I’ve been posting this week about how the city of La Vista, Nebraska hosted a “Faith & Freedom Day” recently. Omaha Atheists board member Robert Fuller wanted to know why the city was supporting a faith-based event, so he went up to Mayor Douglas Kindig (below), handed him a business card, a requested to meet at a later time to discuss possible church/state violations.
Kindig responded by telling Fuller, “Take me to fucking court because I don’t care,” and “Minorities are not going to run my city.”
While Kindig never responded to my requests for comment, he issued a non-apology a day after the story broke:
“I am truly sorry that my response to this representative caused backlash against the City. I was coming out of a very emotional event at which local veterans who were killed in action were recognized, and my reaction was certainly emotional in nature. It is my hope all sides can move forward together,” said Kindig.
It hardly made anything better. Instead, it only implicated him further since he basically acknowledged saying those statements.
Finally, though, there’s been a breakthrough.
The rally, which will begin at 5:45 at La Vista City Hall, is scheduled to feature a diverse program of brief remarks from representatives of various minority groups in the Omaha metro area. Immediately following the rally, a “Meet the Atheists” potluck, open to all, is planned at Central Park a half-mile away.
Following national media coverage of the mayor’s comments, Mayor Kindig’s staff has sent an email request for a meeting with Mr. Fuller, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 3, to which Mr. Fuller has agreed. Amanda Knief, Managing Director and In-house Counsel of the national group American Atheists, and Jill Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for Omaha Atheists, will accompany Mr. Fuller to the meeting.
“Mayor Kindig’s remarks about minorities are despicable,” said Ms. Fitzgerald. “Minorities create a healthy diversity and though atheists may be a minority in the Bible Belt, our government has a responsibility to represent us and our interests equally to those of all other citizens. It was Mayor Kindig who suggested a lawsuit, not us — we see this as an educational opportunity and a chance to build bridges.”
“At this meeting, we will have several objectives,” said Ms. Knief, who previously was an Omaha resident and journalist for the Omaha World-Herald, will also be attending the rally. “We will ask Mayor Kindig to ask for a real public apology to all the minority groups of his community. We will also be putting the mayor and the city on notice that from this day forward we expect La Vista to invite representatives from every religious, humanist, and atheist group in this community to every future government-sponsored religious event. We will extend an invitation to Mayor Kindig as our guest to participate in the Apostacon secular conference in Omaha this September, where we hope he will work with us to create a plan to ensure that La Vista is an accepting place for all its citizens.”
That’s going to be about as awkward a meeting as the Beer Summit. But it’s the Mayor who should be nervous. The atheists know exactly what they want and they have the law on their side. They’re not making any excessive demands. Kindig just needs to figure out how not to say anything else tone deaf during the meeting.
I would suggest he get to work improving his nodding and apologizing skills.