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Ellen Johnson

“American Atheists Inc.: Past, Present, and Future”
September 10, 2020
Fort Worth, Texas

Thank-you Dick. Good morning everyone. I am delighted to be here for this Regional Atheist meeting today because of people like Dick Hogan and the members of the Metroplex Atheists. Dick’s activism is one reason why he received the 1999 ATHEIST OF THE YEAR award.

American Atheists has one of its liveliest and most active group of members in the country right here in Texas. And I think we should print stickers that instead of reading “DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS” would read “DON’T MESS WITH AMERICAN ATHEISTS IN TEXAS”

This is the fourth Regional Atheists Meeting we have held since I have been the president of American Atheists. I like traveling around the country and having the opportunity to meet other Atheists and hear your concerns and ideas and I look forward to doing just that with you during the day today.

Since there may be some people here who are new to Atheism and who are not familiar with this organization, I’d like to tell you about our history and address some of the issues of concern to us, and what you can expect to see from American Atheists in the years to come.

The founder of American Atheists, Madalyn O’Hair, her son Jon Garth Murray and adopted granddaughter Robin Murray-O’Hair, have been the authors and architects of modern American Atheism, which has come into prominence in the last thirty-five or so years. Yet, it is almost impossible to know exactly what the Murray-O’Hairs have accomplished all these years, if you rely only on what the media prints. There has been such a lack of information and so much disinformation out there that it is time to set the record straight. So I am going to take this opportunity today to do it. Bear with me, because the Murray-O’Hairs accomplished a lot.

This organization was founded in 1963, after the United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Murray v. Curlett, which removed compulsory Bible reading and reverential unison prayer recitation from the homerooms of the public schools of our nation. Madalyn Murray and her son William J. Murray III, who was, I think 14 years old at the time were the plaintiffs in that case, suing the President and Board of School Commissioners of Baltimore City, Maryland. Bill Murray was forced into exile in the school hallway for not praying. The court ruled in Murray v. Curlett that was not an acceptable solution to the prayer problem, yet it happened recently to school children in Alabama. (They don’t have much regard for that Supreme Court decision in Alabama!) In the Murray v. Curlett case, the Murrays did something unheard of before then, they declared to the court that they were Atheists and they objected to the organized prayers and bible readings because of their Atheism, not because they were of a minority religion and objected to the particular deity being prayed to; they objected because they were Atheists. In looking back at that case, Madalyn-O’Hair said in a talk given at her former law school in 1995, that since prayers were irrational and that even if there never was an Establishment clause to the First Amendment, they still would have sued, because no child should be taught to engage in that kind of “insane” activity.

After the Supreme Court decided 8-1 in favor of the “Atheist family”, (and incidentally, that was the longest written Supreme Court decision ever rendered at that time) it became impossible for Mrs. O’Hair to find employment in mainstream America. Because of the trial she was fired from her job as a psychiatric social worker in Baltimore, Maryland.

With the help of five supporters, Dr. O’Hair formed a corporation known as “Other Americans”. At that time there already was an organization known as “Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State,” which was the precursor to the organization known today as “Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”

Since the six Atheists were not “Protestants” but who still wanted the separation between state and church, they called their group “Other Americans,” the purpose of which was to promote the philosophy of ancient materialism. This group headed by a woman, immediately came under attack from all the old freethought, rationalist, and secularist organizations of the time, as well as religious institutions and the US government. There were actual breaking and entries into the premises of the new group, harassment and physical abuse of real and personal property, illegal handling of the mails, boycotting, surveillance by governmental security organizations, and a general abuse in the media of the person known as Madalyn Murray.

The head of the FBI at that time, J. Edgar Hoover, authorized a counterintelligence operation against Mrs. Murray. COINTELL was a special policy plan of the FBI in which that agency engaged in the placing of deliberately fictitious and defamatory items into the media with the object of reducing the esteem and reputation of the person or group attacked.

