National Association of Attorneys General
Curricular Objectives and the Public Schools: Current Events and the Teaching about Religion
Even though publicly-funded education is “not among the rights afforded explicit protection under our Federal Constitution” nor is there “any basis for saying it is implicitly so protected,”1 “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.”2 Public schools and the intrinsic role they play in advancing the interests of a state are also susceptible to competing, sometimes conflicting forces, and there are few issues that divide Americans more than religion. Evolution, the Pledge of Allegiance, Halloween, mascots, Bible clubs, the use of school facilities, the determination of curriculum, transportation, taxes, posting of the Ten Commandments, graduation exercises, Internet connections, distribution of religious materials, the posting or publishing of religious-oriented student works, the performance of religiously-themed works, immunizations, and similar issues have spawned their own legal histories.
Cataclysmic events often create rippling effects that course through state legislatures. Following World War I, some legislatures saw the root cause of the “War to End All Wars” stemming from factionalism on the European Continent, exacerbated by cultural, religious, and linguistic differences. One state determined that the best way “to promote civic development” was to “inhibit training and education of the immature in foreign tongues and ideals before they could learn English and acquire American ideals[.]”3 Foreign influences were inimical to achieving this end, the legislature believed, noting that “the foreign born population is very large, that certain communities commonly use foreign words, follow foreign leaders, move in a foreign atmosphere, and that the children are thereby hindered from becoming citizens of the most useful type and the public safety is imperiled.”4 The state passed a law that forbade the teaching of any subject in any language other than English. No modern foreign languages could be taught to any student until that student had completed the eighth grade. Meyer was convicted of teaching German to a 10-year-old student in a parochial school. The U.S. Supreme Court noted succinctly that “a desirable end cannot be promoted by prohibited means.”5
The Supreme Court did not disagree that the state may establish schools, require instruction to be in the English language, compel students to attend, and “prescribe a curriculum for institutions which it supports.”6While the legislative desire “to foster a homogenous people with American ideals…is easy to appreciate,” especially given the “[u]nfortunate experiences during the late war and aversion toward every characteristic of truculent adversaries,”7 there was no present emergency that would justify the state’s action and the “consequent infringement of rights long freely enjoyed.”8
The Court further commented:
Practically, education of the young is only possible in schools conducted by especially qualified persons who devote themselves thereto. The calling always has been regarded as useful and honorable, essential, indeed, to the public welfare. Mere knowledge of the German language cannot reasonably be regarded as harmful. Heretofore it has been commonly looked upon as helpful and desirable. Plaintiff in error taught this language in school as part of his occupation. His right thus to teach and the right of parents to engage him so to instruct their children, we think, are within the liberty of the [Fourteenth] Amendment.9
The Court, thus, concluded that the statute as applied was arbitrary and not reasonably related to any end within the state’s competency.10
But it isn’t just the legislatures that react to cataclysmic events, sometimes in unfortunate ways; public school constituents may also do so. Legislators affect statewide curriculum; parents attempt to affect local implementation. Under Meyer-Pierce principles,11 a parent has the right to determine how the parent’s child will be raised, and one of these choices would include where the child would be educated (such as in a public school, a private school, a parochial school).
The parent’s right, however, does not encompass “a fundamental constitutional right to dictate the curriculum at the public school to which they have chosen to send their children.”12
As a practical matter, public schools could not accommodate every parent’s disagreement with or demand for specific curricular content. One court noted the difficulty schools would face.
