Christians are well-acquainted with any expression of their faith being banished from the public square. Even the most benign, inoffensive expressions of faith aren’t safe from the secular Thought Police.
Whether it’s banning silent prayers before football games or requiring that Christian teachers go against their personal convictions by teaching LGBT-affirming curricula, public schools are arguably the most hostile environments for followers of Jesus in America.
While the First Amendment guarantees all citizens the right to freely practice their religion (or lack thereof) and prohibits the government from establishing religious mandates, not all religions are given equal treatment under the law.
What’s truly disturbing is that while the once-Christian moral foundations of our public school system have eroded to make way for aggressive secularism, religions other than Christianity are not only tolerated, but given special treatment and even outright endorsed in taxpayer-funded schools.
In a Seattle-area school district, the start of the Ramadan season comes with a requirement that teachers go above and beyond their duties by helping their Muslim students observe the annual fast.
Now, it would certainly be consistent with First Amendment rights for Muslim students to be unhindered from the private observation their religious holidays, not unlike a Christian student who should be allowed to wear an ashen cross on their forehead or fast in observance of Lent. The reality is, however, that the Christian student is far more likely to be discriminated against than the Muslim.
The instructions given to teachers in the Dieringer School District, however, go far beyond the pale.
To help their Muslim students faithfully observe Ramadan, teachers were instructed to follow guidelines set by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American-based PR arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, about religious practices that would take place during school hours.
“In March, CAIR submitted an ‘Informative Letter on Upcoming Islamic Holidays and Religious Accommodations’ to Superintendent Judy Martinson,” the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) reported. “Martinson enacted the letter as official district policy when she distributed the letter to school principals, who in turn circulated the letter to all teachers and staff.”
Amanda Misasi, a CAIR attorney, instructed teachers and administrators not to schedule “tests or important assignments” on two Muslim holy days, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, to add the holidays to school calendars, and to allow fasting students to spend the lunch period in the library.
The letter also states that teachers should welcome Muslim students to the classroom during Ramadan by wishing them “Ramadan Mubarak” (“Have a blessed celebration”) or “Ramadan Kareem” (“May Ramadan be generous to you”).
In a day and age where “Merry Christmas” is practically hate speech, how is this acceptable?
The letter goes on to state that schools should provide facilities for Muslim students to pray throughout the day: “In addition to supporting Muslim students during Ramadan, you can also support Muslim students in your school by accommodating their need for prayer year-round. One or two of which will typically occur during school hours, depending on the time of year.”
After being contacted by a concerned parent, FCDF penned a letter urging Martinson and district officials to cease these clear violations of the First Amendment:
“By urging teachers to bless Muslim students in Arabic, the District is running roughshod over the First Amendment’s mandate of government neutrality toward religion,” says Daniel Piedra, FCDF’s executive director. “A school district would never order teachers to ‘welcome’ Catholic students during Easter with ‘He is risen, alleluia’! Singling out Muslim students for special treatment is blatantly unconstitutional.”
“The Establishment Clause prohibits schools from singling out one religious sect for preferential treatment; the Free Exercise Clause forbids schools from burdening a student’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” the letter continues. “The tension between these two prohibitions, as well as the sensitive First Amendment concerns in public schools, has created significant confusion about what educators may and may not do.”
“School officials must ensure that no policy or practice ‘conveys a message that a particular religion, or a particular religious belief,’ is ‘favored’, ‘preferred’, or ‘promoted’ over other beliefs,’” Piedra writes. “Moreover, families condition their trust on public schools to educate their children ‘on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.’”
Above all else, FCDF warned the district that instructing teachers to use religious greetings with their Muslim students “impermissibly advances and promotes a religious message.”
“In cases involving state participation in religious activity, a relevant question is whether an objective observer — here, a non-Muslim student — would perceive the Ramadan Policy’s encouragement of religious greetings as a state endorsement of prayer in public schools,” the letter explains.
For good measure, FCDF was sure to clear up any misconceptions the district may have about what sort of organization CAIR, with its brazen history of anti-Semitism and sympathy for radical Islamic terrorists, really is.
“This case is yet another attempt by CAIR to infiltrate uninformed school districts so it can advance its subversive agenda,” Piedra wrote. “CAIR must not be allowed to indoctrinate impressionable schoolchildren under the guise of ‘diversity’ and ‘cultural awareness.’ FCDF is committed to keeping CAIR out of America’s public schools.”
Thankfully, FCDF plans to take legal action against the school board if it does not withdraw its “Ramadan policy” in a timely fashion.
When one religion receives unfair preference over any other, that’s a problem we simply can’t tolerate.
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