By Bob Weaver 2011
A masked man dressed as the devil suddenly appeared before a Calhoun school board meeting in 1995, protesting the use of the "Red Devil" as the mascot for Calhoun High School.
Tom Berrill, a resident of Grantsville, said he was protesting the symbol because "My Lord and Savior commands me. The Living God has asked me to ask you to remove the Red Devil symbol from your children. This was not my idea, but His."
Berrill said his costumed appearance was made out of frustration, because his earlier efforts starting in 1993 to get attention to the issue had failed.
He had asked to be placed on the meeting agenda under the fictitious name of "Mr. DeVille," but after entering, began to "prance about the room and began to speak to parents and children present," who said their anxiety level quickly rose, making them fearful.
Court records said, "Mr. Berrill represented that he was the Red Devil and thanked the Board for keeping the Devil in the schools and keeping God out."
He was arrested for wearing a mask in a public meeting and disrupting a public meeting, and was sentenced to six months in jail and fined.
Berrill appealed his case to the WV Supreme Court, saying he was not violent and did not threaten violence, and that his conduct should be protected, also claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
The court said, "It appears that Mr. Berrill's conduct resulted more in chaos than understanding ... First Amendment rights are not a license to trample upon the rights of others. They must be exercised responsibly and without depriving others of their rights...
The court, while ruling against most of Berrill's appeal motions, ruled that he was not given a right to speak at the time of his sentencing.
Berrill, in a letter published in a Calhoun High School yearbook, warned, "The Lord shows me a great consequence is falling quickly on Calhoun County. Your children have been given over to him [devil] who you have labeled them with."
"Unspeakable sin is coming upon them. Sickness and death will follow unless there is drastic change in attitude toward God...God's judgments are coming soon on Calhoun County," Berrill concluded.
Calhoun High senior Dana Brinson responded in the school's yearbook as a witness to the events, saying "I would like to assure you Tom that no one was having a bad LSD trip in Algebra or there wasn't any procreating going on in the Chemistry Lab...Spreading the love of Jesus Christ should involve caring and understanding, not blaming or judging."
The school yearbook quoted Carson Yeager, who said "If that had been me on the stand saying those things, they'd have me half-way to Weston by now."