Friday, September 28, 2007

Star Backs Foot Baths For Muslims At Airport

Star editorial writers take an unpopular position with their readers today: "Airport Authority should proceed with plans to accommodate taxi drivers' religious needs." They are referring to a plan to install foot baths at a couple of restrooms at the new airport terminal in order to accommodate nearly 100 Muslim taxi cab drivers. The editors think the constitutional argument against the foot baths is weak and the cost of installing the foot baths is small; however, the Star's editorial argument itself is pretty weak. This is how it reads:

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.

24 comments:

varangianguard said...

Would you rather someone be washing his feet in the wall sink, or in a floor sink, which you likely don't plan using?

The only argument necessary is that this is not an unreasonable request for the accomodation of a special need.

This should be a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

The Star's Editor has been putting the "San Francisco spin" on all the editorials....he is out of touch with the people of central Indiana.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny that the Star was the one which first lit the fire under this debate when it ran a story on the front page of its Sunday edition? Nobody would have even known about it had it not run the story with such fanfare. Now they are trying to play the good guy and put out a fire they started.

Anonymous said...

You say the chapel is open to people of all faiths... but are you suggesting the sinks are not? Huh? Sinks are just sinks. They are crosses, they aren't the ten commandments poster, they're sinks. Anyone could use them, but it's the people who otherwise wash their feet in the hand sinks who will. So freaking what. It doesn't hurt anyone. THis is a manufactured debate by the Star. I bet if you asked all the non-Muslim cab drivers (and there are some...) who use the same restrooms, they'd be in favor. It's a benefit to them too. Apply the prongs of the test. This is not unconstitutional, and it never should have been such a big freaking deal.

Anonymous said...

"A blip in the construction budget".
Star is forgetting that according to Homeland Security, vehicles cannot be left unattended at terminals.
So....were are the taxicabs going to park?
Is there going to be a shuttle service to and from an off site parking area for the drivers???
If this is such a necessity, maybe a foot bath facility needs to be build off airport proper and then the cab drivers can stop on their way to the terminal.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a mosque at 38th & Baltimore anyway? What's wrong with going there for your footbath?

Zappatista said...

PEOPLE! We are supposed to have freedom OF/FROM religion. Many Americans believe that this means that they (collective group) can then force their religious beliefs on others. NO! This must stop! WHO CARES if they build foot baths? Do you care when the ten commandments are on a court yard, or in the court? Of course YOU do, because that's what YOU believe. How does someone, who does not live by your beliefs, get true unbiased judicial due process in that setting, oh ya you don't care because your RIGHT! What do you care? We, as a society, bend every where to accomodate YOU, and your beliefs, so get OVER IT!

Anonymous said...

7:31, in case you've never taken a cab at the airport, it's all managed. Stay on topic and know your facts, ok? The cabs have a designated holding area where they wait, people needing a cab press a call button at the terminal and cab proceeds from the holding area to pick up the passengers. Duh. The restroom in question is the one for cabbies waiting at the holding area. There will be a new holding area (and restroom) for cabs when the airport is redesigned for the new terminal.

Anonymous said...

Sinks are just sinks.

Yup, which means if someone decides to spit in them, wash their hands in them, pour their soda pop down them, etc., we should hear ZERO complaints from anyone. After all, a hand sink and foot sink only differ in terms of how high they are off the ground..right?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how the Ryerson Red Star Rag can be at the forefront of any story that absolutely "condemns" the "forcing of a religion" upon the poor people by their government, yet says that to force this upon the people at a public airport is just fine.

Liberals can be so much fun to watch!!

Anonymous said...

The last post is 100% CORRECT.

TSA and Homeland Security regulations are strict on this: no unattended vehicles are allowed this close to the terminal.

To accomodate this request, how can their feet be washed in a bathroom, if they cannot leave their vehicles?

Oh yeah--someone needs to tell that sophomoric pastor on the eastside, whose son wwas killed in Iraq and who professed horror from the pulpit last week at the sinks:

1. God loves all of us, whether we wash our feet in public restrooms or not;

2. Your son was killed defending a senseless war fought over 9/11 retailiation, which was aimed at the wrong target. Our broad shot took out a despot who maimed millions, but Iraq did NOT instigate 9/11/01. In the name of God, redierct your anger. And get it out of the pulpit. Where did you get your divinity degree, anyway? You're not practicing what your religion demands.

3. Grief is a powerful thing, but it cannot change facts. And it should never, ever move a Christian pastor to spew hatred from a pulpit. Shame on you.

Devout muslim cabbies need to wash their feet. I don't get it, but I don't have to. I don't want to wash my hands in a sink where someone jsut washed their feet. Seems pretty sinmple to me.

I do draw the line at goats getting their throats slit in the bathroom, however...which is a holiday ritual in some religions. The foot-washing thing is a more-regular requirement for devout Muslims, and it bothers me not one bit. Some accomodations are not reasonable: this one is.

Anonymous said...

Talk about theo-jingoism.

These food baths are not going to be exclusively used by Muslims. It's not like you have to know "the handshake" to turn the water on and off.

If you want to go wash your feet while at the airport, you now have easy access to do that. And when I'm returning to Indpls after running a marathon (which I do often), I can wash my feet.

This is such a non-issue, although it is embarassing and not demonstrative of Hoosier Hospitality.

