Sunday, April 08, 2018

Challenge To Teaching Islam In History Curriculum Is Rejected

In Wood v. Arnold, (D MD, March 26, 2018), a Maryland federal district court dismissed a lawsuit by a high school graduate and her father complaining (1) that the school violated the Establishment Clause by teaching Islam in its World History course; (2) violated the student's free speech rights by requiring her to "confess" the Shahada; and (3) engaged in retaliation and suppression of speech in banning the student's father from school grounds after he expressed opposition to the school's curriculum. Summarizing its holding, the court said:
the First Amendment does not afford the right to build impenetrable silos, completely separating adherents of one religion from ever learning of beliefs contrary to their own, Nor, in this Court's view, does it prohibit a high school teacher from leading a purely academic study of a religion that may differ from the religious beliefs of some of his students.
Plaintiffs' Establishment Clause argument centered on a statement made by the World History teacher that "most Muslims faith is stronger than the average Christian". The court rejected plaintiffs'argument that the statement should be taken in isolation from the remainder of the curriculum, but concluded that even taken alone the statement, in the context it was made, did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Rejecting plaintiffs' compelled speech argument, the court held that requiring students to fill in the blanks in a quiz on the Shahda was merely aimed at fostering an understanding of the significance of the statements to Muslims.

Finally the court rejected the father's complaint about his exclusion from school grounds, finding that the father's statements on Facebook suggested that he was planning to cause disruption at the school.