Excerpts from “Muslim prayers in school debated”
By Helen Gao, The San Diego Union-Tribune – 7/2/07
A San Diego public school has become part of a national debate over religion in schools ever since a substitute teacher publicly condemned an Arabic language program that gives Muslim students time for prayer during school hours.
Carver Elementary in Oak Park added Arabic to its curriculum in September when it suddenly absorbed more than 100 students from a defunct charter school that had served mostly Somali Muslims.
After subbing at Carver [Elementary in Oak Park], the teacher claimed that religious indoctrination was taking place and said that a school aide had led Muslim students in prayer.
Critics continue to assail Carver for providing a 15-minute break in the classroom each afternoon to accommodate Muslim students who wish to pray. (Those who don’t pray can read or write during that non-instructional time.)
Some say the arrangement at Carver constitutes special treatment for a specific religion that is not extended to other faiths. Others believe it crosses the line into endorsement of religion.
Islam requires its adherents to pray at prescribed times, one of which falls during the school day.
Among the critics is Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel with the nonprofit, Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center devoted to “defending the religious freedom of Christians.”
He said he’s “against double standards being used,” such as when there is a specific period for Muslim students to pray and not a similar arrangement for Christians.
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