A few days after Palm Coast City Council member Ed Danko called a constituent a “piece of crap” for allegedly being an atheist and questioning the council’s proposed invocation policy, which he originated, several people addressed the council this morning, mostly to recommend silence over invocations. The council is not voting on the issue before April. (See: “In Riveting Discussion on Prayers at Meetings, Palm Coast Council Defers to ‘Neutral’ Caution.”)
Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, a 17-year resident of Palm Coast, described himself as a “very big advocate” of prayer and urged council members “to spend a half hour before each meeting in the back room on their knees seeking guidance from their respective understanding of God, but not to bring it into the public meeting. It is after all divisive. We are sufficiently divided.” (Shapiro made similar points in a column on this site last week.)
He urged the council to consult with local clergy, theologians and religious experts, not just with the city attorney, who has been drafting and redrafting the policy, as the proposal could have blind spots otherwise. Speaking of the Jews of the community, he said any reference to Jesus would be offensive since, in the Gospel according to John, he calls Jews “liars and satanic murderers at the same time.” Instead, Shapiro urged the council to stick with the recently invoked moment of silence.
He was followed by Mike Cocchiola, who asked “why, all of a sudden, does this council need to pray out loud? Is there something you’re not doing? Or you’re not doing well, that prayer here in a public house, the house of the public, will help you make better decisions? If you’re making bad decisions, tell us now. We’re not sure that prayer is going to help you make those decisions.” Referring to council members’ and individuals’ remarks last week that they would not pray to “false gods,” Cocchiola asked: “How do you make those choices as to whose God is right?” (the choice alone being a form of establishment forbidden by the First Amendment.)
As for those who do not believe in a god, Cocchiola continued, “are they to be marginalized? Are they to come to this council and asking for equality, asking for representation, but thinking that–well, I don’t follow their religion. I don’t follow their God. What am I going to say to get their attention? Why would they even pay any attention to me at all? So I would ask that you do answer that question: why, and then answer the question: To which god? Because if you have a couple of people already on the council who are saying I will not pray to false gods, what are they going to do if somebody from the Hindu religion, somebody from the Jewish religion, somebody from any religion, who may not exactly believe what you do–are those two members going to get up, turn their backs? Are they going to, in their minds, disparage the speaker?”
The answer to that question isn’t a mystery, as far as at least one of those council members is concerned. After Danko received the email Cocchiola sent all council members on March 17, raising questions about the proposal and suggesting, “respectfully,” to stay with a moment of silence, Danko replied: “I fully disagree with you. You’re an atheist and I don’t care how you try to disguise it. Take your left-wing socialist agenda and put it where the Sun don’t shine. I could care less about your communist beliefs. You are a total liberal piece of crap.”
Danko is at the origin of the invocation proposal. He explained in an email to FlaglerLive today: “Mike and I have a history of going at each other over issues, just go back and read his comments about me on Flaglerlive for an example. Doesn’t mean I don’t personally like him, just means we very strongly disagree at times and this is one of those times. Some issues we will never agree on and we will piss on each other over.”
“Does this mean we’re not friends anymore?” Cocchiola had written Danko back. “Anyway, thanks for your erudite response.” He said he’d see him Tuesday (today), and capped his email with a suggestion: “Take your meds.”
Danko was more amenable to Rose Cregan, a constituent who’d written council members proposed invocations, also by email. “I fully support prayer at our city Council meetings,” he told her, urging her to show up with friends on April 4, when the council is expected to vote on the proposal, to lend her support. “I need all the support I can get to make this happen.”
Last week, when the proposal–written by Neysa Borkert, the city attorney, at the council’s request–was first discussed, five people addressed the council, all in support of an invocation in some form. Today, it was the reverse, with a half dozen opposed, one of them suggesting that a moment of silence could be paired with recognition for “all of our police officers, firefighters and especially our military.”
Council member Cathy Heighter, who has been torn about the invocation policy, leaning toward a moment of silence, was particularly appreciative of that proposal.
