A Double Standard About the Five Pillars

Yet another school has been called out for displaying blatantly religious material in their halls, and have been forced to temporarily take them down by those who were fed up with religion being forced down the throats of our young, impressionable students!  Another step forward for secularism in America!!

Heh, just kidding.  Apparently an online collection of jibbering lunatics got sand in their collective skivvies over a picture of the Five Pillars of Islam on a bulletin board in Wichita’s Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School.

The “offending” display.

A photograph of the bulletin board, reportedly taken on the first day of school Wednesday, was posted over the weekend on a Facebook page titled “Prepare to Take America Back.” It has since been shared on several conservative blogs.

“Students at Minneha Core Knowledge Elementary School in Wichata (sic) Kansas were met with this their first day of school,” a caption under the photo said. “This is a school that banned all forms of Christian prayer. … This can not stand.”

First, to get things cleared up, this is a school that has in no way whatsoever “banned all forms of Christian prayer”.  Children are allowed to pray, privately, as long as they don’t disrupt class.  Get over yourselves.

Second … when I was reading this for the first time, what seemed odd was that we’re talking about a religious display in a school that doesn’t involve the Ten Commandments or a picture of Nordic Jesus riding a dinosaur in the Garden of Eden.  If there’s a supposed controversy about anything on the walls about a religion other than Christianity, my first reaction is to not jump to too many conclusions until I hear the rest of the story.

Smart move.

The district issued a statement Monday responding to concerns about the bulletin board.

“Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet students cover the five major religions of the world – Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam – as part of their Core Knowledge magnet curriculum,” the statement said.

“The students study civilizations throughout time, throughout the world, and cover religion with a focus on the history and geography in the development of civilizations.

“The bulletin board that originally caused the concern does represent the 5 Pillars of Islam – in a historical context of their studies. There is also a painting of the Last Supper hanging in the school as part of the study of art and the Renaissance period. The students at Minneha have received these lessons for years as part of their Core Knowledge curriculum.”

“The purpose is not to explore the matters of theology, but to understand the place of religion and religious ideas in history,” the district statement said. “The Core Knowledge goal is to familiarize, not proselytize; to be descriptive, not prescriptive.”

In other words, this school is one of the first I’ve seen in the news recently that is treating religion in a way that is completely appropriate and in accordance with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  So, naturally, they’re being forced to respond by conservatives who couldn’t be bothered to learn anything more about the situation after they saw the word “Islam”.  Obviously, these same people don’t care about the imagery of the remaining religions all over the school, especially if it involves Christianity since clearly it “belongs” there regardless of the circumstances.

The images went viral so quickly that it actually got the attention of state representative Dennis Hadke, who was predictably “appalled” at the notion that these kids weren’t told the “whole truth” about what they were studying.


State Rep. Dennis Hedke, R-Wichita, said he was “appalled” when he first heard of the display. He said the way the school teaches about Islam glosses over some of the more unsavory aspects of the religion, such as Jihad and the annihilation of Israel.

“If you’re going to talk about Islam and make it sound like it’s another one of those religions that needs to be understood and contemplated by mankind, there’s a serious misunderstanding,” Hedke said.

First of all, I think Islam desperately does need to be understood … especially because of the violent nature of many of the cultures who have adopted it and the influence it has in such a large and relatively un- (or under-) developed part of the world.  I think that a greater understanding of that which drives those we perceive as our current “enemies” might give us valuable insight into how to effectively engage them … since our current approach of thumbing our noses at them and calling them terrorist savages clearly isn’t working out too well for us.

No mention, of course, on the unsavory aspects of the other religions … say the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials, and the child abuse scandals of Christianity, the Buddhist killing of Muslims in Burma or its adoption by the Japanese during the Second World War, or the Israelites’ utter genocide of absolutely anyone who wasn’t them back in ancient times.  I’m sure Dennis was going to mention all of these things, but just ran out of time.

Additionally, I think there’s a serious misunderstanding if he thinks that a bunch of 6-10 year old kids really need to get into the violent aspects of any of these religions as part of a high-level introduction to comparative religion.  There’s plenty of time for going into the ways it’s been used to kill, oppress, and subjugate when they get older.

The school said they’re going to put the displays back up when they cover the related coursework.  Personally, I think they should put the display back up immediately.  They are well within the law to do so, and would easily win any court case that attempted to challenge them.  My concern, however, is that this is one of the last schools of its kind in the district because of cost-cutting measures.  Non-issues like these (nontroversies?) are exactly the things that have the potential to eliminate their funding for good if enough lawmakers like Dennis seized an easy opportunity to throw red meat at the more ignorant and paranoid elements of their otherwise seemingly normal constituency.

This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Profiles in Fundamentalism, Religion and Public Life, Religion in the News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Double Standard About the Five Pillars

  1. You covered pretty much every counter I would have had. We need to teach our kids about all religious thought, especially Islam, and I think this school has a good approach. The parents should sit in on class with their kids. Too many adults know nothing about world religions and their histories (especially xtians). Or maybe it’s just that too many adults want their kids to ONLY learn about their family religion.

    These kids are learning the “history of ideas” (my degree), and the way the school is presenting this info doesn’t seem to favor one religion over another. Unfortunately, the parents and politicians always come along to f*** something up.

  2. Leave it to the politicians to really screw things over. They must take classes in how to stir up unrest and dis-ease over “nontroversies” (great word! Can I keep it?), to keep our minds off of the real problems facing us today, that they are either powerless or unwilling to do anything about. We need to fire all of our politicians and bring in a citizen government again, like it was supposed to be. We may not be any wiser than our politicians, but with government service being a brief stint before having to go back to our ‘day jobs’, we at least won’t be compromised by fear of losing our positions in government.

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