Mother Sues Teachers for Allegedly Assigning Islamic Propaganda to Seventh Grade Students

CHATHAM, N.J. — A mother in New Jersey has filed suit against her son’s school district, principal and several social studies teachers after one of his homework assignments for his seventh grade World Cultures and Geography class included watching two specific Islamic-themed videos that she found to be coercive propaganda.

Libby Hilsenrath and her son, who was 12 at the time, are challenging Chatham Middle School and the School District of the Chathams, as well as teachers Megan Keown and Christine Jakowski.

She states that in Jan. 2017, she reviewed her son’s homework assignments via an online portal, and noticed that he was to watch a video entitled “Introduction to Islam.” The five-minute video makes the assertions that “Allah is the one God,” “Muhammad is the last and final messenger of God,” and that the “beautiful Quran” is “guidance for the wise and sensible.”

It concludes with the statement, “May God help us all find the true faith, Islam. Ameen.”

View the video reportedly assigned to students here.

According to Hilsenrath, students were also asked to watch a video about the pillars of Islam, a cartoon in which a Muslim boy explains to his non-Muslim friend concepts such as the shahada (“There is no God except Allah and prophet Muhammad is his messenger”) and the Islamic requirement to pray five times a day. By the end of the video, the non-Muslim boy leaves with his Islamic friend to join him for prayer.

In her lawsuit, Hilsenrath expressed concern that the videos contained no disclaimers and that they were to be viewed at home without any supervision of a teacher.

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“Defendants’ curriculum also contained a worksheet requiring the children to engage in a fill-in-the-blank written profession of the shahada, the Islamic conversion creed and prayer,” the complaint also explained. “Further, this worksheet contain[ed] a hyperlink directing students to another webpage that explains to the students the ease with which they could convert to become a Muslim.”

Hilsenrath emailed the school superintendent about the matter and also attended a board meeting to outline her concerns, but the curriculum in general was not found to be problematic. The district said that the lessons were simply meant to educate children about “the world around them.”

“We build and strengthen awareness and understanding through exposure and engagement, and we do so in age-appropriate and instructionally purposeful ways that support and exceed the New Jersey student learning standards,” Superintendent Michael Lasusa said in a social media post following the meeting.

However, Hilsenrath said that she found the material to be coercive and not just simply educational.

“By including the conversion and pillars videos in the Chatham Middle School curriculum and on the school’s official online classroom, the videos bear the imprint of Defendants and Chatham Middle School, thus putting the school age children in the untenable position of enduring and actively participating in the videos,” the suit reads.

“Defendants, by initiating and requiring Islamic prayer, have forced a coercive decision on the Plaintiff and her son: either endure Islamic prayer and other promotion of Islam or forgo completing assignments, thereby risking a lower grade and other negative consequences,” it asserts.

Hilsenrath also contends that the videos have the appearance of government endorsement of religion as the matter was not presented neutrally.

She is seeking both an injunction and nominal damages.

Read the complaint in full here.

“What would people say if our public schools taught Christianity as the true faith?” asked Thomas More Law Center President Richard Thompson. “After watching this video, I can’t imagine any reasonable person saying this is not Islamic indoctrination. Chatham Middle School made a mockery of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”

An attorney for the district told the Daily Record that it “denies the allegations contained in the complaint and will vigorously defend the district, its Board of Education and staff from the allegations contained therein.”

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  • Lydia Church

    Where are all the atheists complaining now??? Where are they? Where is the outcry about ‘separation of church and state’ when you need it?! In that case, I won’t tell anyone at school, but in my social studies class tomorrow I will teach the following:
    1. Christianity is the one true faith.
    2. Jesus is the final Messenger of God, none came after Him.
    3. The Bible is the guidance to show us God’s ways.
    4. The main tenets of the gospel: Jesus is God incarnate, born of a virgin, died for our sins, rose again, and we must come to Him alone for salvation and to get to heaven.
    5. The prayer “May God help us find the one true faith: Christianity! Amen.”
    6. Show a video of a muslim converting to Christianity with the help of a Christian sharing the gospel.
    7. A link to go to for converting to Christianity with ‘ease.’
    8. A fill in the blank conversion to Christianity prayer, ending in Jesus’ name.
    9. Then we will all sing a hymn!

    In the name of ‘multi-culturalism’ of course! And don’t think I won’t, I have it ready already for such a time as this, and there are people of all faiths in my class. It should be fun, and no one can complain now because if they want to allow one religion, they must allow another or they are discriminating. And no one can hurt me because I’m retiring! : D

    • Lydia Church

      The title is: JESUS IS LORD!
      The Bible is beautiful, the koran is ugly, and mohammed was a false prophet inspired by the devil. I might not get that far tomorrow, but it depends on what the students ask me.

    • Croquet_Player

      Whoa, hold on. First of all, if what this article claims is true, then it is certainly a cause for concern. I will immediately notify the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and I encourage everyone who values the constitution to do likewise. We cannot post links here, but anyone can look up the FFRF and contact them about this. Secondly, if someone else broke the law, it does not give you the right to break the law too. I understand you are upset, but I beg you not to jeopardize your job and your pension by breaking the law. The far better thing is to pursue your rights, and your students’ rights, in a legal manner. What better lesson could your students have, than to see their brave teacher standing up against constitutional violations, instead of breaking the law herself? Please give this matter some thought. Although you and I may differ on religious matters, I will firmly stand with you in the rights of all students to be free from proselytization in school.

      • Chet

        “What better lesson could your students have”? The absolute best one possible, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord of all… And beside Him there is none other Saviour of men’s eternal souls… It’s called daring to be a Daniel, taking a stand for what’s right… And God Almighty will honor it for sure just as he honors all who honor his only begotten Son… Even when the doubters, skeptics and haters abound.

      • Drake

        Does ‘freedom from proselytization’ include freedom from secular humanistic atheism?

        • Croquet_Player

          Yes. No school official may promote, or discourage, secular humanism, or atheism. They must remain neutral.

    • Chet

      1000 thumbs up! And a great ol’ hymn that would fit right in with your message; Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus Ye Soldiers Of The Cross…

  • james blue

    Well you wanted religion taught in school.

    • Why do you hate God?

      • james blue

        Why do you troll?

        • Islam is not a religion. It is a geopolitical ideology using murder and torture to advance and conquer.

          • james blue

            And there my point is made.

          • and there your point is lost.

  • Chet

    May God Almighty bless you dear lady in your endeavor to stop this dirty little trick of the devil.