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Can Christian Teachers Discuss Faith at School? Muslim Couple Sues After Daughter Leaves Islam

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A federal judge has ruled an Illinois school district is not responsible for the actions of a teacher who allegedly shared the Gospel with students, leading one Muslim student to convert to Christianity. 

Religion News Service (RNS) reports in his dismissal of the case, Judge Iain D. Johnston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, ruled officials of Community Unit School District 300 were not responsible for the teacher’s actions, as he was disciplined and later resigned after being confronted by those public school officials.

Yosuf Chaudhry and Amena Alvi, who follow Islam, sued the school district almost four years ago after finding out their daughter converted to Christianity while she was a student at Jacobs High School in Algonquin, Illinois, according to the outlet. 

The couple’s daughter identified as “B.D.” in the complaint had met Pierre Thorsen, a teacher who taught world history and world religions at the school and also sponsored a Christian group called Uprising.  

Thorsen was a popular teacher at the high school. In 2015, he was named Educator of the Year for Kane County, Illinois. More than 4,000 people signed a Change.org petition supporting the teacher before he resigned from the high school in 2019. 

He was also named in the complaint against the district. According to the complaint, Thorsen, who taught classes in apologetics at local churches, allegedly promoted Christianity during Uprising meetings and critiqued other religions.

“Thorsen would repeatedly engage in conversations with students before, during, and after school where he would advocate for his faith and cast doubt, belittle, or discount other faiths,” the complaint alleged.

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slider img 2The parents also alleged Thorsen introduced their daughter to members of his church who offered to let her live with them if her family disowned her after she became a Christian. She also received a Bible from the teacher, according to a 2023 revised version of their complaint. 

In addition, the couple alleged the school district should have known about Thorsen proselytizing students, according to the RNS

Answering the lawsuit, Thorsen said he gave lectures in churches but denied trying to convert his students. He also denied that he criticized other religions, but did say he gave their daughter a Bible after she asked for one. He also said he put the couple’s daughter in touch with people outside the school who could help her if her parents were angered by her conversion, the outlet reported. 

“The goal was reconciliation and not legal emancipation,” Thorsen rebutted the parents’ complaint.

Thorsen defended discussions of religion in a public school and said he did not try to persuade B.D. to convert but instead suggested she speak to other Muslims about her faith questions, according to the RNS

After the parents told their story to The Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper, which published an article about it, Thorsen sued them for defamation. 

In court, school administrators argued they confronted Thorsen about his actions after the girl’s parents complained. He was disciplined and resigned soon after, according to the RNS

Judge Johnston said the couple had repeatedly failed to make a case that the district was responsible. He said no other teachers appeared to have promoted religion, making it unlikely the district approved of such conduct. 

“The fact remains that when the Parents informed the District of their concerns about Thorsen, he was investigated, disciplined, and transferred to another school — a sequence that hardly raises the reasonable inference that the District had previously known of and ratified Thorsen’s conduct,” Johnston wrote in his order, dismissing the case against the district.

However, the couple’s lawsuit against Thorsen continues. 

Their attorney, Zubair Khan, said they would appeal the judge’s decision until the case against Thorsen is decided. 

Thorsen has also sued the school district, according to RNS. He alleges school officials discriminated against his Christian faith, saying they misled him into thinking he would be fired if he did not resign.

In his lawsuit against the district, Thorsen claims that any discussion of religion took place in a “legitimate pedagogical way” and that he was pressured to quit because talking about Christianity made people uncomfortable. 

The judge had previously dismissed some of Thorsen’s claims, but his attorneys filed an amended complaint in December. 



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