BRISTOL, Conn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Muslim woman set to talk at a public school on Islam will no longer be speaking after parents pushed back against the administration. The event was canceled for safety concerns. Her talk will now be offered at an interfaith service at a local Catholic parish.
Annam Choudhry's speech was scheduled for November 20 at Northeast Middle School in Bristol, Connecticut. Embittered residents blasted the event on social media and wrote complaints to the school. Some invoked the separation of Church and State, while others accused school administrators of being anti-Christian.
Several faculty members claimed they received threatening emails, according to a report Thursday from local news outlet Hartford Courant. These alleged threats caused administrators to cancel the event.
The report noted that threats of violence were not reported to the local police.
"I understand some emails to the principal and the teacher were very confrontational," School board chairman Chris Wilson told reporters. "The superintendent thought for safety reasons we should pull the program."
A Thursday op-ed in Hartford Courant slammed the school's cancellation. "Does anyone with a complaint and a threatening manner now get to dictate what's taught in our schools?" the author asked. "Are internet trolls in charge now?"
Instead of an assembly with a Muslim speaker on stage, Northeast Middle School will have an interfaith forum with representatives of various belief systems. Students' parents can take them to the optional event.
The report in Hartford Courant featured comments from Bristol's first female mayor, Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. The recently elected mayor drew attention to an interfaith event at St. Joseph's Church in Bristol.
"The service represents all faiths," she explained. "Going would be a public show of support for diversity."
Hartford Courant wrongly stated the event is at 7 p.m. EST on November 23. This would place it at suppertime on Thanksgiving Day when Americans traditionally are at home sharing a feast with extended family. Parish staff said the report was in error and explained there will be an interfaith service with Muslims on November 22 at 7:30 p.m. EST at St. Joseph's. The service is an annual tradition at the parish.
A Bristol Press report had the correct date for the ecumenical Thanksgiving prayer service. It also clarified that the presentation on Islam was part of a seventh-grade social studies curriculum and would later be followed by a Christian presentation.