A Christian student argues that a school history lesson on Islam conflicted with her Christian faith. A federal court disagrees.




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Washington.  As a extreme school junior, Caleigh Wood refused to complete a history lesson on “The Muslim World” that she acknowledged pressured her to embrace Islam in battle with her Christian faith — and the Constitution.

A federal appeals court this week disagreed, saying school officers in Southern Maryland had not violated Wood’s First Amendment rights as a results of the curriculum did not endorse a particular religion “and did not compel Wood to profess any belief.”

“School authorities, not the courts, are charged with the responsibility of deciding what speech is appropriate in the classroom,” wrote Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, who was joined by Judges Pamela Harris and James Wynn. “Academic freedom would not long survive in an environment in which courts micromanage school curricula and parse singular statements made by teachers.”

Attorney Andrew Scott, who represents Charles County school officers, acknowledged Tuesday the ruling sends a necessary message to school officers all by way of the state affirming their discretion to indicate about religion.

“Religion is an integral part of history. You can’t ignore it,” acknowledged Scott, who argued the case on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. “The key is to teach it from a secular perspective — and not to proselytize.”

Wood’s lawyer, Richard Thompson, acknowledged he would search evaluation of the three-judge-panel ruling by each the fullRichmond, Virginia-based appeals court or the Supreme Court.

The school’s lesson clearly endorsed Islam, denigrated Christianity and amounted to “forced speech of a young Christian girl,” acknowledged Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, a nationwide Christian nonprofit regulation company. “This is unequal treatment of Christianity by the school system.”

The lesson in dispute lasted 5 days in a year-long course when Wood was in 11th grade at La Plata High School, about 35 miles south of proper right here, in 2014-2015. Wood and her dad and mother objected to 2 factors of the unit that touched on politics, geography and custom. One was a slide contrasting “peaceful Islam” with “radical fundamental Islam” that included the assertion: “Most Muslim’s [sic] faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

Wood was moreover required to complete a work sheet on the enlargement of Islam, the “beliefs and practices,” and the hyperlinks between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. A fill-in-the-blank half included the assertion “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” a portion of an Islamic declaration of faith known as the shahada.

Wood’s father, John, demanded his daughter be given a completely completely different challenge and knowledgeable her to refuse to complete any work associated with Islam that “violated [her] Christian beliefs,” in accordance with court knowledge.

Wood obtained a lower grade for the lesson, however it did not have an impact on her closing grade, filings current.

Her dad and mother went to court. The provides, they argued, lacked any secular operate and had the “effect of promoting and endorsing Islam.”

Woods, now 20, graduated in 2016, as her case continued to work its strategy by way of the courts.

The establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the federal authorities — on this case public school officers — from advancing or inhibiting a particular religion.

In its ruling, the court considered the school’s broad world history curriculum comparatively than inspecting each doubtlessly problematic assertion. If judges found violations “every time that a student or parent thought that a single statement by a teacher either advanced or disapproved of a religion, instruction in our public schools ‘would be reduced to the lowest common denominator,’ ” Keenan wrote in her 18-page opinion.

The challenge involving the shahada, the court found, was meant to judge whether or not or not school college students understood the “beliefs and practices” of Muslims. The job was factual, and school college students “were not required to memorize the shahada, to recite it, or even to write the complete statement of faith,” in accordance with the ruling.

“This is precisely the sort of academic exercise that the Supreme Court has indicated would not run afoul of the Establishment Clause,” it acknowledged.

The court’s opinion well-known that the school’s content material materials specialist had testified that the language included throughout the slide regarding the energy of the Muslim faith relative to Christianity was “inappropriate” and that he would have advised the coach to not embrace it throughout the lesson.

Still the court found the slide did not advocate a particular notion system and was associated to the overall secular courses being taught.

The slide just isn’t used throughout the school’s curriculum, a spokeswoman acknowledged, and social analysis teachers have been educated about “proper resources that meet the standards Maryland requires for the course.”

“We don’t teach religion. What we are teaching is world history,” Charles County Schools Superintendent Kimberly Hill acknowledged after the ruling. “This is one unit. It isn’t any kind of indoctrination for anyone.”

Charles Haynes, founding director of the Religious Freedom Center on the Newseum in Washington, acknowledged the conflation of Islam with terrorism, and the rise of Islamophobia has created a particular “fear and suspicion of how Islam is being treated in public schools.”

An challenge or presentation is also poorly phrased, however it does not rise to the extent of being unconstitutional till it’s a a part of a clear pattern, acknowledged Haynes, who has led efforts to create pointers for educating religion in public schools.

Courts, he acknowledged, are reluctant to “get in there to judge every statement” and often defer to educators comparatively than “second-guess every little thing or entangle the courts endlessly in the curriculum.”

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