Liberty Institute

The Never-Ending Tale Of The Little Girl Who Could Not Pray

Last week, we wrote a post about the fact that the story at the center of a recent column by Todd Starnes claiming that a young girl had supposedly been told that she was not allow to pray before eating her lunch at school had been definitively debunked after the shool in question conducted an investigation and "found zero evidence an incident ever occurred."

In a gesture of goodwill, the school offered an apology to the family nonetheless and it was seemingly accepted through their attorney, Jeremy Dys of the Liberty Institute, who issued a statement saying:

"We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools. The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."

That should have been the end of the entire saga, but apparently Dys and the family are intent on keeping it going (presumably to benefit Todd Starnes forthcoming book) a little longer and have now reversed course by rejecting the school's apology, accusing the school of never having done an investigation in the first place, and threatening legal action:

Two days after stating that Gabriella Perez's family had accepted the apology, lawyer Jeremy Dys said their position changed after reading the comments of district spokesman Michael Lawrence in the Orlando Sentinel.

Dys said it is clear now the district's response wasn't "a real apology." In addition, "we're not really confident the investigation actually took place," he said.

He sent a letter to Seminole schools on Friday requesting video footage from the school, emails to or about the family and phone logs relating to the case, including documentation of harassing or negative phone calls.

Gabriella, a 5-year-old kindergartner, told her parents that a staffer at Carillon Elementary said she could not pray over her lunch sometime in March. Lawrence, the district spokesman, said Wednesday an investigation had turned up "zero evidence" the incident occurred.

The girl's father, Marcos Perez, is vice president of sales for a Christian book publisher promoting a book about "the attack on traditional values" in America. The family began homeschooling Gabriella after she described the cafeteria incident.

Dys' letter also claims Lawrence made "false and defamatory statements publicly and intentionally" about Gabriella and her family, and requested that he be disciplined.

"Mr. Lawrence went out and essentially called our client a liar," Dys said Friday.

The school district did an investigation into the alleged incident and concluded that "there's no proof whatsoever" that it even occurred and that the person identified by the young girl as having told her not to pray was nowhere near the lunchroom at the time it supposedly happened ... and now the very people who brought these allegations are threatening legal action, claiming that they are the victims of "false and defamatory statements" because their claims turned out to be bogus.

Todd Starnes Gets Definitively Debunked

A few weeks ago, we wrote a post about the amazing coincidence that was at the center of one of Todd Starnes' recent columns about a young girl who had allegedly been told that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch in her elementary school lunch room.

As it turned out, the young girl just so happened to be the daughter of the man who is the Vice President of Sales at the Christian publishing house that is publishing Starnes' next book, which just so happens to be all about how religious liberty is under attack in America.

Even after this rather curious connection was pointed out and the school said there was no evidence that the incident had even happened, the parents and their lawyers at the Liberty Institute continued to demand an investigation and an apology from the school; at one point even arranging a line-up of school employees so the girl could identify just which teacher had allegedly told her that she was not allowed to pray.

The school at the center of this "controversy" bent over backwards to satisfy the parents and conducted a full investigation into the incident. Yesterday, the school district announced its findings and, as expected, found the allegations to be completely bogus:

School officials said Wednesday that they can't find any evidence to suggest that a kindergartner was told not to pray in a Seminole County elementary lunchroom.

But the school district apologized anyway, and a lawyer for the girl's parents said they are satisfied with the outcome.

"We found zero evidence an incident ever occurred," said district spokesman Mike Lawrence. "There's no proof whatsoever."

...

As for the identified staffer, a school-district investigator has concluded that "there is no way possible that person was anywhere near the lunchroom" that kindergartners and first-graders use. In addition to the student and her family, the district has interviewed staffers, the accused adult and Gabriella's classmates, Lawrence said.

Predictably, the parents and their right-wing attorney are trying to use the fact that the school issued a perfunctory apology to spin this as a victory:

In a statement, Jeremy Dys, the family's attorney, said, "We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools. The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."

