Local News

UNC Faces Lawsuit Over Book In Summer Reading Program

Posted July 23, 2002

— A summer reading assignment for incoming freshmen could land the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in court.

Incoming freshmen are required to read "Approaching the Qur'an," which contains passages from the holy book of Islam.

Monday, three unnamed UNC freshmen and a conservative Christian organization filed a lawsuit against the reading assignment.

The lawsuit states UNC-Chapel Hill is infringing on students' First Amendment right to religious freedom by requiring students to read a book about Islam.

The lawsuit complains that the university's efforts would have the effect of endorsing and indoctrinating students in Islam.

Critics said a state-funded university cannot require students to read religious text. Members of the Family Policy Network met with the students before they filed the lawsuit against the university.

"It's not hard to find people who object. There are many of those as incoming freshmen who have contacted us, but they all fear retaliation from the university," said Joe Glover of the Family Policy Network.

"Everyone who I have talked to about it thinks it is kind of funny that people are so up in arms over it, especially if you pick up the book and actually read a few pages of it. It reminds me of something I read in religion class," student Ralph Belk said.

University officials said the threat of a lawsuit would not force them to change their policy. They say students who do not want to read the book can explain why in an essay instead.

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