This is the APPLE Biter Blog, commentary and news on local religion and secular government.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Troy Moon (PNJ columnist) Ask Which Invocations Are Allowed

I'll be asking the same questions in Public Forum at the next ECSB board meeting and the BOCC (after the election).  Both boards need a WRITTEN policy to clarify when (and legally how) they may discriminate against religious minorities.

Troy's Article:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

AUDIO - Pagan Calling the Corners SUNG, better quality

Some folks asked for better audio, so I recorded this on my phone at home, adding back the two lines I skipped before the BOCC.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

the FRIENDLY ATHEIST, Addicting Info Understand Religious Equality - ARTICLES

My video is over 17000 views now, with comments from every direction.  Here are two articles that (unexpectedly) brought such awareness:

I guess I'm glad I sang it after all.

Friday, September 26, 2014

VIDEO Link - Local TV Discusses Public Invocations after Pagan Prayer/Song

Of course, you can judge for yourself.  I thought the Pagan invocation was a beautiful way to summon blessings upon our commissioners.  Sorry if they didn't get it.  Maybe you know how non-Christians feel now.  I was glad Mr May stood up for American values!

I thought Mr Robertson was ignorant in talking about 'Satanic' prayers, which are even at issue here - though they deserve as much respect as any belief.  I'm sorry the story didn't say that he has never had a minority deliver an invocation and that he refused several offers only to invite back a speaker who turned his last invocation into a revival meeting -

Worst (dull surprise) is Jeff Bergosh of the ECSB, who wasn't shown.  If he thinks I'm 'pushy' or 'off-putting' by demanding equal consideration of minority religion, he doesn't get how the process works.  Wouldn't you be pushy if you were told you can't pray even once because your religion may be "offensive" (but mine is not, so we get ALL prayers)?  Would you keep asking politely (and pointlessly) after you were asked "Are you Christian?", then denied an equal chance to pray based on your answer?  Would you leave the room (before the meeting even starts) and lose your seat to avoid listening to a prayer you don't believe in?  Or would you turn away or pray in your own way, as is your right as an American?  Would you excuse school-sponsored/led prayer which, by law and it's OWN RULES, is not allowed in our school system?  Finally, would you support an ILLEGAL and potentially costly act of discrimination and religious privilege by your elected government officials?  Or would you seek some redress and public awareness of such illegal discrimination?  I choose to stand up for equality, non-discrimination, the Constitution and holding our elected officials accountable for their choices.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

About Starhawk's Pagan Call to Directions, Gestures delivered 9.25 Escambia BOCC

AUDIO (better quality than video):


"Since there are no such things as directional entities, it follows that there is nothing “out there” to which to ascribe all these correspondences either. All of this is entirely a human invention. Humans made up the whole thing. The directions and everything associated with them is a fabrication, nothing more. However this is not to say that these inventions are useless. In one example, Blacksun, a respected priest from Aquarian Tabernacle Church, instructed the direction callers to embody the elemental attributes of their respective directions and lend those attributes to the work in the center by their attention, attitudes, body language, and focus. Even though they had no other assignment, their elemental energies contributed strongly to the whole ritual. 

It was on a trip to Guatemala that I learned another way to understand the directions and their uses. We visited some of the rural communities in Guatemala and were invited to participate in a series of modern Maya rituals. I published the story of these rituals in an earlier Witchvox article. The Maya shamans do hail the directions and they have assigned different attributes and deities to each. However, they do not command them. They do not even treat the directions as beings. Instead they lay out the four directions to ground and center themselves. They designate what is “out there” to identify where “here” is. In other words, when the shaman calls the directions, he or she is claiming his or her position in time and space. Calling the directions is like announcing our current GPS coordinates – it is not about them “out there”, it is about us right “here”.

My interpretation of this Call to the Directions, in song, on VIDEO:

Regarding the two finger hand position:

VIDEO! Pagan Invocation SUNG! 9.25 Escambia County Commission

Not my best performance, especially at the beginning. Missed some gestures too. Nice camera work by the techs at BOCC! Wilson Robertson left the room. Otherwise, uneventful. Now will the Board consider an inclusive 'moment of silence' instead?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ALL (relevant) VIDEOS - Local Invocations and Public Comments

TRANSCRIPTS for prepared comments are on each video.

9.25 Pagan Invocation SUNG! Escambia County Commission

9.16 Comments at ECSB Open Forum asking to reconsider MOS:

9.11 (off the cuff) rebuttal to earlier discussion re: ECSB Invocations

9.12 and 9.11 ECSB discuss, REJECT changing invocations

9.4 Escambia BOCC Invocation by Freethinker Geoff DeSena
- invited by outgoing commission Valentino, ignoring others

8.19 ECSB Initial Public Forum Comments - for MOS

spring 2014 Escambia BOCC comments against invocations:

2.13.14 Secular Invocation @ Pensacola City Council - calling for change

8.2012  My original "Anyone's Invocation" given at BOCC and City Council.  The BOCC expected a Christian invocation because I worked @ Unity Church.

Some AWFUL, unlawful invocations delivered locally by Christians:

4.15.14  Willie Spears, public high school football coach, for the ECSB.  OK except: "I pray that when people see the seal of the ECSB, they think of Jesus the Christ"

BOCC.  Lay leader calls for prophetic disaster on Pensacola in rambling speech:

BOCC.  Over-the-top preacher feels the Spirit, leads Lord's Prayer.  He was recently invited back and prayer again.

Olive Baptist minister calls for "Biblical Righteousness" on night of domestic partnership discussion before City Council.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Galloway-Wise, Is the ECSB Prayer Policy Legal?

Not really.  Remember, this is a school prayer issue, not a legislative invocation case.  See other posts and FFRF letter about that.

But, if the ECSB claims the right to have official, sectarian-led prayer at meetings, they must follow Galloway v Greece NY (SCOTUS May, 2014).  Besides allowing this outdated tradition, the biggest point of Galloway is that government boards may not discriminate in deciding who can give invocations.  Religious discrimination is exactly what the ECSB (and some of the BOCC) are doing by rejecting minority invocations (mine and others) - in addition to other coercive, exclusive violations.

"The Supreme Court’s ruling, authored by Justice Kennedy, makes clear that local governments must make "reasonable efforts to identify all of the congregations located within its borders" and welcome an invocation by anyone who wishes to give one, regardless of their faith. The majority decision also states that the policy must be one of nondiscrimination.  The opinion adds that the invocations must not "denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion."

How have my offers (and others) been receivedm "regardless of faith"?

Jeff Bergosh:  When I originally asked this ECSB board member if I may deliver a prayer, his first question was "Are you Christian"  No, I said.  "What are you?"  "I'd like to give a Pagan invocation" I said.  "... I will not ever, ever have that on my watch" He replied.  The call went downhill from there and he hung up soon after.  He went on to say (before the PNJ reporter) that he chooses invocation speakers that represent him.  Forget that he represents others, right?  For "diversity", he then invited a Jewish friend - instead of considering offers already made by other minorities.  He repeated his determination not to allow a "Satanic" prayer, though I never offered to give one.

Patty Hightower:  To her credit, she accepted my offer when first offered, even after I told her it would be Pagan.  See the email exchange in another post.  At the last meeting where this was address, she withdrew her offer, saying she can't have me "offending" anyone. Never mind that 100% Biblical, government-led prayer offends someone at every large board meeting. She said it's not a religious issue, but a personal one because she doesn't trust me to deliver a prayer that won't offend.

Mr Boone:  He simply sent an email response to all who asked: "I wii not need your service".  Mr Slayton (who has staff at East Brent Baptist Church fill all his invocation slots) and Ms Moultrie (up for re-election) have not answered.

They ALL confirmed that they like the current system - of personal and religious privilege determining who gives the prayer.  They would not consider an inclusive moment of silence - what they require at school events in lieu of a prayer.  Some said might feel different if facing litigation.

The ECSB has not shared any written policy outlining how they choose invocations and on what basis they may turn down (discriminate against) offers like mine.  I challenge them to do so - and to answer in writing (as promised) why they are turning down minority invocations.

The ECSB has not offered any guidelines about the content of the prayers themselves.  As a result, you often hear staff delivering invocation prayers and endorsing Christianity explicitly.  I've also heard proselytizing.  ECSB does not offer any guidelines against denigrating other religions, trying to convert the audience, calling for damnation if not saved, staff leading prayers, endorsing one religion, board members asking the audience to stand and take part, or any other Galloway-related safeguards.

In other words, ECSB violates the very ruling they claim gives them the right to have official, sectarian, Biblical-only prayers at every (large) meeting, with students always present.  They also violate their own policies.

Does this sound to you like the establishment of religion by a government body?  To me, it sure does.  That's discriminatory and unconstitutional.  It inhibits the free exercise of religion (yes, even by minorities).  It creates a religious test to participate fully in our government.  In short, it's not right in a nation of equality, religious freedom and separation of church and state.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Godless Invocations to Deliver at local Boards

These are invocations that don't call out for supernatural guidance.  They come from constitutional and atheist points of view.  They comport with Galloway, as do the more provocative Pagan, Satanist and Pastafarian prayers in my earlier post.  These types of invocations are not universally welcome at the proper time, due to discrimination by ALL ECSB and some BOCC members.  So I'll deliver them all (one at a time) at local monthly public forums - until our local boards end biased prayers in favor of inclusive moment of silence.  

