Who has given the invocation during the 2018-2019 city council year?

I have grown bored with keeping track of who gives the invocation at the Jacksonville City Council meetings.  If you’d like to start keeping track of the invocation speakers, let me know and I can add you as an author so you can add to this blog post.

July 24, 2018–At this LINK you can hear the invocation given at the first city council meeting of Aaron Bowman’s term as city council president.  Perhaps if you listened to the introduction to the invocation, you (too) will have these questions:

1. What did Council Member Schellenberg mean by faith-based?  Is he signaling that he (like Doyle Carter) won’t be inviting those that are non-religious to give the invocation?  

2. Why did Council Member Gulliford ask everyone to stand before the invocation?  That’s not allowed, correct?

3. Is Council Member Schellenberg the new appointed Chaplain per Jacksonville City Council rule 1.106 ?  

RULE 1.106 CHAPLAIN The President may appoint one Council Member to be Chaplain of the Council, who shall arrange to open each meeting of the Council with a prayer/invocation. The President or Chaplain may invite or designate others to provide appropriate ceremonies.

 

IF someone insists on discriminating against minority religions as part of their government job, then that isn’t the job for them.  Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, and all other world views need to be treated equally.

podium but biggerDuring the 2017-2018 City Council year, Doyle Carter has invited mostly Baptists to give the invocation. Here is a link to the list of invocation speakers for the 2017-2018 City Council year:  https://uniteusdonotdivideus.com/category/invocations-and-jacksonville-information/who-has-given-the-invocation-this-year/

I have asked Doyle Carter repeatedly about his selection process.  My question went unanswered.

If Doyle Carter runs for another office, please keep in mind that he did not answer my question asking him how he selects invocation speakers.  I was told by City Council President Anna Brosche that Carter volunteered for the position of chaplain.   Why is he refusing to tell us how he selects the invocation speakers?  Is that the kind of elected official you want in office?   Do you want to elect someone who won’t tell his constituents how he conducts the job he has volunteered to do?

The Jacksonville City Council has an invocation forum which is supposed to be open to the public. The Greece v Galloway U.S. Supreme Court decision is clear when it comes to invocations at City Council meetings. If the Jacksonville City Council opens the forum to the public, then it must be open to all voices. In other words, you don’t get to pick and choose whom you accept and whom you refuse. When you ignore a Jacksonville citizen or an entire subset of Jacksonville citizens attempting to participate in this public forum, you are essentially saying to that person or persons their beliefs or their invocations are not welcome in their own community. It’s prejudicial and unconstitutional, but it is also unkind and unfair.

The City Council President can appoint a chaplain.  The chaplain is in charge of appointing invocation speakers.  The City Council President (and hence the President’s appointees) changes every year. I hope future City Council Presidents will appoint chaplains who do not have a goal of excluding people from the invocation period.

IF someone has the belief that all prayers need to include the words “in Jesus’s name we pray” and if they also believe  no one should be allowed to give the invocation (out loud at the podium at a government meeting) unless they agree to say those words, then this person is NOT someone who should be appointed as chaplain.   Here is a quote from past City Council President Clay Yarborough:

 “The scripture teaches that unless one prays in the name of Jesus Christ, and since he is our only way to the Father, that is how one should pray. And that is what I believe.”

That quote can be found at this link: https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/inquisition-in-jacksonville-religious-right-grills-muslim-nominee-for  When Yarborough became City Council President, he appointed Doyle Carter to be Chaplain.  During that 2014-2015 City Council year, only Doyle Carter and Kimberly Daniels gave the invocation. They both always said the words “in Jesus’ Name We Pray” during the invocation period.  Many people spoke during the public comment period about the practice of not inviting the entire community to have the opportunity to speak during the invocation period. Here is a link to one of those 3 minute public comments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Facp1ckvJAA

During the 2015-2016 City Council year, a Humanist’s request to give the invocation was accepted.  Here is the link to his invocation at the city council meeting:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyoD4__nfZ0&t=14s

During the 2016-2017 City Council year, there was more diversity as seen on the list at this link: https://uniteusdonotdivideus.com/2016/07/31/invocation-speakers-july-2016-to-june-2017-for-jacksonville-city-council-meetings/

BUT during the 2017-2018 City Council year, Doyle Carter has invited mostly Baptists to give the invocation. Here is a link to the list of invocation speakers for the 2017-2018 City Council year:  https://uniteusdonotdivideus.com/category/invocations-and-jacksonville-information/who-has-given-the-invocation-this-year/  Please note that it is one Catholic and the rest Protestants and mostly Baptists.  Why didn’t Carter invite speakers from other religions?  Why did he volunteer for a job that he didn’t want to properly perform?

