Associated Press, Friday, August 9, 2002
Raleigh — A state legislative committee has voted to ban the use of public funds for a University of North Carolina reading assignment on the Quran unless other religions get equal time.
The House Appropriations Committee voted while it was putting together a $14.3 billion state budget.
Some committee members attacked university officials over the plan to teach freshmen about the holy scriptures of Islam.
”If you stop and think about what 9/11 meant to this country — homeland security, guards everywhere,” said Rep. Wayne Sexton, a Republican from Rockingham. ”Just think of what it costs to protect ourselves from this faction, and here we are promoting it.”
The committee voted 64-10 on Wednesday to bar UNC-Chapel Hill from using public funds for its assignment to new students to read about a book on the Quran unless it gives equal time to ”all known religions.”
The book, “Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations” by Michael Sells, is assigned reading for about 4,200 incoming freshmen and transfer students this month.
New students may decline to read the book but must write an essay explaining their decision.
Students are scheduled to discuss the book Aug. 19 in small groups.
The reading assignment has sparked intense criticism, and a lawsuit is pending in federal court.
The lawsuit, which was filed by three unidentified UNC-Chapel Hill freshmen and a conservative Christian organization, contends the students’ First Amendment right to religious freedom is being violated.
School officials have said that the subject is timely and informational and that the requirement is not intended to promote Islam.
For it to be approved, the proposal passed by the committee must go to the full House and Senate and then to the governor.