I did not write these.  If you know of other good ones, please send them my way.

from Dan Courtney, Greece NY
Video link:

"On July 4th, 1776, the 56 men, who pledged their lives to the document that changed the course of history, agreed to the central tenet that, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” 
More than 238 years later this central premise still echoes, however faintly, from the town hall to the white columned halls of Washington. 
Yet this premise, this foundation necessary for a free and flourishing society, is today, more than ever, under assault. This central pillar of a free society; this notion that is deeply heretical to authoritarian culture, proclaims that it is from the people that moral authority is derived. It is that within us, the citizens, that knowledge and wisdom must emerge.
The preservation of this premise does not come from accepting the status quo, but by asserting our rights and exercising our duties.
That this premise still endures testifies to its truth, and we can say with confidence that it is in seeking the counsel of our conscience that we find the beginning of wisdom. It is in the exercise of our duty as citizens that we find the beginning of knowledge. 
We, as citizens, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of our destiny are not, as the great philosopher Immanuel Kant warned, mere means to the ends of another, but we are ends in ourselves.
This basic premise, this profound idea, guides us such that we need not kneel to any king, and we need not bow to any tyrant.
So I ask all officials present here, as guarantors of our founder’s revolutionary proclamation, to heed the counsel of the governed; to seek the wisdom of all citizens, and to honor the enlightened wisdom and the profound courage of those 56 brave men. Thank you."

<Note: other religions often declare the realness and supremacy of their beliefs during the invocation.  Why wouldn't an atheist do the same?>

“We all live in a godless universe, but only we atheists acknowledge this fact. We have no eternal souls; those are just a myth. When we die, all experience ends, as if the universe died with us. But in spite of this, we push on. We know we have an obligation to make the world a better place, because everyone who shares this planet with us has only this one life, just like us. I encourage our city council members to make the most of this meeting and make the lives of those in this community even better.

Dearly Beloved,
     When the ancients considered the values that were proper and necessary for the good governance of a peaceful, productive society, they brought to our minds the virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Moderation. These values have stood the test of time.
     In more recent days, an American style of governance has led to approbation for newer enlightened values; we celebrate diversity, we enjoy protections of our freedoms in a Constitutional Republic, and we dearly value egalitarianism - equal protection of the law.
     So now let us commence the affairs that are presented to our community. Let Doubt and Skepticism and Inquiry be on our lookout when caution is the appropriate course. But also let innovation and boldness take point when opportunities for excellence appear on our horizon.
     In this solemn discourse, let's remember Jefferson's words: "...that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them."

Weird Science
I am an amazing amalgamation of milliseconds,
a compilation of coincidences,
a collection of infinitely small spans of time
that separate me from the possibility of my blood line.
I have managed to out swim and out maneuver
500 million of my brothers and sisters to be here today,
continuing a chain of happenstance
that began moments after the big bang
brought the universe into being.
Matter and energy cannot be
created or destroyed, so the same
molecules that make up me
in this instance have been in existence
for over 13 billion years.
We are heavenly,
but there is no godly hand
evident in the creation of man,
I can instead trace evidence
of my being into the cosmos,
the same elements that make
me unique have been sourced
to create the universe,
I mean, forget Jesus, stars died,
galaxies gave their lives to form my fingertips;
how could I not find wonder in waking up,
be more amazed at each day I open my eyes,
each day I’m granted more time
on this little blue marble
floating through the vast emptiness of space?
I am in awe of life,
to quote Carl Sagan,
“I find it elevating and exhilarating
to discover that we live in a universe,
which permits the evolution of molecular machines
as intricate and subtle as we.”
I am left breathless by the understanding
that my continuance is an example
of the improbable versus the impossible,
and despite what some might think
this gives my life more meaning,
makes each day more precious,
lends weight and reality
to the precious actuality
of each person I allow into my life,
because I see that they
are an amazing amalgamation of milliseconds,
a compilation of coincidences,
a collection of infinitely small spans of time
that separates them from the possibility of their blood line,
so I lend assistance where I am able,
offer compassion when I can,
and a hug when life’s weight
proves to great for them to stand,
because these memories will be
the markers of my legacy,
allowing me to exist for eternity…
or at least a few years
past my mental exit from this planet,
a few years past
my physical exit from this planet,
a few years past that moment when my atoms
are reconnected with the cosmos.
I live my life relaxed and happy
because I know that I could be gone tomorrow,
and like Stephen Hawking said
“When your expectations are reduced to zero,
you really appreciate everything you have.”
Victor Harris © 2010

VDEO! 9.16.14 ECSB Public Forum Comments re: Reconsidering Invocation


full DRAFT comments:  
(changed slightly when spoken; note Jeff Bergosh left the room)

Of course, I'm here to talk about this board's illegal and discriminatory invocation policy.

