Raymond Raines and the Undying Myth of Christian Persecution

A few weeks ago, we wrote a post about a new report from Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America" which claims to have chronicled "more than 600 cases detailing religious bigotry throughout America."

We noted that one of the cases prominently cited in the report was the story about a ten-year old boy named Raymond Raines who was supposedly yanked out of his chair in the school cafeteria and screamed at by a teacher simply for praying before eating his lunch.

It is one of the Religious Right's favorite tales of victimhood and, as we have noted several times before, it's nearly twenty years old and totally false

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?"

But that, of course, didn't stop Matt Barber and Shawn Akers from citing it on today's "Faith and Freedom" radio program, where Akers bizarrely linked it to the Declaration of Independence:

For good measure, Barber chimed in to declare that "the hostility against religion, Christianity in particular, has reached such heights that government officials are physically assaulting for praying over a meal in the schools.  That's not hyperbole; that's a specific example."

The claim is, of course, nothing but hyperbole.

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