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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


For the 2nd month in a row, the ECSB did not have a formal invocation 'prayer' tonight.  They didn't ask anyone to stand or pray!!  Though they won't say as much, this may signal a softening in their stance on biased invocation prayers.  If so, it's about time they came to their senses.

Last month was Mrs. Hightower's turn.  She read a poem (while the audience stood).  Tonight it was Mr Slayton's turn.  Instead of someone from East Brent Baptist Church praying (as is his custom), he asked a student to give a speech about the Future Farmers.  She was poised and it was totally appropriate.  No one stood or prayed aloud.

The real test is January.  That's when Mr Bergosh - the most vocal opponent of non-Biblical prayer-givers - gets his turn at choosing the invocation.  He has promised to bring a Jewish person, essentially saying you want diversity... here's your diversity.  Sorry, but inviting a Jew (like Jesus), while asking me "Are you Christian?" (then refusing my offer and several other minorities') is not diversity.  Likewise, passing over requests from Humanist and atheists and seeking out someone to represent a religion you like is not Constitutional.  You've publicly said you only allow prayer-givers that reflect your beliefs, which means you exclude those who don't.  I hope you have the good sense to continue the inclusive example set by Mrs Hightower and Mr Slayton.  I'm sure you can find an inclusive way to start the meeting that doesn't involve asking the audience to pray for you.  Maybe feature a student essay or some poetry.  It could be part of Civics or English class contest.  If you can not, I'll be there with an 'offensive' alternative invocation to offer at the Public Forum.

BTW, I had a dynamite "Christmas-themed" invocation prepared for the Public Forum.  Darn!  I'll give a different one next month, if needed.

One question remains:  Why call it an 'Invocation' on the agenda if gods' blessings are not invoked?  Why not just have the Call to Order and start the meeting?  There is no requirement to (misleadingly) list an 'Invocation', much less let individual SB members censor who gives it.

Stay tuned.

PS  I offered to drop this whole issue and not gloat to the press if the ECSB would change their policy.  They did not let me know.  I cannot assume they changed their policy at all.  I can only assume that two members made wise choices.  I'll be contacting the press with an update this week.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Satanic" Invocations - @ECSB, Legal But Unwelcome

I don't claim to be a Satanist.  Satan is a creation of the Bible, which I reject due to its poor provenance and general pathos... I mean really, human blood sacrifice?  What awful BS.  Unfortunately, the ignorant have accused me of offering "Satanic" invocations.  Pagans does not equal Satanist.  Even what you think is Satanic is not.

In fact, I believe that - in a country espousing freedom of religion - a Satanist's views are just as worthy of hearing at a government meeting as any other prayer.  That's what freedom of speech and the non-establishment clause mean.  That's why Orange County Schools can't allow Bibles to be distributed while refusing other religious literature.  While I would not deliver one of these during the time for ACTUAL invocation time, I would definitely offer it during the Public Forum - especially at the ECSB, where they have refused my offers of a Pagan prayer actually fitting my deeply held beliefs.  They only allow Bible-based prayer.  Given that fact, a Satanist prayer must be proper.

So, here (BELOW) are some Satanist invocations.  None of them violates the Supreme Court's warning (in Galloway v Greece) not to denigrate other religions, proselytize or speak to issues before local boards.  Look for them at the ECSB Public Forum, where I was invited to deliver prayers of whatever kind I want.

“HAIL SATAN!  Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.”


Hail, Satan,
Lord of Darkness,
King of Hell,
Ruler of the Earth,
God of this World!

God Who invites us to become as gods!
Muse of our civilization,
Dread Enemy of its tyrant god!
Satan, mighty Liberator,
Bearer of true Light!

God of our flesh,
God of our minds,
God of our innermost Will!

O mighty Lord Satan,
teach us to become strong and wise!
Teach us to vanquish the enemies
of our freedom and well-being!


In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas, Luciferi Excelsi.

In the Name of Satan, Ruler of the Earth, True God, Almighty and Ineffable, Who hast created man to reflect in Thine own image and likeness, I invite the Forces of Darkness to bestow their infernal power upon me. Open the Gates of Hell to come forth to greet me as your Brother/Sister and friend.

Deliver me O Mighty Satan from all past error and delusion, fill me with truth, wisdom and understanding, keep me strong in my faith and service, that I may abide always in Thee with Praise, Honor and Glory be given Thee forever and ever.

Hail Satan!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why Do I Not Just Pray-Along?

Comments on first two shots are by ECSB member Jeff Bergosh.

