By LEO HOHMANN
Parents and taxpayers in Charleston, West Virginia, are starting to ask questions about what’s going on in their public schools after teachers were recently targeted by what appears to have been a brazen violation of separation of mosque and state.
Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ronald Duerring gave his approval for the Islamic Association of West Virginia to place personal invitations into each teacher’s school mailbox to attend a “Get to Know Your Muslim Student Event” at the mosque on Jan. 25.
“We came back from lunch [on Jan. 4] and found them in our mailboxes,” said a teacher who asked not to be identified for fear of professional repercussions.
The invitation included a request for teachers to “Please RSVP by Jan. 19.”
See the invitation below.
The invitation appeared in the teacher mailboxes of at least three Charleston-area schools:
- South Charleston High School
- John Adams Middle School
- Ruthlawn Elementary
When contacted by a local resident in his district and asked about the Muslim outreach to teachers, Duerring said he had spoken with the school-district attorney, Jim Withrow, who said there “wasn’t a problem” with regard to church-state issues.
Duerring, reached by phone Thursday afternoon, said he did not consider it at all controversial for schools in his district to be allowing mosque leaders access to their teachers.
“That’s not a controversy for us and, no, I am not going to answer any of your questions,” Duerring said before abruptly ending the conversation.
Brenda Arthur, a local insurance broker who leads the Greater Charleston ACT For America chapter, says she will approach the Kanawha County Board of Education at its Thursday night meeting on Jan. 18 to address the controversial invitations.
“I told them this is, to us, an egregious violation of the separation of church and state. They only give you five minutes, so I’ve got to give it my best shot,” said Arthur, a Jewish American who feels her tax dollars should not be going toward the promotion of Islam in the schools.
Arthur said Islam appears to be advancing its agenda throughout West Virginia in a series of aggressive moves.
The city’s only mosque – Islamic Association of West Virginia – doubled in size about two years ago. CAIR, or the Council on American Islamic Relations, announced plans last year to open an office in Charleston, likely in anticipation of a second wave of 100 Muslim refugees arriving from Syria.
Because of a citizen backlash, however, that second wave never happened.
And the advancement of Islam in West Virginia hasn’t stopped there.
The vice president of the Charleston mosque, Ibtesam Sue Barazi, is now offering a class through the state university system’s adult education programs. She will be at the South Charleston Public Library on Feb. 6 teaching on the “Holy Quran,” and “the Quran’s universal message where Allah speaks to all humanity, believers and non-believers.”
It’s unclear what other religions will be offered a platform at the public library to share about their faith.
“These incremental steps make it very clear to me what is happening in our state,” Arthur said.
Another teacher who asked not to be identified for fear of losing her job, said she was one of about 40 teachers at her school who received the invitation to the mosque. She said reactions to the invitation varied among her colleagues.
“I actually found it first and told a friend who is also a teacher. She’s pretty disturbed about the whole thing. My first reaction was disbelief.
“Some teachers were very offended by it,” she added.
She said the issue was raised at a teachers’ meeting with the principal. Dr. Guerring gave his approval to the mosque but with the caveat that principals at the individual schools in the district could have the final say as to whether to give access to the their teachers’ mailboxes.
If the effort to get teachers indoctrinated into the belief system of Islam can happen in West Virginia, it can happen anywhere, says Mathew Staver, executive director and lead attorney with Liberty Counsel.
“I think this invitation crosses the line because it specifically indicates that the teachers are invited to come to the mosque with a Muslim association to learn about the religion of Islam, that’s the sole purpose of it, not only to learn about their culture but about the Islamic religion,” Staver said. “It was authorized by the superintendent and the principals to be sent to all the teachers in at least three schools. It would be no different than a church sending out an invitation to come and learn about the Christian students and particularly their Christian faith.”
If it had been a similar outreach by a Christian church, instead of a mosque, Staver said he feels certain the ACLU and the Freedom from Religion Foundation would be putting the school district on notice about a violation of the so-called “establishment clause” of the First Amendment.
“I think they would be up in arms because they would argue it violates the separation of church and state. In this case I think it’s very clear from the invitation that it is an Islamic indoctrination event being held at the mosque and it was authorized by the superintendent, so it’s clear it crosses the line. It looks like this particular mosque and Islamic association has been given special access to the teachers.”
Staver said he can’t imagine that any other faith would get this type of inside access to the teachers to invite them to a specific event designed for the teachers to learn about their religion.
“We will follow up with the school to make them aware of this situation,” Staver said.
Contact Kanawha County Schools 304.348.7770
A Twitter user commented on the artwork on the invite: