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Back to February Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 217 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS FEBRUARY 2004

A-B-C (Anything But Christian)                                     
Schools Embrace Muslim Traditions
Even as Christian traditions have all but disappeared from American public schools, children are being increasingly exposed to Islamic and other faith traditions in the classroom, prompting charges of religious indoctrination.

In many California schools, middle-school students are required to take a three-week course in which students adopt a Muslim name, wear a robe, learn the tenets of Islam and stage their own "jihad." They pray in the name of Allah and chant to Allah, according to ASSIST News Service.

A federal judge on December 10 dismissed a suit by Christian students and their parents who objected to role-playing sessions of a Byron, CA seventh-grade history class that called for students to adopt Muslim names and recite language from prayers. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton held that the activities did not amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of Islam because the purpose was educational, not religious. She noted that California law requires seventh-grade world history courses to include a unit on Islam.

"This is a religious indoctrination," complained Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, MI, who represented the plaintiffs. "It shows a double standard, one for the Christians and one for the other religions." (sfgate.com, 12-12-03)

The decision by the same court tat had declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional provoked an indignant response from the Christian Educators Association International.

"The court did not find the Islamic prayer and worship to be devotional activities, which they unquestionably are," said executive director Finn Laursen. "The contextual meaning of the word devotional here is religious observance or worship."

"Meanwhile, Christian devotional activities are banned in public schools. There is a remarkable double standard at work that reflects a bias against Christianity and a fundamental misinterpretation of the law," he continued.

"Imagine if the students had been required to pray to receive Jesus Christ as their savior, take communion, memorize verses from the Bible, recite the Ten Commandments, pray the Lords prayer, play evangelism games and simulate a revival meeting," Laursen added. The court "is allowing the classroom to be used to teach one faith while banning another."

In Covina, CA, seventh graders fasted in November to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in an extra-credit assignment, drinking only water during daylight hours. Outraged by the assignment of religious fasting in a public school, the American Middle-East Christian Association protested outside of Royal Oak Intermediate School. (oregonmag.com, 12-1-03)

Several New Jersey and Michigan school districts with large Muslim populations closed their schools on an Islamic holiday, the Eid-al-Fitr on last November 26 which celebrates the end of Ramadan. (AP story reprinted at newsday.com, 11-14-03)

In December, Christ and Christmas were censored in numerous ways by schools that usually managed to recognize other faith traditions. At Clover Creek Elementary School in Bethel, WA, a music teacher changed the lyrics in a concert carol to omit the possibly offensive word "Christmas." Dale Woods "Carol from an Irish Cabin" contains the line "The harsh wind blows down from the mountains, and blows a white Christmas to me." "Christmas" was changed to "winter." Conservative talk radio station KVI blasted the districts action. (tribnet.com, 12-5-03)

Meanwhile, New York City schools did not allow Christmas Nativity scenes, but did encourage the display of the Jewish menorah during Hanukkah and the Islamic star and crescent during Ramadan, according to the Thomas More Law Center. The public-interest law firm filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a New York City family questioning whether public school officials can enforce a policy that shows preference for Judaism and Islam but disfavors Christianity.

Briefs filed by the city school system actually disputed that a Nativity scene depicts a historical event, according to the More Center.

The word "God" was temporarily removed from a song to be performed this spring in a Pleasant Valley, CA school production. Two hundred students are scheduled to sing "God Bless the U.S.A.," a patriotic anthem popularized by Lee Greenwood during the Gulf War. The shows directors decided to use the words "I love the U.S.A." instead. However, the school board president pointed out that that the law does not forbid reference to God. "It was a misguided attempt to be politically correct, and it has been rectified," said Ron Speakman. (VenturaCountyStar.com, 12-4-03)

Allegations of anti-Christian bias surface even at Christian institutions. The student bar association at Gonzaga University, a Jesuit school in Spokane, WA, has refused to recognize a pro-life law caucus because its bylaws stipulate that only Christians may hold leadership positions in the organization. The university administration agrees with the ruling.

"We live in a strange age, indeed, when a Catholic, Jesui university would deny a Christian pro-life group recognition because its religious nature is considered discriminatory," Greg Lukianoff of the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education told the Seattle Times (12-21-03). The foundation recently fought Rutgers University for attempting to revoke the group charter of a student Christian group over the same issue. The case was settled last spring in favor of the student group.

The Education Reporter first reported on the Byron, CA unit on Islam in the Feb. 2002 issue.


 
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