NOVI, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Freedom of Information Act request reveals a Michigan school district gave an unknown amount of student data to a Muslim apologist and subjected all of its teachers to Islamic indoctrination.
In 2017, after learning of a two-day mandatory teacher seminar on Islam, Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents pertaining to Novi Community School District's mandatory teacher training.
A press release issued Thursday shows that teachers were subjected to two days of anti-Christian and anti-American Islamic indoctrination.
"We found that the teachers were subjected to two days of Islamic propaganda, where Islam was glorified, Christianity disparaged, and America bashed — all funded by Novi taxpayers," it noted.
Church Militant spoke to Leo Hohmann, the communications coordinator for the TMLC. He said it was an "extremely coercive program" put on by a "professional Muslim apologist."
The school district contracted Muslim apologist and founder of Culture Links, LLC Huda Essa for $5,000 for two half-day seminars. Essa promotes herself as a "cultural competency consultant." She is a TEDx speaker and has written two children's books on the theme of "embracing diversity."
FOIA documents revealed that Essa asked for data about the school district and its students.
Hohmann said the documents note she was given data, but they do not say what she was given — whether it was demographics or student surveys including their essay responses.
Church Militant spoke with Novi Community School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Matthews, who said, "I do not believe that any student survey data was shared with Ms. Essa."
Novi Community School District is planning on asking voters to approve a $185 million bond for the schools this November.
Hohmann said the Novi school district did not evaluate Essa or the materials she was planning to present prior to contracting with her. They also did not have any procedures in place to determine if the material she was presenting was factually correct.
"They just let her come in and talk," Hohmann said. "Essa could say whatever she wanted."
Thomas More Law Center obtained an audio recording of Essa's presentation, and Hohmann said the slides she used were "pro-Islam, anti-Christian and anti-American."
He said there were multiple slides comparing the United States' treatment of Native Americans to the Nazi genocide. In one, Essa claimed the United States was responsible for 100 million Native American deaths.
Essa also claimed that white, Christian males were more of a threat than Jihadis.
Hohmann said any descriptions of the actual genocides Islam has been responsible for throughout history were missing. He explained Essa presented Islam as "all lollipops and balloons" while America and Christianity were responsible for terrible crimes against humanity.
Matthews claimed to be "puzzled" by Church Militant's questions and said, "Just because Ms. Essa is Muslim does not mean that she was proselytizing to our staff or being disrespectful of other religions."
"She was not brought to Novi to speak about religion," he added. "She was brought here to speak about diversity and respect for all."
Matthews said Essa was contracted to provide training on "unconscious bias." Her presentation was entitled "Opening minds, Connecting worlds: Turning the lens inward to expand our views."
"She introduced our staff to the 'Iceberg Concept of Culture,'" Matthews explained.
The iceberg model was introduced in 1976 by Edward T. Hall, and only a small portion of a new culture is initially visible, "but there is a larger portion hidden beneath the surface."
"As one spends more time in that new culture, the underlying beliefs, values, and thought patterns that dictate that behavior will be uncovered," The Constant Foreigner explains.
Matthews claimed Essa also presented an optional session on "Utilizing critical consciousness to increase understanding of Muslims, Ourselves and All Others."
"In this presentation she attempted to help our staff understand the Muslim culture and the importance of seeing people as individuals," he explained.
Matthews said calling this "Islamic propaganda is misguided and wrong." Continuing, he explained, "This was an attempt to encourage our staff to reflect on the diversity in our district and support all of our students. It certainly was not anti-American nor disrespectful of other religions."
Matthews said he was present during her half-day presentation to the staff, saying, "I did not hear what the Thomas More Law Center represents."
"Her presentation was on cultural experience," Matthews insisted. "Her handouts were reviewed before her presentation. She did not talk about religion incessantly here in Novi."
Hohmann, who reviewed Essa's presentation on audio, responded by saying, "Just one example is the biased descriptions of the Quran in comparison to the Bible. Only the Koran was presented as the most 'pure' words of God. The Bible, she told the teachers, 'has many translations' and has been 'changed' over time."
Church Militant also spoke to Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of TMLC, who said the event was "deceptively and cleverly" promoted.
"You can talk about religion but you can't preach about religion," he said. For example, you can talk about the Quran, but you can't say that the Quran is superior to the Bible.
He said there is a "double standard" when it comes to Islam and things that are not tolerated with Christianity are tolerated with Islam. That has been the case in other schools where students were taught the five pillars of the Islamic faith and the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, but it is unthinkable to ask students to recite John 3:16.
TMLC also learned through their FOIA request that for at least five years, no similar training program was done to provide sensitivity and inclusiveness for Christians, Jews, Hindus or any other religion.
This could be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Essa's website notes she has worked with several colleges and Michigan school districts such as Birmingham, Farmington, Melvindale, Dearborn, South Lake Schools, Lenawee Intermediate School District, Seminole County, L'Anse Creuse, Plymouth-Canton and Roseville Community Schools.
TMLC declined to provide Church Militant with the audio recording of Essa's presentation as they are still discerning if they can bring legal action against the Novi Community School District.
Thompson explained that teachers at the training event could also have legal recourse if they felt that the presentation created a "hostile working environment" to them because of their faith.
Church Militant reached out to Essa but has not heard back by press time.