Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

From the editor's desk: Where's the Establishment Clause?


August 24, 2018

How would you feel if your child came home from school and said that he/she had to memorize and recite the Apostles Creed? The Apostles Creed is a statement of faith that many Protestant Christians recite in church every Sunday.

What if your child was required to make rosary beads for a class art project and recite the Hail Mary prayer, commonly called the Ave Maria or Angelic Salutation, a traditional Catholic prayer asking for the intercession of the “Blessed Virgin Mary”?

By refusing to do the art project or recite the creed or prayer in class, your child would receive a failing grade on that portion of the course.

My hope is that you would be furious and you’d call the teacher, the superintendent, the school board, the media and demand to know why these religious beliefs are being taught in a public school. After all, we do have the protection of the Establishment Clause, don’t we?

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment concerning public schools, simply put means this: “Neither a state nor the federal government can force nor influence a person to... profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.”

Let me explain that it is constitutionally permissible for public schools to teach about religions. In fact, religion plays a significant part in world history. Many cultures were developed based on religious values—our United States was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. However, it is unconstitutional for public schools to promote religious beliefs.

The Clause explains that schools may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view: “‘Teaching religion’ amounts to religious indoctrination or practice and is clearly prohibited in public schools. Teachers must be extremely sensitive to respect, and not interfere with, a student’s religious beliefs and practices. Students must not be encouraged to accept or conform to specific religious beliefs or practices. A program intended to teach religion, disguised as teaching about religion, will be found unconstitutional.”

So, we can relax. Right? Public schools can’t make students create prayer beads or memorize the Apostles Creed or make Muslim prayer rugs. That would be forcing children to entertain a religious belief. To be clear—children in public schools are not making prayer beads or reciting the Apostles Creed.

But wait—what has been going on in public schools for a number of years? Tenth graders in Seminole and Orange counties are being told to recite the shahada—the Muslim profession of faith. They are learning the Five Pillars of Islam. They are not learning about the history of Islam or its spread across the Middle East. Students used to have to make a prayer rug, but from what I understand, they no longer are required to do that art project (thanks to parents’ outrage).

Back to the shahada, this is a serious problem. Muslims take this statement of faith very seriously. I will not state it (ever) but in explanation, it says that their god is the only god and their messenger is the only messenger. This is a statement said by those who wish to convert to Islam.

Students in Seminole and Orange county must recite this for a grade. If students refuse to recite it and object because they do not believe this statement, a failing grade can be incurred.

Ask someone on the Seminole School Board about this, and the topic is down played. And if students in 10th grade are being taught Islam, where is the balance with other religions? Oh, they learn about Judaism and Christianity in seventh grade. So, if a student wanted to do a religious comparison, he’d have to recall what he learned in seventh grade?

Libby Hilsenrath of New Jersey is boiling mad at the Chatham School District and Board of Education, and she is suing because of the teaching of Islam (not as a belief but as facts) to her seventh-grade son in his World Cultures and Geography class.

Hilsenrath had a more serious problem. Her son was required to view two videos on YouTube, “Intro to Islam Video” and “The 5 Pillars of Islam,” that she claimed were “an explicit and direct call to the children for conversion to the religion of Islam.” We’re talking about public schools here!

The Chatham School District tried to have the claim dismissed, but federal Judge Kevin McNulty refused to dismiss the lawsuit, stating the “untested” scenario merits further exploration.


I shared this news article because this “study” of Islam isn’t happening only in Florida. It is across the country through the distribution of textbooks published by Pearson Education, a British-owned education publishing company.

Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder of the nonprofit organization Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, recently spoke in Orlando about corruption in school textbooks. She enlightened the audience comprised of Christians and Jews about the world history, geography and social studies textbooks distributed by Pearson Publishers to public schools across the country. The mission statement of this publisher is to “change the way America thinks,” by indoctrinating children to globalization standards.

Do parents have a say in what their children are being taught in public schools? One drastic measure would be to have a tort lawsuit brought up to the school board stating this teaching of Islam must be removed, as Hilsenrath is doing in New Jersey. Another measure, certainly doable by all parents right now, is to read your children’s textbooks, see what they are being taught. Discuss the material and reinforce your views and beliefs with your children.

There is a lot at stake here.


Reader Comments

Laurie writes:

In response to the comment about what the Shahada says; the comment is insulting the writer by accusing her of pandering to Islamophobia. The article is exposing how the curriculum, including textbooks and instructional materials, is in violation of the State and U.S. Constitutions, favoring the establishment of one religion, Islam, over all others. That is not Islamophobia! You cannot teach the tenants of any religion, you can only teach how the religion influenced history around the world/US

Shahid writes:

I wish the author had done some research and not pandered to Islamophobia. Remember when the US writers proudly said: better dead than Red. Shahada does not say our god is the only god. It says that there is only one supreme Divine entity who is called Allah and god is the god of everyone. Similarly, the Shahadah does not say that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) is the only messenger of Allah. To be a Muslim one has to believe that God sent prophets to all nations. This article is a disservice.


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