Last month, the city of La Vista, Nebraska hosted a “Faith & Freedom Day.” 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.”
The day after, he issued a non-apology:
“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.
In a press release issued by the group, they now say the issue is resolved (though, if you read between the lines, they don’t mention any actual apology or sign of understanding from Kindig):
Following national media coverage of the comments, Mayor Kindig’s staff sent a request for a meeting with Mr. Fuller. Jill Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for Omaha Atheists, and La Vista City Administrator Brenda Gunn also attended. During the meeting, Mr. Fuller requested the La Vista Daze event be more about Memorial Day. “The event appeared to be more about religion than remembering our fallen heroes. The amount of time actually dedicated to honoring them was very short.” Mr. Fuller stated. “I offered suggestions for making it about veterans, like having someone talk about PTSD and possibly doing something to fundraise for a charity like USO or Wounded Warrior Project.” Omaha Atheists extended an invitation to Mayor Kindig to their Meet an Atheist event scheduled on June 16th at 7:00 at La Vista’s Central Park. The mayor declined stating his time was better spent addressing this issue. When asked, the city officials said it never really occurred to them the event could be in violation of the separation of church and state prior to being approached by Mr. Fuller. “I’m satisfied with their answer. Often the persons in a majority or privileged position do not realize how their actions could be perceived by minorities. I don’t believe they conducted themselves in a malicious manner.” said Ms. Fitzgerald.
Mr. Fuller feels this recent issue is closed and looks forward to working with the city of La Vista to ensure future La Vista Daze events are more inclusive.
Well, if they say it’s over, it’s over. Hopefully, Kindig learned something in the process, but I suppose we won’t know the answer to that until next year’s Memorial Day event.
Good for the Omaha Atheists for not holding a grudge and remaining classy this entire time. They made a simple request, were rejected, and then held a peaceful rally to make a statement. They did it the right way, without resorting to insults or attacks against anyone. Then again, they didn’t have to; the Mayor’s own words did more to damage his image than anything the atheists could have done.
(A portion of this article was posted earlier.)