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Law Prof Targets Catholic University Again, This Time over Lack of Muslim Prayer Rooms

Posted Oct 31, 2011 8:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: A law professor who targeted Catholic University of America over its plan to bring back same-sex dorms has filed a new complaint that criticizes the school’s treatment of Muslim students.

George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf filed his complaint with the Washington, D.C., Office of Human Rights, according to the Religion News Service, Fox News, the Washington Post and a press release (PDF).

Banzhaf contends the University should provide Muslim students with prayer rooms that are free of religious symbols. “It shouldn’t be too difficult somewhere on the campus for the university to set aside a small room where Muslims can pray without having to stare up and be looked down upon by a cross of Jesus,” Banzhaf told Fox News. He told Fox it's not illegal for the university to refuse to provide separate prayer facilities "but it suggests they are acting improperly and probably with malice."

Banzhaf says the university has sponsored a group for Jewish students, but not for Muslim students, according to the press release. Although the university doesn't have to provide formal recognition to all groups, the complaint says, it should "make its facilities and services equally available to all student groups without regard to factors such as religion."

Catholic University gave a statement to Fox News that says the school is “a welcome home to students of other religions.” The statement by Victor Nakas, associate vice president for public affairs, says no students have registered complaints about the exercise of their religions on campus.

Nakas forwarded the ABA Journal a statement by Catholic University President John Garvey, emailed to students on Friday. Garvey writes that Muslim students feel comfortable in their faith at the university, as shown by an increase in their enrollment from 56 to 122 since 2007. The statement refers to the Post article, which says Banzhaf based his complaint on a prior article in the newspaper, rather than complaints he received from Muslim students. "I regret very much that our Muslim students have been used as pawns in a manufactured controversy," Garvey said.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. on Monday to include Garvey's statement.

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