Religion

Prayer Rooms In Public Schools Are Not A Big Deal

| by Mark Jones

A Muslim prayer room in a Frisco, Texas, high school has become a source of concern for many members of the community. However, having a prayer room for Muslim students in a public school is not harmful to anyone, and is something that is on its way to being normalized. 

On March 17, Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office wrote a letter to Jeremy Lyon, superintendent of the Frisco Independent School District, reports KXAS. In the letter, Leonie cited complaints about a classroom at Liberty High School which Muslim students have been allowed to use for daily prayer.

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According to Leonie, the school has violated non-Muslim students' First Amendment rights -- which guarantee the free practice of religion -- because such students are not allowed to use the prayer room. The letter was also used in a press release sent out to media outlets.

In a response to Leonie, Lyon called the letter "a publicity stunt by the OAG to politicize a non-issue." 

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Lyon's assessment of the letter could not be more correct. Leonie warped facts and has tried to make a big deal out of something that should be seen -- and in many places already is seen -- as normal. 

First of all, the classroom is empty at all times unless it is being used, meaning that its use by Muslim students is not an inconvenience to anyone. In addition, Leonie's main assertion -- that the prayer room is unavailable to non-Muslim students and therefore violates their rights -- is simply untrue. 

According to Frisco ISD spokesperson Chris Moore, the room is open to all of Liberty High School's students, regardless of religious affiliation. 

"It's not just a room for Muslim students," said Moore. "It's a room Buddhist students, Jewish students, Catholic students, Hindu students, anyone who wants to use that room in that capacity can." 

The fact that every student at the school can use the prayer room means that it is not in violation of any student's religious freedom rights. In fact, the presence of the room has only served to make religious expression easier by giving students a designated space in which to practice prayers of their choice. 

In addition, there is already a set precedent for the use of prayer rooms in public schools. In March of 2015, Newsmax reported on schools in four different U.S. states -- Arizona, Michigan, Maryland and California -- that had installed Muslim prayer rooms in their schools. And according to PBS, schools in St. Cloud, Minnesota, have rooms set aside for students of all beliefs to use for religious and other purposes throughout the day. In addition, Heritage High School, a school also located in Frisco, established a prayer room before Liberty did, reports KXAS.

It is evident that Liberty High School's prayer room is not in violation of the First Amendment, and that such rooms are becoming common practice in the U.S. Therefore, Liberty's prayer room is not a big deal, and no one should be trying to make it seem like it is.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: KXAS, Newsmax, PBS / Photo credit: Steven Brewer/Flickr

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