Scott Thompson


In an attempt to erase Islamic-fundamentalist sentiments held by detainees apprehended in the course of the "war on terror," the United States government has been teaching and preaching a more moderate version of the Qur'an and Islam to detainees in Iraq. One such detention program in Iraq has been dubbed the House of Wisdom. But the wisdom of such a practice is highly suspect-both because it likely runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and because it may be doing more harm than good to the American effort to defuse Islamic-extremism and anti-American sentiment. This Article examines the current practice of promoting the "true" meaning of Islam in detention centers for its legal legitimacy and uses the program as a lens to evaluate the extraterritorial reach of the Establishment Clause.

Part II briefly outlines the current program that was implemented by the Bush Administration in detention centers in Iraq and discusses whether it is adviseable. Part III describes the contours of the Establishment Clause as it is applied within the U.S. and describes how teaching Islam in detention centers violates the current Establishment Clause tests. Part IV demonstrates how the Establishment Clause serves as both a protection of individual liberties and a structural restraint on government action. Drawing on recent case law and scholarship, Part V argues that the Establishment Clause-as either a structural restraint or as a protection of individual liberty-extends extraterritorially to these detention centers, meaning that these programs are unconstitutional. Finally, Part VI compares the Muslim reeducation program to a more government-deferential test (yet to be adopted by the Supreme Court) that considers the U.S. government's national security interests. The Article concludes that even under this test, however, the religious education program violates of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.