Tennessee Bill Aims To Keep Religion Out Of The Classroom Amid Fears Of Islamic Indoctrination

| by Michael Allen
World History Textbook coverWorld History Textbook cover

Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill written by Republican state Rep. Sheila Butt that would ban the teaching of all religions in public schools up to the 10th grade, except for references to religion that do not include "religious doctrine."

The bill states: "If the curriculum standards in grades prior to grades ten through twelve include a reference to a specific religion or the role and importance of a religion in history or geography, then the state board shall ensure that the reference does not amount to teaching any form of religious doctrine to the students," notes Mic. The bill made it to the state's Education Instruction and Programs committee during the week of Jan. 11.

Some parents have objected to their children learning about Islam as part of world history classes.

Lawmakers won't openly say that the bill is aimed at keeping Islam out of the schools.

However, Butt, who has written Christian books, told The Wall Street Journal via email that she proposed the law because of complaints from “constituents who realized that some religions were more heavily weighted in the standards and that doctrine was being taught to Junior High students.”

The bill is supported by Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination, a group in Sparta, Tennessee.

“These textbooks present a promotional, positive view of Islam,” Steve Gill, a spokesman for the group, told The Wall Street Journal. Gill added that the teaching of Islam as “a religion of peace and tolerance is just not accurate now or in history.”

Gill told Mic that the textbook "myWorld History and Geography: The Middle Ages to Exploration of the Americas" has 50 pages about Islam, but only "a handful" about Christianity.

"I'd rather us teach religion from a historical perspective accurately and honestly; if we can't do that because of the Islamic influence then we shouldn't teach religion at all," Gill added. "Do I want it to be that our only choices are to not teach anything about any religion or to teach about religion with an emphasis on and promotion of Islam? If that's the only choice, then not teaching anything is better than sacrificing truth and accuracy to advocate an Islamic agenda."

Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, countered: "How do you understand what happened in Iran if you don't understand the conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims? There are parts of history that are very much governed by religion."

Amundsen told The Wall Street Journal to expect more of these types of bills. 

“We will see a raft of it," she said. "It is going to be coming before local boards, state boards and legislatures.”

Sources: Mic, The Wall Street Journal / Photo Credit: Rainbow Resource Center/Product Image, WikiCommons