The Phantom Phenomenon: Christ-insanity Strikes Again! Reprinted from +quot;American Athei

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****************************************************** The Phantom Phenomenon: Christ-insanity Strikes Again! ******************************************************* Reprinted from "American Atheist" magazine, Vol. 24, No. 5, May 1982 issue, pp. 10-20. In the two decades of the 1960s and 1970s, two young men were attempting to help minority groups set up small non-commercial, educational FM radio stations to have these groups reach each other, to have their grievances made known, and to have a solidarity of purpose. As they tried, with used radio equipment, a struggle with the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), amid the continual dashed hopes of the minorities, they became more and more angry to find that the religious community of the United States had moved in on the FM band and just about swallowed it up -- when the only hope of these small stations was to gain a place on that band, rather than on AM where requirements were even more stringent and much more elaborate and costly equipment was needed. Goaded by desperation, the two young men, Jeremy D. Lansman and Lorenzo W. Milam, filed a "Petition for Rulemaking" with the FCC "In the Matter of (1) Revision of Rules Permitting Multiple Ownership of Non-commercial Educational Radio and Television Stations in Single Markets; and (2) Request for `Freeze' on all Applications by Government Owned and Controlled Groups for Reserved Educational FM and TV Channels; and (3) Request for `Freeze' on all Applications by Religious `Bible,' `Christian,' and other Sectarian Schools, Colleges, and Institutes for Reserved Educational FM and TV Channels." The Petition was mailed to the FCC on December 1, 1974, received by it on December 5, and clocked into the Rules and Standards Division on December 6, 1974. Given the file number of RM-2493, it read as follows: ***********(begin quote) This Petition is filed by Jeremy D. Lansman and Lorenzo W. Milam, who have individually and jointly operated, financed, and encouraged many independent non-commercial, non-institutional, non-sectarian radio stations in the United States over the past thirteen years. In this Petition, they are acting independently, and not as a part of any group or corporation, and envision no pecuniary gain to themselves if the suggestions herein are enacted by the Commission. (1) Petitioners ask that the Federal Communications Commission delete paragraphs 73.240(b) and 73.636(b) of the Commission Rules and Regulations which permit non-commercial educational licensees exemption from duopoly (monopoly x 2) regulations. Under the existing rules, there is no limit to the number of radio and television stations which can be held by a non-profit corporation, school, local, or state political entity. (2) There are problems enough with government-controlled or -financed broadcasting outlets being permitted in each market -- but when these institutions control more than one outlet, stultification of intelligent criticism and free programming becomes irresistible. This is especially true in the smaller markets, where the present rules would not prohibit one hidebound government entity from creating and holding a virtual monopoly on the marketplace of ideas. (3) Non-commercial radio and television stations are expected to have more community and public service type programming, even though some of them avoid this heavy responsibility. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for the programming on noncommercial stations "competing" in the same market to be improved by the variety available through different institutions. Permitting a single government or school body to control more than one outlet in one city or town can do nothing but smother such healthy growth and creativity. (4) Petitioners have found that many schools, colleges, and quasi-governmental boards will program their radio and television stations as if controversy were dangerous and repugnant. As well it might be: financing of those stations comes from school boards and legislative bodies that hold the spirit of free inquiry to be anathema. They obviously fear that robust, wide-open programming might destroy governmental income sources -- proving that monetary stability is closer to their institutional hearts than a diverse and lively radio and television. (5) It is bad enough that these fearful groups should be licensees in the first place; it is trebly bad that there should be no restriction on the number of outlets permitted in a single market. And, given the untrammeled ambitions of many school and college administrators to show size if not diversity, we would suspect that applications for such monopoly outlets will increase in the future. Because one is "non-commercial" or "educational," it does not follow that one doesn't have the ambition to lock out diversity. Such monopoly situations will and shall continue to eliminate non-institutional community groups (usually more racially, socially, and economically integrated) from having their own voice in these communities. (6) There is no possible way that monopoly ownership can be healthy, necessary, or virtuous. Our experience with school boards and college "communications" departments have shown that they can be just as greedily opposed to competition as IBM or AT&T. Some of our community groups have been forced to rely on "Petitions to Deny" to get school and government broadcasters to share time on their unused broadcast day, or even to move to another suitable frequency so that new stations can be applied for. (7) We have listed in the appendix herein some of the present monopoly situations existing in the country today. We think that as a part of this freeze requested on applications, the FCC should make inquiry to see if communities like Rolla, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Columbia, Missouri, have richer and more diverse programming, or the opposite, with their monopoly government broadcasting facilities. (8) One should not have to use "Petitions to Deny" against educators to permit others to have access to frequencies to educate in the widest sense. Educational broadcasters should not draw the Ivory Towers about themselves as some sort of sacred cloak which permits them to choke off efforts for new, diverse, more broadly based groups to have access to radio and television permits. Yet this is the trend -- and we feel that it will continue if not stopped at this point. (9) Integral to the American system and philosophy of radio and television broadcast regulation is the thought that local independent broadcasters can better serve the public interest. The philosophy envisions that small