This is not about keeping prayer out of our school system, as some may claim. As long as tests are given and sports are played, students and citizens may always pray to their gods. This is about the ECSB leading prayer for and endorsing only the most popular version of god.

As you know, this board has basically turned down myself and several others who offered prayers befitting our own faiths. From the responses we've received, it appears that religious minorities will NOT be given an equal chance to pray for our school board. One member has even publicly ridiculed several minorities, apparently due to ignorance and prejudice. But that's not important.

Tell me. How would you feel if you were forbidden to pray your goodwill upon your government, equally and respectfully, because your beliefs may be "offensive" to someone? That's what we're looking at here. I was turned down to give a Pagan prayer by two board members flat out. I was invited by a third, then that invitation was predictably rescinded. Two more won't answer. 

By refusing to reconsider it's policy on invocations, this board has NOT put the question to rest. Instead, you have created a larger issue and a legal predicament that distracts from the important work you should be doing. 

ALL WE ASK is that this body start its meetings LEGALLY - in a way that respects diversity, does not endorse one particular religion, and asks no one to pray against their conscience. Instead, you have chosen the perilous path of religious discrimination. As justification, you've been silent and you've invoked personal, positional, and religious privilege.

(time permitting)
(Honestly, I would be happy if I NEVER felt compelled to pray or speak before this board again. But as long as prayers are officially coerced by ANY local government body, I'll be there demanding to participate and making sure it is handled within the law. Let's not make the mistake of talking about Galloway v Greece any more. As I said, that case applies to the County Commission, which has it's own discriminatory practices. Any further argument about this board will focus on School Prayer case law, the establishment clause of the Constitution, and free and equal expression of religion.) 

By now, this board has received a letter from my attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, detailing the unConstitutionality of your current practice. It is a matter of public record and it's on my blog. I invite the SB attorney to publicize her own opinion, so we may all know what led to the choice of Biblical prayer alone.. instead of the M.O.S. policy you prescribe for all the rest of the school system.

As the chosen leaders of our schools, I implore this board to respect ALL your constituents, and to act quickly and quash this controversy. Lead by example, folks. It's simple. Just practice what you preach in the Student Handbook. PLEASE reconsider an inclusive moment of silence, which respects ALL beliefs - one that still allows citizens to solemnly and individually pray to their own gods, or not at all. It's not just the prudent choice, it's the right choice. 

Thank you.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

TEXT of 9.25th Escambia BOCC Pagan Invocation

Of course, I would prefer that each board member (or all) go to an inclusive moment of silence instead.  But as long as invocation prayers are allowed, by law ALL must be welcome equally.

<a few well-wishing comments and thank yous first, then>

Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East,
Powers of Air!
We invoke you and call you,
Golden Eagle of the Dawn,
Star-seeker, Whirlwind,
Rising Sun,
By the air that is Her breath,
Send forth your light,
Be here now!
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South,
Powers of Fire!
We invoke you and call you,
Red Lion of the noon heat,
Flaming One! Summer’s warmth,
Spark of life,
By the fire that is Her spirit,
Send forth your flame,
Be here now!
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West,
Powers of Water!
We invoke you and call you,
Serpent of the watery abyss,
Rainmaker, Gray-robed Twilight,
Evening Star!
By the waters of Her living womb,
Send forth your flow,
Be here now!
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North,
Powers of Earth!
We invoke you and call you,
Center of the whirling sky,
Stone, Mountain, Fertile Field,
North Star
By the earth that is Her body,
Send forth your strength,
Be here now!

We thank you and bid you now... farewell.

Author Credit:  Starhawk    w/slight editions for length & pattern

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ECSB Member Bergosh Criticizes Free Religious Expression, calls it Rude and Disrespectful

My thoughts:  FIrst, I don't just want to be welcomed to give an invocation prayer (as ANYONE should be).  I want school-sponsored prayer to END.  But if it's happening, what's wrong with someone praying in their own way, chanting quietly or sitting on a prayer rug during the time set aside for prayer at a government meeting?  And BTW, the meeting hasn't even been called to order!

I'd say that a publicly led prayer is MUCH more distracting.  Did you hear the hoots, hollers and amens coming from the audience?  It was like church - and you have to do it their way.  Why not just get to work, instead of using our government bodies to endorse one particular religion, eschewing others?   

Of course, there's an easy way to solve any question of propriety.  Out of respect for ALL religions - which we know they don't have - the ECSB could instituted a moment of silence and stop asking the audience to pray one particular way - some against their conscience.

My chant was 'incomprehensible gibberish' because it was not loud enough to be heard except by those nearest me.  It went like this:  "hare krishna, hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare, hare rama, hare rama, rama rama, hare hare".  It helped me avoid hearing the biased prayer of the speaker and left me feeling quite centered and at peace.  And I didn't lose my seat by leaving the room (!), as was suggested. 

