Missouri Mayor Rescinds Bible Proclamation (Jan/Feb 1994)

Mayor George Washburn of Nevada, Missouri, released a statement on December 21, 1993, complying with a request by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that he rescind his proclamation declaring 1994 to be “A Year of Bible Reading.”

The Foundation made the request on behalf of a Nevada, Missouri Foundation member, after being sent a copy of the November proclamation. The proclamation called for “renewing knowledge and faith in God through Holy Scripture reading,” called the bible “the Word of God,” and concluded:

“Now therefore, I, George Washburn, Mayor of Nevada, Missouri, in conjunction with Christians Together, the Saints of God, and a host of others, do hereby proclaim the year 1994 as ‘A Year of Bible Reading’ in Nevada, Missouri and urge all Saints to study the Holy Scriptures and apply their teachings in all your actions and interactions.”

On December 3, Foundation staff member Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote to protest the Mayor’s misuse of office to proselytize:

“As President Thomas Jefferson noted, in refusing to make any religious or thanksgiving proclamations during his eight-year tenure: ‘civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.’ “

Gaylor alerted Mayor Washburn to the Foundation’s successful lawsuit against the Mayor of Denver in November, 1993, when he proclaimed a single “Day of Prayer.” Mayor Washburn was sent documentation of the action on Nov. 13, 1993, by Dist. Judge John McMullen enjoining the Mayor of Denver from promoting, endorsing, or sponsoring, in his official capacity, a “Day of Prayer.”

“We trust you will rescind your equally improper proclamation prior to 1994 to correct this First Amendment violation.”

Mayor Washburn noted, in his public retraction:

“As indicated in the complaint, I have misused the official capacity of this office by urging citizens, as stated in the proclamation, to ‘study the Holy Scriptures,’ which appears to be in violation of the concept of the separation of church and state.

“Therefore, due to my error, I will rescind this proclamation which was issued in November of 1993. I apologize to the Christian Together Organization for any embarrassment this action may cause.”

Gaylor called the Dec. 21 rescission “a nice Winter Solstice present–to have a mayor not only understand the importance of government neutrality but to be willing to rescind an inappropriate proclamation, and offer an abject apology, is remarkably refreshing!”

Freedom From Religion Foundation