Maryland, Michigan and Arizona Allow Muslims Students to Pray in Schools-Truth! & Misleading!
Summary of eRumor:
Maryland, Michigan and Arizona allow Muslims students to pray during school — but not Christian students.
Muslim students in Maryland, Michigan and Arizona are allowed to pray on school grounds and during school hours — but so are students of all faiths, including Christians.
It’s not clear exactly where the specific claim that Maryland, Michigan and Arizona allow Muslim students to pray during school hours originated, or why those states were singled out. We previously investigated similar claims about Muslim students being allowed to pray at a high school in Ohio, and similar reports can be found from states across the United States.
One of the biggest misconceptions in regard to claims about Mulsim students in public schools being allowed to pray is that Christian students and students of other faiths are not allowed to do the same, which is false. Many articles about Muslim students praying link to a 2013 Christian Post article about school prayer in Dearborn, Michigan, that incorrectly claims the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it’s illegal for Christian students to pray in schools:
It’s illegal for Christians to pray in public school, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in Michigan, Muslims are being given special prayer privileges by school administrators, raising questions as about due process, equal protection, and freedom of speech for followers of the faith of America’s Founding Fathers.
Stirring up the Constitutional storm, once again, is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Michigan chapter, which has reached a “negotiated” settlement with the school board in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, which will give Muslim kids so-called “prayer accommodations” in Dearborn Public Schools.
In reality, the Supreme Court has never ruled that it’s illegal for individual students to pray in public schools. Rather, the Supreme Court found in the 1962 case Engel vs. Vitale that school-sponsored prayer in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment — even if students are given the opportunity to voluntarily opt-out. The high court didn’t find that “it’s illegal for Christians” to pray or practice their religious beliefs in school on an individual basis, as the Christian Post claims.
Charles Haynes, a First Amendment scholar and the director of the Religious Freedom Education Project, explains that “students of all faiths are actually free to pray alone or in groups during the school day, as long as they don’t disrupt the school or interfere with the rights of others.” Haynes goes further by explaining that students openly practice their religious beliefs at school more now than at any time time in the last 100 years:
The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that kids can’t pray in school. What the Court has done — and continues to do — is to strike down school-sponsored prayers and devotional exercises as violations of religious liberty.
As a result of those decisions, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into the local church for religious celebrations.
Students, however, aren’t the government; they can — and often do — openly pray and share their faith in public schools.
So, while it’s true that Muslim students in Maryland, Michigan and Arizona are allowed to pray at public schools, the same is true for Christian students and students of all religions across the country. For that reason, we’re calling this one “truth” and “misleading.”