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The name Catholic University pretty much gives away its religious orientation to anyone considering applying there. Moreover, Catholic University is not telling its Muslim students that they cannot pray and otherwise observe their own faith on campus. They can pray in their own dorm rooms which are reportedly free of any Catholic symbols, if the public spaces with Catholic imagery bother them.
However, Catholic University is well within its rights if it refuses to take down its own religious symbols in the classrooms or other public spaces within the university campus, or to spend money to construct extra public rooms in order to create a non-denominational space in an avowedly Catholic institution. According to the managing editor of Catholic Portal at the Patheos website, Catholic University is a Pontifical University, created by the Holy See and directly under his authority, which means that it “cannot be true to itself while creating ‘Jesus-free’ spaces.”
If a non-Catholic decides to attend a private Catholic university, it is the non-Catholic student who has to adjust to the Catholic nature of the university, not the other way around. In the case of Muslim students, if they don’t feel comfortable praying on campus, there are three Islamic centers within a couple of miles where they can go.
Even under the D.C. Human Rights Act, there is a carve-out for organizations, including educational organizations, with a religious affiliation:
“Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to bar any religious or political organization, or any organization operated for charitable or educational purposes, which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious or political organization, from limiting employment, or admission to or giving preference to persons of the same religion or political persuasion as is calculated by the organization to promote the religious or political principles for which it is established or maintained.” (Sec. 2-1401.03 (b))
“Notwithstanding any other provision of the laws of the District of Columbia, it shall not be an unlawful discriminatory practice in the District of Columbia for any educational institution that is affiliated with a religious organization or closely associated with the tenets of a religious organization to deny, restrict, abridge, or condition -
(A) The use of any fund, service, facility, or benefit;” (Sec. 2-1402.41 (3)(A))
In this particular case, Muslim students on campus are not the ones complaining. Some have voiced their displeasure with Banzhaf’s action, in which he manufactured a controversy that did not exist with the Catholic University Muslim student community.
Indeed, even the normally litigious Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) appears to be distancing itself from Banzhaf’s lawsuit because it does not want to be tarred with something so absurd. Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director, called the crucifix complaint “a non-issue.” He went on to say that “at a Catholic institution, you would assume that there would be Catholic symbols in locations throughout the university.”
Hooper is right for once. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. But CAIR’s own lawfare strategy of bringing or threatening lawsuits to challenge any perceived instance of Islamophobia is partly to blame. It breeds even more frivolous, publicity-seeking lawsuits, using bogus anti-Muslim discrimination charges to serve in this case a left-wing agenda.
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