Once again, Mr Bergosh proves my point - that prayer is welcome at ECSB meetings ONLY when it takes a Christian form or something close to it.  OF COURSE I want more attention to the illegal endorsement of only ONE type of religion by our local boards.  Official prayers just don't belong in our schools or our government.  We are not a theocracy.  Such privilege represents the unconstitutional establishment of religion in America.  This says nothing of religious tests, which are at play for anyone asking to deliver the ECSB invocation.  It needs to stop.

**Also of note:  Mr Bergosh stepped out of the room during my Public Forum comments.  I guess he didn't want to hear someone express themselves at a public meeting either, as is his job. Way to respect your office, dude.

From his Blog:

So as we were about to begin the invocation prior to a very heavy school board meeting,  one of the individuals in the front row took a prayer mat, set it right next to the podium, and began mumbling and chanting incomprehensible gibberish as our invited pastor was trying to give a really heartfelt Christian invocation.

The assembled guests in the front row were visibly impacted by this spectacle.
(A part of me was surprised he didn’t attempt to light an incense candle start beating a drum or tambourine.)

Talk about a distraction! 

I was trying to listen carefully to what the minister was saying, but my attention was diverted by this stunt being performed rudely at the same time as the invocation.  And the chanting was loud enough that I could hear  in up on the dais, I could just imagine the nuisance level the poor minister had to deal with as he tried to deliver his prayer while that chanting and grunting was going on in his ear.

This guy claims he simply wants to be included in our invocation rotation, and that he will be respectful.
But his actions speak louder than his words as this is two months running where he himself has been disrespectful.
I just wonder what a guy like this is really after….. Wait a minute, I got it.  Attention, that’s what he’s after. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Personal Creed (updated)

David Suhor, Statement of Creed:

I don't like the word belief.  It implies accepting something on faith alone.  I have very strongly held suspicions on the nature of the life beyond mortality, mostly based of my own experiences.  I believe, but cannot prove, that there is some greater consciousness (some call a god) permeating life.  If there is, I've come to think that all 'gods' exist equally.  In my ethos, such extra-sensory spirits are manifested by our own thoughts.  They exist beyond science or proof, but are not beyond the reach of feeling.  Since these 'gods' are individual and subjective creations, one is no greater than another - though some are similar due to religious influence.

Some of us follow a particular, perhaps popular god-image.  We shape our lives by the teachings we attribute thereto.  Because we GIVE this god power, she/he/it exists for us and we put faith in the lessons taught by our chosen tradition.  We also GAIN power by our faith - mostly from the fellowship it brings us with like-believers.  As we grow and evolve, we may realize our own power and no longer have need of gods.  I'm not there yet.  In the meantime, there seems to be something positive to learn from them all godly manifestations.

I reject all religions that teach or require exclusive faith or allegiance to their deity and/or dogma!  That is like trying to pub limits on infinity.

Officially, I have adopted the religious label APPLE Biter, an acronym for Agnostic Pagan Pantheist Living Existentially (and biting apples).  I'm Agnostic because I don't claim to know for sure that any type of god-consciousness exists.  Pagan because that term was used by Jews and Christians to describe those who reject the Bible-inspired pathos and embrace earth-centered traditions.  Pantheist because I think that the spirit of life (aka god, aka karma, aka the soul, aka the mystic) permeates all living things.  Unfortunately, I've come to believe that no form of god can be shared exactly or proven objectively.  Existential means I am an individual, free to live how I choose and taking responsibility for my own development through acts of will.

You can check out more on these labels on Wikipedia.  They are interesting, as are the descriptions of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, LeVayan Satanism, Scientology, Humanism and about any other belief system you might choose to study and/or follow.

With this creed, I claim the right to honor, study, follow or reject any form of god I wish, as the occasion demands.  You could call me religiously promiscuous and I would not object.  I believe all religious traditions (and the lack thereof) have something worthy of learning.  I choose to keep biting spiritual apples, enjoying their differences and spitting out that which doesn't nourish me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

EMAILS - Escambia Commissioner Wilson Robertson (ILLEGALLY) Won't Accept Minority Invocations


Here's a good example of the kind of stonewalling (and eventual rejection) that happens when minorities ask to deliver invocations for the Escambia County Commission.  This is ILLEGAL and UNCONSTITUTIONAL.  Accord to Galloway v Greece NY, the BOCC may not practice discrimination in choosing prayers at public meetings.

Of note: Mr Robertson had Rev. George Clyde deliver his invocation on August 21 2014.  This guy is a repeat from less than a year ago.  Watch his OVER-THE-TOP prayer and tell me why he was even invited back:

I was last allowed to deliver an invocation TWO years ago (by another commissioner).  It was Pagan, but they were expecting Xtian. I started asking again in April of 2014.  Mr Robertson (eventually) rejected my offer.  ALL commissioners also have requests from several other minority religions.  One outgoing commissioner accepted an offer from a Humanist (a Navy ensign), just last week, ignoring others!  

This is not the only violation of Galloway v Greece by the BOCC.  They also regularly have employees lead (endorse) the invocation.  One fella spoke 1 of every 5 times for the last two years!  Sometimes they ask the audience to stand.  The REAL problem here is that they choose who gives the invocation as a matter of PERSONAL privilege and political patronage.  They often choose the SAME PERSON over and over.  One preacher spoke at 3 consecutive meetings (and 4th a month later).  Yet, there is no room for minority offers?  The only fair way to do this is a rotation, free of commissioners' influence, and starting with those who request the chance, then seeking out others.  They should also issue some Galloway-directed guidelines for content.  No more damnation, converting or denigrating!

Yes, the BOCC has received a letter from the FFRF.  No response yet.  It's here in my blog too.  

Once again, I am calling for an inclusive moment of silence at ALL local board meetings.  This would respect ALL beliefs (and none at all) and still set aside time for people to pray for the meeting, but in their own way.  

PS  I'm grateful that Lumon May is not so discriminatory.  After some cajoling, he is allowing me to deliver my Pagan invocation on September 25th!  It will be solemn and appropriate, if sectarian.  We won't know who else will be allowed to pray at the BOCC until after the election, when most commissioners said they will consider requests again.  

From District 1 Office

Mr. Suhor.

Commissioner Robertson asked that I tell you that he has lived in Escambia County 55 years.  He has a list of friends in the ministry which will last him through the end of his term as commissioner.

Illauna Brazwell, Aide
Commissioner Wilson Robertson
District 1
221 Palafox Place, Suite 400
Pensacola, FL 32502
Phone: (850) 595-4910
Fax: (850) 595-0478

From: David Suhor
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 5:17 PM
To: Illauna B. Brazwell
Cc: District1
Subject: Re: invocation request

OK.  Thanks for letting me know. 

Maybe I need to ask this a different way, since Mr Robertson’s spots seem to fill, even though I first asked over 6 weeks ago.
When is the next available spot on Commissioner Robertson’s schedule?  May I please reserve that opportunity?
I hope you observe a first-come-first-serve rotation.  If not, is there some other criteria I need to fill to be included?

Best Regards,

David Suhor
850 512-2220

Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:59 PM
To: David Suhor
Cc: District1
Subject: RE: invocation request

Mr. Suhor, Commissioner Robertson has someone to deliver the invocation on October23rd.

Illauna Brazwell, Aide
Commissioner Wilson Robertson
District 1
221 Palafox Place, Suite 400
Pensacola, FL 32502
Phone: (850) 595-4910
Fax: (850) 595-0478

From: David Suhor
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:10 PM
To: Illauna B. Brazwell
Cc: District1
Subject: Re: invocation request

Ms Brazwell,

I am writing to renew my request.  May I please deliver the invocation for Commissioner Robertson at his next opportunity – presumably October 23rd?

Your answer would be greatly appreciated.

David Suhor
850 512-2220

From: David
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2014 2:51 PM
Cc: District1
Subject: Re: invocation request, August 7

Mr Brazwell,

OK, thanks anyway.  Did she/he ask before I first did on June 2?  Correct that, I asked on April 29th also. 
How about on another opportunity?  Has October 23rd been spoken for? 

Best Regards,

David Suhor


Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:17 AM
To: David
Cc: District1
Subject: RE: invocation request, August 7

Mr. Suhor, Commissioner Robertson has someone to deliver the invocation on August 7th. Thank you.

Illauna Brazwell, Aide
Commissioner Wilson Robertson
District 1
221 Palafox Place, Suite 400
Pensacola, FL 32502
Phone: (850) 595-4910
Fax: (850) 595-0478

From: David Suhor
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2014 2:17 PM
To: District1
Cc: Legal
Subject: Re: invocation request, August 7
Importance: High

Commissioner Robertson, et al,

Once again (for the 5th time since June 3rd), I am requesting that I be allowed to deliver the invocation the next time Mr Robertson is afforded the opportunity to appoint someone to do so.  August 7th comes to mind.

Since I have not received a response, I’d like to remind you that the Supreme Court recently ruled (in Galloway v Greece NY) that the Board of County Commissioners must welcome an invocation by anyone who wishes to give one, regardless of their faith.  My invocation will not be exclusively Christian, like the 47 consecutive prayers offered since I last delivered an invocation August of 2012. 

I beg your prompt response.  Please feel free to call if you need further clarification.

