I Guess Understanding Islam Will Have to Wait

Oregon’s Lane Community College was going to offer a course in the spring called “What Is Islam?” And then it decided not to.

That’s because people found out the adjunct the community college hired to teach it, Barry Sommer, turns out to be the head of a local chapter of what some say is an Islamophobic hate group. Sommer’s group, ACT! For America, says it “provides American citizens with a means to be a collective voice for the democratic values of Western Civilization, and against the threat of radical Islam.”

According to an article by Saul Hubbard in The Register-Guard:

LCC President Mary Spilde said the college first learned of Sommer’s background as the result of a media inquiry. “When it got on our radar, given the recent events in Portland and Corvallis, we said, ‘Wait a minute, we need to be very careful and really consider how Lane engages learning experiences in this environment,’ ” she said.

Spilde was referring to the alleged bombing attempt by a young Muslim man in downtown Portland, and the subsequent arson at a Corvallis mosque attended by the man, a former student at Oregon State University.

Spilde said she didn’t know who scheduled the class. The community college does check the backgrounds of adjunct professors but “the process is not as comprehensive as the vetting for for-credit classes and the instructors teaching them,” she explained.

“What Is Islam?” was a non-credit course. The school was going to pay Sommer $160 to teach the eight-week class. According to the article:

Sommer said Monday he is disappointed with how LCC handled the matter and that he regards it as a free speech issue. He said he has retained the services of the American Center of Law & Justice for any potential legal action.

The American Center of Law & Justice is a public interest law firm founded by Christian fundamentalist Pat Robertson in 1990.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer