Topeka Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal says he will not resign because of criticism he's received since forwarding two emails critical of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Faithful America, a nondenominational online forum based in Washington, D.C., had collected nearly 25,000 signatures by Tuesday for online petitions seeking O'Neal's resignation.
The controversy started after O'Neal forwarded the two emails this month. One quoted a Bible verse that says "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership." The second email called Mrs. Obama "YoMama."
O'Neal, a Republican from Hutchinson, apologized last week, saying he did not intend to offend anyone. He said the Bible verse was meant to call for Obama to be defeated in the upcoming election. Critics, however, cite the next verse in the Psalm: "May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow."
"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," O'Neal said in an email Monday. "I respect both the president and the office."
Michael Sherrard of Faithful America said he questioned O'Neal's understanding of the verse.
"This is without question a passage calling for the death of a leader," Sherrard told The Wichita Eagle. "It shows a lack of judgment from someone in leadership."
Faithful America on Tuesday had collected more than 22,000 signatures on its website and about 2,800 on Sign-On.org.
Rep. Melody McCray-Miller, D-Wichita, a member of the African-American legislative caucus, said she will push for the House to take collective action against O'Neal for the two emails. She did not specify what she would seek and said the caucus is working on a formal response.
O'Neal said he has support in the House and will not resign.
"I've been humbled by the support and understanding expressed by House members and look forward to getting back to work and staying focused on the many issues we have to consider here in Kansas," he said.