The number of potential lawsuits that could arise from the highly varied educational curricula throughout the nation might well be unlimited and unpredictable. Many school districts would undoubtedly prefer to “steer far” from any controversial book and instead substitute “safe” ones in order to reduce the possibility of civil liability and the expensive and time-consuming burdens of a lawsuit—even one having but a slight chance of success. In short, permitting lawsuits against school districts on the basis of the content of literary works to proceed past the complaint stage could have a significant chilling effect on a school district’s willingness to assign books with themes, characters, snippets of dialogue, or words that might offend the sensibilities of any number of persons or groups.13
If a school attempted to accommodate one parent, it might offend another, resulting in additional legal action. “It would clearly not be in the best interests of our public education system and its students to have such competing lawsuits become a part of our legal landscape.”14
Religion and Current Events
Although there is some misunderstanding or misconception about what the Supreme Court has determined regarding the teaching of religion in the public schools, the Court has never supported an outright ban. In School District of Abington Township v. Schempp,15 the Court noted that “it might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.” In a decision the year before, Justice Hugo L. Black observed in Engel v. Vitale: “The history of man is inseparable from the history of religion.”16
But this was before the cataclysmic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent hostilities that continue to this day.
It should not be a surprise that world history curricula will contain references to Islam, especially when discussing countries where Islam is the primary religion. It would likewise not be surprising to discuss the changing political and religious landscape as the Roman Empire declined and Christianity grew or to study the influences of Buddhism on China, Hinduism on India, and so on.
The events of 9/11 and thereafter, however, have resulted not in attempts by legislatures to restrict such references but by parents who object to their children being exposed to such discussions of religion—and of this particular religion.
A current dispute wending its way through the federal district court is Melissa Wood, et al. v. Board of Education of Charles County, et al.17 The parents of a high school girl sued the school district and certain of its personnel, asserting a host of violations, including violations of the Establishment Clause and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. This dispute began when the student was in an 11[th] grade World History class. Because there has yet to be a trial (the Sept. 30, 2016, decision denied the parents’ request for injunctive relief and granted in part the school district’s motion to dismiss), a full factual account has not been determined. It does appear that part of the student’s homework assignment dealt with “certain faith statements fundamental to the Islamic belief system,” an assignment with which the student’s parents took great exception. A subsequent telephone conversation between the father and school personnel resulted in a “no trespass” order being issued, which prevented him from attending events on campus. The parents alleged the World History course spent very little time discussing Christianity, the Bible, or other non-Islamic religious texts but provided considerable information and emphasis on Islamic matters. The parents and the student asserted this amounted to implementation of religious instruction that endorses Islam over Christianity.
The district court, in denying the request for injunctive relief, noted the student had graduated; thus, the need for injunctive relief is moot. However, the claim for monetary damages remains. The student’s free-speech claim also survived the school’s motion to dismiss. The complaint alleged the course required her to make a profession of faith. Under Barnette, the Supreme Court established a First Amendment right not to be compelled to speak. However, this does not support the retaliation claim based on the student’s failure to turn in her homework assignments.
Even assuming that the law is “clearly established” regarding compelled speech under Barnette, the law is certainly not clearly established regarding whether students may “conscientiously object” by refusing to turn in homework assignments, and whether giving a student a lower grade, the customary punishment for missed assignments, could be considered “retaliation.”18
School personnel were entitled to qualified immunity on this claim, but not on the father’s separate claim that the “No Trespass” order violated the First Amendment. This issue will be tried.19 The plaintiffs’ due process, Title VI, and Title IX claims were also dismissed.
There have been some other disputes around the country as well. The current political climate has not been helpful in this regard.
In December 2015, the Augusta County School Board in Verona, Va., found itself immersed in a dispute that began with an assignment in its high school World Geography class. The assignment required students to attempt to copy the Islamic statement of faith as written in Arabic. This was part of a unit on the Middle East. The assignment was designed “to give the students an idea of the artistic complexity of the calligraphy.” The statement was not translated for the students, nor were the students required to attempt to translate it. Students were introduced to the religions and written languages of regions as they studied various areas. This exposed them to various faith traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam. The students would also engage in similar activities when they studied China and its unique written language. This somehow became distorted, especially through some media outlets, resulting in a significant brouhaha. The school attempted to address concerns in a factual manner through three successive public statements (December 15, 17, and 18), but the more the school attempted to explain the exercise, the worse the situation became. Threats became so severe, especially from outside persons and groups, that local law enforcement began to monitor the communications. The school eventually had to close on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, and cancel all extracurricular activities through the weekend out of concern for the safety of students and school personnel.
