Religion In Schools, Fingers In Ears

A Facebook Friend posted just the other day that he was shocked that his daughter’s teacher had given the class a list of the five pillars of Islam as part of a unit on the Middle East.  He felt that not only was this teaching the students about Islam but it was also teaching them how to convert.  He believed this was an inappropriate violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state.  To further complicate matters, the teacher had informed the students that she was a Muslim.  So a call was made to the school principal and a meeting has been scheduled to discuss the matter.

Well, Rhonda Thurman, a member of the Hamilton County Board of Education in Tennessee, has a solution.  If the teacher begins teaching the students about Islam or praying with them, my friend’s daughter and any other offended students can simply “put their fingers in their ears.”  Yep, she actually said that.

Thurman was actually speaking about Christian prayers read over the loudspeaker at Soddy-Daisy High School in her county, but the principle is the same.  It seems there is a long-standing tradition of reading the prayers at football games and graduation ceremonies and a group of students enlisted the help of the Freedom from Religion Foundation to “remedy this serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment,” as the group wrote in a letter to the school system.

Thurman dismissed the claim noting that “Everybody is offended by something.”  She then added that she is “offended by a lot of those little girls running around with their thong panties showing, but I can’t make that go away.”  Apparently, to Ms. Thurman, leading students in prayers from a religion they do not follow is no more serious than a teenage fashion faux pas.  So I guess her advice to my friend’s daughter would be to just suck it up and, while she’s at it, pull her pants up.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, director and co-president of the foundation, explained why religion in public schools is an especially problematic situation.  “Students are a captive audience, they’re required to go to school. When there is a violation like a prayer at a school, they’re really vulnerable; it’s a violation of their civil rights.”

Thankfully for the students at Soddy-Daisy, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales has informed his principals of the unconstitutionality of such prayers and John Maynard, principal of Soddy-Daisy High School, has said that his school “will comply with the superintendent’s directive.”

In the case of my friend’s school, it sounds like the principal there gets it as well.  Hopefully, principals all across the country are getting the message as well.  As for Ms. Thurman, well, I hope she comes to realize the difference between someone expressing themselves through fashion in public and being forced to sit in a classroom and stare at someone’s unmentionables.

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