A conservative legal group has threatened to sue a community college in Oregon over its call to cancel a course on Islam and fire the instructor while schools officials remain undeterred in their decision.
The American Center for Law and Justice has sent a letter to Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., demanding that it rehire Barry Sommer and reinstate his course "What is Islam?" or face legal action.
The noncredit course was cleared by LCC officials and had been posted for registration on Dec. 1. Using the Quran as one of its textbooks, the course was designed to help students better understand the Islamic doctrine so they could be better informed to grasp the issues in news on Islam, Muslims and the Middle East.
But shortly after Sommer appeared on a local news broadcast promoting the course, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) e-mailed LCC and asked for the course to be cut. The group questioned Sommer's qualifications to teach the course, saying he is president of the local chapter of Act! for America, which it has accused of being anti-Islamic.
ACLJ argues that CAIR is free to express its views but that the college should not bow down to the group's "bullying tactics."
"LCC is not free to breach a contract and censor viewpoints in the name of 'sensitivity' or political correctness," the demand letter contends.
The Washington, D.C.-based group also pointed out that CAIR has been described by the FBI as a "front group" for terrorists linked to Hamas.
LCC officials, meanwhile, claim that their decision to cancel the class was "not in response to any outside group" but to "carefully consider" how to best handle the religious topic.
"The decision was made with due diligence and took into account many perspectives and issues including academic freedom, impact on the community, intellectual inquiry, and balance," LCC said in a statement Thursday.
The community college has no intention to reinstate the course, the Register-Guard reported Saturday, despite receiving more than 1,300 phone calls and hundreds of e-mails on the subject last week.
LCC also argues that that no one had registered for the 8-hour-long course. Sommer and his attorneys, however, say that people were in the process of registering but LCC had pulled the course just 48 hours after it was inputted to the system.
According to the demand letter, ACLJ is giving LCC until Wednesday to respond.
Winter course registration at LCC ends on Dec. 29.