Lawyers from Liberty Institute fired a stern letter on Apr. 1 to administrators at Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida, after a school employee told a five-year-old girl that she was not allowed to quietly give a prayer of thanks before eating lunch.
Jeremy Dys, the attorney representing the young girl, released a public statement Tuesday, then exclusively discussed this situation with Breitbart News. The press release noted, “As the Supreme Court held over a half a century ago, students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'”
The girl’s father has also spoken out and removed his daughter from the school. “Mainly because of this incident, we have exercised our option as parents to teach our daughter at home,” said Marco 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.”
In 2013, Liberty Institute represented Erin Shead, a ten-year-old Tennessee student whose class assignment was to write an essay about her personal hero. When Shead wrote about God, her teacher told her she would have to redo the assignment because Shead was not allowed to say God was her hero. She was allowed to write about Michael Jackson instead.
That incident became such a controversy in the Volunteer State that a strong bipartisan majority of the Tennessee legislature passed a new law securing broad religious liberty protections for students. Shead’s mother responded, “We understand that they’ve taken prayer out of schools, but they cannot take God out of our children.”
Concerning the Perez situation, Breitbart News asked Dys if this is a national trend. “This is what happens when we have decades of misinformation about the so-called ‘separation of church and state,'” he replied. “Do we really believe Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers thought a five-year-old girl’s silent prayer for her food would violate the Constitution? Of course not. Students have every right to pray at school.”
Asked to elaborate on why he thinks these incidents are occurring, Dys answered, “Because secularist activists have for so long intimidated good people into believing that five-year-old girls can’t pray for their school lunch.” He added for emphasis, “Think about this: because of these activists, we are at a point where the lunch lady was worried she will be sued unless she stops a kindergartner from praying for her lunch.” Dys insisted, “That’s not religious liberty.”
Asked what could be done for other students across America dealing with similar situations, he offered, “Hopefully, those students will call Liberty Institute for help.”
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.