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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God in Government

America is a nation that was founded on Christian principles and anyone who espouses otherwise simply does not know History and the facts or they are deliberately obfuscating the issue. 
The vast majority of the founding fathers were Christian —and these great men believed strongly in the freedom of Religion and believed that the new nation should not sanction any one church; they specifically did not want a “Church of England” type of monopoly on religion in the new republic they were making.  Of the 55 delegates to attend the Constitutional Convention, 49 were Protestant and 2 were Roman Catholic. (Franklin T Lambert. (2003). The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press) 
The United States Constitution expressly speaks to the importance of the free exercise of Religion in the First Amendment where it is written “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
49 of the 50 state constitutions’ preambles prominently refer to God.  Read them all here
Our currency says “In God we Trust.”
Multiple Supreme Court Decisions uphold the legality and constitutionality of the custom of legislative bodies engaging in pre-meeting prayer.  
Friday’s inauguration of President Trump featured multiple ministers praying to and giving thanks to God.  During his speech, President Trump emphatically stated that “God will protect America!”
We are a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles.
And even though the vast majority of Americans who practice religion are Christian, as a nation we promote respect and tolerance for those who believe and worship differently than the majority of us believe and worship.  This is part of the reason we are the greatest nation in the world.
So even though a small, miniscule yet vocal minority locally complains about prayer in public among public bodies as they proclaim such activity is unconstitutional -- what they say about this issue is misinformed and untrue.
Pre-meeting prayer by the legislative body is legal and constitutional.
We are tolerant and inclusive, whereas these anti-Christiansare neither tolerant nor inclusive.
I suppose most of these intolerant folks have not yet read this decision out of the 4th Circuit.  They should read it.  They won’t like it. 


Anonymous said...

David Suhor here. You are incorrect. No one has suggested that prayer by legislative bodies is not allowed by law. We all know it is. It is, however, a divisive and bad idea that is not implemented legally at local boards.

The issue is that the BoCC, as the personal privilege of each commissioner, has and continues to "prohibit the free exercise" of some religions in this government forum. This is a problem of censorship and discrimination and prescription of (some) prayer by government. All of that is illegal under the Galloway decision. It's an establishment clause violation to let some give the invocation, but not others.

You won't discuss or record your "policy" (personal religious discretion) because, as you admitted, you can't admit that your procedure encourages pandering and inequality. Yet you have no guidelines for choosing without bias or repeats, appropriate content, or time limits.

Any way you look at it, The Satanic Temple West Florida has been prohibited from exercising our voice in this government religious forum. What's more, the BoCC will not even answer YES OR NO to our offer. Will you welcome us? Will you allow TSTWF our right to free exercise in this forum? Or will you prohibit us? If you prohibited us, why? By what right?

It's very simple for a person of integrity to stand up and declare their principles. But can a politician do it? YEA or NAY to TSTWF?

Jeff Bergosh said...

David: at the last meeting you mentioned that one of my counterparts on the BCC had extended an invitation for you to come and bring the invocation--so why are you all spun up? You should be delighted, dancing on air like the Griffith Observatory scene from the movie "La La Land!" So I don't get your animosity. This is eerily reminiscent of the time Patty Hightower invited you to bring the invocation at the school board--and you blew it off. You've been invited, so far as I know from what you said at public forum, so relax a bit. As far as the rest of your response above--I disagree completely and I do not think you apprehend this issue. Re-read the 4th circuit decision. Read it carefully. It is spot-on and directly on-point. And one final thing: I know you believe in nothing, you have said as much in your numerous online postings and rants. How can everything spring from nothing, David? Explain this to me logically while you also explain how somebody who believes in nothing expects us to believe you are suddenly a "satanist?" Believing in satan is believing in something, but you believe in nothing so is your satanic belief just a ruse? By all means, please explain that one to me.......

Anonymous said...

David here...

STILL NO YES/NO ANSWER!? Why won't you just admit that you won't let one particular religious group participate? Are you afraid to speak to the truth?

I spoke of Mr May, who let me speak over two years ago, representing Paganism, which I still practice. In the two years since, TSTWF has been asking all the commissioners. None have accepted... yet several have repeated other (xtian) speakers. You ALL "prohibit the free exercise" of our religion. How can you deny that? Please try.

