World Hijab Day events in public schools constitute endorsements of Islamic religious practice by government, schools must cease and desist, according to a legal expert.
The Christian Action Network on Tuesday questioned an attorney versed in Constitutional and International law regarding World Hijab Day events held in public schools during classroom hours.
Understanding the Issue
At issue is the uniform that Islamic women wear to obey Islamic law and be in compliance with sharia statutes. Numerous schools participate in this practice on February 1 annually. They say it is to show solidarity with those women.
Johnny Davis, who practices law in the Washington DC area and is also a noted consulting expert in legal matters, said the claim for World Hijab Day as a benign, non-religious event of cultural diversity isn’t even close to the mark.
His recommendation to public schools asked to promote and take part in World Hijab Day is, “follow the law, and don’t do it,” Davis said.
“They shouldn’t take part in it in any way, shape, manner or form,” he added. “To do so would be to break the law. School officials cannot promote this.”
Understanding the Law
According to Davis, students can suggest an event or gathering focused on something religious such as hijab. The school may provide a place during what Davis called non-curricular hours.
According to Davis, that falls under the Equal Access Act. The access to school facilities and organizing of other students by students must be treated equally, and school teachers and faculty must not be involved.
“Students must act on their own,” he said.
Of particular concern regarding World Hijab Day events in recent years is the promotion by school officials – teachers and faculty – publishing fliers and posters for events that take place during the school day.
“By putting out the fliers, posters and so forth, what we are really talking about is religious indoctrination,” Davis said. “This isn’t even a close call. This is way-way out of bounds.”
A link to international law
Drawing on awareness of international law, Davis said that there are numerous codes or laws in other nations that define the hijab uniform as religious obedience to religious laws.
“It is indisputable that the [hijab] head scarf represents Islam,” Davis said. “In fact, if you look at Islamic theology, it represents the authority over women, their submission and domination by the Islamic male.”
This applies directly to the involvement by school officials, faculty and staff, Davis said. “It is undeniably representing Islam, and the schools are forbidden from promoting a particular religion in any way, shape, manner or form.”
A link to Supreme Court rulings
Davis said that his position is backed by a vast account of precedent that places federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court against such actions by schools.
Those past cases apply to World Hijab Day, to forbid it from public schools, Davis said. “In fact, there is no case that can possibly be construed to permit this.
the parents do have grounds to bring a lawsuit against this
“One of the things that the Supreme Court was concerned about in ruling to restrict certain practices of religion in schools is they were worried about instances where school officials may have a coercive influence over students,” He added.
“[Students] can easily be influenced. They can easily be intimidated. The active participation by the teachers flies at the heart of the Supreme Court rulings.”
What Parents Should Do
Davis said that concerned parents and care givers should first of all make sure to keep a good rapport with their children so the kids know they can talk about things that happen at school that may be inappropriate or wrong.
If parents find out that a World Hijab Day event is being planned at their children’s school, they should talk to school officials about stopping it or making sure it is not an event during curriculum hours promoted by the school.
“You do have legal redress,” Davis said. “The parents do have grounds to bring a lawsuit against this.”
He added that Christian religious liberty legal organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Thomas Moore Society and the American Center for Law and Justice serve to help similar situations.
Davis concluded that parents should not be shy, but just apply some common sense: compare an event for Islamic hijab practice to whether there is anything like it for any other religious belief.
“The fact that they do not do such events for Christians, for Hindus, Buddhist or Jewish groups and so forth further demonstrates that they can not do this,” he said.