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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tomorrow's Invocation at the BCC Meeting......

Andre Ryland was invited to bring a secular prayer but he has proclaimed that he will also bring a Satanic
prayer at tomorrow night's meeting of the BCC

.....Yes, tomorrow's pre-meeting prayer was supposed to be a secular greeting by Andre Ryland of the Humanists.  I received an email yesterday explaining that the invocation that Mr. Ryland will give will  "include The Satanic Temple West Florida's invocation"

In today's PNJ, this invocation switcheroo is headline news.

Wouldn't it be nice if the politics could be taken out of what is meant to be a solemn moment of the public meeting? 

Wouldn't it be nice if those that believe in nothing would find a different means of garnering attention other than creating spectacles at public meetings? 

The purpose of the pre-meeting prayer is to encourage and bless the thoughtful deliberation by the assembled legislative body--it is for the board!  It is NOT  for attention grabbing by those who wish to self-promote.

This nation and this community is overwhelmingly Christian--nothing Ryland or anyone else says will change this.  This nation was founded on Christian principles by men who were overwhelmingly Christian--this is a known fact of reality.

With all of this said, I respect my peer commissioner's ability and right to invite whomever he wishes to bring the invocation at the meeting, just as he and the others respect my right to do the same. 

Obviously, I will always reserve the right to politely exit the room if I feel that, for personal reasons, the pre-meeting prayer as scheduled becomes divisive, disruptive, and/or disingenuous;

I won't indulge nor will I countenance a pre-meeting prayer that is hijacked for an alternative cause and that in no way resembles a blessing upon the board.


David Suhor said...

"Wouldn't it be nice if the politics could be taken out of what is meant to be a solemn moment of the public meeting?"

Yes, Jeff, it would be nice. Unfortunately, your current system of letting elected officials decide who may pray and who may not guarantees that politics plays a part. The fact that you won't allow non-Biblical beliefs to be expressed on your turn is evidence. These invocations are not open to all, equally. Someone picks and prejudice and fear play a part.

With this favoritism, you establish some as OK and literally prohibit the free exercise of others. That is illegal, unConstitutional and contrary to SCOTUS Galloway ruling, which said that someone of "any persuasion" can give the invocation, that a policy of non-discrimination was in place where Greece allowed prayers, and that officials may not prescribe prayer. The BoCC - especially you - fail on all counts.

There's no way to kindly tell politicians they are breaking the law and need to change. You seem to leave the only options as to sue or to embarrass you. After 3 years of asking - politely at first - it's time to bring a cohesive policy with a time limit, an open forum that does not favor any religion (especially over the non-religious 46% of Escambia's population) and guidelines for content. The idea of politicians getting to censor who speaks is inherently unfair, leading to domination by one religion.

In the end, no one comes to these meetings for prayer. It would be best to skip mixing church and state and start your meeting without pretending you can invoke your god to intervene. If you must give space for prayer, an inclusive moment of silence lets everyone pray (or not) according to their own conscience. What you have now is government pushing some religions over others and over individual rights to free expression and against prohibition of religion... basic Constitutional rights you ignore, despite your oath.

NOW - how about that YES/NO answer to TSTWF's invocation offers? It's not for me, but for TSTWF. Are you not brave enough to even reply to our requests? Why not?

Jeff Bergosh said...

Dave--you and I have discussed this before: Just because we do not invite you does not mean we are discriminating. One act does not lead to the other conclusion. What we do is legal, you know this. We have diversity all over the place--heck the BCC has had you pray twice already! What more do you want?!? and when Patty Hightower invited you to bring the prayer at ECSB you blew that off. So I get what you are after, attention. And the press falls all over themselves covering your antics which gives you the publicity you crave. For my part, I'm not playing along. What Mr. Ryland did was wrong, he should have just come and delivered his invocation without the press release fanfare. He deliberately manufactured this spectacle and I think Grover did the right thing in rescinding the invocation invitation.

D Pens said...

It's interesting to me that you cite my personal behavior (demanding full inclusion) in denying TSTWF an invocation. Somehow, you don't understand that citizens don't lose their first amendment rights (to be prohibited from free expression of their religion), just because they quit asking nicely and started calling you out on lies and misleading statements. As you know, TSTWF's offer was to send a representative. That doesn't have to be me, though it certainly can be, considering others have repeated since I last gave an invocation. What's more, I bring REAL diversity. Others' (not your) choices do not.
I'm not sure what world you live in where you get credit for OTHERS choosing to be more inclusive as forgiving your personal censorship. Selective diversity is not truly being open and it's not legal. The fact that the HoWF publicized its first ever secular invocation at the BoCC has nothing to do with it. Regardless of your convoluted reasoning, you are legally completely wrong. You can not pick and choose who prays and who doesn't. You just haven't been sued over it... yet. You can expect that process to begin soon.
Fact is, TSTWF (and now HoWF) have been prohibited from our free religious expression at both the BoCC and ECSB. You said it yourself. ECSB is even worse. Despite having no legal right to lead prayers and a policy expressly forbidding it, ECSB has NEVER allowed someone from a non-Biblical tradition to deliver an invocation.... despite many offers How can you justify that?
It's very simple, when government wants to mix in religion, you must be open to ALL OR NONE. Anything less is unconstitutional. SCOTUS said so. It's just a shame you don't honor your oath to the Constitution. Instead, you've established that your personal preference (and political fears) rules and that you may prohibit TSTWF at will. I can't wait for that to be shown wrong. I hope you are held personally liable, since these are your personal decisions. Then you will wish you had addressed this over 3 years ago, when we first made it clear.

David Suhor said...

Typical (limited) free speech advocate: You don't allow rebuttals on these comments because you know you have no answer for:
- Are religious freedom rights suspended when someone is perceived to quit asking nicely after several years of rejection?
- Why is it not a problem for some (xtians) to repeat multiple times, but if a non-Christian wants to represent a DIFFERENT minority (TSTWF, who has not been allowed), it's OK to prevent that?
- Why are commissioners even involved in choosing who may/not lead invocations at all?
- Why is a historic invocation (the first secular one, Humanist, ever allowed... after years of asking) not news?
This does not include the lies I've read... that TSTWF was to participate in Grover's invocation, that TSTWF has been allowed to lead an invocation, that the ECSB has had diversity (because you had one "token" rabbi).
In the end, you still censor and discriminate, here and at the BoCC as the ECSB before. Here, that your stupid right. For whatever reason you cite, that's still illegal before government boards. Also, don't take credit for OTHER people letting non-Biblical invocations be said. You have NEVER done that. That's a problem.