High School Tells Muslims to Discontinue Friday Prayer Services on School Property

April 2, 2004

Source: The Kansas City Star


On April 2, 2004 The Kansas City Star reported, "Flanked by a "Street Fighter II" video game and pingpong tables, Muslim students from San Jose High Academy knelt and bowed Friday during their holy juma'a prayer. The service was held at a nearby youth center, which one student vacuumed while others laid bed sheets on the ground. Praising Allah at the Roosevelt Park community center, near Santa Clara and 19th streets in downtown San Jose, came a week after about 50 Muslim students were evicted from a sixth-period classroom they used for prayers. School officials said they recently discovered that the practice violated separation of church and state, although Muslim students had been allowed to pray on campus for many years...For as long as they have attended the school, the Hishams have joined their friends in an empty classroom every Friday, missing sixth period with their parents' permission. Last week, Principal Betsy Doss told the president of the Muslim Student Association that prayers during class must stop on school property...The First Amendment says public schools may not discriminate against private religious expression. But it also says school must not endorse - or appear to endorse - any particular religion. Federal courts have further ruled that schools may accommodate a student's private expression of religion during free time, not class time. 'By giving them a place to pray during class time, that would be promoting it,' district spokeswoman Karen Fuqua said...Fuqua's interpretation of the law is correct, according to Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Virginia. 'They do have a right to pray,' Haynes said. 'But you can't turn schools into a mosque.'"