Reasonable accomodation or unconstitutional?
Posted: 30 September 2007 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Here in Indianapolis, there are plans to expand the Airport.  A new terminal is going to be built.  As part of the plans is the provision for a Taxi Cab waiting area where the cabs will be positioned until they are summoned by a call button.  Near this waiting area will be some public toilets.  Currently, there is the plan to install two foot baths (one each in the men’s and women’s restrooms.  The foot baths are intended for use by the Muslim taxi drivers (a sizable fraction of all the taxi drivers)  in their preparation for the required daily prayers.  The cost is about $800 to 1,200 dollars total.  There are also plans to build a non-denominational chapel inside the terminal as well.

The Terminal is controlled by an Airport Authority that has a board of directors composed of Government officials.  The construction and operation of the terminal will not use taxpayers money but is financed from the fees the Authority charges the Airlines.

The construction of the chapel is non-controversial but the foot baths have raise the hackles of some Christian folks.  Most of the comments that I’ve seen run along the lines of ‘this is a Christian Nation and we should kowtow to these foreigners’.  Some have argued that this accommodation is unconstitutional.

I’m of two minds on the topic.  I think that strictly speaking that both the chapel and the foot baths are unconstitutional actions (fails the Lemon Test).  On the other hand, this seems like a completely reasonable and compassionate accommodation. 

What do you guys think?

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Posted: 30 September 2007 04:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Great question, JohnHuey.

I’d be interested what a constitutional lawyer would make of the claims. I would say that if they’re being constructed with public funds, then as you say, neither the chapel nor the foot baths should be constructed, since there is no secular purpose to either one of them. However, I certainly would not single out the footbaths, since they are no less secular than the chapel.

I don’t in principle have anything against a private group funding footbaths for moslems in the airport if they want. It’s little enough.

I would say, however, that an airport, as a public place, should not allow construction of large sectarian structures within itself—e.g., a Catholic chapel. There just wouldn’t be enough room to put chapels to every conceivable denomination within its walls; issues of simple (secular) fairness should push the airport designers to fit in a single multidenominational chapel if they do any at all. (Again, with private funding).

Some may point out that the footbaths are sectarian devices. Agreed. But they also have a significantly smaller footprint ( wink ), and strictly speaking can be used by anyone who wants clean feet.

Not an easy question, however, which makes it interesting.

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Posted: 30 September 2007 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, the details of church/state separation are always tricky. I’d concur that public money shouldn’t be spent on structures for solely religious purposes. But if they want to call the chapel a “n on-denominational contemplative space,” as they might here in California, I’m not going to get all bothered by it just because we all know it’s really for praying. Even that much concession to the 10-15% of us who are non-believers is a good sign, if you ask me. And certainly, footbaths are no different. Do they allow women to use them too? That might raise a separate but related issue.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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If I had a religion that required me to bang my head against a Nerf(tm) football permanently glued to the west wall of any brick room, would the government be obligated to provide for me in every brick building?  What if there were three people in my religion?  What if there were three million?

The government needs to draw a line, and for laws to be enforcable, the line must be absolutely non-arbitrary.  The complete separation of church and state should in all cases provide a non-arbitrary line.  In practice, it is too often (and needlessly) fuzzed out by such things as “under god” in the Pledge, or Christian symbols in public buildings.

A simple solution to the foot-bath problem is to leave room in the construction of the building for such a facility - say by leaving ten square feet empty of fixtures.  Then, allow the Muslim practitioners to gather the funds to rent/buy the ten square feet and build their own foot-washing fixture, and to provide a small fee for monthly maintenance and cleaning (perhaps a coin-operated foot-bath?). 

Since the requirement isn’t for government to forbid religion, it’s only for it not to fund and officially endorse it, there’s lots of room for religious free expression;  as long as it comes from the private sector.

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Posted: 05 October 2007 07:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Why not throw in a casino or two while they’re at it? Afterall, this was the Native Indian’s land first; better ask them what they think of footbaths.  Besides, I might hit a few bucks next time I pass through there.


http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=57935

Rev. Jerry Hillenburg, pastor at Hope Baptist Church in Indianapolis, says he’s going to be working to halt such changes at the city’s airport.
He’s announced a rally Saturday at 11 a.m. to oppose the tax funded  footwashing sinks for Muslims at the airport.

