In Indiana, state and many local government offices close in observance of Good Friday. Public hospitals commonly offer chapels for people of various faiths to pray and find solace. State government employs chaplains to provide spiritual guidance in various settings.
The public is asked to underwrite the expense of these accommodations, and others, for two basic reasons. One, such steps bow to common public practices, even those that are religious in nature. Two, ignoring the public's needs, solely because they touch upon religious issues, would create unnecessary burdens.
In that context, it's reasonable that the Indianapolis Airport Authority is considering the installation of foot baths in two restrooms to accommodate Muslim taxi drivers' religious needs. The sinks would be installed, one in a men's restroom, another in a women's restroom, at the airport's new midfield terminal, which is scheduled to open next year. The estimated cost of buying and installing the sinks is between $800 and $1,200, a blip in the terminal's $1.07 billion construction budget.
More than 100 Muslim cab drivers wash their feet three times a day at the airport as part of a ritual called ablution. Many of them now perform the ritual cleansing in restroom sinks intended for hand washing. Some fellow taxi drivers are unhappy, and understandably so, to share a sink with another person's feet.
Other drivers use water bottles in the parking lot to complete the washing, but that's not a viable solution in cold weather.
A few Christian leaders have objected to the proposal, citing a supposed violation of the First Amendment. But if state and city governments can make Good Friday a holiday for their employees, and that policy has so far withstood legal challenge, then why shouldn't the Airport Authority be able to accommodate certain religious practices?
The legal argument against the foot baths is weak. The cost is small.
The Airport Authority should proceed as planned.
Do two wrongs make it right? What do you think? Let me add that the chapel argument is misplaced, particularly when the chapels are open to people of all faith to worship in accordance with the dictates of their own religion.