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Another Fake Todd Starnes Story Debunked

You may recall that a few weeks ago Todd Starnes promoted a story about a kindergarten student who was allegedly told that she could not pray before eating lunch in the cafeteria. Turns out the student’s father is an executive with the company about to publish Starnes’ next book, conveniently about Christian persecution. An investigation concluded that it’s all nonsense:

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.”…

Earlier this month, the girl and her parents described the incident to school officials. According to Lawrence, she was unable to identify a staffer from a selection of photos provided by the district but instead identified an adult from the school’s website. The family’s attorney had previously described the process as a lineup.

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.

There have been genuine incidents around the country where a teacher or administrator has told a student that they can’t read their Bible, or a couple famous cases where they told a student they can’t hand out candy canes at Christmas time with Bible verses attached to them. But those are almost always the result of ignorance, not malice, and are quickly resolved by the school. But Starnes and the parents of this student have a tall tale to tell, one of imagined Christian persecution, which is why such stories should be considered suspect until they are confirmed.

Comments

  1. busterggi says

    Yeah well, let’s see you debunk a true Starne’s story, assuming he ever tells one.

  2. says

    The story must be true. If it wasn’t, then there were be no reason for the person who did not force the girl to stop praying to not forward and admit that he or she didn’t do the thing that didn’t happen. I mean, that’s just common sense.

  3. bushrat says

    It’s only defamation when you point out that a liar is lying about you, not when the liar is lying about you. Everyone knows that.

  4. says

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

    I’m sorry, but that apology went totally in the wrong direction. The school should have demanded an apology from the parents, who knew exactly what they were doing.

  5. says

    Jared Ragland@2:

    Of course they’re still suing. There’s no fundraising potential in letting a case drop. Why let a little detail like merit get in the way of that?

  6. says

    There have been genuine incidents around the country where a teacher or administrator has told a student that they can’t read their Bible, or a couple famous cases where they told a student they can’t hand out candy canes at Christmas time with Bible verses attached to them.

    But isn’t it interesting that for every one of these genuine cases, there are three or four that are complete fabrications, like in the present case, or that are simple misunderstandings that get blown way out of proportion?

    Someone needs to invent a new law to describe this. It should go something like: “If you use anecdotal examples to claim the existence of a general trend, the frequent use of bullshit examples constitutes proof that the trend does not exist.”

  7. Sastra says

    They gave the girl the wrong photos for the lineup. It should have featured dead atheists.

    Imagine the delicious horror — and subsequent book sales! — of the little girl pointing out a photograph of the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair and saying “There! There she is, Mommy. That’s the mean lady who told me to stop praying.” Cue the astonishment and horror. You’ve got both a persecution story AND a haunting… plus proof of the afterlife. It’s a surefire best seller.

    Bet you could even get a country song out of it.

  8. Die Anyway says

    …”and the school received threatening phone calls.”

    Ahh, good Christians “showing the love.”

  9. dingojack says

    Area Man – “But isn’t it interesting that for every one of these genuine cases, there are three or four hundred* that are complete fabrications….”
    FIFY
    No, no need to thank me.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * (or perhaps thousand)

  10. dan4 says

    “But the school district apologized anyway…”

    Huh? They’re apologizing for something they found no evidence actually took place? I don’t get it.

  11. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Sastra, the guy who wrote “Christmas Shoes” is on it. He’ll be at the top of the charts this summer.

  12. says

    @ dingojack:

    I sort of doubt that the number of fake Christian persecution stories, at least the ones that get publicized, are hundreds of times that of the legitimate ones. (And even the legitimate ones are mostly trivial — kids can’t hand out candy canes!? It’s just one small step from that to the gas chambers.) I’ll accept dozens or at least “way too many”.

    But if you really want my thanks, you’ll help me publicize “Area Man’s Law” as I described it above. ;)

  13. captain_spleen says

    You just know that if there were an analogous situation with a Muslim writer/Muslim publisher, or Atheist writer/Atheist publisher (or Humanist publisher), Starnes would be among the first to accuse them of faking the accusation against the school in order to sell books.

  14. says

    Like good fiscal conservatives, they’re suing with a bullshit lawsuit that will cost the taxpayers.
    Most likely the insurance company will settle for a small amount of money, but until then the school system’s attorneys will have to be working on that case and administrators will have to spend time on it that they aren’t doing actual productive work. Plus the time already wasted on investigating said bullshit claim.
    And it all sounds like the guy’s (in Southern accent) “honor” has been besmirched and it’s good publicity for his “book.”

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