After raising the issue on Fox News Channel, a local mom is suing the School District of the Chathams, saying that the inclusion of Islam in the middle school history curriculum violates her child's First Amendment rights. In a lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of her son, a student at Chatham Middle School, Libby Hilsenrath alleged that the curriculum of the seventh-grade Word Geography and Cultures class — particularly a unit focused on the Middle East and North Africa — violates the First Amendment by promoting Islam while ignoring Christianity and Judaism. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment says that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
Mother and son are represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative non-profit law firm based in Michigan which says its mission is to "defend the religious freedom of Christians."
Superintendent Michael LaSusa, who is named as a defendant, did not respond to Patch's request for comment for this story. He previously provided the following statement to Patch:
As we have discussed before and as we stated at our March 6 Board of Education meeting, our school district meets and exceeds the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in all areas. As part of the school district's social studies program, students are exposed to the tenets of all major world religions, including Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and more.
In the suit, Hilsenrath says Christianity and Judiasm — which both originated in the Middle East — were not addressed during the unit, nor were any Eastern religions included in a unit about East and Southeast Asia.
LaSusa has previously said the school spends three days on the tenets of Islam and that it "receives a treatment similar to the other world religions."
Hilsenrath says the videos used in the unit "affirmatively sponsor the Islamic prayer directed at the school children" and that it is a " government endorsement of Islam." You can read the suit in full here.
Hilsenrath first raised the issue publicly alongside Nancy Gayer at a Board of Education meeting last February, before appearing on the Tucker Carlson Show. Gayer is not named as a plaintiff in the suit.
In addition to the school district and LaSusa, assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Karen Chase, supervisor of Social Studies Steven Maher and social studies teachers Megan Keown and Christine Jakowski are all named as defendants in the suit.