It has been alleged this week that a kindergartener, a five year old whose name is not being released to the press, was told she was not allowed to pray over her lunch at her school’s cafeteria. At least, that is her claim, and the claim of her family. Was this kindergartener told to stop praying in school, or is the story a publicity stunt by her father, who is actively promoting a book titled God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values as part of his job duties as Vice President of Sales at a Christian book company?
The girl’s family posted a video on YouTube of the child stating that she was bowing her head to begin praying during lunch when a “lunch teacher” came over to her and said “you’re not allowed to pray.” The girl claims she said “but it’s good to pray!” and the teacher replied “No, it’s not good.” The school has no policy against personal prayer among the students, and the claim seems rather unusual. Questions have arisen as to whether the girl’s father, Marcos Perez, fabricated the story as part of his job at a Christian book company.
The book in question about a so-called “God Less America” was written by Fox News reporter Todd Starnes. In a stunning coincidence, Starnes is the same person who first reported the kindergartener’s story about being told not to pray. The school, however, says there is no evidence the incident happened at all.
After the video was posted on YouTube, the child’s school launched a formal investigation into the girl’s account, and said that no one witnessed the exchange. They also said that no staff member remembers talking to the girl on the day in question nor do they remember seeing any other staff member approaching her. There has been no evidence to support the child’s story except her own retelling, and people are asking if this kindergartener was told to stop praying in school or if her father is just helping Starnes in promoting Starnes’ book, in which Perez has a direct interest.
Further, it is being reported that Starnes failed to disclose his personal and business relationship with Perez on Starnes’ initial report of the story. A website called The New Civil Rights Movement took a screen shot of Starnes’ original article with no disclaimer on it. After that, Starnes placed a generic disclaimer on top of the report stating that Perez “is employed by Charisma House-which is publishing Todd Starnes’ next book.” There is no mention of the fact that Perez is Vice President of Sales at Charisma House.
The New Civil Rights Movement also reports that Starnes has, in the past, fabricated many stories, such as suggesting President Obama is gay; stating that the Bible might be outlawed as “hate speech”; and saying that same sex marriage will lead to people marrying their pets.
It does seem rather unusual that there would be a rogue cafeteria worker going around telling children they can’t pray, but that person only happened to target the daughter of a man selling a book about the subject of a “God Less America.” Oh—and the author of that book also just happens to be the same reporter who broke this story.
Rather unusual, indeed. So the question remains—was a kindergartener told to stop praying in school, or did her father fabricate the story to get free press for the book he is selling in order to promote it? Stearns would have been a lot better off handing the story off to a different reporter; but as it stands now, the situation looks mighty suspicious.
Opinion By: Rebecca Savastio