Seattle-area district school board instructs teachers to give Islamic blessings
SEATTLE, Washington, May 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― As Ramadan began, a public school board urged teachers to assist Muslim pupils in adhering to the annual Muslim fast.
According to the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), Dieringer School District in Washington state has asked teachers to follow guidelines set by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) about Muslim pupils’ religious practices during school hours.
“In March, CAIR submitted an ‘Informative Letter on Upcoming Islamic Holidays and Religious Accommodations’ to Superintendent Judy Martinson,” the FCDF reported.
“Martinson enacted the letter as official district policy when she distributed the letter to school principals, who in turn circulated the letter to all teachers and staff.”
CAIR lawyer Amanda Misasi had asked that teachers not schedule “tests or important assignments” on two Muslim holy days, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, that these holidays be added to school calendars, that fasting students be allowed to spend the lunch period in the library, and that teachers welcome Muslim students to the classroom during Ramadan by wishing them “Ramadan Mubarak” (i.e. “Have a blessed celebration”) or “Ramadan Kareem” (i.e. “May Ramadan be generous to you”).
Misasi also requested facilities for in-school prayer.
“In addition to supporting Muslim students during Ramadan, you can also support Muslim students in your school by accommodating their need for prayer year-round,” she wrote. “One or two of which will typically occur during school hours, depending on the time of year.”
Daniel Piedra, FCDF’s executive director, believes that the instruction to bless Muslim students is a violation of the First Amendment.
“By urging teachers to bless Muslim students in Arabic, the District is running roughshod over the First Amendment’s mandate of government neutrality toward religion,” he wrote.
“A school district would never order teachers to ‘welcome’ Catholic students during Easter with ‘He is risen, alleluia’! Singling out Muslim students for special treatment is blatantly unconstitutional.”
Contacted by a concerned parent, FCDF sent a letter to Martinson saying several of CAIR’s suggestions “implicate serious constitutional questions.” Creating an official “Ramadan Policy” has a “primary effect of advancing religion,” it said.
Quoting the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, FCDF reminded Martinson that a public school “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. … ”
“The Establishment Clause prohibits schools from singling out one religious sect for preferential treatment; the Free Exercise Clause forbids schools from burdening a student’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” the organization explained.
“The tension between these two prohibitions, as well as the sensitive First Amendment concerns in public schools, has created significant confusion about what educators may and may not do.”
Educators cannot give impressionable children the idea that the school promotes one religion over another, the organization reminded the superintendent.
“School officials must ensure that no policy or practice ‘conveys a message that a particular religion, or a particular religious belief,’ is ‘favored’, ‘preferred’, or ‘promoted’ over other beliefs,’” FCDF wrote.
“Moreover, families condition their trust on public schools to educate their children ‘on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.’”
While objecting with relative mildness to some of CAIR’s requests, FCDF strongly critiqued the idea that teachers should greet Muslim students with “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem”
“This recommendation exposes the district to serious government liability under the First Amendment,” the group wrote.
“Exchanging Islamic greetings with Muslim students impermissibly advances and promotes a religious message,” it explained.
“In cases involving state participation in religious activity, a relevant question is whether an objective observer — here, a non-Muslim student — would perceive the Ramadan Policy’s encouragement of religious greetings as a state endorsement of prayer in public schools.”
FCDF is also concerned by CAIR’s history of anti-Semitism.
“This case is yet another attempt by CAIR to infiltrate uninformed school districts so it can advance its subversive agenda,” wrote Daniel Piedra.
“CAIR must not be allowed to indoctrinate impressionable schoolchildren under the guise of ‘diversity’ and ‘cultural awareness.’ FCDF is committed to keeping CAIR out of our America’s public schools.”
FCDF indicated that it would begin legal proceedings against the school board if it did not withdraw its “Ramadan policy.”