The school district also announced that it would continue to expose students to world religions without promoting any particular faith tradition, as it had done in the past, but it would use a non-religious text in the future to demonstrate the artistic complexity of Arabic calligraphy.
A Middle-School Dispute
The two matters above either have not been fully resolved or did not involve any legal action. The following is the only case to date involving a public school and its curricular choices that have run the legal gamut.
In Eklund, et al. v. Byron Union School District, et al.,20 the plaintiffs challenged the middle school curriculum that involved the use of a role-playing game to teach seventh grade students about Islam. The plaintiffs claimed the school’s methods violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The California State Board of Education requires seventh grade world history classes to include a unit on Islamic history, culture, and religion. There is an approved textbook–Across the Centuries–which the school district employs, but the teachers are encouraged to use other instructional methods they believe will enhance their students’ understanding of the unit.
Some teachers used an interactive module called “Islam: A Simulation of Islamic History and Culture,” which employs a variety of role-playing activities to engage students in situations approximating the Five Pillars of Islam, the elements of faith in the Muslim religion.21 Id. at 1-4.
Students were encouraged, but not required, to choose a Muslim name to facilitate the role-playing. For the first two Pillars of Islam, the teacher read Muslim prayers and portions of the Qur’an aloud in class. Student groups recited a line from a Muslim prayer, such as “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” as they left class. Students also made group posters. Some banners had quotations from the Qur’an, both in Arabic and English, although this was not required.22
For the third and fourth Pillars, students were encouraged to give up things for a day, such as watching television or eating candy, to demonstrate the fasting associated with Ramadan. Students were also encouraged to perform volunteer community service, mostly around the school, as a means of demonstrating the charity aspect of Zakaat.In all, these four activities took about a week in the eight-week unit.23
For the fifth Pillar–Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca–the teacher had the students participate in a board game called “Race to Makkah.” Students used their knowledge of Islam to advance on the board, with the goal of the game to reach “Mecca.” Cards were used that expressed certain elements of the Muslim faith, with three categories to choose from (“trivia,” “truth,” or “fact”). The teacher indicated the statements were expressions of what Muslims believed and were not actual historical fact. The teacher also permitted students to dress in Arabic garb for class presentations.24
As a part of the final, the teacher required the students to write an essay critiquing elements of Islamic culture, albeit with the following caveat: “BE CAREFUL HERE–if you do not have something positive to say, don’t say anything!!!” The final followed the events of Sep. 11, 2001, and the teacher was concerned the students might “express racist remarks” rather than attend to the objectives of the unit on Islam.25
Other world history units also used role-playing. Some units also addressed religious themes, such as the rise of Christianity after the fall of the Roman Empire and the role of Buddhism in Chinese culture.26
Although the plaintiffs’ son had participated in the Islam module when he was in seventh grade, his sister was allowed to “opt out” of the unit when the parents requested this. The plaintiffs’ daughter was provided an alternate assignment (the French Revolution) while the rest of the class participated in the Islam unit.27
The school moved for summary judgment. The federal district court judge noted that the Supreme Court has fashioned three separate but interrelated tests for analyzing Establishment Clause disputes: the Lemon test, the Lynch endorsement test, and the Lee “coercion” test.28 The court also noted that “[a]s an initial matter, the Supreme Court has held that the public schools bear the responsibility of educating their students about the history and cultures of other countries, which often must include a discussion of religion as well.”29
The plaintiffs argued the role-playing games constituted the practice of Islam, and the school district’s use of the Islam simulation module constituted an impermissible endorsement of the Islamic faith.30
Under the Lee or “Coercion Test,” the Establishment Clause is violated where a school coerces students into participating in religious activities. “Coercion” can include “subtle and indirect pressure,” such as social pressure from peers to conform to school-set norms, even if students are otherwise free to opt-out of the unit.31 The school district argued that, as a threshold matter, the Establishment Clause could not be violated because the role-playing activities at issue were not “religious” activities.32
The court found that an objective review of the circumstances led to the conclusion the students at the middle school “[c]annot be considered to have performed any actual religious activities in their seventh grade world history class.”33 The students did not perform the actual Five Pillars of Faith. They did not proclaim faith in one God or belief in Muhammad as His prophet, did not pray five times a day, did not fast for a month, did not make charitable donations, and did not travel to Mecca. “Instead, the students participated in activities which, while analogous to those pillars of faith, were not actually the Islamic religious rites. . . . Role-playing activities which are not in actuality the practice of a religion do not violate the Establishment Clause.34 The court also noted that there was no evidence introduced that the students performed the classroom activities with any religious intent and that the subjective lack of devotional intent is a further demonstration that there was no “religious activity” under a Lee analysis35
The plaintiffs argued that, should the court find the role-playing activities did not constitute a “religious activity,” the module nonetheless had the effect of advancing or endorsing the Islamic religion, failing both the Lemon and the Lynch tests.36
The court agreed that the Islam module would be unconstitutional under both Lemon and Lynch should the role-playing activities have the primary effect of either endorsing a religion or disapproving of any religion.
