DYERSBURG, Tenn., Aug. 20 (UPI) -- A Tennessee teenager is claiming religious persecution after allegedly being removed from class for saying "bless you" when another student sneezed.
Seventeen-year-old Kendra Turner says she was kicked out of class for violating her teacher's no speaking rule when she said "bless you" to a student who had just sneezed.
Recounting the event on a friend's blog, Turner said she was acting on authority of her faith and her church pastor's interpretation of the constitution when she offered what she viewed as a "courtesy."
"[The teacher] said 'Why did you say that?' I said 'Because it is courtesy.' She said 'Says who?' I said 'Says my pastor.' ... I asked her why it was a big deal to her. She yelled at me and said 'We will not have Godly speaking in my class!' That is when I stood up and said 'My pastor said I have a constitutional right -- 1st amendment freedom of speech.' She said 'Not in my class you don't.'"
Turner says she was then sent to in-school suspension while her classmates cheered her actions, to the point that assistant principal Lynn Garner had to be called in to control them.
Garner said the issue had nothing to do with the religious persecution claimed by Turner, and that the teenager was separated for causing a disruption.
"The child was not punished," Garner explained to MyFOX Memphis.
"[Turner's teacher] is a great teacher. She has taught for 43 years. It was a class disruption not a religious issue that the school is dealing with."
After facing backlash on social media for what many perceived as an act of evangelicalism, Turner stuck with the persecution narrative, claiming in a Facebook post, "I am simply standing up for what I believe in."
"I will defend God because this is his town and his school!"
Turner attends Dyersburg High School, a public school in Dyer, Tenn.