Wilson46201 said...

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a mosque at 38th & Baltimore anyway? What's wrong with going there for your footbath?

7:55 AM EST


There's a church on Monument Circle - what's wrong with going there instead of the chapel in the Statehouse?

Dave Wene said...

When I lived and travelled in Asia, seeing signs in English or Western posters or music in mom 'n pop stores were small indications that Westerners were welcomed at that the store.

To me having floor sinks are a way for Indianapolis to indicate to any Muslim, that they are welcome in our city.

To any world traveller, airports are the first sign of hospitality that they experience about that community. Floor sinks would be an indication even to a non-Muslim world traveller that non-Hoosiers are welcome in Indy.

Anonymous said...

If this is reasonable what is not?? Public entities should not support any 1 religion, putting in a foot sink so that Muslims can wash their feet prior to praying supports their religion and its practices. Someone made an earlier argument that we don't have kneeling pads in airports for practicing Catholics. A foot sink in this instance is no different. This isnt about Hoosier Hospitality its about keeping any religion out of government. Remember David Orntlicher made a big deal about having prayer prior to the opening business at the statehouse. In our own government building you can pray to a spiritual deity ( whatever that is) but you can't mention the name Jesus or God because someone is offended. Well since that is now the case I'm highly offended that we as taxpayers must provide a foot sink for practicing Muslims. Political Correctness is going to be the downfall of this country.

Anonymous said...

"Well since that is now the case I'm highly offended that we as taxpayers must provide a foot sink for practicing Muslims"

Before someone corrects you, the airport and all within it is not being paid per se by "tax dollars". It's paid for by fees, concessions, leases, etc. paid by the airlines and the tenants of the airport. Of course who pays in the end? We do. In what we eat, drink, and buy and through our purchase of airline tickets.

The end result of all this is going to be a nice shiny airport that will be expensive as you-know-what to fly in or out of.

Dave Wene said...

Anonymous at 10:08

I think kneeling pads and foot sinks are not the same thing.

I would suggest mirrors and foot sinks are a better comparison. Some Christians might use the mirrors to make sure their appearance is acceptable before they enter the chapel and some Muslims would use the foot sink before starting their prayer.

What people do to help themselves prepare to pray or worship is not the same thing as providing them with the things they need for prayer or worship.

Anonymous said...

Dave Wene,
I disagree, the Muslims say their religion requires them to have clean feet before they pray. They are asking for something that is a necessity for their prayer. They have others ways of doing this without foot sinks but they have chosen to ask government to give to support to their religion by putting the sinks in place. There is no place in the Bible where Christians are told that they must be groomed neatly before entering a house of worship. So I believe your mirror theory is a little cracked.

Anonymous said...

Devout muslim cabbies need to wash their feet. I don't get it, but I don't have to. I don't want to wash my hands in a sink where someone jsut washed their feet. Seems pretty sinmple to me.

Well, some Christian cabbies need a cross to pray at. Since the sinks are for religious reasons only, then if Christian folks want a statue of Mary or a cross, they should get that.

Jason said...

Sorry, but the religion approach per se doesn't hold any water (pardon the pun.) A sink on the floor would be no different than a baptismal or holy water font. I do agree that it would be more accomodating, and wouldn't have a problem with it but for the fact that the secular groups made it clear long ago no religious accomodations whatsoever. Sure our money says "In God We Trust" on it, but then the same people who tried to fight that are in favor of the foot baths. How much sense does that make?

As far hygiene goes, I've been on God's green earth for 28 years and I have never, EVER, stopped in an airport or in the middle of my day to wash my feet. And I've never gotten jungle rot between my toes. If it's that much of a concern put some goldbond on there before you put your socks on in the morning.

Mike Kole said...

It's an airport. Nobody is owed fancy special accommodations.

Tell you what though, to be fair, let's make a trade here. We can install foot baths in the airport if all Muslim nations will recognize the right of gay people to exist openly and free from persecution (or worse), in their countries.

We'll install the first foot bath after noting Iran's lead.

Anonymous said...

Clean is good. Stinky is bad.

Historian said...

It seems that some people skipped the civics class that outlined that our nations founders came to the US to escape the discrimination of the Church of England thus incorporating the freedom of religion into the very first amendment of our constitution.

Additionally the The Ku Klux Klan rose to prominence in Indiana politics and society after World War I. It was made up of native-born, white Protestants of many income and social levels. In the changing world of the 1920s, the group was against Catholics, Jews, African-Americans, immorality, and drinking. Nationally, Indiana was said to have the most powerful Ku Klux Klan. Though it counted a high number of members statewide, its importance peaked in the 1924 election of Edward Jackson for governor. A short time later, the scandal that surrounded D.C. Stephenson destroyed the image of the Ku Klux Klan as upholders of law and order. By 1926 the Ku Klux Klan was crippled and discredited. Later efforts to revive the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s and 1970s were attempted, but its message was not received in large numbers, as it had been forty years previously.

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" Quote: George Santayana

Muslims Against Sharia said...

Muslims Against Sharia denounce the decision by the Indianapolis International Airport to install footbaths. The controversy will further alienate the non-Muslim population. Footbaths will be used as urinals, which will provoke tensions, and more importantly, installing religious ritualistic devices on public property clearly violates the separation of Church and State.

http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2007/09/indianapolis-footbaths.html