University of Michigan-Dearborn Installs Footbaths for Muslim Students

Posted on June 6, 2007

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Source: Detroit Free Press and Freep.com

In order to accommodate its growing Muslim student population, the University of Michigan-Dearborn plans to install footbaths in its restrooms, officials said Monday.

The move comes after an increasing number of students were found washing their feet in restroom sinks before prayers. Islamic tradition requires Muslims to wash their feet and other body parts before praying.

Terry Gallagher, a spokesman for the university, said that the footbaths would cost about $25,000. [more]

The above move by the University of Michigan-Dearborn has sparked a backlash among some:

College’s foot bath plans spark backlash

Source: Karen Bouffard / The Detroit News

At issue

Plans to install $25,000 foot baths at the University of Michigan-Dearborn are raising hackles and debate. Here’s a look at the issue:
Supporters say: The stations are a step toward inclusion for Muslim students who must wash body parts — including feet — five times daily before prayers. Student fees, not tax dollars, are footing the bill.
Critics say: The First Amendment bans government from favoring religion. State universities don’t spend money on projects that accommodate one religion, such as bowls of holy water for Catholics.

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.

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