The Religious Right's Never-Ending Campaign To Gin Up Tales Of Victimization Rolls On

Last week, a video was posted on YouTube featuring a five year-old girl telling her parents that she was told by a "lunchroom teacher" at Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch.

When the little girl responded that "it's good to pray," she claims that she was told "it's not good" and was prevented from praying.

Naturally, after the video was posted on-line, serial fabricator Todd Starnes picked it up and turned it into a column while the Family Research Council featured the story in its daily email. On top of that, attorneys from the Religious Right legal group Liberty Institute are now representing the parents and will hold a press conference today:

Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys invites all working media to attend a press availability with Mr. Perez, Tuesday, April 1, at 3:30 PM ET on the sidewalk by the sign outside of Carillon Elementary School, 3200 Lockwood Blvd., Oviedo, FL. 

"Of course, students can pray at school!" said Dys.  "As the Supreme Court held over half a century ago: Students do not 'shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'  The school is in violation of Department of Education guidelines that specifically protect this type of prayer, and thus could jeopardize its federal funding."

The Perez Family cited this offense to their daughter's religious liberty as the most immediate reason to remove their daughter from the public education system. "Mainly because of this incident, we have exercised our option as parents to teach our daughter at home," said Marcos Perez.  "We live in a very good school district, but we cannot, in good conscience, send our daughter to a school where her religious liberty has been compromised."

All the attention is now generating some local media coverage and, as usually happens in these sorts of cases where Religious Right activists gin up some tale of supposed anti-Christian persecution, school officials are saying the incident never happened:

Michael Lawrence told Local 6 that the principal spoke with staff members in the cafeteria at the time of the incident and said no one recalled having any contact with the child.

"The situation as stated by the parent has not occurred according to the school's investigation," said Michael Lawrence, communications officer for Seminole County Schools. "We're dealing with very young children here so there's quite a bit of an opportunity for miscommunication to occur. The timing and the issues were very odd considering that the first thing that happened was that a video was done, it was on YouTube."

...

Lawrence said the lunchroom is not under video surveillance and the alleged incident was not recorded. Lawrence also added that the school district allows children to pray on campus anytime.

"If a student wishes to pray at lunch to herself we do not have a policy against that," said Lawrence. He said the principal will remind staff members that prayer in school is OK.

...

School board member Amy Lockhart told Local 6 the incident cannot be confirmed.

"However, that being said I would be greatly disturbed to find that any Seminole County Public School student had their individual liberties infringed upon in this manner by one of our staff members," said Lockhart. "The freedom to pray when, where and how one chooses is a foundational freedom of our great nation."

If this seems familiar, that is probably because it sounds a lot like the tale of Raymond Raines, a two decade-old myth about a young boy who had supposedly been sentenced to a week of detention for simply praying before eating his lunch in the cafeteria of an elementary school in St. Louis that Religious Right activists still cite today even though it is totally false.

Update: In a totally unsurprising development, The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the girl's father, Marcos Perez, just so happens to be the VP of sales at the Christian publishing house that is publishing Todd Starnes' forthcoming book:

School officials have not interviewed the girl, who has been pulled from kindergarten at Carillon by her parents, who said they intend to home school her.

Her father is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Lake Mary-based Christian book publisher. The company is currently promoting the book "God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values," by Todd Starnes.

Right Wing Leftovers - 1/6/14

  • Liz Cheney has abandoned her primary challenge against Sen. Mike Enzi.
  • The Supreme Court has halted gay marriage in Utah and the Family Research Council is very pleased.
  • The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission has released its list of the "Top Ten Anti-Christian Acts" of 2013.
  • Liberty Institute is basically the organizational equivalent of Todd Starnes.
  • James and Ryan Dobson will be speaking at the annual March for Life.
  • Finally, "Coach" Dave Daubenmire says that American men have become "effeminized" because "they're being trained by women."

