The way the secular media reported it, Madalyn Murray O’Hair – the famous atheist who got Bible reading kicked out of public schools – was a national hero after the Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1963.
A year earlier, the Supreme Court prohibited government-sponsored prayer in schools. After O’Hair won her case, a 1964 Life magazine profile referred to her as “the most hated woman in America.”
But secularists went so far as to say the historic ruling placed the U.S. on the vanguard of a new morality with the “triumph of rationalism over superstition.”
Because she spouted a liberal agenda, reporters were willing to overlook murmurings about psychological abuse towards her children and her employees at the American Atheists organization.
When rumors surfaced of her skimming tens of thousands of dollars from her non-profit, investigative journalists turned their attention elsewhere. The latest gloss on the Madalyn mystique was applied last month in a Netflix movie which portrayed her as a doting mother and dedicated civil rights activist, her eldest son said.
William Murray III knew the real Madalyn, the churl who bullied her children and bragged to them when they were very young about watching X-rated movies. She was an ardent feminist who resented men, Bill says.
“One of her favorite stories — I’ve heard her repeat it many times — is that when I was born and the doctor told her, ‘It’s a boy,’ she asked him if there wasn’t some way he could put it back,” Bill told People magazine.
She bit him, smashed his model airplane to pieces in a fit of rage, and ridiculed his attempts to play baseball. She kept a liquor closet full and the refrigerator stocked with fattening, unhealthy foods. She extolled the virtues of sexual liberty and wrote for Hustler magazine. She even tried to defect to the Soviet Union with her entire family and supported communist causes, Bill says.
As a middle school child in Baltimore, Bill became an unwitting pawn in her 1963 Supreme Court battle against school prayer. Madalyn sued the school district and rode a movement to strike down prayer and Bible reading.
With a petulant eloquence, she tirelessly voiced the acrimonious atheism, and the media lapped up pretty much everything she served. “We find the Bible to be nauseating, historically inaccurate and replete with the ravings of madmen,” she said. “We find God to be sadistic, brutal and a representation of hatred.”
Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Phil Donahue all hosted her on their evening TV programs. Madalyn reveled in the attention. Every misfit in the country wrote her letters of praise that included generous checks of her non-profit, American Atheists, Bill says.
“My mother was an evil person, not for removing prayer from America’s schools, no, she was just evil,” Bill wrote online in 2011. “She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents’ inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations.”
While Madalyn busied herself with “rhetoric, newsletters, fund-raising and publicity,” Bill grew increasingly disaffected. He eloped and divorced, was drafted in the military and worked for an airline. He left his daughter Robin under the care of his mother. His second marriage was unraveling and he had run-ins with the police.
While he drifted through struggles and failures, he began to harbor doubts about the atheist manifesto. Why was his mother spending the non-profit’s money on a new Cadillac and mobile home? Why would she sue to keep NASA from airing Astronaut Buzz Aldrin taking communion on the moon? Why not instead spend on new X-ray machine for a hospital? If atheism was the savior of modernity, why did it focus mostly on the antagonistic roll of shutting down others? Why not do something in favor of humanity?
“I started to think it was because my mother was basically negative and destructive,” he said.
Bill turned increasingly to alcohol to quash his anxieties and misgivings.
Once when police arrived after he had a dispute with his wife, he accidentally fired a rifle through the door. Bill was charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to five years probation.
It was, perhaps, the nadir of his life.
The incident served as wake up call. Read the rest about Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s Christian son.