Jenny McKeigue, a mother of three from Olmsted Falls, Ohio was shocked to discover that her son’s World History Curriculum featured a pro-Islam video that encouraged students to become Muslim. She demanded that the video be removed from the curriculum and wouldn’t take no for an answer until the school finally backed down and removed the film.
The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a law firm dedicated to defending America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, is reporting that the offensive video was part of the curriculum for 7th grade students in the Olmsted Falls City School District.
McKeigue first became concerned about it in 2011 when her son was required to memorize the five Pillars of Islam (this requirement was later discontinued). After a deeper look into the curriculum, McKeigue became concerned about the content of the “Muslims and America” video to which the school had exposed her son.
The questionable video features a Christian named Dave agreeing to embrace the religion of Islam and the Muslim culture by living with a Muslim family for 30 days in Dearborn, Michigan. Dave was required to live, dress and eat as a Muslim, study the Koran daily and participate in Muslim prayer. The video features several instances of Muslim prayer and even a look at a “how to pray in Islam” sheet complete with Dave practicing how to pray and reciting lines such as “I testify that there is no God other than the Almighty” and “I testify that Mohammad is the messenger of God.”
The video is also set up in a manner that portrays non-Muslims as uneducated bigots and Muslims as persecuted victims. At one point in the video, 7th grade students are told that if they hear someone say something wrong about Islam, it is their responsibility to fix it.
Mrs. McKeigue asked the School District to remove the video from the curriculum and replace it with an objective video relevant to the history of Islam, not one that taught children how to become a Muslim. Her request was denied. She then took her complaints to the Superintendent and the School Board. Again, she was denied.
After over a year and a half of denied requests for information, including requests for the class syllabus, from the School District, McKeigue reached out to TMLC for assistance.
The firm agreed to help and supported Mrs. McKeigue’s belief that the video, in addition to being irrelevant, also violated several Board Policies with regard to the promotion of religion in the classroom and the fair representation of all ethnic and religious groups. Additionally, the accuracy of the video was questioned as well as the applied double standard as no other video was shown nor instruction given demonstrating how to perform the religious exercises of other religions.
In response to McKeigue’s criticism, the school district invited Olmsted Falls pastors to review the video. To the school district’s chagrin, several pastors agreed with McKeigue and also questioned the accuracy of the video. Dr. Todd Hoadley, school superintendent at the time, disregarded their concerns. At a March 2013 Board meeting, and in private conversations, he defended the video with the astonishing argument that the inaccuracies of the video proved its value.
However, the District ultimately agreed to remove the video in order to avoid a constitutional challenge by the TMLC.
“Teachers may not constitutionally show video tapes that violate the neutrality they must maintain toward religion or that engages in religious instruction,” said Richard Thompson. President and Chief Counsel of the TMLC.
“Showing ‘Muslims and America’ violated those principles and the Establishment Clause of our Constitution. Under the guise of teaching the history of Islam to seventh graders, history teachers were proselytizing students to the Islamic faith. Although I applaud the school district for resolving this issue without litigation, I was disappointed to discover internal communications from one history teacher ridiculing and disparaging Mrs. McKeigue, and even suggesting she should be fired from her part time job as alumni director for the school because of her criticism of the video.”
Thompson continued, “Teachers may provide instruction about a particular religion, but they are not constitutionally permitted to provide religious instruction. The education of our children is too important to be left to teachers and school administrators alone. Parents have a duty to be personally involved as well. Mrs. McKeigue was exercising her constitutional right to free speech in fulfilling her crucial duty and responsibility as a parent.”
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