Best Regards,

David Suhor
850 512-2220

From: David
Sent: Tuesday, July 01, 2014 3:20 PM
Subject: Re: invocation request, August 7

Commissioner Robertson, et al,

I would appreciate a response to my request.  It has been nearly a month since I first asked.
I stand prepared to deliver an invocation for Commissioner Robertson at the earliest available opportunity.

Best Regards,

David Suhor
850 512-2220

From: David
Sent: Friday, June 20, 2014 1:20 PM
Subject: Re: invocation request, August 7

Your response would be appreciated.

From: David Suhor
Sent: Saturday, June 14, 2014 4:58 PM
Subject: Re: invocation request, August 7

Commissioner Robertson,

I haven’t heard back from you, so I’d like to re-iterate my request. 
It has been over two years since I’ve delivered an invocation.  Will you allow me to deliver one in your upcoming slot?
Please feel free to contact me directly via email with your answer.

Best Regards,

David Suhor

From: David
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2014 3:08 PM
Subject: invocation request, August 7

Commissioner Robertson,

I would like to offer to deliver the Invocation at the August 7th County Commission meeting.  According to the schedule I received, that date is yours to fill.
It would be my honor.

Please contact me to let me know whether I can be of service in this way.

Best Regards,

David Suhor
850 512-2220

FFRF Sends Letter to ECSB - tells Why SB Invocations are Unconstitutional

A copy of the letter send TODAY is at this link:  (easily sharable)

Here are pics:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

When Do ECSB Meetings Start? AFTER the Invocation, Apparently; Email & next Agenda

After Thursday's meeting, in which she rescinded my invitation to pray before the board, Mrs Hightower (SB member) mentioned that the Invocation occurs BEFORE the meeting is called to order.  Perhaps this was her justification for prayer at a government meeting - that is not 'technically' part of the meeting and therefore doesn't violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.  Of course we know that the ECSB has firmly established only Christian prayers.  Before their prayer begins, everyone settled down, the SB president  welcomes the audience, then the invocation speaker is introduced by whichever member chose the prayer-giver.  It's ALL recorded into the public record.  

In any event, Mrs Hightower said I don't have to participate and that I should just excuse myself.  This brings an idea.  If some of us don't agree with the (always Christian) prayer, can't we continue to walk around and talk on the phone, as we do before the meeting "officially" starts?  Note that the unofficial part always happens AFTER 5:30 when the meeting should have started .  Better yet, may we use this time to deliver our own alternative prayer, or perhaps a song we find sacred?  'Imagine' comes to mind.  Wouldn't it be contrary to SB policy to stop someone their religion IN THEIR OWN WAY during the time set aside for such observances?  Of course, EVERYONE could do just that - pray in their own way - and less disruptively, if there were an inclusive moment of silence instead. 

Personally, I would rather school board move the ACTUAL Call to Order to before the Invocation and Pledge, as the City and County do.  I mean, if you're going to practice YOUR favorite religion at the meeting, why pretend the meeting hasn't started?  Just embrace it!  "Technically" not starting the meeting (pending the invocation) is not fooling anyone anymore. 

BELOW are:
1) An email I sent to Donna Waters, SB Attorney and SB Member Hightower, asking them to clarify.  Depending on the answer about the legality, some of us may be calling for an alternative prayer to be conducted simultaneously to the Christian invocation already scheduled, but not permitted by SB members when we asked.   
2) Part of the next ECSB general meeting's Agenda, showing the Invocation Prayer time (which is unconstitutional) and the Public Forum time (totally legit) BEFORE the Call to Order.  

Ms Waters, Mrs Hightower, 

To clarify (after what Mrs Hightower told me in person), is it corrent that the school board meeting does not begin until the Call to Order? I see in the agenda that the Invocation occurs BEFORE the Call. Mrs Hightower implied that this might be relevant. I assume she means that it doesn't make the prayer an official part of the meeting - though clearly the board still endorses the practice.

My question: If my friends and I walk freely about the room, speaking on our cell phones BEFORE the Call to Order, is there any legal reason why we MUST stop talking or leave the room during the (unconstitutional) Invocation going on then? Of course, we would give more respect to the public forum, also before the Call to Order. I just want to be sure the the SB staff will not ask the police officer present to escort us out of the next meeting (before it has started).

Also, I look forward to the written answer promised to me by Mrs Hightower, describing her reasons for rescinding the Pagan prayer she offered to let me lead at the November or December meeting, when her turn comes up. A simple email would be fine.

Your clarification would be appreciated. Of course, if you take the prudent step (even temporarily) of going to an incusive moment of silence, I won't even need to attend any more meetings.

