Here's Gabriella, an adorable 5-year-old, telling her parents all about how "the lunch teacher" at her school told her "It's not good to pray" when she bent her head to pray at lunch. In his Saturday column, the always-reliable Todd Starnes shares what definitely happened last month at Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida, according to Gabriella's father, Marcos Perez, who posted the video to YouTube in late March:

He said his daughter was sitting at a table about to eat when she bowed her head and began to pray.

“A teacher saw her and told her, ‘you’re not allowed to do that,’” he said.

Perez said his little girl replied, “But it’s good to pray.” The teacher alleged replied, “It’s not good.”

He said his daughter tried to pray once more but was admonished by the teacher. The child was not formally punished, he said.

“She’s a really good girl and if there are rules, she follows them,” he said. “She knows the biblical values we are raising her with. She was really conflicted but she wanted to submit to the authority.”

We suppose it is possible that this might have happened, because there are stupid people everywhere, although Perez hasn't specified what day this happened or been able to identify the school employee who supposedly told his daughter not to pray. Hey, it's a public kindergarten -- probably every single day, right after the kids sing their song of praise to President Obama and just before they finger-paint with the blood of the unborn.

Not to be cynical or anything, but RightWingWatch points out that Mr. Perez, by complete coincidence, has a contract with Mr. Starnes to publish a book titled God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values, due out in May, which promises to "expose the assault on America’s foundational Christian values." And in his description of the video, Mr. Perez also says that America's "traditional values and religious freedoms are under assault." Again, this connection is surely just a happy accident of very fortuitous timing. The Fox News page does disclose that connection, although we aren't certain that was the case before it was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday.

There's no chance that this whole episode could be made up, however, because it is impossible to coach a five-year-old to tell a story that her mom and dad want to hear very much, and if someone had coached their child on what to say, they'd look pretty silly if they cautioned her right at the beginning of the video to not "talk like a baby." Why, that's just UNPOSSIBLE, because no one has ever fabricated a story about school officials persecuting Christians, ever. Are we saying Gabriella was coached? We genuinely hope she wasn't. We'd far rather think she was just plain telling a story, or even that she misinterpreted something, but who knows? Or maybe it actually happened? Honestly, we'd like to think the Perezes aren't the sort of people who'd set up a five-year-old to lie, just for the sake of becoming the public face of Oppressed Christianity.

According to the Sentinel story, Perez posted the video first, then contacted the school's principal, Analynn Jones, shortly after, which is maybe not the way most parents who aren't seeking publicity would deal with a problem at their kid's school, either. Jones reminded staff the next day that students definitely have the right to pray in school as long as they're not disrupting classes; she also said that she spoke to any staff who might have been in the cafeteria the week the event allegedly happened, but no one recalled anything of the sort. That is no doubt because the school is lying.

The Perez family have withdrawn their child from the school and have been contacted by the Liberty Institute, a group that does a pretty good business from pushing tales of how bad the Christian majority has it in America. They're asking for an apology and an investigation, and accusing Principal Jones of not taking the alleged incident seriously just because no one at the school says they saw or said anything like it:

"The principal has pretty much dismissed this," said Jeremiah Dys, a Liberty Institute lawyer working with the family. "Saying a 5-year-old cannot pray over her chicken nuggets and mac and cheese isn't in line with the Constitution."

The school district says that there's no real evidence that the incident occurred as the Perez family describes it:

"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."

The Liberty Institute says that Mr. Perez sent multiple emails to the school before posting the video, although those emails haven't yet been made public.

Perez told the Sentinel that he shared his story with Starnes because "I'm passionate about the cause," and denied any suggestion that there's a connection between his daughter's story about not being allowed to pray at school and Starnes; book about how Christians are being systematically oppressed in the USA:

Using his family to promote a book "would be egregious," he said. "I'm a father first, a VP of sales second."

At least we can agree with him that that would b a pretty rotten thing to do.

[Fox Radio / Orlando Sentinel and WKMG via RightWingWatch]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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