately rip me into a million pieces. And then when she was
through I would ask her, ‘Do you want to go on the show or not?’ And
she’d give me an answer and I’d set it up.
“What would send her out of control was when she felt like she was
losing control. In her family situation, she got along very well with
her children as long as they toed the line and did exactly what she
wanted and the way in which she wanted it done. If they got out of line
with that, they’d had it.
“Most of it was done by phone, but occasionally I’d drive to Austin
when she wanted to have a meeting and needed to do some fundraising,
things like that.”
He said that it was her battle to get prayer out of schools that first
attracted him to her cause.
TOTALLY COMMITTED TO HER CAUSE
protesting at the White House
He said for
the near seven years he worked for O’Hair, he was totally committed to
“I was the kind of person that Sunday mornings I’d make sure and be
outside my apartment and any Christian walking along going to church
I’d kick a beer can in front of them,” said Butts.
So, I asked, what was the turning point for him?
“The turning point for me was when I started thinking, instead of
letting somebody else do my thinking for me,” he said. “I reached a
stage in my life where I realized that atheism did not provide a life,
in fact it provided absolutely no sense of hope whatsoever, and no
comfort. You’re born, you live and you die.
“And so I decided to start examining the enemy. And the enemy is God.
Now that’s kind of strange for an atheist to start examining God,
because then you’ve admitted that He exists.”
Charlie Butts said he started his examination by watching Christian
“I turned on TBN and I would take notes and everything that was being
said,” he stated. “I didn’t own a Bible, so I had a birthday coming up
and a brother sent some money to spend on my birthday, so I decided I’d
go to a Christian bookstore, and walked in the bookstore to select a
Bible, and good grief! What with the variety of Bibles that were there,
I didn’t know what to do. I mean, what do you do? Call Madelyn for
advice? So I found one that was $14.95, and I had some change and
that’s how I chose my first Bible.
“I read the Old Testament first because I’m kind of a history nut. I’m
not very good at it, but I just enjoy history. And that set the pace
for it, examining how the world originated and so forth. As I
progressed through the Bible, I saw so much validity to it; so much
truth, so then I started into the New Testament. And for me, that was
the right approach to do it. And I began to understand that so many of
the old atheist arguments, when you put it under a microscope, are
nothing but opinions and theory. There is no fact to it. If want any
facts, go to the Bible.
“If you take a look at some of the scientific arguments, Ray Comfort
came out with a Bible specifically for that kind of thing, and so when
that came out I certainly examined that, and I just became more
comfortable in the accuracy of the Bible. I still have a lot of
questions. It took me a long time before I realized there are certain
mysteries that you will never answer as a human being. There are
certain things you simply accept on the basis of faith.”
He said that it was then that he made his commitment to Jesus Christ.
“I finished reading the Bible and had decided that all the questions
that could be answered had been answered, and I’d watched T.V. enough
that I knew the sinner’s prayer and I knelt in the living room of my
home and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. I have never, ever
regretted it. That was some thirteen years ago.”
When asked if he told Madelyn that he was resigning from working with
her, he said, “No, I didn’t say anything to her. I was afraid of her. A
lot of people were. And then [in 1995] she was kidnapped and murdered.”
Charlie said he didn’t at first begin going to church. “At first, I
turned on TBN again, and left it on long enough to understand that I
better shut it off and get to church, because you need the instruction,
you need the fellowship, you need accountability, and you’ll find that
within most churches.
“I started going to a mega-church in Irving, Texas, but it wasn’t my
kind of thing, because the first prayer that I prayed was that God
would use me, and I kept praying that prayer and God until answered it,
and I decided to change churches.
“The first time I went to an Assemblies of God church at the church
that I’m currently with and have been for a number of years, there was
a drunk passed out on the front steps of the church and I knew that was
a church for me. I soon discovered that the leaders of the top two
gangs in Irving lived in apartment complexes on either side of the
church. You talk about a mission field; I’m going to have work cut out
for me until the end of my life.”
A BULLET THROUGH THE WALL OF THE CHURCH
He recounted the day when a bullet actually came through the wall of
the church while he was attending a service.
“This is one thing, the gangs, generally speaking, have a motto that
they will leave churches alone, but that doesn’t stop them from
accidentally firing a gun outside,” he said. “But, yeah, a bullet
during the service did fire through the wall of the church, through the
sanctuary into the wall.”
Shortly after he started attending this church, he lost his job. “I
worked for a local station, and a new owner came through and decided
they could do things cheaper, so they fired 38 people and I was number
38,” he said. “I had absolutely no knowledge of the existence of USA
Radio Network, but apparently they had heard about me by reputation,
and a week and a half after I was fired they called me. And I was hired
on the spot.
“I’m the religion editor, which means I handle all Christian-interest
news ranging from abortion to homosexuality, religious liberty issues,
and so forth and so on. And this is God’s way of using whatever skills
I’ve got, which I asked Him to do.”
I asked Charlie if Madelyn Murray O’Hair was alive today, what would he
says, to her. He smiled briefly, and then said, “Shove off, lady. I
believe in God now. Can we have a little talk?”
Would she have gone berserk at him for saying this?
“I don’t think so, because towards the end of her life, she did warm up
to a pastor -- I don’t know the pastor’s name -- but he used to come
out to her house for dinner and she would listen intently to what he
was saying. I don’t know that that was an indication of a change in her
thinking at all. I don’t believe that it was, but at least she was
I then asked him what he would say to atheists today who possibly had
reasons to be angry like he was.
“I would say that if you have a justification for being angry in your
life, to deal with it,” he said. “You will not solve any problems in
life in carrying that anger with you. You must deal with it. If you’ll
take a look at what Christ has to offer, He can carry you through
everything, and that includes anger.”
And what would he say to people who have been victims of abuse?
“People who have been abused use that abuse as an excuse for the way
they are,” he said. “And the truth of the matter is there is not
excuse. What I’m trying to say is you can use those excuses if you want
to, but you reach a certain point in your life where you have to accept
the responsibility for the way you think and the way you act. There are
Note: According to the Who2 website, Madelyn Murray O'Hair was one of
the litigants in the case of Murray vs. Curlett, which led the U.S.
Supreme Court, in a 1963 decision, to ban organized prayer in public
schools. The decision made O'Hair the country's most famous atheist and
such a controversial figure that in 1964 Life magazine called her “the
most hated woman in America.”
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.
Extra credit: The children who disappeared with O'Hair were Jon Garth
Murray, her son, and Robin Murray O'Hair, her granddaughter by another
son, William. O'Hair also had adopted Robin Murray, making her both her
daughter and her grandchild... O'Hair's son William announced his
conversion to Christianity on Mother's Day in 1980 and became an
outspoken evangelist for his new faith... A rumor continues to
circulate online that the FCC is planning to ban religious broadcasting
based on a petition by O'Hair; that rumor is not true.
Note: I would like to thank Shirley Hunt for transcribing this
|Dan Wooding is an award winning
British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife
Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to
Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS).
Wooding is the co-host of the weekly radio show, "Window on the World"
and was, for ten years a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in
Washington, DC. He also co-hosts three days a week a live phone-in show
called "Pastor's Perspective" with Brian Brodersen which is carried on
KWVE, Santa Ana, California, and other radio stations across the USA.
Wooding is the author of some 42 books, the latest of which is his
autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron
Books. To order a copy, go to www.fromtabloidtotruth.com.