The mayor of a wealthy suburban Dallas town has raised eyebrows and ire by declaring 2014 to be the 'Year of the Bible.'
Tom Hayden is the mayor of Flower Mound, Texas, an upscale suburb of 65,000 residents located 27 miles (43 km) northwest of Dallas. He is also a devout evangelical Christian. Although the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits government from establishing an official religion, favoring one religion over another or favoring religion over non-religion, Hayden has ended a two-year inner struggle by choosing to ignore the constitutional principle of separation of church and state by proclaiming 2014 'Year of the Bible.'
Addressing a December 16 meeting of the Flower Mound Town Council, Mayor Hayden announced his plan:
"I'm going to do something that's a special proclamation, and the idea of this is to encourage our community to discuss the Bible... I ask that you join with me... in proclaiming 2014 to be Year of the Bible in Flower Mound... and to encourage all residents in their own way to examine the principles and teachings found in the Bible."
"His desire was bring our town back to a Biblical foundation which our country was founded and built upon," explained a website created by Calvary Chapter of Flower Mound, a local fundamentalist evangelical church. "His vision is that as a town, as many as wanted to participate, would as a community read through the Bible in a year together."
To that end, the "One Year Bible" program has broken the Bible down into 362 daily readings. There's a smartphone app and a Facebook page to facilitate participation.
Public reaction seems to be overwhelmingly supportive of Hayden's initiative.
"I am very proud to call you mayor stepping up for Christ," Gary Giuriceo wrote on the 'Year of the Bible' website. "The other mayors should take your lead."
"I'd like to thank Tom for his courage in making this proclamation," agreed James Clay. "In this day of political correctness, such acts are sadly rare. I know that God will bless this act and will bring many closer to him."
But not everyone approved of Hayden's public endorsement of Christianity.
"He was elected mayor, not as the spiritual leader of Flower Mound," local Curt Orton told My Fox DFW.
Hemant Mehta of the popular freethought blog Friendly Atheist writes that Hayden's declaration is "a straight-up 'Fuck You' to the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, atheists, and all other non-Christians in the community."
"With the mayor proclaiming the Bible as God's Word and the Truth, he's acting as if he's the town minister and not an elected government official," Mehta added.
But Hayden remains undaunted.
"The morality that helped build our country is based on values that are found in the Bible," he told My Fox DFW. "And 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."
Conservative observers have noted that Hayden's proclamation is not without precedent. In 1983, for example, President Ronald Reagan made a similar proclamation, urging "all citizens to... reexamine and rediscover [the Bible's] priceless and timeless message."