Court Asked to Rehear Case Over Calif. Schools’ ‘Becoming Muslim’ Exercise

Jim Brown and Jenni Parker, Agape Press, Dec. 28, 2005

A federal appeals court is being asked to reconsider its ruling that allows public schools to teach junior high students how to “become Muslims.” The Thomas More Law Center, a national public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is asking the entire Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on what can be done in public schools with regard to teaching Islam and other religions.

Several parents sued California’s Byron Union School District for requiring their 7th-grade children to participate in a three-week class activity in which they not only had to study important Islamic figures and wear traditional Muslim attire, but were also required to observe the “five pillars” of the Islamic faith, adopt Muslim names, recite a portion of a Muslim prayer, and even stage their own “jihad” or “holy war.” The plaintiffs’ attorney, the Thomas More Law Center’s Ed White, believes the school district violated the parents’ and children’s constitutional rights to free exercise of religion.

Earlier, White had asked a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit to overturn a previous San Francisco federal district court’s ruling that the Byron Union School District did not violate the U.S. Constitution. However, the Ninth Circuit panel of judges upheld the lower court’s determination in a brief, unpublished memorandum decision.

In that ruling, however, the panel overlooked and failed to rule on the plaintiff’s claims that their free exercise and parental rights had been violated. The Thomas More Law Center has asked the three-judge panel to reconsider their decision and to issue a ruling on the claims not previously addressed. The Law Center has also asked all 24 active judges on the Ninth Circuit to consider and rule on the case.

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So it was after the fact that parents learned how, for three weeks in 2001, their children were told they would “become Muslims” and had worn identification tags bearing their new Muslim names along with the Star and Crescent Moon symbols of Islam. The children received materials telling them to “Remember Allah always so that you may prosper,” and they made banners to hang in the classroom, inscribing them with the Basmala, a phrase from the Koran used in Muslim prayers that is translated, “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.”

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