The Washington Post reports at a high school in Prince George’s County, a northeastern suburb of Washington, DC, is providing the opportunity for Muslim students to pray during the school day. The article notes that the accommodation is within the legal bounds, even in a public facility where the state is forbidden to promote any specific religion, or any religion at all. Meeting needs is not promotion.
The article also notes, though, that the way the school is implementing the program might raise a few problems. First, not all Muslim students are given prayer breaks; only those who have parental approval and high grades are allowed out of class. Parental approval shouldn’t be too big an issue, given that Muslims generally approve of opportunities given their children to pray. Limiting access to those with high grades, though, isn’t so easy.
Schools can and do limit access to certain school programs and extracurricular activities based on grades. Religious practice, though? I wouldn’t want to try to defend that in a court.
The school may also have opened a door wider than it intended. Once it permits one religious group to have prayer during class time, it will be hard put to find legitimate reasons to not allow access to other religious groups.
The growing number of Muslim students seeking accommodations to practice their religion in public schools has stirred debate about the long-contentious issue of prayer in America’s public institutions.
But a Prince George’s County high school principal believes she has found a way to accommodate Muslim students: She gives those with parental permission and high grades a pass out of class every day to pray.
At Parkdale High School, about 10 Muslim students get out of class for about eight minutes each day to pray together on campus, said Principal Cheryl J. Logan. Another student is working hard to raise his grades so he too can join the group of students, who belong to the school’s chapter of the Muslim Students’ Association, she said.