local broadcasters can better foster discussion of local issues than one large, federally sponsored agency (like the BBC or the CBC). But the FCC has at the same time freely licensed broadcast and telecasting channels to local tax-supported governmental bodies. Without question, these government stations do not offer time nor do they encourage controversial programming about local political issues; in some cases, these outlets have positive prohibitions on discussion of local issues of far-ranging public importance. (10) This subversion of American broadcasting policy and spirit should be the subject of a full Commission inquiry. There should be no reason, for instance, that local educational broadcast outlets could not be licensed to local independent boards (like the BBS) with a guaranteed twenty-year funding. When local school board stations have to beg money annually from local or state legislatures, freedom to program creatively and controversially goes out the window. Even some of the great independently commissioned outlets (WGBH, KQED, WETA) are subject to unconscionable pressures at annual finance time. And we would guess that the Alabama Educational Television Commission case would never have transpired if AETC had been free of the annual funding needs -- of going before a backwards legislative body for necessary operating monies. (11) Every state has radio and television stations licensed to a government-school group. The daily toll on free speech and free controversial programming is apparent. However, rather than remove these groups as licensees, we would like the Commission to make inquiry into the practicability of requiring each school or government licensee to set up an independent board of control with guaranteed minimum financing for twenty years. Even the most wimpish of government-school administrators might find some good and controversial programming out there in the woods with twenty years of freedom. Or to put it another way: who would ever have guessed that Earl Warren would become the scourge of political conservatives when he was appointed to the Supreme Court twenty years ago? (12) Freedom of Religion should not presume a sacred duty to program only the most bland and inoffensive; and to enrich the licensee excessively by promulgating a comfortable, blond, Aryan view of the Godhead. Rather -- Freedom of Religion should involve a positive duty to investigate the challenges of men and their gods; to utilize the arts and creativity to define this relationship, this dialogue between men and the divine. Until the religious broadcasters of America learn this simple truth, we must protect ourselves from the wanton growth of senseless, inhumane apostolicism which clutters so much American radio and television. (13) Religious broadcasters have shown a remarkable cancer-like growth into the "educational" portions of the FM and TV bands. They control endless monies from "free-will" contributions, thrive on mindless banal programming aimed at some spiritless, oleaginous god, and show the same spirit as McDonald's Hamburger Co. in their efforts to dominate American radio and television. (14) It is dreadful enough that Oral Roberts, Family Radio, and The Church of the Foursquare Gospel invade the "commercial" band -- but, not satisfied with that, we have such doubtful "educators" as Moody Bible Institute, Miami Christian University, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Southern Missionary College, Pacific Union College, and Western Bible Institute among others rushing to crowd the narrow FM band set aside for non-commercial, educational stations. We have no doubt that their attack on reserved VHF and UHF television bands will start soon enough. (15) Moody Bible Institute has started applying for 100 kilowatt FM stations in the reserved part of the band outside of its home territory of Chicago. With each new grant, the radio band will be that much poorer in diversity, interest, in-depth public affairs, and true education of the whole man. (16) This is not a blanket condemnation of all "religious" broadcasters. KFUO in St. Louis, WRVR in New York, and the late KXKX in San Francisco were and are honest, inquiring stations run by religious groups. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Most religious broadcasters seem to loathe the vitality and robust programming which should be their obligation. They regularly and systematically ignore the Fairness Doctrine; sabotage wide-open programming; and even in their musical programming, deny the fullest flowering of Western Christian Music (Bach, Handel, Telemann, medieval and renaissance church music); and by all means, they ignore completely the music of other religions (African religious songs, Japanese Buddhist Temple Music, Indian Hymns to Lord Vishnu). Their programming is in no way "educational." Rather, it is narrow, prejudiced, one-sided, blind, and stultifying. (17) Therefore, we are asking in this petition that a "freeze" be imposed immediately on all further applications for reserved educational FM and TV channels - - not only for state and local governmental bodies -- but, as well, by any and all "Christian," "Bible," "Religious," and other sectarian schools, colleges, and institutions. (18) Concurrent with this freeze, we would like the full Commission to investigate these sectarian institutions, which are presently licensed for "educational" channels, to discover whether these licensees are actually living up to the Fairness Doctrine in presentation of matters of controversial importance; and whether these groups are presenting educational, truly educational, programming on their outlets, or whether they are relying solely on music and talk which is tainted with the ennui so characteristic of American Fundamental Religion. (19) It is a continuing paradox to us that religious radio should be so boorish. We -- as petitioners -- hold a great affection for the potentiality of American radio. FM, between 1955 and 1965, when it was free of present financial pressures, was a great and experimental medium. Now, with the vulgarization of commercial FM, our hopes should rest on the reserved part of the radio band. (20) The fears of the governmentally controlled, tax-supported radio outlets might be understandable. Controversy creates awareness and fear; fear threatens jobs. Fear could explain why WSIE in Edwardsville, Illinois, runs an automated station, or why WRAS in Atlanta does top 40. Fear might explain why KSLH stays solely with in-school programming, complete with hour-long silences for tests. Porridge is always a safe medicine for fear. (21) But religious broadcasters should be free of such fears. After all, with their excessive donations [FOOTNOTE: It is common knowledge in the industry that family radio stations (which broadcast on the "commercial" part of the band with programming indistinguishable from that described above) buy new stations by begging "goodwill" offerings on their existing stations -- and that when they move into a new area, usually a suburb of a large population area --they pay off the cost of the new station IN CASH within six months of purchase. The lost cost and high return of "religious" stations is legion within the industry. Mendicancy pays very well in this business. END FOOTNOTE] which come from a large body of listeners, and their exclusive reliance on The Great Upstairs, they should be willing to involve themselves in any and all public controversy, even debate *over the existence of God.