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Bad religion 

Next week, the Wake County School Board will decide whether to cleanse the personnel record of former Enloe High School teacher Robert Escamilla, who, earlier this year, was suspended, reprimanded and reassigned to another school after inviting Kamil Solomon ostensibly to speak to students about his government persecution in Egypt. However, once in front of his captive audience, Solomon, an Egyptian-born Christian who now runs an international, anti-Islam ministry out of Raleigh, told 300 students in social studies, English and "The Bible in History" classes that Islam is the work of the devil, and distributed pamphlets calling Muhammad a criminal who was "inspired by Satan."

Since Escamilla's censure, conservative Christians have rallied to his defense, raising money for his legal battle and invoking his First Amendment right to free speech. Escamilla was quoted in a June 13 article in The News & Observer: "Are we going to be open to a variety of different perspectives versus are we going to limit and censor and shut down the educational experience and environment to keep out people with certain views?"

One could argue whether Solomon's diatribe was educational, or merely propaganda. Since no one from the Muslim community was present to counter his views, they could be taken as fact, not the opinion of one man with an agenda. Moreover, when those views are distorted and hateful, it is the obligation of public—that is, government- and tax-funded schools acting in loco parentis—to vet those who espouse such intolerance.

Would Escamilla be willing to host the Ku Klux Klan, which contends it's delivering a "message of hope and faith to White Christian America"? Or perhaps he could sponsor a potluck with the World Church of the Creator, which claims to be a religion, but is hell-bent on ridding the world of Jews?

If the roles were reversed—if a fundamentalist Muslim invited to proselytize called Jesus a fraud—Christians would have descended on Enloe like a swarm of locusts and called for the teacher's immediate dismissal.

This is a public high school where, unlike a college campus, students aren't free to leave the classroom in protest without fear of punishment. As the conservative Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case, students, unfortunately, don't enjoy the same rights to free speech as their elders.

However, Solomon does have that right, and he exercises it on his Web site, www.kimo4jesus.org. As noxious as his views may be, he can express them on street corners and online, in public plazas or in private church forums. However, if Solomon, Escamilla and their ilk want to indoctrinate students with misinformation and hatred, they should open a private school. Their intolerance has no place in public education.

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