On October 15, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition presented by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) to hear Wood v. Arnold, a case brought by Caleigh Wood, a Christian student in the 11th grade at La Plata High School in Maryland. Wood refused to take part in a school exercise she felt would deny her faith “by making a written profession of the Muslim conversion prayer known as the shahada—‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah’.” The TMLC argues the school violated the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Speech clauses when it ordered Wood to do an assignment that she could not complete without violating her Christian beliefs; the teacher then gave her a failing grade.
This is not just a violation of the First Amendment but an ongoing, albeit subtle, diffusion of Islam in our Western society.
The teacher’s actions were originally condemned in court by the high school’s content specialist, Jack Tuttle. Richard Thompson, TMLC’s chief counsel, said he’s “not aware of any public school which has forced a Muslim student to write the Lord’s Prayer or John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’.”
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the teacher did not violate the Establishment Clause. Astonishingly, for asserting her right not to profess the Islamic faith as part of her public school’s curriculum, Wood was also forced to view a series of pro-Islam PowerPoint slides—including one casting aspersions on Christians, which said, “Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian’s.”
As Thompson points out,
under the pretext of teaching history or social studies, public schools across America are promoting the religion of Islam in ways that would never be tolerated for Christianity or any other religion. It’s disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to clarify the test which lower courts should use when ruling on establishment clause and free speech challenges to public school classes on religion.
And it isn’t only public schools that are giving preferential treatment to Islam, however. It’s happening in higher education, too.
Last month, American left-wing academics were up in arms about the threat by the Trump administration to cut federal funds for a program promoting Islam that may violate the Constitution, promote anti-Semitism, and advance “ideological priorities” that are meant to indoctrinate rather than educate.
The program in question is run by the University of North Carolina and Duke University. The Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies received $235,000 last year from the government for a program to promote foreign language instruction, in order to prepare students for careers in diplomacy and national security. Instead, an investigation disclosed that the program unfairly promoted “the positive aspects of Islam” but not those of Christianity or Judaism. Moreover, a conference put on by the program, titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities,” featured a rapper who performed a “brazenly anti-Semitic song.”
This is a complete contradiction of the left-wing position of the American Civil Liberties Union that has thus far made it clear that the Christian religion cannot be present in any way in the public school system. This stems from a 1963 Supreme Court case School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, which ruled it unconstitutional for public schools to mandate religious activities; the activity at issue was reading the Bible. And yet, as the radio host Tom Wallace pointed out,
it seems that any other religion is acceptable. Other religions, such as atheism, Buddhism, and Islam are being taught in our public schools. For the most part they do it under the guise of teaching ‘world religion.’ When they teach about Christianity they teach on the persecution of Christians by Christians without any historical context. They teach that the Crusades were a great sin of Christianity. In fact, the Crusades were, for the most part, Christians taking back land that had been taken by the sword of Islam.
Many “open-minded” Americans who remain willingly ignorant about Islam tend to forget Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion in Lee v. Weisman (1992), which ironically should sustain TMLC’s petition. Kennedy stated: “Even for those students who object to the religious exercise [a part of high school graduation], their attendance and participation in the state-sponsored religious activity are in a fair and real sense obligatory, though the school district does not require attendance as a condition for receipt of the diploma.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia argued: “The coercion that was a hallmark of historical establishments of religion was coercion of religious orthodoxy and of financial support by force of law and threat of penalty”—and this is exactly what happened to Ms. Wood.
While it is disappointing that at least six Supreme Court justices refused to hear Wood v. Arnold, we should not be surprised since on the North Wall frieze there is a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad holding the Qur’an. The sculptor, Adolph Weinman, with government sponsorship, created the image—even though Muslims generally have a strong aversion to sculptured or pictured representations of their Prophet. The intention was that Islamic law (sharia) would integrate into a free and democratic society. Those better versed in Islam’s 1,400-year-long history know better.
Author: Fr. Mario Alexis Portella
Fr. Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He was born in New York and holds a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He is the author of Islam: Religion of Peace?—The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up (Westbow Press, 2018).