Here is a copy of my emails where I asked Carter about his policy:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Susan
Date: Mon, Apr 9, 2018
To: “Carter, Doyle” <doylec@coj.net>, “Brosche, Anna” <ABROSCHE@coj.net>, “Gabriel, Jason” <JGabriel@coj.net>
Honorable Doyle Carter,

The list that you sent me did not include the date that the speakers applied.  IF you do NOT keep track of that, please let me know.  IF you did keep track of it, please provide me that information under the rules of 119 or the Florida Statutes.  Specifically I have these questions:
1. Do you put people on the schedule as they apply?  If yes, was the list that you provided me in order of when people applied?
2. Do you put people on a list of people applying with no indication of the date they applied?  If yes, how do you pick who will be on the schedule?
Thanks,
Susan
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Susan
Date: Fri, Apr 6, 2018

Council Member Carter— Thank you for the list (attached).  I had hoped that it would include the dates that people contacted you requesting to be put on the list and the method by which they contacted you.  Would you please include that information?  How do you make your choices?  Do you put people on the list as they call (or email) with the date of contact?
Thanks,
Susan
Concerned citizen that loves our First Amendment

 

Please ask the city council to be inclusive and respect all residents of Jacksonville

I appreciate the hard work of the city council.   I appreciate that other city council presidents have invited diverse groups.  I hope that future city council presidents won’t follow the example of City Council Chaplain Doyle Carter as he followed a discriminatory policy during his 2017-2018 reign as chaplain.  There should be an open and transparent and non discriminatory policy of inviting invocation speakers.   Everyone needs to be included and be given the chance to pray or give an inspirational invocation OR else they should quit doing them.

Please consider writing the new city council president.  Perhaps you’d say something like this (I copied it from someone else):

Past Council Presidents, through their designated Council Chaplains, have gotten this practice right. For example, the diversity of the invocation speakers was very appropriate, and affirming of all people, during the time your colleague, Council Member Joyce Morgan, served as Chaplain. However, her sterling example served as a tremendous contrast to the invocation speakers selected by her successor, Council Member Doyle Carter. Unfortunately, despite repeated requests made to Council President Anna Brosche and Council Member Carter, there was very little diversity among the invocation speakers selected to deliver remarks in the current Council year.

We are asking you today, before your term as Council President begins, to be thoughtful about your selection of Chaplain. We especially are asking that the faith and thought leaders chosen to give the invocation at future Council meetings is as representative as possible of the diversity of our City. As a world-class City, we hope to see men and women, racial and ethnic diversity, and theists and non-theists represented.

Let’s go ask the city council to be inclusive.

I know many wish government personnel would just quit doing prayers out loud at the podium at government meetings.  And maybe some prefer a moment of silence to start off a government meeting so that each person can silently pray in their own way right before the meeting.  BUT barring either one of those two options, it seems to me it might be nice if a group like One Jax would volunteer to co-ordinate invocation speakers. Don’t Republicans love outsourcing? Why not outsource the job of finding invocation speakers to a group who honors and embraces the value of inclusiveness? One Jax may not want to do it but maybe there is a group similar to One Jax who would agree to do it.

From One Jax website:

OneJax is an interfaith organization dedicated to achieving civility, understanding and respect for all through education, dialogue and community-building. Our vision is an inclusive community where difference is welcomed and celebrated.

Jacksonville is a very diverse community. The prior City Council Chaplains were able to find a wide variety of people to give the invocation.  Why won’t Doyle Carter?

Jacksonville city’s attorney seems to knows that what Carter is doing is wrong.  The attorney’s memo dated September 20, 2014 includes the words:

“The Court suggests that nondiscrimination is important ….. This should be taken as a warning that if a legislative body chooses to invite speakers, then it should be careful not to engage in discrimination.

For your convenience, here is the link to the memo:

http://www.coj.net/city-council/docs/misc/ogc-invocationopinion-2014-09-20.aspx

Why did Carter pick so many Baptists to give the invocation? Is it because Carter is a Baptist? There is one Catholic on the list to give an invocation.   No Jews. No Humanists.  No Buddhists.  No Hindus.  No Sikhs.   No Unitarians.   Why not?

