Would the college use public money to construct holy water fonts?
“College’s foot bath plans spark backlash: Project for Muslim students draws accusation U-M Dearborn is giving faith favored treatment,” by Karen Bouffard for The Detroit News (thanks to Kemaste):
DEARBORN — The University of Michigan-Dearborn plans to spend $25,000 for foot-washing stations, making it easier for Muslim students to practice their religion but sparking questions about the separation of church and state.
The university claims the stations are needed to accommodate Muslim students, who must ritually wash their bodies — including the feet — up to five times each day before prayers. But critics hit conservative blogs and radio airwaves Monday to argue public money shouldn’t cover the cost.
“Technically, they’ve got a problem, because it’s public money they’re using to pay for this,” said Hal Downs, president of the Michigan chapter of Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“It’s one of those issues that we’re going to be facing more and more in this community.”
The issue may push hot buttons in Metro Detroit — home to as many as 250,000 Muslims — but in nearby Ypsilanti, no one raised objections when Eastern Michigan University included a private bathroom with a foot-washing area in a new student union that opened in November, said Glenna Frank Miller, its director.
U-M Dearborn will include the floor-level stations at two bathrooms to be constructed in August at the University Center and Fairlane Center buildings, said Terry Gallagher, spokesman for the university. The units are necessary because some students resorted to washing their feet in sinks.
The university of 8,600 students doesn’t track them by religion, Gallagher said.
“This was a reasonable accommodation,” he said.