“Our country was founded by immigrants who fled their countries in order to have freedom of religion,” Carol Gunthorpe, a Palm Coast resident of 21 years, told the council. “As such when they came here, they wanted to ensure that that freedom of religion would always be maintained. As such they set up a system of strict separation of church and state. You are elected officials who represent a diversity of population. As such, you need to be sensitive to the needs of all of your constituents. I suggest that prayer is inappropriate here. Is the wrong venue for religious practices.”
Two others spoke against starting meetings with invocations, one of them noting the exclusionary aspect of inviting those who don’t want to hear the invocation to leave the room: “This is exclusionary and not fair to those other religions and to non believers,” Donna Harkins, a 25-year resident, said. “The suggestion that there will be time for those who aren’t comfortable with the reading of an invocation to leave the room and then return upon its completion is ludicrous. For people to have to get up and leave a room and then return is again exclusionary and just silly.” She suggested the council members pray in their car on their way to the meeting.
Stop with the prayers, how about getting down to business and speak about what the taxpayers of PC continue to ask for, streets to be well lite, sidewalks, deal with all the traffic.
We will keep our prayers in our buildings of worship and in our homes.
David Schaefer says
I agree. Its time we vote those Trump loving idiots like Danko out of office period…..
Michael Cocchiola says
You are right me. Even passages in the Bible refer to the privacy of prayer.
It isn’t wrong to pray in public places. Cursing and killing people in public places is o.k. the world need prayer everywhere.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
Right On ME! A moment of silence is sufficient this way any beliefs of faith can participate without leaving the room.This is posturing and optics on the part of Alfin and Danko, a waste of taxpayer time and money spending time with this when more important issues need to be looked at and addressed, these 2 both know that they are NOT viable candidates anymore with Alfins developer ties and Dankos past alignment with his buddy mullins not to mention his rudeness and foul mouth, even his wording of ” pissing” on a human being, SO DISRESPECTfFUL AND DISGUSTING, can make one cringe! Sothis is what he does and is use to doing, Pissing on people, remember this at election time folks. They both need to GO!
For Real says
Alfin doesn’t care about the City of PC he is a con man to feed his own pocket with developers. Can’t wait until taxpayers vote in real elected officials that improve PC not destroy it.
The problem with these right wing religious zealouts is that they see “non-believers/other religions” as genuinely evil, and therefore not worthy of their consideration. They are the kind of folks that won’t compromise, because they think they’re on a religious crusade, and your opposition is literally the devil at work.
Its scary to be honest. Swallowed by religious conviction, they’re literally the worst people to have in government.
Any hope I had that Danko might be turning a corner and actually become a worthwhile person to sit on council just went out the window. I guess he just can’t hide his true colors for long. For a “councilman” to respond to a constituent as he did just because that person does not share his religious views is just contemptable. Unless there is more to it, Cocchiola’s email should not elicit that vile a response. I wonder what religion Danko adheres to.
It’s a shame the council is spending this much time and effort on this when there are so many serious issues and concerns that face this city. But the lack of quality among some of the council members certainly help explain why this takes precedence.
That response makes Danko unfit to serve. And c’mon, you know what his religion is – it’s Christian idolatry, a heart of hate for the different.
watching with disgust from Flagler says
kudos to all those standing up for separation of chuch and state. Shame on those that don’t respect it and have already insulted those of different beliefs.
Nancy N. says
Danko’s egregious display of lack of respect and even animosity towards those who believe differently from him is EXACTLY why there should not be an invocation that requires people to either fake participating against their personal beliefs, or publicly show their disagreement by leaving. Anyone who had business before the council or who wished to have their opinion heard before the council would be put in a position of having to weigh how their participation or non-participation in an invocation would be viewed by the council, whose members they are hoping to influence or need something from. That’s not freedom of religion…it’s coercion.
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
Councilman Danko’s response to Mr. Cocchiola represents the very essence of Republican Christian Nationalism so dominant in Flagler County’s body politic.
Danko is still a dick who will never get elected again, unless he leaves this state.
