“Allah is God”, or so some second-graders were taught to sing in an Indiana public school. Staff justified it as an attempt to teach inclusiveness during the holiday season. After a protest, the phrase was removed from the students’ performance. But the damage was done. The fire was lit and continues to burn.
This takes me back to my days in the schoolhouse as a principal. We usually had student performances in December, often with a slant toward Christmas. Yet most programs also included references to other December holidays, promoting what educators call “diversity”. People justified our school’s Christmas “slant” without much complaint, due to the make-up of the student body. Most families in our school celebrated Christmas in some form, regardless of their faith practices.
Surely we could say the same about our country – there is a slant. Inarguably, the majority of homes across America celebrate some aspect of Christmas, whether religious or secular. And there is a difference in the two. Many Americans welcome Santa and his reindeer, but prefer the historical nativity scene to stay in their neighbor’s yard. Some incorporate both and some neither. But more houses on the block portray Christmas than not.
Last weekend, my husband and I took our traditional drive to look at neighborhood Christmas lights and noticed some large, lighted menorahs along the way. Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah has no secular version. It’s a purely religious holiday celebrated by the Jewish people. Kwanza, on the other hand, is not religious in origin, but ethnic. We live in a free country, and we have the freedom to celebrate whatever holidays we choose.
But here’s a fact we all must embrace: In our free schools, freedom must be established, not religion. Public schools are operated by the government and therefore must remain neutral to religion. At my old school, I could not hang a cross on the door and say “All who enter must proclaim Christ as Savior.” Nor could any public school force students to bow to Allah and proclaim him as their god. Yet that is exactly what the Indiana school attempted to do by forcing students to sing such declaratory words. There is a difference in recognizing the declarations that a people group makes, and making the declarations yourself.
Shariq Siddiqui, Executive Director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana told the Indianapolis Star, “Schools are a place where we should learn more about each other rather than exclude each other based on stereotypes and misconceptions.” He is correct that schools are a place to learn about each other. But learning about each other must never mandate worshipping like each other.
Some in Indiana were primarily concerned that Allah was mentioned in the program, but Jesus was not. Micah Clark, Executive Director of the Indiana AFA, told Fox News Radio, “I wouldn’t have had a problem if it had been equal to all faiths.” This concerns me. Is our primary concern that Jesus get equal time, or that the allegiance of our children’s hearts is reserved for our Savior? Do we really want our Christian children singing praises to Allah in any context? I pray not.
Suggestions for public school programming during the Christmas season:
1. Do not call your program a Christmas program unless you are willing to have Ramadan and Hanukkah programs, too (among others). As much as Christians hate to hear this, public schools should have holiday programs. Certainly we need purely Christmas programs to reach the world for Christ, but the public schoolhouse is not the place.
2. Remember, public schools are in the education business, not the spiritual development business. They should educate students on the reality of world religions when appropriate in the state’s curriculum – at the appropriate grade level, in the appropriate way, and at the appropriate time of the school year.
3. Because students are to be educated, school programs should be educational in nature, including narratives and songs that inform of religious beliefs and cultural customs, (as appropriate to the grade level curriculum), rather than proclaim such beliefs and customs as factual or acceptable. (i.e. “Allah is God.”)
It is fine to teach all students that Muslims celebrate Ramadan, and to explain some of their customs. It is not fine to force all students to celebrate Ramadan by offering praise to Allah. Likewise, it is acceptable to teach all students that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth, providing the religious, historical context for Christmas. But it is not acceptable to force all students to sing praises to Jesus.
There is a difference in teaching for understanding and teaching for acceptance. This is a major distinction that must be highlighted in public schools to protect the minds of students from indoctrination, resulting in confusion over divine truth and adoption of the liberal left’s agenda. Likewise, we must honor this distinction, too. We mustn’t venture so far to the right that we lose sight of it. Let’s remain true to God’s Word and true to the laws of our free country established in His name.