Craig Fletcher, the mayor of Vero Beach, Fla., has issued an apology for recent comments he made regarding Humanist Recognition Week, which he refused to approve because humanists do not worship Jesus Christ.
Fletcher said in a recent statement that after consulting with his wife and pastor, he has realized that his statements were "way out of line."
"I want to offer my sincerest apologies to anyone whom I may have offended by my remarks last Tuesday at the City Council meeting. It was a horrific statement and on reflection was way out of place for an elected official to take such a strident stance. I hope everyone will find it in their heart to forgive me," Fletcher told WPBF West Palm Beach.
"I was way out of line," Fletcher added.
During a Vero Beach city council meeting last Tuesday, Fletcher voted down a proclamation requesting that June 16-23 be declared as Humanist Recognition Week in the city.
Fletcher voted against it because humanists "do [not] believe in Jesus Christ."
"I refuse to support any organization that does not believe in Jesus Christ," Fletcher said at the meeting in City Hall.
"It's a proclamation for Humanists. They do not recognize Jesus Christ as their savior," the mayor continued. "I'll have nothing to do with it. If you want to out vote me, that's fine. Go ahead, make a motion and get it done."
Vice mayor Tracy Carroll seconded Fletcher's sentiment, arguing that the local humanist group has previously complained to the city for recognizing traditional Christian holidays, such as Thanksgiving, and therefore she believes the group is contradicting itself by designating a week of recognition.
The proclamation –which was sponsored by the local Humanists of the Treasure Coast – was ultimately approved, as three out of the five city council members voted in favor of it in order to avoid a "freedom of speech issue," according to councilman Jay Kramer.
Mayor Fletcher's remarks received a rash of criticism from the local non-Christian community regarding his views on religious tolerance.
For example, the TCPalm reported that several members of the non-Christian community in Vero Beach were planning to meet to discuss the dispute between Fletcher and the local humanist group.
"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," Rabbi Michael Birnholz of Vero Beach's Temple Beth Shalom told the local newspaper.
Ultimately, 25 non-Christian faith groups met at Community Church of Vero Beach prior to Fletcher's apology to draft a letter to city council regarding the mayor's comments.
Although Fletcher has apologized for his comments, Vice Mayor Carroll has yet to issue any statements regarding her refusal to recognize Humanist Recognition Week.
As the proclamation states, the purpose of the recognition week is to "[cultivate] intelligent and ethical interactions among people with tolerance and respect."
The local recognition week is based on national World Humanist Day on June 21, designated by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.