This Mayor: "Minorities Won't Run My City!"

If you're a member of one of America's countless minority groups, here's a message from La Vista, Nebraska Mayor Douglas Kindig: Minorities aren't going to run his city. At least that's what Kindig apparently told atheist activist Robert Fuller, who approached at him at a pre-Memorial Day event to raise issue with the town's taxpayer-funded "Faith and Freedom Day" last Sunday. "Take me to fucking court, because I don't care," Kindig apparently told him. “Minorities are not going to run my city.”

So, basically, the cat's out of the bag for any atheist residents of La Vista — the mayor cares not for your concerns, and would be happy to go to court to avoid having to take them seriously. He's not alone, either. The last several years have seen a number of emotionally fraught battles between local governments and atheist organizations over displays of faith on public properties, and also the right of atheists to compete by way of their own displays.

Just last month, Mayor Jim Fouts of Warren, Michigan waded into similar waters. He refused to allow atheists to erect a so-called "reason station" in City Hall, intended to be the constitutionally-protected rebuttal to the "prayer station" kiosk that's already inside. And his explanation for doing so, while not as brusque as Kindig's retort, made it clear he doesn't view freedom of religion or speech in equal terms.

To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion. The City of Warren cannot allow this. Also, I believe it is group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the Prayer Station which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment. For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request.

In Fouts' case, it seems mainly an issue with a lack of religion, not competing faiths, as he did approve a Ramadan display for Warren's City Hall. Whether that's the kind of inter-faith gesture Kindig would offer, however, it's hard to say — his insistence reads less as concerned with efforts to undermine Christianity than upset over having to field complaints from people he doesn't think have enough popular support to matter.

It's possible Kindig's could end up getting his wish, however — while actual litigation over La Vista's religious civic events is yet uncertain, Fuller is a board member of Omaha Atheists, and they've already rolled out an aggressive PR campaign, planning a "Minorities Matter, Mr. Mayor" rally for June 2nd. Kindig himself hasn't yet commented on the controversy, but former Omaha Atheists board member and Army veteran Josiah Mannion made it clear what he thought of the outburst's timing.

As someone who proudly served my country defending Mr. Kindig’s rights, I am heartbroken he used the memory of my brothers and sisters in arms to defend bigotry.