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Thousands of Kansans have signed a petition calling for the resignation of a top state lawmaker who, referring to President Obama, cited a psalm that calls for the removal of a leader — by death.
Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) has been under fire primarily by liberal groups and hate crime watchdogs since he forwarded an e-mail quoting Psalm 109:8. It says: “May his days be few; may another take his office.”
The controversy comes from the next line in the Psalm: “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”
The scripture reference has become a controversial slogan for the president’s critics, with mugs and bumper stickers that say: “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8.” O’Neal and others say they’re only talking about the first part.
The Kansas City Star quoted this e-mail from O’Neal: “I understand the debate over the verse interpretation, about which I have explained and for which I have repeatedly apologized to the extent anyone misconstrued my intent or was otherwise offended. I respect both the president and the office.”
But some critics say O’Neal and others who cite the psalm are being disingenuous.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes, earlier this week said the scriptural quote comes in the context of a “grotesque coarsening of public discourse” surrounding the president, whose faith and national identity are regularly called into question.
“Words have consequences,” said Potok. “These are precisely the kinds of words that lead to situations like Gabby Giffords.” Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat who recently resigned from her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, was among 19 people shot at a constituent event in Tucson.
Michael Sherrard, of the Washington group Faithful America said Wednesday that the petition calling for O’Neal to resign has 40,000 signatures from around the country.
The state’s top Democrat said O’Neal should not resign, noting he apologized.
O’Neal came under fire earlier in January for forwarding another e-mail that made fun of Michelle Obama’s windswept hair and referred to her as “Mrs. YoMama.” O’Neal said he hadn’t read the full text of the e-mail and apologized.