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Posted: 05 October 2007 09:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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skepticdave - 05 October 2007 07:21 PM

http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=57935

Rev. Jerry Hillenburg, pastor at Hope Baptist Church in Indianapolis, says he’s going to be working to halt such changes at the city’s airport.  He’s announced a rally Saturday at 11 a.m. to oppose the tax funded  footwashing sinks for Muslims at the airport.

Well, I certainly agree with him, and I’m sure he’s also going to be working to prevent the construction of the tax funded chapel inside the terminal.  LOL

Oh, he’s not??? confused

Occam

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Posted: 02 November 2007 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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JohnHuey - 30 September 2007 03:06 PM

Here in Indianapolis, there are plans to expand the Airport.  A new terminal is going to be built.  As part of the plans is the provision for a Taxi Cab waiting area where the cabs will be positioned until they are summoned by a call button.  Near this waiting area will be some public toilets.  Currently, there is the plan to install two foot baths (one each in the men’s and women’s restrooms.  The foot baths are intended for use by the Muslim taxi drivers (a sizable fraction of all the taxi drivers)  in their preparation for the required daily prayers.  The cost is about $800 to 1,200 dollars total.  There are also plans to build a non-denominational chapel inside the terminal as well.

The Terminal is controlled by an Airport Authority that has a board of directors composed of Government officials.  The construction and operation of the terminal will not use taxpayers money but is financed from the fees the Authority charges the Airlines.

The construction of the chapel is non-controversial but the foot baths have raise the hackles of some Christian folks.  Most of the comments that I’ve seen run along the lines of ‘this is a Christian Nation and we should kowtow to these foreigners’.  Some have argued that this accommodation is unconstitutional.

I’m of two minds on the topic.  I think that strictly speaking that both the chapel and the foot baths are unconstitutional actions (fails the Lemon Test).  On the other hand, this seems like a completely reasonable and compassionate accommodation. 

What do you guys think?

It’s an assumption of civil authority over religion.  It suggests to those who use the restroom that they have a duty to wash their feet and pray to Allah. 

Also, they should pass a law that forbids leaving water on the floor.  A religious act that does injury to one’s neighbor is not protected by law.  Leaving water on the floor is a breach of one’s social duties. 

My Muslim friend says that if water is not available he can wash his feet before prayer by touching any natural object and then making the motions of washing his feet.

[ Edited: 02 November 2007 02:03 PM by FredFlash ]
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Posted: 02 November 2007 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I think rhat the airport in question ought to include an orgy salon and tele-space transporting station as well.  You know, out of respect for Raelians.  LOL

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Posted: 03 November 2007 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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FredFlash - 02 November 2007 01:56 PM
JohnHuey - 30 September 2007 03:06 PM

Here in Indianapolis, there are plans to expand the Airport.  A new terminal is going to be built.  As part of the plans is the provision for a Taxi Cab waiting area where the cabs will be positioned until they are summoned by a call button.  Near this waiting area will be some public toilets.  Currently, there is the plan to install two foot baths (one each in the men’s and women’s restrooms.  The foot baths are intended for use by the Muslim taxi drivers (a sizable fraction of all the taxi drivers)  in their preparation for the required daily prayers.  The cost is about $800 to 1,200 dollars total.  There are also plans to build a non-denominational chapel inside the terminal as well.

The Terminal is controlled by an Airport Authority that has a board of directors composed of Government officials.  The construction and operation of the terminal will not use taxpayers money but is financed from the fees the Authority charges the Airlines.

The construction of the chapel is non-controversial but the foot baths have raise the hackles of some Christian folks.  Most of the comments that I’ve seen run along the lines of ‘this is a Christian Nation and we should kowtow to these foreigners’.  Some have argued that this accommodation is unconstitutional.

I’m of two minds on the topic.  I think that strictly speaking that both the chapel and the foot baths are unconstitutional actions (fails the Lemon Test).  On the other hand, this seems like a completely reasonable and compassionate accommodation. 

What do you guys think?

It’s an assumption of civil authority over religion.  It suggests to those who use the restroom that they have a duty to wash their feet and pray to Allah. 

Also, they should pass a law that forbids leaving water on the floor.  A religious act that does injury to one’s neighbor is not protected by law.  Leaving water on the floor is a breach of one’s social duties. 

My Muslim friend says that if water is not available he can wash his feet before prayer by touching any natural object and then making the motions of washing his feet.

Of course, I’m also in favor of abolishing all chaplains in public service, no government religious proclamations, no civil recommendations to obey the first five of the Ten Commandment , no “under God” in the pledge,  no “in God we trust” on coins and bills and no legislative prayer.

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