I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Handling Invocations at School Board Meetings: An Inclusive, Win-Win Solution?
So we have some really persistent individuals that really want to bring the invocation to our School Board meetings. They point to a recent Supreme Court case as their ammunition, supporting their cause and their right to bring non-Christian prayer to the meeting. Forget the fact that more than 80% of Americans are Christian. Forget the fact that in Escambia County Florida that percentage is much higher. Forget the fact that in our School Board meetings, it is more than likely nearly 100% of the attendees identifying as Christian. No matter, we’re told we must be inclusive. One of these persistent individuals came to the last meeting. (That’s him in the picture above turning his back on my guest who was in the process of bringing a very respectful opening invocation.)
I’ve had several email requests and phone calls from various individuals that want me to select them to bring the invocation to the meeting on my behalf, as my guest. I had one super, hyper-persistent person who demanded I allow him to bring a Wiccan/pagan greeting. I told him No. (Under our current protocol, the selection of individuals for bringing the invocation rotates among the board every five months, corresponding with five board members.)
At last Tuesday’s meeting, a speaker at public forum indicated that he was invited to bring the invocation by another board member, at an upcoming meeting. I have no idea what this person will say at his rendition of an invocation. I have no doubt he will be polite, but do I have to listen to someone politely refute my religious beliefs before a meeting of a board that is 100% Christian? What if this person wants to deliver a satanic prayer? Should the overwhelming majority of the attendees at these meetings really be subjected to this?
I say no.
I am bringing an idea to the next workshop to allow us as a board to be inclusive, while at the same
time allowing attendees at our meetings, and members of the board, to “opt-out” of being proselytized to or disparaged by someone who believes Christianity is a made-up religion..I do not want to be subjected to their version of a prayer. I don’t want to be and I will not be a part of someone’s prank. I mean, what if a witch doctor wants to deliver a message? Will we really let that happen? I don’t want to hear that rubbish, and I’d suspect I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to hear it, either. Here’s my plan: When a board
member invites a non-Christian to come to the meeting to bring an alternative invocation, and after such individual is introduced and making his/her way up to the podium- I'll politely state that I am heading out the back-door, to say a private prayer outside of the room, and I'll invite any in attendance to join me. It might take just a moment. Then, after a minute or two, the guest can bring his/her officially sponsored, non-Christian, Buddhist, Klingon, or whatever invocation he wants to whomever is left in the room.
Simultaneously, I'll deliver (or have someone else in the assembled outside group) a proper Christian prayer. I'll neither discriminate against the guest nor prevent his/her free expression of faith. I will expect the same courtesy from our guest. Then, after a couple of minutes, I'll come back into the room (along with anyone else who joined me). We'll then do the pledge, and carry on with the meeting! A win-win solution, wouldn't you say?