Thursday, June 07, 2007

University of Michigan to Build Muslim Foot-Baths with Public Funds

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."


Gallagher argued taxpayer money won't be used for the foot baths because the $100,000 total bill for the bathrooms is underwritten by a fee students pay for building maintenance.

But Downs countered the move appears to violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment,
which prohibits governments from favoring religions or subsidizing them.

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