Lawyer sues over "offensive" Christian images at Catholic University — UPDATED

Those images include things like the cross.


Crosses in every room at Washingon D.C.’s Catholic University of America are a human rights violation that prevent Muslim students from praying.

That’s the complaint to the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights filed by a professor from rival George Washington University across town.

GWU Law School Professor John Banzhaf takes the Catholic institution to task for acting “probably with malice” against Muslim students in a 60-page complaint that cites ”offensive” Catholic imagery all over the Catholic school, which he says hinder Muslims from praying.

Baffled Catholic University officials say they have never received a complaint from any of the schools Muslim students.

Banzhaf, who already has a pending lawsuit against the university over ending its policy of allowing mixed-gender dormitories and has a history of filing civil rights suits on such topics as childhood obesity and smoking, filed the complaint alleging that Muslim students are not given their own prayer rooms.

He alleges that the university, “does not provide space – as other universities do – for the many daily prayers Muslim students must make, forcing them instead to find temporarily empty classrooms where they are often surrounded by Catholic symbols which are incongruous to their religion,” according to the Tower, Catholic University’s student newspaper.

The complaint further objects that Muslims must pray at the school’s chapels “and at the cathedral that looms over the entire campus – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.”

A spokesperson for the human rights office said they are investigating Banzhaf’s complaint — and the inquiry could take as long as six months.

Read more.

And you can find more, too, at the CUA newspaper The Tower.

UPDATE: The Anchoress has an excellent overview of this story from a variety of angles.  Check it out.

UPDATE II: Rod Dreher puts it succinctly:

Let’s not forget that this whole thing was brought about not by Muslim students, but by a cranky law professor trying to make a name for himself. The web is filling up with outrage stories that Muslims are trying to bully Catholic University into accommodating them by suppressing its own Christian identity. Banzhaf is going to bring all kinds of opprobrium down on innocent Muslims, and contribute to religious discord in this country. Great job, jackass. With friends like you, American Muslims don’t need enemies.

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36 responses to “Lawyer sues over "offensive" Christian images at Catholic University — UPDATED”

  1. Interesting that it appears that Muslims are not complaining and this is just another attack on CUA by this professor. In the end, he is creating some backlash against the Muslim students.

  2. Also, I regularly drive by CUA and have yet to see the “cathedral”. I didn’t know you could see St. Matthew’s from there.

    At least he should do some homework and figure out the difference between a basilica, a shrine, and a cathedral!

  3. RomanCath: I agree with you 100 percent. It is called”CATHOLIC University,” so one should expect to see crosses and other Christian symbols in its classrooms and on its campus. But what really gets me is, according to the article: “Baffled Catholic University officials say they have never received a complaint from any of the school’s Muslim students.” Since that is the case, why did George Washington Law School Professor John Banzhaf have to stir up this hornet’s nest?! If he wants to do good, he should be working to improve interfaith relations in his city.

  4. If he wants to do good, he should be working to improve interfaith relations in his city.

    He’s a law school professor. Why in the world would you think he wants to do good?

  5. Get ready—the movement is coming—everything religious will be seen as “offensive”—are we going to stiffen our spines and hold on to our faith or submit ?

  6. Wow! You people need to get your facts straight! It is NOT the Muslim students who are suing. It is ONLY this imbecile of an attorney who is maliciously doing so. Go elsewhere in the media and you will find Muslim student interviews stating that they are not uncomfortable and that they are happy with the respect they are getting in CUA. You are suppose to be reporting facts, not heresay and buffoonery like the NYT might do!

  7. What Gabriel says may be tru but where is the Muslum effort to stop the suit ? Lets not forget the Mosque built over the Temple mount in Jerusalem.

  8. Any professor who has enough time to pursue that frivolous of a lawsuit needs to carry another class or committee assignment or three…

  9. Can an attorney here help me out.

    If there are no muslim students behind this suit, and it is simply a windbag law prof, then I would imagine the plaintiff would be found to have no standing. Correct?

