A Florida high school employee says she’s “not OK” after a colleague painted a Bible verse in their personal parking space.
The verse, one of the most widely quoted of the New Testament, reads, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."
Marina Gentilesco, who works as an instructional assistant at the school, told WFLA that seeing the parking spot every day with that particular verse recalls memories of stories from her parents about the Holocaust.
“I feel like it’s attacking me as a Jew,” she said. “You put it on a state-funded property … I’m not OK with it.”
According to local Fox affiliate WTVT, Gentilesco said it was specifically the use of the word “Christ” that impacted her.
“I was startled by it,” she was quoted as saying. “I was very upset by it.”
Despite Gentilesco voicing her concerns to school officials, it appears there are no plans to alter or remove the verse from the parking space.
Pasco County Schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty told The Christian Post that to his knowledge, Gentilesco is the only staff member who has “questioned the appropriateness of the message” in the parking space, which was modified this school year.
In some cases, Hegarty explained, students and staff are given the opportunity to personalize their parking space with a quote, phrase or image.
“So long as the saying or image is not in poor taste, it is considered personal expression,” said Hegarty. “In this case the staff member painted a religious message.
“Since it is not in poor taste, is not of a proselytizing nature, and is not related to curriculum, it doesn’t violate any of our policies.”
It’s not clear if Gentilesco will pursue any further action.
A representative for the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) told WTVT that it’s unlikely the parking space would constitute a violation of the First Amendment because it's not related to the school curriculum.
“Because the school is giving the teachers and the students a certain level of freedom to decorate their own space or to individualize their own space, it doesn’t necessarily run into a violation of the establishment clause,” JCRC Chair Jonathan Ellis was quoted as saying.
Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.