* (22) We are convinced that the problem is one of *scope* and *vision.* Religions, traditionally -- over the centuries -- have been the repository of history, ethics, facts, apocrypha, and knowledge. Each branch of traditional religion (Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Protestant) has an order, branch, or sect which holds the core of knowledge. The Jesuits, for instance, in their pursuit of their particular divine, are willing to debate and discuss even the most anti-religious tenet. Radio Vatican is no slouch in the transmission of ideas, as well as ideals. (23) It seems to us that the particularly American institution -- "back to the Bible" fundamentalism, The Gospel -- is ultimately vacuous when it comes to knowledge, history, the spirit of learning because of its dependence only on the Bible, and its exclusion of the ideas, commentaries, and thoughts of man through history, through time. This may explain its peculiar hold on the American poor and country folk: it demands no other resource than Belief with Bible in hand. (24) Which is all well and good if we were addressing ourselves to man's freedom to worship the god or gods he may please. The interface -- we would say the destructive interface -- is when fundamentalist churches and church schools grab onto the rarest of spectrum space to purvey their blank and questionless philosophy over the hapless listener, AND PRETEND THAT IT IS EDUCATIONAL. (25) We would be delighted to provide for the Commission random tapes made from random broadcast days over stations such as WMBI, KANG, WDYN, KWBI to prove conclusively that education and enlightenment are anathema to these and similar stations. A day of listening to the end product of countless Back to the Bible programs may be a powerful soporific, but it might be the only way to convince the full Commission that education -- in the truest, fullest, Renaissance sense -- is furtherest from their minds. (26) We are concerned because educational FM is just beginning to grow into the areas that need it most -- rural and country areas 200 or 500 miles from major population centers. How fine it would be if these areas could count on an honest community radio, personal, with full open-access and diversity of voices. What a pity if this opportunity were squandered by fundamentalist religious "schools" that would block off frequencies and continue to show scorn for open-access and minority employment and programming such as they have in the past. The case of KGDN (King's Garden, Washington) was not isolated nor special; religious broadcasters have and will continue to examine would-be employees as to their faith - - they have just become more discreet. (27) Over the past decade, Petitioners have shown dozens of community minority groups how to apply for FCC permission to establish open-access, free-forum radio stations that serve The Whole Man -- with curiosity, humor, and delight of knowledge. It saddens us to see a rampant growth and squeezing out of our (necessarily) poorer groups by large educational tax-supported, government controlled institutions, and a further deterioration of the band by religious groups locked into a bleak, self-centered, and miasmic view of man's capability for knowledge. (28) It is for these reasons that we file the instant petition with the FCC, and hope that the body will instantly try to ameliorate these wrongs through the following actions: A. Delete paragraphs 73.240(b) and 73.636(b) of the Commission rules and regulations; B. Add duopoly and concentration of control regulations to the non-commercial educational rules for radio and television; such rules to be similar in language to 73.240(a); C. Freeze granting of all construction permits for educational radio and television stations to applicants owned or controlled by sectarian schools, colleges, or other institutions, and to groups owned, controlled, or directly funded by state or local governments or other elective political bodies including school boards; D. Institute an inquiry into the restrictions on free speech regularly practiced by the above-mentioned groups on existing "educational" radio and television stations; and E. On the basis of that inquiry, institute some divestiture process (for religious broadcasters and duopoly violative government groups) and requirements for financial independence on a long-term basis for all remaining tax-supported licensees. Respectfully submitted, Jeremy D. Lansman Lorenzo W. Milam 1 December 1974 222 University Avenue Los Gatos, California APPENDIX A Some Examples of Duopoly Situations Where A Governmental Body Controls More Than One Radio or Television Outlet in A Single Market. The Curators of the University of Missouri: KUMR (FM) and KMNR (FM) -- Rolla, Missouri; Metro Pittsburgh Broadcasting: WQED (TV) and WQEX (TV) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Twin Cities Educational Television Corp.: KTCA (TV) and KTCI (TV) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota; University of Washington: KCTS (TV), KUOW (FM), and KCMU (FM) -- Seattle, Washington; Bay Area Educational Television Association: KQED (TV), KQEC (TV), and KQED (FM) -- San Francisco, California; Curators, The University of Missouri: KOMU (TV), KBIA (FM), and KCOU (FM) -- Columbia, Missouri; The Chicago Education Television Association: WTTW (TV) and WXXW (TV) -- Chicago, Illinois. In addition, the State of Wisconsin Educational Board (Auburndale) is licensee for seven FM stations and one AM station -- many of which have overlapping 1 mv/m contours. Also, the Alabama Educational Television Commission, subject to recent FCC revocation proceedings, is licensed for nine television stations, many of which have overlapping "A" and "B" contours. APPENDIX Religious and Sectarian Groups with Licenses, Construction Permits, or Applications to Broadcast on the "Educational" Reserved Portion of the FM Band. KANG (FM), Pacific Union College, Angwin, California, 89/9 mHz, 800', 20KW; KCRH (FM), Northwest Nazarene College, Nampa, Idaho, 91.5 mHz, 300', 10W; KDCR (FM), Dordt College, Sioux City, Iowa, 91.3 mHz, 300', 48 KW; KTSR (FM), Nazarene Theological Radio Company, Kansas City, Missouri, 90.1 mHz, 10 W; KUCV (FM), Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska, 91.3 mHz, 10 W; KWBI (FM), Western Bible Institute, Morrison, Colorado, 91.1 mHz, 250', 26 KW; -- Criswell Bible Institute, Dallas, Texas, 89.3 mHz, 428', 1.33 KW; WCSG (FM), Grand Rapids Baptist College & Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 91.3 mHz, 350', 20 KW; WDHS (FM), Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana, 91.1 mHz, 65', 390 W; WDYN (FM), Tennessee Temple College, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 89.7 mHz, 820', 62 KW; WKOC (FM), Olivet Nazarene College, Kankakee, Illinois, 88.3 mHz, 10 W; WLCC (FM), Lincoln Christian College, Lincoln, Illinois, 88.9 mHz, 140', 4.6 KW; WMBI (FM), Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, 90.1 mHz, 4,440', 100 KW; WMBW (FM), Moody Bible Institute (of Chicago), Chattanooga, Tennessee, 88.9 mHz, 1,280', 100 KW; WMCU (FM), Miami Christian University, Miami, Florida, 89.7 mHz, 890', 3 KW; WNAZ (FM), Treveca Nazarene College, Nashville, Tennessee, 88.9 mHz, 10 W; WPCS (FM), Pensacola Christian School, Pensacola, Florida, 89.3 mHz, 510', 100 KW; WPGT (FM), Roanoke Christian School, Roanoke Rapids, South Carolina, 90.1 mHz, 84', 860 W; WYFL (FM), Anniston Road Christian Schools, Jacksonville, Florida, 89.1 mHz, 90', 1.9 KW. APPLICATIONS WMCU (FM), Miami Christian University, Miami, Florida, HAS: 3 KW, REQ: 100 KW; -- Moody Bible Institute (of Chicago), Boynton, Florida, REQ: 88.7 mHz, 477', 50 KW; -- Florida Bible College, Hollywood, Florida, REQ: 88.1 mHz, 132', 3 KW; -- Illinois Bible Institute, Carlinville, Illinois, REQ: 91.1 mHz, 744', 1.6 KW; -- Clear Creek Baptist School, Pineville, Kentucky, REQ: 90.9 mHz, 744', 1.6 KW; -- Emmanuel Baptist Christian School, Toledo, Ohio, REQ: 89.5 mHz, 726', 3.0 KW; -- Columbia Bible College, Columbia, South Carolina, REQ: 89.7 mHz, 416', 330 W. Note: Information on the above-listed twenty-five stations was drawn from "The FM Atlas and Station Directory" by Dr. Bruce Elving; "Broadcasting Magazine Yearbook 1974;" and official lists of the FCC on FM pending CPs and stations on the air. It is not a complete list; in fact, because of the lack of up-to-date materials, it does not include the plethora of applications for reserved channels which has taken place in the past six months, nor the grants for some of the above-listed applications. It should be mentioned that Dr. Elving's "Atlas" lists an additional 131 FM stations on the "commercial" portion of the band which program "religious . . . country gospel/hymns/gospel/[and] preaching . . ." almost exclusively. Under the Programming section of "Broadcasting," twelve AM and FM stations are listed as "Christian," seven as "Sacred," nine as "Inspirational," ninety-one as "Gospel," and 111 as "Religious." This compares with forty-six listed "Public Affairs" stations. ***********(end of quote) END OF THE LANSMAN-MILAM PETITION The young men were naive, and the approach to the FCC was an inexpertly drawn petition, an unsophisticated handling of bureaucratic procedure, and legally, it was simply inept. They led with their hearts instead of their heads, and the consequences on the nation were to be drastic. Lansman later supplemented the Petition with a summation of twenty-four hours of programming on one station: "For twenty-four hours they begged, pleaded, demanded, asked, requested, intoned, suggested, whispered that I should come to Christ. . . . They told of hope for my soul if I would get right with God. . . . This is an educational station?" Within about ninety days after the Petition had been filed, a rumor began that Madalyn O'Hair had filed 27,000 signatures on behalf of the petition. The rumor held that this was an attempt by Mrs. O'Hair to stop all religious broadcasting. The Oklahoma-based Christian Crusade and the National Religious Broadcasters immediately got into the act in opposition to the petition, claiming that it would destroy religious broadcasting and calling for counter petitions. By summer of 1975, the FCC had received 750,000 letters protesting the activities of Madalyn O'Hair -- who had done nothing and who was in no wise connected with either Lansman or Milam. Meanwhile, down in Austin, Texas, where The American Atheist Center is located, neither the Murray-O'Hairs nor The Center had any knowledge of the intense activity concerned with the Petition, since Texas newspapers are, by and large, very parochial, giving little attention to national news and even less to international. However, the FCC was overwhelmed. It had never received so much mail over any issue before it for consideration. Yielding to public pressures, the FCC rejected the petition out of hand on August 1, 1975 (eight months after it was filed), as a proposed violation of the constitutionally required doctrine of separation of state and church. On August 2, 1975, the first wire service story was issued by UPI (United Press International). In substance, it was incorrect: *********(begin quote) The Federal Communications Commission (yesterday) rejected a proposal to ban fundamentalist religious programs from television educational channels -- an idea that had caused the biggest public uproar in FCC history. The proposal of West Coast television promoters Jeremy D. Lansman and Lorenzo W. Milam would have denied use of channels reserved for educational broadcasting to universities and institutes with church affiliations. Lansman and Milam challenged the right of religious broadcasters to use channels reserved for education on the ground that the programs were not educational. But the FCC said such action would violate its First Amendment obligation to observe neutrality toward religion, acting "neither to promote nor to inhibit religion." Since Lansman and Milam filed their proposal last December (1974), the FCC has received an estimated 750,000 letters, the greatest outpouring of protest the agency has received on a single issue. The letters filled two storage rooms. The FCC said it found, however, "that the vast majority of letters were premised on the mistaken view that the petition proposed to ban all religious broadcasting, which was not the case." **********(end of quote) The FCC did not mention it officially, but Lansman and Milam said that hugh batches of identically worded protest letters had been received. By this time, inquiries were being received at The American Atheist Center about "the Petition(s) which Mrs. O'Hair had filed," and they were so persistent that she obtained a copy of the petition and the address of Lansman and Milam from the FCC. She also telephoned them (the two young men). They