CAIR-MI: MUSLIMS WON'T FUND FOOTBATHS
Muslim leaders in Metro Detroit have decided not to raise private money to pay for two footbaths at a local college campus now that the American Civil Liberties Union has said the plan doesn't pose constitutional problems.
The University of Michigan-Dearborn's plan to spend $25,000 on the footbaths was criticized on conservative blogs and radio shows this month. Critics said using public money for the project would violate the First Amendment, which says governments can't favor or subsidize religions.
Muslims are required to wash body parts, including feet, up to five times daily before prayers.
University officials say the floor-level wash basins are needed because some students at the 8,600-student campus wash their feet in the sinks.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said his group was concerned a public outcry would cause the university to back down from the project.
"If the ACLU had decided to take legal action against the UM-Dearborn, we probably would have called for the university to raise the funds privately, just so that the UM-Dearborn wouldn't have to go through the trouble of having to defend its position against the ACLU," Walid said.
Kary Moss, director of the Detroit branch of the ACLU, said its review concluded the plan is a "reasonable accommodation" to resolve "safety and cleanliness issues" that arose when Muslims used public sinks for foot cleaning before prayers, which often spilled water on bathroom floors.