Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
U.S. | By Monique Johnson

AG's office raises questions about Frisco high school prayer room

AG's office raises questions about Frisco high school prayer room

Lyon's letter cites KERA's story in which Liberty's principal Scott Warstler said that other students could use the prayer room. Paxton has also opposed atheists seeking to halt prayers before public meetings.

We "recently became aware of Liberty High School's prayer room", Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie wrote to the schools superintendent - about two weeks after the room was profiled in the student newspaper.

What an embarrassing display of political grandstanding.

Ever ready to rush in with a press release where the religious liberty of Texas public school students is threatened, even when it isn't, the Texas Attorney General's office fired off a letter to Frisco ISD on Friday warning them that a "prayer room" available to Liberty High School's 2,100 students had better not be open only to Muslims.

Lyon also chided Paxton and company for attempting to use the high school's prayer room just to whip up controversy, noting this kind of "inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the district, the students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption".

The Republican attorney general's office sent the letter and a press release about the prayer room Friday, suggesting the school may be violating the First Amendment's protection of religious liberty. "Such a practice, of course, is irreconcilable with our nation's enduring commitment to religious liberty".

"What initial inquiry are you referring to?" the superintendent wrote in his reply to Paxton's office, asking for evidence that the school was breaking any rules, and whether the state had made any attempt to find out before going public.

Earlier this month a student journalist at the school reported on the prayer room, explaining before it was established about seven years ago, the Muslim students had to leave school and go to a mosque to pray, which took about an hour, but now they are able to go to the room and then go straight back to class.

The AG's office shared the letter with the media, which promptly shared it online. The vacant classroom has been used for this goal in the afternoons for a decade now without issue, school district officials insist. Instead, every lunchtime a handful of students would come in and pray for five minutes.

"Liberty High School's policy should be neutral toward religion", the letter reads.

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

"Instead, it appears that the prayer room is "dedicated to the religious needs of some students" - namely, those who practice Islam", he wrote in the letter on 17 March to Liberty High School. Lyon asks. "To Frisco ISD's knowledge, it has not received any inquiry from the OAG on this issue". Mr lyon said he had learnt of the open letter through media reports. "Confusingly, however, the OAG's office applauds the Frisco ISD's "willingness to guarantee the freedom of student-led religious groups" which is exactly what is required under the Act".

"I assure you that that room is accessible to all students of all denominations, all walks of faith, all cultures, all ethnicities, and I assure you that that is in place", said Chris Moore, the executive director of communications and community relations for Frisco ISD.

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