"Pretend you are Muslim."
Jay Sekulow has rallied the outcry against this assignment and collected over a hundred thousand signatures petitioning the Department of Education with the following:
Public schools are a place for religious freedom, not indoctrination. Stop Islamic indoctrination in our schools and protect the religious liberty of students.
Well, I could see how this assignment would be considered Islamic indoctrination. But what I'm wondering is, how is it any worse than the secular humanist indoctrination that takes place for virtually every other assignment in virtually every other class?
Think about it. Apart from this assignment, most students in public schools are being told (implicitly at least, if not explicitly): "pretend you are a secular humanist" for virtually every other assignment they're ever given.
I greatly respect Jay Sekulow and absolutely love what the Lord has used him for in fighting for the rights of the unborn and other issues. But I think in Jay's rallying article against Islamic indoctrination in public schools, he's missed the real issue, namely...
Public Schools are NOT a Place for Religious Freedom
If religious freedom means freedom to practice one's religion, then public schools are not the place where you can expect that kind of accommodation - specifically when it comes to Christianity.
In the Christian worldview the Triune nature of God, His sovereignty over all things, His revelation of Himself to man in Scripture and His ethical requirements for man - personal, social, cultural, and civil, the nature and depravity of man, the salvation secured for God's people by the atoning work of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers, and on and on...none of these things are to be studied and interacted with merely in church or church-related activities.
Rather they are all to be part of the new nature, which the Christian is continually to be "putting on" (Eph. 4:20-24), not just in "spiritual" life but in all of life (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). And specifically in the realm of academics the Bible instructs us to begin our work in the fear of the Lord (Prv. 1:7), and that it is the fool who starts his academic endeavors without that basic presupposition in his studies (Ps. 14:1).
But as it is now in America, even apart from the Islamic indoctrination assignment, tell me if any student would be allowed to bring up any of the above in any of his assignments at a public school. Specific to just history alone, how is a student to evaluate the sexual revolution of the 60's (which is continuing on to the present) apart from the Word of God? Or America's military involvement in Vietnam or other foreign conflicts (even up to the present) apart from the Word of God? Was the sexual revolution good or bad for society and why? Was America's military intervention in Vietnam a good or bad use of arms and why?
I'll tell you what they won't be able to write in their essay: that the Creator of the universe condemns fornication in all its forms and will eternally condemn those who don't in repentance trust their salvation to the Lord Jesus Christ who offers the only hope of deliverance from the penalty and power of their sin; that a society who continues in a downward spiral of such sin is only building up wrath for itself as He is the judge of all nations (Ps. 82:8; Prv. 14:34). Likewise, they won't be able to evaluate America's costly and unnecessary military interventions based on God's revealed standards for just warfare, specifically concerning when it is right to engage (Deut. 21:10-15, 19-20).
And this is just one tiny example. We haven't even touched on what you're not allowed to say in science, health, and/or language classes. Suffice it to say, students are not allowed to bring their religion into the public schools; which is to say, public schools are not a place for religious freedom.
But there is something else about government public schools...
Public Schools are ALREADY a Place of Indoctrination
The Christian is repeatedly told to put on the mind of Christ (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10) and never told to take it off. Yet government public schools repeatedly tell their students to take off the mind of Christ when in their jurisdiction. You can be a Christian in "spiritual" matters - sure. You can read your Bible during non-instructional times. You can even pray before class, a test, or lunch, etc. But one thing you can't do is begin your thinking with the assumption that Jesus Christ is Lord over all of life - the very thing Christians are told to do above all else - let us remember that part of the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your mind (Mt. 22:37, 38).
Jesus Christ is Lord over all of life, including over every subject taught in government public schools; yet the government public school system will not permit students to think as Christians in any of these subjects. Rather they are told to assume that the Lordship of Christ is, at best, neutral in regard to that subject.
The above education is the very antithesis of what is considered Biblical education (Prv. 1:7); yet this is precisely what is taught in government public schools. Indoctrination - secular humanist indoctrination - is already the modus operandi of government public schools.
So why is Islamic indoctrination so much worse?
I'm guessing it's because ISIS is ruthlessly killing people - especially Christians - on a seemingly daily basis. That is an extreme terror to be sure, one that must be dealt with according to standards that God has revealed in His Word (for an example of that, see my post here).
While I'm not going to do it (since I think they're both wrong), there could actually be a case made that secular humanism is worse indoctrination than Islamic indoctrination. It would be here where I would recommend a comparative analysis of the number of abortions (read, infanticides) permitted in Islamic countries to the number of abortions (read, infanticides) performed in secular humanist countries. And then tell me who has more innocent bloodshed on their hands.
So what should all this rallying and outcry really be over?
The Real Issue
The issue is not separation of church and state - in some convoluted idea that there's some "neutral" territory with which the Lord Jesus Christ is unconcerned and that government public schools should disallow Islamic indoctrination but go ahead with secular humanist "neutral" indoctrination.
The issue is not Islamic indoctrination. As already stated, that's a very small percentage of class time. For all other assignments and classes the students are told to pretend to be a secular humanist. Are we to think that Jesus Christ, who commands no other gods before Him (Ex. 20:3), is somehow less offended with the false god of secular humanism (Ps. 14:1; cf. Rom. 1:18ff) than He is with the false god of Islam (1 Jn. 4:1)?
The issue is not equal indoctrination time for all religions. Not only is that impractical in terms of how much time there is in the day, it is just not something to which several religions will (or should) acquiesce. As written above, the Christian life involves the entire life. Not for one moment are we to put on the mind of the unbeliever (Eph. 4:17, 22), but we are to walk continually and only in the mind of Christ (Eph. 4:23, 24).
None of these problems can be solved in the face of government public schools. These schools are funded by the government, which means money taken by coercion from private citizens with their own beliefs and values. And if there are Muslims in the community who are footing the bill for these schools, why should their views not be taken into consideration? If there are Christians, or Hindus, or Agnostics, or Atheists, or whoever there is who is footing the bill for these schools, why should their views not be taken into consideration?
The problem of course, as already described, (at least with Christianity, but I know is the case of Islam and other religions too), is that it is an all or nothing issue. Jesus does not claim to be Lord over just the spiritual realm. He claims to be and is Lord over all things over all time over all of life.
The issue is that the government cannot give a full-orbed education according to the religious beliefs and practices of any of its citizens. The government is not equipped for such a thing, nor should it have that jurisdiction at all.
The issue, therefore, is that government shouldn't be involved in education at all. That's what our rallying and outcry really ought to be over. As Christians we ought not to be working to "take back the government schools" - which is to say, reinstate Christian prayer etc., and force non-Christians to participate in those types of things - especially since our unbelieving neighbors are being forced to pay for that education.
No, we as Christians ought to be working to take the schools away from the government altogether.
That's our aim. That's the only thing that will guarantee the religious liberty of our students and their parents. That's when parents will have much more disposable income (since it won't be going to the government for their provision of "education") with which to provide the education of their choice to their own children by either educating them at home or sending them to private schools that teach their kids in a way appropriate to their own religious beliefs.
Petition the government, yes. But petition them to get out of the education business altogether, while at the same time working on building infrastructure of Christian schools to reach out to the community and offer the children true (Biblical) education at affordable prices. And I would say do this without neglecting the proper pay for the teachers and school staff (1 Tim. 5:18)!