Some have asked, why don't I just pray along or leave the room when local councils ask everyone to pray.  They say it's disrespectful.  For me, respect for all belevers must be given equally.  Otherwise, you cannot expect it back.  The ECSB respect ANY non-Biblical prayers.  They only allow Christians an endorsed platform - and maybe a Jew someday "for diversity".

So I choose to pray in my own way.  If I chant, it drowns out the prayer I don't agree with.  Just as ECSB membver Bergosh and BOCC rep Robertson walked out when I appeared, I can make a statement of passive resistance.  I don't have to listen to your illegal, discriminatory prayers.  I can pray in my own way.  Whether plugging my ears, turning away, kneeling on a prayer rug or singing to myself, it is my right to pray according to conscience when you ask the room to pray according to yours.  I encourage others to do the same.

Since most local reps have their eyes closed (literally and figuratively), they don't see that several people in the audience don't pray along.  For those others who don't let their government lead them in prayer, I choose to stand (and pray and sing and kneel) against our government establishing one religion - any religion.

Friday, December 12, 2014

VIDEO: Joe Wade Rants Against Me & BOCC

I LOVE this guy! He makes me look brilliant. Here he rants about my Pagan invocation. His personal attacks indicate the weakness (lack) of his legal argument. Basically, he can't argue freedom of religion or separation of church and state, so he resorts to crazed stories, a personal attack, and subtle allusions to violence. It's a shame. I'd love to hear a cogent argument in favor of government-sponsored prayer and against Constitutional protections there-against. He has none.  If he did, I'd pick him apart like a pack of pickled peppers.

VIDEO: BOCC 'Invocation Pledge" Public Forum Comments 12.11.14


I changed the wording a little bit from what I intended to say (see previous post).

The PLEDGE ITSELF is in my previous post also.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BOCC Public Forum Comments, PLEDGE TO SIGN!!

There seems to be some confusion about the invocation prayer before each meeting.  Commissioner Robertson walked out before my recent invocation, saying this: “People may not realize it, but when we invite someone, a minister, to pray, they are praying for the county commissioners, for us to make wise decisions... and I’m just not going to have a pagan or satanic minister pray for me.”  I'm not sure why my gods are labeled satanic, but they deserve invocation just as much as yours.

Let's clear the confusion.  In a recent decision, the Supreme Court suggests a "prayer that is solemn and respectful in tone" and "invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals <sic> before they embark on the fractious business of governing".  Unfortunately, leading the room in prayer is INHERENTLY fractious, as we do not all share the same belief.  Your policy does not help.

What policy?  None has been published.  We only know that each commissioner chooses whomever he wants to hear pray and may reject offers from those he doesn't.  Those rejections are commonplace.  I have the emails to prove it.
As a result, some Christian speakers pray here over and over - one 6 times in the last year, another 10 times in two years - while some minority believers are denied any opportunity, are ignored, or are generally stonewalled by MOST commissioners.

For months, I've been asking for a remedy in the form of a written and inclusive invocation policy.  Influenced by the Supreme court ruling in May, attorneys have suggested a fair system.  There has been no response.  So today, I'm proposing a small step forward:  I'm asking each commissioner to sign a simple pledge.  You may read it yourself.  Basically, I'm asking you to bring the invocation practice within the law by promising:

- not to discriminate in choosing speakers,
- to ask speakers not to denigrate other religions, proselytize or speak to issues before the board,
- not to repeat prayer-givers while requests to speak are pending,
- to welcome all offers and speakers equally,
- not to show favor among religions,
- to remain in the room for all prayers,
- OR (absent these actions), to invoke an inclusive moment of silence instead
IN SHORT, I'm asking that you treat others as you'd wish to be treated if you practiced a minority religion and wished to invoke its positive influence upon this body.

I pray that ALL our commissioners will sign AND HONOR this pledge, for the good of our County.  Absent that, I pray you'll publish your own welcoming invocation policy, thus protecting our County from the fractious legal challenges your current practice invites.

Thank you and I look forward to your response.


Whereas, the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution declares that our government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech",

Whereas, the US Supreme Court ruled in Galloway v Greece NY that sectarian invocations are allowed at local government meetings, as long "its leaders maintained that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation."

Whereas, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners welcomes all citizens to its meetings and wishes all to feel they may be heard and respected, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof,

I,______________________ (name), County Commissioner for District ___ (number), wishing to represent all my constituents equally and inclusively, regardless of their religious convictions, do hereby pledge:

1) not to discriminate in any way in choosing who may offer an invocation or prayer before the County Commission.

