American Atheists

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American Atheist logo. The 'A' in the middle denotes the country.

American Atheists is an organization which aims to defend the civil liberties of atheists, and advocates the complete separation of church and state. Founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair in 1963, it was born out of the legal case Murray v. Curlett begun in 1959 by the Murray family to challenge mandatory prayer in the public schools. In the case (usually cited as Abington School District v. Schempp, with which it was combined), the United States Supreme Court ruled that state-mandated prayer and unison bible readings violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.

American Atheists has filed numerous lawsuits against public institutions which it considered to have breached the separation of church and state. Around 2,200 members attend a national convention and numerous regional meetings. Ellen Johnson has been President since 1995. The organization is headquartered in Cranford, New Jersey.

On November 2, 2002, at the Godless Americans March on Washington, Ellen Johnson announced the formation of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee (GAMPAC), a PAC to endorse political candidates who support the separation of church and state. The PAC was officially launched on March 9, 2004. It endorsed John Kerry, a Catholic, for the 2004 United States Presidential election, despite Kerry being a cosponsor of the Senate resolution [1] (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:SE00292:@@@P) which strongly disapproved of the Ninth Circuit decision in the Newdow case, which found the phrase under God in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional".

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