COLUMBIA, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- Parents of middle school children in one Tennessee county are expressing outrage that their kids are learning the Five Pillars of Islam and being asked to write sentences such as "there is no god but Allah" – but not learning anything about Christianity.
The controversial lessons have taken place in a Maury County public school seventh grade world history class. School officials told The (Columbia) Daily Herald that the curriculum has been in place for more than three decades. That explanation, though, has not appeased concerned moms and dads.
The Five Pillars are foundational to Islam.
Brandee Porterfield, who has a child in the class, said she doesn't have a problem with the kids learning about Islam as long as Christianity is also taught. That chapter, she said, was skipped.
"I have big problem with that," she told the newspaper. "From a historical point of view, that's a lot of history these kids are missing. Also, for them to spend three weeks on Islam after having skipped Christianity, it seems to be that they are making a choice about which religion to discuss."
The first pillar of Islam includes the sentence, "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."
Said Joy Ellis, a parent of a seventh-grader, "To me, a Christian child should not be made to write that."
Porterfield added that she has "no problem with the teacher at all" but that "from a religion point of view, if the schools are going to be teaching religion in history, they need to teach them all equally"
Jan Hanvey, Maury County Public Schools middle school supervisor, said the chapter on Christianity will be taught later, as planned. She also defended the curriculum and the teaching of religion basics.
"It's part of history. If you don't talk about it, then you are leaving out the 'why,'" Hanvey told The Daily Herald. "Children need to know the 'why,' and they need to be able to learn and know where to find the facts, instead of going by what they hear or what they see on the Internet."
But Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said the school has gone too far.
"Maury County school officials refuse to acknowledge the blatant constitutional violations at issue here, merely stating that they 'covered some sensitive topics" that "caused some confusion,'" Sekulow wrote at ACLJ.org. "That's outrageous. The indoctrination of students with the precepts of converting to Islam and forcing them to recite 'Allah is the only God' aren't 'sensitive topics'; it's unconstitutional."
It's also not the only instance in the state or the nation of children being taught Islam, Sekulow added.
"Our client in neighboring Williamson County said that as part of the middle school class work on Islam – in addition to the [Five Pillars] worksheet his son was asked to fill out ... his son was forced to recite things in Arabic without even being told what it meant," Sekulow wrote.
Earlier this year, public school students in Madison, Wis., were told to "pretend you are Muslim," and students in Florida were asked to recite the Five Pillars of Islam "as a prayer" and to "make Islamic prayer rugs," Sekulow said.
"Imagine the outcry from the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), and other leftist and angry atheist organizations if a study guide stated, 'Jesus is the Son of God,' and forced children to recite the Lord's Prayer," Sekulow wrote. "These organizations would be beside themselves claiming indoctrination of our public school students."