Family Research Council president Tony Perkins yesterday on his radio program said that Right Wing Watch and progressive organizations “make their living by lying” about topics such as the separation of church and state and have had devastating consequences.
Perkins brought up a case about a student who was allegedly disciplined for praying over his meal during lunch, saying that it represented the result of “the misinformation that is put out there by these liberal groups.”
While Perkins didn’t name anyone in particular, it sounded remarkably similar to the story of Raymond Raines, the boy who in the 1990s claimed that he was disciplined by the school for praying over his meal at lunch time, which provoked the ire of organizations such as the FRC.
Of course, in turned out to be a complete myth: Raines was disciplined for fighting in the cafeteria and the story about being confronted by a school official for praying was a fabrication.
But it is a myth Religious Right activists continue to repeat.
Perkins: When I was in office I took calls from parents and one parent had called me because their child had simply bowed their head at a lunch table in a public school to pray over their meal, silently, and one of the administrators came up and put their hand on them and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you come with me, you can’t do that in the school, that’s a violation of the separation of church and state.’ Now that was quickly corrected because that was so egregious in terms of that administrator’s interpretation, but that is the effect of a lot of the misinformation that is put out there by these liberal groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Right Wing Watch, and all of these groups that make their living by lying, that’s deceiving people and we have acquiesced to that.
We obviously don’t think it is unconstitutional for a student to pray over his or her lunch. What upsets Perkins is that we defend the freedoms of students against the demands of groups like the FRC that the government compel them to participate in organized, government-composed prayers. Which, it turns out, is the same position taken by the Southern Baptist Convention following the Supreme Court’s Engel v. Vitale decision [PDF].