More Proof That Religious Right Myths Never Die

Back before the holiday break, we noted that just because some right-wing tale of supposed anti-Christian persecution happened to be totally false, that would never stop the Religious Right from repeating it endlessly, as they have been doing with the saga of Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, who claims he was relieved of duty for disagreeing with a lesbian commander over the issue of gay marriage.

As we noted last time, a military investigation found Monk's claims to be baseless ... which means that David Barton and friends are just going to keep on repeating them time and again, as he did on his radio program last week where he took it all a step further and claimed that Monk's lesbian commander "read him his Miranda Rights ... for not affirming homosexuality ... For refusing to affirm openly homosexuality and gay marriage, she gets him demoted and gets him knocked off his post and they read him his Miranda Rights telling him that a criminal investigation is now under way":

Barton and the Liberty Institute's Kelly Shackelford made the same claim when Barton guest-hosted Glenn Beck's television program last week as well, adding, for good measure, that if members of the military are not allowed to be open about their Christian faith "we'll end up with Hitler's SS":

What neither Barton nor Shackleford bother to mention is that Monk was, in fact, read his Miranda Rights during the investigation because he was suspected of lying about the entire thing, which is a violation Uniform Code of Military Justice.

As the Air Force stated upon completion of its investigation, Monk did indeed make false statements about what happened, but "they did not rise to a level that violated Articles 107 and/or 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice":

The investigation, initiated Aug. 15 by Col. Mark Camerer, 37th Training Wing commander at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, found the claim unsubstantiated. The investigation also looked into whether Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk made false official statements. It concluded statements he made were false; however, they did not rise to a level that violated Articles 107 and/or 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Monk asserted through interviews with several national media outlets that he was improperly removed from his position as first sergeant of the 326th Training Squadron at Lackland because he did not agree with his commander’s position on same-sex marriage.

“I felt the need to conduct a thorough review to ensure no Air Force policies were violated, and the investigating officer provided that,” Camerer said. “Ultimately I wanted to be sure all facts were collected so we could determine if there was merit to the sergeant’s statements.”

The investigation concluded Monk was not removed from his position, but rather moved, as scheduled, to another Lackland unit, an assignment he was notified of in April 2013. The report stated Monk never voiced a religious or moral objection about same sex marriage to his commander.

“The weight of the evidence shows that religion was never discussed between the two,” Camerer said. “In the end, this is a case about command authority, good order and discipline, and civil rights—not religious freedoms.”

Monk was read his Miranda Rights because he was accused of lying about being the victim of anti-Christian persecution which never happened. But, for the Religious Right, this is now being held up as proof that he was the victim of anti-Christian persecution.

Rick Perry, Fox News and Religious Right Activists Jump on Fabricated Case of Christian Persecution

Todd Starnes of Fox News has dedicated himself to finding cases of Christians facing persecution. Starnes recently reported that the military is deliberately blocking access to a Baptist website and may court-martial Christian soldiers, and alleged that a school in New York is forcing girls to kiss one another. However, these three incidents were all completely false.

On Sunday, Starnes filed another report on how a high school track team in Texas “was disqualified from competing in the state championships because one of the runners made a gesture thanking God after he crossed the finish line.”

“Derrick Hayes, the anchor of the Columbus High School 4×100 relay team had just crossed the finish line when he raised his finger to the sky,” Starnes writes, “thanking the Lord for winning the race that would send them to the state finals.

His article was based on the claims of the athlete’s father, and other outlets picked up the story as well.

Gov. Rick Perry wrote a letter to the University Interscholastic League demanding an investigation:

According to press reports, the student's father, K.C. Hayes, has been widely quoted as saying the student was pointing to the heavens to thank God.

In his letter, Perry said he would “not tolerate the suppression of religious freedom anywhere.”

“It is unconscionable that a student athlete could be punished for an expression of religious faith or that an act of faith could disqualify an athlete in a UIL competition,” Perry said.

He urged the UIL to “investigate this incident thoroughly and take whatever action is necessary to ensure protection of religious freedom and expression at UIL competitions.”

As the Texas Freedom Network has pointed out, Religious Right groups such as the Liberty Institute and Liberty Counsel both jumped on the story, as did Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott.

