The parents of a boy at a Manhattan Beach middle school have pulled him from class because of lessons in the Islamic faith being administered in the public school classroom.
The parents are quite clear, in the interview with a local news reporter (see video), that they don’t have a problem with the history of any faith being taught. What they object to is students having to know and regurgitate the religious tenets of a particular faith.
Parents said they discovered that what their children were learning about Islam was more about the tenets of the faith than the history of the religion, according to KTLA. One question asked the students to write down teachings from the Koran.
The father continued, “What I saw written in these bubbles was, ‘The one true God, Allah’ in one of the bubbles. In one of the other bubbles was ‘All people must submit to Allah,’ in another bubble. Then I turned the page over and I see the five pillars of Islam.”
The parents assert that the students should be taught the history behind the religions, whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or others, but not the tenets of the faith.
Father: “Can you imagine the outcry all over this country if children were bringing home paperwork that asked them to write down John 3:16, or asked them to write down the 10 Commandments?”
That’s certainly one of the considerations: how other religions are treated in the public schools, whether they are treated equally, get equal time, or are equally excluded in terms of cultural acknowledgment.
But there’s another important aspect of this. Our short-attention-span consciousness has largely forgotten it at this point, but the key development was less than 10 years ago.
Up the coast from Manhattan Beach, in Contra Costa County (the San Francisco Bay area), parents objected back in the early 2000s when a public middle school was quite literally indoctrinating students in Islam by requiring them to adopt a Muslim identity at school for three weeks:
[In] a seventh-grade history course at Excelsior Middle School in Byron in the fall of 2001…[t]he teacher, using an instructional guide, told students they would adopt roles as Muslims for three weeks to help them learn what Muslims believe.
She encouraged them to use Muslim names, recited prayers in class, had them memorize and recite a passage from the Quran and made them give up something for a day, such as television or candy, to simulate fasting during the month of Ramadan. The final exam asked students for a critique of elements of Muslim culture.
In 2002, parents brought a lawsuit (Eklund vs. Byron Union School District, 05-1539) against the school district over the Islam segment of this “history” course, challenging it as an improper endorsement of religion in the public schools.
But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the school district, and in 2006 (see link), the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.
So the courts aren’t going to be of any help in this matter.
In a way, having this ruling behind us is a good thing. It clarifies what the options are, going forward: we’re not waiting to find out what the courts will say. It should also illuminate for us where the battle has to be fought.
Think of it this way: the courts’ rulings actually mean that it would be OK for schools to require children to assume Christian identities for three weeks. Students would adopt Christian names, memorize and recite passages from the New Testament (I vote for John 14:6), and simulate fasting for Lent.
Schools could require children to assume Jewish identities on the same principle. Students would adopt Jewish names, memorize and recite passages from the Tanakh (say, Exodus 6:7), and simulate fasting for Yom Kippur.
Both of these faiths have had a profound and far-reaching effect, not just on Western civilization but on the entire world. And yet, our schools don’t run exercises like this. Although the courts say it would be no problem to teach in this manner, Christianity and Judaism are excluded from the schools as “religion,” whereas Islam – the religion – is taught to our children as “history.”
This is not a problem of the judicial interpretation of law. It’s a problem of politics – and of society’s mindset and character. It’s a problem of what rules our public square: a so-called “political correctness” that is systematically hostile to Christianity and Judaism, while aligning itself with Islam – but also with militant atheism, radical environmentalism, “redistributionist” collectivism, and sex- and gender-deconstructionism (which largely ends up being nothing more than depravity).
This is why government and its agents should have less prominence in the public square, and not more. Government inevitably lends its force and organization to the worst sides of our characters, magnifying their power until they come to rule over us, demanding tribute and obedience.
It doesn’t matter if some people are foolish enough to believe in the essentially pagan religion of radical environmentalism – unless they get hold of the power of the state, and subvert republican government to serve their ends. The same is true of any specialized creed. The problem is not so much the creed as a government whose reach is too big, and enables that creed to compel things from others.
It’s counterintuitive to the small-minded side of the human spirit, but the remedy here is not less freedom. It’s more. Whole communities need freedom from the entrenched rulers of the public education system: freedom to tell the rulers what they have to do – freedom to fire them and constrain them in the classroom – rather than vice versa. States need freedom from the federal education bureaucracy. Academia as a whole needs to operate on the same “freedom” model everyone else has to: you do what you want, as long as you’re paying for it. And that includes paying for the consequences.
There is no way to institutionalize equal time and fairness with a big, heavy, intrusive government. That effort is misguided, and always ends in unintended favoritism and compulsion. Until Americans get that through their heads, and demand a rollback of government itself, the public schools will continue to indoctrinate our children in angry, pessimistically collectivist political ideas, global warming fantasy narratives, and Islam – while failing to teach them to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
I will end this post, fittingly, with a verse from the Bible. It’s the one emblazoned on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: Leviticus 25:10.
Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and unto the inhabitants thereof.