St. Mary's Law Journal


There are constitutional limitations that govern attempts to regulate the teaching of terrorism-encouraging ideologies. According to a 1999-2000 study by the National Center of Education Statistics, there are 152 full-time Islamic schools in the United States, schooling about 19,000 students. The primary concern is not that children will be instructed to immediately engage in terrorist acts, but that the teaching of a radical Islamist ideology will predispose them to join radical Islamist terrorist movements and engage in violence. The Free Exercise Clause and parental rights doctrine, however, might not by themselves bar the state from interfering in private education to prevent the teaching of radicalism and intolerance. Furthermore, the constitutional protection of freedom of speech favors private schools’ autonomy to teach what they want, even if what they want is repugnant and dangerous. Nevertheless, it is clearly within the government’s diplomatic powers to take all efforts to ensure that the prime mover in funding and disseminating radical Islamist ideology ceases its behavior and changes its ways. Through selective, conditional funding the government can exert greater curricular control over private schools and encourage the development of moderate Muslim schools. Nonetheless, some schools may still fall through the cracks, and some students may still be inculcated with an ideology that will ultimately lead them to terrorism. For those individuals, when ideology turns to incitement, or preparation for action, it may be necessary and appropriate to preempt those actions through a whole spate of coercive law enforcement or even military tactics. While the government cannot coerce parents and private schools to accept any particular educational plan, it can take certain steps to reduce the teaching of radical Islamist ideology in the United States.


St. Mary's University School of Law