A public school instructing teachers to greet Muslims during Ramadan with “Ramadan Mubarak” and adjust test schedules is raising the specter of official district endorsement of Islam, contends a non-profit legal group.
The Freedom of Conscience Legal Defense Fund is warning the Dieringer School District in Lake Tapps, Washington, about its implementation of guidelines issued by the terror-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations.
After CAIR wrote to the school suggesting various changes in policy and practice that would benefit Muslim students, district Supt. Judy Martinson implemented CAIR’s suggestions as official district policy. She distributed the CAIR letter to school principals, who in turn circulated it to all teachers and staff, FCDF said.
“By urging teachers to bless Muslim students in Arabic, the district is running roughshod over the First Amendment’s mandate of government neutrality toward religion,” said Daniel Piedra, FCDF’s executive director. “A school district would never order teachers to ‘welcome’ Catholic students during Easter with ‘He is risen, alleluia!’ Singling out Muslim students for special treatment is blatantly unconstitutional.”
A parent in the district had raised questions about the move.
In response, FCDF sent a memo to Martinson contending the district is violating the Constitution by favoring Muslim students.
“To be clear, nothing in the Constitution prohibits public schools from accommodating students’ religious exercise to the extent it would not interfere with educational interests,” the letter said.
“But ‘the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the state affirmatively sponsors’ religious practice. Here, by issuing the CAIR letter to district employees, you acted under color of state law to create an official policy that has a primary effect of advancing religion. The Ramadan Policy, in both adoption and implementation, plainly imposes liability on the district under the United States and Washington Constitutions.”
Piedra said the case “is yet another attempt by CAIR to infiltrate uninformed school districts so it can advance its subversive agenda.”
“CAIR must not be allowed to indoctrinate impressionable schoolchildren under the guise of ‘diversity’ and ‘cultural awareness,'” he said. “FCDF is committed to keeping CAIR out of our America’s public schools.”
The letter explains the Supreme Court has been emphatic in stating that school officials must make sure no policy “conveys a message that a particular religion, or a particular religious belief, is ‘favored,’ ‘preferred’, or ‘promoted’ over other beliefs.”
FCDF said “the district’s Ramadan policy raises the specter of impermissible government endorsement of religion.”
CAIR’s recommendation, FCDF said, “likely violates the [Establishment Clause’s] demand that the government remains neutral toward religion.”
CAIR told the district it should formally add Muslim holidays to school calendars, schedule tests on days other than the holidays, allow makeup tests and assignments and tell students their absences on those days can be excused.
But FCDF argued the “preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere.”
“Religious adherence, such as observances, is the parents’ responsibility, not the public school’s. To that end, school officials may neither encourage nor discourage students from availing themselves of an excused absence for religion reasons.”
The instruction that teachers greet students with an Islamic greeting is particularly troubling, the letter said.
“‘Ramadan Kareem’ derives from ‘the fact that God gives his worshippers blessings during the month [of Ramadan],'” wrote FCDF.
“A reasonable student would unquestionably perceive them to be ‘stamped with her school’s seal of approval.'”
FCDF asks the district to respond with a letter to staff and faculty that states: “CAIR’s letter advocates legal positions and policy preferences beyond the requirements of state and federal law. The district therefore will no longer rely on the views expressed in the letter.”