did not know how her name had become attached to the petition, but hastened to add that they were both religious, that their petition had been to decry the quality of the religious broadcasts only and not to attack religion, that the counter petitions had heavily invoked the name O'Hair, and that they were glad to be out of it. They would not appeal the ruling. Insofar as Lansman and Milam were concerned the matter of Petition R.M. (Rule Making) 2493 was finished. It was otherwise with religious broadcasting, the religious community of the nation, the FCC, and Madalyn O'Hair. Across the nation church bulletins began to print urgent appeals that the 27,000 signatures supporting the O'Hair Petition RM 2493 should be countered by double that many signatures from Christians. No indication was given that the matter was a dead issue and that no Atheist had ever been associated with it. The doomsday tale was repeated that religious television for "shut-ins" and invalids unable to attend church was going to be cut off by the Atheist O'Hair. Letters continued to pour into the FCC. Some indication of who was behind it all came when the executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals (of Wheaton, Illinois) had a conversation in early February 1976 with John Dart, the prestigious religious writer for the "Los Angeles Times" newspaper. He pleaded with Dart to calm down the born-againers, the evangelicals, and the fundamentalists who had gotten out of hand. There were three issues gone mad: (1) He noted that as "the churches were trying to get the people to protest" there was one part of the issue not communicated to the man in the pew and that the religious zanies were still writing about tax deductions for religious contributions being threatened when the U.S. Congress had laid that to rest in 1972. (2) The rumors that the government was trying to take children away from families by providing extensive health care centers for working mothers was also not true and would the zanies please stop writing their congressmen about that. (3) "A number of letters and petitions urging mail response to the FCC on the question of RM 2493 were still being circulated. Many concerned Christians are not aware that the Lansman-Milam petition was denied and dismissed on August 1, 1975. Not only is the petition a dead issue, but reports that attached noted Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair to the petition are erroneous." However, he went on to thank the Christians of the nation for their concerns and their communications to their elected representatives, but noted that for this "to be effective, such communication must be based on factual information." By March 1976, George Cornell, Associated Press religious writer, who is slow and not all that bright, had picked up the story. This time he was catering to the Roman Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting. The "father" in charge had come to notice that across the country people met, signed counterpetitions, launched letter-writing campaigns, and had now swamped the FCC offices with more than 3,000,000 letters of protest against Madalyn O'Hair. The frantic head of the FCC was quoted as saying "I've never seen anything like this." But at the same time (then) Senator Walter F. Mondale was being staggered with 7,000 letters a week based on the false story about the child care centers. When told about the three million letters to the FCC, he sighed and opined that "People simply will not accept the facts when we tell them." In four months time it was worse, and this time "TV Guide" in its July 24, 1976, issue attempted to stay the flood. By then the FCC had 3,700,000 letters, and they were coming in at the rate of about 4,300 a day. The story now was told that Lansman and Milam had protested against "certain fundamentalist religious institutions, which held broadcast licenses for educational stations" but "were in fact using them to air religious `propaganda.' The petition asked for a review of the performance of these outlets to determine whether they were fulfilling their education function. In the meantime, the petition requested a freeze on issuance of such licenses." This article disclosed that the story of the 27,000 letters supporting RM 2493, presumably from O'Hair-type Atheists, had been perhaps started with a brochure that the National Religious Broadcasters had put out giving this statement (incorrectly). The article noted that in garden clubs and church bulletins, on supermarket community boards, in letters to the editor, Madalyn O'Hair was the villain and the call was for more letters to the FCC. The FCC now confirmed that by August 1, 1975, the date of the denial of the Petition, it had received 750,000 pieces of mail. Many had one signature, often more, and a few contained as many as 3,000 signatures. By September 1, a month after the matter was closed, the mail had reached 1,000,000 pieces. Three additional staff members had been hired to handle only the RM 2493 matter. Meanwhile, Lansman and Milam wanted to know more about the content of the letters and had filed a Freedom of Information Act request, which meant that the FCC had to store the RM 2493 mail until September 1976 -- at considerable cost to the taxpayer. After that it could be destroyed every thirty days. Lansman and Milam found what they wanted to know. The letters were just about the same. A typical letter would read: "I personally appreciate and wholeheartedly support the Sunday morning worship services and other religious programming that are broadcast over radio and television. Many sick, elderly people and shut-ins depend on radio and television to fulfill their worship needs. I urge you to see to it that such programming continues and that the O'Hair petition be denied." By and large, they were form letters indicating an organized protest. September came and went, and the first enormous quantities of mail were destroyed. But by October 1976 the rumors were still going strong. Mail was now coming into the FCC at the rate of 6,000 letters a day. The 4,000,000 mark had been reached and passed. The Lutheran Church of America was attempting to get 1,000,000 letters in from Lutherans alone. The Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Churches of Christ, the VFW, and the DARs were outdoing each other in an attempt to stop Atheist O'Hair, who was still doing nothing but digging out of her own opprobrious mail on the matter. Meanwhile, the Rev. Carl McIntire, a right-wing fundamentalist, had sworn to the truth of the Atheist Petition in the November 18 issue of "The Christian Beacon." The churchmen now started (allegedly) to worry that the FCC Petition rumor might "blunt the effect of potential religious influence on the *real* issues." The