At Issue: Should Decatur get rid of the 4/5 Academy?


A Muslim group has bought land in Newton County for a possible mosque and cemetery, and residents are divided: Some are against a mosque, expressing concerns of terrorism and assimilation; others say that as a matter of religious freedom, the Al Maad Al Islami congregation should be allowed to build.

Here’s what readers had to say.

I believe that the way the news of the mosque's land purchase was "announced" to the public by (Newton County Chairman) Keith Ellis, over a year later, speaks volumes. The subsequent "moratorium" is out of fears and prejudices. I believe that this hornet's nest has been stirred up to take attention off the forensic audit and issues regarding our solid waste stream. As a tax-paying homeowner in Newton County, I welcome the mosque and its congregation. They purchased the land and obtained their permit for a house of worship and cemetery according to our laws here. Any impediment to progress for the mosque is an infringement of their rights. Freedom of religion is for all. — Ann Neuhierl

Muslims should not be permitted to build a mosque in Newton County. Muslims always refer to Christians as Infidels. Muslims believe if you tie a bomb to yourself and blow yourself up in a group of people you are a hero. Muslims believe if you tie a bomb to a child and kill a lot of people you have done something good. Muslims have bad sanitary habits. Muslims killed thousands of good Americans when they blew up the Twin Towers in New York. Muslims hate Jews and Christians. Why should America have to pay $400 million to Muslins to have them release four innocent Americans from their prisons? Why do the Muslims put prisoners in a cage and burn them to death? I have no desire to live in or around Muslins. — Bill Almand

There should be no legal way to stop Muslims or Baptists or Catholics from building a mosque or a church or a cathedral in Newton County or any other county in the freedom-of-religion-held-dear U.S.A. — Tom Slaughter

I have been a resident of Newton County since 2002. I consider myself to be a pretty open-minded person, but the idea of a mosque being built here just doesn't sit right with me. For the record, I am African-American and have a few friends who happen to be Muslim. But I am also a native New Yorker, and 9/11 has left me scarred. So, no – I would prefer that they build somewhere else. I moved out to the country to get away from all things Atlanta. Looks like all things are now following me. — Tina Banks

I live in Rockdale County, and I am not at all happy about what this could mean in the long term. However, if current zoning laws will not be violated, since we have religious freedom in this country, I don't see any way to legitimately stop it. I hope this is not a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing scenario. — Dave Spencer

Our laws state that there should be no discrimination against places of worship. However, those laws did not take into account that most terrorists attended mosques. Mosques are not traditional places of worship as we know them. This is not a matter of discrimination; it is a fear of terrorists that completely justifies the concerns of the citizens of Newton County and also the citizens of Atlanta. — Gillian Rosenberg

If this land is privately owned, then the mosque should be able to be build. We live in the U.S.A., not some Middle Eastern Third World country like Iran where Christians or anyone else are treated with death if a Bible is found let alone asking permission to build a church. I personally believe that Islam is a totalitarian movement that isn't a religion as we know it. Islam has no place in Western civilization, in my opinion. We can look to Europe to see what refugees are doing to Western values. Why in the world would anyone allow people in that will never assimilate? Islam creates countries within countries. Liberals seem to love Islam, but why do they turn a blind eye to women's rights in the Muslim world? Gay rights? Child marriage? Leaving Islam? … We don't need a mosque here or anywhere, but as I said before, we live in the U.S.A., where they have the right. So go ahead and build, but we will be watching. — Hoyt Clagwell

There are plenty of open-minded people in Newton County who are horrified by our county leaders' response to the planned worship center and cemetery for a Muslim community. The entire issue was conjured up to advance one individual's personal political agenda. This is a county of over 100,000 people, yet only several hundred have risen up in apparent opposition to the protection of religious freedom embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. We are really not those angry people seen in the newsreels. Fortunately, the mayors of our five thriving municipalities have called for an immediate end to the moratorium on houses of worship and expressed abject embarrassment at how elected county leaders have handled what should not have been an issue but is now our shame reported nationally. — Barbara Morgan

