DALLAS – Texas officials are taking issue with a Muslim prayer room at Liberty High School after a student publication highlighted how the district is catering to students who practice Islam.
Wingspan, the student publication for Liberty High, explained how school officials converted a classroom at the school into a mini Mosque in 2009 specifically to allow Muslim students a space to pray daily, Fox 10 reports.
“This is my seventh year at Liberty, my first year it kind of started when a core group of students were leaving campus ever Friday for Friday prayer,” principal Scott Warstler told Wingspan earlier this month. “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.”
But the recent article about the special accommodations drew backlash from some in the community, and Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie issued a letter to the Frisco Independent School District last Friday outlining his concerns.
“Your efforts to create an environment where students can freely – without actual or perceived pressure from school personnel – practice their religion merits admiration, not antagonism,” the letter read.
“Other practices at Liberty High School, however, raise concerns. Reports from Liberty’s news site indicate that the prayer room is not available to students of all faiths. Instead, it appears the prayer room is ‘dedicated to the religious needs of some students’ – namely, those who practice Islam,” it continued. “It is unclear whether students of other faiths may use the room at the same time or at other times during the week.”
The letter states school policy should be “neutral toward religion,” but “it appears that students are being treated differently based on their religious beliefs.”
“In light of these concerns, I ask that you ensure that Liberty High School’s prayer room is accessible to students of all religious denominations, consistent with the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty,” Leonie wrote.
According to WFAA:
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a tweet Friday afternoon saying, “The Texas Attorney General is looking into the Public School Prayer Room issue many of you have questioned.”
Frisco ISD did not provide an official statement regarding the letter, but a district representative told WFAA that it is in communication with the attorney general’s office to clarify that the school is in compliance with state and federal laws.
Frisco ISD spokesman Chris Moore told KXAN the prayer room is open to “students of all walks of life,” and school officials haven’t received a single complaint since officials offered up the space in 2009.
Moore also told Fox 10 district officials “are required … to provide students the opportunity to pray,” and said Christian students utilize a different classroom to pray before school.