The Vero Beach City Council (in Florida) had an easy task at yesterday’s meeting. The Humanists of the Treasure Coast asked them to proclaim June 16-23, 2013 as “Humanist Recognition Week.” The language was innocuous, calling for “compassion guided by reason” and the like. Normally, these proclamations get passed without much thought. This one, however, only passed by a 3-2 vote and it’s worth discussing what happened.
First, take a look at the 2:23 mark in the video below.
Mayor Craig Fletcher is going over the agenda at the start of the meeting and says that he wants to remove the item about the proclamation entirely. When asked why, Fletcher says, “I refuse to support an organization that does not believe in Jesus Christ. I’ll have nothing to do with it. If you want to outvote me, that’s fine.”
The way he responded, you would think someone tried to get him to denounce Jesus! It’s the biggest overreaction I’ve seen since… whatever’s on the front page of Charisma‘s website today.
Councilmember Jay Kramer, hearing Fletcher’s words, got this look on his face that screamed What the hell?!… he said that this was a freedom of speech issue and all religious beliefs had to be treated equally under the law.
Councilmembers Pilar Turner and Dick Winger (surrounding him in that picture) joined him in approving the proclamation, so it passed by the narrowest of margins. You can see the proclamation being read at the 17:55 mark in the video.
During public comments immediately after that, Phil Katrovitz of the Humanist group spoke in support of the resolution, saying that by signing this proclamation, the City Council was showing that they represented “all of this community’s citizens.” He expressed his gratitude to the Council for their support, smiled, and stepped away from the microphone.And then the opposing City Council members
Vice Mayor Tracy Carroll said that she looked up this word “Humanist” on the Internet and found out it had something to do with atheism, which is why she, like Fletcher, couldn’t sign it. She went on to say that Katrovitz had expressed disapproval at the City Council for approving “Christian Heritage Week” back in November so that’s another reason she couldn’t support his group. (Actually, Katrovitz was saying that the Christian proclamation had factual errors in it and he suggested replacing it with something more accurate.)
Katrovitz tried to correct Carroll’s misinformation (not all Humanists are atheists, after all, and this proclamation was not about promoting atheism) when Mayor Fletcher piped in and said, “I’m telling you now, you can sit down or I’m gonna have you [sat] down.”
Katrovitz pointed out that it was a secular government and went to shake the hands of the council members who approved the proclamation. It must have pissed off Fletcher, though, because he told Katrovitz to sit down again… Katrovitz did, but only after saying, “I don’t want to go to jail.”
Can we back up? What’s this fight all about again?
It’s over a document that said “cultivating intelligent and ethical interactions among people with tolerance and respect” is the best way to solve our problems. That’s the thing Fletcher and Carroll refused to support.
I imagine they got together after the meeting and deemed this just another example of “Christian intolerance.”
(via Inside Vero — Thanks to Eric for the link!)