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.

Prince George’s Co. school lets Muslim students out of class to pray
Valerie Strauss

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.


January:29:2013 - 10:12 | Comments & Trackbacks (16) | Permalink
16 Responses to “Religious Accommodation at DC-Area School”
  1. 1
    G Jeff Said:
    January:29:2013 - 11:02 

    Totally OK with this as long the same option is given to all members of a recognized religion. And that the work is made up after class.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    January:29:2013 - 13:04 

    @G Jeff: There’s a problem with your comment. The US Supreme Court has rejected the “recognized religion” as the basis for legal action. A religion can comprise one person and his/her beliefs.

    This, obviously, can get messy and complicated. But that’s the way the legal dice rolled. In fact, recognizing a religion in any official manner would violate the First Amendment.

  3. 3
    Aafke-Art Said:
    January:29:2013 - 13:04 

    I would be ok with this if every religion gets these prayer-breaks, and if Atheists get the same breaks of course… for eating chocolate.
    Or kittens.

  4. 4
    Aafke-Art Said:
    January:29:2013 - 13:20 

    I think they should give 10 minute breaks to artistic students, to make a sketch every now and then.
    And animal loving children should get a ten minute break now and then to pet a cat or dog, or rabbit.
    And tired students should get short breaks for naps.

  5. 5
    Sandy Said:
    January:29:2013 - 13:50 

    There is a lunch break. Students can use a few minutes for duhr. There is afterschool- and they can pray asr -if it’s time. I can’t see why this is an issue at all.

  6. 6
    Solomon2 Said:
    January:29:2013 - 15:08 

    The high grades requirement offends me and I can’t see how it can be defended in court.

    The rest should be O.K. – as long as it doesn’t grant students of one religious persuasion or another a privileged position in school. For example, at GMU a decade back some Muslim students tried taking over during lunch a study hall that doubled as a cut-through in the student center: aside from the inconvenience of having to find another place to study, if you wanted to use the short-cut you had to be a Muslim. (On the other hand, it isn’t always easy to find a place clean, convenient, and accessible.)

  7. 7
    Jerry M Said:
    January:29:2013 - 15:13 

    Since Muslims can make up missed prayers there should be no reason for a school to give some Muslim students special breaks.

  8. 8
    sherif Hedia Said:
    January:29:2013 - 16:31 

    Totally OK with this

  9. 9
    G Jeff Said:
    January:30:2013 - 04:42 

    You got me there John. I just thought I’d throw a dig in at the strip mall churches popping up all over America. Might as well be called the “Church of I don’t want to pay taxes and stuff”. So as others have said, as long as any student who has their own individual belief is allowed to leave, then so be it. BUT “Jerry M” has a good point as well.

  10. 10
    LM Said:
    January:30:2013 - 06:48 

    Hello,

    The muslim prayers are performed at stated times, the best as earliest as the time of prayer started. Yes there are special cases: [1] if prayers are missed due to unavoidable emergencies, it should be made up later (qadha), or [2] during long journeys, certain prayer times can be done at the next/previous prayer time (jama).

    I personally don’t think schooling is an emergency. If I were a student, I’d love to find a school that fits 10 minutes prayer time. I don’t know the hours in USA, but here, people pray Zuhr during lunch time (~1pm) & Asr after work (~5pm).

  11. 11
    bigstick1 Said:
    February:02:2013 - 02:12 

    Religion needs to stay out of public schools and practiced at home/church/mosque/synogogue. This school is asking for a lawsuit. In addition, if children’s access was blocked to anything on public property for prayer or other religious activities; the parents should be demanding that it be stopped or have public funding stripped from it. I do not support any public institutions that allow religious activities to be performed on the property at any time particular K-12 grades. Typical the only exception is Universities as they are student organizations not school organizations but schools should never accommodate by building or supplying anything that would benefit any religion group.

  12. 12
    John Burgess Said:
    February:02:2013 - 08:06 

    @bigstick1: Would you then prevent non-members of a school-based club from entering the meetings? Not preventing them from joining the club, just non-members attending the meetings?

    How about excluding men from the girls’ locker room or restrooms? The principal’s or nurse’s office?

  13. 13
    bigstick1 Said:
    February:02:2013 - 19:58 

    John:

    Religious activities that create issues such as the one that Solomon stated should not be allowed. Next explain further where you are going with the line of questioning. My stance is that you keep religion to yourself and off of public property. Religious activities should be done in the home/religious institutions but not on public funded properties. Religion should be separate from public funded areas and from politics otherwise all public funds should be removed from the organization. Believe me I also want none of my taxpayer dollars to go to any delusional inducing organization but currently I am forced into having to contribute to these organizations that promote racism, homophobia, apartheid, sexism, child abuse, etc. also know as religious organizations. Let them support themselves without public assistance as I don’t care to support many of their discriminatory agendas.

    The rest of what you are going on about has me baffled as you seem to be doing the shotgun effect on the questioning.

  14. 14
    John Burgess Said:
    February:02:2013 - 21:10 

    @bigstick1: I understand what you’re saying. That, however, is not the way the 1st Amendment has been read by the Supreme Court for quite a while. Separation of Church & State doesn’t mean that the state must fight religion or religious expression, only that it cannot make its own promotion of any religion. If public areas are open to the expression of any lawful idea, they must be also open to the expression of any lawful religious idea.

  15. 15
    bigstick1 Said:
    February:03:2013 - 09:15 

    John:

    Actually the discrimination practiced in religion is illegal. Next public places do not have to allow any but if the allow any they must allow all. This is why many atheist are demanding the to have the same priviledge on putting their message. In this case they should demand eight minutes to them. Since most atheist are high achiever it should almost all they have. In other words she has openned pandoras box. The blocking of areas as muslims should be confronted and stopped. This is intimidation tactics to other students which seems to be a growing tactic of some muslims.

  16. 16
    John Burgess Said:
    February:03:2013 - 09:23 

    @bigstick1: I agree that this was probably an unwise move, from an administrative point of view. It does open the door to many challenges, including ones the school never, ever considered.

    Whether the school could be required to make this accommodation available is a tough question, one that the US courts haven’t fully resolved. As you say, if the school makes accommodation for any group activities, they may indeed be required to make similar accommodations for all activities, secular or religious. I guess the school figured it was stuck between Scylla and Charybdis… don’t accommodate and be sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Or make the accommodation and be sued under Equal Protection grounds.

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