The 4th circuit decision is under appeal to the full court. It says nothing about your current practice - of refusing some minority religions at will. In fact, it says that the County was open to religious minorities. The BoCC is the definitely not. That is the issue. SCOTUS speaks clearly on it, saying you must allow someone "of any persuasion", that you must maintain a policy of "non-discrimination" and that you may not "prescribe" prayer. You fail on all three counts. Why? Because we are a "Christian nation"? Fail, Jeff. Fail.

I ask again... can you answer? I'll ask at your next meeting too. Will you allow TSTWF to participate in the BoCC's invocations? A simple YES/NO is all that is required, but we'd love to hear your reasoning if you prohibit us.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Bergosh:

I dispute some of your claims, respectfully. First, it's unclear that this country was founded on *distinctly* Christian principles. Please consider specific principles of justice and governance, and then--with respect to each principle--consider whether it distinctly bears the mark of Christianity or whether it simply bears the mark of the Enlightenment. For example, in any founding document is there a mention of Christ? Mere mention of God is insufficient, since such would be consistent with non-Christian views or Christian views that most 21st century Christians would consider heterodox if not heretical (e.g., Calvinism or Deism).

Second, I question some of your historical claims and their bearing on the matter at hand.

"In God We Trust" first appeared on paper money in 1957, so your claim about currency hardly bears on whether the country was founded on Christian principles.

And though you didn't mention it in your post, I feel compelled to add that "under God" was not officially added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954. Both this decision and the decision to add "In God We Trust" to paper money were made in response to the "red scare" in an effort to distinguish the US from the Soviet Union. The appearance of "In God We Trust" on coins prior to 1957 goes back to the Civil War when the decision was made to include the phrase on coins to send the message that God favored the Union (condolences to readers who wave the flag of "southern pride").

Further, I entreat you to consider the passage from the Treaty of Tripoli which directly contradicts your claim about the US being founded on Christian principles.

From Article 11:

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,..."

Last, please bear in mind the following quote from Thomas Jefferson as you cast doubt upon Mr. Suhor's convictions, as it seems you are asking him to justify his convictions or at the very least demonstrate his sincerity:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

--Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists.

As you call into question Mr. Suhor's sincerity, keep the phrase "he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship," in mind. I know the commissioners must grow weary of Mr. Suhor. The easiest way to put an end to all this would be to move to an inclusive moment of silence so that everyone can pray (or not) as one sees fit. Barring that, it would seem that a formal invitation for David to deliver an invocation on behalf of The Satanic Temple of West Florida is in order. Mr. Suhor, as co-founder and spokesperson, represents the Chapter publicly. Please consider a policy for invocations; that you admitted that a policy would be eviscerated and end up in court (your words) suggests that you know, however, that you are in a legal gray area, the Circuit Court decision notwithstanding. We are concerned that commissioner discretion may be subject to implicit bias, which is not to attribute any nefarious intentions to the commissioners; it is a fact of human psychology.
Regarding Mr. Suhor's Satanism and your claim that he "believes in nothing," Please read the FAQ on TSTWF's website:

The Satanic Temple is a non-theistic religion. We do not believe in a supernatural deity. It is false to say that we believe in nothing; we hold fast to 7 Tenets.
Thank you for your time.

Co-founder, Chapter Head
TST-West Florida

Anonymous said...


I disagree with your conclusion that America was founded on Christian principles. Your argument doesn't comport with historical fact nor does it comport with reason; it contains several non sequiturs whose premise don't support your conclusion.

I won't be debating your argument today, though. Instead, I'd like to find some common ground with you and see if we can work from there.

Presumably, as a Christian, you think that Islam and Sharia Law are a bad idea when it comes to the implementation of a government. You might think that governments based on Islamic/Quranic law specifically are a bad idea because Islam is the wrong theology, or you might think that a government founded on dogmatic, faith-based traditions are inherently bad. If you believe either of these propositions, then we share some common ground because I believe both:
1) the theology and scripture associated with specific crimes and prescribed punishments are bad
2) any/all theocracy is not the best form of government

Please, Jeff, understand that this is exactly how non-Christians like me feel about our own government. Not only are there some terrible biblical examples of "crimes" and prescribed punishments, but I want my government and legislative bodies making decisions based on the best evidence available whose conclusions comport with facts and reason.

I don't think you'd disagree with my anecdotal/analogous evidence of Islam above given the current-day example of what dangers theocracies present to ideals that we as Americans hold dear: ideas like free speech and the freedom to practice or not practice a religion as the individual sees fit. The government shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof.