2) to ask demand that each prayer giver not "denigrate, proselytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose", as required by the Galloway v Greece decision.

3) not to allow repetition of any speaker or congregation until all who have offered to deliver an invocation have been offered a chance to do so.

4) to welcome all offers and speakers equally, setting aside my own religious preference out of respect for every American's right of individual religious liberty, and

5) not to favor any religious tradition over others, remaining in attendance for all invocations, and respecting all traditions, treating each speaker as equal in the government arena.

If, for any reason, I am unable to choose a prayer giver meeting my pledge, I promise, instead, to invoke an inclusive moment of silent prayer and reflection, thereby welcoming all our citizens equally and asking none to pray against their beliefs.

I make this pledge freely and willingly, as an example that I treat citizens of all faiths (and none at all) equally and without prejudice, just as I would want to be treated when addressing my government.

Agreed and pledged this ________  day of _______________, in the year  ________.
Signature:  ________________________________________

Monday, December 8, 2014

Letter to ECSB - What is Needed, What's Next, What is the Solution?

For your information, PLEASE READ THE NEWS BELOW about another school board currently being sued for it's prayer policy.
Here's the link:

December 8, 2014

Board Members, et al,

As ever, I encourage you to reconsider your exclusive and illegal prayer policy.  The ECSB should not waste taxpayer dollars defending a sectarian stand that pushes ANY religious practice on those attending ECSB meetings.  With so much confusion over this, it behooves you to issue a WRITTEN POLICY (at the very least) clarifying your prayer practice.  Who may lead the room in prayer and who may not?  Who makes these decisions and on what basis?  What content is appropriate?  No one will say.  Yet offers from minorities get rejected while SB members solicit Bible-believers to offer prayers befitting their own faith.

What's more, you have failed to respond to letters from FFRF and AU.  Your constituents have no idea how you justify establishing Bible-based prayer - while excluding all others.  This all contradicts your own system-wide policy (no school-led prayer, but an inclusive moment of silence), as stated in the Student Handbook.  Even under Galloway v Greece (which does not apply to school boards), your style of individual privilege and board-endorsed discrimination is indefensible.  It certainly does not comport with more stringent legal precedents regarding school-system-sponsored prayer.

PLEASE NOTE:  For reconciliation's sake, I am willing to drop this matter altogether - without notifying the press - if you will continue the inclusive moment of silence Mrs Hightower led at the last meeting.  Otherwise, I will accept your previous offer and present a WIDE DIVERSITY of prayers (not just my own) EVERY MONTH during the Public Forum.  I have invocation prayers from many traditions: Muslim, Pastafarian, atheist, Scientologist, Satanist, Astrologist, Hindu, Pantheist and everything in between.

Likewise, I'll continue praying audibly (according to my own beliefs) during the time set aside for such activity.  As you know, it is every American's right to freely exercise their religion up until the OFFICIAL start of business.  Oddly, the Invocation occurs BEFORE the Call to Order... though at the behest of the board president.  It's still unclear why you start the meeting this way - once unofficially (and after 5:30) for the Invocation and again, officially, after the Call to Order.  However, until the meeting is actually called to order, it is my right to pray aloud  - just as students may pray aloud before the official beginning of the school day.

That's all for now.  I don't expect it, but I welcome your response by email or phone.

