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Education Reporter

No Wall of Separation for Course in Islamic Religion
BRENTWOOD, CA - Byron Union School District 7th-grade teacher Elizabeth Lemings was shocked when she discovered that her son, a student in another 7th-grade class at the same school, was taking an intensive course in the Islamic religion. He brought home handouts that included a history of Islam and its founder, Mohammed, 25 Islamic terms, 20 proverbs, Islam's "Five Pillars of Faith," and 10 key Islamic prophets and disciples to be studied.

The three-week course, which began September 11, also required students to wear a robe during class, adopt a Muslim name, and stage their own jihad or "holy war" via a dice game.

In an interview with the Garden Grove, CA-based ASSIST News Service (ANS), Mrs. Lemings stated: "We can't even mention the name of Jesus in the public schools, but students are taught about Islam and how to pray to Allah." She added that many parents protested the course, but that the principal ignored their complaints. One outraged parent exclaimed: "We could never teach Christianity like this!"

When ANS asked the school principal, Nancy Castro, about the course's intensity and one-sidedness and the resulting parental complaints, she asserted that it "reflects California (educational) standards that meet state requirements." She claimed that "only three" parents had called to express concerns, and that the course "is not religion, but ancient culture and history." She noted that the textbook, Across the Centuries, published by Houghton-Mifflin (Boston, MA), is state approved and used throughout California.

ANS reported that this textbook presents Islam "in a totally positive manner," while mentioning Christianity briefly and negatively. "Events such as the Inquisition, the Salem witch-hunts, etc., are highlighted in bold black type."

Negatives about Islam do not appear in Across the Centuries, ANS pointed out. Islam's "wars, massacres, cruelties against Christians and other non-Muslims" are not included. Instead, "the 'miraculous' events leading up to the Koran, the 'holy' book of Islam, and other 'revelations' are presented as factual," while references to the miracles of Christianity are accompanied by disclaimers, "implying an absence of credibility about the stated events."

According to Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST Ministries, the Byron school became inundated with protests from all over the world after the ANS story broke, but that "Instead of correcting the problem, they hired a public relations person." He added that there have been personal media attacks on the story's author, the Rev. Austin Miles.

Elizabeth Lemings is concerned about the level of outrage directed against the school and its principal. "The state selects the curriculum and I anticipate that many other states are teaching from this same textbook," she said. "Our real anger should be channeled into protesting the manner in which religions are taught to our children."

Lemings believes that heightened awareness of the religious bias in public schools provides parents and other taxpayers with an opportunity to express their outrage to state boards of education and to state legislatures. "All presentations should be unbiased and accurate," she says. "Instead, we've seen an erosion of the truth about the critical role of Christianity in history. . . . Our voices need to protest the duplicity of 'politically-correct' standards that tolerate other religions but not Christianity."

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