Wellesley Massachusetts Public School officials are finding themselves in hot water these days since a new You Tube video was released showing a field trip of a the school’s sixth grade class saying Muslim prayers at a local mosque.
The video was shot by the mother of one of the boys on the school trip, who volunteered to chaperone that day. According to the voice re-enactment of the mother’s description, a tour guide not only proselytized to the students about Islam (including dubious claims that Islam gave more rights to women before the Constitution did) but also had the males pray separately (including those who were Jewish).
Following the release of the video above, The Boston Globe is reporting Wellesley School Superintendent Bella Wong apologized in a letter to parents saying that allowing the kids to participate in the prayer was a “mistake.”
‘‘It was not the intent for students to be able to participate in any of the religious practices,’’ Wong said. ‘‘The fact that any students were allowed to do so in this case was an error.’’
Really? That is difficult to believe considering the ACLU is serving any public school with papers like lightning the moment it discovers football players are saying Christian prayers before a game. The fact that Wellesley Public Schools could not see the double standard in this seems more than suspicious.
9/23/10 UPDATE ACLU RESPONSE:
The ACLU opposes proselytizing of public school children and supports the separation of church and state as the best way to ensure religious liberty for all.
The ACLU supports teaching about other faiths and religions as long as it is done in a constitutional way, but bringing students to a house of worship while worship services are going on is problematic. If, as the video produced by this organization purports to show, public school children were indeed asked to take part in a prayer service at a mosque, it would be deeply troubling, as would any invitation to public school children to participate in a prayer service at any church, temple, or other religious place of worship. If the facts as presented in the video are accurate, Wellesley school officials should take steps to develop new methods and appropriate guidelines for teaching about world religion. r
The ACLU also is troubled by the misleading inclusion of ACLU staff in this video clip. The ACLU was never involved in a visit by public school children to the Roxbury mosque. Rather, images of ACLU staff included in the video were taken at a public event held at the Roxbury mosque on May 22, 2010, at which Governor Deval Patrick, Maura Healey, Chief, Civil Rights Division at Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, ACLU of Massachusetts Education Director Nancy Murray, and others were invited to speak about ways to fight prejudice and discrimination in Massachusetts.
No information is given as to whether or not the ACLU will be assisting in a first amendment class action lawsuit against the school district that is being threatened by a lawyer.