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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Protecting the Right to Pray in Texas

On November 8, 2005, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty wrote the principal of L.V. Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas (outside Dallas) to demand that he immediately “cease and desist from [the] school’s illegal decision to punish Muslim students” for exercising their right to pray. In an email to all teachers and staff, the principal had previously stated that “No students are to be allowed to leave [the] classroom at any time to go pray.”

The school’s policy failed to accommodate Muslim students’ constitutionally protected right to manifest religious belief through prayer. Under the policy, Muslim students were ultimately forced to choose between eating lunch and praying the mid-day prayer required by their faith. Other students were prohibited from praying at all.

However, on December 16, 2005, as a result of The Becket Fund's intervention, the school district admitted that there was some “confusion” regarding their policy and declared that Muslim students, like other students, have the right to pray on campus. According to the School District’s new policy, students now have both an opportunity and designated place to pray in the school, either at lunch or during 10 minutes of class.

"All students win when the school district recognizes its obligation to accommodate private student prayer," stated Derek L. Gaubatz, Director of Litigation for The Becket Fund. "The First Amendment is alive and well again at Berkner High."

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