Tuesday, November 17, 2020

New Jersey School's Presentation of Islam Did Not Violate Establishment Clause

 In Hilsenrath v. School District of the Chathams, (D NJ, Nov. 12, 2020), a New Jersey federal district court held that the 7th grade World Cultures and Geography course presentation of material about Islam did not violate the Establishment Clause.  The court held that a nominal damages claim is sufficient to give plaintiff standing to challenge the course material. The court said in part:

Here, the World Cultures course includes similar units on, for example, Hinduism and Buddhism, in which students watch videos on those religions to understand their tenets and practices.... A reasonable observer would not perceive an endorsement of Islam when the course also presented other religions in a similar manner. Further, Islam is introduced as part of a unit on the Middle East and North Africa in a course covering geography and world cultures, so it is presented in conjunction with nonreligious material about a region of the world....

This case falls into the category of those in which schools permissibly asked students to “read, discuss, and think” about a religion.

TAPinto reports on the decision.