Politics

'Anti-Muslim Bigotry': Tennessee Lawmaker Slammed For Bill To Cut Religion From Middle School Curriculum

| by Sean Kelly
sheila buttsheila butt

A GOP lawmaker in Tennessee proposed a bill that would ban schools from teaching religious studies earlier than 10th grade following complaints from parents about lessons relating to Islam. 

The bill, proposed by Republican state Rep. Sheila Butt of Tennessee, would impose a delay on the teaching of “religious doctrine” until grades 10, 11 and 12, The Tennessean reported.

“I think that probably the teaching that is going on right now in seventh, eighth grade is not age-appropriate,” Butt told The Tennessean on Oct. 9.

Students in Tennessee middle schools reportedly learn about world religions in history class, and the teachings include the Five Pillars of Islam.

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While Butt didn’t specifically refer to Islam in her legislation, she remained insistent that students aren’t ready for religious studies before a certain age.

“They are not able to discern a lot of times whether it's indoctrination or whether they’re learning about what a religion teaches,” she said. 

Many teachers and educational officials throughout the state disagreed with Butt’s legislation, including social studies teacher Kyle Alexander. Alexander argued that religious studies can provide historical context for young people.

“The reality is the Muslim world brought us algebra, 'One Thousand and One Nights,' and some can argue it helped bring about the Renaissance,” he said. “There is a lot of influence that that part of the world had on world history."

The Council on American Islamic Relations released a statement criticizing Butt and her legislation.

“Islamophobes like Rep. Butt fail to recognize that there is a big difference between teaching students about religion as an important part of world history and promoting particular religious beliefs,” the group said in a statement on Oct. 12, according to Raw Story.

“The education of children in Tennessee should not be delayed because of anti-Muslim bigotry," the group added.

The bill is expected to spark further discussion when the legislative session begins again in January.

Sources: Huffington Post, Raw Story, The Tennessean, Sheila Butt's bill / Photo credit: rawstory.com, Schplook/Flickr