Schools are Teaching Islam but Banning Christianity: These Jersey Moms Want to Find Out Why

Nancy Gayer and Libby Hilsenrath are on a mission to change the way their sons' school teaches religion.

By Nancy Flory Published on February 23, 2017

There’s a new trend in public school curriculum that, chances are, you know nothing about. If you think your kids are getting an unbiased education and that all forms of religion are left out of the classroom, think again. Your child, like many others, may be subjected to Islamic indoctrination. That’s exactly what’s happening in schools in New Jersey. But in one small town, two moms are fighting back.

‘No Bible in School’

It all started several years ago when Nancy Gayer’s middle-schooler put together a PowerPoint presentation about giving winter hats and gloves to children who couldn’t afford them. One slide of the presentation had a Bible verse: “Caring for the poor is lending to the Lord, and you will be well repaid.” (Prov. 19:17) The slide took all of 1.3 seconds, but that was enough to alarm the teacher, Nancy told The Stream in an interview. The teacher told the boy that his slide show belonged in Sunday School, not the classroom, and refused to allow it to be presented it to the class. She told Nancy that it was “proselytizing.” So Nancy went to the vice-principal. “He said, ‘We can’t show this in school, it’s not allowed.'” The superintendent said the same thing, that it was not allowed and mentioned that he would obtain legal advice and/or counsel. Nancy said she was intimidated, considered it a threat, and decided that she would let it go. 

Fast-forward to this year.

The moms were disturbed to learn that the boys were studying the doctrines and tenets of the Muslim faith, including the five pillars of Islam.

Familiarization of the Five Pillars as Homework

Nancy Gayer and Libby Hilsenrath’s boys are in the seventh grade at the same school. The moms were disturbed to learn that the boys were studying the doctrines and tenets of the Muslim faith, including the five pillars of Islam. One assignment required them to complete the sentence, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger.” Further, the class curriculum included a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation about Islam, and two videos, one of which was a cartoon character teaching a non-Muslim friend about Islam, the second of which taught the five pillars of Islam.

“We are not anti-religion, we are not anti-Muslim, we are not bigoted people by any means,” said Nancy. “We care about people. But we care about the truth.” The moms just want equality in teaching religions. “If Islam is taught, teach Christianity, too. [My son] couldn’t even put a Bible verse in his presentation that was student-initiated. So they’re not only teaching Islam, but they’re not allowing students to be free in expressing their religious beliefs,” one said.

The school is also flouting its own written rules. Chatham School District Policy 2270 states in part:

The Board of Education directs that no religious belief or nonbelief shall be promoted in the regular curriculum or in district-sponsored courses, programs or activities, and none shall be disparaged.

“Theyโ€™re not only teaching Islam, but theyโ€™re not allowing students to be free in expressing their religious beliefs,” said Nancy. 

The Core Curriculum of New Jersey Includes … Islam?

Libby addressed this concern at the Board of Education meeting, asking that the Board, the Policy Committee and the Curriculum Committee review this course to determine whether it was in line with school policy. She received a dismissive response by Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa:

I don’t think we’ll be eliminating the instruction in Islam because it is part of the New Jersey curriculum core content standards to teach students about the various religions of the world.

At the meeting, Dr. LaSusa offered to meet with anyone if they had more questions. But that didn’t happen. In fact, when the two moms requested a meeting with LaSusa the day after the Board of Education meeting, he responded that he would not be meeting with the women as their meeting would not be “productive.”

On Monday, February 20, 2017, the women were invited as guests to the Tucker Carlson Tonight show to discuss the issues with the school’s curriculum.

When the producer of the Tucker Carlson Tonight show called the superintendent, he responded, in part: 

The lessons on Islam that some of our parents have raised as an issue comprise approximately three days out of a 180-day school year. Further, in the scope of our full curriculum, content addressing Islam does not represent a disproportionate amount of time or resources.  

“[My] question to him would be, ‘Do you spend three days on Christianity? Do you spend three days on Judaism? Do you spend three days on Buddhism? Do you spend three days on Taoism? Do you spend three days on Sikhism?'” said Libby. “It’s an absolutely backwards argument.”

Libby tried to find out from the K-12 Director of Social Studies curriculum prior to the February 6, 2017 Board of Education meeting whether other religions beside Islam were covered. She got a response that she considers, while factual, disingenuous. “I asked him, ‘Do you teach the Bible in your curriculum?’ and he said, ‘No, but here’s where they will encounter Christianity and Judaism,’ and he listed a bunch of things. The one that I remember off the top of my head is during one of the classes they watch a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., where he quotes Isaiah. His answers were absurd to me.”

A Vicious Backlash Against Parents

The women expected to get backlash from the school district. They didn’t expect the type of response they’ve received from the community. The women agree that of all the responses they’ve had, 99 percent has been negative. “They are mean, they are calling us names, they are calling us bigots and idiots,” said Nancy. “They have been so unkind because of their lack of knowledge about what we said and a misunderstanding of our message.”

“The reception that we got from the Board of Education and from the superintendent in particular was dismissive,” said Libby. “And then, the reception we got from the public was just awful. And these are parents, these are adults. The same adults who say, ‘what example are you setting for your kids?’ Well, what example are you setting for your kids posting this horrible, horrible things on Facebook? What kind of example is that?”

How Long Will Public Schools Teach Islam?

For now, the women aren’t taking this to court, although that action hasn’t been ruled out. “Our plan is to go back to the next Board of Education meeting which is on March 6. We’ll ask the committees if they’re going to take it under consideration,” said Libby “…to hopefully affect change in the curriculum for the better.” Nancy added, “We’ve not been given the opportunity to address these things in a constructive, adult meeting. I think these are things that would benefit all students…. If they [the school board and principal] were more forthcoming, then the onus falls on the parent, ‘Okay, we put it out there and if you didn’t look at it, it’s on you.’ But it’s the opposite here.”

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