Atheist's Son Calls for Probe
  • October 3, 1996

    AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The estranged son of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair wants police to unravel her mysterious disappearance. 

    Ms. O'Hair, whose lawsuit led to the landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision outlawying public school prayer, was last seen more than a year ago when she told friends she was going to New York City to picket the pope's appearance. 

    Her disappearance gave rise to rumors she died and her followers kept it quiet because they feared Christians would claim she found God on her deathbed. 

    The missing persons report was filed Sept. 24 by William J. Murray, who disavowed his mother's atheist beliefs years ago. Murray said Wednesday he believed it was time authorities looked into the disappearance of his mother; half brother, Jon Garth Murray; and daughter, Robin Murray-O'Hair. 

    "For the sake of her grandchildren and supporters and the public at large, the time had come for some central agency to make a determination as to what had happened to her," he said. "It just is that simple." 

    Murray said he was embarrassed to file the report, but said there was no hope of resolving the mystery without a missing-persons report on file. 

    Police said there was little they could do, though. "Until additional information surfaces, there is not much action detectives can take," police spokesman Mike Burgess said. "It's not against the law in Texas to be missing." 

    Spike Tyson, director of American Atheists Inc., questioned the motives of Murray, who runs a conservative political action committee, Government is Not God. 

    "He has said over and over and over again that he wants nothing to do with them. Why is he doing it now? Publicity. He needs money for his organization," Tyson said. "He hated his mother with a passion." 

    Tyson said his group has not suffered because Ms. O'Hair is missing. He said they added 111 new members last month. 

    Meanwhile, police said, a car belonging to Ms. Murray-O'Hair was impounded Tuesday after officers found it parked on a remote lot at Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. A spokesman said he didn't know how long the vehicle had been there.
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