A high school girl who refused to complete a history lesson about Islam has finally lost her court case alleging that the class went against her Christian beliefs and the Constitution.
Caleigh Wood challenged a history lesson on “the Muslim World” and her parents backed her up, ultimately suing the school when her grade on the assignment was affected. The lawsuit continued despite the fact that her grade in the class wasn’t impacted. Now, she has finally lost. It’s likely, however, that she will appeal the well-grounded decision.
The federal court found that the curriculum didn’t endorse a specific religion and didn’t compel the students to profess any particular belief.
“School authorities, not the courts, are charged with the responsibility of deciding what speech is appropriate in the classroom,” wrote Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, who was joined by Judges Pamela Harris and James A. Wynn Jr. “Academic freedom would not long survive in an environment in which courts micromanage school curricula and parse singular statements made by teachers.”
Attorney Andrew Scott, who represents Charles County school officials, said Tuesday the ruling sends an important message to school officials throughout the state affirming their discretion to teach about religion.
“Religion is an integral part of history. You can’t ignore it,” said Scott, who argued the case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. “The key is to teach it from a secular perspective — and not to proselytize.”
Wood’s attorney, Richard Thompson, said he would seek review of the three-judge-panel ruling either by the full Richmond-based appeals court or the Supreme Court.
The entire lawsuit hinged upon the belief that learning about a different religion amounted to being indoctrinated in that same religion. As I have said for the Richard Dawkins Foundation and in numerous talks, teaching religion to children is key to making sure they grow up with a proper foundational knowledge of the most popular belief systems. This means that, in addition to whatever biased “education” they get at home, they will have an academic understanding that will often lead them away from religion or, at very least, extremism. Gaining knowledge shouldn’t be grounds for a lawsuit.
The court said, at worst, one of the phrases in the lesson was perhaps worded poorly. (One slide said that “Most Muslim’s [sic] faith is stronger than the average Christian.” The school admitted that needed to change.) But it was hardly some intention pattern of bias that violated the U.S. Constitution.
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