A 5-year-old kindergartner who prayed during lunch while at school last month, was apparently ordered not to pray by a teacher on duty.
Parents of the Oviedo kindergartner, called Gabriella, insist that their daughter was stopped from praying by the teacher, but Seminole County Public Schools officials say they have no record of the incident.
The father of the girl, Marcos Perez, posted a video on YouTube last week of his daughter claiming that she was told not to pray: "The lunch teacher said, 'You're not allowed to pray,'" Gabriella said, "I said, 'It's good to pray. She said, 'It's not good," she said in the clip.
According to the family, the incident took place in the week of March 10, but when the principal of the school, Analynn Jones asked staff who had been in the cafeteria at the time no one recalled those words being said.
Gabriella's mother, Kathy Perez, said: "She wanted to pray, but she's a rule-follower. I told her she did the right thing. I don't doubt for a minute that my daughter is telling the truth."
The principal of the school made it clear that there is no policy in place to stop kindergartners from praying: "We don't have a policy against student prayer at all," he said.
The family are taking the matter to court and suing the school. Their lawyer, Jeremiah Dys, said: "The principal has pretty much dismissed this. Saying a 5-year-old cannot pray over her chicken nuggets and mac-and-cheese isn't in line with the Constitution."
Gabriella has not been interviewed by school officials as she was pulled from the school by her parents the day after the YouTube video was posted. Marcos Perez is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Lake Mary-based Christian book publisher which is currently promoting the book God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.