Fox News host Anna Kooiman on Sunday blasted a high school football referee in Florida for being like Andy Griffith Show character Barney Fife because he had not bent the rules to allow Christian prayers as a touchdown celebration in the end zone.
During Fort Myers' 49-0 victory over Riverdale last Friday night, high school senior Sam Turner was given a 15 yard penalty after he knelt in the end zone and pointed at the sky for five seconds. Turner had said that he was praying in honor of a friend who had recently been fatally shot.
"It’s not like he was holding a church service in the end zone," Fox News contributor Todd Starnes complained in a column later that week.
Another headline on FoxNews.com claimed that Turner had been "flagged for faith" and "penalized for praying."
In fact, officials said that Turner was not punished for praying, but for violating Rule 9-5, Article 1 (c) of the 2014 National Federation of State High School Associations football rulebook, which bans "any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself."
NFL rules include exemptions for prayer. Florida high school rules, however, do not make the same exceptions.
But according to Kooiman, the referee should have just ignored the rules.
"You imagine when these rules were drawn up for the rulebook that it was probably drawing attention to yourself, doing lewd things in the end zone or trying to be the center of attention," she said during a "Fight for Faith" segment with Turner's father, Bob.
"And sometimes people have what I call Barney Fife syndrome, right?" she continued. "Where you take rule or the law to the nth degree, and you're just going by the book. You're not trying to pick on anybody."
"Really, in his defense, state officials were contacted and said the ref made the right call," Pat Turner pointed out. "So, I really can't complain about the call."
"As Christians, we have to honor people who are competent, and do not have a double standard, that's what God asks of all of us," the father added. "We're fighting for the right to pray, but the biggest oppression was the death of Sam's teammate in a drive-by shooting. Those are the things we need to fight for."