California Judge Rules: Classroom Lessons on Islam Legal

December 12, 2003

Source: Contra Costa Times

On December 12, 2003 the Contra Costa Times reported that "a federal judge has decided that seventh-grade teachers in a small East Contra Costa school district did not violate the U.S. Constitution when they asked students to pretend to be Muslim in lessons about Islam. The case against the Byron school district fueled a national debate over whether role-playing religious activities should be allowed in school. Jonas and Tiffany Eklund, the parents of two former seventh-graders at Excelsior Middle School, sued the district last year after a world history class required their son to simulate elements of the Islamic faith. Activities included choosing a Muslim name, dressing in Arabic clothes for a presentation, reciting a Muslim prayer and playing a trivia board game in which students race to reach Mecca. The district received hundreds of calls and e-mails, many from people opposing the lessons, after the news spread, Superintendent Tom Meyer said. Lawyers for the Eklunds argued that students were practicing the religion when they participated in the role-playing, meaning the school had endorsed Islam in violation of the First Amendment. The district contends that role-playing is a common and effective teaching technique that was used in the context of other lessons on Islamic history, culture and religion, a subject mandated in California's seventh-grade curriculum. U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton in San Francisco agreed last week with the school district that no trial was necessary and granted the district's request to dismiss the lawsuit."

See also: Islam, Civic, Schools