A Florida court convicted a member of The Satanic Temple Monday of resisting arrest and trespassing for disrupting a government meeting to protest public prayer.
David Suhor, who gained notoriety for delivering a satanic prayer before the Pensacola City Council in 2016, was arrested at an Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) meeting in February for refusing to stop loudly praying after the meeting began. Suhor staged the incident to challenge the board’s policy of holding prayers before their meetings begin — a policy the board adopted to accommodate Suhor and others’ initial objections to having prayer as part of the meeting. (RELATED: Satanic Temple Sues Arizona City Over Alleged Discrimination)
“That way anyone who does not want to hear a Christian prayer or any other prayer offered by the board does not miss any of our meeting,” ECUA Chairwoman Lois Benson told Pensacola News Journal. “I started that simply out of sensitivity to him.”
Suhor, however, accused the board of trying to hide the fact that they pray.
“They’re actually trying to hide their invocations so that they can’t be sued for their content,” Suhor said. “Pretty bad transparency. It’s the exact opposite of transparency.”
Suhor initially approached the board at the dais before the start of the meeting and prayed the Lord’s Prayer with each board member. Some members even reportedly joined him in praying. When Benson attempted to draw the meeting to order, however, Suhor remained at the dais, continued to pray, and refused to comply with requests to stop.
The ECUA was well acquainted with Suhor’s antics. In addition to delivering a satanic prayer before the Pensacola City Council, he also disrupted an ECUA meeting in August of 2017 by praying loudly without ceasing. Authorities forcibly removed him in August. Faced with the same behavior in February of 2018, they arrested him.
Judge Joyce Williams found Suhor guilty Monday of both charges and sentenced him to three months’ probation, during which he is forbidden from drinking alcohol or taking any kind of recreational drug.
Suhor said he plans to appeal the case and is currently raising funds for his legal defense. He intends to continue challenging the use of prayer before or during Pensacola government meetings.
“ECUA welcomes every citizen to attend our meetings, speak if they so desire, and be part of the local governmental process,” ECUA spokeswoman Nathalie Bowers said in a written statement. “However, we will not allow disruption of our meetings.”
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