The Murray family was actually driven from Maryland through physical abuse and assaults. During their last few days in Baltimore, the police charged their home in an infantry-type assault, severely beating the entire family. Mrs. Murray’s aging mother was hospitalized with a brain concussion and Madalyln Murray was also hospitalized. The Murray family was charged with beating on sixteen police officers and sent to jail. They were released on bail and fled to the only place in the nation that was not Christian dominated at that time, Buddhist Hawaii. That was in 1964. In order to avoid extradition to Baltimore and unable to restart the organization in Hawaii because of the lack of cooperation by the governmental agencies there, Madalyn Murray went to Mexico where she got a teaching job through the help of a friend. The US Department of State refused to give her a passport but she went to Mexico anyway. The Mexican government deported her and she ended up - in of all places - a San Antonio, Texas jail. It is in San Antonio that the Murray O’Hair family were apparently murdered. She successfully fought the extradition to Maryland, and that state gave up it’s fight to get her back. The family remained in Texas since 1965 and the name of the organization was changed to “Society of Separationists, Inc.” In 1987 the organization now known as “American Atheists” filed it’s Articles of Incorporation there.

The past 37 years had been anything but easy for the family. The Murray-O’Hairs faced government harassment, tapped telephones, yearly tax audits, (even on E-Z forms), and over a dozen harassment lawsuits. In one such “harassment” lawsuit a religious attorney sued Dr. O’Hair for alienation of affection - his affection for “Jesus”. He said that he should have damages because her speeches had placed doubt in his heart about this “Jesus.”

Bill Murray was unable to handle the emotional and physical harassment and he “broke” emotionally.

Around 1976, Madalyn and her husband Richard F. O’Hair adopted Bill’s daughter Robin, since he was unable to care for her himself. Bill turned to drugs and alcohol, which resulted in some very serious behavior like beating his wife, trashing his mother’s home, stealing and shooting at police officers. He blames his mother and Atheism for all of his problems and to this day he is totally unwilling to accept any responsibility for his own actions.

Madalyn O’Hair founded the first American Atheist Library & Archives to collect, preserve, and utilize Atheist history and publications. This library is internationally known, with an extraordinary collection currently valued at $3 million.

She founded the “American Atheist Radio Series” in 1980 as the first - and only - regularly scheduled Atheist broadcasts ever to be made in the United States and broadcast over 123 stations for a dozen years.

She also founded the “American Atheist Forum” in 1980, the first - and only - regularly scheduled television broadcasts ever to be produced, directed, and broadcast by Atheists. It was on the air for about sixteen years and aired on 130 major cities reaching an estimated 9.3 million homes.

She founded the first network of Atheist chapters, at the local level, ever established in the United States.

She worked with one of our early chapter directors, a prominent businessman, Lloyd Thoren who is now deceased, so that HE could found the first American Atheists Museum in the United States, in Indiana. Later she worked with Lloyd, who owned several telephone companies, to establish the first “Dial-An-Atheist” service.

Madalyn O’Hair founded the United World Atheists which banded together Atheist groups throughout the world and invited a major Atheist leader to speak at the annual national conventions. Together with GORA (a compatriot of Ghandi), she founded the system of World Atheist Meets.

She founded the American Atheist Press which publishes Atheist books. In 1987 the Press obtained press credentials for covering both the Democratic and the Republican National Conventions.

She founded the American Atheist magazine, the first openly outright Atheist journal which has been published for about thirty years now. She founded the “American Atheist International Radio Forum” which was heard on 2,000 radio stations worldwide.

She also began the first production of audio and video cassettes of Atheist materials ever produced in the world.

She originated the American Atheist annual conventions, of which there have been twenty-six.

She was the first person to ever propose that the United States and all the governments of the world recognize the four days of natural events which affect the world called the Vernal Equinox (the beginning of Spring),Summer Solstice (the beginning of Summer), the Autumnal Equinox (the beginning of Autumn), and the Winter Solstice (the beginning of winter).

