Magazine article Church & State

Calif. School District Accused of Improperly Teaching about Islam. (People & Events)

Magazine article Church & State

Calif. School District Accused of Improperly Teaching about Islam. (People & Events)

Article excerpt

Officials at a public school district in California are being accused of going too far in lessons designed to teach about Islam and possibly lapsing into promotion of that faith.

Controversy arose at the Byron Union School District in January when reports began circulating on conservative websites that the school had required students to memorize passages from the Koran, recite Islamic prayers, adopt Muslim names and dress up as Muslims on a pilgrimage.

Superintendent Peggy Green has defended the exercises, saying they have a legitimate academic intent. Green also disputed some of the charges, saying that students did not pretend to go on a pilgrimage and that some students, for extra credit, had voluntarily agreed to put on a play dressed in Muslim garb and using Muslim names.

A press release issued by the school admitted that students wear costumes and engage in role-playing but added, "Students are not required to pray to Allah, recite verses from the Qur'an or wear Muslim clothing. At no time do we mandate students to participate -- we offer alternative assignments to any family who requests it."

Education guidelines issued by state officials forbid having students act out religious exercises. Americans United said that while the school may have had good intentions in wanting to teach about religion, it may have gone overboard.

In a letter to school officials, Americans United attorneys Ayesha Khan and Allison Pierce noted the importance of adhering to the law when offering objective, academic lessons on religious issues. …

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