After Christian Mayor Refuses to Support ‘Humanist Recognition Week,’ Religious Groups Are Discussing a Response

Last week, I posted about a meeting of the Vero Beach City Council (in Florida). The five-member council had an easy task in front of them: Approving a resolution marking “Humanist Recognition Week.” But two of the councilmembers refused to do it because of their religious views:

Vero Beach City Councilmembers

Mayor Craig Fletcher didn’t support the resolution because it was promoting a belief system he didn’t agree with: “I refuse to support an organization that does not believe in Jesus Christ…” Vice Mayor Tracy Carroll also said no because when she looked up the word “Humanist” on the Internet, she saw it was related to atheism (!!!) and she couldn’t be associated with that.

The resolution passed thanks to the other three members of the council, but these sorts of resolutions tend to be unanimous. It’s a big deal that it wasn’t.

At the time, the only people who seemed upset about what the Mayor and Vice Mayor said were the council members who voted for the resolution and members of the Humanists of the Treasure Coast, who suggested the resolution in the first place.

This Tuesday, though, several leaders of non-Christian groups in the area are getting together to discuss how to handle this Jesus-or-bust mentality of some on the city council. The article is behind a paywall, but it explores what other theistic groups are saying the wake of the vote:

“We are concerned for the statement that was made and the setting it was made in. The mayor said he could only support groups that believe in Jesus, and that certainly leaves out the Jewish community and several other groups,” said Rabbi Michael Birnholz of Vero Beach’s Temple Beth Shalom.

“We want to sit down as a community and talk about what meaningful response we can make toward what has happened,” Birnholz said. The meeting is not open to the public.

How great is it to see theistic groups talk about the need for a government that abides by the First Amendment? It’s not just Jewish groups meeting — it’ll be an interfaith gathering that includes the Humanist group.

The same resolution is going to be presented to the Indian River County Commission (as opposed to the city council) on Tuesday night. Hopefully, it’ll get passed unanimously this time.

(Thanks to Eric for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • ortcutt

    Why is the city council honoring Humanist Recognition Week? The secularist in me is bothered by that.

  • Tad

    The same reason they have a Christmas party or a St. Patrick’s day parade. What we need are some good holidays. International Talk Like a Pirate day is good but we need more.

  • flyb

    I wondered the same thing when this first came up. It also seems like such a waste of time and resources for government entities to focus on these things. Like when local governments spend time “honoring” sports teams with [insert local pro sports team name here] Appreciation/Recognition Day/Week/Month, etc.

  • Ubi Dubium

    Pi Day (3/14)
    Star Wars Day (5/4)
    Mole Day (10/23)

    And then we Pastafarians have “Holiday”. Starts right after Halloween, and lasts until at least Superbowl Sunday. And people are already wishing each other “Happy Holiday!”, so it’s well established.

  • C Peterson

    Yes, it’s arguably a waste of resources. But the reality is, local governments do issue proclamations all the time honoring or recognizing holidays, visiting groups, “official” days, weeks, and months, and all manner of silliness.

    If they were smart, they’d just stop doing it and avoid embarrassing situations like this. Because once they decide to recognize one thing, they’re going to get into trouble if they don’t recognize everything. You’d think they would learn.

  • ElRay

    They just need to be sued personally, not as government officials. Gross negligence should validate the exemption.

  • ortcutt

    The Establishment Clause puts restrictions on honoring religious groups (and non-religious groups like atheists and humanists) that don’t apply to resolutions honoring baseball teams. It’s a question of how much entanglement with religion we allow. I think this case shows why even this much entanglement is problematic.

  • Beth

    “How great is it to see theistic groups talk about the need for a government that abides by the First Amendment?”

    Super great!

  • wmdkitty

    See, there’s a reason I’m pagan — the party schedule just can’t be beat!

  • The Other Weirdo

    I don’t understand Mole Day. What am I missing?