She founded the first Atheist Center in the world. The second was founded in India by a man named GORA.

Madalyn O’Hair, Jon Murray and Bill Talley of Colorado (who is now deceased) established an American Atheists Alcohol Recovery Group which was able to have the Veteran’s Administration rule that veterans in veteran’s hospitals must be provided secular services as an alternative to the Christian Alcoholics Anonymous and Palmer Drug Abuse methods.

Madalyn O’Hair and Jon Murray worked with Arnold Via of Virginia, to create the first Atheist cemetery in the United States. It is no longer in existence.

They worked with a former Texas chapter director to begin a one-hour, once-a-week serial program, the “Atheist Hour,” on the Pacifica station in Houston which ran consistently for over nine years. They assisted in the creation of a similar program in New York City.

They worked with a number of leaders in the Gay movement to assist them to set up the first Gay Atheist League of America, and later, a separate national American Gay Atheist organization.

American Atheists opened the first full-fledged, all-Atheist book store in the United States in Denver, Colorado, and the second in Austin, Texas.

Madalyn O’Hair was able to obtain a ruling from the Veterans’ Administration to add to the grave markers in veteran’s cemeteries the symbol of American Atheism.

The Murray-O’Hairs and American Atheists organized and carried out the first Atheist picketing of any pope in the western hemisphere, in Chicago, Illinois, in 1979.

They organized and carried out the first Atheist picketing of the White House in Washington, DC in 1982.

Madalyn O’Hair was arrested and jailed in November 1977 for objecting to prayers at a city council meeting, and Robin Murray-O’Hair was arrested and jailed in December 1988, rather than take an oath “so help me god” in order to serve as a juror.

Madalyn O’Hair and Jon Murray have been the Atheist leaders who have filed literally scores of state/church separation cases in city, county, state and federal courts throughout the land over a period of thirty years. The most notable case of course is Murray v. Curlett.

Another notable case, O’Hair v. Pain, in 1969 by the publicity it aroused, caused the United States government to abandon its plans to carry religious programming into space in U.S. NASA operations. This was the Apollo 7 Mission, which was sent to circle the moon and look for a landing site and take photographs. The Mission was code named “Experiment P-1” and the astronauts were given a military order to have a “spontaneous manifestation of religious awe” at 7:31 pm - plus ten seconds, when they came out from around the back of the moon and saw the planet earth. They were then ordered to recite from memory the 1st ten verses of genesis (which were conveniently printed into the flight plan).” The purpose of all that of course was to show the communists at that time that the good “Christian” United States would be better at space flight than the Atheistic and “communistic” government of the old Soviet Union.

In 1977 the nation-rocking case to remove “In God We Trust” from currency and coins was filed by American Atheists titled (O’Hair v. Blumenthal). In ruling against O’Hair, U.S. District Judge Jack Roberts agreed with a federal appeals court which said that the use of the motto on coins “has nothing to do with the establishment of religion.” The United States Supreme Court refused to review the case on appeal.

In another case, O’Hair v. Woijtka, Madalyn, Jon and American Atheists challenged the right of Pope John Paul II to give a full Roman Catholic mass on the Washington Mall in the District of Columbia in 1979.

Murray v. Goldstein attempted to stop the tax exemptions of church businesses.

O’Hair v. Briscoe attempted to remove a creche from the rotunda of the Texas capitol building

O’Hair v. Hill fought the exclusion of Atheists from public office. Collins v. Chandler attempted to stop prayers at high school commencement exercises.

Reed v. Ingham County was fought over the firing of a policeman in Michigan because he was an Atheist.

O’Hair v. Nixon attempted to stop full scale church services in the White House.

Murray v. 27 radio stations and Society of Separationists, Inc. v. FCC both concerned the demand for equal time for Atheists under the “Fairness Doctrine.” Madalyn O’Hair has appeared on almost every major television and radio talk show in the United States and she wrote dozens of books, booklets, pamphlets, magazine articles, etc. all on Atheism and state/church separation.

