A school employee painting a New Testament Bible verse on a coworker’s parking spot deeply offended a Jewish colleague at a Florida high school. Marina Gentilesco works as an instructional assistant at the Wiregrass Ranch High School in Pasco County, Florida. In her role, she closely works with students to help them succeed academically. The school district does not carefully consider her religion when making decisions and believes that a Christian teacher should be allowed to cover the parking lot with Bible verses – even if those verses are deemed offensive by people who do not practice Christianity.
Marina Gentilesco said that she gets angry every time she sees the Bible verse written in the parking lot. She feels that the person who wrote it did not consider people of other religions. The text in question, from Philippians 4:13 of the New Testament, reads as follows: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
As someone whose family experienced the Holocaust, Gentilesco was offended by the painted Bible verse in the parking lot. She thinks it would be more appropriate if it were changed to something that includes all religions, not just Christianity.
“I feel like it’s attacking me as a Jew,” Gentilesco said. “It brings me to the verge of tears because it brings me back to the six million that perished because of our faith — because we’re Jews.”
The Jewish school employee does not think the phrase is offensive in all locations – she only believes it’s more appropriate for a church parking lot than a school one in Florida.
“You put it on a state-funded property ‘I’m not okay with it,” she stated.
Gentilesco chose to tell the authorities about the verse. She went to her school’s principal, who then spoke with higher-ups in the district, to see if they could keep Bible verse or if it had to be removed due to the Jewish employee’s desires.
Pasco County Schools, located in a predominantly Christian part of Florida, reviewed the Jewish worker’s request and quickly denied it. They told the Christian teacher that they would not be removing the Bible verse from the public school parking lot because they want her to be able to use it as inspiration for other people, even if those others are Jewish.
“It’s not a violation. This is personal expression,” said Pasco County Schools Public Information Officer Stephen Hegarty. “There is no proselytizing going on. It’s not compelling students to do anything one way or the other.”
Hegarty doesn’t think the Bible verse in the parking lot has anything to do with what children are learning in school.
“It has nothing to do with instruction. It’s just a teacher expressing themselves just like they might wear a crucifix on their shirt. Teachers and students are free to express themselves,” he stated.