Birth of the Most Hated Woman in America
Madalyn Murray O’Hair was a cantankerous and foul-mouthed activist and one of the most influential women of her generation. Her relentless court cases and her founding of American Atheists scored a number of victories for godlessness and the separation of church and state in America.
Born into a Presbyterian family, she led a disordered life for some time, marrying, serving in the Second World War, discarding a husband, taking a lover, having children by different men, battling depression, and fleeing to Europe to defect to the Soviet Union, which she respected for its state atheism. After the USSR declined her bid for citizenship, O’Hair returned to Baltimore where she launched a lawsuit against the local school board for requiring Bible readings. The case reached the Supreme Court in 1963 and O’Hair was victorious: compulsory Bible readings were outlawed in American public schools. She would go on to try and prevent an astronaut from a Bible reading in space; she encouraged governments to tax the Catholic Church; she railed against the phrase “In God We Trust” on currency; and tried to ban the pope from holding mass in a public park. She served as the president or de facto leader of American Atheists from 1963 to 1995.
Her oldest son, William Murray, left atheism for Christianity and was disinherited by his mother. She remarked on his apostasy: “One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times. He is beyond human forgiveness.” He is now a Baptist minister and continues to speak out against O’Hair’s irreligion.
In 1995, she, her son Jon, and her grand-daughter Robin were kidnapped by a former employee of American Atheists and forced to withdraw considerable sums of money before they were murdered, dismembered and buried on a Texas ranch.
A recent movie, The Most Hated Woman in America, cast the attractive actress Melissa Leo as O’Hair. Somewhere, O’Hair is snickering.