Nebraska Mayor, Atheist Leader Spar Over Separation of Church and State at Memorial Day Event?

An atheist group based in Omaha, Nebraska is accusing a local mayor of making "disturbing comments" when discussing a Memorial Day event and its possible violation of the separation of Church and State.

According to a press release from Omaha Atheists, La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig reportedly made the comments to a member of the atheist organization after a Sunday "Faith and Freedom Day" service meant to honor veterans and active duty military. The event, held ahead of Memorial Day, included a pancake breakfast and a service featuring Walter Hooker, associate pastor of Bellevue Christian Center.

La Vista resident and Omaha Atheists board member Robert Fuller claims in the press release that he approached Kindig at Sunday's event, handing him his business card and telling him he'd like to discuss, at another time, the possible separation of Church and State violations taking place at the "Faith and Freedom Day" event.

Fuller claimed that the mayor said in response to his request: "Take me to [expletive] court because I don't care," later adding "Minorities are not going to run my city."

Omaha Atheists is now asking Kindig to "publicly explain his offensive comments." The mayor released a statement to WOWT-TV confirming that an exchange with a member of Omaha Atheists had occurred, but clarifying that he had been "confronted" by Fuller at Sunday's event.

"I am truly sorry that my response to this representative caused backlash against the City. I was coming out of a very emotional event at which local veterans who were killed in action were recognized, and my reaction was certainly emotional in nature. It is my hope all sides can move forward together," the mayor said in his statement.

Jill Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the local atheist group, told the media outlet that the mayor has not responded to the group's request to meet and discuss the Faith and Freedom Day event.

Meagan Wilson, president of the Omaha Atheists, told the World-Herald that Kindig's comments were "insulting and dismissive of the rights of citizens to bring concerns to their elected officials."

Recently, the Omaha Atheists suffered another local mishap when they noticed their "Adopt-a-Highway" sign had been vandalized with a huge spray-painted cross over the word "atheists." In response, the group called a public meeting to "[discuss] the public perception of atheism."