Under an objective review of the situation at hand, the students would not reasonably have understood the module to have endorsed Islam over other religions merely because of the role-playing activities at issue. As a matter of law, “a practice’s mere consistency with or coincidental resemblance to a religious practice does not have the primary effect of endorsing religion.” Brown v. Woodland Joint Unified School District, 27 F.3d 1373, 1381 (9[th] Cir. 1994) (role-playing witchcraft rituals not an endorsement of Wiccan religion). Thus, the mere fact that the Islam role-playing module involved approximations of Islamic religious acts is not sufficient to create an endorsement of the Islamic faith.37
According to the court, a reasonable student would not have believed the activities constituted an endorsement of religion. Students at the middle school participate in a number of role-playing activities for purely educational reasons and were exposed to a number of different religions. “Given these facts, an objective review of the activities in question does not result in a finding of an endorsement of Islam.”38 In addition, the use of the Islam module was motivated by a purely secular purpose: to instruct the students in world history regarding the history, culture, and religion of Islam. “Even quasi-religious role-playing is permissible if it does not objectively endorse one religion over another.”39
The judge was likewise not swayed by the plaintiffs’ claim the banners violated the Establishment Clause, drawing an analogy to the display of the Ten Commandments. The court added that the display of the banners was not for the primary purpose of endorsing a religion, as the display of the Ten Commandments was in Stone v. Graham.40 The court was also not persuaded by the plaintiffs’ objections to the “Race to Makkah” trivia game and its cards that quizzed students on information they had learned during the Islam module. Given the context in which the cards were used, an objective observer could not conclude the cards endorsed Islam. In addition, the teacher’s cautionary note prior to the final examination could not reasonably be construed as endorsement of Islam. The school district was granted summary judgment.
The Ninth Circuit summarily affirmed the decision and the Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari.41
A Post-Secondary Dispute
Eklund involved middle school students where the Lee “coercion test” would be applicable. This test has not been applied in a post-secondary context, but that does not mean the study of Islam does not have its constitutional challenges.
In Yacovelli, et al. v. Moeser, et al.,42 the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) instituted as a part of its freshman orientation program the study of a book about the Qur’an. The goals of the orientation program are, in part, to stimulate discussion and critical thinking around a current topic, along with the typical goals to introduce students to academic life at UNC, provide a common experience for incoming students, and enhance a sense of community among students, faculty, and staff. For the 2002 orientation, UNC selected portions of Michael Sells’ Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations, “stating that a book exploring Islam was highly relevant in light of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”43 In the portions of the book assigned to be read, the author attempts “to clarify the cultural and historical matrix in which the Qur’an came to exist, the central themes and qualities of hymnic Suras, and the manner in which the Qur’an is experienced and taken to heart within Islamic societies.”44
Initially, UNC required all incoming freshmen to read the book and write a paper in response to the book, guided by a series of questions previously prepared. Later, UNC indicated that students with religious objections did not have to read the book and, instead, could write a paper addressing why they chose not to read the book. The papers were collected but not graded.
