Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Curriculum On Muslim World Does Not Violate 1st Amendment

In Wood v, Arnold, (4th Cir., Feb. 11, 2019), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a high school student's Establishment Clause and free speech challenges to portions of classroom unit on The Muslim World.  One challenge was to the teacher's Power Point slide that included the statement that most Muslims' faith is stronger than that of the average Christian.  The other challenge was to the requirement on a work sheet for the student to fill in two words of the shahada.  The court said in part:
The use of both the comparative faith statement and the shahada assignment in Wood’s world history class involved no more than having the class read, discuss, and think about Islam. The comparative faith statement appeared on a slide under the heading “Peaceful Islam v. Radical Fundamental Islam.” The slide itself did not advocate any belief system but instead focused on the development of Islamic fundamentalism as a political force. And the shahada assignment appeared on the student worksheet under the heading “Beliefs and Practices: The Five Pillars.” Thus, the assignment asked the students to identify the tenets of Islam, but did not suggest that a student should adopt those beliefs as her own. 
Rejecting the student's compelled speech argument, the court said in part:
[T]he shahada assignment required Wood to write only two words of the shahada as an academic exercise to demonstrate her understanding of the world history curriculum. On these facts, we conclude that Wood’s First Amendment right against compelled speech was not violated.
[Thanks to Will Esser via Religionlaw for the lead.]