The Associated Press, Aug 14, 2002 : 7:09 am ET
RALEIGH, N.C. — Lawmakers’ efforts to prevent the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from requiring incoming freshmen to read a book on Islam moved a step closer to becoming reality Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the executive committee of the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council endorsed a resolution in support of academic freedom, one week after the UNC Board of Gov.s chose not to adopt a similar resolution.
The state House approved a budget bill that includes a provision to block the use of public money for any required reading assignment that promotes one religion over another.
A House committee put the measure in the budget after legislators learned about a UNC-Chapel Hill requirement that 4,200 incoming freshmen and transfer students read a book entitled “Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations,” by Michael Sells.
After the provision was placed in the budget plan, it drew no debate as the bill moved through the House on Tuesday. The provision could still be dropped when House and Senate negotiators work out a compromise budget bill over the next week or two.
Professors and others call the measure an attack on academic freedom. Supporters defended the provision, saying it makes a statement about sensitivity in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Also on Tuesday, a coalition of UNC-CH campus ministers from different faiths issued a statement in support of the summer reading program
“As professional ministers in higher education, we function at this university with the conviction that the life of the spirit and the life of the mind are intertwined,” said the group, which includes representatives of the Baptist, Jewish, Catholic, Episco pal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and Unitarian campus ministries. “In support of the expression of all faiths, we welcome this opportunity to approach this text in a scholarly manner as an educational enterprise. We hope that in place of fear there will be increased knowledge and new understanding.”