Two New Jersey moms are under fire for pointing out a middle school curriculum that teaches students about Islam while ignoring Judaism and Christianity.
[Nancy] Gayer pointed out that her son is being taught about the intricacies of the religion in a seventh grade class at Chatham Middle School, including being shown a video explaining the Five Pillars of Islam that featured lines like “Allah is the creator of everything, the one true God.”:
“In my opinion, I call this proselytizing, for by definition of this word it means convert or attempt to convert from one religion, belief or opinion to another,” Gayers said.
Another mother, Libby Hilsenrath, echoed Gayers’ sentiments, pointing out that the seventh grade class went into detail about the various aspects of Islam, but did not teach Judaism and Christianity. She also brought forth further course material that could be seen as proselytizing for Islam, which included a video providing an introduction to Islam that quoted excerpts from the Koran such as “And they say: Be Jews and Christians, then ye will be rightly guided. Say (unto them, O Muhammed) Nay, but (we follow) the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolators” and “Lo, we have sent thee (O Muhammed) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and warner.”
Can you imagine a public school curriculum featuring Jesus’ words in John 14: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”? Certainly not in this school district, because Gayer pointed out that when her son referenced a Bible verse in a presentation, he was told that the “belongs in Sunday school, not in the classroom.” The superintendent also told Gayer at the time that the district’s policies prevent proselytizing.
After Gayer and Hilsenrath appeared before the school board, a resident wrote a letter to the editor of the local website Tap Into Chatham, labeling the moms’ concerns as “at worst veiled bigotry and at best sad and ignorant.”
Other residents tore into Gayer and Hilsenrath on the Tap Into Chatham Facebook page, according to a letter that the moms issued to the press:
“What’s on the agenda for next time I wonder. Book burning perhaps?” – Catherine O’Mara-Farrugia.
“This is the mindset that has challenged the USA from having been the greatest country to one where narrow minded, xenophobic bigots are now getting way to[sic] much coverage – on a national and local level” – Tony Britt
“Be careful Chatham, your xenophobia is showing.” – Lisa Cappabianca
“It is really sad that some people in our community seem to be not open to learning about other cultures, religions and people.” – Jessica Romeo
“What I’m seeing is that some people think this is a curriculum issue but to me this looks like xenophobia.” – Ursula von Rydingsvard
“There are kids being bullied over their non-Christian religious beliefs in Chatham schools.” – Melissa Cavallone (When Ms. Cavallone was pressed for the details on this, she responded, “It’s second hand/hearsay coming from me, though.”)
The moms feel that they’re not alone in this fight, however, as the support they have received proves:
Since the controversy, Hilsenrath and Gayer said they have received numerous phone calls and emails in support of their position, and they will continue to fight the good fight, and, if they find themselves shut out by the District, they will be forced to take their case to the next level.
Clearly the school system in Chatham has failed to understand that, though it is important to teach kids about the religions and belief systems of the world, to heavily emphasize one religion at the expense of other important faiths is the true bigotry on display here. And that’s sad.