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Doing that wudu with the ACLU

In our most recent installment of “Doing that wudu that they do so well,” we noted the Wall Street Journal’s editorial disapproval of the ACLU’s hypocritical support for the installation of footbaths for Muslim students at the University of Michigan Dearborn. The Journal unfortunately missed the underlying issue involving the insistence of Islamic groups that taxpayer funds support their religious rituals. It is the explanation for the appearance of the same controversy in schools across the country.
As for itself, the Journal had no objection to public support for the footbaths. It only chided the ACLU for its inconsistency in supporting public funds for the footbaths given the ACLU’s otherwise rigid insistence on the complete separation of church and state. In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, the ACLU’s Michigan chapter elaborated its position for the benefit of the Journal’s readers. Here in a letter to the editor is how the ACLU purported to reconcile its positions:

Contrary to your editorial (“Cleansing the ACLU,” Review & Outlook, Aug. 14), the ACLU is steadfast in its commitment to protect the right to free exercise of religion and opposes any establishment of religion. There is no inconsistency whatsoever in the positions we have taken regarding the installation of footbaths at the University of Michigan campus in Dearborn, Mich., and our opposition to a coach-led prayer before a wrestling match. The First Amendment prohibits government from promoting religion; it does not prohibit the government from taking steps to protect health and safety. That distinction, which the Journal overlooks, has been central to the preservation of freedom of religion in this country for more than 200 years.
Kary L. Moss
Executive Director
ACLU of Michigan

The ACLU cites a heretofore unrecognized exception to the separation it otherwise demands. Call it the “health and safety exception” to the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Not surprisingly, the ACLU cites no case recognizing such an exception. I think it’s fair to say that no such case exists. Moreover, as far as I can tell, the health and safety rationale is itself mythical. The case of a Muslim student who fell while washing his or her feet in a sink at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College has been cited by the school to support its financial support for the installation of footbaths. But the school has never been able to identify the injurred student. Perhaps he re-enrolled at the University of Michigan Dearborn.
But I urge Christian citizens to avail themselves of the ACLU’s health and safety exception to the establishment clause. Here is the argument modified to the case of the wrestling coach. When I don’t hear the coach give his prayer before the match, it kills me!
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