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Mayor Parris apologizes for religious remark

February 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Recent comments by the mayor of Lancaster have generated a religious controversy. An Islamic group claims the mayor improperly used his office to promote Christianity. The mayor met with local religious leaders Monday and apologizes for his remarks.

In a state of the city address a few weeks ago, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris described the city as a Christian community.

"We are a growing Christian community and don't let anybody shy away from that. I need Lancaster residents standing up and saying we are a Christian community and we're proud of it," he said in his speech.

His comments drew strong reactions from religious groups in the Antelope Valley.

Some say that they think the mayor's remarks excluded non Christians.

Monday afternoon at Lancaster's City Hall, Parris along with many religious leaders supporting him, gathered to clear the air. Parris apologized for his remarks and said he wanted to clarify what he meant.

"I think that communities are robust and vibrant when we do everything we can to facilitate all churches, all religions, all faiths to have a robust, vital part of that community," said Parris.

"When he said he wanted to grow a Christian city, I thought that's what he meant that he wanted a moral and ethical city," said Rabbi David Hoffman of Temple Beth Knesset Bamidbar.

"We do accept the statement of Mr. Parris that he meant that to be a Christian means to be a good neighbor. If this is what he meant, that's all he had to say and that's enough for us," said Dr. Bassam Hadaya of the Islamic Center of North Valley.

The Council on Islamic American Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, indicated that it plans to file a complaint with the Department of Justice, but the complaint has not been filed yet. The mayor is running for election this year.