Appearing the other night on the Catholic network EWTN, I was asked by Raymond Arroyo what should be done about Muslim students at Catholic University demanding that the school provide them with prayer rooms, from which crucifixes and all other Catholic symbols that they found offensive had been removed.
After a nanosecond I replied, “Kick ‘em out!”
Let them go to George Washington, the university on the other side of town.
Indeed, had Muslim students shown so little loyalty to a school that welcomed them, and of whose Catholicism they were aware when they entered, expulsion would have been justified.
Looking further into the matter, that was a rush to judgment.
For it seems that not a single Muslim student at CUA had gone to the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights to file a complaint.
That complaint was the work of John Banzhaf, a professor at GW, perennial litigant, and longtime contender for the title of National Pest.
In provocative language, Banzhaf told Fox News, “It shouldn’t be too difficult 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.
“They do have to pray five times a day, and to be sitting there trying to do Muslim prayers with a big cross looking down or a picture or Jesus or a picture of the pope is not very conducive to their religion.”
Banzhaf claimed Muslim students had been offended by a suggestion that they meditate in campus chapels “and at the cathedral that looms over the entire campus — the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.”
Yet it is Banzhaf who appears to be the one with a real problem with Jesus, the shrine and Catholicism, not the Muslim students whose numbers at CUA have doubled in five years.
Moreover, Muslims, while disbelieving that Jesus is the Son of God, regard him as the greatest of the prophets before Muhammad, and they revere Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Banzhaf has also filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights that Catholic University discriminates against women.
How so? CUA President John Garvey had decided to put men and women students into separate dormitories, a crime against humanity.
The Office of Human rights has said that its investigation of Banzhaf’s complaints will require six months.
What does this episode tell us?
That there are anti-Catholic bigots whose stock-in-trade is exploiting civil rights laws to smear the church and her institutions, and drive wedges between Catholics and other faiths.
Second, if the Office of Human Rights has nothing better to do than spending six months investigating these nonsensical charges, it ought to be abolished. Give the taxpayers back the money these bureaucrats are wasting, and let them go and, as Ronald Reagan used to say, “test the magic of the marketplace.”
Catholic University, after all, is a private religious institution that, under the First Amendment, is as free to pick its students and set its rules as is Bob Jones University in South Carolina or Yeshiva in New York or Brigham Young in Utah.
The episode also reveals how the cause of civil rights has been trivialized and exploited.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed segregation by restaurants and corporations. The 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down state impediments to black access to the ballot. The 1968 act forbade discrimination in the purchase and sale of housing.
While these laws restricted the freedom of state officials, restaurateurs, bar owners, hotel operators and homeowners, that was the price we as a people agreed to pay to end segregation. But civil rights and human rights laws are today being used to compel Christian institutions to conform to anti-Christian agendas that violate their basic principles.
In the district, a new law ordering all city contractors to recognize gay marriages impelled the archdiocese to terminate its 80-year foster-care program, rather than let children be adopted by homosexuals. And the people of Washington were denied a vote on homosexual marriage by a District of Columbia judge who ruled that permitting a referendum on gay marriage would violate the district’s Human Rights Act.
Nationally, the church is resisting an Obamacare mandate that forces Catholic hospitals to provide patients with abortifacients such as the FDA-approved Ella and Plan B, the morning-after pill.
Dr. Ron Crews, executive director of the 2,000-member Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, has denounced a Pentagon decision to permit military chapels to be used for homosexual marriages, a violation, says Crews, of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“By dishonestly sanctioning the use of federal facilities for ‘counterfeit marriages,’ that federal law and the vast majority of Americans have rejected, the Pentagon has launched a direct assault on the fundamental unit of society — husband and wife.”
Culture wars, rooted in irreconcilable conflicts about God and man, right and wrong, are disintegrating the moral community we once were — and will likely never be again.