A public-interest legal group is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowing a California public school to engage in a three-week intensive course for 7th graders on how to “become Muslims.”
A California federal trial court and the 9th Circuit, widely considered the nation’s most liberal appeals court, determined the class did not violate the Constitution.
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 School in Byron, Calif.
The 2001 course had students take Islamic names and wear identification tags that displayed their new Islamic name and the Muslim star and crescent moon. They also were handed materials that instructed them to “Remember Allah always so that you may prosper”; complete the Islamic five pillars of faith, including fasting; and memorize and recite the “Bismillah,” or “In the name of Allah, 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.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said the “case cries out double standard.”
“The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the same court that held our Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because it contained the phrase ‘under God,’ and yet they allow a three-week intensive course on how to become Muslims, including class memorization of Islamic prayers and participation in Islamic religious rituals,” Thompson said.
Edward L. White III, the Law Center’s trial counsel handling the case, argued that although a public school may teach about religion, the school district “went far beyond an explanation of the historical or literary significance of Islam and placed these seventh graders into the position of becoming trainees in that religion.”
“These young children were indoctrinated in Islam, which the Constitution forbids,” White said.
The Supreme Court will decide within the next few months whether to review the case.
The Law Center argues the panel did not address the plaintiff’s claims that their free exercise and parental rights had been violated.
White 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.
One of the parents found out by accident, looking through her son’s schoolbag after the program had finished.
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 “Allah 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.