The first misconception about Islam is that it is a religion. It is not. It is an ideology (definition: a comprehensive vision that is considered the correct way by the majority of the population). A religion does not demand that a majority of the population have one belief system. Christianity makes room for Catholics, Jews, etc., to express their own values. Islam, in seeking to destroy all other beliefs, disqualifies itself as a religion. Second is an assumption of assimilation, which is the process of adapting or adjusting to the culture of a nation. Promises of assimilation are just that – promises, with no recourse if promises are broken. Complaints have always been met with accusations of Islamophobia and religious discrimination. Is this a legitimate development issue or religious prejudice? It is neither. It is a fear that has been borne out in every city and country where Muslims settle. — Mary Shepherd

This is clearly a matter of religious freedom, period. I've heard some speak of traffic, zoning, and other "concerns" as to why this project should not be allowed. I saw a woman interviewed who was questioned about whether certain religious groups should be allowed to build. All got her nod without hesitation but the last. It was Islam. This, after she declared her allegiance to religious freedom. As a black American, I liken this to the declaration, "All men are created equal." The unspoken truth when these words were penned did not include "except if you are black." I have no doubt this issue will wind up in the courts, as those at the local level do not desire to put their political futures in danger. As such, the mosque will be built. There are those who cite the words of the Quran to justify their opposition to any rights being extended to Muslim people. They cannot, however, explain the millions of peaceful Muslim people around the world. Are we being hoodwinked? Are we unwittingly waiting for the great Jihad? I think not. As many other things that have stood the test of time, this issue will survive. God help us all – or Allah, Jehovah or whatever the name of the deity to be honored. — John Hall

Yes, the (county) commission is way out of line. Rather than have the backbone to do the right thing and risk the ire of some in the county, they would rather spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars defending an unwinnable suit. This way, they can throw their hands up in the end and claim "liberal judges made us do it/another example of federal government intrusion on a local issue/judges legislating from the bench" to win reelection. — George Alexander

It is the responsibility of the Muslim community to present a positive image to the local residents where they wish to relocate. Generally, Americans are a welcoming group of wonderful people. However, fear of the unknown – real or assumed – is terrifying in today's world of unrest. We WASP Americans are so over skin color we can't see straight and are sickened by its constantly being shoved in our faces. Show us some assimilation trends of adaptive culture and, most of all, character – becoming a self-supporting American citizen. We all know there are far too many leeches on the taxpayers. — David Duke

Yes, of course they should be allowed to build their church and cemetery on property that meets the normal zoning for that use. We live in a Union that has a religious tolerance of other religions. Their children are in our military services and they have died for this country, as we learned most recently about Captain Khan. Terrorism can be defeated best by assimilation into our culture. I am not, however, in favor of allowing religious groups to begin developing real estate for homes or private schools that exclude people based on a religious mean. I think that we can look at Europe and England and see areas that failed to incorporate all citizens into their culture and prosperity, that now have been a source of radicalization due to the exclusion of the population from their adopted culture. I do believe that all parties are at fault – the Muslims, the adopted home country's population, and their government that allows the exclusion. — Larry Coley

— David Ibata for the AJC

This marks the 13th year City Schools Decatur has operated under the K-3 elementary format with one 4/5 Academy as a transition to middle school.

Eliminating the K-5 structure in 2004-05 triggered a citywide fury that, though diminished, has hardly disappeared. There may be an opportunity to re-consider another restructuring.

In July CSD purchased a six-acre tract at the corner of Talley Street and South Columbia Drive, and later this month a facilities committee begins meeting to decide, in part, what to put on that site. One scenario includes a K-5 on Talley while also re-converting all elementary schools to K-5.

Proponents believe the current K-3 composition has unified the system. The elementary schools now offer curriculum consistent with each other rather than operating separately. Many also believe re-structuring was key to dramatic improvement at Renfroe Middle School. By 2004 total enrollment was 2,500 (it’s over 5,000 today), with about 25 percent of the system’s fourth graders leaving for private schools, and another chunk leaving after the fifth.

Beginning with 2004-05 all fourth and fifth graders came together under one roof, theoretically becoming acclimated to one another before raging adolescent hormones kicked in.

But those favoring K-5 don’t buy it. They believe the 4/5 Academy created an unneeded layer, and families with multiple children were spread throughout the system’s various schools. Volunteer time was reduced, or rendered superficial, because the elementary and particularly the Academy tenures were so brief. K-5 advocates also believe the current structure creates more traffic, adds more buses going to more schools, and is much costlier.

What do you think? Should Decatur stick with the current format or a return to K-5, or even another configuration like Buford City Schools, with a K-1 elementary and 2-5 Academy? Send comments to