Across Pacific & Asia  
By Rev. Austin Miles

BRENTWOOD, NORTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- The current email hoax that began circulating October 3, 2001, if taken seriously, would border on the miraculous.

This latest variation of a theme would have us believe that less than 1000 people, representing an organization that has been disbanded, would be able to provide a petition with 287,000 of their signatures, on the urgent orders of a leader that has been dead since 1995.

Incredibly, Christians by the droves have bought into this latest 'alert' that shouts in its header; Madalyn Murray O'Hair At Work Again.

According to the missive, the famous atheist (apparently not content to remain quietly in her grave) and her organization (American Atheists, Inc. which also appears to have experienced a sort of resurrection) are out to stop the popular television series, Touched By An Angel, because it uses the word, "God."

Furthermore, they have enough signatures on their petition #2493, now in the hands of the FCC, to have all Christian programs prohibited from the airwaves.

And Christians everywhere are called to action to flood the offices of FCC and CBS TV in protest. "We are praying for one million signatures," the email states, "please don't take this lightly. We ignored this lady (O'Hair) once and lost prayer in our schools and in offices across the nation. Please stand up for your religious freedom and let your voice be heard."  The email calls for Christian unity, which will defeat the enemy.

This rumor is not new. It has been recycled since it began in 1974 when two broadcasters, Jeremy Lansman and Lorenzo Milam, who did not even know O'Hair, petitioned the FCC, according to the agency, to "inquire into the operating practices of stations licensed to religious organizations." The FCC assigned the petition number RM-2493. Many will agree that such an inquiry was overdue.

Within that time frame, Madalyn Murray O'Hair publicly boasted that her organization, American Atheists, Inc., had a mailing list of over 27,000 people. (It was more like 5000).  Somehow, these numbers found each other (the petition number and the membership assertion) and the great urban myth emerged.

The word came forth that O'Hair had gathered 27,000 signatures on behalf of RM-2493. According to Focus On The Family publication, Citizen (Dec.2000/Jan.2001), the petition's intent was quickly twisted: the (new) rumor proclaimed that O'Hair wanted the FCC to ban all religious broadcasting.

And, considering her vitriolic public attacks on Christians and the Bible, the rumor was easy to believe and sprouted wings, not necessarily those of an angel. That first, misunderstood, FCC inquiry in 1975 brought 700,000 pieces of mail opposing Rm-2493 to the FCC offices. The outpouring was unlike anything the agency had ever seen.

The Lansman-Milam petition was denied in August 1975 not only because the FCC was overwhelmed, but because the First Amendment requires the agency to stay out of the religion business. However, according to Citizen, it was too late. The gate had been left open.

In an interview with ANS, Rosemary Kimball, Director of Media Relations with the Federal Communications Commission said, "Madalyn Murray O'Hair has turned into FCC's biggest urban legend. We have tried for 26 years to stop it. It has taken on a life of its own."

In 1976, the same rumor again was circulated resulting in 4 million letters to the FCC opposing RM-2493, which had been totally defeated and shelved in 1975. Manipulated believers spent more than $1.6 million in postage alone.

The campaign was so destructive and disruptive that the FCC asked for, and received $250,000 from Congress to combat the rumor through a mass mailing to letter writers and clergy. The mail seemed to subside, but only temporarily.

In 1982, the very same rumor again surfaced, only this time there would be 287,000 signatures (instead of 27,000) for a non-existent federal hearing. What's more, according to the updated rumor, O'Hair also was campaigning to remove all Christmas programs, Christmas songs and carols from Public schools.  The FCC was bombarded with 13 million pieces of mail and faxes.  What is worse, the negative publicity this hoax generated, discredited Christians and portrayed them as society's misfits.

O'Hair was a viable villain while she was alive. Not much changed after she died. In 1999, more than 4 years after her death, word came that O'Hair was at it again.  This time the yarn was enhanced, with the CBS show, Touched By An Angel, added to O'Hair's hit list.

This re-ignited the FCC frenzy with 30 million counter petitions fired off by angry Christians flooding the agency.

And now, despite the fact that elaborate communications, ads placed in the nation's papers and in newsletters and magazines from such organizations as National Religious Broadcasters, the National Association of Evangelicals and the FCC itself, showing that this O'Hair/FCC affair is a total hoax, well meaning believers are ready and eager once again to believe the yarn, put on their armor and march off to battle.

Which makes one want to take off his hat, scratch his head and proclaim in exasperation, "Gullible Christians snookered-again? So it seems.  Not just seven times but seven times seventy times.

This latest recycle of the myth, which began October 3, 2001, frantically asks each recipient to forward the "Please Do Not Delete!" alarm to at least 1000 persons. An email is given to send a verification that this has been done   Attempts to reach that site have been unsuccessful with emails bounced back.

In yet another attempt to put this hoax to rest once and for all, Madalyn Murray O'Hair is not orchestrating anything.  She is dead, having been brutally murdered.  David R. Waters, 53, the office manager of American Atheists, was convicted in the murder. He is currently serving a 60- year sentence. Also sentenced in the conspiracy was Gary Paul Karr, 52, who received 25 years. A third man involved, Danny Fry who assisted in the kidnapping of the family was also killed by Waters, his head and hands severed.

O'Hair's organization, American Atheists, Inc. is not involved with the FCC rumor. The handful of diehards left, have no power or influence to orchestrate anything.

Bill (William) Murray, her son who became an evangelist, in an interview with Citizen, said, "America's atheist community has shrunk to almost nothing."

Ellen Johnson, who took over as president of American atheists, Inc. after O'Hair's death said to Citizen,  "They (the Christians) are reporting that we have over 200,000 signatures from atheists. Hey, if they want to say that we have that much authority and that much clout and that many members-let 'em. We're small, and we couldn't get that if we tried."

Due to inside political struggles, an alternative to American Atheists, United Atheists was co-founded by Ken Bonnell in Los Angeles in 1982. While they are ambitious for their cause, they are too busy with things within to be focused on organizing bogus projects. (They did once manage to pull a hoax in order to convince CBS TV to cancel the highly successful TV Specials, Ancient Secrets of The Bible. That hoax was exposed and cost that organization any credibility it may have had.  Their goal to destroy the series failed. The programs are currently in constant re-run on PAX and TLN, giving Ancient Secrets of The Bible more exposure than ever.)

There is no FCC petition to kick religious programs off the air. This hysteria must be stopped.  God wants to see spiritual fruits, not spiritual nuts. Don't be so quick to believe everything that comes over the internet.

Any email alarm should be investigated thoroughly before reacting and forwarding the information.

FCC's Rosemary Kimball requests that if anything comes up about FCC that is of concern, before making any response, first check out their web site, which will give answers to everything going on. That web site is:

It is time to, let Madalyn Murray O'Hair rest in peace instead of keeping her so busy.

Rev. Austin Miles is a chaplain in Northern California and a college instructor. He is an award-winning writer and has contributed articles to several magazines including Guideposts, newspapers such as the San Francisco Examiner, the author of four books and has appeared on numerous television programs including Larry King Live. He has been spotlighted in People magazine and is listed in the International Historic Whose Who Encyclopedia. He attends Harvest Time Church in Brentwood, northern California, and teaches Bible there.

For a related story on Madalyn Murray O'Hair, please go to the ANS web site: Scroll down to "More Headlines." Click, then scroll down to: Madalyn Murray O'Hair - A Startling Revelation, and click the mouse

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