Friday, October 28, 2011
It is hard to know what to make of this story (h/t Professor Bainbridge). What is most curious about it to me is the allegation by Professor Banzhaf that Muslims were compelled to "perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism -- e.g., a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate." Later in the story Banzhaf is quoted as saying that Muslim students have no choice but to pray "surrounded by pictures of Popes."
It seems to me that there are two issues: (1) are there rooms on the CUA campus which do not contain such images or items (and, I suppose, were students prevented from gathering to use them for prayer)?; and (2) is the reference to these items' "inappropriateness" one which is specifically limited to their inappropriateness as places of Muslim prayer, or is it a more general sense that displaying these images and items at CUA is inappropriate per se?
As to the first question, in my wonderful year at the law school at CUA, I can think off-hand of several rooms which did not display the complained-of images and items. Indeed, I can even think of a few such rooms at the Salesian house near campus where I was lucky enough to sleep. It does not seem to me that it would be difficult to find such a room on the CUA campus, though perhaps the claim is that the University willfully barred the students from access to these rooms.
As to the second question, I can understand that Muslims might not want to pray in a room bedecked with Catholic images. On the other hand, if the claim is that these images are "inappropriate" for display tout court, I am not sympathetic to that claim.
UPDATE: Please see the letter by President Garvey linked to in the comments, which clears many things up, including the fact that it seems that not a single Muslim student has complained to the University. Not one. And see also the Banzhaf press release on this matter referenced by David Nickol. As I've observed about Maureen Dowd's columns, this may be a case of mixing together a few too many utterly disparate animadversions.
FURTHER UPDATE: It gets worse. See also this story, which reports that no CUA student has complained to Banzhaf either, notwithstanding his ongoing attempts to solicit plaintiffs for the complaint. Good grief.