Best Regards,
David Suhor
850 512-2220

FFRF Sues Praying School Board

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a prominent national state/church watchdog, filed a federal lawsuit yesterday in the Central District of California, Eastern Division, against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, whose meetings "resemble a church service more than a school board meeting," FFRF contends.
FFRF, based in Madison, Wis., has more than 21,500 nonreligious members nationwide, including more than 3,360 in Caifornia.
School board meetings open with a prayer, and often include bible readings and proselytizing by board members. Board President James Na injects Christianity into many of his official statements, FFRF's legal complaint notes. At one typical meeting, Na "urged everyone who does not know Jesus Christ to go and find Him," after which another board member closed with a reading of Psalm 143.
Students often attend the meetings to receive awards, speak about issues affecting their schools, attend disciplinary hearings and do performances. Student attendance is mandatory in some instances, and a student representative is a member of the board.
Courts have consistently held that organized prayer in the public schools is unconstitutional, the complaint charges. Two federal appellate courts, the Third and Sixth Circuits, have specifically held school board prayer unconstitutional.
Joining the Freedom From Religion Foundation as plaintiffs are a district student, Doe 1, and parents Does 2 and 3, as well as a district employee, Doe 4. Additional students, families, and employees in the district who are interested in joining as anonymous plaintiffs should contact FFRF.
The plaintiffs "feel that the government is taking sides against them on religious questions," and view the prayers, bible readings, and proselytizing as state-endorsed religion. The board is excessively entangled with religion, alleges the complaint, noting there is no secular or educational purpose for prayers, bible readings, or proselytizing. FFRF contends this violates the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the California Constitution.
FFRF repeatedly attempted to resolve these constitutional violations without litigation. FFRF originally contacted the board on Sept. 14, 2013, asking it to stop scheduling prayers at its meetings. The board responded on Oct. 7, 2013, refusing the request.
FFRF is represented by Attorney David J.P. Kaloyanides, who won a lawsuit in February on behalf of the American Humanist Association, which stopped the city of Lake Elsinore, Calif., from building a war memorial depicting a soldier kneeling before a Christian cross. FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert and Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel are co-counsel on the case.
The complaint asks the court to declare the board's religious practices unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions and to permanently enjoin the board from any further school-sponsored religious exercises. 
U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal, an Obama appointee, is handling the case (Case No. 5:14-cv-02336).
- See more at:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

EMAIL: ECSB's Bergosh Responds to (Rejects) Humanist Invocation Offer

Once again, Bergosh cites personal privilege and the beliefs of the board as justification for excluding religions from equal treatment at a government function.  Apparently, he needs some better legal advice.  He might also re-read the 1st amendment regarding establishing a religion and prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  Or he could just refer to the ECSD's own policy of not allowing prayer (except an inclusive individual moment of silence) at school functions where students are present.

From: Jeffrey Bergosh <>
To: Andre Ryland
Sent: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 9:43 AM
Subject: Re: ECSB Invocations


Thanks for your honest reply.  I answer your question with a couple of my own.  Please answer honestly--of course you are under no obligation to do so.

Have you attended a meeting of the School Board of Escambia County, ever?  If so, when was the last time?
Yes, and most recent was Willie Spears night where I gave you some advice as a  person who has been elected
to municipal government, --- that your invocation policy has a problem, and I'm just trying to help you save some taxpayer $.

You mention a tutoring program.  Are you currently tutoring a student?  If so, how long?
No, but I and a number of others are interested.  Would we with university degrees not qualify due to our philosophies?

You ask, "Can we just never be friends?"  I think that is an unfair question;  as a public official, it is part of my job to undertake outreach with the constituents, which I do.  Thus this email.  I am a friendly person, and If I met you I'm certain we would get along just fine.  With this said, I would need to know a lot more about you before I would call you a friend. 
Friends share commonalities, friends share values, friends share vision.  Friends are friends unconditionally, once they are trusted.  I do not know you, therefore how can I consider you a friend?

My apologies---I was just wondering if anyone like me could ever be considered a friend.  If we choose to disagree, like
many in history have done, and yet still be friendly, but I see your requirements.

But let me ask you one final question.  Must I bring a person off the street that I do not know as my personal invitee to bring a pre-meeting prayer on my behalf in order to prove I am a good and just person?  Putting someone like you ahead of MANY friends I do already have that share my beliefs--is that fair to them?
I would have no problem with you doing it just this way in a side chapel room that is not open to the public. Then "someone like me" would never be heard from ever again. 

If I chose to bring someone that shares my faith, and that of the entire board, over someone like you that nobody on the board shares a common religion with--does this make me unjust.
Not at all if this were your church---it would make absolute sense.

Remember the context, Andre;  These prayers are for the benefit of the elected legislative body--not to satisfy some religious litmus test.  So, again I ask--if I don't choose you but instead choose someone that is my friend, somebody I know, who shares a common religion with my peers-how is this wrong?
Again, it is not wrong in a religious setting and I defend your right to the freedom of religion and to worship how you choose.  So if they are for the body then have them just for the body and not the general public. SCOTUS has said if you have invocations for the body, open to the public, you must allow the public to also invoke you the body without discrimination.

These are important questions the answers for which I would like to know from your perspective.

Have a great day!   Thanks, and you too.  Andre

Jeff B.

