Do Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in the same God?
A homework assignment given to sixth-grade students last month in Illinois asserted they do. When an Elgin Area School District board member caught wind of it, she harshly criticized the assignment. And earlier this week the issue boiled over as dozens of people attended a school board meeting to express their opinions on the subject.
Jeanette Ward sparked the outcry on social media. She wrote that the assignment was “utterly incorrect and false on many levels,” according to the Elgin Courier-News. “Do you know what your children are being taught: Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews?”
Ward had also taken a photo of the assignment and shared it to her Facebook page, where her followers denounced the message and the use of religion in schoolwork.
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She told The Star that the assignment presented a “godless view” of the world, adding she was accused of being overly political in bringing up the issue.
“What is ‘political’ and hypocritical is indoctrinating students with assignments like this one, with a decidedly political, non-scholarly, inaccurate, agnostic and progressive ideology, expecting that those with an opposing view would have nothing to say about it,” she wrote to The Star.
But were Ward and the many who supported her wrong to criticize the assertion that the same God guides several religions?
Many religious scholars and leaders, including Pope Francis, believe there is just one God. But many others hold the opposite view.
Multiple faith leaders attended an Elgin board meeting last month to share their thoughts on the assignment.
Katie Shaw Thompson, a pastor in the area, criticized Ward’s response and said the homework assignment touched on an important topic, regardless of whether people agree with it.
“We feel that, more important than the content of the article is the question of how we are to engage with inevitable differences of opinion, theology and worldview,” Thompson said. “Here, we strongly take exception to Ms. Ward’s approach on her social media post.”
Sulayman Hassan, a member of a local mosque, added: “Each of us believes our own traditions are holy and true. Each of us also believes that each person, regardless of religious tradition, is valued by God and is therefore worthy of dignity and respect.”
Ward had been criticized before for her comments on minorities and LGBTQ students, which some found offensive, according to the Courier-News.
At this week’s board meeting, a Christian group pushed back to defend Ward and further criticize the assignment. One person thanked Ward for bringing the matter to light.
A local church pastor said it was absurd to equate Allah of the Q’uran with God of the Bible.
One concerned citizen said the assignment was “playing with children’s eternal lives.”
Ward’s husband, Bill Ward, said the country was founded on secularism, and “the school district should be founded on these same principles.”
In 2015, a political science professor was suspended for a Facebook post that asserted Christians and Muslims worship the same God, according to The Christian Post.
Larycia Hawkins wrote, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book.”
Her suspension was later lifted.
Pope Francis, while washing Muslims’, Hindus’, Catholic’s and Christians’ feet in a 2016 ritual, said, “All of us together ... brothers and sisters — children of the same God — we want to live in peace, integrated.”
Ward told The Star she thought the Pope’s words sounded like “a COEXIST bumper sticker.”