How about they come to a conclusion that they can agree on something without mud slinging
Tired of it says
This is all about little Danko trying to get some attention. We got rid of Mullins, McDonald and wool bright, we need to get rid of Danko. If he wants to pray let him do it on his own time at the church of his choice.
There is a real easy way for this to go away
A pious citizen should bring in a prayer rug ,…face east,…… and praise Allah to open a meeting
This would freak out the “powers that be ” and it will suddenly become a non issue …I guarantee it!
Pissed in PC says
Keep your religion out of government proceedings! As far as Danko goes he should be censured for his unprofessional response. Let me just say this to him, look out mofo cause I’m coming for your job! I will do everything in my power to see you never sit in any council or even commission for the rest of your days! You are the most hated and despised person next to your butt kissing buddy Mullins who was finally shown the door. You’re next!
Totally agree with Pissed in PC and all the others that want separation of church and state. Danko total disrespect for the citizens should be punished and he should be recalled…but as there is nit enough time before 2024, at least should never be re elected. What a crass example of a MAGA, Totalitarian, Vulgar councilman that has no shame like any of them bullies his buddies. He does not even reside east of I-95 in the center of Palm Coast, C, F or Palm Harbor section but instigates and votes with the other two Alfin and Flukas, yes to all that undermines and destroys our area like : booting the Green Lion, rezoning the Harborside, approving a WAWA to increase mayhem traffic in PC Parkway east, plans to install 150 ft 5G towers 160 fee from residents houses, votinf down the two traffic calming islands pre engineered pay by our taxes, pre approved $300,00 budgeted by Holland when they were bid at $200,000 only. This little blasphemous dictator has to follow the door out like Mullins. Furthermore needs to be silence by censorship now over his insults to a citizen.
How about a special election and boot Danko and Alfin out of here like what was done to Mullin, they are all out of the same corrupt mold.
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
“Danko replied: “I fully disagree with you. You’re an atheist and I don’t care how you try to disguise it. Take your left-wing socialist agenda and put it where the Sun don’t shine. I could care less about your communist beliefs. You are a total liberal piece of crap.””
Nice way to talk to the citizenry, I really have to wonder how he views every single person that comes before the council now. Maybe Alfin and the rest of the Council should censure him for any future discussion on this subject. Unless of course Danko can produce solid evidence that a “God” exists and what religion that “God” belongs to, we’ll wait. If you feel compelled to have a moment of silence fine then have it but keep your religion out of my Government.
And this from the Bible: When you pray, be not like the hypocrites, for they love to pray on the street corners to be seen by others. Never read in the Bible about Jesus calling another man a piece of crap either.
As a previous person wrote, get down to city business. Prayer (religion) and government matters are separate. There is no place and is not needed to start an invocation. I went to the Tuesday morning meeting and saw that we already have a moment of silence before meeting starts for reflection. Why change, it allows anyone a moment to prayer if they believe in a holy being.
Calling a constituent “a piece of shit” sure sounds like a devout Mr. Danko.
You do realize that he was projecting?
As a child, my mother was fond of saying to me… “God promised he’d never destroy the world again by flood” (as in the Old Testament story of Noah).
To wit I’d now reply… “Yeah ma, but he never said anything about Floriduh.”
Another EduK8r says
Rude and combative politicians like trump and desantis have set the example for local elected officials to use in addressing constituents with whom they disagree. I am disgusted that such an uncouth individual is on the Council. I am disgusted with what is happening in all of Florida and to have this issue hit so close to home is disconcerting. A moment of silence is sufficient at the beginning of public meetings if it is needed at all. It’s a meeting for all of the public not a church service.
Danko should be removed or at least censured.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
I recently heard Danko AKA Lollypop Kid talking all kinds of [email protected]@t on a local radio station about liberals and that it’s there fault why people don’t want prayer in the council chamber. He is following in the same footsteps as his buddy Mullins who he aligns himself with, we voted Mullins out because we don’t want these hateful troublemakers dividing our county, has dumb Danko ever heard of moderate Repubicans???? They don’t want it either!