Bill seeks to limit teaching of religion in Tennessee amid Islamic indoctrination issue

A poster urging a public response on the reported Islamic indoctrination of students in US public schools.(ACLJ)

A bill has been filed in Tennessee seeking to allow the teaching of any "religious doctrine" only at 10th grade and above.

Republican state Rep. Sheila Butt introduced HB1418 in the wake of complaints from parents about the teaching of Islam in middle school, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"I think that probably the teaching that is going on right now in seventh, eighth grade is not age-appropriate," said Butt. "They are not able to discern a lot of times whether its indoctrination or whether they're learning about what a religion teaches."

Some parents, including US Rep. Diane Black, said Islamic teachings are almost like indoctrination.

State education officials and teachers defended the curriculum courses, saying they are appropriate and based on secular facts including the Five Pillars of Islam. They said the information is used to provide historical context.

The bill is being opposed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim advocacy organisation in the US.

"Islamophobes like Representative Butt fail to recognise that there is a big difference between teaching students about religion as an important part of world history and promoting particular religious beliefs," said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw, according to The Tennessean.

He said "the education of children in Tennessee should not be delayed because of anti-Muslim bigotry."

Butt criticised CAIR, saying her bill does not target Islam. "It is interesting that CAIR would comment on my bill since the legislation never even mentions a particular religion, but instead explicitly states that no religion shall be emphasised or focused on over any other. The bill calls for comparative religion to be taught in high school and simply addresses the balance and age-appropriateness of teaching religion in Tennessee public schools," said Butt.

Some parents complained that their children were asked to write down "Allah is the only god" in their class.

"Oftentimes, young children may feel conflicted with what they are taught at home versus what they learn at school. Our parents send their children to school to learn, not be indoctrinated," wrote Butt on a personal blog.

She added, "I want our children to possess the mental maturity to have a firm foot in their beliefs, as well as the mental acuity to know when to question and report to their parents what they are being taught if necessary."

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) earlier warned that "Islamic indoctrination is happening in public schools all across America."

"Over the past few months, we have updated you on some of the Islamic indoctrination happening in Tennessee and Georgia. However, these are not isolated events – it's a nation-wide epidemic that has been brewing for a while," it said.