For more than a year, John Kevin Wood says he has been banned from his daughter’s school in Maryland. He claims that the school system is illegally punishing him for asking questions and raising objections to lessons provided there about Islam. He is asking a judge to waive the ban so that he can witness his daughter's high school graduation. She is expected to graduate this year. The elder Wood is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who lost friends in combat during the first Iraq war.
 
It was in 2014 that Wood’s daughter showed to him homework from her World History class of her junior year at La Plata High School in Charles County MD. In her class, the girls was told to memorize the so-called Five Pillars of Islam, as well as recite the “shahada”, the Muslim statement of faith.  See exhibits here.
 
The shahada is as follows: There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Also, according to school papers submitted to a federal court, students were taught that the faith of most Muslims is “stronger than the average Christian.”
 
The materials submitted to the court contend that Islam is a “peaceful religion,” that  jihad is a “holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty, and a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline.” Wood believes that the school was not merely teaching about Islam, but was also promoting it in a way that was an affront to his family’s Christian faith.
 
Once Wood called the school to complain about his daughter’s assignments, the school issued a no-trespass order against him. Wood has not been allowed to set foot at La Plata High since October 2014. According to the order issued by school officials, Wood allegedly “made verbal threats against the school.” 
 
The Thomas More Law Center of Michigan is representing the Wood family in the lawsuit, which is focused on whether or not the school system unfairly punished Wood for speaking out. Wood attests that he never threatened physical harm against the school or its staff. Instead, he threatened to go to the media and attorneys. Wood and his wife, Melissa, alleged in a lawsuit that they filed in January that the school system had violated their daughter’s civil and constitutional rights. Filed in the U.S. District Court in Maryland, Woods’ complaint says “The First Amendment prohibits the promotion of the religion of Islam over other faiths, such as Christianity or Judaism, in our public schools.”
 
When Wood initially complained, the school released a statement that the course to which he objected is about Middle Eastern empires and the role played by Islam played in the history and development of those empires, the statement said.
 
The dispute between Wood and the Maryland school district has been likened to a case in Augusta County, Virginia. It was there that local parents objected to a calligraphy lesson assigned by a teacher that included the shahada or Muslim profession of faith. The outrage on social media generated messages that did not threaten students but did convince the school district to close the county schools for several days. Parents in other jurisdictions throughout the country have raised similar objections.
 
Speaking for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper dismissed the lawsuit as typical of what he called an anti-Islam campaign that’s being waged nationwide in schools. Hooper called it a “hysterical knee-jerk negative reaction to anything to do with Islam or Muslims in our society,” Hooper said. “To merely say the shahada, the declaration of faith, or to understand what Muslims believe — it in no way converts you to Islam, that’s a ridiculous notion. Islam is a belief system. You’ve got to believe in it or you’re not a Muslim.”
 
The Thomas More Legal Center has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the federal District Court in Maryland and requested that Judge George J. Hazel enjoin the no-trespass order. The motion contends that the school district deprived Wood of involvement in his daughter’s and prevented him from speaking at parent meetings and other events, thereby violating his First Amendment rights.  
 
The law firm also alleges that the school district further deprived their client of his constitutional rights by giving a school principal unfettered discretion to ban him from school grounds without any hearing or opportunity to defend himself because he brought to light the school’s unconstitutional practices.  As a result of the order, John Kevin Wood has not entered onto school property for over a year.  Attorney Kate Oliveri of Thomas More Legal Center, is handling the case. She commented: “Mr. Wood spent eight years as a Marine fighting to protect the Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees to all citizens. Now, the school district is forcing him to fight once again for those freedoms as a father.”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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