On Thursday, a federal judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order to prohibit a requirement that incoming freshmen and transfer students at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill read and discuss a book about the Koran. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the book --_Approaching the Qur'án: The Early Revelations_, by Michael Sells, a professor of religion at Haverford College -- violated the church-state separation required by the US Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has leapt to the university’s defense, and they, along with university officials, assert that the assignment was purely about "intellectual engagement and critical thinking."
The University, which annually assigns a book for all incoming freshmen to read, assigned this book in May to all freshmen and transfer students to read over the summer in preparation for a two-hour discussion session scheduled for the beginning of the fall semester. Students were also asked to complete a one-page writing assignment based on their understanding and interpretation of the book. Students not wanting to read the book may opt out of the discussion by writing a one-page essay explaining their objections to the assignment. For more information regarding this story, users may access the first four news links above. The fifth site by FindLaw contains a list of links to legal information sites, and the last two links lead to official Web pages of the UNC Chapel Hill and ACLU, respectively.