My latest in PJ Media:
Prayer in public schools has been a hot-button issue in the United States ever since the Supreme Court ruled against it in the landmark 1962 decision Engel v. Vitale. But now it’s back, at least in one school district in Newsomland. EdSource reported Monday that California’s “Elk Grove Unified School District began offering culturally appropriate meals and setting aside rooms in many of its middle and high schools for prayer during Muslim holidays in preparation for the additional Afghan refugee students it expects in the next month.”
Ironically, as Daniel Greenfield noted, the Elk Grove Unified School District “became famous for Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, in which an atheist sued the school because the Pledge of Allegiance includes the word, ‘Under God’. The case was an awkward mess that went to the Supreme Court, but should never have gotten that far and ended up being tossed out because Newdow didn’t actually have custody of his daughter.”
There was, however, a case in Texas in 2017 that establishes an important precedent for what Elk Grove Unified School District is doing for Afghan evacuee students now. Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas, established a prayer room for Muslim students, drawing a rebuke from Texas Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie, who said: “Liberty High School’s policy should be neutral toward religion. However, it appears that students are being treated different based on their religious beliefs. Such a practice, of course, is irreconcilable with our nation’s enduring commitment to religious liberty.”
Indeed. One parent put it this way at a Frisco school board meeting in 2017: “Liberty High School is not a mosque. It’s not a synagogue. It’s not a tabernacle. It’s not a temple. It’s not a church. It is a school. It is a public school supported by taxpayers for the purpose of educating our children.”
However, Liberty High was able to assuage concerns. Several weeks after Leonie’s statement, Marc Rylander, director of communications for the Texas attorney general’s office, issued another statement, saying: “We are grateful for Frisco ISD’s prompt response and have been in contact with their attorneys. They assured us today that students of all faith, or no faith, may now use this meeting room during non-instructional time on a first-come, first-served basis for student-led activities. Religious liberty is a cornerstone of our society and we are glad that students at Frisco ISD may practice their faith in accordance with their beliefs.”
There is more. Read the rest here.