Struggles in a secular state: Ex-Marine stretches the meaning of religious freedom

Home S&S Opinion Struggles in a secular state: Ex-Marine stretches the meaning of religious freedom
Struggles in a secular state: Ex-Marine stretches the meaning of religious freedom
UHS students are given the opportunity to learn about different beliefs in the World Religions class, taught by Ms. Jane Mitchell (Ken Nguyen).
UHS students are given the opportunity to learn about different beliefs in the World Religions class, taught by Ms. Jane Mitchell (Ken Nguyen).

By MAVERICK FREEDLANDER
Staff Writer

After learning that his daughter had to complete an assignment on the five pillars of Islam, Kevin Wood, an ex-Marine who lives in Maryland, tried to prevent his daughter from learning about Islam in her high school world history class on October 29, according to the Daily Caller. He wanted his daughter to continue attending her public school but be excused from class when students were learning about Islam because he and his family are staunch Christians. However, the school did not allow him to do so and requires her to study all of the world’s history, not ignoring any specific country or religion, if she is to be enrolled in a world history class.

Wood has definitely received media attention for trying to stop his daughter from learning about Islam, which leaves many to wonder why this assignment was so offensive to him. Some might consider that Wood has been exposed to extensive anti-Muslim sentiment while serving our country as a Marine, and his time serving most likely gave him an overwhelmingly negative opinion of Muslims. Marines are sometimes led to believe that Muslims are “the bad guys” or terrorists. However, Wood’s previous experiences as a Marine are not an excuse for his questionable perspective. Wood is misinformed about Islam’s peaceful nature, which is actually similar to that of Christianity in many ways. If this is really so important to him, he should ask the school to excuse his daughter from this one assignment. The homework was not a major assignment or project, so avoiding tension at the cost of one small assignment seems like a favorable swap.

Removing her from class for all lessons pertaining to the religion of Islam is ludicrous, though. Islam is a major global religion, accounting for approximately 23% of the world’s population, according to the Pew Research Center. There is no requirement for Wood or his daughter to like or participate in Islam, but learning about it does no harm.

Kevin Wood could have withdrawn his daughter from public school and just home-schooled her if learning about religions other than Christianity posed such a large problem to him. If he decided to keep his daughter in public school, Wood could have met with the school staff or sent a polite letter to the school explaining why he disagrees with the assignment. It is easy to find a polite way to express his discomfort at the assignment, but he hurt his case by demanding to the school board with a harsh tone and vulgar language that his daughter be excused from the assignment.

Religion’s role in public life is often a topic of debate. As per the Bill of Rights, Kevin Wood can choose not to be Muslim. However, learning about various religions as part of a class’s curriculum is critical to understanding the world’s history and promoting acceptance and tolerance.

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