Plaintiffs challenged the orientation program, arguing it violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by assigning a book with a positive portrayal of both Muhammad and Islam and by forcing students to read and discuss the book.45 The plaintiffs also asserted that UNC’s forcing students to write about and share their personal religious beliefs subjected them to harassment and ridicule.46
The district court observed that “the free exercise of religion means, first and foremost, the right to believe and profess whatever religious doctrine one desires.”47 Government —including UNC—may not “compel affirmation of religious belief, punish the expression of religious doctrines it believes to be false, impose special disabilities on the basis of religious views or religious status, or lend its power to one or the other side in controversies over religious authority or dogma.”48 However, where the challenged government action is “a neutral, generally applicable law, the government need not establish a compelling governmental interest even though the action may have the incidental effect of burdening one’s religious beliefs.”49
The court held that the plaintiffs did not allege sufficient facts to state a claim for violation of the Free Exercise Clause. The court had previously found the assigned book was not religious reading but part of an academic exercise.50 Notwithstanding, UNC allowed any who objected to reading the book to “opt out” of the reading assignment. The only factual allegations remaining involved whether the requirement that students who “opted out” write about why they chose not to read the book and attend a two-hour discussion group led by a facilitator interfered with such students’ exercise of their religious beliefs.51
The UNC orientation program did not compel the affirmation of any particular religious belief, did not lend its power to a particular side in a controversy over religious beliefs, did not impose special disabilities on the basis of religious views or religious status, or did not punish the expression of any particular religious doctrines. Therefore, the court also denied that claim, stating:
UNC, instead of endorsing a particular religious viewpoint, merely undertook to engage students in a scholarly debate about a religious topic. The discussion groups that followed the reading assignment were likewise intended to encourage scholarly debate about the Islamic religion. Students were free to share their opinions on the topic whether their opinions be positive, negative or neutral.52
The court pointed out that students were not punished for their expressions on the basis of religious belief or doctrine and, in fact, those who objected on religious grounds were given an optional reading task. The writing task allowed students to explain their reasons for objecting to the book and could express their religious views as well as their views on the Qur’an and the Islamic religion. No particular group was penalized. All freshmen students were required to attend a group discussion on topics relating to the Islamic religion and traditions, where they were encouraged to contribute to an academic discussion on a controversial topic. Part of the purpose of this program was to introduce students to the type of higher-level thinking that is required in a university setting. Students who were not members of the Islamic faith, probably the great majority of students, were neither asked nor forced to give up their own beliefs or to compromise their own beliefs in order to discuss the patterns, language, history, and cultural significance of the Qur’an. The court concluded that no one’s religious beliefs were burdened by this academic exercise and granted UNC’s Motion to Dismiss.53
“Amen” To That
Cataclysmic events spawn emotional responses, which can lead to unfortunate legislative actions from the federal to the state to the local governmental levels. The attorneys general are the attorneys for their respective states, which often task them with defending legislation; however, they are also the chief legal counselors for their states. Attorneys general need to be able to withstand the furors of the day and dispassionately advise their clients when proposed legislation or other actions are unconstitutional, even as applied to the currently disfavored class. Justice James C. McReynolds’ caution in 1923 is just as applicable today (and maybe even more so): “[A]desirable end cannot be promoted by prohibited means.”54
1San Antonio Ind. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 35 (1973).
2Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, et al., 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954).
3Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 401 (1923).
6Id. at 402.
8Id. at 403.
9Id. at 400. See also Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925) where the Court found unconstitutional a state law that would have required all students to attend public schools. The statute “interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. . . . As often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the State. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Id. at 534-35.
