Whenever we see the Religious Right collectively begin to cite some new tale of government overreach and/or Christian persecution at some public school, the name “Raymond Raines” comes to mind.
As we’ve explained before, back in the 1990’s, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson and the entire conservative community were outraged about an incident in which a student named Raymond Raines had supposedly been sentenced to a week of detention for simply praying before eating his lunch in the cafeteria of an elementary school in St. Loius.
Of course, it was entirely untrue, as Raines had actually been disciplined for fighting.
So now, whenever we start seeing Religious Right groups cite a story like this one out of North Carolina about a four year-old preschool student who supposedly had her homemade lunch confiscated by a Department of Health and Human Services employee for not being healthy enough and was forced to eat school-approved chicken nuggets instead … well, we get a little suspicious.
So far, the story has been promoted by the Eagle Forum and the Family Research Council, which sees it as proof that “the Left’s goal is not just to control you. The goal is to control your children. And the more authority it can siphon away from parents, the better its chances are.”
Gary Bauer also featured it in his daily email, declaring “welcome to Obama’s brave new world. If the government can force us to buy specific products, force religious institutions to violate their values and send lunchbox inspectors to sort through our kids’ food, Chinese-style ‘commissars’ are in our future.”
And, never one to be outdone, Bryan Fischer was apoplectic that Michele Obama’s army of Brownshirt/Stormtrooper/Stasi thugs are out there confiscating the lunches of little children:
Now, who among us will be surprised to learn that this whole thing is false and all of this outrage is rooted in the misunderstanding of one little girl?
School and state officials say a misunderstanding resulted in a West Hoke Elementary School preschooler’s homemade lunch being replaced with chicken nuggets.
An agent from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child Development and Early Education was at the school Jan. 30 assessing the pre-kindergarten program, said Bob Barnes, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Hoke County schools.
The agent examined the lunches for the six students in the class and believed one did not meet nutritional requirements spelled out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Barnes said.
According to the USDA, schools are required to provide lunches that include one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.
The 4-year-old, whose name was not released, brought a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice.
The Department of Health and Human Services declined to say which requirement was not provided in the child’s lunch.
The girl thought she had to go through the lunch line for a new meal, Barnes said.
The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that it is investigating. In the statement, the department denies that its employee inspected the lunch and denies instructing “any child to replace or remove any meal items.”
Typically, if a teacher sees a student with a lunch that does not meet the nutritional requirements, he or she will offer the child the missing components free of charge, Barnes said.
In this instance, Barnes said, the girl misunderstood her instructor and believed she had to get a new lunch rather than receive an additional element.
Rule of thumb: The amount of outrage being generated among the Religious Right to any given story is generally inversely proportional to the truth of said story.