Dr. James Dobson Pleads For Our Action
An organization has been granted a Federal Hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. Their petition,
If this attempt is successful, all Sunday Worship services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped. This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools!!
You as a Christian can help! We are praying for at least
[Collected via e-mail, 1996]
Madalyn Murry O'Hair, an atheist, whose effort successfully eliminated the use of the Bible Reading and Prayer from public schools fifteen years ago has now been granted a Federal hearing in Washington, D.C. on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Her petition,
Madalyn is also campaigning to REMOVE ALL CHRISTMAS PROGRAMS, CHRISTMAS SONGS, AND CHRISTMAS CAROLS from public schools. You can help this time! We need 1,000,000 (one million) signed letters. This should defeat
Please send this letter out to anyone that can help in the cause.
Federal Communications Commission
RE: PETITION NO. 2493
1919 "H" Street
Washington, D.C. 20054
I am an American and proud of my heritage. I am also very much aware of the place religious faith has played in the freedom we as Americans now enjoy. Therefore, I protest any human effort to remove from radio and television any programs designed to show faith in GOD or a SUPREME BEING or to remove CHRISTMAS SONGS, CHRISTMAS PROGRAMS, AND CHRISTMAS CAROLS from Public Air Waves, Schools, or Office Buildings.
- A December 2005 version of this message re-included some Christmas-specific additions found in older versions, opening with the headline "Removing
Christmas?This is too important to ignore!" and incorporating the line: "This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools!"
- A February 2008 version listed specific preachers' programs targeted for removal: "Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah and other pastors."
- An April 2008 version claimed that broadcast of the Catholic Mass would be halted and Catholic television station EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) would be shut down.
- A November 2008 version replaced Madalyn Murray O'Hair with Barack Obama as the driving force behind the purported movement to ban religious programming from the airwaves:
This is one of many of President Obama's way to control the freedom of speech and it is not just with this group or media outlet. He also wants to control all of talk radio. The impact of this will reach far into the communities around the country. Talk radio shows generate lots of money for many local charities and organizations which some of you support.
Origins: Proof that no baseless scare is ever too old or tired not to be rejuvenated by a quick facelift came in November 1999 when what has come to be the canonical text of this 1975 petition was prefaced with the following, adding the warning that a particularly well-loved television show was in danger:
Please do this, it will only cost you a stamp. If things got bad when prayer was taken from school, think of how it will get with no shows like 'Touched by an Angel'. PLEASE! Your right to freedom of religion is being tampered with.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair never petitioned the FCC to ban religious programming nor was she ever granted a hearing by that regulatory body to discuss the matter. That's not all that surprising either for there is no federal law or regulation that gives the FCC the authority to prohibit radio and television stations from presenting religious programs.
The real RM-2493 had nothing to do with Madalyn Murray O'Hair nor did it have anything to do with banning religious broadcasting. That didn't stop the above petition from being widely circulated as concerned citizen after concerned citizen signed it, then sent it on to an ever-widening circle. It's still kicking around to this day despite the real
Whether by intent or by error, the author of the petition to stop Madalyn Murray O'Hair badly misrepresented
The intent of the infamous
The real petition the FCC was asked to consider was filed in December 1974 and defeated in August 1975. Even through the smokescreen of thousands of people misunderstanding what it had been asked to consider and heatedly arguing issues that weren't on the table, the FCC saw its role in such matters quite clearly:
Between 1975 and 1995, more than 30 million pieces of mail decrying
It was a given that Madalyn Murray O'Hair would come to be associated with the "ban religious broadcasting" petition. It was largely through her efforts that in 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court barred organized prayer from the public schools, bringing her national infamy. (In 1964, LIFE magazine headlined her as "the most hated woman in America," a title she burnished as a badge of honor.)
Over the years she built up her cause, battling for the separation of Church and State and, according to rumor, lining her own pockets in the process.
For more than five years, she was the focus of a mystery. In August 1995, Madalyn
In June 2000 a man named Gary Karr was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion for his alleged participation in a plot to kidnap and kill
Nonetheless, O'Hair's legacy seems to be that the FCC will forever have to deal with a petition that bears her name, even though she didn't sponsor it:
Just to be clear: There is no O'Hair broadcast petition. In fact,
Nothing else at the FCC rivals this rumor, in both its longevity and its bizarre ability to withstand the commission's repeated attempts to convey the truth. Every year, around Christmas and Easter, something breathes new life into it. Last month, the FCC received 108 O'Hair-related correspondences. In October, it received 249, in September, 124, and in August, 91.
It's nothing short of exasperating for K. Dane Snowden, who heads the FCC's consumer bureau and wishes he could finally dispel the rumor.
"It is one of the most fascinating urban myths that continues to grow. The FCC has no authority to ban religious programming. It literally is a myth," he said.
Subsequent to O'Hair's disappearance and the eventual recovery of her body (which served to put to rest residual speculation that she might be sponsoring the move to ban religion from the airwaves), versions of the scare which invoked the name of
Barbara "undoctored" Mikkelson
Dart, John. "FCC Stuck Rebutting Broadcasting Rumor." The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer. 23 September 1995 (p. E7). Ellis, William. "Flyers Still Flying." FOAFTale News. December 1992 (p. 8). Gonzalez, John. "Son of O'Haire Relieved Case Is Apparently Over." The Houston Chronicle. 30 January 2001 (p. A15). Killeen, Mike. "Rumor About Nonexistent FCC Petition Circulating Again." Catholic News Service. 29 March 2000. Lewis, Robert. "FCC Still Hears About Religious Ban." The San Diego Union-Tribune. 21 December 1985 (p. A16). Lyman, Rick. "A Hint in Texas About the Fate of the Missing Atheist Leader." The New York Times. 26 March 1999 (p. A14). Noguchi, Yuki. "Fighting a Myth of Biblical Proportions." The Washington Post. 26 December 2001 (p. D7). Tonyan, Rick. "It's a Fact: FCC Can't Shake Anti-Religious Rumor." Orlando Sentinel Tribune. 28 July 1991 (p. K4). Van Biema, David. "Where's Madalyn?" Time. 10 February 1997. CNN.com. "Atheist Leader's Remains Found on Texas Ranch." 15 March 2001.