Cultural awareness or endorsement of religion?

May 30, 2008 3:30:30 PM PDT
A group of parents and area ministers are upset about a presentation about the Muslim religion at Friendswood Junior High School last week. It was supposed to be a lesson on cultural awareness, but some say it verged on being an endorsement of religion. At Friendswood Jr. High, the last day of class brought lingering anxiety from some parents a week after the school principal invited an Islamic civil rights group to give a talk on the Muslim faith.

"It wasn't just a cultural presentation, because they were telling my child who they believe God is and that Jesus was just a prophet," said upset parent Paula Henry. "And that is religious studies."

While some parents viewed the assembly as inappropriately preaching religious beliefs in school, others viewed the incident differently.

"I don't think they were trying to persuade our children in any way," said parent Janice Vega, who's not upset about the presentation. "I think they were showing our kids a different way people are brought up in our society The only thing I disagree with is there should have been another side to it."

No one from the Friendswood school district would talk on camera, but they did issue a statement.

It said in part, "The campus did not follow district policy in hosting the presentation. In the future, information prior to a presentation regarding cultural awareness will be sent home to parents with the purpose and content of the presentation."

Some critics say that explanation doesn't go far enough. They want the principal punished.

"We don't want to overreact, but frankly parents we've talked to and others in the district are asking for her removal at this point," said Dave Welch with the Houston Pastor Council.

The school board and superintendent will continue to look into this issue, but students we talked to say they're more concerned about getting summer started.

"None of the kids were really paying attention," said eighth-grader Lindsey Wallce. "I mean, sorry, but they really weren't. So I don't think it meant anything to them."

Friday was the last day of school.

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