Close to 100 people reportedly showed up at a forum Tuesday night in Staunton, Virginia, to discuss growing concerns regarding high school students being assigned practice calligraphy in a class by writing Islamic statements of faith.
News Leader reported on Tuesday that parents at Riverheads High School are angry after world geography students were assigned to practice calligraphy by writing in Arabic "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," which is the Islamic conversion creed.
While the students were not apparently asked to translate or recite the statement, a few of them refused to complete the assignment, and told their parents.
Some Augusta County residents, including Kimberly Herndon, argued that the class assignment counted as "indoctrination."
"That's why we need to join together," Herndon said at the forum, held at Good News Ministries church in Greenville. "If my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don't want false doctrine spoken in schools. That's what keeps it even across the board."
The school district defended the assignment, however, and said in a statement to Fox News:
"Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief."
The district added that the idea behind the task was centered on art, and not theology.
"They were simply asked to attempt to artistically render written Arabic in order to understand its artistic complexity," it said.
School officials also insisted that they cover other religions as well, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism.
Debbie Ballew, another Augusta County resident, argued, however, that there is a double standard in American public schools, and pointed out that teachers who would risk doing a similar assignment with passages from the Bible would be fired.
Complaints of Islamic "indoctrination" have been voiced by conservative groups and parents in other states as well. Earlier this year, the State Board of Education for Tennessee agreed to review the social studies curriculum two years earlier than scheduled due to such concerns.
The American Center for Law and Justice revealed that it had received as many as 7,000 calls from Tennessee residents who said that students were being asked to learn the Five Pillars of Islam.
"When public middle school students are required to recite Muslim prayers and statements of belief, to write those statements as though they are fact, and to memorize historically inaccurate information about the background of the Islamic religion, someone must cry foul," the ACLJ said in a statement in November.
"While education about religions is certainly an appropriate curricular topic, it is imperative that public schools take the necessary precautions to avoid instruction that constitutes indoctrination in the tenets of a particular faith," the conservative law group added.