This was originally published on Liberal America on March 27, 2017.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t yet seen the film The Most Hated Woman In America, information in this article could spoil the plot. Read at your own risk.
Netflix released its latest original film on Friday, The Most Hated Woman in America. It follows the life story of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists and activist who fought against prayer in public schools and won.
Her Supreme Court case took on mandatory Christian prayer in schools.
Even if you are a Christian, you may still root for Melissa Leo in this well-done biopic. As an atheist, I admire her courage to challenge Christian prayer back then.
She is not perfect, but she is brash and bold. She stands up for what she believes in, and she does it with style. Melissa Leo does a great job portraying her.
She didn’t just fight against school prayer either. She also fought against segregation and the Vietnam War. She was also an ardent feminist. She was not perfect, but she was a good person in her own way.
She lost her life because she trusted an employee who turned against her. A man she hired at American Atheists is the one who abducted her, her son, and her granddaughter in the mid-1990s. They were never seen again.
Here is some biographical information about her:
“Born in 1919 to a poor family in Pittsburgh, she was raised by church-going parents but claimed she became an atheist after reading the complete Bible in her early teen years. Madalyn Murray O’Hair became a household name when she contested the required moment of prayer and Bible reading in her son William’s Baltimore-area public school in 1960. The Supreme Court, then under Chief Justice Earl Warren, delivered its 8-1 verdict in favor of O’Hair on June 17, 1963, expanding an earlier school prayer decision in the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case. Murray v. Curlett, along with Abington v. Schempp, eliminated not only obligatory school prayer but also mandatory Bible readings in public schools.”
She was a great pioneer, and I admire her.