By Sara Dogan
A federal lawsuit brought by the mother of a student at Chatham Middle School in New Jersey was allowed by to proceed after a judge refused to dismiss charges that the school violated the First Amendment by attempting to indoctrinate children to believe in Islam.
That mother, Libby Hilsenrath, alleges that the school “forc[ed] children to endure the promotion of Islam in their public schools, including an explicit and direct call to the children for conversion to the religion of Islam.”
At issue is a five-minute “Intro to Islam” video that students were directed to watch online while in class. Hilsenrath believes that in violation of the First Amendment, the video attempts to promote Islam as factual truth—rather than simply providing information about it in a non-biased manner.
Statements made in the video include:
- “Allah is the one God who created the heavens and the earth, who has no equal and is all powerful.”
- “Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is the last & final Messenger of God. God gave him the Noble Quran.”
- “Lo, We have sent thee (O Muhammad) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and a warner.”
- “What is the Noble Quran? Divine Revelation sent to Muhammad (S) last Prophet of Allah. A Perfect guide for Humanity.”
- “The Noble Quran: Guidance, Mercy and Blessing for all Mankind.”
- Islam: “A shining beacon against the darkness of repression, segregation, intolerance and racism.”
- “May God help us all find the true faith, Islam.”
“This nearly five-minute long video seeks to convert viewers to Islam and is filled with the religious teachings of Islam presented, not as beliefs, but as facts,” the lawsuit states.
Hilsenrath first took her concerns to the local school board, attempting to have the video removed from the assigned lesson plan, but she was attacked as “hateful,” “ignorant,” “intolerant,” “racist” and “close-minded.”
So with the assistance of the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian legal group, Hilsenrath filed suit against the school district in federal court. In addition to alleging that the video portrays the Islamic faith as religious fact, the suit filed by the Center also states that the lesson gave a “sugarcoated, false depiction of Islam,” adding that students “were not informed of the kidnappings, beheadings, slave-trading, massacres, and persecution of non-Muslims, nor the repression of women — all done in the name of Islam.”