Texas school's Muslim prayer room may be forced to closeby Richard Bailey 20/03/2017 11:56:00 0 comments 1 Views
- Room established in 2009 as 'a place dedicated to needs of some students'
- Texas Attorney General Office is concerned it may exclude non-Muslim pupils, which would be a violation of the First Amendment
- School official says the the Attorney General's Office is 'politicizing a non-issue'
By Joe Sheppard For Mailonline
Published: 11:33 EDT, 20 March 2017 | Updated: 11:56 EDT, 20 March 2017
A prayer room used by Muslims at a high school in Texas could be shut down after it was claimed that the existence of the space violates the Constitution.
Liberty High School in Frisco established the room in 2009 and it is described on the school's news website as a place 'dedicated to the needs of some students'.
But it is the use of the word 'some' that has caused concern within the Texas Attorney General's office (OAG), headed by Ken Paxton, which is concerned the space excludes students who are not Muslims.
Liberty High School in Frisco, pictured, established the prayer room in 2009
If the concerns are correct, this would mean the prayer room is in violation of the First Amendment.
In a letter to the superintendent of the Frisco Independent School District, Jeremy Lyon, Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie wrote: 'It appears that students are being treated differently based on their religious beliefs.
'Such a practice, of course, is irreconcilable with our nation's enduring commitment to religious liberty.'
But Mr Lyon hit back at the claims and said the letter is merely 'a publicity stunt by the OAG to politicize a non-issue'.
Replying to Mr Leonie's letter, the superintendent wrote: 'Frisco ISD is greatly concerned that this type of inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the District, its students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption.'
The school's principal, Scott Warstler, said the prayer space, housed in a classroom, was established to accommodate Muslim students who previously had to leave campus every week to attend Friday prayers.
He told the school's Wingspan News: 'We gave them a space 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.'
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office said it was concerned the prayer room excluded students of other denominations
Referring to Principal Warstler's comments, Mr Lyon said: 'The District is prohibited from failing to reasonably accommodate and/or discriminating against these students because their religion dictates the time and manner of their prayer.'
A school spokesman said the classroom is available to 'students of all walks of life' in the afternoon when it is not in use.
Speaking to Fox News, Pastor Robert Jeffries, leader of a large Baptist church in Dallas, said he believed the room was not a First Amendment issue provided it is accessible to all students at all times.
Muslim-American Democratic political consultant Mustafa Tameez said the OAG was trying to create controversy where it does not exist.
He said: 'In airports we have a chapel where people can go pray. So it’s not necessarily just for Muslim students.
'It’s for anybody, anybody of faith that wants to use a room to communicate with their creator.'
Texas Attorney General Paxton made national headlines when he helped sue the school district in Killeen for taking down a 6ft poster, entitled A Charlie Brown Christmas, which included a Bible quote.