  • flyb

    I agree completely. And in my first post here I was certainly not equating the honoring of sports teams with the honoring of sectarian/atheist groups in the 1st amendment sense. They are definitely not in the same category. I just find it all silly and inane.

    Does anyone know why this Humanist group is going to these council and commission groups for recognition? Is it just to see who will reject them?

  • curtcameron

    6.02 x 10^23

    Kind of a stretch, but probably less so that Star Wars Day.

  • Feminerd

    “The mole is a unit of measurement used in chemistry to express amounts of a chemical substance, defined as the amount of any substance that contains as many elementary entities (e.g., atoms, molecules, ions, electrons) as there are atoms in 12 grams of pure carbon-12 (12C), the isotope of carbon with relative atomic mass 12. This corresponds to the Avogadro constant, which has a value of 6.02214179(30)×10^23 elementary entities of the substance.”

  • phiggy

    I’m concerned that the meeting isn’t open to the public. How ’bout some transparency here. The mayor’s already expressed his opinion that is Christians or nothing at all, so it’s not like he’s going to suddenly embarrass himself by saying something more discriminatory than that…unless he’s also an anti-Semite, an Islamiphobe or a xenophobe, in general. Why not have an open discussion about this so the community can know what’s going on with their elected council and know the members’ respective positions.

  • flyb

    I could be wrong, but I understood it as an interfaith meeting without the elected officials. It’s for the group to develop a united position to later bring to the city council.

  • WallofSleep

    “The mayor said he could only support groups that believe in
    Jesus, and that certainly leaves out the Jewish community and several
    other groups,”

    Heh, I was gonna say :”So, no love for Israel then?”

  • phiggy

    ah….my mistake. I mis-read who was having the meeting.

  • sk3ptik0n

    Heck, I use it all the time when I am cooking.

  • ortcutt

    Everything is always Judeo-Christian this and Judeo-Christian that when it suits them, but many conservative Christians are happy to forget all that when it suits them.

  • flyb

    No worries. Let’s just hope that when the mayor is confronted by this group, someone is there with a video camera to document the whole thing. The process of him trying to remove his foot from his mouth should be… entertaining.

  • WallofSleep

    The “judeo” part is just a beard to cover for their christian supremacist agenda. Sometimes I think the only lesson some of these people have learned from the Holocaust is “We’ll save the Jews for last”.

  • Paul Reed

    10/23? Isn’t that something to do with homeopathy? I seem to remember there being protests on that date…

  • Paul Reed

    My bad. It’s a reference to the Avogadro constant, not the date.

  • David Wood

    I live 10 miles from Vero Beach and for years they have recognized “Christian Heritage Week” pushed by the Indian River Family Association affiliated with the hate group American Family Association. Humanists of the Treasure Coast wanted equal treatment.

  • A3Kr0n

    Didn’t the council members who voted against the resolution take an oath to uphold the constitution? What’s the penalty for lying? Saying they wouldn’t help any organization that didn’t believe in Jesus Christ is obviously working against the constitution, not upholding it.

  • LonesomeDove

    I don’t know if that Mayor had noticed with his blinders on…but there are quite a few Jewish people in Florida…as well as all the other people who didn’t seem to have a problem giving Humanism a fair shake – WWJD? ;-)

  • TheLump

    Few to none of the other religious groups would have even blinked if the mayor had just used the catch-all “God” instead of Jesus Christ.

  • ShoeUnited

    I’m glad these people are getting together to address an issue to then bring before the government. I wish more people would do that instead of preaching at the drop of a hat, whether warranted or not.

    If you have a grievance, it’s best to set goals and discuss how it’ll help EVERYONE. Not just shout Jesus from the pulpit.

    Good job to everyone involved in this (except those silly council members of course).

  • The Other Weirdo

    Still don’t get it. And Star Wars Day makes perfect sense, in English, at any rate.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Ah. Thank you.

  • Michael Harrison

    Or, to one significant digit, 6E23, which is why I argue 6/23 should be the real Mole Day.

