Brandee Porterfield, Steve Doocy (Credit: Fox News)

Moral panic on "Fox & Friends": Tennessee schools are actively indoctrinating 7th graders into Islam

An assignment asking students to remember 5 Pillars of Islam amounts to the "state sponsoring religions in schools"


Scott Eric Kaufman
September 8, 2015 7:23PM (UTC)

On "Fox & Friends" Tuesday morning, concerned parent Brandee Portfield spoke to co-host Steve Doocy about an assignment her seventh-grade daughter had to complete in a world history class that required her to write the words "Allah is the only God" and "Muhammad is his prophet," which to her "seems like it's indoctrination."

Why it seemed like that to Porterfield is more than a little perplexing, given that early in the interview, she provided the context for her daughter having to write those words. "They did this assignment where they wrote out the Five Pillars of Islam," she said, "including having the children learn and write the Shahada, which is the Islamic conversion creed."

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Porterfield further complained that the schools are not treating Christianity or Judaism in similar detail -- mostly likely because they assume students are aware of the tenets of these faiths. "They don't study any other religions to this extent," she said. "It is the state sponsoring religion in schools. They're not going over anything else. For the students to have to memorize this prayer, it does seem like it's indoctrination."

Given that the central tenets of Christianity won't be studied at great length -- which would be a waste of class-time, the equivalent of teaching literate seventh-graders the alphabet song -- the only real issue here is the insistence of equal time. So even though students live every day in a Christian culture in which symbols of Christianity cannot be avoided and invocations of Jesus' name are commonplace, if they're not present in the classroom in equal measure, the school is "indoctrinating" students into other faiths.

Which, given the world history schedule Porterfield consulted, would mean that Tennessee will be "indoctrinating" students into Hinduism and Buddhism in the coming months. Of course, the school is doing nothing of the sort, as Maury County Director of Schools Chris Marczak made plain in a statement:

For this last section on the Islamic World this past week, our educators had students complete an assignment that had an emphasis on Islamic Faith. The assignment covered some sensitive topics that are of importance to Islamic religion and caused some confusion around whether we are asking students to believe in or simply understand the religion.

Marczak was being charitable when he said the assignment "caused some confusion around whether we're asking to students to believe," because the school clearly wasn't -- but claiming otherwise on "Fox & Friends" is one means of encouraging other schools to put the breaks on lesson plans that help students "simply understand the religion." What it says about the faithful that they believe their children must remain ignorant of other religions in order to remain true to their own, however, is another matter entirely.

Watch the entire interview below via Fox News.

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Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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