Pensacola

Council president releases emails re: Satanic Temple request

June 30, 2016

Pensacola City Council President Charles Bare released yesterday afternoon his emails that give a timeline on the decision to have The Satanic Temple of West Florida give the invocation at the July regular meeting.

“Note that the first email came in on February 4th,” Bare told Inweekly in an email. “I was not brought into the loop until February 29th. On either February 29th or March 1st, I instructed the Clerk to offer Mr. Suhor the December slot.”

He explained, “Typically, this entire process is handled by the City Clerk. I was never asked about the invocation selection process until this occurred.”

Bare is scheduling a special meeting for Thursday, July 7 at 5:30 pm “so that the Council can discuss and take action if need be.”

———

Here are the emails that Inweekly received:

From: David Suhor
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2016 10:02 AM
To: Ericka Burnett
Subject: Minister, The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Ms Burnett,

I am writing to request the opportunity to offer an invocation before the City Council. As an ordained minister of the The Satanic Temple, I would like to join in your free exercise of religion during these proceedings. I am asking to be scheduled at the earliest opportunity. I do not ask merely to be added to your list – as you have done with other minorities. Your list is not administered fairly or randomly. I wish to actually be called on to participate in this forum.

I would like to remind you that the Supreme Court ruled in Galloway v Greece that “a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation” AND “So long as the town maintains a policy of nondiscrimination…” Though the City Council has no official policy about invocations, I hope you will no allow discrimination by omission or oversight. I hope you will honor this SCOTUS ruling and allow everyone an equal opportunity to participate in the religious forum you have created. If changes are necessary to assure that happens, I hope those changes will occur.
If, for some reason, I do not qualify for this practice, I ask that you identify any written policy that allows the City to reject invocation offers from minority religious groups like ours. Under our Constitution, there is no valid reason to exclude a certain religion. I only ask that you work with impartiality and without discrimination, as the law demands.

Your response it writing would be greatly appreciated.

David Suhor

From: David Suhor
Sent: Saturday, February 13, 2016 3:24 PM
To: Betty Allen ; Ericka Burnett
Subject: Fw: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Will you please let me know whether I am allowed to participate? If so, when please?

PS Correction: I am not ordained by the Satanic Temple. Since minister status is not a requirement, I don’t expect this to be an issue. I do lead a group of local devotees of the Satanic Temple. More about our national organization can be found here: thesatanictemple.com

From: David Suhor
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2016 4:30 PM
To: Betty Allen ; Ericka Burnett
Subject: Re: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Your answer would be appreciated.

From: Ericka Burnett
Sent: Monday, February 29, 2016 8:39 AM
To: Charles Bare; Don Kraher
Subject: FW: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Please see the message below.

Thank you,

Ericka

From: Ericka Burnett
Sent: Tuesday, March 01, 2016 9:05 AM
To: ‘David Suhor’
Cc: Charles Bare ; Don Kraher
Subject: RE: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Dear Mr. Suhor,

Thank you for your interest in rendering the invocation for a City Council meeting. You are scheduled for December 8th.

Thank you for your willingness to serve in this capacity.

Ericka

From: David Suhor
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2016 12:51 AM
To: Ericka Burnett
Cc: Charles Bare ; Don Kraher
Subject: Re: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Ericka,

Sounds great. But that seems a long time away. Can you send me the schedule for between now and December 8?
Also, can you tell me how these dates are determined? I am concerned because several other people made requests over a year ago and have not received invitations. In the meantime, I believe other speakers have repeated.

Perhaps this is a good time to spell out your procedures more closely, to be sure there is no chance for discretion or discrimination to enter the equation.

David

From: Ericka Burnett
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2016 4:10 PM
To: ‘David Suhor’
Cc: Charles Bare ; Don Kraher ; Maxwell Branham
Subject: RE: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Mr. Suhor,

In response to the records request specified in your message below, we have no responsive document.

Thank you,

Ericka

From: David Suhor
Sent: Monday, March 7, 2016 2:21 PM
To: Ericka Burnett
Cc: Charles Bare; Don Kraher; Maxwell Branham
Subject: Re: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Ericka,

Is it possible to schedule my invocation sooner? When I examined the church list, it appeared that no one was scheduled beyond April. If I am wrong, I would appreciate a correction. If a slot is available sooner, I am asking for that slot. Perhaps someone has cancelled or postponed?

If this is not possible, can you please tell me why? And send me a list of those scheduled up to December, as of last week when my request was granted, but delayed until after the election.

