[www.washtimes.com] Any thoughts on this story?
maule at LAW.VILLANOVA.EDU
Fri Jan 18 09:25:30 PST 2002
I would think that this would be as much a concern to Muslims as it would be to people of other faiths. How many persons of denomination T would be happy having someone not necessarily (and probably not) a member of denomination T go past explaining the existence of denomination T as part of a attempt to sensitize students to the existence of multiple faiths in America (which perhaps is better done in high school than middle school) to actually *simulating* religious and religiously imbued experiences of denomination T? Imagine if the teachers began doing "pretend Roman Catholic Masses" (and having the students dress up as bishops, priests, nuns, and monks).
It seems to me that the First Amendment bars governments and government actors from simulating religious ceremonies. Whether done satirically or in good faith ought not make a difference.
Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
Villanova PA 19085
maule at law.villanova.edu
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>>> volokh at MAIL.LAW.UCLA.EDU 01/18/02 04:08AM >>>
volokh at mail.law.ucla.edu has sent you an article from The
ISLAM COURSE AT MIDDLE SCHOOLS ANGERS PARENTS
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A course about Islam being taught at California public
middle schools has come under fire after parents have
learned that students wear Muslim robes, adopt Islamic names
and stage make-believe pilgrimages to Mecca to learn about
In one case, students at a middle school in San Luis Obispo
in Southern California pretended to be warriors fighting for
Islam, an activity that, critics argue, does not belong in a
public school classroom.
"We could never teach Christianity like this," said one
parent who did not want to be identified because her son is
a student at one of the schools.
As a result, one parent has filed a complaint against the
San Luis Obispo school district, contending that the schools
do not give as much instruction time when it comes to
teaching about other religions, such as Christianity,
Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
"A lot of it is a desire to overly compensate in the name of
political correctness and sensitivity," said Brad Dacus,
chief counsel with the Pacific Justice Institute, a
nonprofit legal-defense organization that is representing
the parents. "It's outrageous."
The course on Islam is one of 11 units of a social studies
class called World History and Geography: Medieval and Early
Modern Times, that's being taught all over the state. The
class is included in the state's curriculum standards, which
were approved by state officials in 1998.
The standards tell teachers in general which subjects should
be taught at specific grade levels so schools could keep up
with the topics that will be included in tests. However, the
standards do not tell teachers how to teach the classes.
Teachers are encouraged to come up with the lesson plans
themselves, said Doug Stone, a spokesman for the California
Board of Education.
The school that recently came under fire for the way it was
teaching the three-week course on Islam is Excelsior School
in the Byron Union School District near Oakland. There,
about 125 seventh-graders dressed up in Muslim robes,
studied Islamic proverbs and read verses from the Koran,
according to course description handouts that the school
sent home to parents.
The students also had to pick a Muslim name out of a list of
30, learn how to write six Islamic phrases in Arabic, and
organize a make-believe journey, or hajj, to Mecca,
according to the handout.
"From the beginning, you and your classmates will become
Muslims," the handout reads. "Dressing as a Muslim and
trying to be involved will increase your learning and
Peggy Green, superintendent of the Byron Union School
District, said in an interview yesterday that her schools
are only teaching about Islam, not promoting the faith. Mrs.
Green said students were given the option to dress up as a
Muslim for extra credit.
"We are not teaching religion," Mrs. Green said. "We are
teaching the California state-mandated standards with
state-adopted textbooks. Dressing up in costume,
role-playing and simulation games are all used to stimulate
class discussion and are common teaching practices used in
other subjects as well. There's nothing to be upset about."
Mrs. Green said her schools teach all religions in the same
Promoting any religion in a public school would violate
state code, said Roger Wolfertz, deputy general counsel for
the California Department of Education.
Critics, who learned of the course and its teaching methods
yesterday, said they were outraged by the class.
"I don't think seventh-graders should be reading the Koran,"
said Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum. "What they
should be learning is the Constitution, the Declaration of
Independence. They shouldn't be playing games with another
religion. It's a way of entertaining the students, not
teaching them. It's just an outrage."
Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council in
Washington, agreed. He said if students were to dress up as
Pilgrims and "give thanks to the Almighty" in class, then
civil rights activists would be "apoplectic" about it.
"This reflects a terrible double standard," he said.
"Anything that smacks of Christianity is systematically
excluded in the classroom, but everything else like Wicca to
Islam is welcomed. This case exhibits all the more that
Christians find themselves in a disfavored class of religion
while others are in a preferred position. That's
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