To the Editor:

In response to Susan O'Brien's Opinion accusing her Chatham neighbor of "veiled bigotry" or being "sad or ignorant."  

The speakers at the Board of Ed meeting were not in any way attacking Islam or any religion. Had Ms. O'Brien been at the meeting she would have known these speakers made it clear that what they want for their children is a curriculum that teaches all religions and world cultures equally. That is NOT what is happening in the 7th Grade World Cultures and Geography class.  

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The ONLY religion that is taught in the Middle East and North Africa unit is Islam. There is not one word about Israel or Judaism. Not one word. The students learning about the Middle East in 7th grade would not even KNOW Israel is in the Middle East because there is no mention of it whatsoever.  

Perhaps Ms. O'Brien has a "veiled bigotry" toward Jews and would rather her children not learn about Israel?  Well, how "sad" and "ignorant" of her.

In this unit on the Middle East and North Africa, there is also not one word of Christians living there. Not one word. Considering Christianity originated in the Middle East in the First Century A.D., you'd think this would be somewhat relevant to the culture of the region.

What students learn in this class is that the ONLY religion people of the Middle East practice is ISLAM. That is simply not true.  

What the speakers were trying to address is this discrepancy. The point being made is not only are ALL other religions of the Middle East and North Africa excluded, but Islam is taught in great detail, including two separate presentations and two videos specifically teaching its tenets and doctrines.

Teaching any religion without the inclusion of others is a violation of District Policy No. 2270 “Religion in the Schools” which states, in part, “The instructional program of the school should inform pupils of many beliefs and customs stemming from religious, racial, ethnic and cultural heritages.”  Clearly, that is not what is happening in this course.

How dare Ms. O'Brien, who wasn't even at the Board meeting, publicly label a member of our community a "veiled bigot" or "sad" or "ignorant."  

It is Ms. O'Brien who is desperately ignorant of the facts, NOT the concerned parents who stood up to point out the blatant bias against Judaism and Christianity in this 7th grade class instruction.

It is my hope that Ms. O'Brien reviews the entire unit on Middle East/North Africa in the 7th Grade World Cultures and Geography class. After she has done so, I am hoping she will publicly apologize to these mothers who were merely pointing out the factual discrepancy, and requesting that the lesson be more inclusive of other religions.

Further, it is my hope that our community has learned a lesson in tolerance and understanding.  These days, so many are too quick to throw defamatory insults regarding hot button issues without any understanding whatsoever of the messengers' intent or heart.

Terry Baxter

Chatham