But much like the student who was supposedly given detention for praying in school when he was actually disciplined for fighting, the Texas athlete wasn’t waving his finger to thank God and he wasn’t even disqualified for the gesture he made at the finish line.

The student was actually disqualified for inappropriate behavior towards the referee, and he and his dad now admit that the incident had nothing to do with religious expression.

According to the UIL press release:

Over the course of the investigation, the UIL interviewed several eyewitnesses and reviewed video of the race. Additionally, the UIL spoke to the involved parties. The UIL has concluded the investigation and has found no evidence to suggest that the disqualification took place as a result of the student-athlete expressing religious beliefs. The basis for the disqualification was due to the student-athlete behaving disrespectfully, in the opinion of the local meet referee.

Based on the UIL’s investigation, the student athlete raised his hand and gestured forward at the conclusion of the 4x100-meter relay. The meet official approached the student-athlete in an effort to warn him of a possible disqualification should that behavior continue. In the opinion of the official, the student reacted disrespectfully. Based on his reaction, the student-athlete was subsequently disqualified. Any decision to disqualify a student-athlete at any track meet must be upheld by the head meet referee. The meet official and the meet referee conferred, and the disqualification was upheld on-site. At no point during the discussions surrounding the disqualification at the meet was the issue of religious expression raised by any parties.

The UIL’s investigation also revealed that all coaches involved were notified prior to the regional meet that any gestures in violation of the National Federation of State High School Associations track and field rule against unsporting behavior would be grounds for disqualification. Coaches were instructed to discuss this with their student-athletes prior to all races.

To assist the UIL in its investigation, the student-athlete’s parents submitted a letter stating that their son’s religious freedoms were not violated. “In looking back at the conclusion of the 4x100 race, we realize that Derrick could have handled the win in a different manner,” KC and Stacey Hayes said in the letter. “It was not our intention to force the issue that our son’s religious freedom was violated. Nor do we feel that way now. After discussing this with our son, we have come to the conclusion that his religious rights were not violated.”

The student-athlete who was disqualified also submitted a letter during the investigation stating: “Although I am very thankful for all God has given me and blessed me with, on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Regional Track Meet in Kingsville, TX, my actions upon winning the 4x100 relay were strictly the thrill of victory. With this being said, I do not feel my religious rights or freedoms were violated.”

Is Satan Behind the Campaign to Let Gays Join the Boy Scouts?

With the Boy Scouts of America board planning to vote Wednesday on whether to allow local troops to accept gay members, Religious Right activists are ramping up their efforts to keep the ban in place. And Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel believes that Satan is the real culprit behind the potential shift in policy.

Barber blamed “spiritual pressure” from Satan — “the Prince of the Earth” — for the potential decision of the BSA board and claimed that Jerry Sandusky may soon “join the jamboree.”

The Prince of the Earth seeks to corrupt and ultimately destroy all that is righteous, honorable and good. It’s little wonder, then, that for years the Boy Scouts have faced a malicious and unrelenting assault at the hands of those “who call evil good and good evil.”



If the BSA, with its proud tradition of teaching millions of young boys how to become honorable young men, gives in on this, the organization is toast. Oh, it might limp along as something else – something entirely different, worldly and weak – but its long history as an upright, ethical and God-honoring safe-haven for boys will come to a disgraceful close.



Still, under immense socio-political – indeed spiritual pressure, the Boy Scouts appear poised to play a very dangerous, self-deluded game of “the Scoutmaster wears no clothes.” They’re flirting with the queer idea of an about turn – of betraying both absolute truth and the very boys they serve.

Instead of teaching young men to stand up to the bully, they would model surrender – teach them that, when you reach an adversarial fork in the road, take the primrose path of least resistance.

But it’s much worse than all that. We mustn’t ignore the pink elephant in the room; the Penn State factor. Should the BSA cave beneath the weight of sexual anarchist intimidation, Scoutmaster Sandusky joins the jamboree.

