Saturday, April 21, 2007

Minneapolis College's Foot Bath Proposal Stirs Accommodation Controversy

Minnesota's Twin Cities, already the site of conflict over accommodating Muslim cab drivers and supermarket cashiers, is facing another controversy. Minneapolis Community and Technical College, concerned over the safety of Muslim students using high sinks in its bathrooms to wash their feet before prayer, proposed installing foot baths for their use. The College saw this as a non-controversial accommodation to prevent the kind of injury that occurred last year when a student slipped and hit her head. However the American Family Association sent out an "action alert" urging its members to contact their legislators to insure that the College does not use tax money "to promote Islam while censoring Christians".

Now, the board of Minnesota's State Colleges and Universities says it will discuss creating uniform guidelines for cultural and religious accommodations at its next meeting. Also, state Rep. Jim Abeler plans to introduce an amendment to the House Higher Education bill to assure that college employees can display religious symbols at their desks. It will also provide for sending a legislative letter reminding college officials that accommodation should be equally available for all religious groups. Details appear in Wednesday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune.