Two Maryland residents are suing Charles County Public Schools over what they interpret as the school's "promotion of Islam" in a World History course.
Melissa and John Wood argue that a section of their sixteen-year-old daughter's history class dealing with Islam violated her constitutional rights. The lawsuit alleges that the Woods' daughter received failing grades because she "refused to deny and insult her Christian beliefs" by taking part in activities that she felt insinuated Muslims hold stronger religious convictions than do Christians. The lawsuit also claims that the school forced their daughter to memorize the Five Pillars of Islam and spent one day teaching Christianity while it devoted two weeks to the lesson on Islam. The incident occurred during the 2014 – 2015 school year.
Joel Christie and Wills Robinson report in The Daily Mail that Mr. Wood, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm and as a firefighter during the September 11th terrorist attacks, was banned from school grounds after complaining about the curriculum.
Richard Thompson, the Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which is filing the suit, said that:
"[A] school cannot achieve diversity by punishing and alienating students who hold Judeo-Christian beliefs while bolstering the doctrines and teaching of other religions. Parents must be ever vigilant to the Islamic indoctrination of their children under the guise of teaching history and multiculturalism. This is happening all across the country. And they must take action to stop it."
According to Fox 5, the Woods also accuse their daughter's school of having a secret agenda promoting Islam because the syllabus for the course did not mention that Islam would be covered. Todd Starnes, an editorialist for Fox News, also notes that the teacher passed out an in-class handout that portrayed Islam in a favorable light. It stated that, "Nowhere in the Koran does it say you will go to paradise if you martyr yourself with a suicide bomb," and that, "a majority of Muslims do not live this way," and treat others with kindness and respect. Evidently, the school also depreciated the violent connotation of the word "jihad," which it said is a "religious duty" taken by Muslims in their struggle to achieve "spiritual discipline."
For its part, the school released a statement saying, "The particular unit in question is on the formation of Middle Eastern empires in which students learned the basic concepts of the Islamic faith and how it, along with politics, culture, economics and geography, contributed to the development of the Middle East. Other religions are introduced when they influence or impact a particular historical era or geographic region."
Public schools are increasingly under fire for charges of marginalizing Christianity. Controversies have erupted in recent years after school officials in various states excised the word "God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and forbade popular symbols associated with Christian holidays, like Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and Easter eggs. Now, criticism has emerged from another direction — not over schools' supposed demotion of Christianity, but their promotion of Islam.