From American Atheists President
Ellen Johnson
July, 1996

Dear American Atheists Supporter: 

It has been a long time since you have received a newsletter from American Atheists. It certainly has been a very strange past eleven months for all of us, and there is a lot of catching up to do. So I'll get right to it. 

The Disappearance 

The Murray-O'Hairs have been gone since September of 1995. Since then a number of concerned members have raised questions about that incident, as well as about the future of this organization. A review of the chronology of events is necessary here. On September 4, 1996 [actually, 1995 -- crt], the members of the members of the O'Hair family left their home in Austin, Texas. After a few days, several board members noticed that no one in the General Headquarters was answering phone calls, returning messages, or even responding to e-mail or FAXes. It soon became apparent that the Murray-O'Hairs were not at the GHQ and had not given advanced notice of their departure to the employees or the board of directors. 

Several days later, I did talk to the Murray-O'Hair's on their car phone and inquired as to what was happening. Jon Murray responded that "It's too complicated to explain now, but we'll have a conference call with the board members when we get back and explain everything." I spoke with all three family members several times during the month of September as we planned for the picket of the pope in New York City. 

About this time, Spike Tyson, the TV Forum Coordinator at Atheist GHQ, received mailed instructions from Jon Murray to open the building and keep the TV Forum Shows going. Board member Conrad Goeringer and I asked employees such as Spike if they had noticed anything unusual about the situation at the GHQ immediately prior to the disappearance of the family. We found no tangible evidence of anything which could help us in understanding what had taken place. There was no evidence of foul play in the offices or anywhere else that we knew the family had been. There was only the regular business-related paperwork on their desks. Additionally, the family left in the middle of a number of important projects they had been hard at work on, including a new issue of the American Atheist magazine (which has now been sent out), a bulk-mailing to the East Coast about the upcoming picket of Pope John Paul II, several book production contracts, and an important speaking engagement. Robin Murray-O'Hair was in the middle of a number of Internet-related projects, including the establishment of an independent site for American Atheists on the World-Wide Web. In addition, they were expecting delivery of a new computerized typesetting system for the production of books and other printed materials. Bank accounts for the organization were left untouched, with moneys intact, and we found a small pile of money orders and checks for books and other products, which we have since filled. 

What Might Have Happened and Why 

Not surprisingly, this affair has attracted considerable attention from the media and from members and critics of American Atheists. I personally have been surprised by the proclivity and skill of the "tabloid trash" segment of the media to fabricate whole stories with minimal hard evidence and copious speculation, musings, and unfounded accusations. It's too bad that we are not able to obtain comparable interest and coverage when we discuss legitimate and substantive issues such as school prayer, censorship, Atheism, and other related topics! 

There has been speculation that: 

It is important for you to be assured that we have been diligently looking for them, having gone to considerable lengths. Since our searches are on-going, we need complete confidentiality and therefore cannot go into details at this time. 

Selling the Headquarters 

Many of you have heard reports that the GHQ is up for sale. It is true. But it is unrelated to the current situation. The property has been on the market for at least three years -- and for at least a dozen reasons. One of the main reasons is that the property is in a high-crime area. This is also the main reason that we are having so much trouble selling it. 

For some of you, this explanation may be less than satisfactory. Unfortunately it is based all of the concrete information that we presently have. We still encourage patience and healthy skepticism regarding any claims made concerning the disappearance of the Murray-O'Hair family. 

Who's Running the Show? 

In the meantime, American Atheists and the other Atheist corporations are under the administration of the board of directors and new officers. The board of directors has elected me president. I have been a member for seventeen years, a former chapter director for at least ten years, and I have been on the board of directors for ten years. 

The board of directors is composed of men and women who have a long tradition of dedicated service to American Atheists. They are Henry Schmuck (Secretary), Chris Allen (Treasurer), Richard Andrews, Martin Bard, Joseph Ben-David, Neal Cary, Caroline Gilman, Conrad Goeringer, Dave Kong, and Noel Scott. We remain fully committed to carrying on the work of the Murray-O'Hairs on behalf of Atheism and state-church separation. The goals of this movement as outlined in our Statement of Purposes remains unchanged. This is an Atheist, First-Amendment cause organization -- and it will remain as such! 

We have asked Frank Zindler to be our new editor of Atheist publications, and he has graciously accepted. Frank is a noted author of a number of books. He has written for the American Atheist Magazine since 1977, and has been a regular columnist since 1984. He is a past board member and chapter director. Only the very new to American Atheists don't know who Frank Zindler is. We are proud and pleased that he has agreed to take on this extra work for the cause. 

Some Accomplishments 

So what have we accomplished and what are we working on? The GHQ in Austin has been operating since last October with Spike Tyson as office manager. There is a total paid staff of four people working there and we have a continuous stream of wonderful and helpful volunteers who have given generously of their time to help out. For this we are very grateful. As of this writing we have out replacement cable-TV program called "The Atheist Viewpoint" on twenty-three cable systems around the country. "The Atheist Viewpoint" is produced at CTV Studios on Staten Island, New York, by Ron Barrier, American Atheists National Media Coordinator. The show is co-hosted by Ron and me. We are in our second year of broadcasting. To get "The Atheist Viewpoint" carried by your local cable company please contact Ronald Barrier by writing to: 

Besides the appearances I have made, Atheist spokespersons appear regularly on radio and television. Ron Barrier, Margie Waite, Frank Zindler, Spike Tyson, and Gil Lawrence have done radio and television programs from all around the country, in Canada, and have been on the BBC via phone link. 

Ron and I are regular, almost monthly, guests on News Talk Television which is a national, 24-hour cable TV show originating in New York City. The format is one of talk-show segments focusing on breaking news stories. Ask your cable company to carry News Talk Television and help promote the Atheist view. For more information about News Talk Television, please call (212) 643-4705. Their web site is: http://www.newstalk/com 

Into The Future 

Finally, we ask all of you as supporters of American Atheists to remember the greater issues involved. For whatever reason, the Murray-O'Hairs are not here to provide the leadership, inspiration, and ideas which they contributed for so many years. But theistic attacks on science and reason continue. Wholesale violations of state-church separation and affronts to the rights of Atheists continue unabated. The need for this organization is greater than ever! In the weeks to come, you will see more evidence that American Atheists -- once dormant, threatened, and facing a precarious future -- is back! It has not been an easy job these past few months. At times, the legal, technical, and practical aspects of "jump-starting" this organization seemed almost insurmountable. We are confident that the worst is now behind us. Spike Tyson, the volunteers, and [the] employees at GHQ have done yeomen's jobs in getting the day-to-day operations there up and running. Members of the board of directors have stepped forward to take on new responsibilities. For many, this is in addition tot heir regular full-time jobs as editors, musicians, computer specialists, and one full-time homemaker with children. Everyone is putting in long hours for the cause. We have the best people working on this. And there is more. You will soon be hearing from us with an invitation for you to join our new Volunteer's Network now being set up by Neal Cary. Neal is a board member and our new National Outreach Coordinator. He will also be directing our expanding network of state and regional directors, toward the goal of having American Atheist spokespersons in every state. This is just part of what's coming as American Atheists moves into the future. 

I want tot hank you all for the tremendous outpouring of support that you have shown us during these past months. you have been exceedingly patient with us as we muddled through. Once again, friends of American Atheists rise to the occasion and for this I will be forever grateful. 

Of course we need your financial support, or all our good intentions will be for naught. You know this. If you don't give up on us, we can go far with this organization. If you like what you see here, then please send us whatever financial help you can today. 

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