Most of us aren’t old enough to remember the days when prayer was a regular event in public schools. Since my brothers and I attended a Christian private school, prayer before lunch and during Wednesday chapel was part of our education. But if you attended public school in the past fifty years, then you won’t relate to prayer in public school.
The reason prayer is no longer allowed in school is because of a loud, brash and opinionated atheist named Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She was also a trained attorney who had earned her law degree from South Texas College of Law in the 50s. Although she didn’t pass the bar exam, she successfully sued the Baltimore Public School system in 1960 to remove prayer from public school. Her case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1963, the court removed prayer from public school. O’Hair then established the American Atheists organization in 1963 to keep religion separated from the government. O’Hair also fought for abortion, tried to sue the pope and have “In God we Trust” removed from American currency. People referred to the crude woman as the Antichrist.
O’Hair gained a national audience as she spewed her hate against Christianity. She appeared on television talk shows, radio and wrote articles for Hustler magazine. O’Hair had infamously become America’s most hated woman. It was a badge she wore with honor.
Ironically, her most trusted ally, her son Bill, would become a Christian. Bill and his mother stopped speaking in 1977 because of his decision to turn away from atheism. Mother and son never spoke to each other again. Bill said his mother only believed in what she could see and touch. She didn’t believe in a higher authority. But it wasn’t enough to keep her son away from Christianity, she also wanted to keep other children away from exposure to Christianity or prayer in public school.
O’Hair continued to manage her organization until she vanished in September 1995. Her granddaughter Robin and her younger son Jon also disappeared.
Law enforcement and her son Bill didn’t take much interest in the family’s disappearance.
It was believed that O’Hair had just packed up and left without any explanation. O’Hair supporters said she wouldn’t have left without her diabetes medicine and she wouldn’t have abandoned her beloved dogs. Authorities still didn’t think anything sinister had occurred.
Several years later, authorities realized the O’Hair family didn’t vanish. Someone had murdered them.
After an investigation, authorities discovered the grisly truth. In 2001, the dismembered bodies of Madalyn O’Hair, granddaughter Robin and son Jon Murray were buried at a ranch outside San Antonio.
David Waters, a former employee of O’Hair’s and his two accomplices named Danny Fry and Gary Karr, were involved in the homicides. The three men took the O’Hair family hostage and stole $600,000 from the family before killing them. Waters and Karr also turned on Fry and murdered him fearing that he might talk about the homicides.
A judge sentenced Karr to two life sentences. Waters, however, wouldn’t live long enough to spend much time in prison. While incarcerated, he died of lung cancer in 2003. Before Madalyn Murray O’Hair died, she had once said she didn’t want to die with anyone praying over her.
She didn’t have to worry about that since she died with no fanfare.
For all her hate and contempt for religion, she would end up dumped in a lonely grave buried out in the middle of nowhere. Not only did O’Hair hate Christianity, she knew how to bring out hate in those around her.
And it’s this hate that led to her own death—murdered by a former employee who despised her enough to murder her and two family members.
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at http://www.lifewithgrandpa.com. He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com.