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board
District 1 Board Representative

>>> Andre Ryland  10/06/14 3:45 PM >>>
Jeff,      My interest is at least three fold. 
I am a  taxpayer. I am concerned about conflicts of interest and illegalities by public officials.  Finally, our organization and members are interested in tutoring programs for at needs children.
I am the President and Celebrant of the Humanists of West Florida.  Are we not acceptable?
Are you suggesting none of these are worthwhile or good enough concerns regarding our public schools?
Can we just never be friends?
Let me know,Andre

From: Jeffrey Bergosh
To: Andre Ryland
Sent: Monday, October 6, 2014 7:04 AM
Subject: Re: ECSB Invocations

Thanks for your interest, BTW--do you have any connections to our public school system?  Typically, I select folks that have either a strong connection to the schools or a personal friend.  Have you, are you, at all involved in our schools and what it is that we do?

Let me know.


Jeff B

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board
District 1 Board Representative

>>> Andre Ryland  10/05/14 16:48 PM >>>
Dear Mr Bergosh,
    Hello again,
    I am Celebrant Andre Ryland of <address> Pensacola 32514, and I am still interested in offering the Invocation for upcoming Escambia County School District meetings. 
    I, as a Humanist Celebrant, 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?
Sincerely,Cel. Andre RylandHumanists of West Florida

EMAIL ECSB's Gerald Boone Rejects Humanist Leader Offering Invocation

I'll credit Mr Boone for at least answering, though offering no legal justification for his rejection.  Too bad he still considers it his privilege to censor out invocation offers he doesn't like, while seeking out Christians to offer (illegal) prayers which contradict the school's own policy of having a moment of silence.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Gerald Boone <>
To: Buz Ryland
Sent: Saturday, August 16, 2014 3:44 PM
Subject: Re: Escambia Schools

Mr. Ryland,

There is no application process for presenting the invocation at the school Board Meetings.  It is simply the choice of the Board member whose turn it is to make the selection.  It is my turn for the September meeting, and I will not need your service.  Furthermore, the individuals I have chosen in months past have not invoked their beliefs for my consideration when I am confronted with decision making.

Sent from my iPad

On Aug 14, 2014, at 8:43 PM, "Andre Ryland" <> wrote:
Dear Mr. Boone,

    I am Celebrant Andre Ryland of 8355 Banberry Rd. Pensacola 32514, and I am sincerely interested in offering the "Opening Words/Invocation" for an upcoming Escambia County School District meeting.  I ask you how I might go about applying for the role. 
   These invocations, to my knowledge, are a common occurrence most often done by religious leaders invoking their beliefs for your consideration when making decisions.  I as a Humanist Celebrant would be requesting you the board  members make the best decisions you can with the education and knowledge 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.
    Would you consider me for your Invocations please?

Cel. Andre Ryland
Humanists of West Florida

VIDEO: 11.18.14 ECSB Public Forum Comments


My public forum comments; I skipped the prayer (until next month) because Mrs Hightower offered a poem and a moment of silence instead!!! That's progress that I doubt the others will acknowledge or repeat. 

There is still no written policy, nor response to letters from AU or FFRF. They STILL reject offers from Humanists, Pagans and anyone else non-Biblical. At the same time, they are seeking out Christians... and one Jew. As Mr Bergosh said: (paraphrasing) "you want diversity, here's your diversity; next time it's my turn I'm bringing a Jewish person to deliver an invocation". Wow - ignoring others' requests and seeking out a Jew (like Jesus). That's really inclusive. 

VIDEO Christian Responds to ECSB Public Forum Comments

I LOVE that someone is finally responding, since the School Board won't.  Next month (and every month thereafter until there is a change), I'll give them something to really respond to - prayers that include MANY minorities.

Here's the video:

This was the response from one person in the audience of the ECSB meeting.  I find his logic faulty because it doesn't acknowledge the Constitution's prohibition of establishing a religion or free expression or religion (regardless of whether you agree or not). If you are going to have a prayer, you can't exclude religions you don't like.  Also, is that an ECSD lanyard around his neck?

While he was speaking, I thought Jeff Bergosh was going to get whiplash, he was nodding so vigorously.  Clearly he approves of standing up for the special privilege afforded to Christians during school board prayer.  And of course, it's the right of each SB member to make sure minority prayers don't get heard.

There is still no written policy, no pledge not to discriminate, and no response to letters from FFRF or AU.  In other words, ECSB meetings allow Bible-based religion dominion over all prayers.  Others need not apply.

Yet Another Apt Cartoon

To be fair, the Jewish folks are allowed (since Jesus was a Jew after all).  That's what ECSB member calls 'diversity'.  I think his quote was: "You want diversity, here's your diversity - I'll be inviting a Jewish person to deliver my next invocation."  A non-Biblical religion - "no, not ever, ever on my watch".