If it is tiring to hear this long list of accomplishments, and it is by no means complete, imagine what life was like for the Murray-O’Hairs for over thirty five years. You won’t hear about these accomplishments from the press.

Knowing all of this and knowing personally how difficult it is to do this job and have any accomplishments, it is particularly galling to hear Dr. O’Hair being called nothing more than a “battle-ax” in the San Antonio Express News newspaper, by reporter John MacCormack.

It is also galling to have Atheists demand that I publicly apologize to the world for Dr. O’Hair - because they didn’t like her “attitude”. In the immortal words of Charlton Heston, “Over my dead body”.

There may be people here today who didn’t know, and I DO receive mail from people who don’t know, that the three Murray-O’Hairs, Madalyn, Jon and Robin disappeared in October of 1995 and it is now widely accepted that they were the victims of kidnapping, robbery and murder. There bodies have never been found.

Last May, Gary Paul Karr was tried for his part in the robbery and kidnapping. Dick Hogan, Conrad Goeringer and I testified in federal court in Austin at the trial. Karr was found guilty and on August 17 sentenced to life in prison because, being the career criminal he is, the three strikes your out law applied.

I have tried to get Ed Martin from the IRS-CID (Criminal Investigations Division) to come to this meeting to talk to all of you about the disappearance. I have worked with Ed for a few years on this case, and from the first meeting we had in Washington DC, I knew that he was an investigator, even though an IRS investigator, that I could trust and I have a lot of respect for him. Unfortunately, since the case is still technically open, his superiors won’t allow him to make public appearances yet and talk about it.

It is almost five years now that I have been the president of American Atheists and I feel very honored to hold this position, although I would like to have attained it under other circumstances.

I first joined American Atheists in 1979. I have been brought up in the activist tradition of this organization and as President, I am committed to continuing more of the same.

When the Murray-O’Hairs disappeared in October of 1995, a lot of people were predicting, and some were hoping, that this organization would not survive.

We ARE still here and in many ways, American Atheists is stronger today than it has ever been. Our goals and our message have remained consistent and true to our founding Articles of Incorporation. American Atheists will NOT allow it’s message to be watered down. We will NOT become apologists and accomodationists to religion, or enablers to theists. This is not an organization of humanists, realists, rationalists, Unitarians, agnostics, liberal religionists, secular humanists or any other of the names that so many people hide behind. We are first and foremost an organization of Atheists and proudly we will remain so.

We are committed to working for the absolute separation of state and church and the protection of the civil rights of Atheists. But this cannot be done without activism.

I attended a barbeque given by a humanist friend last summer and the regional spokesman for a humanist group addressed everyone and told them that we didn’t have to become activists. He tried to reassure everyone that our nation is not going to become a theocracy because both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are to extreme to be influential in America. Besides, he liked religion. He told us not to be “afraid” of it. Somehow, I didn’t feel reassured. I was almost expecting to hear Bobby McFerrin start singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Well I strongly disagree with that gentleman. I think that Falwell and Robertson have been kept in relative check because of years of hard work by state-church separationists like ourselves and other civil rights activists, and not because of wishful thinking.

Let me mention a few of the issues that we face today and you tell me whether or not we have to get active, or “Don’t Worry - Be Happy.”

I foresee full government funding of private religious schools in America in the form of vouchers. They are already in existence in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Florida. More than twenty-five state legislatures are considering voucher plans. Your tax money WILL send children to religious schools that discriminate, are exempt from governmental health and safety standards, as well as education and teaching standards.

Later on Conrad Goeringer will discuss some of the more insidious ways in which your tax dollars support religion.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to deny legal fees to plaintiffs who prevail in cases brought under the Establishment Clause. Titled the “Public Expression of “Religion Act of 1998.” So, if THEY violate the law, your remedies are limited. If they bring a suit under the “Free Exercise of Religion” clause and prevail - THEY can still collect legal fees. This is all an attempt to limit cases being brought against them for violating the law.