Why is it, Jeff, that you continue to refuse to allow The Satanic Temple of West Florida the opportunity to deliver an invocation inside your council chambers? The solution, it seems, is to give David Suhor the opportunity to deliver his invocation or move to an all-inclusive moment of silence. You have nothing to lose from either of the two propositions above, but stand to lose quite a bit if this situation is ever brought to court. You are in direct violation of the Supreme Court decision you cite as reason for opening with prayer in the first place: you are illegally censoring an individual from performing the invocation. On top of that, you have no written policy, making the onus fall squarely on your shoulders should you get sued.

Jeff, please don't dismiss what I've said outright because we disagree on the founding principles of our government or the truth of salvation through Christ. Instead, consider what I've said as an appeal to your reason, reason that I believe may lead you to see the common ground that we share, and I hope that we can work together to resolve this issue at hand.


Joseph Smith

Anonymous said...

"Ad-hominem attacks will not be tolerated."

Except, Mr. Bergosh used one retorting Mr. David Suhor. Interesting.

Mr. Suhor asked if and when TSTWF can offer a prayer at BoCC. The response from Mr. Bergosh, " I know you believe in nothing, you have said as much in your numerous online postings and rants. How can everything spring from nothing, David? Explain this to me logically while you also explain how somebody who believes in nothing expects us to believe you are suddenly a "satanist?" Believing in satan is believing in something, but you believe in nothing so is your satanic belief just a ruse? By all means, please explain that one to me......." is not an answer to the question. An ad hominem argument is an attack on the person, and not the argument that the other person is offering.

How in the world do you have rules for a blog, and then you break the rules by using a fallacious argument?

That is my question.

Anonymous said...

I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that you call secular activists intolerant. It seems as if you are the intolerant one, claiming you are in the majority therefore you are correct. You are actively trying to silence those with different beliefs. You won't let TST pray because you're afraid.

"In God We Trust" is our nation's motto based solely on the concept of ceremonial deism. The motto has held up in court because it does not specifically reference a Christian god. God can mean anything to anyone and it's your duty as a representative of the law to allow everyone to publicly pray to their god as they please. You can't censor - that's unconstitutional.

As far as not wanting to put a policy into law because it'd get torn apart in court....I hate to be blunt here but if you aren't comfortable with writing a policy on something so simple as religious equality you should probably get out of law.

Jeff Bergosh said...

a small group of like minded individuals from a handful of IP addresses that all feel the same way about a subject does not a compelling argument make. Facts are facts and the fact of the matter, that I proved unequivocally with my initial post and the follow-on comment, is that we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles that tolerates those of all faiths. Again, this is what makes us the greatest nation on the planet. To the satanists watching this thread: be happy you live here in America. Imagine if you were a miniscule minority religion (Like Christians in Egypt and Morocco) and your places of worship were being burned to the ground and you were actually being persecuted for your faith by agents of the governments in power in these places...worse yet ---if you were counter to the religious beliefs in many countries you could have your heads chopped off or be thrown off a building. Yes, those things don't happen here in America, whether you are Satanist, spaghetti monster, or Klingon--because we are a nation of tolerance for those who peacefully practice their religious beliefs...And again I will state this fact: The practice of each commissioner choosing his/her own guest to bring the invocation comports with the laws on this matter and does produce multiple moments of silence as well as a diverse number of other non-Christian prayers that I have seen over the last few years. How can you argue about diversity when we have had multiple faiths represented over the last several years and multiple moments of silence? You do not have a valid argument.

Anonymous said...

Equality does not equal equity Mr. B

If the BOCC has allowed, let's say, 44 pastors/ministers/ priests to pray and only 4 other religious groups that are not judeo-Christian faith based, that would be an example of the "policy" being equal without equity.

How can you argue that you are diverse? Diverse in what? Different Christian faiths? And when the other religions do come out to pray, theyes are met with protests?

I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, my uncles are preachers, and I am well aware of how Christianity works. It's about acceptance and love. We can't just cherry pick and be what my uncle calls "buffet Christians" by arguing that certain a portions can justify some of our behavior and condemn others. If your message is "tolerance" then you need reflect on the values that Jesus teaches. Furthermore, it would seem as if you've made a generalization about everyone on this post by arguing that all of us are atheists.

Moreover, Mr. B, if the moment of silence is out of the window, then I personally would like to see more representation. Saying that, " oh, we have had one jew, and we have had one pagan come and pray," doesn't make everything equal.