The two South Florida high school teachers accused of sprinkling holy water on a fellow teacher for not believing in God are getting support from religious leaders and even the local Tea Party.
Leslie Rainer and Djuna Robinson, both 20-year veterans at their alma mater Blanche Ely in Pompano Beach, have been reassigned as the school district investigates the incident as a religious bullying.
There's a dispute over what exactly happened, but whatever went down, it did so in front of a class full of students.
The two disciplined teachers deny it even though the Broward School District apparently believes it did, in fact, happen.
"Do you miss the kids?" teacher Rainer was asked Monday.
"I miss them a lot. Yes, I do," she said.
"Do you want to get back to that classroom?"
"As soon as I can...I miss my students."
Rainer and Robinson deny sprinkling holy water on fellow teacher Schandra Rodriguez, when she talked about her atheism in class back in March.
Religious leaders turned the tables and lashed out at the very notion that a teacher who is atheist would be talking to students about it. The two disciplined teachers “stood up to this type of teaching," said Pastor Alonzo Neal, Greater Antioch Mission Baptist Church of Pompano Beach. “I think it’s very, very wrong to expose the students, impressionable minds to things that could lead them into a negative mindset against what we believe and who we believe in which is the truth: A Living God.”
There are two versions of what happened on March 11. Rodriguez, in her complaint, according to the South Florida Times, says Robinson and Rainer sprinkled her with holy water. The two teachers say it was only a bottle of spray perfume and that they were nowhere near Rodriguez.
One of the students, Robinson and Rainer say, stood up and jokingly said “it sounds like someone needs some holy water.”
School district authorities suspended the two, saying in a hand-delivered letter it's "alleged that you upbraided and embarrassed a teacher...in front of a classroom of students." It continued, "You are not to return to Branche Ely High School unless so directed by me."
"And for something like this to happen,” said their attorney Johnny McCray, “for them to be removed, the manner in which they were removed from the campus, is embarrassing, is denigrating and, you know, it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth."
Aside from the religious leaders voicing support was Danita Kilcullen, the founder and organizer of the Tea Party in Fort Lauderdale. She vows to get the Tea Party behind the suspended teachers.
"Because it's a breach of the First Amendment and because we so strongly believe in the Constitution in the United States of America," Kilcullen said.
And what about the atheist teacher's first amendments rights?
"Yea, but she hasn't been punished for speaking out yet," Kilcullen said.
The two disciplined teachers have been suspended from their regular jobs, transferred to different jobs while a full investigation is underway.
Rodriguez could not be reached for comment.