At the December 16 meeting of the Flower Mound Town Council, Mayor Tom Hayden left his seat at the horseshoe, invited the two dozen or so church leaders in attendance to join him at the dais, and extended a middle finger to non-Christians everywhere.
"I'm very fortunate to have had a father who was a great example," Hayden began. "His entire life, he's had one goal in life, and that's to go to heaven. And he's 81 years old and when he dies, everything he's ever wanted in life will be a reality, and that is a great inheritance as a son to have as a father.
"And so, tonight I'm going to do something that's a special proclamation, and the idea of this is to encourage our community to discuss the Bible -- to discuss it with your kids, to discuss it as a family ... I ask that you join with me, Tom Hayden, mayor of the town of Flower Mound, Texas, in proclaiming 2014 to be the year of the Bible in Flower Mound, Texas, and to encourage all residents in their own way to examine the principles and teachings found in the Bible."
Hayden's remarks, in which he traced the biblical roots of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation and "the fiber of our founding fathers," lasted seven minutes. Then, he turned the mic over to Calvary Chapel pastor Jon Bell, who praised Hayden's "boldness" and directed the people of Flower Mound to the Year of the Bible's official website, thebible2014.com.
Even for the North Texas exurbs, it was an unusually unapologetic display of Bible thumping by an elected official. And while Hayden is currently basking in praise for having the courage to stand up to the preachers of political correctness bent on extinguishing God from public life, it's worth remembering that not everyone in Flower Mound is an evangelical Christian.
Among those who might take issue with Hayden's use of his official office to promote Christianity are members of the town's lone mosque, nonbelievers like Flower Mound resident Daniel Moran, who's running for the state legislature, and moderate Christians who prefer their church and state to be separate.
Zach Moore, recent president of the DFW Coalition of Reason, says he's "of two minds about it."
"On the one hand, Mayor Hayden is clearly using his elected office to promote devotional Christian activity, and that clearly violates the spirit, if not the letter of the First Amendment. If he were a Muslim who decreed 2014 to be the 'Year of the Qur'an,' I don't think it would be quite as popular," he wrote in an email this morning. "But on the other hand, we should only be so lucky to have the entire population of Flower Mound read through every word of the Bible. Reading the Bible sincerely and honestly was what led to my apostasy, and I meet atheists all the time who tell me the same thing. Frankly, the Bible is such a powerful tool for the critical evaluation of religion that we atheists should start sponsoring Bible studies."
If Moore's prediction is correct and Hayden's exhortation leads Flower Moundians to turn away from God, then Moran might actually have a shot at winning public office.
Update at 1:18 p.m.: A handful of other local nonbelievers have emailed since the post was published to chime in.
DFWCOR coordinator Alix Jules worries that Hayden's proclamation ignores Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and secular families.
"Perhaps we'll get a chance to break bread with Mr. Hayden at an Atheist Bible Study, where we can share our views over some bacon and shrimp and have a real discussion on how we can achieve more compassionate behavior in Texas, regardless of denominational differences," he writes.
Moran agrees and writes that he is "very ashamed of my mayor."
"Putting aside his mistaken impression of American history in which he falsely claims that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, I find it disappointing that Mayor Tom Hayden feels the need to purposely exclude all people in his town not of the Christian faith," he says. "By declaring this year the 'year of the Bible,' Mayor Hayden is essentially saying that anyone who is a Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, atheist, or not even his particular brand of Christianity that they are not welcome in this town, which is a value that does not belong in any public office anywhere in Texas."
Finally, here's Randy Word of the Metroplex Athiests:
It appears that the mayor has used his elected position to unilaterally declare "year of the bible 2014" in Flower Mound. He also stated that his intent is to connect the community through the bible as well as using local Christian ministers to establish what amounts to a city web site, "thebible2014.com", by proxy. These actions only result in promoting, proselytizing and establishing the Christian religion over all other worldviews in Flower Mound. This clearly violates our Constitution's Establishment Clause. He should be representing all the citizens of Flower Mound not just the Christians. This exclusionary action only further divides an increasingly diverse community. In short the mayor is using his public office to exercise what amounts to nothing more than Christian bullying.
Word says his group has not yet decided whether to take further action.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.