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.
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.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit – widely regarded as the nation’s most liberal federal appeals court– upheld a San Francisco federal district court’s ruling that the Byron Union School District did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
The Thomas More Law Center, however, contends the panel did not address the plaintiff’s claims that their free exercise and parental rights had been violated.
Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the Law Center, says parents were never told about the Islamic program and didn’t know they had the option to remove their children from such an activity.
White says one of the parents found out by accident, looking through her son’s schoolbag after the program had finished.
The 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, the San Francisco court 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 White insists a line was crossed, placing the students in the “position of being trainees in Islam, which is impermissible in a public school.”
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 presented 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 “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.