The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up an appeal by a former high school student in Maryland who received a failing grade after she refused to complete a class assignment that she believed forced her to violate her Christian beliefs, according to a Tuesday op-ed from the law firm that represented the former student.
When Caleigh Wood was a junior at a public high school in 2014 and 2015, the Christian student attended a history lesson entitled, “The Muslim World,” wherein Wood claims she was compelled — under threat of a failing grade — to recite portions of an Islamic prayer and view PowerPoint slides that portrayed Islam in a positive light while denigrating Christianity.
An inappropriate lesson
The prayer reportedly included a declaration of faith: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” One of the PowerPoint slides alleged that “most Muslim’s [sic] faith is stronger than the average Christian,” while others glossed over the concept of “jihad” and downplayed the fundamental misogyny of Islam.
Wood says she refused to complete the related assignment and later received a failing grade. She went on to graduate from high school the next year, however.
Still, Wood filed a lawsuit claiming that the school that violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause and her First Amendment religious freedom rights.
The school later admitted that the lesson was “inappropriate” and would no longer be permitted, but still, the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the school district against Wood in February, according to The Washington Post. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to rule otherwise — for now.
Ignoring the problem – for now
The Thomas More Law Center, a non-profit Christian law firm that has taken up Wood’s case, announced in an op-ed Tuesday that the Supreme Court had declined to hear the case.
“I’m not aware of any public school which has forced a Muslim student to write the Lord’s Prayer or John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,'” Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the firm, said following the court’s decision.
He went on: “Yet, under the pretext of teaching history or social studies, public schools across America are promoting the religion of Islam in ways that would never be tolerated for Christianity or any other religion.”
Thompson said the school denied requests from the student and her father for an alternative assignment.
“It’s disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to clarify the test which lower courts should use when ruling on establishment clause and free speech challenges to public school classes on religion,” Thompson said.
But while it’s disappointing that SCOTUS won’t be taking up this case, Thompson thinks the high court will inevitably have to address the issue at some point. And with a conservative majority on the bench, there’s no doubt Republicans will be rejoicing once they do.