Religious Broadcasting Rumor Denied
A rumor has been circulating since 1975 that Madalyn Murray O'Hair, a widely known, self-proclaimed atheist, proposed that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) consider limiting or banning religious programming. This rumor is not true. It also has been circulated repeatedly that Ms. O'Hair was granted an FCC hearing to discuss that proposal. This too is untrue.
There is no federal law or regulation that gives the FCC the authority to prohibit radio and television stations from presenting religious programs. Actually, the Communications Act (the law that established the FCC and defines its authority) prohibits the FCC from censoring broadcast material and interfering with freedom of speech in broadcasting.
A petition filed in December 1974 by Jeremy D. Lansman and Lorenzo W. Milam which was routinely assigned the number RM-2493 added further confusion regarding the issue of religious programming. They had asked, among other things, that the FCC inquire into operating practices of stations licensed to religious organizations.
The petitioners had also asked that no new licenses be granted for any new noncommercial educational broadcasting station, until the requested inquiry had been completed. The "Lansman-Milam petition" was DENIED by the FCC on August 1, 1975. The Commission explained then that it is required by the First Amendment "to observe a stance of neutrality toward religion, acting neither to promote nor to inhibit religion." It also explained that it must treat religious and secular organizations alike in determining their eligibility for broadcasting channels.
Periodically since 1975, the FCC has received mail indicating that, in many parts of the country, there were rumors claiming the petitions of RM-2493 had called for an end to religious programs on radio and television. Such rumors are false.
Additional mail and telephone calls came in from people who thought that Ms. O'Hair was a sponsor of RM-2493. This rumor is also false.