Do you think the invocation period could  be an opportunity for the city council to embrace inclusiveness? Why did Carter pick so many Baptists to give the invocation? Here is the list of who Carter has chosen:

INVOCATIONS:
7/25: Pastor McGinley- Old Plank Baptist Church
8/8: Keith Russell- Westside Baptist Church
8/22: Adam Peterson- Rise Church
9/18: Pat Archuleta- Chaplin of Cecil Field POW/MIA and Jesus Loves Veterans Ministry
9/26: Mac Brunson- First Baptist Church of Jacksonville
10/10: Chaplain David Williams from JSO Jails Division
10/24: Dwayne Sumner- Normandy Baptist Church
11/14: Clarence Jarrell- JSO Chaplin
11/28: Bishop Guns- St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church
12/12: CM Carter
1/9: Jason Reed- Old Plank Baptist Church- Family Ministries
1/23: Bishop Edward Robinson- Southside Church of God in Christ
2/13: Brunson Clements- Whitehouse Baptist Church
2/27: David Hill- First Ministries
3/13: Ted Corley- Mission First Coast
3/27: Mark Griffin- Wayman Temple
4/10: Tom Messer- Trinity Baptist Church
4/24: Esther Wilder- Westside Family Worship Center- Women’s Ministry
5/8: Gary Wiggins- Evangel Temple
5/22: Fred Newbill: First Timothy Baptist
6/12: Father Tom Willis- Diocese of St. Augustine
6/26: Amy Slater- Sr. Associate St. Mary’s Episcopal Church

Federal Court Says Fla. County Board Cannot Discriminate Against Non-Theists

Below was copied from this LINK
A federal court last night struck down the Brevard County, Fla., Board of County Commissioners’ policy of excluding non-theists from giving opening invocations, a ruling that is being hailed by the groups that sponsored the litigation.

In its ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida said a local governing body cannot limit its invocation speakers to those from monotheistic religions.

“It is unconstitutional for any governing body to discriminate against people who don’t believe in God,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and lead counsel in the case. “Yet that is exactly what Brevard County did through its invocation policy. We’re pleased that the court put an end to the county’s discriminatory practice.”

The Williamson v. Brevard County lawsuit was filed in 2015 by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on behalf of multiple plaintiffs. It asserted that Brevard County’s rejection of atheists, humanists and other non-theists who sought to deliver solemnizing messages at the beginning of commission meetings violated the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.

The civil liberties groups noted that in a 2014 decision, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that local governments cannot discriminate based on religion when selecting who will deliver invocations to open government meetings. Yet the Brevard board argued that it had no obligation to include non-theists.

The district court disagreed.

“ ‘[T]he great promise of the Establishment Clause is that religion will not operate as an instrument of division in our nation,’ ” the court wrote (quoting another case). “Regrettably, religion has become such an instrument in Brevard County. The County defines rights and opportunities of its citizens to participate in the ceremonial pre-meeting invocation during the County Board’s regular meetings based on the citizens’ religious beliefs. . . . [T]he County’s policy and practice violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Sections 2 and 3 of the Florida Constitution.”

“We’re delighted such blatant discrimination against nonreligious citizens has been struck down,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Governmental bodies that open their meetings with invocations must not turn believers into insiders, and nonbelievers into outsiders, by excluding dissenting points of view.”

“The County’s outright exclusion of nonreligious speakers was unfair and unconstitutional,” said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.  “This decision sends a powerful reminder that no one should be treated as a second-class citizen by their local government.”

The plaintiffs in the case include the Central Florida Freethought Community (a chapter of FFRF) and its chair David Williamson; the Space Coast Freethought Association and its president Chase Hansel; the Humanist Community of the Space Coast and its president Keith Becher; and Brevard County resident Ronald Gordon.

