The mayor of a north Texas town declared 2014 the year of the Bible for it residents, after announcing that the initiative would be an opportunity for the community of Flower Mound, located near the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, to connect through the scriptures.
For the last few years, Mayor Tom Hayden was hesitant about making the proclamation. However, he made the official announcement during a council meeting last month where he established that it was not a law, but rather an effort for Flower Mound to adhere to biblically-based principals.
"I was nervous about doing this," said Hayden, reports Dallas-based Fox 4 news." And I've been thinking about it for two years, and procrastinated about it for as long as I possibly could."
He added, "There's so much benevolence on helping your fellow person and the morality that helped build our country is based on the values that are found in the Bible. As we look at problems, maybe we're getting away from those values. And in my little small way, I want to encourage people to get back into those values."
Part of the initiative includes a website, thebible2014.com, where residents can visit and participate in 15 to 20 minutes of daily reading. The site is structured to include the scriptures in its entirety and is comprised of a reading plan that includes the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs in sequential order.
The mayor tapped into his network of local ministers for the effort including Pastor Jon Bell of Calvary Chapel to help get the website running in time for the new year.
"The way it's set up is that people would have the same scripture each day that they would go over and so that at the end of the year, they'd have gone through the whole Bible in a year," said Bell.
Randy Word, president of Metroplex Atheists in Dallas, opposes the mayor's declaration and says Hayden has used his elected position to enact the "unilateral" initiative.
"These actions only result in promoting, proselytizing and establishing the Christian religion over all other worldviews in Flower Mound," said Word to The Christian Post. "This clearly violates our Constitution's Establishment Clause. He should be representing all the citizens of Flower Mound not just the Christians. This exclusionary action only further divides an increasingly diverse community. In short, the mayor is using his public office to exercise what amounts to nothing more than Christian bullying."
Word also said his group has not made a decision yet on whether or not to take further action against the mayor's enactment.
So far, the declaration has gained little traction but Hayden remains hopeful that the community will participate. He admits that he took a cue from former president Ronald Regan for his decision, who declared 1983 the year of the Bible for the nation during his address at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
After Reagan made the declaration, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the initiative, arguing that it was illegal because it enforced Christianity as the official religion of the United States. A federal judge upheld the constitutionality of Reagan's proclamation later that year.
In a similar case, a group of atheists sued Pennsylvania legislators for passing a resolution that declared 2012 as the year of the Bible as well.