Liberty Counsel joined the Liberty Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom in a letter to the BSA insisting that any change in policy will undermine their “religious liberty and First Amendment rights.” Meanwhile, the American Family Association said that “the homosexual machine will continue to attack” the BSA until no troops have bans on gay members.

Liberty Counsel’s posted a graphic on its Facebook page that says that Boy Scouts will compromise their ability to “participate in healthy activities without fear of predation or moral confusion.”

The Iowa-based Family Leader warned of “sexual abuse” in the Boy Scouts if the ban is lifted:

The Boy Scouts of America, under intense financial pressure from homosexual activists, are considering changing their 100-year old policy of not allowing openly homosexual Scout leaders and Scouts. This pressure tactic is an attack on religious liberty, would teach our youth the wrong lessons, and should put every God-fearing individual on alert.

The Scout oath includes promises to keep oneself “morally straight,” and to be courageous. If the Boy Scouts’ leaders compromise on moral principles under political and financial pressure, it will only teach boys cowardice, not courage.

The current policy is also designed to protect Scouts from sexual abuse. How will parents be able to entrust their children to the Boy Scouts if they trade the well-being of the boys for corporate dollars?

Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action also argued that the Boy Scouts will “put boys at risk” in her radio alert:

Will the Scouts put boys at risk by inviting homosexual activists to become the scoutmasters at their campouts in the woods?

While the Boy Scouts of America have for many years taken a protective stand against homosexual scoutmasters, they are inviting public opinion on whether to put impressionable boys at risk by changing their policy.

They are “discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.”

We need to call before their board meets and likely decides this week at 972-580-2000. Urge them to stand firm in the best interest of the boys in their care, rather than the interests of homosexual activists. Then, ask others to call at 972-580-2000.

The AFA’s Randy Sharp told the group’s leader Tim Wildmon that including gay Boy Scouts is “a very dangerous and unhealthy thing.”

Wildmon: Who is putting pressure on them?

Sharp: Mostly it’s the homosexual lobby in America, the Human Rights Campaign, groups like these that are trying to pressure the Boy Scouts into opening up their membership to open homosexuals to serve not only as leaders and mentors but also to boys who may be questioning their sexuality or have claimed to be openly gay. The Boy Scouts find that when you’ve got the homosexual leaders it’s a very dangerous and unhealthy thing.

Wildmon: That’s the reason they’ve always had the policy. That’s the Boy Scout pledge, isn’t it, “morally straight”?

Sharp: Absolutely, it’s in the oath.

Wildmon: That means “morally straight” sexually too and being homosexual would not be being straight.

Sharp: It’s not being very moral either.

Wildmon: Exactly.

Buster Wilson of the AFA last week went on a tirade against the Human Rights Campaign and maintained that “there is a day of reckoning that will come” to them for creating the “Boy Scouts of Gay America.”

Folks, in any other avenue in American life that would be called extortion. In any other venue of American existence that would be seen as villainous and as extortion. The Human Rights campaign, for all humans except those that are not gay, it’s a joke. They ought to be ashamed and there is a day of reckoning that will come.



If the Boy Scouts cave to the extortion-demands of the Human Rights Campaign through all of the corporate sponsors they’ve threatened then we will lose this venerable group for good. It will be a trophy on the wall of Big Gay and their agenda and we will see one more portion of moral American life gone.



If they wilt under the pressure of the Human Rights Campaign and they fold like a cheap tent they will cease to exist. Let me tell you what the Boy Scouts of America will become, if they change their ruling and they give into the pressure and the extortion of the Human Rights Campaign this is what’s going to happen: the Boy Scouts of America will falter and fall and become nothing in the end but the ‘Boy Scouts of Gay America’ because that’s the only folks that’ll support them.

Barton Blames PFAW and Others for Creating 'Toxic" Environment Responsible for Christian Persecution

In August, the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council released a joint report entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America" which purported to be a "collection of more than 600 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America" ... but, for some reason, the incident they love to cite more than any other is a nearly twenty year old myth about an elementary school student who was supposedly yanked out of his seat and yelled at simply for praying before eating his lunch in the school cafeteria.

