Christian parent outraged after West Virginia school tells students to write Islamic statement of faith

Earlier this week, Rich Penkoski, pastor of the West Virginia-based Warriors for Christ, told the Conservative Firing Line that his teen daughter was given an assignment to write the Shahada — the Islamic statement of faith — as part of a school curriculum teaching children about Islam.

Naturally, he was outraged by the assignment and told the school his daughter would not comply.

According to the Christian Post:

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Rich Penkoski, a conservative Christian who runs an online ministry called Warriors for Christ, contacted Principal Ron Branch at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Gerrardstown to voice his concerns about the packet on Islam that was given out as part of the class’ world religions unit.

While the packet went into detail about the history of Islam, the prophet Muhammad and the five pillars of the religion, Penkoski was most upset with a worksheet toward the end of the packet that instructs students to practice calligraphy by copying the Arabic form of the Shahada by hand.

The Shahada, one of the pillars of Islam, is the Islamic profession of faith that declares belief in one true God and Muhammad being a messenger of God.

Penkoski sent us a copy of the packet that was used in the training, which confirmed the allegation.

“I saw the assignment of writing the Shahada in Arabic. Their excuse was calligraphy,” Penkoski said. “I was like, ‘Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!’ First of all, calligraphy was invented in China 3,000 years prior to Muhammad. The fact that they were trying to get my daughter to write that disturbed me.'”

“I said, ‘That is not happening. My daughter is not doing that,'” he added. “My daughter told me that if she didn’t do the assignment then she was going to get a [detention] slip.”

But after calling the school the next day, he was told the packet was optional.

Islam calligraphy

We reached out to Dr. Branch, who told us that seventh grade students at the school “are currently doing a study on world religions, which is a part of our curriculum. Each religion is getting equitable coverage.”

He further noted:

“There were two calligraphy activities in the Islam packet. One involving the Shahada and one that is just English letters in which the students can write whatever they want in calligraphy. The teacher told the students that they could do these activities if they wanted. I told Mr. Penkoski that the calligraphy activity was optional, but was not assigned. They are reading through the packet as part of the study. The teacher has told her class several times that this is a study of world religions and that she is not trying to advocate for any religion over another. She has told her class that if they had questions about religious beliefs, that those conversations should take place with their parents.

Each unit has received equitable treatment. The units on Judaism and Christianity were about a week and a half. Each of the other units should take about a week. Jesus was taught. The students read the chapter in our text book that discusses Christianity’s belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and salvation. They also discussed the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper and Jesus’ Betrayal, the Trinity, and the Lord’s Prayer, among other topics.”

Penkoski, however, disputes that, and states that his daughter and other students say they simply watched a portion of two videos and further said that Christianity and Judaism were not given the same consideration as Islam.

“We did [the unit on Christianity] over a week and two days. We watched two different videos. We didn’t finish them. They taught a little bit about Moses and the Ten Commandments, Peter and Paul,” Penkoski’s daughter, Brielle, explained. “We learned about the Israelites and how they are being persecuted by the Romans. We were told about the Jews and told a little bit about Jesus.”

She also told us the entire experience felt “weird.”

Additionally, she added, the teacher told the class that Muslims, Christians and Jews all believe in the same deity, not all Muslims are terrorists and there is nothing in the Koran that tells them to kill people for their cause.

“I have read the Koran, looked up verses, and found verses that tell Muslims to kill infidels,” she said.

The Daily Caller noted:

Penkoski also shared with Christian Post the packets on Christianity and Judaism passed out in class and allegedly modified from the original full version. While the packet on Islam contained verses from the Koran, the packets for those religions did not contain scripture and did not encourage students to write prayers or faith statements, he said.

“Notice no Bible verses, no reciting the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer,” he said.

“[There’s] no practicing writing in Hebrew as compared to the Islamic packet,” he added.

The school gave deference to Islam because similar assignments on Christianity would result in lawsuits from atheist groups, Penkoski alleged.

Penkoski tells us he’s not finished, and intends to take the matter up with the local school board.  He also told us that he has reached out to a state lawmaker.


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Joe Newby

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Joe ran for a city council position in Riverside, Calif., in 1991 and managed successful campaigns for the Idaho state legislature. Co-author of "Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad," Joe wrote for from 2010 until it closed in 2016 and his work has been published at Newsbusters, Spokane Faith and Values and other sites. He now runs the Conservative Firing Line.

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