    On the other hand, if this suit was not tossed for lack of plaintiff standing, then there are obviously muslim students behind it. Cairo has a nice university. They should consider going where their sensibilities would no be offended.

    Just as most muslims are decent people, there are the radicals who would convert us at the point of a sword. Then there are the radicals who realize that the courts can be more effective than the sword.

  10. Gabriel…

    You’re right. I’ve changed the headline to more accurately reflect that substance of the story.

    Thank you for pointing out the error.

    Deacon Greg

  11. His lawyer should be sanctioned for even filing the case. Rule 11. More muslim troublemaking, trying to pave the way for Sharia to enter the scene as soon as possible.

  12. Gerard,

    Civil rights complaints are not lawsuits, properly speaking, but are administrative complaints. So I’m not sure that standing is as directly relevant as if he’d filed in the district court.

    Here are the rules of the US Department of Education Civil Rights office. Note that “anyone,” not just the discriminated party, can file a complaint:

    Who Can File a Discrimination Complaint
    Anyone who believes that an education institution that receives federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age, or who believes that a public elementary or secondary school, or state or local education agency has violated the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, may file a complaint. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination but may complain on behalf of another person or group.

  13. Well, there it is. If you accept federal funds, then you leave yourself open to this kind of complaint.
    Don’t take the money and don’t be a target.

  14. Looks like the complaint was filed with a local agency not a court, so some might quibble about whether Prof. Banzhaf “sued” over the offensive images (sorry, Deacon Greg, if that makes you want to change the headline again). But the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and court concepts like standing wouldn’t come into play. It would be reasonable to assume that the District of Columbia “Office of Human Rights”, whatever that is, has its own procedures.

  15. Deacon Greg –

    Thanks for changing your headline, and for including the link to The Tower. That article helps make clear, via quotes from Muslim undergrads at CUA, that they do indeed feel welcome at CUA, as they should indeed be welcomed.

    Even the WaPo has published several recent stories on how Muslim students increasingly feel more welcome at CUA and other Catholic campuses than at secular universities, because we share a respect for the life of faith, and both disapprove of the binge drinking and hook-up cultures.


    Sadly, Professor Banzhaf has developed some sort of personal vendetta against the university based on his own warped sense of ‘justice.’

  16. Hopefully there will be a chance for the Muslim students who are not offended to testify.

    Apparently the professor is just an anti-Catholic crank.

    John V #5 — LOL

  17. Just another example of a frivolous complaint over something that seems to be a non-issue with the Muslim students involved.
    If the shoe were on the other foot I wonder how a Muslim University (if there was one in the US) would handle it. I doubt they would be very accomodating to Christian and Jewish students by removing Muslim symbols. Just my opinion.

  18. Why are Muslims going to a Catholic school!!

    I feel this is another way for Muslims to attack other than muslim religions. I find this totally ridiculous.

  19. Sal @ 14,

    I tried to get people to understand this a few months ago on this blog when Deacon Greg had a post about school vouchers….

  20. Peter Kreeft tells a story about teaching at BC in a classroom that (at the time) didn’t have crucifixes (it is my understanding that in many classrooms at BC, the crucifixes have been put back in). Apparently, the gist of the story was that a Muslim student was chastising his fellow Catholic students for so easily letting their Catholic identity whither away. He went so far as to declare that he was a better Christian than his fellow ‘Christian’ students, as his religion honored Jesus, and–iconoclast doctrines aside–would gladly be a martyr for Jesus if people came to forcibly remove the crucifixes from classrooms.

    I could be getting the details wrong. Moreover, this story could be apocryphal. But something like this story is probably closer to the truth of the situation. I really doubt that any Muslim students have anything to do with this. What a sad thing.

  21. Kevin, where exactly does the article indicate that Muslim students (or any Muslims, for that matter) are behind the complaint? Read it again. The lawyer likes to file complaints against this institution and that. I don’t see anything in the article to suggest that the lawyer is Muslim.

    The complaint is ridiculous. But Catholics should not be about Muslim bashing or picking up the phony “here comes sharia law” line. Read what Benedict XVI has to say about respect among faith groups. Muslim bashing is not a good Catholic thing to do. We’re better than that.

  22. If you do not think that there are thousands of muslims within our borders who seek the destruction of our country, and the “infidel” faiths, then I don’t know what to tell you.

    I don’t know what this professor’s beliefs are but he is furthering a concerted effort to marginalize Christianity and mainstream Islam in the United States. We all know what happens when “peaceful” muslim populations attain majority status in a country: tolerance goes out the window, sharia law comes in, and Christianity goes away.

  23. As is quickly becoming evident, the story is not about Muslims or Catholic University at all but purely about a lawyer / professor with self promotion media campaign.

    Muslims and Catholics I guess are easy” hot button” topics to get press, it remains sad that this GWU professor needs to exploit such for his own publicity.

  24. This complaint no matter how it is filed should be thrown out and ended. There should be no way the government should be able to dictate anything that interfers with religion based on the actual text of the 1st amendment. The reason this type of thing is going on is based on the distortion of the amendment by justices who want to legislate and not preseve and protect the constitution.

    The Catholic University should be free to be Catholic and as long as they are not forcing muslims to come into the university and become Catholic, there should not be an issue. The muslim freedom of religion should make it illegal to force them to convert or to worship, but this does not mean that Catholic organizations should be forced to change giving up their freedom of religion either. If the Muslim students have an issue, go somewhere else. There are a lot of universities out there or they could start their own Islamic University. See how easy it all is if one simply looks to the founding document…

    As to getting federal tax funds, simple. End all federal funding of universties. I have not been able to find anything in the Constitution on funding of universities by the federal government. Of course that gets to the heart of much of our problems which is huge unconstitutional programs by the central government.

  25. This lawyer is a quack. But the issue remains. I used to work at a Catholic University that shall remain nameless when our department (Theology) got moved to a building remodeled extensively through gov’t loans. The counsel of the university suggested that to stay most perfectly within the law, all crosses and other religious devotional symbols should not be placed there (get it? accepting fed funds=no religious symbols?). Yes, the theologians, the ones that are according to many the root of all confusion for our American Church, were the ones who stood up and literally said “I’m putting up a cross and if it comes down, I want to be taken down by Fr. President ___ with his lifeless, atheistic hands.” (OK, we weren’t that charitable that day. I actually like my former President and think he was misled by counsel.) The crosses stayed up.

    But that was their policy for other bldgs built with federal funds, and I know it is the case at many Catholic universities–so you get clever things like pieces of art with religious themes, but no devotional images. I kind of admire the sneakiness of their interior decorators, but that interpretation of the law drives me batty. They’re Catholic schools, for crying out loud.

  26. With so many “Grey” areas to be argued about, you would think such a black and white topic would be easy to solve….ENROLL IN A COLLEGE THAT DOESN’T OFFEND YOU. IF YOU CAN’T FIND ONE, GO TO A COLLEGE IN YOUR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. I’M SURE YOU WON’T FIND ANY CROSSES THERE……. Wake up America! Our country is slowly being transformed into a nation we soon will not recognize…

  27. This jerk lawyer was on Hannity & would not answer basic questions. He was asked if he was being funded by CAIR or the Muslim Brotherhood. He said “that is irrelevant”. I think the term “Follow the Money” applies here. Since he would not deny it but kept ducking the question, I think he is a mouthpiece for those Radicals. It is time for Christians/Catholics/Jews to stand up & quit being bullied in the name of “fairness”.

