CAIR-CA: MUSLIM PRAYERS IN SCHOOL DEBATED
A San Diego public school has become part of a national debate over religion in schools ever since a substitute teacher publicly condemned an Arabic language program that gives Muslim students time for prayer during school hours.
Carver Elementary in Oak Park added Arabic to its curriculum in September when it suddenly absorbed more than 100 students from a defunct charter school that had served mostly Somali Muslims.
After subbing at Carver, the teacher claimed that religious indoctrination was taking place and said that a school aide had led Muslim students in prayer.
An investigation by the San Diego Unified School District failed to substantiate the allegations. But critics continue to assail Carver for providing a 15-minute break in the classroom each afternoon to accommodate Muslim students who wish to pray. (Those who don't pray can read or write during that non-instructional time.)
Some say the arrangement at Carver constitutes special treatment for a specific religion that is not extended to other faiths. Others believe it crosses the line into endorsement of religion.
Supporters of Carver say such an accommodation is legal, if not mandatory, under the law. They note the district and others have been sued for not accommodating religious needs on the same level as non-religious needs, such as a medical appointment.
Islam requires its adherents to pray at prescribed times, one of which falls during the school day.
While some parents say they care more about their children's education than a debate about religious freedom, the allegations - made at a school board meeting in April - have made Carver the subject of heated discussions on conservative talk radio. District officials have been besieged by letters and phone calls, some laced with invective.
The issue has drawn the attention of national groups concerned about civil rights and religious liberty. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, Anti-Defamation League, American Civil Liberties Union and the Pacific Justice Institute are some of the groups monitoring developments in California's second-largest school district. . .
The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations supports the Carver program.
"Our country is transforming demographically, religiously," said Edgar Hopida, the chapter's public relations director. "Our country has to now accommodate things that are not traditionally accounted for before."