posed by Marshall Fritz
answer by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Q. Is there another side to the story about this
9th circuit court decision dismissing constitutionality concerns over a
Byron Union School District, in Byron, Calif. program that required
students to pretend that they are Muslims?
A. In the past there have been numerous false
allegations of government schools forcing children to play-act at being
Muslims under the cover of teaching world culture or religion. These
allegations have usually been blatantly false. An amicus brief filed by
the CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION and NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS
ASSOCIATION suggests that the case of US 9th Circuit re Byron, Calif
School Unit on Islam may be different. Although the circuit court
ruling is unpublished, by overturning the lower court, it appears as if
the circuit court may be saying that forcing non-Muslim students to
imitate Muslim ritual is not a violation of the studentsí (or at least
the parentsí) freedom of religion is because the students are only
play-acting a fantasy. In other words, the religious innocuousness of
the act is predicated on the presumed REJECTION of the actís religious
significance. This is not Muslims imposing their will on Christians, it
is secularists making a mockery of religious ritual per se.
If I am correct, then it seems to me that the plaintiffs doomed their own case by erroneously presenting it as a matter of the school imposing Islam on the students. The school, which rejects all religion, is not exalting Islam above Christianity but demeaning both. Had the plaintiffs used that approach they might have won. Instead they asked the court to address a narrow question: Was the school trying to turn the students into Muslims? It is no surprise that the court answered no. To the degree that that the government school system has any religious purpose it is to secularize the students.
Perhaps now some Muslim group should sue the school using the correct argument. If not, then maybe some Hindu group will sue the schools when they start forcing Muslim children to insincerely profess their adoration of Krishna.