US

Prayer Room At Public High School Raises Legal Concerns

A prayer room at a Texas high school is raising legal concerns and the state’s attorney general’s office in a letter on Friday to school district’s superintendent indicated the school’s policy should be neutral toward religion.

Liberty High School’s prayer room, which is reportedly dedicated to students who practice Islam, allows the students to pray at the school on Fridays instead of leaving to say their required prayers. The letter cites the school’s own news site, which focused on the prayer room.

In a letter Friday to the the Frisco Independent School District, the Texas attorney general’s office outlined the legal concerns over the prayer room, indicating it may violate the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.

“Liberty High School’s policy should be neutral toward religion,” the letter from Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie to Superintendent Jeremy Lyons said. “However, it appears that students are being treated different based on their religious beliefs. Such a practice, of course, is irreconcilable with our nation’s enduring commitment to religious liberty.”

The letter congratulates the school’s effort to create an environment where students can practice their religion, and the high school’s various student-led religious groups. “Your willingness to guarantee the freedom of student-led religious groups is laudable,” the letter states, but also points out the words of the U.S. Supreme Court: ‘One religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.’”

“Reports from Liberty’s news site indicate that the prayer room is not available to students of all faiths. Instead, it appears that the prayer room is ‘dedicated to the religious needs of some students,’ namely those who practice Islam,” the letter reads.

The school’s news site, in its coverage of the prayer room, interviewed the principal of Liberty High School.

“This is my seventh year at Liberty, my first year it kind of started when a core group of students were leaving campus every Friday for Friday prayer,” said Principal Scott Warstler.

“Their parents would come pick them up, so they may miss an hour and a half to two hours to two and a half hours of school every Friday, so I met with those students and a couple of their parents and suggested if they would be okay if the students were able to lead the prayer at school as a group, and we gave them a space to do that so they didn’t have to be in a car traveling thirty minutes each way on a Friday missing an hour, hour and a half, of class,” said Warstler.

Leonie asks that school officials to ensure the prayer room is accessible to all students of all religious denominations.