Reps. Hill and Van Huss are pandering to paranoia

Editorial Board • Feb 3, 2016 at 11:30 AM

For some, if there is not a demon hiding behind every door and under every rock, there is a Muslim behind every textbook and in every classroom bent on turning our children to the dark side.

Reps. Timothy Hill of Blountville and Micah Van Huss of Johnson City are coming to the rescue of our vulnerable children, saving them from “Islamic religious indoctrination in Tennessee schools.” Reps. Hill and Van Huss have introduced House Bill 1905, which creates a whole bunch of work for teachers, schools and boards of education in addressing a nonexistent issue fueled by paranoia and misinformation.

There is “intense public outcry,” a press release says, over “current school textbooks that overemphasize Islam while excluding other religions like Christianity and Judaism” that are being used in Tennessee schools.

Not one example of any such textbook is offered to justify that claim. Nor is this legislation the result of a study, or review, or commission finding, or any other attempt to vet the notion that Tennessee children are being led astray by unnamed teachers in unnamed school districts using unidentified textbooks.

Well, there is that situation in Maury County last year where, according to the release, “children were being instructed to recite and write ‘Allah is the only god’ (and) students were assigned a Five Pillars of Islam project that included the translation of the pillar of ‘Shahada’ as being ‘There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is his prophet,’” says the press release.

Dr. Jan Hanvey of the Maury County district said this was all part of a curriculum dealing with the geography, culture, economics and government of the Mideast and that Islam was discussed for about one day of the three-week period. “By the end of the year, students will have studied Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions,” she said. “It’s part of history. If you don’t talk about it, then you are leaving out the why. Children need to know the why and they need to be able to learn and know where to find the facts, instead of going by what they hear or what they see on the Internet.”

This isn’t the first time that a course on Islam has been misrepresented as government sanctioned indoctrination into the Islamic faith. And it certainly won’t be the last. The press release states “similar situations have been reported across the state, including multiple instances in the Tri-Cities area.”

Learning, from a historical context that Jesus performed miracles isn’t going to turn a Muslim to Christianity any more than learning about the Five Pillars of Islam is going to turn a Christian to Islam. The bill includes this nonsensical statement: “any inclusion of religion in textbooks, instructional materials, curriculum, or academic standards can only be for educational purposes and are strictly prohibited from being used to promote or establish any religion or religious belief.” Uh, OK. Just the facts teachers. No indoctrination. Got it?

That aside, the bill requires school boards adopt a policy regarding the appropriate inclusion of religion in local curriculum and instructional materials, with the opportunity for public comment before adoption; requires districts to make publicly available a syllabus for all grade six through 12 social studies, science, math and English courses including a course calendar detailing standards, objectives and topics covered, major assignments required, and procedures for parents to have access to all instructional materials to be used. And, it requires the state board of education to initiate a revision process for the Tennessee social studies standards adopted in 2013 to ensure new standards do not promote religion and do not amount to indoctrination or proselytism in any way.

Requiring such an effort across the state is an unjustified intrusion into the educational process by lawmakers pandering on a religious basis. If children are being “indoctrinated” to Islam across the state, prove it.

Find these teachers who are turning children to Islam and identify them. List these textbooks that ignore Christianity only to advance Islam.

For that matter, identify a single student in Tennessee who gave up Christianity for Islam because of public classroom instruction.

No doubt Reps. Hill and Van Huss would like to see religious indoctrination in public schools — of their faith, and no one else’s. This bill should be soundly defeated.

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