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The O’Hair Radio Hoax

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The O’Hare Radio Hoax


Another of the numerous Christian urban myths is being circulated as a email chain letter. This one makes the following claims:

CBS will be forced to discontinue "Touched by an Angel" for using the word GOD in every program. Madeline Murray O’Hare, an atheist, successfully managed to eliminate the use of Bible reading from public schools a few years ago. And now her organisation has been granted a Federal Hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington DC. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour, on the airwaves of America. They took this petition 287,000 signatures to back their stand!

If this attempt is successful, all Sunday worship services being broadcasted 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 Christians can help! We are praying for at least 1 million signatures. This would defeat their effort and show that their are many Christians alive, well and concerned about our country. As Christians we must unite on this. Please don’t take this lightly. We ignored this lady once and lost prayer in our school and in offices across the nation. Please stand up for your religious freedom and let your voice be heard...

Together we can make a difference in our country while creating an opportunity for the lost to know the Lord. Now, please sign your name (1st or last which ever you choose) at the bottom by copying this whole letter with your mouse and forwarding it.

Don’t delete anything, just go to the next number and type your name. Please do not sign jointingly, [sic] such as Mr. & Mrs.... Each person should sign his/her own name. Please e-mail this to everyone you know, and help us defeat this organisation and keep the right of our freedom of religion.

There then follows a list of ’signatures’ (actually just names). Our copy of this email list people from various states in the USA (less than 100) and then Canada (not quite 30), then ’travels’ to South Africa (with more names from there than anywhere else - almost 230) then moved to Australia, beginning in Queensland.

A number of things should be noted.

This supposed threat to Christian broadcasting and the singing of Christmas carols is centred in the USA. What difference would it make if people in other countries disagreed with such supposed policies?

Just as the ’Blasphemous Movie’ hoax (see June/July 2000 TACL pp. 14-15) this calls for signatures to be added as if this is a petition - but it is not - it is nothing but a time and energy wasting chain letter. There is no indication WHY a lot of names (not signatures!) are needed, nor HOW such names ( especially without addresses) will be of help. It is not really a serious response to anything - e.g. ’Kit W’ or ’Jerry M’ doesn’t mean a thing in any serious petition or similar response

Concern is expressed about Madeline Murray O’Hare [sic. Madalyn Murray O’Hair], the notorious American atheist - however, she has not been seen or heard from for many years. She, and a lot of money, as well as her son, Jon, and granddaughter, Robin, disappeared in August or September 1995 when she was aged 76. By that time O’Hair had lost much of her power and prominence, and her efforts to regain political clout were largely in vain. Her disappearance (and that of the money and her children) puzzled authorities for years and caused all sorts of speculation. In 1999 O’Hair’s former office manager, David Waters, pleaded guilty to stealing some US$54,000 from O’Hair’s office, but denied having had anything to do with her disappearance. Later Waters and accomplice Gary Karr were questioned and accused of the kidnapping and murder of O’Hair and her family. Another believed accomplice, Danny Fry had been murdered in late 1995. O’Hair has certainly not been around to make noises to ban ’Touched by an Angel’. (’Touched by an Angel’ has already had the next season’s 24 shows approved, well before the current season is completed.)

This is actually a rehash, with slight variations, of an old chain letter hoax that started in 1975! It remains a hoax!

Apart from this being the spread of false rumours, it has also caused massive headaches for the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has been inundated with wasteful correspondence, requiring additional staff just to deal with the hoax.

In response the FCC has provided a prepared statement, confirming, in detail, that this is another email chain letter hoax:

FCC Consumer Center Response - Ref# 01722649
Federal Communications Commission
Mass Media Bureau - Consumer Information Bureau
445 12th St., SW, Washington, DC 20554
(Voice) 1.888.225.5322 or (TTY) 1.888.835.5322

Religious Broadcasting Rumor Denied

Madalyn Murray O’Hair

* A rumor has been circulating since 1975 that Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a widely known, self-proclaimed atheist, proposed that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) consider limiting or banning religious programming. This rumor is not true.

* It also has been circulated repeatedly that Ms. O’Hair was granted an FCC hearing to discuss that proposal. This too is untrue.

* There is no federal law or regulation that gives the FCC the authority to prohibit radio and television stations from presenting religious programs. Actually, the Communications Act (the law that established the FCC and defines its authority) prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcast material and interfering with freedom of speech in broadcasting.

* The FCC cannot direct any broadcaster to present, or refrain from presenting, announcements or programs on religion, and the FCC cannot act as an arbitrator on the insights or accuracy of such material. Broadcasters, not the FCC, nor any other governmental agency, have the responsibility for selecting the programming that is aired by their stations.


A petition filed in December 1974 by Jeremy D. Lansman and Lorenzo W. Milam which was routinely assigned the number RM-2493 added further confusion regarding the issue of religious programming. The petitioners asked:

* That the FCC inquire into operating practices of stations licensed to religious organizations.

* That no new licenses be granted for any new noncommercial educational broadcasting station, until the requested inquiry had been completed.

The "Lansman-Milam petition" was denied by the FCC on August 1, 1975.

* The Commission explained then that it is required by the First Amendment "to observe a stance of neutrality toward religion, acting neither to promote nor to inhibit religion."

* It also explained that it must treat religious and secular organizations alike in determining their eligibility for broadcasting channels.

Periodically since 1975, the FCC has received mail indicating that, in many parts of the country, there were rumors claiming the petitions of RM-2493 had called for an end to religious programs on radio and television. Such rumors are false.

Additional mail and telephone calls came in from people who thought that Ms. O’Hair was a sponsor of RM-2493. This rumor is also false.

Since 1975 to the present time, the FCC has received and responded to millions of inquiries about these rumors. Many efforts have been made by the FCC to advise the public of their falsehood. The laws and the FCC’s policies on the broadcast of religious programming have appeared in numerous publications (including newspapers, religious publications, TV Guide and Time Magazine) and have been discussed in religious group meetings.

Christians who thoughtlessly pass on these email chain letter hoaxes are guilty of spreading false rumours and causing disruption, unnecessary costs and expenses to others. Such actions and activities can find no support or endorsement in the Bible or teaching of the Church.

The best place for these sort of email chain letters is the same as for the old print chain letters - the bin, the trash can (and don’t forget to empty it!).

The following websites are worth noting, as sites dealing with this hoax:

Also check the FFC’s own Internet website on: and especially the hoax page:

(From TACL Vol 21 #5 Sep/Oct 2000)

The Ohare radio hoax.pdf68.79 KB