American atheists wouldn’t have enjoyed CPAC anyway
But while O’Hair’s life was tragic and fascinating, it does not suggest a figure or a movement of interest to conservatives. In the early part of her movement she made comments arguably supportive of the Soviet Union’s suppression of faith; and while these are somewhat mitigated by her later efforts to push communists away from the atheist movement, they illustrate an approach that attacked the church but rarely, if ever, the state. O’Hair criticized prayer in public schools while ignoring the more important question of whether government should be using a compulsory education system to mold compliant citizens. Rather than trying to remove nonprofit tax exemptions for churches, she might have asked why for-profit organizations must pay taxes in the first place.
Post-sixties American culture pushed O’Hair further toward the left end of the spectrum, where her crusades to remove the phrase “In God We Trust” from American currency and prevent astronauts from reading Bible texts in space became increasingly esoteric and less popular. The presidency of born-again Christian Jimmy Carter, followed by the high profile of evangelical Christianity in the Ronald Reagan era, demonstrated even to O’Hair that she was on the losing side of history. The final insult came in 1989, when a Moscow Book Fair crowd ignored her atheist literature while grabbing 10,000 free New Testaments.