Dispatches from the Creation Wars

In perusing Jen Shroder’s hysterical website, I came across this little gem, which I debunked back in January. It claims that this alleged terrorist, Alamoudi, helped write the guidelines on religion in schools that allows schools to induct kids into Islam. It’s complete and utter nonsense, of course, and it’s based upon a Newsmax article entitled Jailed Terror Suspect Helped ACLU Draft Schools’ Anti-Christian Rules. Big shock that Shroder swallowed this bunch of nonsense hook, line and sinker, without bothering to check it for accuracy. Here is what I wrote in response to another blogger putting out the same ridiculous story in January:

In today’s Carnival of the Vanities is a link to an article on this blog about a strange church/state ruling. The facts of the case are that the Byron, California school district has a very controversial 3 week unit in their World History class for middle school students in which, in order to teach them about the history of Islam, they have students memorize and recite Muslim prayers from the Quran, simulate Muslim worship and even participate in some sort of Jihad game that simulates the Crusades. This naturally got some parents quite irate and they filed a lawsuit to stop it, assisted by the Thomas More Law Center. In December, the district court ruled for the school district and against the parents, saying that no reasonable student would view this as an endorsement of Islam.

For the record, I think that the judge in this case is dead wrong, and I expect the decision to be overturned either by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, or by the Supreme Court if it gets that far. Critics of the decision are right when they say that there is a double standard at work here, that if this teaching method were used to teach Christian history – memorizing bible verses and Christian prayers – it would (and should) be viewed as a blatant violation of the establishment clause. And so it is in this case. The ruling should be overturned and the school district should be forced to adhere to a long line of court rulings about what is and is not permissable in terms of teaching about religion in public schools. But that’s not really my point in writing this. For the moment, I’m more interested in the reactions to this ruling and the way it’s being spun, both by bloggers and in the media. While I agree with Richard, the author of the above cited blog, about the substance of the decision, his rhetoric is vastly overblown and the inferences he draws about the ACLU are little more than an extended non sequitur. He writes,

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why is the ACLU not creating a fuss here? This is right up their alley!” Well, you’d be right to ask that question – unless the ACLU had a hand in the formulation of those religion-in-the-classroom guidelines…

At that point, he links to a Newsmax article entitled “Jailed Terror Suspect Helped ACLU Draft Schools’ Anti-Christian Rules”. It says,

Abdurahman Alamoudi, an alleged senior terrorist operative, is behind bars on an 18-count indictment. But he can take satisfaction in the fact that a court in California has just given the green light to schools following ACLU’s religion-in-the-classroom guidelines, which he helped to formulate.

This is an absolutely perfect example of how folks with an axe to grind can completely distort reality by using half-truths and inferences that simply don’t add up. Richard clearly implies that the ACLU didn’t file a suit in this case because they “had a hand in the formulation of those religion-in-the-classroom guidelines”. And Newsmax goes even further than that, implying that these unnamed guidelines were in fact written partly by a Muslim terrorist! My goodness, everyone should be up in arms at that infernal ACLU, shouldn’t they? Well, no. Let’s compare this hysterically overblown reaction to reality…

First, did you notice that Richard doesn’t point out what those “religion-in-the-classroom guidelines” actually ARE? The direct implication, of course, is that the ACLU wrote guidelines for schools that mandated or allowed the absurd Byron schools class. Alas, that is completely false. You have to go to nearly the bottom of the Newsmax article to find out what those ACLU guidelines are, again with that big bad terrorist implication left in:

ACLU has confirmed to NewsMax that Alamoudi in fact represented American Muslim Council among the organizations that helped craft the ACLU document “Religion In The Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law.”

Well by golly, that document must be the one that the Byron schools were following that told them to make all those kids dress up like Muslims and declare jihad on us, right? Wrong again. The document in question is one that was written in 1995 and sent to every public school in the country. One of the primary motivations for sending this out was that too many school administrators had violated the rights of students to religious expression out of ignorance of the law. The document begins:

The Constitution permits much private religious activity in and about the public schools. Unfortunately, this aspect of constitutional law is not as well known as it should be. Some say that the Supreme Court has declared the public schools “religion-free zones” or that the law is so murky that school officials cannot know what is legally permissible. The former claim is simply wrong. And as to the latter, while there are some difficult issues, much has been settled. It is also unfortunately true that public school officials, due to their busy schedules, may not be as fully aware of this body of law as they could be. As a result, in some school districts some of these rights are not being observed.

The full document is available online and I urge you to read it – and I defy you to find anything in these guidelines that even remotely encourages or allows the kind of nonsense that was going on in Byron schools. In fact, I defy you to find anything in those guidelines that is the least bit unreasonable.

Quite simply, the implication that the ACLU was behind the situation in Byron is complete and utter nonsense, and the ridiculous attempt to tie them in with terrorists is beyond contempt. One man from one of 35 organizations that issued this perfectly reasonable document is now accused of taking money from a charity with ties to Libya. And this story leaps from that one fact to the clear implication that the ACLU is attempting to convert our kids to Islam with the help of a terrorist! It makes one wonder why Richard and Newsmax are not ranting about the Christian Legal Society (a very conservative Christian group – they filed briefs defending the Louisiana creationism law that the Supreme Court struck down in 1987) or the National Association of Evangelicals. After all, they were part of the 35 organizations that put this document together along with the American Muslim Council, one of whose members has been accused of being involved with a charity that was also involved with bad guys. I mean, as long as we’re drawing connections, why implicate only the ACLU? Because this is the snake oil they’re selling, and they wouldn’t get very far accusing the Anti-Defamation League or the National Council of Jewish Women or B’nai B’rith of helping a terrorist brainwash our kids for Islam, would they?