Here is another example of the “special rights” demanded by and given to religious groups in America. Massachusetts has a 48 year old statute that exempts religious groups from abiding by most local zoning regulations. It is called the Dover Amendment and the Mormon church is using this Amendment to build a megachurch on a nine-acre hilltop property surrounded by a mostly residential neighborhood. This has left the residents of the neighborhood a little upset to say the least. Unfortunately, the megachurch is almost complete. The Mormon church has plans to build 100 mega churches, uh-temples, around the country.

Another example is from Maryland where a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month voted 2-1 to reverse a lower court ruling, and upheld an ordinance permitting religious schools to build on their land without obtaining special permits.

The most egregious example of special rights for religion has to be the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 recently passed by the U.S. Congress. This act is a revised version of the Religious Liberty Protection Act. Prior to that it was called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1997. In direct opposition to the First Amendment’s prohibition against “Congress making any law respecting an establishment of religion” this law grants special privileges to religious construction, allowing houses of worship to evade local laws that have been passed for valid reasons and that everyone else in the community must obey. The law requires the government to have a “compelling interest” and use the “least restrictive means” when applying generally applicable and neutral laws. This is a preference afforded no other entity. It is “special rights” legislation. Under this law, local ordinances could be challenged, allowing religious organizations to evade parking restrictions, setback requirements, tree ordinances, drainage requirements, and noise limits. This bill will allow for almost unlimited actual and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees. It is full-employment legislation for attorneys. Given this, many communities, especially but not exclusively, the medium and smaller cities will avoid the possibility of litigation by not enacting such regulations.

What does this mean? In Alabama, a church claimed that it had the right under the STATE RFRA to exceed the neighborhood decibel limits by tenfold. Neighbors could not hear their TV’s, their telephones or each other during the Wednesday night youth services.

In addition, this law could give unprecedented latitude to prison inmates to practice their religion. This is a bonus to fundamentalist church groups which have invaded the prisons of America. Even worse, this has given hate groups using bizarre religious beliefs greater legitimacy in prisons.

Lest you think that this is all the work of right wing Republicans you should know that it was sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy in the Senate and one of its strongest proponents is the ACLU.

On a separate issue the states of North and South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania still deny Atheists the right to hold an office of public trust.

Our national anthem includes the words “In God Is Our Trust.”, Our Pledge Of Allegiance in 1954 was altered in 1954 to include the words “One Nation under God”. “In god we Trust” was added to our coins in 1908 and to our paper currency in 1955. A National Day of Prayer was established in 1952 by our so-called secular government and an actual day set aside for it in 1988.

In public venues our government condones, promotes, organizes or ignores displays of the Ten Commandments, organized prayers (with and without sound systems), Bible clubs, witnessing, religious-harassment, gospel choirs, creches and menorahs - and if you don’t like it - you are told that you can leave - a la Alabama Judge Roy Moore. Leave the classroom, the graduation ceremony, the lunchroom, the municipal building, the football game, your child’s little league game - and to this I say- NO!. No Atheist should EVER “leave” any place when someone else is doing something THEY shouldn’t be doing.

I’ll never forget the anger I felt as I watched a television report in which Albert Faulkenberry, an Atheist in Alabama, had to leave Judge Roy Moore’s courtroom, which Faulkenberry was summoned to attend for jury duty, because Moore was conducting a prayer session. To Judge Moore I say, “If you want to pray - then you leave the room!”

To the teachers and school administrators who want to organize prayers in public school classrooms - I say “YOU go out in the hall and do it.”

The effect of all this unconstitutional activity is to give official government recognition to the citizen who is religious, to the detriment of the Atheist citizen. Our government marginalizes, ignores and treats us as second class citizens.

