I’m certainly glad I didn’t get my law degree at George Washington. No offense to the alums, but it would seem that a school that has someone like John Barzhaf on its faculty has a problem with quality control.
Banzhaf is known in legal circles for stirring up trouble. When last sighted, he was filing a complaint against Catholic University because it planned to reinstitute same sex dorms.
But since Catholic U is actually worried more about binge drinking and date rape than whether a professor at another school gets his legal briefs in a twist, there’s little likelihood the lawsuit will gain any traction.
Perhaps realizing that was the case, and having a lot of free time on his hands, Banzhaf decided to file another suit with the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights alleging that Muslim students were being discriminated against at the school.
After having read in a Washington Post story that a group of Muslim students couldn’t find a room in which to pray (or at least one which wasn’t adorned by…yikes!....crucifixes) the good professor decided to take it upon himself to defend the rights of the offended minority.
Problem is, the minority wasn’t offended. According to an email I received in response to my own blog on the subject from Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Victor Nakas:
“Our Muslim students have not lodged a single protest against Catholic University and are being unfairly blamed. This controversy has been manufactured by an outsider.”
And I believe him. In fact, I agree with President John Garvey who stated that the “Muslim students have been used as pawns in a manufactured controversy.”
But the issue doesn’t, and shouldn’t, end there. Just because Muslim students have not brought suit against the school, much to their credit, there is still the fact that a professor at a neighboring university with absolutely no connection to Catholic U other than a strong sense of inferiority because his school’s Moot Court team regularly gets beaten by the folks at Catholic decided to drag the school into court on trumped up charges of bias.
Clearly, this man hates Catholics. And he’s not the only one. Whenever there’s an article about the Church these days, someone invariably sneaks in an angle about the sex abuse scandal. Whenever there’s mention of legislation to restrict abortion, someone dips into the “Catholics
“Catholics hate women” bag and comes up with a juicy tidbit. And then you have stars who earn Oscars portraying nuns who think calling the Pope a Nazi is no big deal.
Most of the people who heard about the Banzhaf controversy focused on how horrible it was that Muslim students were being scape goated for actions they neither initiated nor condoned. And there is some truth in that, and I myself was guilty of jumping to erroneous conclusions before the university came out with the full story. But again, just because the Muslim students were not upset about their treatment at this fine religious university doesn’t mean that we should ignore the deeper implications that the Banzhaf lawsuit raises.
First, just because a school receives federal funds does not mean that it must accommodate the request of every student, religious or not, when dividing up limited resources. There are a number of Supreme Court cases that show Catholic U would be justified in refusing to rip crosses off of the walls so that Muslims, Jews or Scientologists would feel comfortable.
Second, if the law in Washington permits a stranger to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, they’ve turned the whole idea of ‘standing’ on its head. As any first year law student knows, you can’t file a lawsuit if you aren’t being harmed. And since Banzhaf couldn’t find any annoyed Muslims, it stands to reason that his case shouldn’t even have been accepted. The fact that it was shows how strange and troubling the whole area of civil rights legislation has become.
And then we have this whole idea that practicing your own religion means you’ve somehow violated another person’s civil rights. I know that the First Amendment allows some pretty crazy things (and disallows others, like crosses on the highways) but to tell someone that your right to pray ends where my right to curse God begins is a sad commentary on society.
Because in the end, it’s not the Muslim students who are the problem here. They at least live their faith. It’s the people who are so desperate to squeeze that last bit of religion from the public square, from society at large, and from the private lives of citizens.
My advice to Banzhaf? Forget about Catholic U, and worry about your own students. If they have you as a teacher, they need it.