The liberal media couldn't have dreamed up a better scenario. In their ongoing quest to smear Christians, they'd found the perfect martyr: a sweet-looking teenage girl, who'd been expelled from her religious school for posing with a rainbow cake. Her parents, Kimberly and Mark Kenney, helped their cause -- playing dumb to reporters and insisting the LGBT symbolism was just a coincidence. The press ate up the story that their daughter, Kayla, was unfairly targeted. There's just one problem: none of it was true.
Whitefield Academy tried to explain this, but the headlines had already been written. The press wasn't interested in the real story -- which is that Kayla, who'd already posted (multiple times) that she identified as gay, had a two-year record of disciplinary problems. She was caught cutting lunch, vaping, bullying, disrespecting teachers, and violating the school's moral code. Her own mother, in an interview last week, admits "Kayla was no angel..." In fact, the school had met with the Kenneys multiple times -- most recently in October -- warning her to clean up her act. So the idea that the rainbow cake was just a fluke -- when Kayla is snapping pictures of "getting a gf" and being "in her bed" -- is, as Rod Dreher puts it, "almost certainly a flat-out lie."
Dreher, the senior editor at the American Conservative, talked to people close to the situation -- people who, as of last week, watched the school field over 1,000 nasty emails, death threats, and hundreds of harassing phone calls. "...[And the] account they give is not what Kimberly Alford and the mainstream media want you to believe. It seems to me that this is a situation much like the Covington Catholic smear campaign one year ago -- when the media read what it wanted to read into a story involving a conservative Christian school and slandered them in the name of progressive values."
In their public statements, Whitefield was clear that Kayla wasn't kicked out for a single picture but for "numerous" infractions over the years. "Whitefield Academy is a Christian-based school with a 43-year history of educating students in a learning environment informed by our shared Christian values. All parents who enroll their children in our private school know up front that we ask the students to adhere to a lifestyle informed by our Christian beliefs." Obviously, there were expectations -- understood by everyone involved -- that Kimberly and Mark would talk to her about her aggressive LGBT messaging. Instead, by all accounts, they indulged her.
And in their haste to bad-mouth Whitefield to whatever outlet would listen, they didn't even bother to get their stories straight. While Kimberly was on the phone with the Washington Post painting a tortured picture of their misunderstood daughter, Mark understood exactly why Kayla was asked to leave. In a (now deleted) Facebook post, he ranted, "Do I have to spell it out for you stick in the muds? Years ago, the gay community adopted the rainbow flag as their own. This school realized that s***! ...My daughter got expelled from her church for being gay! END OF SENTENCE!"
If you want to write a story about that, Dreher points out, a Christian school dismissing a student for not abiding by their lifestyle covenant, fine. Maybe then we could have an honest conversation about religious liberty. But that's not what's happening. Instead, the liberal press is building a story to fit their biases -- and ignoring basic facts in the process.
And the irony is: while the Left is busy overreacting to Kayla's case, the real intolerance gets ignored. Where is this same concern when secular schools tell kids they can't pray, start a Christian club, or play "Joy to the World?" The liberal media doesn't mind flying to Kayla's defense, but good luck finding a primetime firestorm that compares to this one. Students are threatened every other week for their faith, but it rarely makes the mainstream press. Why? Because a) most outlets don't sympathize with them, and b) it doesn't fit their narrative -- that Christians are mean, self-righteous, pushers of outdated morals.
For the Christian community, let this be a warning. The war over religious freedom in education isn't coming. It's here. "This is a far deeper issue than a rainbow cake and a rainbow sweater or even a series of social media postings. This is a direct subversion of the very convictions on which this school has been established," Al Mohler warns.
FRC's David Closson, who actually served as a deacon at Highview Baptist Church that started Whitefield Academy, agrees. "This story is important because it raises a question at the heart of ongoing religious liberty debates in this country, namely, whether a Christian school founded on Christian convictions can insist that its students and staff comply with its publicly-stated Christian values. Thankfully, Whitefield Academy's statement of faith clearly communicates the school's stance on issues related to sexuality." But, he cautions, "Other Christian schools should pay attention to this and ensure their own statements of faith clearly outline what they believe about marriage, sexual ethics, and the Christian faith that grounds their worldview." It may not change how the media writes the story, but it will change how others like Whitefield's end.