NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Parental outrage over lessons on Islam in public schools convinced state Rep. Sheila Butt to do something about it.
Butt introduced legislation to ban schools from teaching “religious doctrine” until students reach high school, and to focus equally on all world religions when the time comes, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.
The legislation is designed to address a flood of complaints from parents in numerous school districts in Tennessee and other states centered on lessons about Islam taught to students in sixth and seventh grades.
The lessons typically require students to write or recite the Islamic call to prayer – “Allah is the only God, Mohammad is his prophet” – and to understand the Five Pillars of Islam. Many parents have voiced concerns to school board members in several Tennessee counties about how the teachings conflict with their personal beliefs, and claim students spend much more time learning about Islam than other religions.
“I think Islam was taught really in depth a little more than all the others,” Cheatham County parent Lisa Binkley told school board members recently, according to ABC 6. “To me, it’s almost like an indoctrination, not an introduction to a religion.”
Others believe the lessons are not like indoctrination, they are indoctrination.
Mount Juliet pastor Greg Locke recorded a video last month that called on parents to protest the “absolute Islamic indoctrination” in public schools by refusing to take a test scheduled for Sept. 11.
“Let me tell you something, when they are in sixth grade they get a half a page of watered down Christianity that has about as much Bible as a thimble, if you will, and now there’s 28 pages they have to learn about Islam, and Mohammad, and how it all came about, and about the holy Koran, and the Five Pillars of Islam, and how they pray, and when they pray, and where they pray, and how they pray, and why they pray, and about pilgrimages and all this and then they say that Allah is the only God,” Locke said in the video.
“Do not think … that is any coincidence, whatsoever, than on Sept. 11 they will be taking a test.”
School officials in many Tennessee school districts contend that state education standards require lessons on all world religions as part of middle school world history, but state officials counter that local schools are tasked with developing the actual lessons and learning materials.
“I think that probably the teaching that is going on right now in seventh, eighth grade is not age appropriate,” Butt told the Times Free Press. “They are not able to discern a lot of times whether its indoctrination or whether they’re learning about what a religion teaches.”
Butt’s bill would require the state board of education to ensure mention of religion in middle school “does not amount to teaching any form of religious doctrine to the students,” according to the bill.
“If you’re teaching the Middle East, then of course you’re going to mention the religion that was prevalent in that area,” Butt said. “But to teach the doctrine is another thing. It’s just a bill about balancing the teaching of religion in education.”
Butt, a longtime Sunday school teacher, told the Times Free Press she doesn’t believe students have the maturity level necessary to properly assess lessons on religion in middle school.
“Junior high is not the time that children are doing the most analysis,” she said. “Insecurity is in junior high a lot of times, and students are not able to differentiate a lot of things they are taught.”
The state board of education, meanwhile, agreed to move up its timetable for reviewing social studies standards to next year amid the mounting parental complaints on Islam lessons.
The American Center for Law & Justice also requested classroom materials on Islamic instruction from all Tennessee school districts, but an attorney who represents the bulk of them denied the inquiry citing technicalities and potentially “millions of dollars” to process the requests, EAGnews reports.