The mayor of Flower Mound is receiving a lot of attention after declaring 2014 the "Year of the Bible."
Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden made the proclamation during a regularly scheduled city council meeting in the Dallas-area suburb last month.
"I ask that you join with me, Tom Hayden, Mayor of the Town of Flower Mound, Texas, in Proclaiming 2014 to be the 'Year of the Bible' in Flower Mound, Texas, and encourage all residents in their own way to examine the principles and teachings found in the Bible," Hayden said during the Dec. 16 meeting.
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Along with the proclamation, Hayden promoted a website set up and administered by staff at the Calvary Chapel Church in Flower Mound.
Among the site's many features is a daily selection of verses from the New King James version of the Bible. The Jan. 2 selections include the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, John the Baptist and other readings.
On Thursday, Hayden explained the motivation for his proclamation to NBC 5.
"I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I hope to be able to share the good news with others," Hayden said by phone, declining to speak on camera because he recently suffered cuts on his face from an ATV accident. "Everyone's personal relationship with God is a personal decision. Your relationship with God may differ with mine. If I can, I would like to encourage people to read the Bible."
Hayden added that he is disappointed that the focus for some concerning the "Year of the Bible" proclamation has been on him and not, as he intended, on the teachings in the Bible.
Residents offered varied opinions about the mayor's move.
"To me [it is] to each their own," said Vicki Bassinger, a Flower Mound resident, who said she is generally in support of the mayor's proclamation. "And you should be able to do the Bible at your own home. You don't have to go to church or whatever. And that's what he's recommending."
"Honestly, I don't think it's a very good idea," said Crysta McKenry, who works in Flower Mound. "I believe in the whole separation of church and state. If you start talking about Hinduism or something and you say, 'Oh, let's make this all about Hinduism,' there would be an uproar about it. So why make it to where Christianity is OK?"
There are dozens of churches in Flower Mound, which has a population of more than 66,000 people. The majority of the churches are Christian-based, but at least five of the organized religions with places of worship in Flower Mound are not. There is an Islamic mosque, a Hindu temple, a Baha'i temple, a Zoroastrian church and a Jewish synagogue.
"I think [Mayor Hayden] has made the wrong priorities in thinking about this," said Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis of the Congregation Kol Ami. "He thinks this is about him and his opportunity to promote his faith in his role as mayor. But I think he needs to realize that I and the other people who voted him to office voted him in as mayor, not as Bishop of Flower Mound."
Rabbi Dennis told NBC 5, he and other religious leaders in the community, first met with Hayden over a year ago when he approached them with this idea.
"When I first talked to him and said this is not a good idea his response to me was to become defensive and say, 'Well, I'm not ashamed of my faith,'" Rabbi Dennis recalled. "I tried to explain to him this is not about your shame or your pride as a Christian. This is about your respect for your constituents of all types in this community. It's clear he didn't get the message."
Hayden reiterated to NBC 5 Monday this proclamation was not an order on behalf of the municipal government, but was instead an action taken specifically and solely by him.