Also see West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), striking down a State Board of Education resolution that would require all students to participate in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance under penalty for insubordination (with resulting expulsions from school coupled with penalties assessed the parents for failure to ensure their children attended school). The resolution would not allow for those who would choose not to participate in the flag ritual, even where such objection was based on sincerely held religious beliefs. The context is World War II and a widespread belief that patriotism requires unity in the face of America’s enemies. Credence had been accorded such a position by the unfortunate decision by the Supreme Court three years earlier in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940), a decision that resulted in considerable misery for those who objected on religious grounds to saluting a flag or participating in such rituals. Barnette reversed this decision. As the Supreme Court noted: “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.” 319 U.S. at 641. (As an aside, it was learned only recently that the family name is actually spelled “Barnett.”)
10262 U.S. 390, 400.
11The Meyer-Pierce principle is more generally expressed as a substantive due process right of parents “to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 66 (2000) (plurality opinion).
12Brown v. Hot, Sexy & Safer Products, Inc., 68 F.3d 525, 533 (1st Cir. 1995). See also Fields v. Palmdale School District, 427 F.3d 1197, 1206 (9th Cir. 2005) (parents do not have “a right to compel public schools to follow their own idiosyncratic views as to what information the schools may dispense”); Blau v. Fort Thomas Public School District, 401 F.3d 381, 395-96 (6th Cir. 2005) (“While parents may have a fundamental right to decide whether to send their children to a public school, they do not have a fundamental right generally to direct how a public school teaches their child”) (emphasis original); Parker v. Hurley, 514 F.3d 87, 106 (1st Cir. 2008), cert. den., 555 U.S. 815 (2008) (“Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them”); and Curtis v. School Committee of Falmouth, 652 N.E.2d 580, 586 (Mass. 1995), cert. den., 516 U.S. 1067 (1996) (“Although the program may offend the religious sensibilities of the plaintiffs, mere exposure at public schools to offensive programs does not amount to a violation of free exercise. Parents have no right to tailor public school programs to meet their religious or moral preferences.”). As the Fields court stated, “[T]he Meyer-Pierce right does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.” 427 F.3d at 1207.
13Monteiro v. The Tempe Union High School District, 158 F.3d 1022, 1030 (9th Cir. 1998).
14Id. at 1030-31.
15374 U.S. 203, 225 (1963).
16370 U.S. 421, 434 (1962).
17No. 8:16-cv-00239-GJH (D. Md., filed Jan. 27, 2016).
18Id., Memorandum Opinion (filed Sept. 9, 2016), slip op. at 18.
19Id. at 19.
20No. C 02-3004, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27152 (N. D. Cal. 2003), aff’g 154 Fed. Appx 648 (9th Cir. 2005), cert. den. 549 U.S. 942 (2006).
21Id. at 1-4. The Five Pillars of Islam are Shahada (profession of faith in God); Salaat (prayer five times a day); Ramadan (ritual fasting from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan); Zakaat (charity); and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
22Id. at 6-7.
23Id. at 7-8. During the time of the events at issue, the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred. The class spent a week discussing the attacks in the context of world history. Id. at 5.
24Id. at 8-9.
25Id. at 10.
26Id. at 10-12.
27Id. at 12-13.
28Id. at 14-16. The tests are taken from Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992), Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), and Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984).
29Id. at 19.
30Id. at 21.
31Id., citing Lee,supra note 28, 505 U.S. at 592-94.
33Id. at 22.
34Id. at 24.
35Id. at 24-25.
36Id. at 27.
38Id. at 29.
39Id. at 29-30.
40Id. at 31.
41Id. at 32. Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 41 (1980).
42See supra note 20.
43324 F.Supp.2d 760 (M.D. N.C. 2004).
44Id. at 761.
45Id. at 762. “Suras” are described as “hymnic chapters.” The “rhythmic patterns of the Arabic language” are “central to the Qur’an.” Id. n.3, 4.
45The plaintiffs had earlier sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the orientation program, but the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the injunctive relief.
46Id. at 762-63.
47Id. at 763, quoting Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 877 (1990).
48Id., quoting Employment Division, Id.
50Yacovelli v. Moeser, 2004 WL 1144183 (M.D. N.C. 2004).
<p51324 F.Supp.2d 760, 763.
52Id. at 764.
54Meyer, 262 U.S. at 401.