A group dedicated to the separation of church and state is blasting the McKinney Independent School District after its superintendent led a prayer during a mandatory staff assembly.
Superintendent Rick McDaniel led the prayer during a convocation event this year at Prestonwood Baptist Church.
"For those of you who feel comfortable praying with me, that is fine. At a minimum, we are going to have a moment of silence," McDaniel said at the event.
Following that, McDaniel joined hands with a few men onstage, and led a prayer.
"These things are not appropriate from a government entity," said Sam Grover, associate council of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin based non-profit organization.
Grover said he received complaints about the prayer from several staff members.
"They felt excluded and ostracized as minority religious, or non-religious staff of the school district," he said.
Grover also does not think the school district should hold the event at a church. A district spokesperson told NBC 5 that the church was chosen because the McKinney ISD does not have a space large enough to accommodate the group.
The district released a statement, saying, in part, "McKinney ISD respects, and will continue to respect in the future, the 'right of conscience' of its students and staff. The incorporation of prayer at district functions is being evaluated and future events will speak for themselves."
Grover asks that the superintendent be formally disciplined, but the district's board president says there are no plans to discipline him.
School District Statement:
"Not all of the facts recited in the complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation are accurate. Nevertheless, the inaccuracies are not material to the District’s response. McKinney ISD's existing facilities cannot accommodate large events like convocations and graduations and, therefore, the district must rent outside facilities. Prestonwood Baptist Church has been used by McKinney ISD and a number of area school districts including Frisco ISD, Plano ISD and Prosper ISD based on legitimate criteria, including size, cost, staging areas, air conditioning and location. McKinney ISD is currently constructing a comprehensive stadium and community event center. The District intends to take full advantage of its new facilities once completed, including holding future convocations. The District will continue to utilize Prestonwood for graduations due to the facilities audio/visual capabilities and the risk of inclement weather.
"McKinney ISD respects, and will continue to respect in the future, the “right of conscience” of its students and staff. The incorporation of prayer at district functions is being evaluated and future events will speak for themselves.
"McKinney ISD Board President Curtis Rippee stated, “ The Board has no plans to discipline Superintendent McDaniel with regards to complaints filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation."
Freedom From Religion Letter: