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Texas school district draws complaint after superintendent led prayer during convocation at church

(YouTube/McKinney ISD Media)McKinney ISD Superintendent Rick McDaniel appears in a screen capture of a video from McKinney ISD Media.

A complaint has been filed against the McKinney Independent School District in North Texas after its superintendent led a prayer during a mandatory staff convocation held at a megachurch.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is asking the school district to discipline Superintendent Rick McDaniel for leading the prayer at a back-to-school convocation held last month at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.

Before leading the minute-long prayer, McDaniel noted that some of the attendees might not feel comfortable praying with him.

"I realize that some of you, now you may not feel comfortable. And I'm all right with that. I understand," the superintendent said, as reported by The Blaze. "For those of you who feel comfortable praying with me that's fine. At a minimum, we're going to have a moment of silence," he added.

In his prayer, McDaniel asked for God's protection over the school employees and students, and he also asked God to guide him in the leadership of the district.

Following McDaniel's prayer, three people, including a district employee, filed a complaint with the FFRF.

The atheist organization, which advocates for the separation of church and state, contended that the district violated "its obligation to remain neutral on matters of religion" with the public prayer led by a district official at the mandatory event. The letter from the group asks the school board to "formally discipline" the superintendent.

On Tuesday, the school board trustees met privately to discuss the issue, including any potential disciplinary action against McDaniel.

Board President Curtis Rippee said that the board has no "official position" on the matter. "I think that's something Dr. McDaniel feels strongly about," he was quoted as saying.

The district later issued a statement saying: "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."

Sam Grover, an associate council of the FFRF, also complained about the venue for the event. He said he does not think that the event should be held at the church.

McKinney ISD noted that it had been using the church for events like convocations and graduations because the district does not have a space large enough to fit its roughly 3,000 employees.

During the school board meeting, McDaniel stated that the district had been planning to hold next year's convocation at its new $70-million event center and stadium.

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