  28. I find certain responses by several people to this story, found here and elsewhere (including real life), discomfiting, bizarre, and not a little depressing, viz. the kind of response in which they basically question why on earth Muslims would go to Catholic U., and suggest that the very fact that Muslims are associating in any way whatsoever with Catholics indicates they’re trying to destroy Catholicism.

    One is reminded of the shock of some upon seeing a young Jewish man choosing to take a detour through that place so deeply antagonistic to and antagonized by Jews, Samaria, and while there willingly talking with, of all things, a Samaritan woman! I guess Jesus didn’t know that Jews are supposed to just stick to Jewish places and not consort with Others. Stupid Jesus. Someone must have edited the real moral of the story out of John 4.

  29. BYU does not have mixed-gender dormitories. And, hey, not a crucifix in sight. Perhaps the offended Muslims ought to try Utah.

  30. I’m going to go enroll in a muslim school and sue because there aren’t any crosses or better yet I’ll go to a mosque and sue because they don’t have any place for a christian to pray.

    How backwards is our country when muslims attend a christian school then sue because it doesn’t cater to their islamic faith?????????? this is what muslims have been after for a long long time.

    If we cave in on this one now it won’t be long until islam takes over in the USA just like it has in europe so we have a decision to make do we want islam or freedom of religion because with islam there is no freedom of religion it’s their way or death.

    I wonder if the liberals will defend the catholic school like they would defend a muslim school in this same situation but then again we know where they stand.

  31. This is exactly the way that muslims took over dearborn michigan they got rid of all the christian churches and with over 1 million muslims they used the legal system and intimidation to remove all non-muslims from that city.

    In dearborn michigan you will hear the “call to prayer” 5 times per day every single day from huge loudspeakers outside their mosques but no church bells because they only have mosques now and they used the courts to allow them to broadcast the “call to prayer” on these huge loudspeakers.

    If you live in a neighboring city you can hear the “call to prayer” 5 times each and every day whether you like it or not and nothing can be done about it because muslims own that area and they use CAIR to provide legal action anytime a christian tries to protest this annoying “call to prayer” it’s very loud too coming from multiple mosques all over the city.

    The day will come when we don’t have freedom of religon it’s going to be islam or death and we’re asking for it with those who are too afraid to say anything or stand up while we still can.

    Europe is finding out the hard way and if you have followed muslim countries all they have done is killed each other over their religion for as long as anyone can remember and before that too so hang on and remember to accept allah as your one and only god if you wish to live.

  32. Ladies and gentlemen:

    A brief refresher, if you missed it earlier in this thread…

    Before we continue down this path of “The Muslims are taking over! Run for your lives!,” please remember: Muslims aren’t suing. Muslims, it seems, have no problem with the way things are at CUA.

    Rather, it’s one lone lawyer from George Washington University who has decided to make a lot of noise about an issue that nobody has ever complained about before.

    Dcn. G.

  33. Deacon Greg, The one lawyer would not agree to identify the fact that he is connected to CAIR or other Islamic organizations which would lead one to see that he is clearly doing the bidding of those groups. And from what I have seen being said, there was a group of Muslims who wanted to form an Islamic Association on Campus and by its nature, wanted to have a sanitized room free of anything Christian/Catholic.

    And just an fyi, I went to a meeting about this at a local Catholic University where this type of group had been given the right to assemble in a room where Catholic identity had been stripped and it was far from the last move on their part to cause problems on campus. We are putting together a story on this now to send along to the media. One discussion is to insist the Catholic University fund a course on Islam where this group selects the professors for the course and that it be made an integral part of the Theology Department. When you leave a camel into the tent with even its nose, it is impossible to keep it out in total.

  34. John Banzhaf doesn’t answer to anybody, and I’d be surprised if he is being funded by anybody connected with Muslim organizations, as he’s a self starter. For decades now he’s taught a course at GW on public interest lawsuits. He made his name on suits against tobacco advertising, and has been controversial for a long time. His Wikipedia entry is pretty accurate:

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