Richard ends his screed with this:

The most ridiculous part of this is that it is so obvious to everyone except the psychotic left that they are wrong.

No, Richard, the most ridiculous thing about it is that you didn’t take even 5 minutes to do a little research to see if what was in the Newsmax article was true, or to think about whether the inferences were logical. In short, this is one gigantic lie. Yes, the Byron school history class is a horrible idea and it should be stopped immediately. But everything after that fact is nothing more than hysterical rhetoric based on half-truths, innuendo and distortions. Those infernal “guidelines” that you and Newsmax ranted about have exactly nothing to do with the Byron schools situation, they weren’t written by a terrorist, and they are not, by any possible stretch of even the most deranged imagination, “anti-christian”.

Comments

  1. #1 Guitar Eddie
    August 9, 2004

    I read the “religion in the public schools guidelines” and, indeed found nothing unreasonable about them. I also found nothing in them promoting Islam or any other religion.

    I think people are just being irrational and way too quick to believe everything they hear, read, and see.

  2. #2 Les Lane
    August 9, 2004

    Another example of stupidity (expected from this source). Verification of ideology appears to be more important than verification of fact.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    August 9, 2004

    I read the “religion in the public schools guidelines” and, indeed found nothing unreasonable about them. I also found nothing in them promoting Islam or any other religion.

    The irony is that those guidelines were drawn up for the primary purpose of preventing schools from inadvertantly violating the free exercise rights of students. A lot of school administrators and teachers just don’t understand what the courts have actually ruled on issues like bible or prayer clubs, writing papers on religious subjects, distribution of literature or wearing religious clothing. Often times, they only know the inflated rhetoric of the right, who makes breathless declarations about the courts “declaring God illegal in school” or ruling that a child can’t wear a cross or can’t say grace before lunch, and so forth. The fact is that the courts have really done a pretty good job of striking a balance on those issues, and much more religious expression is allowed in schools by students than most people believe. So those guidelines were drawn up and sent to every public school in the country to help educate the administrators and teachers about what the courts have said on a wide range of free exercise and establishment clause issues dealing with public schools.

    And there’s not much in there for a reasonable person to object to. Of course a student can wear a cross or a yamulke to school; of course they can hand out religious pamphlets to their fellow students, or join their fellow students in prayer before they eat lunch, or before or after school starts, etc. As long as their activities do not disrupt class time, they are free to do those things, as they obviously should be. By educating the administrators and teachers, that set of guidelines was designed to protect the free exercise rights of students. It is quite ironic (not to mention idiotic) that folks like Shroder have tried to pretend it shows some agenda to violate those rights when the reality is precisely the opposite.

  4. #4 Aaron
    August 9, 2004

    I agree with what you say, but there is a valid question in there, though: Why isn’t the ACLU involved in this?

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    August 9, 2004

    I agree with what you say, but there is a valid question in there, though: Why isn’t the ACLU involved in this?

    Because the families went to the Thomas More Law Center instead. Contrary to popular belief, the ACLU doesn’t have free choice on which cases it takes. Plaintiffs have to ask the ACLU to represent them. But there are lots of situations where plaintiffs have taken cases to right wing legal organizations like the ACLJ or the Rutherford Institute and had the ACLU file briefs supporting their position. The Byron case in question just hit the appellate phase, so I don’t know who has filed briefs on what side of that one yet.

  6. #6 Bill Ware
    August 9, 2004

    Aaron,

    The ACLU nay sayers never give them credit when they support Christians in the cases they take. For example:

    DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today announced an out-of-court settlement between the Utica Community School District and a local student over the censorship of her 2001 yearbook entry. The student’s entry had been deleted from the yearbook because it contained a passage from the Bible.

    “While it is true that the Constitution forbids public schools to promote religion, schools must be careful not to suppress the private religious expression of students,” said ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg, who represented the student.

    As a result of the settlement:

    The district will place a sticker with Moler’s original entry in the copies of the yearbook on file with the school;

    The district has instructed the Stevenson High School yearbook staff not to censor students’ yearbook entries solely because they contain religious or political speech that others might find offensive;

    The district recently provided and will continue to provide in-service training and advice to school staff on free speech and religious freedom issues that arise in school;

    The district will write a letter of regret to Moler apologizing for the failure to include her entry in the yearbook.

  7. #7 Savagemutt
    August 10, 2004

    The Vigilare (sic?) weblog author has updated his post with the following:

    “Update: In the interest of fairness, you should read Ed Brayton’s reaction to this post. He disagrees with me. Strongly. And he’s welcome to disagree. He’s also welcome to the extra traffic he’ll now see.”

    Notice he doesn’t get the point. It’s not just that Ed disagrees with him. Its that the facts in his original post are objectively wrong. Sigh…must be nice to plod through life ignorant of anything that doesn’t fit through your ideological blinders.

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