One issue that has generated more outrage among Atheists than almost any other issue I can think of recently is Senator Joe Lieberman’s pandering for the religious vote by stepping on Atheists to get it. The Senator who is an Orthodox Jew told a Detroit CHURCH audience that he hopes to reinstate “a place for faith in America’s public life,” and that it was time for Americans to “reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God’s purposes.” He also suggested, that “the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”

The Senator is not constrained by the Constitution from making these statements, but if he wants the Atheist vote he and every other politician had better start considering the sensibilities of the Atheist. And we have to do our part to remind them at the ballot box that we are here. Don’t get angry folks -- get organized!!

In America today, we have a strange situation, vis-à-vis the churches.

Our public schools and government buildings now display creches, menorah’s, the Ten Commandments and provide musical accompaniment in the form of carols and prayers.

Regardless of what the media tells you, Americans are not attending church in any significant numbers. Actually, church attendance has never been over 50% of the population - never.

Church schools are closing and churches themselves are used more for things like day-care centers, exercise classes, bingo, flea markets, weight-watchers, the occasional wedding and to provide social services paid for with YOUR tax dollars.

So the mainline religions have had to go and recruit where the people are, and that means the airports, legislatures, hospitals, prisons, courtrooms, municipal buildings, shopping malls, pubs, football games, the Boy Scouts, the streets, and most importantly the public schools, because that is where their next generation of consumers is going to come from, if they can get to them. So we see the churches being used for administering secular social programs and the public institutions being used for administering religion -What’s wrong with this picture? I say, if religionists don’t want to go to church, then take away their property tax exemptions and give the buildings to me. I’ll put them to good use.

It is difficult fighting all the violations that come to our attention. Christians, and it is almost always Christians, can violate the First Amendment with impunity. There are no civil penalties attached to such violations. You may get taken to court and have to fight a long, expensive case, maybe up to the Supreme Court and if you lose you are merely advised to “cease and desist.” In all the years since the 1963 Supreme Court decision of Murray v. Curlett, the Christians have not yet decided to obey the law.

It is almost a badge of honor to defy the Supreme Court on the issue of prayer. In response to that Courts ruling in Santa Fe School District v. Doe, which recently found student-led prayers at public school football gams to be unconstitutional, Christian students and adults orchestrated what they termed “spontaneous voluntary” prayers at school football games. These displays are not about the constitutional right to voluntarily pray at football games. This is about majority-power Christianity forcing its religion on everyone else. It is organized religious bullying which is why Christian students have been nicknamed “prayer bullies”. Contrary to what the students say, these prayers are not spontaneous. They are the result of a well-organized campaign by adult Christians from local and very large organizations like the American Family Association and We Still Pray. The very same religion that is touted as the solution to our public school problems in the forms of the posting of the Ten Commandments, the display of the national motto “In God We Trust” and organized prayer rituals, now serves to undermine the very democratic, constitutional, social and personal values very much needed there. The sad result of all this will inevitably be confrontation in the schools. Bullies can push people around for only so long before people begin to push back and from the mail I receive, the bullies are going way to far with their tactics.

It is absolutely imperative that fines and penalties be attached to violations of the provisions of the Bill of Rights, but those penalties have to come through the legislature - where we are not yet influential. Hence, our strive to BE influential in Washington, DC.

If we want to be free FROM religion we will have to work for it. That means “activism”. If you don’t like sitting in the back of the “proverbial” bus, you have to “get up” in order to get to the front. You cannot “ask” for your rights. You have to “demand” them. It isn’t easy I know, and trying to organize Atheists is very difficult. You Atheists are by nature not joiners and you are very independent. With those of you who have been willing to come forward and help out we have, in the past five years, picketed the religious right-wing, patriarchal organization known as the Promise Keepers in California, Washington DC, Arizona, Michigan and in New Jersey.