In reality, the student was disciplined for fighting in the lunch room in 1994 but the Religious Right continues to perpetuate this lie to this day. In fact, David Barton cites it repeatedly despite the fact that it is demonstrably false, and did so again today on "WallBuilders Live," as did the Liberty Institute's Kelly Shackelford, who was on the program to promote the report:

Barton: What does it say to that elementary kid who got jerked out of his seat and hauled to the principle's office in front of everybody else and told don't you ever pray over your lunch again, period? What kind of impression is that giving? Jesus said "suffer the little children to come unto me" and we're doing our best to say "absolutely no way, absolutely not will we ever allow any kid to get to you" ... this is crazy stuff.

Shackelford: It's all the way from a ten-year old boy who was quote "caught" praying over his meal in the lunch cafeteria who was lifted out of his chair and carried to the principle's office where he was told to never do that again while he was at school.

Even though this incident never actually happened, Barton sees it as proof that we at PFAW and other groups have created a "toxic" and "hostile" environment in which public officials are pressured into persecuting Christians:

Barton: And I really blame this climate on the secular groups, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Americans United, the People For the American Way, the Military Freedom Foundation, all these guys who have so made the climate so toxic that if you share your faith, public officials feel like they have to come down on you with both feet otherwise they'll get sued and end up in court and have to spend millions of dollars defending something religions. And so these guys have created such a hostility in the public that now public officials and school officials and city council officials and those who run senior's centers and everything else are so scared to death of seeing faith that if they see it, they feel like they have to jump on it with both feet and both hands and bring out the hammers and run over you with a car and pull out a chainsaw and cut you to pieces. They over-react and I really blame a lot of those organizations. 

Right Wing Leftovers - 10/12/12

  • Bill Donohue says that "listening to [Joe] Biden discuss his Catholicism is getting weary." We say that listening to Dononhue discuss anything is getting weary.
  • Mitt Romney has secured the coveted Lindsay Lohan endorsement.
  • Gun Owners of America has endorsed Joe the Plumber.
  • Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day does not seem to be taking off like Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day did.
  • Finally, the Liberty Institute has now launched something called "Texas Values" which vows to "to stand for biblical, Judeo-Christian values by ensuring Texas is a state in which religious liberty flourishes, families prosper, and every human life is valued."

Raymond Raines and the Religious Right: The Myth That Will Not Die

Yesterday Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council released a new website and joint report entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America" which is billed as "collection of more than 600 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America."

And you can tell from the introduction just how trustworthy this report truly is:

The Obama administration no longer even speaks of freedom of religion; now it is only “freedom of worship.” This radical departure is one that threatens to make true religious liberty vulnerable, conditional, and limited. As some have said, it is a freedom “only within four walls.” That is, you are free to worship within the four walls of your home, church, or synagogue, but when you enter the public square the message is, “leave your religion at home.” President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly echoed this same message in international forums, acknowledging only a right to the “freedom of worship.” This is no accident, and it has huge ramifications.

This claim that Obama is systematically undermining "freedom of religion" seems to be one of the Religious Right's favorite claims ... which, of course, means that it is not true at all.

The report itself consists of 100+ pages of  short descriptions of seemingly every court case along with the various urban legends that the Religious Right trots out whenever they are trying to play the victim.  In fact, this one from the Executive Summary caught my eye:

A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.

That sounded a lot like the story of Raymond Raines and, sure enough, on page 74 we find this:

Elementary School Student Punished for Praying Before Meals
Joan Little, “City Schools Issue Rules About Students, Religion,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 11, 1996, at 2B

Elementary school student Raymond Raines was “caught” praying over his meal at his elementary school. He was lifted from his seat and reprimanded in front of all the other students, then taken to the principal who ordered him to cease praying in school.

