The ACLU is suing Florida’s Alachua County School District alleging students’ free speech has been “unlawfully censored.” The Orlando Sentinal reports several children were suspended or threatened with suspension for “wearing tee shirts promoting their religious beliefs about Christianity and Islam in school and at school events earlier this school year.”
Initially, students went to school wearing shirts with “Jesus answered ‘I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me’” and “I stand with Dove World Outreach Center” on the front and “Islam is of the Devil” on the back. The same phrase was displayed on a billboard at the students’ church, Dove World Outreach Center, prior to the beginning of the school year.
“The message on the t-shirts is an unfortunate expression of religious intolerance, but the School Board’s policy of banning any message that are ‘offensive to others’ or ‘inappropriate,’ unfortunately draws the line in a way that unconstitutionally prohibits freedom of speech,” the ACLU’s Howard Simon tells the paper.
A controversy over teaching about Islam is also roiling a New Jersey school district, where parents of some 6th graders are objecting to the school district’s social studies curriculum and a book used to teach them about Muslim culture and Islam. At issue is an assignment asking students to “create a mini-Quran.” A story about the controversy in the Hunterdon County Democrat is short on specifics. (What is the book parents are objecting to? How does the assignment cross the line to indoctrination, as some parents allege?) Several alarming reader comments follow the piece, including one who writes we should ”hunt every last one of the 1.5 billion muslims in this world down like dogs and eliminate them, in the name of Christ.” Such comments are by themselves a compelling argument for why kids might need a strong body of factual knowledge about world religions–and a healthy grounding in the American tradition of religious tolerance.