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School District Asks Teachers To Bless Muslim Students and Address Them in Arabic: Report

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As the left likes to constantly remind everybody, there is generally a separation of church and state in this country.

That means the government and public institutions aren’t supposed to overtly endorse any one religion over another.

While those on the left seem to take glee in enforcing that against any and all aspects of the Christian religion, they tend to look away from — or even subtly encourage — explicit endorsements of Islam, as was apparently revealed recently in a Washington state school district.

Fox News reported that a district in the Seattle area was under threat of a lawsuit from a religious liberty organization for reportedly instructing teachers to grant preferential treatment to Muslim students during the month of Ramadan, including using Arabic phrases in greeting such students during the Islamic holy month.

The complaint came from the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which has accused the Dieringer School District of essentially adopting recommendations that had been put forward by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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The guidelines produced by CAIR stipulated that teachers should take extra care to monitor Muslim students fasting during Ramadan and suggested that no tests be scheduled on the Islamic holidays of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

Furthermore, the guidelines also encouraged teachers to use phrases like “Ramadan Mubarak” — or “Happy Ramadan” — and “Ramadan Kareem” — or “Have a generous Ramadan” — instead of other greetings for Muslim students.

One can only wonder how CAIR or the teachers would feel if the district instructed teachers to greet Catholic students with Latin phrases during the Holy week before Easter or use Hebrew greetings for Jewish students around Judaic holy days, all else being equal.

That was the basis of the complaint put forward by the FCDF’s executive director, Daniel Piedra, who said, “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.”

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“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,” he added.

Piedra and the defense fund further noted that the district superintendent, Judy Martinson, had essentially “blindly” adopted the guidelines set by CAIR as official district policy.

Were the policy to be completely voluntary with no official stance from the district, it probably wouldn’t even be an issue for teachers to greet Muslim students in Arabic or grant them special accommodations out of respect for their religious holidays.

However, issuing the guidelines as official district policy changes things.

It gives the appearance that Martinson “acted under color of state law to create an official policy that has a primary effect of advancing religion. The Ramadan Policy, in both adoption and implementation, plainly imposes liability on the District under the United States and Washington Constitutions.”

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Fox requested comment from Martinson but received no response.

Instead, she issued a statement on Tuesday to members of the district which read, “The Dieringer School District has not and would not violate the First Amendment by endorsing any religious observations. Be assured that we respect the personal beliefs of you and your family.”

As for CAIR and the organization’s national communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, he blamed the push-back received by the district on “growing Islamophobia.”

He further suggested that school districts recognizing Islamic holidays was merely part of living in a pluralistic society in which a “wide variety of holidays celebrated by students of different faiths and backgrounds” are included.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The district appears to be going above and beyond simply recognizing and respecting the Islamic holidays, going out of its way to grant preferential treatment to Muslim students that wouldn’t otherwise be afforded — at least not as district policy — for Christian or Jewish students with regard to the holidays of their own religious faiths.

If the district merely used the timing of Ramadan as a backdrop to provide secularized information to students about the religious holiday and traditions, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Instead, the district seems to have placed Islam above other religions, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

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Ben Marquis is a writer who identifies as a constitutional conservative/libertarian. He has written about current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. His focus is on protecting the First and Second Amendments.
Ben Marquis has written on current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. He reads voraciously and writes about the news of the day from a conservative-libertarian perspective. He is an advocate for a more constitutional government and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, which protects the rest of our natural rights. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the love of his life as well as four dogs and four cats.
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