David Suhor

From: David Suhor
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2016 4:47 PM
To: Ericka Burnett
Cc: Charles Bare; Don Kraher; Maxwell Branham
Subject: Re: The Satanic Temple, Invocation Request

Your response would be appreciated. I am VERY confused as to why I was scheduled for December when your list (near the date I made my request) showed that no one was scheduled for May-November. Please explain or move me to May.

From: David Suhor
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:30 PM
To: Ericka Burnett
Cc: Charles Bare; Don Kraher
Subject: UNFAIR TREATMENT Satanic Temple Invocation Request

Ms Burnett, Mr Bare, Mr Kraher,

I am confused. It appears that an offer was made for The Satanic Temple (not myself personally – as the churchlist.xls spreadsheet indicates) to do an invocation in December. That offer (this email) came on 3/1/16, the same date that Humanists of West Florida were asked. That December date seemed a long time away. Now I see why.

Today I reviewed the other invocation offers for 2016. I noted that offers for May –November were made on 3/4 – AFTER the offer for The Satanic Temple to speak in December. So the Satanic Temple’s invocation was delayed to December for no apparent reason (expect perhaps a religious/personal one). After that invitation went out, offers to more-preferred churches were made for May-November.

I realize that this office has no guidelines on when to offer invocations and that the system is not random at all, but depends on the whims of office staff. I realize you don’t want to correct this to make the system fair and free of religious influence. I am simply asking why the Satanic Temple was offered an invocation in December on March 1 when the May-November dates were all available at that time?

This may be easily corrected by 1) moving the Satanic Temple to the earliest date available on March 1, and 2) not allowing staff to choose who gives invocations at any particular time. In fact, I believe the City Council should consider requests to do invocations BEFORE seeking out churches and laypeople that never asked. There are still others who requested invocations (like Mrs Konrat’yev), but have not been called. Meantime, churches who never asked get called.

Please feel free to call or write. I would like to correct this discrepancy and preferential treatment working together, if possible. I would be happy to suggest an equitable solution.

David Suhor

From: Charles Bare
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2016 4:37 PM
To: ‘David Suhor’
Cc: Don Kraher ; Ericka Burnett
Subject: RE: UNFAIR TREATMENT Satanic Temple Invocation Request

Mr. Suhor:

Thank you for your interest in delivering the invocation at an upcoming council meeting. I am sorry that you were not pleased with the date offered. Please do not blame the staff for this. It was my decision to offer you the December date. I was unclear on the process at the time, and we are working to address this for the future. At this time, we do have the July meeting available if you would like to deliver the invocation at that meeting. Please contact the Clerk to alert her as to whether July will work for you. The Council and I will be discussing the methodology used for selecting people to deliver the invocation in the future. I am sorry if this has caused any trouble. We have a very professional staff, and they were acting in accordance with existing procedure.

Charles Bare
President
Pensacola City Council

From: David Suhor
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 2:58 PM
To: Charles Bare
Cc: Don Kraher ; Ericka Burnett
Subject: Re: UNFAIR TREATMENT Satanic Temple Invocation Request

Mr Bare, et al,

Can you please update me on any changes to the invocation selection procedure? Is there a draft proposal? A time to address this in a meeting?
I assume you received the fair, equal proposed procedure I sent (last email). If I can be of any further help, I am at your disposal.
In the meantime, I look forward to offering the invocation in July, on behalf of devotees of the Satanic Temple.

David Suhor

On May 13, 2016, at 10:09 PM, David Suhor wrote:
Mr Bare, et al,

I just want to confirm that I am still scheduled to give the invocation at the July City Council meeting, on behalf of the Satanic Temple. I’ve been in touch with our national chapter and they are excited for the opportunity! However, you mentioned some change in procedure. I’ve heard nothing of any changes, but I just want to be sure. If you do consider changes, we hope it will include an open/formal policy that removes any discretion from the process (as has been allowed in the past). In fact, I hope the draft ‘model policy’ I sent in my last email is under consideration.

If any changes will effect our opportunity for July, I would appreciate knowing that as soon as possible, so we may act accordingly.

Your confirmation would be greatly appreciated. This being a historic event for Pensacola, our chapter will be issuing a press release.

Hail Satan!

David Suhor

From: Charles Bare
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2016 10:12 PM
To: David Suhor
Cc: Don Kraher; Ericka Burnett
Subject: Re: Satanic Temple Invocation in July

Thank you for your suggestions. We are reviewing our procedure. You are confirmed for July.

Charles Bare
Pensacola City Council, At-Large B

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