I remember seeing Madalyn Murray O’Hair out and about in here Austin. I would watch her on television and see her often at a Mexican restaurant near to where I lived and near also to what was then the world headquarters of Atheism.

As a Christian, I never felt brave enough to approach her at the restaurant and thank her for her work in keeping church and state separate.  I felt a debt of gratitude for her tireless work protecting all of us from sectarian intrusions into our public life. Secular government is absolutely necessary if religions are to live peacefully together in a democratic state. To be free to choose any religion, we must must also be free from the coercions of any one religion.

As a progressive Christian I was as grateful to be protected from the fundamentalism that aspired to control every aspect of Texas life. At the time I think I was afraid she would yell at me when I said I was a Christian.  It was silly. As I say, I never had the courage to go up and thank her for what she did for all of us. Now that she is dead, I often wish I had.

I was so happy that atheists have come to town this weekend for their national meeting, in part because they wanted to honor Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her work. While they are here, atheists from their group will have a dialogue with fundamentalist Christians who consider atheism to be an attack on everything decent. I just wanted to go on the record as one Christian who not only welcomes atheists to our city, but who thanks them for their work protecting us all who live in this secular democracy.