The separation of church and state use to be something that was clear-cut. There were definite rules about what could and could not come into the classroom to make is a learning environment for everyone. For whatever reason, this has been called into question recently in a West Virginia school as a local mosque creeps in with their agenda.
Instead of focusing on learning, this Muslim group has targeted teachers to spread their values and force classes on the Muslim faith on the teachers. While a course on a particular religion was not usually a part of the basic public school, in the case the only mosque in town is guilting teacher into coming to the mosque to connect with their Muslim students.
The point of the event is to pressure local teachers to attend religious workshops at the mosque in the name of getting to know their Muslim students. This is a direct attempt to force teachers to listen to lectures about the faith and see first hand the religious doctrine of a small percentage of the students. This type of class would not be offered to get to know a Christian group or to force teachers to attend a workshop about being Jewish to connect with students.
Teachers assigned to at least three schools within the Kanawha County Schools were targeted by the Muslim group for educational outreach. Each teacher was given a personal invitation to attend the workshop at the mosque. Three schools targeted were:
South Charleston High School
John Adams Middle School
Teachers at these three schools were shocked when they returned from lunch to find a religious invitation in their school mailbox. Many discussed the fact that this made it appear that the school supported the mosque in targeting the school employees. It was also a direct endorsement of the faith that was not extended to any other religions.
The fact that this religious class is being sold as a way to support local students was offensive to many of the teachers who received the invitations. One teacher who did not wish to be named for fear of losing her job stated “…I actually found it first and told a friend who is also a teacher. She’s pretty disturbed about the whole thing. My first reaction was disbelief. Some teachers were very offended by it.”
Many teachers turned to the school board to address the issue. It became clear quickly that there was not going to be any discussion about the invitations. Superintendent Dr. Ronald Duerring was quick to show his support for the Muslim outreach as he explained: “…that’s not a controversy for us and, no, I am not going to answer any of your questions.”
While Dr. Duerring downplays the issue at school, members of the local community are pushing back. Many are not happy about the Islamic faith being pushed on them in the name of diversity. This has created a hostile work environment at school for many teachers as they fear being fired over voicing their concerns.
Community members stepped forward to support the teachers in the complaints against the push to learn about the Muslim faith. Some locals even went as far as approaching the school board at a meeting on January 18th. According to local business owner Brenda Arthur “… I told them this is, to us, an egregious violation of the separation of church and state. They only give you five minutes, so I’ve got to give it my best shot.”
The issue with this type of religious class being pushed on local teachers even garnered national attention. There are many that fear that this kind of outreach does not allow teachers to freely practice their religion. A program like this has no legal place in a public school.
Mathew Staver, executive director and lead attorney with Liberty Counsel, addressed the legality of the invitations and the fact that the school board fully supported the mosque coming into the school According to Staver:
“I think this invitation crosses the line because it specifically indicates that the teachers are invited to come to the mosque with a Muslim association to learn about the religion of Islam, that’s the sole purpose of it, not only to learn about their culture but about the Islamic religion. It was authorized by the superintendent and the principals to be sent to all the teachers in at least three schools. It would be no different than a church sending out an invitation to come and learn about the Christian students and particularly their Christian faith.”