Freedom Folks

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Religion vs. Culture in Public Schools

Parents and children challenging a California school district for its practice of teaching 12-year-old students to "become Muslims" are asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling in front of the entire panel of judges.
Read the entire article here. Read my previous coverage of this case here.

I remember being taught about other countries and cultures throughout my school years. It was a good thing. This, however, is not exposing children to the traditions of the culture of another country -- it is immersing them in the traditions of a religion:

The (Thomas More) Law Center says that for three weeks, "impressionable 12-year-old students" were, among other things, placed into Islamic city groups; took Islamic names; wore identification tags that displayed their new Islamic name and the star and crescent moon; handed materials that instructed them to 'Remember Allah always so that you may prosper'; completed the Islamic Five Pillars of Faith, including fasting; and memorized and recited the 'Bismillah' or 'In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,' which students also wrote on banners hung on the classroom walls.

Students also played "jihad games" during the course, which was part of the school's world history and geography program.
This clearly crosses a line that we, as a society, have drawn for our public schools. We do not teach religion in that environment.

I'm sure there are all kinds of arguments some would throw at me (not to mention some nasty names, maybe even epithets) for pointing this out. But the litmus test is really quite simple, and offers a simple answer to this question:

Would the very people who are up in arms that these parents would dare to challenge this being taught to their children in public school be comfortable if their children were being immersed -- for three weeks, and without their knowledge -- in the teachings, traditions, and prayers of Judaism or Christianity?

I think not.

And for those who still insist that this was cultural, rather than religious:

The lawsuit also alleges students were encouraged to use such phrases in their speech as "Allahu Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is greatest," and were required to fast during lunch period to simulate fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Nevertheless, Judge Hamilton ruled the program was devoid of "any devotional or religious intent" and was, therefore, educational, not religious in nature.

Oh, come on! I'll tell you what. Let's try implementing a three-week program where we encourage the same students to use phrases such as "Christ is Exalted," and require them to give something up to simulate Lent, or take bread & grape juice to simulate communion.

I wonder if Judge Hamilton would rule that devoid of any devotional or religious intent and educational, not religious in nature?

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