The lawsuit has been litigated by Luchenitser and former Steven Gey Fellow Bradley Girard of Americans United; Rebecca S. Markert and Andrew L. Seidel of FFRF; Nancy Abudu and Daniel Tilley of the ACLU of Florida; and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Please ask people to apply to give the invocation

I wrote this letter to the editor a couple of years ago when Clay Yarborough was City Council President and Doyle Carter was chaplain:

http://members.jacksonville.com/opinion/letters-readers/2014-09-05/story/sundays-lead-letter-prayers-city-council-should-be-more

In the Supreme Court decision, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Court emphasized that a government’s prayer practice must be “nondiscriminatory” and it must make reasonable efforts to include invocations from all members of the community, regardless of their faith. In fact, the completely open selection process was crucial to the prayers being upheld: “The town at no point excluded or denied an opportunity to a would-be prayer giver. Its leaders maintained that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation.” (Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway, 12-696, 2014 WL 1757828 (U.S. May 5, 2014)) Therefore, excluding a particular faith group from consideration is unconstitutional. (Pelphrey v. Cobb County, 547 F.3d 1263, 1276 (11th Cir. 2008)).

The Supreme Court ruled in Greece v. Galloway that if city councils want to have prayers at government meetings, they need to rotate among all the groups in town.  When Greg Anderson and Lori Boyer were City Council President, they appointed chaplains that did an OK job rotating speakers.

I know some may wonder why it matters.  And I know many think that people should pray with like-minded folks rather than as a public display at a government meeting where people of various faiths are in attendance.

However, I think the invocation period could be used to help to make the various groups within our city feel welcome.  So in my view, it makes sense that the current chaplain (Doyle Carter) should want to reach out to the minority groups.

Quote from President Bush’s recent speech (LINK ) about the need for leadership:

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.)

And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

If you know anyone (especially someone from a minority group) that is willing to give the invocation at a city council meeting, please ask them to contact Doyle Carter.   You can email him at doylec@coj.net.   If he refuses to put a speaker on the schedule from your group, please consider letting the watch group know at this link:

https://au.org/get-involved/report-a-violation/form

“It is unconstitutional for any governing body to discriminate against people who don’t believe in God,”

Forward:
“It is unconstitutional for any governing body to discriminate against people who don’t believe in God,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and lead counsel in the case. “Yet that is exactly what Brevard County did through its invocation policy. We’re pleased that the Court put an end to the County’s discriminatory practice.”

A federal court late last night struck down the Brevard County (Florida) Board of County Commissioners’ exclusionary practice of discrimination against the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC), whose members have offered to give opening invocations at commission meetings.

The lawsuit has been litigated by Luchenitser and Bradley Girard of Americans United; Rebecca S. Markert and Andrew L. Seidel of FFRF; Nancy Abudu and Daniel Tilley of the ACLU of Florida; and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

In its ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida said a local governing body cannot limit its invocation speakers to members of theistic communities.

“County commissioners are the elected officials who are closest to the people of Brevard. They failed to adequately represent Brevard’s pluralistic community by voting three times, unanimously, to codify religious discrimination against atheists. Now, we learned that the Court agrees.” said David Williamson, a plaintiff in the case.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by the CFFC, the Humanist Community of the Space Coast, the Space Coast Freethought Society, and some of their members. The groups asserted in the case that the Commission’s rejection of atheists, humanists, and other non-theists who sought to deliver solemnizing messages at the beginning of commission meetings violated the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.

Since a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the CFFC has offered more than fifty invocations at city, town, and county government meetings across the region. Brevard County was the only government body that rejected CFFC’s requests for inclusion in the process.

” ‘[T]he great promise of the Establishment Clause is that religion will not operate as an instrument of division in our nation,’ ” the court wrote (quoting another case). “Regrettably, religion has become such an instrument in Brevard County. The County defines rights and opportunities of its citizens to participate in the ceremonial pre-meeting invocation during the County Board’s regular meetings based on the citizens’ religious beliefs…. [T]he County’s policy and practice violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Sections 2 and 3 of the Florida Constitution.”

Of the decision, Keith Becher, a plaintiff in the case, said, “I am delighted the ruling favors equality. Atheists, non-believers, secular humanists and those from minority religions are an integral part of this community. We strive to be active participants and relish the opportunity to invoke the higher ideals that everyone in our community shares.”

