9th Circuit backs district in dispute over Muslim role-playing

By The Associated Press
11.21.05

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit brought by parents of two Christian seventh-graders who accused a Contra Costa County school of unconstitutionally indoctrinating them with Islam.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Byron Unified School District was educating the students about Islam in role-playing sessions in which students recited Muslim names and prayers in a 2001 history class, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Nov. 18.

The Excelsior School students had accused the district of endorsing religion.

The students were also encouraged to go without candy or television for a day to understand what it is like to fast during Ramadan. Children were also given an opportunity to critique the Muslim culture as part of a final exam.

A federal judge in 2003 said the class was instructional only and no religious exercises were performed, a claim upheld by the appeals court in its Nov. 17 ruling in Eklund v. Byron Unified School District.

The panel found that the activities weren't overt religious exercises and didn't violate the establishment clause.

The students' parents said they planned to ask the appellate panel to reconsider.