As we noted just a few months ago, this myth has been around since 1994 when Newt Gingrich and various Religious Right leaders first started making Raymond's sorry tale the centerpiece of their campaign to pass a constitutional amendment protecting the right to expressions of faith ... despite the fact that it wasn't true:

The St. Louis case concerned 10-year-old Raymond Raines who, his mother said, was given detention because he sought to pray over his lunch. When lawyers for the Rutherford Institute heard about the case, they filed a lawsuit against the principal and issued a press release denouncing the school system.

"I know it sounds bizarre, but we have substantial evidence to believe it happened," said Timothy Belz, the St. Louis lawyer working with the Rutherford Institute.

On NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," Gingrich described the situation as "a real case about a real child. Should it be possible for the government to punish you if you say grace over your lunch? That's what we used to think of Russian behavior when they were the Soviet Union."

But school officials said the incident never happened. Rather, they said, Raymond was disciplined for fighting in the cafeteria.

"I can tell you he was not reprimanded for praying," said Kenneth Brostron, the school's lawyer. "Do you think it makes sense that the teachers would look around the cafeteria and target the one student who was praying quietly at his seat?"

This incident took place nearly twenty years ago and the Religious Right is still citing it today as proof that Christianity is under attack in America despite the fact that it never happened.

Kelly Shackelford Warns Health Care Reform is the First Sign of a 'Government that is Totalitarian'

Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford appeared on Today’s Issues yesterday with Tony Perkins and Tim Wildmon to discuss Missouri’s Amendment 2, the so-called “right to pray” amendment which may allow students to refuse to study any topic they deem to conflict with their religious beliefs, like evolution. Schakelford said the amendment was needed “to really bring their state back to full religious freedom like we had in this country until a decision about twenty to thirty years ago that came down from the Supreme Court.”

While Shackelford did not say which Supreme Court case apparently curtailed the freedom of religion, saying that we had “full religious freedom” only until two decades ago ignores periods in American history when the people of minority faiths and even certain Christian denominations sometimes faced hostility from the state. Ironically, Shackelford was speaking to the leader of the American Family Association, whose own Director of Issues Analysis wants to ban mosques, bar Muslims from the military, deport Muslim-Americans and convert all immigrants to Christianity. He went on to say that the health care reform law is creating a “totalitarian” government that undermines the freedom of religion.

What we did is we came up with the idea that states need to go and pass religious freedom amendments to really bring their state back to full religious freedom like we had in this country until a decision about twenty to thirty years ago that came down from the Supreme Court. And a number of states have started to present those and pass those. It’s like the atomic bomb to the left because we noticed anything they’re after, the thing they can’t handle is religious freedom. I mean whether it’s Obamacare or anything else, when the government wants to take over everything they can’t handle religious freedom because that means people are actually going to be able to stick with their own religious conscience, express their own religious beliefs and that kind of lack of unanimity for the state is something they can’t allow.



You know a government that is totalitarian, the one thing it will never allow is citizens who have allegiance to one higher than the government. So you will see as soon as the government takes over something the first thing that will have to go is religious freedom. Obamacare is a great example; as soon as we have it what do we have right after that, the HHS regulations. When the government is trying to touch its citizens directly and it has what it thinks is a good and noble cause it will not allow anyone to get in the way, including intermediary institutions like the church.

Conservative Activists Liken IRS Rules on Churches to Nazi Germany

Religious Right activists continuously claim that a wide majority of Americans share their ultraconservative views but are too politically apathetic or confused to act on their beliefs, frequently blaming the IRS for supposedly “silencing” pastors by maintaining a rule that would take away a church’s tax-exempt status if it endorses candidates. This week, Truth in Action Ministries unveiled a film on Truth that Transforms featuring host Jerry Newcombe, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford and author Bill Federer, along with a petition “to repeal the ban on church free speech.”

“How does Satan always work?” Shackelford asked. “False information, intimidation and fear, and that’s what’s happening here.” Later, Federer said that “horrible things can and unfortunately will happen” as a result of the IRS rule, while the film showed images of Adolf Hitler delivering a speech and the corpses of Holocaust victims.

Watch:

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