Tag Archives: religious liberty

Texas AG files brief urging the Supreme Court to protect prayer at public meetings

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Special to Inside The Pew

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a coalition of 22 states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the practice of lawmaker-led prayer at public meetings. The case, Lund vs. Rowan County, focuses upon a North Carolina county’s practice of opening its meeting with prayer offered by its commissioners.  The coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief supports the county.

The coalition filed a brief Nov. 16 asking the Supreme Court to hear arguments and reaffirm the constitutionality of the practice. Such a decision would clear confusion among the lower courts. The states argue that lawmaker-led prayer is woven into the fabric of American society. The practice also is fully consistent with the Constitution and our nation’s long tradition of non-coercive expressions of faith in the public sector.

“Lawmaker-led prayer has existed across the country for more than a century,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Opening legislative meetings in prayer has [sic] consistently involved lawmakers themselves exercising their own religious liberty.”

The brief further cites examples across the nation of states, counties and municipalities that open meetings with a government official’s prayer. It argues many governing bodies cannot afford to hire a full-time chaplain or recruit volunteer clergy.

West Virginia led the amicus brief in support of free expression of faith. States joining West Virginia and Texas were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin, along with the Governor of Kentucky.

 

 

Prayer room at Texas high school causes concerns

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Special to Inside The Pew

AUSTIN – In a letter sent March 17 to the superintendent of the Frisco (Texas) Independent School District, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office outlines legal concerns over Liberty High School’s prayer room, which may violate the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.

Recent news reports have indicated that the high school’s prayer room is dedicated to students who practice Islam, while apparently excluding students of other faiths.

Muslim students at Liberty High School in Frisco have been allowed since 2009 to pray in a classroom that’s vacant for part of the afternoon.

“Liberty High School’s policy should be neutral toward religion,” reads the letter from Deputy Attorney General Andrew Leonie to Frisco ISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon. “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.”

While applauding the superintendent’s efforts to create an environment where students can freely practice their religion, the letter from Attorney General Paxton’s office reminds the Frisco ISD that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.”

However, according to the CBS affiliate in Dallas, said the room is open to all students, regardless of their religion.

The letter asks that school officials ensure that Liberty High School’s prayer room is accessible to students of all religious denominations, consistent with the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.

In response to the Attorney General’s letter, Lyon said, “Frisco ISD is greatly concerned that this type of inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the District, its students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption.”

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