This one's maddening for a number of reasons, all of which require a bit of unpacking. The gist is this: a 17-year-old girl named Cassie Bernall became a worldwide sensation in 1999, following the Columbine massacre. The legend goes that Bernall was questioned by one of the shooters about her belief in God. She affirmed that yes, she did believe in God, which is the last thing she ever said. Over the next five months, the story of her martyrdom was accepted and reported on around the globe, leading to Christian rallies such as one at the Silverdome in Michigan where, according to the Weekly Standard, "73,000 teenagers wept along with sermon after sermon on her death."
The only problem? It isn't true. One of Bernall's classmates, also hiding in the Columbine library, mistakenly thought it was Bernall who said she believed in God before getting shot. It was actually a girl named Valeen Schnurr who said it to the shooter, and while she was wounded before making the remark, she wasn't struck again and she ultimately survived. "Numerous" witnesses corroborated this account of how things went down, but the truth didn't come to light until almost six months after the shooting.
What's maddening is how the evangelical community, including Cassie's parents, refuse to believe the truth. Cassie's mother wrote a bestseller, She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, even though Cassie's best friend, who watched her die, says she did not "say yes." In 2015, reluctant lewd metaphor, and former Presidential candidate, Rick Santorum repeated the myth at a debate, even though he had sixteen years to fact-check it.
Perhaps the most frustrating reaction to the whole mess? The youth pastor at Cassie's church, who had this to say to the Washington Post: "You can say it didn't happen that way, but the church won't accept it. To the church, Cassie will always say yes, period." Wasn't "post-truth" the 2016 Oxford Dictionary "Word of the Year"? Exactly.