Fox News Explains the Dangers of Christianity in Public Schools

Liberals have spent a lot of time over the past few decades trying to explain to Conservative Christians the importance of the separation of church and state. Unfortunately, either from obstinance or ignorance, many Christians believe that not only should this constitutionally mandated separation not exist but that it is an attack on Christianity.

Luckily Fox News contributor, Todd Starnes, who has become the de facto standard bearer of Christian oppression with countless articles documenting the purported atrocities, recently published a piece that unwittingly acts as the quintessential argument for keeping Christianity out of public schools.

At issue is an assignment given to seventh grade students at Spring Hill Middle School in Maury County, Tennessee that involved writing out the five pillars of Islam. Despite the fact that this was part of a "World History and Geography: The Middle Ages to the Exploration of the Americas" covering the "Islamic World, 400 A.D/C.E. -- 1500s" with the purpose of having "Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, social, and religious structures of the civilizations", some parents believe this is a blatant attempt to indoctrinate their children and convert them to Islam.

The biggest complaint from parents seems to be that the first pillar of Islam, known as "Shahada", which states "There is no god but God (and) Muhammad is the messenger of God." runs counter to their Christian beliefs. Having said that, this is a history course and the five pillars is as much a part of the history of Islam as the Ten Commandments is a part of the history of Christianity. Forcing students to write or remember religious doctrine that is in opposition to their beliefs is either acceptable or it isn't. The fact that we are a majority Christian country is immaterial to the students' First Amendment rights.

Of course the situation is hardly unique to Islam. Students across the country learn a lot of history that doesn't line up with their religious beliefs. When children learn about Greek Mythology are the being indoctrinated? When kids are taught about the history of slavery it's not meant as an endorsement. The events leading up to WWII are clearly something every child should understand, but learning about Nazi's is never confused for approval of their actions.

The reality is that studying about other cultures and religions gives children a greater appreciation for what makes people different. Portraying such an education as brainwashing is embarrassingly phobic and closed minded.

Being forced to conform to someone else's religious norms has been an issue in public schools for a long time. While Christians have been more than happy to conflate the separation of church and state with oppression when Christian symbols are removed, this is one of the few times these same Christians have had to endure something even remotely close to what many non-Christians have experienced for decades.

For example, one parent complained that Christianity wasn't being given equal time stating "[The teacher] said they would not be covering it because Christianity is not in the school standards." The truth is, the Tennessee Department of Education course outline lists 9 different bullet points that discuss some aspect of Islam and 8 that include Christianity. Not only is Christianity in the state standards but it is covered at length in a number of different areas of the curriculum.

Beyond that it should be mentioned that the Tennessee state standards for 6th grade has zero references to Islam but devotes a section to describing "the origins and central features of Christianity" which include "the belief in Jesus as the Messiah and God's Son, the concept of resurrection, the concept of salvation, belief in the Old and New Testaments," and "the lives, teachings and contributions of Jesus and Paul". Not only is Christianity given more than its fair share of time in Tennessee's public education system, but students are required to acknowledge that Jesus is the son of God.

While trusting the word of a couple irate parents to argue that Christianity is under attack is obviously an embarrassing mistake by Starnes, it is hardly the worst part of his article. No, that distinction lies with his assertion that the cases of a public schools removing a photo of Jesus Christ and disallowing Christian hymns to be played by the school band are equivalent to learning about the history of Islam.

It's possible that Starnes isn't unaware that forcing students to learn about different cultures and religions is legal while forcing students to endure religious symbols or traditions that fall outside of the curriculum isn't. But it's far more likely that he wants to conflate the two so he can again claim persecution. Because if Starnes was being honest he would admit that many of the concerns from these Christian parents regarding the inclusion of Islamic tenants in public education are inconsequential compared to what many non-Christians have been fighting for years.

The fact that Starnes and many of his devotees are completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of demanding the inclusion of non-educational Christian images and rituals while simultaneously being outraged at the slightest presence of Islam tells you all you need to know about how honest they are about protecting religious freedom.