We have picketed the Pope in New York City and St. Louis, Missouri. We are litigating in San Francisco to bring down that huge cross on public property there and expect a win soon We have lobbied actively against the Religious Freedom Amendment and the Religious Liberty Protection Act. I have personally delivered thousands of petitions opposing the RFA from our members and supporters to every Senator in Washington, DC.

Our state directors in New Jersey and California organized the first ever protests of the national Democratic and Republican Party conventions because of the positions of those party’s candidates in respect to state-church separation issues. Our members in Texas and Redding and San Jose, California protested government sponsored “Days of Prayer.” Again in California they protested in support of our lawsuit against the illegal Mount Davidson cross.

We challenged the religious displays in Massachusetts, Texas and Ohio by asking for equal time for Atheists Winter Solstice Displays.

We have instituted letter-writing campaigns on issues like the Religious Liberty Protection Act, and in support of Dr. Fred Whitehead who you will hear from later and against Joe Lieberman’s statements calling for more religion in the public arena.

We picketed the execution of Karla Faye Tucker at Huntsville Prison, to speak out against those like Pat Robertson who called for a stay of execution for her because she was a fundamentalist Christian.

I testified before the United States Commission on Civil Rights on the “Unconstitutional Religious Expression in the Public Schools” when they held hearings on “Religious Expression in the Public Schools.”

We protested outside the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC. because of that government’s call for the execution of writer Taslima Nasreen because of her Atheistic writings. John Obst actually went inside the Embassy to talk to the officials there.

These are also only a partial list of our actions on behalf of reason, Atheism and state-church separation in America.

But we are more than just an organization in dissent to religion. For our members and supporters we hold annual conventions around the country. Our directors and affiliates hold Solstice and Equinox parties throughout the year.

We have state directors in twenty-three states and the District of Columbia. We have nineteen affiliated organizations for you to hook up with and a National Youth and Education Director as well as a National Outreach, and National Legal Director to help the cause.

We have a huge, informative website, a quarterly magazine, annual conventions, RAM meetings and a monthly newsletter.

We produce a national cable TV show that Ron Barrier and I have been hosting for the past six years, which you can see in the book and product room, and selected episodes are available for viewing on our website.

We are also the beneficiaries of the largest collection of Atheist books, memorabilia and archival materials in the country accumulated by the Murray-O’Hairs and is called the CHARLES E. STEVENS AMERICAN ATHEIST LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES.

We aspire to have a full time paid staffer or lobbyist in Washington DC, which I think must be our next accomplishment.

We also need our own paid staff of lawyers who will be able to handle the enormous number of state-church and civil rights violations that come to our attention regularly.

We know from the last five years that we can survive as an organization and that we will be here for a long time to come. American Atheists is ready to meet the challenges before it. We know what to do and how to do it. The question is whether we want to reach our goals sooner rather than later. I am here today hoping that you will agree with me, that together, it can be done sooner.

And I hope that if you live here in Texas, you will show your support for Dick Hogan and the Metroplex Atheists.

Let me close with a quote from my predecessor Jon Murray, who was the President of American Atheists from 1986 to 1995. In an article he wrote in the American Atheist Magazine of November 1984 titled “Politics, With Religion, As Usual” he said, “We must not remain silent when the religious community begins to move from covert manipulation in the political arena to overt manipulation of political officials. That is our signal as Atheists that we need to move from covert Atheism to overt Atheism if indeed we are to survive the years to come.

Silence does indeed mean acquiescence. If some of the more conservative among Atheists feel that coming out of the closet on political issues will turn off potential support for the Atheist movement as a whole, SO BE IT. We must fight fire with fire and bring Atheism into the political area as an issue if need be. One thing that I have learned over the years as a cause fighter is that everything I do is better off done in the public eye, out in front of the cameras, when it is done for a despised minority. Although the majority may be against what you have to say it cannot, publicly, be on record as keeping you from saying it. That is why we need to go public more, not less, and if that means going public politically, SO BE IT.” THANK-YOU


Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.