Best Regards, 
David Suhor

ROOM 160
SEPTEMBER 16, 2014
Meeting was advertised in the Pensacola News Journal on September 1, 2014 - Legal No. 1629121

NOTE: Request to Speak Forms are available at the entrance table. All speakers wishing to address the Board are 
asked to fill out a form and turn it in at the front of the room. All speakers are limited to three minutes.

a. 07-17-14 Regular Workshop 
b. 07-29-14 Special Meeting
c. 08-19-14 Regular Meeting 
a. PTA Presentation 
b. Stellar Employee of the Month 
c. Five-Star School Awards 

-No items submitted 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Patty Hightower, Escambia County School Board, Accepts my Invocation, Then Unsure, Then Rescinds it at Meeting

9-12-2014, email from David

Mrs Hightower,

If it would help alleviate your fears, I would be happy to send you the text of the invocation I plan to deliver in November or December - providing you allow me to deliver your next invocation AND your fellow board members accept the offers of other minorities offering to deliver invocations,in the order received.  Then you could be sure my invocation is not "offensive".  Though I don't believe that censorship is the solution, I hope this will resolve any question of the propriety of my invocation.

Also, will you please write me (as promised) with the reason you have rescinded my invitation to deliver an invocation on your turn?

As ever, I welcome your correspondence by phone, email or in person.

Best Regards,

David Suhor


At this point, I attended the ECSB meeting on 9-11-14.  In person (on official video), Mrs Hightower rescinds her invitation (dull surprise).  Afterward, she tells me it was 'personal', not religious, because she didn't trust me not to offend the audience.  I asked, but she wouldn't commit to considering other minorities who offered invocations soon after me.

To her credit, Mrs Hightower said during the board discussion (also on video), that she did not want to continue the current practice (choosing invocations by personal and religious preference = Biblical) if it would result in a legal fight.  I am hoping she won't find a moment of silence 'offensive', because that is the only inclusive, constitutional solution that allows prayer to continue.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Patricia Hightower" []
Date: 08/21/2014 07:48 AM
Subject: Re: invocation request

As I told you before, the November meeting will be preceded by the installation of board members elected this year.  We have,in the past, let them select, but it will be discussed at the September or October meeting.

Patty Hightower
Escambia School Board
District 4
75 N Pace Blvd
Pensacola, FL 32505
Sent from my iPad

At this point (maybe by phone) she said that if there is a new SB member in November, that person will have the prerogative of choosing who should pray for them at their first meeting.  Then Mrs Hightower's choice of invocation speaker would be pushed to December.   I might have asked for clarification after.

> Commissioner Hightower,
> I think I had the date of your next invocation slot wrong.  Is it November 18th?  If so, I am available after all, if you'll have me.  I'd prefer to speak sooner, but Mr Boone has refused and I've had no answer from Ms Moultrie.
> Also, I really appreciate the variety you've inserted into the invocations you've offered.  Though you've had only majority-religion prayers, I think the poetry you've injected sets a more appropriate and less divisive tone.  Thank you.
> I look forward to hearing from you.
> Best Regards,
> David Suhor

At this point, I delivered my comments to the Open Forum at an ECSB meeting.  I had the date wrong and thought I had a previous engagement.  I said so at the meeting.  I had to correct that in the next email.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: "Patricia Hightower" []
> Date: 08/12/2014 02:23 PM
> Subject: =?utf-8?B?UmU6IGludm9jYXRpb24gcmVxdWVzdA====?>
> Not at all.  I will need to know how to introduce you when the time arises.
> Patty Hightower
> Escambia School Board
> District 4
> 850-469-6265
> 75 N Pace Blvd
> Pensacola, FL 32505
> Sent from my iPad
>> On Aug 12, 2014, at 2:05 PM, David wrote:
>> Ms Hightower,
>> I would be honored to be included in the invocation at your next opportunity.
>> To answer your question - yes, I am affiliated (unofficially) with the Pagan community of Pensacola, among others.  I have also worked for several churches (as a musician).  I am agnostic.  In my private time, I explore and study several religious traditions, any of whose blessings I would be happy to share in an invocation setting.
>> Will my religious affiliation be a problem in delivering an invocation?
>> David Suhor

> On Aug 12, 2014, at 2:05 PM, David wrote:

> Ms Hightower,

> I would be honored to be included in the invocation at your next opportunity.
> To answer your question - yes, I am affiliated (unofficially) with the Pagan community of Pensacola, among others. I have also worked for several churches (as a musician). I am agnostic. In my private time, I explore and study several religious traditions, any of whose blessings I would be happy to share in an invocation setting. 

> Will my religious affiliation be a problem in delivering an invocation?

> David Suhor

content missing - she accepts and asks my affiliation

> On Aug 8, 2014, at 1:42 PM, David wrote:

> Ms Hightower, 

> I would be honored to offer an invocation at the next meeting of the school board for which you sponsor the invocation. I hope you will allow me.

> Best Regards, 

> David Suhor