Skip to comments.Quran lawsuit not resolved (UNC Quran reading lawsuit update)
Posted on 11/24/2002 6:05:31 AM PST by jern
By Eric Ferreri : The Herald-Sun
Nov 23, 2002 :
10:20 pm ET
CHAPEL HILL -- Three months have passed since the cameras left, since the correspondents from CNN and MTV and the rest filed their stories about the triumph of academic freedom at Carolina, since the summer reading program controversy seemed to die down.
Yet one matter remains unresolved, one last thorn in the universitys side.
The lawsuit that sparked so much of this summers turmoil has been amended and still sits quietly in federal court in Greensboro, awaiting the attention of a judge.
While many at UNC consider the case closed, lawyers for the five plaintiffs who crafted the original lawsuit see things differently.
"Its still there," said Steve Crampton, lead counsel for the American Family Association, which counts three still-unnamed UNC freshmen among its group of plaintiffs. "We think that what weve uncovered so far is just the tip of the iceberg."
The original lawsuit, dismissed in August by federal Judge N. Carlton Tilley, tried to halt UNCs summer reading program on the grounds that it violated the Constitution by requiring students to read "Approaching the Quran: The Early Revelations," a book about the Islamic holy text.
Tilley dismissed the lawsuit after UNCs lawyers testified in court that the program really wasnt required, no attendance would be taken and no grades would be given.
Now, Crampton and his legal team have amended the original complaint, attacking what they feel are misleading claims by UNC.
One the one hand, UNC told Tilley under oath that the program wasnt required. But on the other hand, the university did distribute literature to students saying the reading, along with an essay and a discussion group, was indeed "required."
In text on a UNC Web site, the word "required" was highlighted in bold type.
The amended lawsuit also takes shots at the universitys broader attempts to teach students about Islam. It cites an Islamic Awareness Week along with other seminars and events about Islam that, taken together, "constitute an endorsement and promotion of the religion of Islam by the University of North Carolina," according to legal documents filed in the case.
Tilley has yet to decide whether Crampton can go ahead with the amended complaint. The judge can dismiss it, grant a new court hearing on it, or rule on it without a hearing. No timetable is known for when Tilley will make a decision.
In response to the amended complaint, UNC has submitted motions asking Tilley to dismiss the case.
The issue exploded earlier this year when a Virginia-based Christian values group, The Family Policy Network, got wind of UNCs reading program and the assigned text.
What followed was a barrage of discussion that began on the Chapel Hill campus and eventually stretched outward to the rest of the state and, through cable television, the rest of the nation.
On Aug. 19, after an injunction to block the program and a subsequent appeal were denied, the program took place as scheduled. Students attended small-group discussions, while the national media watched with interest. The issue was covered by media outlets of all sorts, from The New York Times to CNN, from MTV to the Jerusalem Post.
While most of the controversy died down after Aug. 19, a new, amended lawsuit surfaced and has yet to be resolved.
If the question comes down to whether the reading program actually was a required assignment, the plaintiffs in the case appear to have some ammunition. As late as this week, the word "required" remained on the university Web site in bold print.
An affidavit from one of the three unnamed UNC freshmen plaintiffs suggests that students got the impression that the assignment was mandatory.
In the affidavit, the student discussed a dormitory meeting for freshmen held Aug. 17, two days before the reading programs discussion groups were to be held. At the meeting, a student asked whether attendance at the discussion groups was optional.
"We were told, in the presence of the orientation counselor, that nothings optional, especially not the essay," the student said in the affidavit.
When new freshmen were moving into their rooms on her floor in Granville Towers, Allie Perry recognized that a lot of the students were, at best, confused about the requirements. A resident assistant on a floor with 30 freshman and transfer students, Perry had been given packets of information about the program to distribute to each new student.
"I got a lot of questions about whether they had to go to the talk. I had heard different things," Perry said in an interview last week. "A majority of them thought it was required because all summer they had heard it was required."
Perry said the information was given to her by Cindy Wolf Johnson, an associate vice chancellor who heads the summer reading program. Perry doesnt remember Johnson specifying whether the assignment was, technically, required or not.
Reached last week, Johnson declined to comment, citing the lawsuit. Chancellor James Moeser also wouldnt comment for this story.
Sue Estroff, chairwoman of UNCs faculty, was a vocal supporter of the program as the controversy brewed this summer. To her, the word "required" means different things off campus than it does within the walls of academia.
"I understand what required means on campus," she said. "For example, youre required to pay your taxes by April 15 or there is a penalty. My students are required to attend my class but they can miss two before it hurts their grade," she said. "If we had said that its required and if they dont do it we will take away their admission, thats a different matter. But its not a law, it has a very different meaning on campus."
Still, the universitys handling of it perhaps could have been better, Estroff said.
"Do I think they lied? No. Do I think it was a poor choice of wording? Perhaps," she said. "Would an incoming freshman have the same understanding as I would? Perhaps not."
Tim Burnett, chairman of UNCs Board of Trustees, said the word "required" was used simply as a way to get students involved in the assignment.
"The stronger word was used not because the context changed, but rather to try to get them to do the assigned reading," he said.
Attorneys representing the university have filed several motions to dismiss the amended complaint, claiming, among other things, that the issue is moot because the reading program culminated Aug. 19 and is over.
But plaintiffs have broadened their complaint to attack more than just the reading program. The suit now claims that UNC advances the cause of Islam through its "sponsorship" of a variety of events throughout the semester.
One such event, titled "Universal Chanting," invited audience members to join in chants of Arabic religious passages. Another was an Islamic art exhibit, while a third featured members of the Islamic community telling faith-based stories.
Those events culminated with "Islamic Awareness Week," a weeklong series of events sponsored by a Muslim student group.
The university did not require students to attend any of those events. But Crampton said their very existence, taken as a whole, constitutes an endorsement of the Islamic faith. Further, the plaintiffs continue to pursue the issue in part to try to eliminate similar actions by UNC in the future.
"An issue of this nature cries out for a resolution," he said. "Failure to decide it is to invite further constitutionally questionable practices."
Even funnier is the Academia's claim of "but rather to try to get them to do the assigned reading," he said."
My understanding of REQUIRED when I was in school was that grades would suffer if you did not attend. If the Catholic church had attempted to create such a "instructional setting", we clearly would have heard about it.
Pookie & ME
Enough already : )
They wasted all that money and went through all that work to promote Islamic awareness when all they had to do was rent an SUV :
MARCH 3, 2006 FRI? : (CHAPEL HILL, NC : IRANIAN FORMER UNC STUDENT GOES ON KILLING SPREE "TO AVENGE THE DEATHS OF MUSLIMS AROUND THE WORLD" , USING HIS SUV TO TARGET PEDESTRIANS----- See CARTOON WAR, 911 HIJACKER ATTA, KORAN/QURAN) On 3 March, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a 22-year-old Iranian, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, went on a killing spree in his SUV to "punish the government of the United States" and "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world." When making his initial statement in court, Taheri-azar expressed gratitude "for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah." --------Hugh Hewitt Show - 8/29/06 - Hour 3