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O'Hair vs. Religious Broadcasting
Part 1: The rumor that wouldn't die

The rumor that the FCC has before it a proposal to deny licenses to religious broadcasters still continues to circulate, 25 years after the Commission denied that request.
         – Federal Communications Commission

I don't think it's going to die out or ever be debunked successfully. No matter how hard we try to debunk it, there will be people who haven't seen it and will help spread the rumor the next time around.
         – Jan Harold Brunvand, folklorist


 More of this Feature
• Part 2: Religious and patriotic fervor
 
 Related Resources
• O'Hair Confirmed Dead by Authorities
• Current Netlore
 
 Elsewhere on the Web
• FCC: Religious Broadcasting Rumor Denied
• Fighting a Myth of Biblical Proportions
• Will Phony FCC Petition Live On?
• Christian Urban Myths
 

By David Emery

Over a quarter of a century ago, two broadcasters petitioned the FCC to consider disqualifying religious organizations from being licensed to broadcast on channels reserved for noncommercial educational use. Eight months later, citing the First Amendment requirement "to observe a stance of neutrality toward religion, acting neither to promote nor to inhibit religion," the Commission rejected the petition.

That ought to have been the end of it.

Unfortunately, wildly inaccurate rumors had already surfaced among Christian groups to the effect that the 1975 petition had been instigated by the infamous atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair and that it called for a ban on all religious programming, including even Christmas carols. By the time the FCC announced its ruling, it had received an estimated 700,000 letters of protest from people who misunderstood both the origin and nature of the petition. In spite of the Commission's best efforts to correct them, these misunderstandings persisted well beyond that date. In fact, they persist to this day.

One reason they haven't gone away is that during the height of the hysteria in 1975, a counter-petition codifying the false charges was drawn up and circulated to "concerned Christians" everywhere, who were urged to sign and copy it. Nothing gives a rumor staying power like the printed word.

From snail mail to Fax to email, all available means have been used to keep the document in constant circulation ever since. A recent example follows (analysis on next page).

(NOTE: As of 1999, a newer variant exists beginning with this false statement: "CBS will be forced to discontinue 'Touched By An Angel' for using the word 'God' in every program."  It is otherwise identical to the following.)


PLEASE HELP!!! WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN TO OUR COUNTRY!!!

Madeline Marray O'Hare, an atheist, whose efforts successfully eliminated the use of 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, No. 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop any reading of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on the airwaves of America. She took her petition with 287,000 signatures to back her stand. If her attempt is successful, all Sunday Worship services being broadcast, either by radio or television, will stop! Ms. O'Hare 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 would defeat Ms. O'Hare and show that there are many CHRISTIANS ALIVE, WELL AND CONCERNED FOR OUR COUNTRY. This petition is #2493.

Cut off, sign and mail the form. Please do not sign jointly as Mr. & Mrs. EACH PERSON SHOULD SIGN ONE SEPARATELY AND MAIL IT IN A SEPARATE ENVELOPE!!!!! (Helps us get 1,000,000 faster). Be sure to put Petition #2493 on the outside of the envelope before mailing the letter.

CHRISTIANS MUST UNITE ON THIS! PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS LIGHTLY; WE DID ONCE AND LOST PRAYER IN SCHOOLS AND IN OFFICES ACROSS THE NATION!!!

The only way for EVIL to flourish is for GOOD men to do NOTHING!!

Federal Communications Commission
RE: Petition #3492
Washington, D.C. 20054

Gentlemen:

I am an American and am very thankful for my American heritage. I am also much aware of the role our Christian Faith has in the freedom that we Americans now enjoy. Therefore, I protest any human effort to remove from the radio or television; programs designed to nurture faith in God or to remove CHRISTMAS PROGRAMS, CHRISTMAS SONS AND CHRISTMAS CAROLS from public airwaves, schools, office buildings, etc.

Sincerely:

Name___________________________
Address__________________________


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