  • Jebus

    She had to google humanist? :|

  • Paul Reed

    To be fair, at least she researched it…

  • LivinginVA

    Not necessarily true. The UUs as a denomination are strong supporters of the humanist tradition. Additionally, there are many members of the “Christian Left” that oppose the interjection of religion into government.

  • baal

    To be even more fair, I don’t think she really understood what she read.

  • Feminerd

    10/23 corresponds (slightly) to the 10^23 part of Avogadro’s number.

  • TheLump

    I agree. That’s why I had the word “few” up there. There’s just not nearly as many of them.

  • Cogito Ergo Sum

    This one’s free, and it contains the Mayor issuing an apology:

  • Kittenfuud

    I was thinking the same thing, Michael Harrison! :)
    Maybe it could be on BOTH days – another reason to party!

  • Kittenfuud

    What does it say in the FLORIDA Constitution, I wonder? States have NO business in “reliigion,” be it against theirs or for it. The Federal Govt should step in and put a halt to all this. I certainly wouldn’t get my panties in a bunch over Humanist Recognition Week. St. Patrick’s Day is not a “religious” holiday, it’s a day where everyone can claim Irish heritage, parade, and drink like an Irishman! At no time (correct me if I’m wrong here) was this a “religious” holiday. There seems to be a dichotomy here, and scads of duality as well. And as to lying…why aren’t bush, cheney, rumsfeld and the lot not being prosecuted for war crimes?! That’s MORE than lying. I may be a Christian, but I believe in recognizing ALL people and their ideas. I may not AGREE with it, (Star Wars – LOL!) Everyone deserves recognition, whether one agrees with it or not, IMHO. If a “Recognition Week” (not “Humanist is RIGHT!” Week,) tame as it would be, offends so-called Christians, they’re not following Jesus as He intended. One doesn’t have to participate – just as one doesn’t have to recognize Christmas as the day of Christ’s birth.

  • Kittenfuud

    I’m SO happy you said “conservative Christians!” I certainly am not one, I am happy to say I am a very Left-Wing Christian. And were He walking this earth in human form right now, I think Jesus would be horrified at this misuse of His name. :I

  • Kittenfuud

    As far as I know, St. Patrick’s Day has NOTHING to do with Christianity, but it mentions a Saint, so I guess that’s what you’re getting at with that! See my comment below. In short, it’s a holiday where everyone gets to claim Irish heritage, drink, and parade around the streets of cities and towns! ‘Tis only conservative Christians who would have you believe it has ANYTHING to do with the actual St. Patrick. Does anyone go to a special St. Patrick’s Day mass?? Idk bc I’m not Catholic. But I don’t think so. I like Talk Like A Pirate Day but I always forget when that is – even though i live in Seattle, home to the Seafair Pirates! :/ Check out Seafair in Seattle during the last 2mos of summer – TOTAL blast! :D

  • Kittenfuud

    Oh! Thank you! I will be celebrating, as I did Pi Day! It will be so cool when it’s 2016 and we can celebrate the next part (though rounded) of Pi – 3/14/16! :D

  • Kittenfuud

    Sounds fair to me. I am SO TIRED of Christians like me being lumped in with wackos like Focus on the Family and such. I’m for humans! Why not? Why are they SO opposed? Because it scares them. And hatred springs from fear. “Humanist!” OH NO!! Like…we’re ALL humans..even some of our pets! ;)

  • Kittenfuud

    When my dearly departed Grandmother turned 100, the mayor of Puyallup WA dubbed that day “Lettie Henning Day.” The mayor came to the party and presented her with a certificate and warmly attended the festivities. What’s the difference? SHE was a Christian. SHE was a human. Maybe it’s the “ist” at the end of the word. Sounds too much like “Communist?” ….sigh… RIP, Grandma Henning! <3

  • Simon

    Okay so the resolution passed. That’s democracy in action and really this is a non-story. Yes it’s a bit ridiculous in a country with separation of church and state, elected officials are willing to be so narrow-minded. However answer would be to remove them from power at the next election by not voting for them.