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Position Statement on FCC Petition Hoax

Federal Communications Commission Petition #RM2493

At no time, during the past sixteen years has Madalyn Murray O’Hair, American Atheist, been involved in or associated with the famous Petition #RM2493 to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Madalyn O’Hair has been one of the primary champions of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Freedom of Conscience in the United States for — at least — the last fifty years.

However, the Judeo-Christian community in order to slander, malign, and defame this woman because of her advocacy of Atheism has spread the false and malicious rumor that Madalyn Murray O’Hair has a petition before the Federal Communications Commission to eliminate all religious broadcasting from the airways.

The truth is that Jeremy D. Lansman and Lorenzo W. Milan, on December 1, 1974 filed a petition for “rule making” with the FCC since, in their struggle to obtain airtime for minority groups, they had discovered that “religious, Christian, and sectarian schools, colleges, and institutes” were rapidly swallowing up “the reserved educational FM and TV channels” so that, often, one religious institution would own and control several radio and television stations in a given area. The two young men asked the FCC to regulate this religious entry into the communications market so that minority groups would have a chance to obtain access.

The petition was received by the FCC on December 6, 1974. The petition was rejected by the FCC on August 2, 1975.

Meanwhile, the National Religious Broadcasters and the Oklahoma Christian Crusade began a rumor that Madalyn O’Hair had filed the petition with the FCC and that it had contained 27,000 signatures. THIS WAS A BALD FACED LIE. So active was the National Religious Broadcasters organization in spreading this rumor that the FCC had received 750,000 letters protesting the activities of Madalyn O’Hair by the summer of 1975. When the FCC rejected the Lansman-Milan petition it noted that the Madalyn O’Hair rumor was founded (1) “on a mistaken view” that Mrs. O’Hair was involved and (2) that the Lansman-Milan petition “proposed to ban all religious broadcasting.” Neither of these were correct.

Next the National Association of Evangelicals got into the act as did the Roman Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting. Counter “petitions” against Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s non-existent RM-2493 began to arrive at the FCC. By March 1976, there were 3,000,000 of them. United States Senators, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, congresspersons in state legislatures, and governors, were receiving a flood of letters. Senator Walter F. Mondale was receiving 7,000 letters a week. By the end of July in 1976 there were almost 4,000,000 letters in the hands of the FCC alone.

Lansman-Milan were enraged. Under a Freedom of Information request they were able to look at the letters and found that they were all worded the same. The Lutheran Church of America proudly proclaimed it, alone, would get one million letters to the FCC. The Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Churches of Christ, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and the Rev. Carl McIntire swore they would “stop Madalyn Murray O’Hair” and pledged millions of petitions against her. By February 1977, the FCC had 7,000,000 letters. The rumor was, by then, enlarged. Mrs. O’Hair was after children’s show on television; she had gained a hearing before the FCC for her petition; she had managed to get a bill introduced into Congress to ban religious broadcasting.

In April 1977, the Senate in the Illinois Congress passed a resolution condemning Madalyn O’Hair. The Mormon Church picked up the rumor and went with it. Just the cost of individual stamps to put on all of these letters had by then passed the $1,650,000 mark. By 1979 the FCC had received 9,000,000 letters and they were coming in then at the rate of 8,000 a day. This does NOT include telephone calls, nor letters and petitions to legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government above indicated. The Federation of Women’s Clubs then joined the letter writing. By September 1979 the FCC letters were up to 60,000 a day. But then, of course, the Boy Scouts had joined in the game. By January 1980, the FCC reported that 12,000,000 letters had been received. It was forced to go to the U.S. Congress to ask for a special appropriate of $250,000 to try to put the word out that the story of Madalyn O’Hair and RM-2493 was simply a rumor without substance. The FCC sent out 100,000 letters to leading proponents of the letter-writing campaign and to 30,000 religious leaders asking all of them to spread the word that the petition was an unfounded rumor.

In January 1982 on a visit to Washington, D.C., Jon Murray, the C.E.O. of American Atheists, stopped at the FCC to find that eight persons had been put on the staff just to answer the telephone for the RM 2493 queries and another five persons were added to do nothing but open the mail so that the RM 2493 petitions and letters regarding Madalyn O’Hair could be separated out from ordinary FCC business mail. A minimum of 100 telephone calls a day were being channeled into the FCC Consumer’s Assistance Office; letters were coming in at the rate of 100,000 a day and 13,000,000 letters had been counted. About then, the FCC simply gave up and only estimated the number of letters by the pound.

In the next eight years, the letters were to be doubled, and before the end of 1989, the estimated count of letters by the FCC was up to 25,000,000. Another wave of this nonsense seized the nation in 1990 as the rumor swept from state to state. Factories carried information concerned with Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s RM 2493 petition on bulletin boards in work places; churches featured the announcements; the information was passed out in religious and in public schools; clubs and fraternal organizations distributed handbills concerned with RM 2493; radio talk-back shows featured discussions of it; bridgeclubs and ladies’ teas focused on the need for everyone to know about and to fight Madalyn O’Hair. Most reprehensible of all, (literally) hundreds of newspapers across the land carried the story in small articles, in advertisements, and in letters-to-the- editor without bothering to check if it were true with either the FCC or with Madalyn O’Hair. But always the churches pushed it — in sermons, in social activities, in newsletters, in reports, in Sunday Schools, and in lectures for religion must have a devil; religion must have an outside focal point to combat; religion must rally the sheep.

This information is being sent to you on your FAX since the rumor has now reached your area — in its dozen or more times around the country. Keep this information at hand: the rumor will be back two years from now, and then five years from now, and in the decade to come.

And we can affirm for you from here: at no time from December 1974 to date has Madalyn Murray O’Hair ever had anything at all do with RM 2493, nor has she ever attempted to limit Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, or Freedom of Conscience for anyone, or for any idea. This hysterical reaction of the religious in the United States speaks of their determination to believe what they want to believe and to hell with the facts or the truth.

For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) National Call Center number toll free at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or send an e-mail message to callctr nightwind.

In addition, they have a document online that confirms the rumor is false.

Provided by:

(512) 302-0223

P O Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195
Voice: (512) 458-1244
FAX: (512) 467-9525
Email: info
Web: http://www.atheists.org

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