Two things I never like to do:
- Link to an article from USA Today.
- Agree with a representative of the Thomas More Law Center (a Christian advocacy group).
I will do both, though.
The USA Today article talks about schools giving Muslim students preferential treatment:
The University of Michigan at Dearborn is planning to build foot baths for Muslim students who wash their feet before prayer. An elementary school in San Diego created an extra recess period for Muslim pupils to pray.
At George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Muslim students using a “meditation space” laid out Muslim prayer rugs and separated men and women in accordance with their Islamic beliefs.
Here’s Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel at the Thomas More Law Center:
“What (school officials) are doing … is to give Muslim students religious benefits that they do not give any other religion right now.”
He’s right. But only in the sense that taxpayer money is being used to fund, for example, the foot baths at the University of Michigan.
The Los Angeles Times quotes Barry Lynn in response to the foot baths story:
Critics insist that such efforts are giving Islamic followers preferential treatment over other faiths.
“Plumbing? You must be kidding. That’s an after-the-fact justification for something that is being done for the purpose of meeting a religious demand,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington.
“You start permanently changing your architecture for one religious group, you have to do it for all. After all, what’s the difference between a foot bath used as part of a ritual and a fountain that can be used for a baptism?” asked Lynn.
“Considering there are 2,000 different religious groups in America, that’s a very slippery slope.”
What’s to stop Catholics from demanding the installation of holy water fonts by every classroom door? If I was a member of the Church of Cognizance, which advocates the use of marijuana as a sacrament, would the school pay to build a special smoking room for my religious ritual?
Surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is on the side of the school on this one. They say that the foot baths are being installed, not to kowtow to Muslim beliefs, but because of safety issues:
Some of the sinks have started to pull away from the wall, in part from years of use by others like him — who, according to their faith, must clean their feet before praying five times a day.
So when the school recently approved installing two foot baths in a pair of new unisex bathrooms to accommodate the needs of male and female Muslim students, the local Islamic community started planning ways to raise the estimated $25,000 cost.
“We have never encountered a situation where the motivation seems to be a response to a practical cleanliness and safety issue,” the ACLU of Michigan said in a statement. “Indeed, if the university refused to allow Muslim students to wash their feet in the sink without there being a viable alternative, we would have concerns about whether the university was unconstitutionally interfering with students’ right to practice their religion.”
With that rationale, though, I suspect it wouldn’t be long before other religious groups use “safety” as a reason to get taxpayer money to fund their own religious needs. If you can’t pray properly, Satan will win. It’s the ultimate safety issue, right?
[tags]atheist, atheism, USA Today, Thomas More Law Center, Christian, Muslim, University of Michigan at Dearborn, George Mason University, Islam, Richard Thompson, Los Angeles Times, Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Catholic, Church of Cognizance, American Civil Liberties Union, Satan[/tags]