Fact Check

'Stomp Out Atheists in America' Letter

A letter to the editors of a local newspaper exhorts that atheists should be kicked out of America.

Published Sept. 25, 2007

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A letter to the editors of a local newspaper urges atheists to get out of America.
What's True

The letter in question was published in an Alaska newspaper.

What's False

The letter was neither original nor meant to be taken literally.

Attempting to assign any kind of "true" or "false" status to letters to the editor is often tricky, because such letters are generally expressions of opinion (rather than fact), the senders of such letters are not necessarily the original authors of the material presented (i.e., readers often re-submit under their own names letters they've read in other newspapers, or material they've gleaned from other print sources), and such letters are sometimes couched in irony or sarcasm (a facet which can escape many readers) and are intended to express the opposite of what they literally state.

In this case, at least, we can make a few statements about a much circulated letter advocating that Americans "Stomp out atheists":

It's time to stomp out atheists in America. The majority of Americans would love to see atheists kicked out of America. If you don't believe in God, then get out of this country.

The United States is based on having freedom of religion, speech, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.), but you must believe.

I don't recall freedom of religion meaning no religion. Our currency even says, "In God We Trust." So, to all the atheists in America: Get out of our country.

Atheists have caused the ruin of this great nation by taking prayer out of our schools and being able to practice what can only be called evil. I don't care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant.

This missive was indeed printed by a newspaper (specifically the 29 January 2007 edition of the Alaskan newspaper Peninsula Clarion) over the name of one Alice Shannon of Soldotna, Alaska:

As the Clarion explained in a later editorial, however, the letter was both intended as a spoof and did not originate with its sender:

Weeks later we received the following letter from Ms. Shannon:

"While I've been thoroughly entertained by the overwhelming number of passionate responses to my January 29th letter, it should probably be noted that, as at least one writer speculated, it was a complete joke. I think it has run its course and at this time space in the Letters to the Editor section should be reserved for more important issues."

Now we were angry. Numerous attempts to contact Ms. Shannon proved the letter was a hoax, and we stopped printing any letters referring to hers. Shortly afterward, we received a letter from a person telling us the same letter was found in a blog from a woman from South Carolina, and he sent us the Web address.

We wanted our readers to know the story behind the letter.

Given the plenitude of e-mails we've received over the years expressing the very same sentiments as this letter, it (regardless of the intentions of its creator and/or sender) apparently does reflect the genuine opinions of a not insubstantial readership base.


Peninsula Clarion.   "Policy Won't Change for One Problem Letter."     9 March 2007.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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