worry was an obvious inside tip that a careful campaign for ends which had by then been accomplished (the capture of the FM band, at least) had now gotten out of hand. In December 1976 the story surfaced again, this time through Associated Press, which now reported 4,600,000 letters cresting at 7,000 a day. The head of the FCC said that the only previous "hot" issue had been in 1974 when the FCC was considering whether to ban advertising from children's television shows. At that time 110,000 letters had been received. However, the Atheist Petition story now had a new twist: The rumor was that a hearing had been granted to Atheist O'Hair on her Petition number RM 2493. In February 1977 the Petition was back again in the news, with the FCC now having received 5,000,000 letters, the rate then being 7,500 a day. A Fort Myers, Florida, newspaper, the "News-Press," sadly noted that the rumor now was that Atheist O'Hair had introduced a bill into Congress that would "outlaw religious broadcasting." The editor noted, "It shouldn't be necessary to point out that no one -- not even the country's best known Atheist -- can introduce a bill in Congress without first being elected to that body. But that probably won't stop the rumor mongers. Mrs. O'Hair has been falsely blamed for more diabolical schemes than we can count. Look out, Washington! Here comes another avalanche of mail." And in April 1977, the senate of the great state of Illinois went into action and pushed through that august body a resolution condemning Madalyn O'Hair for her petition filed with the FCC to forbid religious programs on radio or television. Now, the FCC count was at 5,500,000 letters. The resolution introduced by state Senator LeRoy Lemke (D-Chicago) was characterized in a report in the "Chicago Tribune" newspaper of April 3. He predicted that the resolution would clear the committee hearings and pass the senate (which incidentally it did) because "nobody'd have the guts to vote against it whether it's true or not. I've got a lot of religious people in my district, and they'd want me to vote for it. Most of the other senators are in the same boat, I think. So we're probably going to have to pass it and send it to the FCC." The senator was fully aware that such an O'Hair Petition had never existed in the first place. Senator Lemke added his afterthought, "Besides, I don't trust that Madalyn Murray O'Hair anyway. She might have some petition like that there in disguise." In June of 1977 the state of Idaho was in turmoil. The U.S. senator from Idaho was inundated with religious mail. There, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was customarily "enriching" the state with its tabernacle choir and its general conference broadcasts, and the heavy Mormon population did not want to miss any of either. The newspapers carried many calming admonitions from the U.S. senator, typical of which was this: "Americans should not worry about a threat that is non-existent and there is no serious threat to the continued broadcasting of religious programming." What occurred in Idaho and Illinois was typically happening in many other states, or in cities throughout the nation. There was not, however, one week which went by in The American Atheist Center that there was not a letter or a telephone call from a newspaper, a news service, a radio, or a television station. Finally in May 1978 the story hit the Associated Press wires again. This time, 13,000 letters a day were coming into the FCC. The letters now were counted as being 6,500,000. Sunday school classes took time out to write letters and to sign petitions. Mimeographed sheets were passed out in factories, hung up in washaterias, distributed on campuses. Ladies' sewing circles and bridge clubs made the gathering of letters a side project. There was no count available as to the number of letters received by state and federal legislators, but they, too, were "guesstimated" to run into the millions at those levels. By October 1978 the journal of the Seventh Day Adventists, "Liberty," had finally discovered the truth of the matter, and a survey was done by a typically incompetent religious writer. Again the story had changed somewhat: ************(begin quote) Defeat Madalyn Murray O'Hair! She now has been granted a Federal Hearing in Washington, D.C., on the subject of religion and the airwaves by the FCC. Her petition (#2493) would pave the way to eliminate the proclamation of the gospel via the airways of America. If her attempt is successful, all Sunday worship services currently being broadcast, either by radio or television, would cease. Many elderly people and shut-ins, as well as those recuperating from illnesses or hospital visits, depend on radio and television to fulfill their worship needs every week. YOU CAN STOP HER THIS TIME! Send your letter to the FCC. ************(end quote) The magazine estimated that the cost of stamps on the envelopes already received was roughly $1,650,000 and that amount did not include the cost of salaries for the FCC employees hired to open each "worthless" letter of petition. The quandary in which the FCC found itself was that it needed to open all its mail since some of it did not pertain to RM 2493. In order just to see what was in the mail each day, every letter needed to be opened for ordinary business to proceed. And, at the end of 1978 there had been approximately 7,000,000 letters received. By the beginning of 1979 the FCC alleged to have had enough. But -- of course -- by then the religious pressure had induced the FCC to grant religious institutions anything they wanted. Now, since the battle was won for religion, the FCC began to issue letters to be printed in newspapers across the land. It had released one television statement and had allegedly asked the networks to carry it. A letter to the "Oakland (California) Press" on February 18, 1979, was standard. It was printed in the "Letters to the Editor" column and carried the headline: "Religious Programming Will Continue, Says FCC." The newspaper added a preface in an Editor's note: *********(begin quote) "Several inquiries have been made regarding a petition Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair supposedly has been distributing asking for the abolition of religious broadcasting. This letter from the Federal Communications Commission should shed some light on the matter. "In December 1974 Jeremy D. Lansman and Lorenzo W. Milam asked the Commission to inquire, among other things, into the practices of noncommercial educational broadcast stations, including those licensed to religious educational organizations. Pending the completion of the requested inquiry, Messrs. Lansman and Milam asked that no licenses be granted for any new noncommercial educational station. "This petition, routinely designated as RM 2493, was denied by the Commission on August 1, 1975. The Commission stated, among other things, that it was required by the First Amendment 'to observe a stance of neutrality toward religion, acting neither to promote nor to inhibit religion.' It also stated that religious and non-religious organizations are treated alike with regard to eligibility for broadcasting channels. "Nevertheless, the rumors began to be circulated around the country to the effect that petitioners had called for an end to religious broadcasting and that the Commission itself was about to forbid any further religious broadcasts. These rumors are false. In recent months, we have received additional mail and telephone calls indicating that many persons believed that Mrs. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was either a party to the original petition or has initiated another proceeding seeking to restrict or abolish religious broadcasting. This rumor is also false. "The Communications Act prohibits the Commission from censoring broadcast material and both the Act and the Constitution forbid any action by the FCC that would interfere in any way with freedom of speech or of religions. The FCC has neither the authority nor the desire to attempt to direct any broadcaster to present or refrain from presenting any announcement or program on religion or to judge the wisdom or accuracy of such material. It is broadcasters, not the Commission, who determine what specific material, including religious programs or announcements, is to be presented by their stations. "The Commission has received nearly nine million pieces of mail in connection with RM 2493. Since April 1975, when the first letters arrived, we have been swamped with mail from all parts of the country. Some of the letters contained petitions with as many as 10,000 names. The letters continue to arrive. During the month of December 1978 the RM 2493 letters were received at the rate of about 8,000 a day. "We wish there were some way that we could stop the flow of RM 2493 letters. Nationwide newspaper publicity, articles in "TV Guide" and in "Time" magazine, and a mention in the "Congressional Record" have not succeeded. We have contacted and received cooperation from religious publications and spoken to many religious media conventions. None of these efforts has resulted in any substantial decrease in the number of letters received. Any help that you can provide by telling people what the facts are will be greatly appreciated. "We trust this information will explain the law and our policy in this area. ARTHUR L. GINSBURG, Chief Complaints and Compliance Division Broadcast Bureau Federal Communications Commission" ***********(end quote) In March 1979 a spokesman for the FCC gave a release to the Knight News Service. "No proposal is before us or has ever been put before us by Mrs. O'Hair or by anyone else to ban religious programming." He went on to describe what was being received by the FCC as "millions of letters in a pointless cause on an improbable issue that we were never considering in the first place." A news bureau chief in Washington, D.C., noted that the churches had largely been responsible for spreading the rumor. It became a newsman's game, then, to find out which church had spread it to which church, but it was impossible to track down, they thought, the source of the original campaign. By early 1979, however, the rumor had been in full operation for five years. In the "Charlotte Observer" one reporter found that a North Carolina woman who had attended a Florida convention of the Federation of Women's Clubs had participated in widely spreading the rumor in Boca Raton and then in North Carolina. The woman remarked, "That Atheist is out and determined to take all our religious programming off the air. We got our club people to spread the word around Boca Raton, and there's been a very, very good response." When it was indisputably driven home to her that she was wrong, she stated, "I'm concerned. I don't want to have written a letter that is not correct." But, she was little concerned with the reputation she had given Mrs. O'Hair or with any discomfort she had brought to the Atheist. One FCC official noted, "That's the way it always goes. It's usually a woman's club or church group, and if you track it back far enough, it turns out to be an anonymous pamphlet or brochure that somebody didn't have guts enough to sign." An FCC spokesman was quite concerned too that the emotional plea on behalf of the disabled was a part of the rumor. "That really troubles me. That there are those who would exploit that fear when nothing of that nature has ever been pending. Mrs. O'Hair has never been involved in the thing except to protest that her name was being used." He apparently was unable to see that the real concern of religious broadcasters was to keep the begging going and the money coming in and that an appeal for the disabled would be a typical religious ploy. By this time, the FCC was allegedly actively contacting church and community leaders to stem the flood of letters which had virtually stopped its operation. However, by September of 1979 the rumor was still going. National news columnist Tom Tiede, checking with the FCC, now found that the mail had its highest peak at 60,000 letters a day, with waves of it coming for several months at a time before it subsided. The letters varied from single sentence expressions of outrage to awesome tomes citing spiritual admonitions. The letters still came from the DAR, the VFW, church groups, and religious people, but now also from the Boy Scouts. They came on form letters clipped from church bulletins and from mimeographed and ditto sheets. One form read, "How can you allow this hateful woman to dictate the radio and TV programs?" A number of the letters demanded that Mrs. O'Hair be jailed. One wanted her burned alive. Four-letter words in the letters were common, perhaps, as one FCC aide said, "because they can't spell the twelve-letter ones." But in January 1980 a small relief came and the FCC was incautious enough to brag about it. The Associated Press wire story in that month noted that after 12,000,000 letters the end seemed in sight. Plagued by the deluge of mail over a six-year period, the Chairman of the FCC had gone to Congress for a special appropriation of $250,000 to see what it could do about getting the word out that only a rumor was involved. The commission used half of the money it obtained to answer more than 100,000 of the letters, and when there was an encouraging drop, 20,000 letters went out to members of the clergy urging them to reassure their congregations. The relief was temporary and when all else failed the FCC made a special mailing to 30,000 