As we have said over and over again, the Religious Right will never stop spreading useful tales of Christian victimization just because they happen to be demonstrably false.
The most recent evidence of this fact is the story of Derrick Hayes, a high school runner in Texas who was allegedly disqualified from an event for thanking God after winning a race. The story of Hayes’ supposed persecution has been spread repeatedly by Religious Right activists and legislators over the last week despite the fact that Hayes and his family admit that he was not disqualified because of his faith:
Based on the UIL’s investigation, the student athlete raised his hand and gestured forward at the conclusion of the 4×100-meter relay. The meet official approached the student-athlete in an effort to warn him of a possible disqualification should that behavior continue. In the opinion of the official, the student reacted disrespectfully. Based on his reaction, the student-athlete was subsequently disqualified. Any decision to disqualify a student-athlete at any track meet must be upheld by the head meet referee. The meet official and the meet referee conferred, and the disqualification was upheld on-site. At no point during the discussions surrounding the disqualification at the meet was the issue of religious expression raised by any parties.
To assist the UIL in its investigation, the student-athlete’s parents submitted a letter stating that their son’s religious freedoms were not violated. “In looking back at the conclusion of the 4×100 race, we realize that Derrick could have handled the win in a different manner,” KC and Stacey Hayes said in the letter. “It was not our intention to force the issue that our son’s religious freedom was violated. Nor do we feel that way now. After discussing this with our son, we have come to the conclusion that his religious rights were not violated.”
The student-athlete who was disqualified also submitted a letter during the investigation stating: “Although I am very thankful for all God has given me and blessed me with, on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Regional Track Meet in Kingsville, TX, my actions upon winning the 4×100 relay were strictly the thrill of victory. With this being said, I do not feel my religious rights or freedoms were violated.”
But just because the supposed victim of this tale of persecution admits that it is not true, that is not about to stop “Dr. Chaps” Gordon Klingenschmitt from using it in his latest prayer update or his “Pray in Jesus Name” television program where he claimed that Hayes was disqualified because “demonic spirits” had possessed the race officials (22:00 in):
He’s inspired by the Holy Spirit and he points his finger up in the air to praise God. I see the Holy Spirit inside of these young men who won that race.
Even as they are now pointing to God and praising God for that victory, something terrible happens; there’s a demonic spirit now that enters the referees, the officials, and they say “oh did you see that? He just referred to God. We need to stop that and we need to disqualify them!” And they’re punished for their righteousness by the demonic spirit that’s inside the referees.