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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.








Monday, August 11, 2014

What Does Greece v Galloway Say About Prayers before a Meeting?

From the Decision in Grecce v Galloway, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the following for the 5-4 majority--upholding the right of governmental bodies to have secterian prayer before meetings: "the context and jurisprudence surrounding the First Amendment suggested that the Establishment Clause was never meant to prohibit legislative prayer, which created the proper deliberative mood and acknowledged religion’s role in society. The content of this prayer does not need to be non-sectarian, because such a requirement would place the courts in the role of arbiters of religious speech, which would involve the government in religion to an extent that is impermissible under the Establishment Clause. The Court thus held that the prayers in question do not violate this tradition and are therefore acceptable under the First Amendment...legislative prayer is primarily for the members of the legislative body, and therefore such prayers do not coerce the public into religious observance." Read more here Read about the other famous case dealing with prayer before a legislative assembly, Marsh v. Chamber, here

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You conveniently left out the part of Galloway v Greece (SCOTUS 5/14) which said that a government body must accept the invocation of anyone asking to deliver one. You are in violation of the law because you refused based on a religious test. You hadn't invited anyone else yet, but you said you did. What's more, there are almost always students present at board meetings. That may very well put invocations in the realm of school-led prayer - illegal. Galloway also stated that government officials and employees may not lead prayers. The last three invocations were offered by ECSB employees (teachers, coaches, superintendents). Previously, MANY school board members have led the prayers. That's illegal. Finally, according to Marsh, invocations are intended for the governing body, not the audience. So it is illegal to ask the public to stand or bow their heads in prayer. These are ALL simple church/state separation violations, obvious to most citizens who don't claim a Christian privilege. If you were a minority (or respected minority religions as equals), you might understand. I'm sorry you cannot and that you are trying to keep the prayers you introduce exclusively Christian. How about we avoid all these problems and drop government-sponsored prayers at ECSB meetings? Wouldn't a moment of silence be more inclusive anyway? I say this: keep church in church and get on with the business of operating our schools without religious favoritism or patronage.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous-You obviously require further edification: the part you conveniently forget is this-- the crux of the decision supports what we've always done-allow for the invocation to benefit the elected officials in their deliberations before our meetings. Perfectly legal per both the SCOTUS decisions referenced in my blog post. Now, if someone like you wants to bring a klingon invocation to the flying spaghetti monster, in Klingon, we will not discriminate (many of us may turn our heads and wear BOSE noise cancelling headphones until you finish, though)And we're working on a process that will allow this.

Anonymous said...

I know legislative invocations are allowed. I never said they had to stop. More to the point - you're allowing non-Christian invocations now? You changed your mind? GREAT! That's a step in the right direction from what you told me on the phone: "I will not EVER, EVER allow that on my watch." In the future, I hope you also won't screen your invocations with questions like "Are you a Christian?" or "What religion are you?" as you said to me before you refused and quickly invited someone else. You literally said that the August spot 'might be available'... until I failed your religious test. I expect some initial futile resistance, but I cannot accept being called a liar. It's OK just to admit you were ignorant that ANY religion may offer an invocation (without discrimination or stonewalling). Now you know better. In the future, I hope that non-Christians will be included as readily as any Christian has ever been. You should also have Ms Waters look into this: the Galloway decision may not apply to the school board, as it is less a legislative body and more about school administration. Since students are present, school board invocations may be similar to school prayer - illegal, coercive to children and not appropriate for the function. Assuming they continue, they should not be led by teachers, staff or board members - just like school prayer.
I look forward to the day when ANY invocation is welcomed and none are refused or redirected to others or to public forums. PS I am not now, nor have I ever identified myself as Wiccan.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Dave-the board attorney and superintendent are looking at coming up with a new policy they will bring for the board's consideration, more than likely one that will allow for those of other faiths to deliver the invocation. You badly distort my opinion, our conversation, the meaning of the rulings, and just about everything else associated with this issue. As I said before-it appears you have a massive axe to grind. Relax. Take a step back, enjoy the weekend and the beautiful weather. Go to the beach, catch a ballgame. As I see it there are two issues at play here 1. Whether or not we need to be more "inclusive" (Answer-potentially, possibly) and 2. whether under our current protocol I have to, I must, acquiesce to your "demand" that I allow YOU RIGHT NOW AT THE VERY NEXT MEETING TO DELIVER THE INVOCATION!! Answer, again is not changing. I'm not saying "how high"When you say "Jump." The answer is No, David. As I told you when we spoke, I already have someone in mind to deliver the invocation for August, and I have decided to have this person bring a nice Christian prayer at Tuesday's meeting. But don't worry, the process is in motion to study the issue and come up with a more inclusive plan if it is determined by real lawyers that we should. We are not out of compliance with any law, we will remain in compliance with all laws, and eventually you will get your turn to bring a greeting. In the meantime--don't misinterpret my not allowing you to "cut in line" with this somehow being some sort of "religious litmus test" It's not, I'm just not letting you, David, call the shots. You don't, and you won't. So, have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Again, I cannot abide a liar. You clearly had a spot available, but refused me when I didn't pass your religious test. I will swear that in court if necessary. In the big picture, the he said/he said won't matter. Meantime, please learn the law. Though justice delayed is still justice denied, this will be settled and I will offer an invocation (as will anyone else who wishes). If I am not allowed, then invocations at school board functions will end. In fact, they may anyway, since students attend.

I hope you'll ask yourself the bigger question: Is is right to attempt to deny prayers that are not of your religious preference (Christian)? If you believe it is OK, you are wrong and should read the US Constitution regarding establishment of religion. If you believe it is OK to have non-Christians deliver invocations, you should simply put me on your schedule for your next spot and welcome me as you would any other speaker.

Have a great weekend! I am.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Dave you are the liar. You've lied over and over from day one about the way the conversation went. You didn't get your way so now you're trying to demonize me--but your bull in the china shop approach doesn't work, isn't working and will not ever work. The answer to your request to bring an invocation this month, the month when it is my turn to invite a guest, is still no. That won't change.

Anonymous said...

Will you ever, ever welcome a minority religion delivering an invocation prayer before the School Board?