So here’s another installment in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. File it under “Catholic schools promote Catholicism!”
The Washington DC Office of Human rights acknowledged this week that it’s received, and is in the process of investigating, allegations that Catholic University violated the ‘human’ rights of Muslim students because it refused to allow them to form a Muslim student group and…get this…didn’t let them meet in rooms without “Christian symbols” like crucifixes on the walls for their daily prayers.
According to the preliminary investigation report, Muslims must “perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism, e.g. wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate.”
Ok, let’s get this straight. A bunch of Muslim kids apply to a Catholic university, one which is academically superior but which is, no surprise here, Catholic. I can completely understand why they would want to study at such a renowned university, in our nation’s capital.
What I cannot understand is why they seem to think that this private university has an obligation to accommodate their religious demands. This is not UCLA, UC Berkeley, SUNY or any other state university that must accommodate the religious beliefs of all of its students (or, in the alternative, insult all of them equally…)
This is…and I guess it bears repeating again, and again, and again…
Some would say that since the university receives federal funding, it is required to accommodate the demands of its students, even the most misguided among them. But this would be a misreading of the First Amendment. The receipt of federal funds does not force you to betray the tenets of your own religious tradition. It does not mean that you need to make everyone feel all squishy and comfortable. It simply means that you cannot impinge on the First Amendment rights of others.
Thus, if Catholic University refused to accept these students, thereby discriminating against them based upon their religion, you could make a feasible argument that they have violated the kids’ constitutional rights. But where these students are free to pray wherever and whenever they want (except during a biology lab,) and are simply bothered-bothered!-by the sacred symbols of another religion, there’s only one word for their gripes. And I can’t use it here because they don’t allow bad language on this website.