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    Atheist groups stripped of tax status; O’Hair’s son drops guardianship efforts

    Two of the five non-profit organizations founded by atheist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair have lost their tax-exempt status because of tax code violations, the Houston Chronicle reported Feb. 1.

    The Charles E. Stevens American Atheist Library and Archives Inc. and the Society of Separationists Inc. lost their tax-exempt status Dec. 16, according to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) spokesman quoted by the paper. The IRS spokesperson would not elaborate on the violations which led to the loss of non-profit status.

    O’Hair rose to prominence decades ago with the lawsuit which led to the 1963 Supreme Court decision outlawing government-sponsored prayer in public schools. She, her son Jon, and her granddaughter Robin have been missing since September 1995; two other atheist groups controlled by O’Hair were later found to be missing $627,500.

    William Murray, O’Hair’s estranged son, attempted to assume guardianship of her mother’s estate in her absence, but withdrew that effort when the legal costs proved to be too high. Murray withdrew his petition because he was afraid he could be held liable for the expenses of an attorney appointed to investigate the disappearance of his mother. Murray, who was the plaintiff in O’Hair’s landmark suit, has been estranged from his mother since becoming a Christian in 1980.

    The Houston Chronicle reported Jan. 23 that someone has been using and paying the bills for the American Express card issued to O’Hair’s granddaughter, Robin. An account at Lord & Taylor in New York is also active and has been paid in full, according to the newspaper. Those financial activities suggest that O’Hair and the others are still alive.

    At the time of their disappearance, Jon and Robin Murray were being asked by the IRS to turn over $750,000 they had allegedly taken from a non-profit atheist group for their own use.

    — E.P. News

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