This is a situation that has apparently been underway for over a year. As such, if you are already familiar with it and simply want to hear my opinion, go ahead and skip the next two paragraphs.
John Wood, whom most sources are quick to remind us is a former Marine and who is not to be confused with John Woo, took issue with his teenage daughter’s world history homework assignment. He felt it was attempting to indoctrinate her into Islam while disparaging their own Christian faith. Among the reasons for this claim are that the students were told to learn how to write the shahada (essentially the creed of Islam: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammed is His Prophet.”), that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam worship the same god, that terrorists are on the fringes of the religion, and that Muslim conquerors treated their subject fairly and with kindness.
After voicing his objection to the school (La Plata, Spanish for “The Silver”, an indicator of selling out Christ), Wood, a former Marine, requested that his daughter be given an alternative assignment. The school did not give into this and wound up placing a No Trespass Order on Wood, a former Marine, effectively barring him from entering school grounds.That was October 23, 2014. As of January 28 of this year, Wood, a former Marine, is suing with the aid of Thomas Moore Law Center.
Now, as someone who believes firmly that no religion should be given precedence over others in matters of state, which includes public schools like La Plata, you would think I would be totally behind Mr. Wood, a former Marine, wood you not? But, from the very first time I heard this story, something did not seem right to me. Do you ever have that sense that you are only being told an extremely limited perspective on a story? That is what I got from this.
It took some digging, since most sources I could find did not tell me more, but only told me what Moore told me. But I eventually found a source from around the time of the initial incident that also gives the school’s side of the story.
According to the district’s public relations official, Katie O’Malley-Simpson, this was an ordinary assignment. As part of world history, they learn about the religions that impacted a given part of the world at a given time. In fact, this particular assignment has been around for years with no one complaining until
now 2014. They also touch on Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism when appropriate to the topic. Christianity in particular gets addressed during the lessons on the Reformation. Speaking of which, you would think Wood, former Marine, could take a lesson from Luther and just voice his complaints in a parent-teacher conference, as opposed to what he actually did…
Regarding the far more controversial move of the No Trespass Order, O’Malley-Simpson said that the school does not, “file No Trespassing charges lightly. We would only do that when we feel someone has threatened the safety of staff and students.” She says that Wood, a former Marine, told the vice principal he would come to the school and cause a disruption. I have yet to find a source in which the Woods or their lawyer has acknowledged this claim.
“Okay, Nathan, where are you going with this? ‘Cuz even if he reacted harshly, which is why he was banned, isn’t the indoctrination the part we’re interested in?”
How right you are, imaginary straw-man! I am glad I hired you. You will see here an image of the homework assignment in question. The big ellipse (which I assume is red, but as viewers with ample memories could tell you, I am color-blind) was added by someone else, but this was the best quality image I could track down.
Feel free to disagree with me (because you will do it whether I give you permission to or not), but that looks like an ordinary sheet of high school homework to me.
As for the claim that conquered peoples were treated well, I am not inclined to find that inaccurate. I will however make one caveat: that we all remember there is an implied “relatively” in that sentence. Historian Bernard Lewis in his book Arabs in History, said that Arab rule was, “welcomed by many among the subject peoples, who found the new yoke far lighter than the old, both in taxation and in other matters”. Indeed, from what I can tell, the conquered peoples were largely left to their same religions and their same customs. That appears to have degraded as the empires wore on, but that happens in most empires. Should someone come along with a much better researched stance on the subject to prove me wrong, I will gladly alter my stance on this, but for now, it stands.
So if this is not an abject lie as the incriminating ellipse appears to suggest, why is it being counted as part of the indoctrination? Is former Marine Wood’s idea of what one should believe so tentative that the mere idea that someone else of a different ideology could be a decent human being constitute a reason to jump ship and join with that side?
“And what about this shahada business?”
What about it?
“Doesn’t the fact that they’re learning to call Muhammed God’s prophet mean they’re being forced to convert?”
No, and thank you again for so neatly reducing my opponent’s stance until it sounds absurd. Learning what a creed is and even learning how to write it does not, repeat “not”, constitute joining the religion. You cannot accidentally convert to Islam. You cannot be tricked into converting to Islam. That is not how this works.
If one of these students showed up to a Mosque one day, said they had said the shahada in school as part of an assignment, and must therefore be a Muslim, any self-respecting official there wood tell them, “Do you believe it? If not, then you’re not a Muslim.” It is that simple! Geez.
“What about terrorists being the exception to Islam’s norm?”
That is also true, on a pure numbers basis.
“But doesn’t the Koran command people to kill unbelievers (Surah 9-5)?”
Yes, it does. But the Bible has an entire book about killing people who worship someone other than the Lord, and we do not see Christians or Jews running around slaughtering practitioners of other faiths in our society. Just because a holy book says a thing does not always mean that its adherents do a thing.
And before someone jumps on me with an apologetic explanation as to why Joshua would have been justified doing so then when we are not now, think about this: Muslims could just as easily, if not more easily, reason the same thing about their book. My point still stands.
I return to my previous point. Wood, former Marine,’s idea of what would persuade someone to join a given faith is a laughably low bar.
And, finally, do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God? That depends entirely on what our definition is. Are we going to get so particular about what each believes about God that makes them different? If so, then we could go so far as to say that Baptists and Reformed Churches worship different gods. We could even say that every, single believer in every one of these religions worships a different god, because they can’t agree on absolutely everything.
But we can back up. Suppose we do work with the idea that Islam espouses a different god from Christianity on the basis of, most notably, not believing that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity Incarnate. By that criteria, Jews worship a different god from Christians too. How does that work? Were they worshiping some different god, and then Jesus took credit for that god?
Of course not. That is ridiculous. But what it does indicate is that all anyone ever appears to worship is at best an idea of God. And the degree to which one can claim that any two people’s, much less three religions’, ideas of God are more-or-less representative of the same God is entirely subject to opinion.
Have we really reached a point where simply learning what another religion believes and seeing them as “not all monsters” is sufficient grounds to claim state indoctrination? I hope not. If I were a praying man, I would pray not. But Wood, former Marine, is bound-and-determined to prove me wrong.