A case brought by parents and children challenging a California school district for its practice of teaching 12-year-old students to “become Muslims” will be heard in U.S. appeals court today.
As WND reported, the lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center against the Byron Union School District and various school officials to stop the “Islam simulation” materials and methods used in the Excelsior Elementary School in Byron, Calif.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, widely considered the nation’s most liberal, will hear oral arguments in the case.
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.
In December 2003, a federal district court judge in San Francisco determined the school district had not violated the constitution.
In her 22-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton determined Excelsior was not indoctrinating students about Islam when it required them to adopt Muslim names and pray to Allah, but rather was just teaching them about the Muslim religion.
But Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the Law Center, insists the school did cross a constitutional line into indoctrination.
“The public school placed students into the position of being trainees in Islam, which is impermissible in a public school,” he said.
Thomas More’s chief counsel, Richard Thompson, believes there’s a double standard at work in this case.
“If the students had done similar activities in a class on Christianity, a constitutional violation would surely have been found,” he said. “If the public school’s practice is upheld on appeal, all public schools should begin teaching classes on Christianity in the same manner as the Islam class was taught in this case.”
When WorldNetDaily first reported the story in January 2002 – shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks committed by 19 Islamist terrorists – major controversy ensued nationwide.
The course was part of a curriculum taught to seventh-graders all over the state, included in the state’s curriculum standards required by the state board of education. Although the standards outline what subjects should be taught and included in state assessment tests, they didn’t mandate how they’re to be taught.
At the end of the three-week course, Excelsior teacher Brooke Carlin presenting a final test requiring students to critique Muslim culture.
The Islam simulations at Excelsior are outlined in the state-adopted textbook “Across the Centuries,” published by Houghton Mifflin, which prompts students to imagine they are Islamic soldiers and Muslims on a Mecca pilgrimage.
The lawsuit also alleges students were encouraged to use such phrases in their speech as “Allah Akbar,” which is Arabic for “God is great,” 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.