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Of all the people who should really think twice before using the firing of American Atheists’ David Silverman to score religion points, Catholic League president Bill Donohue would be near the top of the list. Donohue saying atheists can’t be trusted because of what Silverman did is like Ken Ham claiming a revised age of the universe means Creationism must be true.

Yet here’s Donohue, the same guy who said earlier this year that the Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse scandals is a “model” for all organizations, slamming American Atheists over what happened:

There is obviously something wrong, seriously wrong, about not only Silverman, but about the organization. The founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose lawsuit banning school prayer proved successful, was a scatological queen, a sexual deviant, and a thief.

If I tried to point out all of his mistakes, I wouldn’t be able to post anything else, but there are some big ones here worth correcting.

With the exception of one Internet site, there have been zero news stories on this development.

“One Internet site” is a hell of a way to describe BuzzFeed… but Religion News Service has since reported on it, multiple blogs have chimed in (hello), and other news outlets may follow. This happened on a Friday afternoon and, let’s be honest, this isn’t breaking news for most Americans.

The founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose lawsuit banning school prayer proved successful, was a scatological queen, a sexual deviant, and a thief.

O’Hair also ripped off her own members by absconding with more than $600,000

O’Hair didn’t ban school prayer. We know that because anyone who wants to can pray in school. What O’Hair prevented was forced prayer, led by school officials.

O’Hair cursed. So what? She also advocated for comprehensive sex education and said she had no problem with students wanting to experiment provided it was consensual and private. That happens already, whether Donohue wants to admit it or not. The facts don’t make her a deviant, and neither would her support for whatever consenting adults want to do in the bedroom.

As for the infamous claim that she stole money from her own organization, something that’s been part of her mythology ever since her murder, American Atheists has said they “have seen no credible evidence that there was financial impropriety on the part of the O’Hairs.”

Donohue asks:

Why is the board of directors of American Atheists refusing to offer any details about Silverman? Whatever happened to transparency? American Atheists has been quick to pounce on the Catholic Church for holding back information about wayward priests. Why the double standard?

What details does he expect to see? The problem with the Catholic Church isn’t that they kept details about sexual assaults to themselves; it’s that they never took action against the culprits. American Atheists terminated Silverman’s employment within days.

While BuzzFeed went into detail about the allegations against Silverman, the letters sent to American Atheists’ board were given to them in confidence and they’re not about to share those publicly. (The women also shared their stories with BuzzFeed, which is why those details were included in the story.)

Remember: There’s still an ongoing investigation as to any financial improprieties, so there just isn’t anything to reveal about that until the audit is completely.

I’m not seeing a double standard here. The board of American Atheists acted as swiftly as they could upon learning the information. They’re not waiting around or moving Silverman to another organization.

Secondly, why the media blackout? Why has not one newspaper, wire service, or broadcast news outlet covered Silverman’s firing? Why are they not questioning the absence of transparency? Will criminal charges be brought against Silverman?

One wire service has covered it, even if they didn’t do it on Donohue’s personal timeline. Why not broadcast news outlets? Because as far as religion reporting goes, this isn’t a huge story. Silverman was known to many atheists, but I doubt the vast majority of Americans would know him.

I could say the same about Pastor Bill Hybels, who ran one of the most influential megachurches in the country before stepping down following his own scandal. It was huge news for religion reporters and Christian media specifically, but you probably wouldn’t see it covered on MSNBC because he’s just not that famous outside of the evangelical world.

As for criminal charges, that’s up to the women. That has nothing to do with the organization itself.

I debated Silverman several times and always found him to be intellectually shallow and mean-spirited. But I had no idea that he was this bad.

That’s… just petty. But at least I can sympathize with the shock. It was a surprise to many of us who know him, too.

The difference is that his organization — as well as other like-minded groups — were quick to condemn the actions and stand behind the women who spoke up. Unlike Donohue, they’re not trying to cover up or defend something that’s clearly awful.

He could learn a lesson from that.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.