The Pensacola City Council made no move to change its invocation process at last night’s special meeting. Among the five members that showed up -Charles Bare, Gerald Wingate, Jewel Cannada-Wynn, Andy Terhaar and Sherri Myers, there was little support to change how the city clerk handles the invocations. Council President Charles Bare had suggested the council replace the invocation with a moment of silence.
Before they heard from the public, three council members expressed their thoughts on the invocation process.
“I honestly think that the process we have right now is working, and I’d like to keep it the same,” said Councilman Andy Terhaar, who added that he had to leave at 6:30 pm for his daughter’s birthday party.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers went on record that she was disappointed that she had not been given a copy of Rusty Wells’ 2014 legal opinion on the invocation process earlier.
“He opined that the process we have meets the constitutional requirements of the law,” she said. “I will not support having a moment of silence in lieu of the invocation that we have traditionally had–even though we can discuss making sure that it does comply with the requirements of the law and that it’s fair and unbiased, and nondiscriminatory.”
Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn said that the council had similar discussions in her previous 10 years on the board, and she supported allowing the invocation to “stand as it is.”
“We have to, of course, follow the Supreme Court in their decisions and the guidelines, but I think that we’ve done that,” she said. “We have allowed virtually anyone who wants to have and share that knowledge with us to do so. The individual (The Satanic Temple of West Florida’s David Suhor) who wanted to do it, is also going to do it.”
She added, “I think, if we stand with what the purpose of the invocation is, what the message should be is to bring us into unity, to talk about how we are to perform towards a better place of hope, a better city, and how we are to use wisdom in our decision making.”
Sixteen citizens, including several ministers, spoke on the issue. By the time the public forum concluded, the council no longer had a quorum and could take no action.
When Councilman Bare brought up his concerns with City Attorney Lysia Bowling, who was out of country and didn’t have a replacement at the meeting, Councilwoman Cannada-Wynn called a point of order and objected to Bare discussing his issues with the city attorney without Bowling being in attendance.
“I wanted to celebrate my birthday, but because you asked for us to have this meeting and I respect my citizens, I was able to be here,” she said to Bare. “Other members were not able to be here, so I simply feel that it’s a point of order to attack this person when this person is not here.”
She said, “And, yes, they did get it on Friday, and I changed my plans but other people could not.”
The Satanic Temple of West Florida will do the invocation at the July 14 regular meeting, and City Clerk Ericka Burnett will continue to handle requests and schedule invocations for future meetings.