The American Humanist Association is criticizing Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson for filling the city July 4 observance with promotion of Christianity by having a gospel group as featured entertainment at the city ballpark.
The objection was spurred by a letter from the mayor to residents about the event, particularly the portion highlighted above about the appearance of a gospel group, the Bowling Family, whose goal is “to usher in the presence of god and to celebrate the Christian message.” At least one citizen objected to the proselytizing and got in touch with the Humanist Association and its legal center.
Said a Humanist release:
“Using the city’s Fourth of July festivities to promote a religious agenda is un-American,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “It shows a blatant disregard for the separation of church and state, established by our country’s founders, and it sends the discriminatory message that non-Christian citizens are not welcome in their own community.”
“The mayor cannot use his position as a city official to push his personal religious beliefs onto the community,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association. “To avoid further violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the city should remove its sponsorship of the performance and relocate it to a private venue. The mayor should also refrain from using the apparatus of government to promote religion.”
A copy of the mayor’s letter can be viewed here.
We’ve been down this road in Beebe before.
In 2010, we wrote about Robertson’s defense of public prayer and noted his hanging of the Ten Commandments in City Hall. He complained then about “excessive liberties” given non-believers. In 2014, he was said to be resistant to pagans who had plans for a temple and store. He said that was just a routine zoning dispute.
I’m seeking a response on the latest. He told the Democrat-Gazette he’d stick with the gospel group, however.