LINK to Judges Order

How to apply to give the invocation from July 1, 2017 until June 30, 2018

If you know anyone that wants to give the invocation at a city council meeting, my understanding is that they just need to email Doyle Carter’s office at DoyleC@coj.net

Forward:
Thank you for your e-mail expressing your concerns, and for sharing the comments regarding the 2015 petitions. I have delegated the City Council Chaplain responsibility to Council Member Doyle Carter through my appointment of him to such position, and I trust that he will do a great job in such capacity. It appears that Council Member Carter is welcoming your suggestions regarding having invocations from diverse groups, including offering names and contact information of individuals.
Sincere regards,
Anna Lopez Brosche
Council Member At-Large Group 1
Office of the City Council

Invocation speakers July 2017 to June 2018 for Jacksonville City Council meetings

Sept 7 — Council Member Doyle Carter <==This was an emergency meeting
Sept 12 — Meeting cancelled due to Irma

Here is the list that Doyle Carter provided:
INVOCATIONS:
7/25: Pastor McGinley- Old Plank Baptist Church
8/8: Keith Russell- Westside Baptist Church
8/22: Adam Peterson- Rise Church
9/18: Pat Archuleta- Chaplin of Cecil Field POW/MIA and Jesus Loves Veterans Ministry
9/26: Pastor Mac Brunson- First Baptist Church of Jacksonville
10/10: Chaplain David Williams from JSO Jails Division
10/24: Pastor Dwayne Sumner- Normandy Baptist Church
11/14: Clarence Jarrell- JSO Chaplin
11/28: Bishop Guns- St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church
12/12: CM Carter-[Baptist]
1/9: Jason Reed- Old Plank Baptist Church– Family Ministries
1/23: Bishop Edward Robinson- Southside Church of God in Christ
2/13: Pastor Brunson Clements- Whitehouse Baptist Church
2/27: Rev. David Hill- First Ministries
3/13: Ted Corley- Mission First Coast [Is he from Mayfair Baptist Church?]
3/27: Mark Griffin- Wayman Temple
4/10: Tom Messer- Trinity Baptist Church
4/24: Esther Wilder- Westside Family Worship Center- Women’s Ministry  <==That’s the person that Doyle said would offer the invocation BUT Bishop Percy Golden – The Revival Center is listed on the coj website as the invocation speaker for April 24
5/8: Gary Wiggins- Evangel Temple <==That’s the person that Doyle said would offer the invocation BUT Jimmy Wilder – Westside Worship Center is listed on the coj website as the invocation speaker for May 8
5/22: Fred Newbill: First Timothy Baptist  <==That’s the person that Doyle said would offer the invocation BUT Amos Bankhead – Combined Gospel Church is listed on the coj website as the invocation speaker for May 22
6/12: Father Tom Willis- Diocese of St. Augustine<==That’s the person that Doyle said would offer the invocation BUT Dr. Winston Butler – Dinsmore Baptist Church is listed on the coj website as the invocation speaker for June 12 th.
6/26: Amy Slater- Sr. Associate St. Mary’s Episcopal Church<==That’s the person that Doyle said would offer the invocation BUT Rodney Kelly – West Jacksonville   Church is listed on the coj website as the invocation speaker for June 26th.

They can’t ask the audience to rise or bow their heads

They can’t ask the audience to participate.  Council Member Morgan asked people to bow their heads when she said a prayer at the August 23rd meeting.  So I emailed her this note.

forward:
Honorable Council Member Morgan,
The invocation is supposed to be for the council members and not the audience.  You are not supposed to ask the audience to bow their heads.
You asked the audience to bow their heads in this session:
Here is the link to Jason R. Gabriel, General Counsel’s memo:

http://www.coj.net/city-council/docs/misc/ogc-invocationopinion-2014-09-20.aspx

 it is advisable   ….  to enlist best practices to seek to obtain a diverse panel of guest chaplains and to insure that no one attending a Council meeting feels coerced. Some suggestions include:

  • No person attending a city council meeting should be required to participate in any prayer.
  • Neither the council nor the clerk should ask about or review the content of any prayer.
  • No City official should  ask the audience to take any overt act either (bow head, stand up, etc.).
  • The clerk should not remove a congregation from the list of invitees or refuse to include one.
  • No speaker should offer a prayer at consecutive meetings or at more than three meetings in a year.
  • Hold invocations at the beginning of meetings.
  • Have a written statement acknowledging that the invocation policy is open to all and that the prayers are not intended to advance, proselytize, or disparage any one faith over others.
  • Publicize that the invocation is open to anyone by posting on the City website and/or announcing at Council meetings.
  • Actively reach out to non-traditional faith groups to increase the diversity of invocation speakers.