In a news release, state Reps. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) and Micah Van Huss (R-Johnson City) announced the measure, saying they were responding to “intense public outcry” from parents, students and school administrators that current school textbooks overemphasize Islam while excluding other religions like Christianity and Judaism.
“I have heard from people all over our community who share my deep concern about the leeway that is allowed in the current standards,” Matthew Hill said in the release. “We have been working on this issue for almost two years now, with no clear solution. My colleagues and I in the General Assembly see there is now a direct need to file legislation on behalf of citizens across Tennessee if we hope to solve this problem once and for all.”
The legislators said middle school parents in Maury County were up in arms last year after learning their children were being instructed to recite and write “Allah is the only god” as part of a world history project. In another section of their work, students were assigned a Five Pillars of Islam project that included the translation of the pillar of “Shahada” as being, “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is his prophet.” The lawmakers said similar situations had been reported across the state, including instances in the Tri-Cities area.
Under the newly filed House Bill 1905, any inclusion of religion in textbooks, instructional materials, curriculum, or academic standards can only be for educational purposes and are strictly prohibited from being used to promote or establish any religion or religious belief.
In addition, the legislation places into law several key measures that constituents have requested from their legislators, including:
• Requiring local school boards to adopt a policy regarding the appropriate inclusion of religion in local curriculum and instructional materials, with the opportunity for public comment before adoption;
• Requiring local education agencies to make publicly available a syllabus for all grade six through twelve social studies, science, math, and English courses. The syllabus must include a course calendar detailing standards, objectives, and topics covered, major assignments required, and procedures for parents to have access to all instructional materials to be used;
• Requiring the State Board of Education to initiate a revision process for the Tennessee social studies standards adopted in 2013 to ensure new standards do not promote religion and do not amount to indoctrination or proselytism in any way.
“No one has a problem with world religions being taught from a historical perspective,” Timothy Hill said in the release. “The problem is that right now in Tennessee, the standards are so broad they open the door to proselytizing our public school students. While other bills have been filed in an attempt to fix this problem, this piece of legislation has real teeth, and we believe it will be a giant step forward in fixing this important issue.”
“I did not fight radical Islam in Iraq just to come home and find our children being indoctrinated,” Van Huss, a veteran, said in the release.