religious leaders. It now was finally felt that this additional appeal had turned the tide. Where often in one month 300,000 letters had been received, the Commission reported with glee that only 9,000 had come in during January 1980. The hopes were soon to be dashed as the rumor started to cycle again. Meanwhile, back in The American Atheist Center the telephone calls, the mail, the inquiries of the media continued. It takes only a small exercise in mathematics to calculate that with postage stamps at twelve cents on 12,000,000 letters, the mailing cost was at about 1.5 million dollars. At twenty cents currently [1982], it would zoom to $2,400,000 merely for postage. The terrible burden on the U.S. Post Office, on state and national legislative bodies, on the FCC, all testified to the intransigence of the religious mind in the United States. But it did not stop in 1980, or 1981, or even in 1982. In January 1982, Jon Murray personally stopped in the office of the FCC in Washington, D.C., there to find eight persons who answered the telephone for RM 2493 queries and five persons who did nothing but open the mail. Just about all count had now been lost. The destruction of the mail was automatic. The remarks were cynical. After eight years of combined effort from the FCC in Washington, D.C., and The American Atheist Center in Austin, Texas, the end was nowhere in sight. At the end of April 1982, as this article was being prepared, Mrs. O'Hair made a final inquiry of the FCC to get absolutely current statistics. Incredibly, they are: The FCC currently has four people employed, supervised by a fifth, to open RM 2493 mail. Eight persons answer telephones. Twelve to twenty Congressional inquiries are received daily. A minimum of 100 telephone calls a day are channeled into the Consumer's Assistance Office alone, but the telephones ring throughout the agency "three times every five minutes." As of May 1, 1980, the income rate of letters was standing at 100,000 a week, approximately 20,000 a day for a five-day working week. Belatedly -- always too late and too little -- on March 30, 1982, the FCC put out an official "Public Notice" concerned with the rumor, asking the assistance of media, business, and religious groups to stop it. A pamphlet, "Religious Broadcasting and The FCC," had allegedly been sent out in tens of thousands of copies -- hardly a response to millions of letters. But, as indicated, 1982 finds the rumor with new life and the mail beginning to crescendo again. The rumor is now seven years old, beginning about March 1975 and continuing with only short intervals of moderate activity until the date of the writing of this pamphlet, May 1, 1982 -- with no end in sight. Approximately 13,000,000 letters have now been received. Since many letters have more than one signature, often the missive received being a petition bearing from 10 to 30,000 names, the magnitude of the problem for the FCC and for Madalyn O'Hair is apparent. With this writing, the rumor enters the eighth year. There is no estimate given by the FCC as to what this rumor has cost the taxpayer in wages to FCC employees alone. In addition, state, city, and federal government elected representatives have been involved, as have been their secretarial staffs. Telephone costs have been enormous, probably also into the millions of dollars. The cost of time and effort at The American Atheist Center to answer queries from media alone has taken a toll on all involved. The entire eight-year exercise has been an indictment against the mediocrity of the religious minds in our nation. Yet, it takes no great intellect to understand that if 13,000,000 hate letters had been received concerned with Billy Graham, the FCC would have stopped the exercise years ago. It is within the capability of the governmental agency which controls all the airways to issue a promulgation which would be carried on each and every one of them to stop this campaign. But it was exactly during this time that the religious community fought for and won control of the FM band, obtained its own twenty-four-hour-a-day non-stop religious TV stations, inundated the airways with religion and gained such a foothold in the electronic media that the politics of the nation are now an open battleground where religion is a major player in the field. It is not untoward to ask the question: Was this rumor a deliberate religious geopolitical ploy to intimidate the FCC to such an extent that the religious community could receive anything that it demanded of that agency? Is this a lesson to every other agency of government to yield or be besieged? The religious of our nation are mindless and could easily have been encouraged to participate in this black geopolitical attack against an agency of government using the devil as counterfoil in the endeavor. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was the emotional bait in the trap. The blind, the following, the obedient, and the disciplined would be eager to obey even a suggestion -- an order would not be necessary. And the lesson is driven home. One only need to call or to write the FCC to have the stink of fear exude from that agency. Will the IRS dare to stand firm on its exclusion from tax exemption of those religious schools which practice segregation? Will the Congress need to yield on federal aid to parochial schools? Dare the United States Supreme Court rule now against religion? The answer is obvious. The FCC, in early March 1982, gave a final thrust to it all. It approved guidelines for the operation of low-power television stations so that every church on every corner of every city could start transmitting. Such mini-stations will be licensed to use vacant TV channels around the country, operating at low-power levels that will extend their signal ten to fifteen miles. The mini-stations could be built for as little as $100,000. Who has that much money in spare cash? There already is a backlog of more than 6,500 low-power applications. Why? Because low-power stations will not be affected by any of the restrictions governing commercials, news and public affairs, and pay TV programming that regular broadcasters must observe, nor will there be any requirements governing hours of operation. It is the ideal outreach for a local church. This is, Madalyn O'Hair feels, not a rumor, but rather a carefully orchestrated implementation of a desire of religion to take over as much of the airspace and airtime as possible. Given success in this adventure, 1984 should arrive on time. ******************* Copyright American Atheist Press. All rights reserved. Printed copies of this pamphlet can be obtained from: American Atheist Press P. O. Box 140195, Austin, Texas 78714-0195. Stock #8315. 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