In anticipation of the upcoming academic year, two State universities plan to install foot baths in their public restrooms, funded with tax money. The reason for installing the footbaths, however, is religious at its core. The footbaths are to be constructed first and foremost to accommodate the ritual footwashing of the Islamic students as a part of their religious duties.
According to Fox News, the Minneapolis Community and Technical College will soon be installing the foot baths. In order to prevent slippery accidents from occurring in the bathrooms, the schools have decided to act so that the Muslim students will not be forced to use unsafe procedures. However, adding controversy to the mix, the same school also banned campus coffee carts from playing Christmas carols last year and warned faculty to “refrain from displays that represent a particular religious holiday in December,” reported CNSNews.com. The same institute that is bound by separation of church and state and that has ventured to crack down on what is today a cultural holiday is now making accommodations for a certain religious sect.
The University of Michigan at Dearborn will also be installing similar baths, at a cost of $25,000 to the taxpayer. Muslim students were originally willing to cover the expenses. But enter the ACLU, who quickly maintained that public funding for the university project was constitutional. Director of the Michigan chapter of the ACLU, Kary Moss, stated to the Detroit Free Press that the school’s action was “reasonable” and “an attempt to deal with a problem, not an attempt to make it easier for Muslims to pray,” reported CNSNews.com.
How does the school defend its actions? The footbaths are, according to the university, “a reflection of our values of respect, tolerance, and safe accommodation of student needs.” Vice President of the Muslim Student Association chapter, Majed Afana, claimed the move was a “safety measure.”
However, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State voiced their displeasure at the decision, believing it to be an act of favoring a particular religion. Assistant legal director Richard Katskee stated, “there is no particular religious appearance to footbaths, but they serve no secular use. It’s like building a church on campus and saying it’s okay because everyone is allowed in.”
Matt Hadro is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.