Local News

Judge Refuses To Block UNC Reading Requirement On Quran

Posted August 15, 2002

— A federal judge has refused to block a reading requirement involving a book on the Quran for University of North Carolina freshmen.

"Approaching the Qur'an," which contains passages from the holy book of Islam, is a summer reading requirement for incoming freshmen. Last month, three unnamed freshmen and the Family Policy Network, a conservative Christian organization, filed a lawsuit over the assignment.

After the ruling, both sides claimed victory.

"I don't know how in the world the university can see this as a victory, but we certainly do," said a spokesman from the Family Policy Network.

"I think we see this as an affirmation of the process by which we choose books," said university spokeswoman Susan Ehringhaus.

The lawsuit alleged the school infringed on students' religious freedom by making it part of the required reading curriculum.

Earlier this month, a legislative committee voted to bar public funding for the program.

"It should not be used in the context of religious instruction, but a discussion of the basis for the terrible crimes against humanity," said UNC board member Gov. James Holshouser.

"It's my hope that upon reflection, the legislature concludes that the steps they took may be reserved," said Molly Broad, president of the UNC system.

Students on campus have mixed reactions to the flap over the book.

"Everyone who I've talked to about it thinks it's kind of funny [that] everyone's so up in arms over it, especially if you pick up the book and actually read a few pages of it," student Ralph Belk said.

"I think that it is a good thing to read it just so we become familiar with other cultures, but if it's against someone's religious beliefs to read it, then they shouldn't have to," student Christy Daniel said.

As part of this year's reading program, all new students are asked to complete a one-page writing assignment. Students choosing not to read the book are also being asked to complete that writing assignment and address their decision not to read the selection.

The program started in 1999. Since then, about 50 percent of freshmen have taken part in it. On Monday, this year's freshmen class will take part in a 2-hour discussion on the book.


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