FRISCO, Texas (CN) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned a suburban Dallas school district Friday that its prayer room for Muslim students may violate other students’ religious liberty.
Paxton wrote a letter to Frisco Independent School District Superintendent Jeremy Lyon, seeking more information on the room at Liberty High School and clarity “in the interest of protecting religious liberty” in Texas public schools. Frisco is located about 30 miles north of downtown Dallas.
“Reports from Liberty’s news site indicates that the prayer room is not available to students of all faiths,” Paxton’s two-page letter states. “Instead, it appears that the prayer room is ‘dedicated to the religious needs of some students’ – namely, those who practice Islam. It is unclear whether students of other faiths may use the room at the same time or at other times during the week. Liberty High School’s policy should be neutral toward religion.” (Emphasis in original.)
Paxton said the practice of treating students of different religious beliefs differently is “irreconcilable” with the country’s “enduring commitment” to religious liberty, citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent under the Establishment Clause that no religion can be officially preferred over another.
Frisco School District spokesman Chris Moore told The Dallas Morning News the prayer room is open to all students and the district welcomes an open discussion about the room. Moore said his call to Paxton’s office had yet to be returned.
Liberty provided an empty classroom for Muslim students who previously had to miss hours of school each week to pray at a mosque several miles away.
On the school’s news site cited by Paxton, Liberty High School Principal Scott Warstler explains he allotted the room after meeting with affected students and their parents so they would not miss several hours of class on Fridays, the most important day of the week for Muslims.
“The trademark of what makes Liberty High so great is our diversity and how our students respond to the different cultures and the diversity on campus,” he said in a video posted on YouTube. “This is the seventh year we have been doing this and we have never had one issue. We have other religious groups that meet before or after school. As long as it is student-led, the school stays out of it.”