Picture this: A high school class is taken on a field trip that includes a stop at a Catholic church, where students learn about the seven sacraments, and then a synagogue, where they read from the Torah. Can you imagine the outcry from secularists? Some community members would huffily point to the language in the First Amendment that calls for the separation of church and state — that is, if such language existed.
If you find such an imaginary field trip difficult to envision, try to wrap your mind around a real trip (emphasis on trip) taken by freshmen at a Tennessee high school. It featured visits to a mosque, where copies of the Koran were handed out, and to a Hindu temple, where students practiced meditation.
Fox News’s Todd Starnes notes that students enrolled in the honors world studies class at Hendersonville High School, in Nashville, were taken to the Islamic Center of Nashville and to an unnamed Hindu temple as part of a three-week course on world religions. Students who opted out were required to complete a worksheet that alleged that Muslims treated their conquered people better than the United States treated minorities.
A spokesman for Sumner County Schools, which encompasses Hendersonville High, declined to answer questions about specific religious activities the children may have been exposed to, but sent out a statement acknowledging there was concern about the trip:
Our district has reviewed the practice and decided to eliminate field trips to religious venues from this class, as it does not provide equal representation to all the religions studied in the course unit. This decision was made due to the fact that equal representation in regards to field trips for all religions studied in the course is not feasible.
Some parents are still upset about the trip. Mike Conner, whose 14-year-old stepdaughter Jessica declined to attend and was given the above-mentioned homework assignment, told Fox News:
Our kids are being indoctrinated and this is being shoved in their face. It tells me they are pushing other religions and they want Christianity to take a back seat. They want our children to be tolerant of everything except Christianity.
Conner seems to have a point. The multipage worksheet Jessica received contained “one page on the sayings of Jesus, two-thirds of a page on the sayings of Gandhi, and five pages on Muhammed,” Conner said. The section about Islam, moreover, was titled, “Religious Tolerance in Islam,” and included the following:
[The] Prophet of Islam was prepared to live in peace with the followers of other monotheistic religions, especially Judaism and Christianity….
There is no denying that Muslims in the Middle East and Asian conquered lands of other peoples but they did not impose their religion over them….
If we were to compare the attitude of the Muslim rulers towards the minorities living under their rule during the nineteenth century – with the attitude of the Europeans and the Americans towards their minorities, I dare to say that the record of the Muslims would be better.
Conner told Fox News that Jessica declined not only the visit to the mosque but completion of the assignment, which she considered to be unfair and unbalanced, instead writing:
Because of a surplus in information on Muhammed, and a lack of complete and thorough information on Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ, there is not enough true facts to properly complete a comparison and contrasting paper.
She was subsequently disciplined for showing hostility toward Islam and given a grade of “zero” on the assignment. Conner and his wife met with school officials and described the meeting as “confrontational.”
“Someone needs to be held accountable,” Conner said. “They are our children – not theirs.” Obviously Conner does not hold court with MSNBC host and Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry, who insists the state owns your children, not you.