So I’ve received several emails like this one, below, over the last two months. I got this one yesterday…
"Dear Mr. Bergosh,
I am Celebrant XXXXX XXXXXX of XXXX XXXXXXXXX Rd. Pensacola XXXXX, and I am still interested in offering the Invocation for upcoming Escambia County School District meetings.
I, as a XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX, would be requesting you the board members make the best decisions you can with the education, knowledge and experience you have attained, without prejudice. I ask this so that even we of minority philosophic thinking might still, with equality, be included in all governmental considerations for invocations per the Supreme Court of the United States.
Would you consider me for an Invocation please?
Cel XXXXX XXXXXX
XXXXXXXXX XX XXXX XXXXXXX
And as I think about the last eight years on the board, and all the folks that have come on my behalf and brought a pre-meeting prayer, I began reflecting on who it was that I invited and why.
First of all, it is always someone that I know. I’ve invited my pastor, the senior pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church, a man that is an incredible inspiration to me. He is amazing and his sermons are LEGENDARY! He also has a connection to our schools, as Hillcrest is the home church for many
district employees and Hillcrest steps up and supports many area sports teams and booster associations, and they also run intramural basketball and baseball leagues that benefit many public school students.
And then I think of the district volunteers that I have brought, people that are invested in our schools, including one man I’ve brought twice who was the state of Florida school volunteer of the year for 2013!
And I’ve given the invocation myself, and I’ve asked selected staff members to bring the invocations as well.
A behavior coach that deals with elementary school students with behavior issues brought the prayer for me once.
And my bible study leader has brought invocations on my behalf-he and his wife have students in our elementary schools.
Everyone I have ever brought on my behalf to pray at our meeting has been either a personal friend or someone intimately familiar with and active in our schools, or both.
And they all have a strong, verifiable connection with our schools. This is important.
So when I get unsolicited “offers” requesting that I “please pick me” to bring an invocation, I am cautious.
After all, we’ve had some really pushy, arrogant folks DEMAND that we bring them; to prove we’re not BIGOTS recently.
More troubling, I’ve seen online threats the essence of which is “Tell them you’re going to come bring a Christian prayer, then do a satanic prayer instead, LOL”
I don’t want someone to rob this board of their opportunity to legitimately pray on important issues before a meeting. I don’t want this board to be subjected to somebody’s prank. I won’t have that when it is my turn to bring a guest. It is simply too important and I won’t allow it, because, given this is such an important component of our meeting, designed and included for the benefit of the legislative body as we consider very important issues for action, I’m just not inclined to bring in folks right of the street who I don’t know and who have ZERO interest or connection to our schools.
The attorney for the board has spoken, saying our practice is legal but also that we should consider those of other faiths as our guests. I’ve taken that to heart and I will bring a non-Christian as a guest soon.
But I’m not going to bring anyone that demands I bring them, or that threatens the dignity and solemn nature of this portion of our meetings—just so such an individual can make a headline. Or just to prove I’m not a bigot to someone that could care less about our district or the students we serve.
And I’ll never support going to a moment of silence instead—the only way I accept that is if I’m voted down by my peers or a court forces this. Neither of these scenarios is likely.