The Office of Human Rights has given CUA President John Garvey until October 27th to provide a written response to new allegations that he and CUA illegally discriminated against Muslim students by denying them equal access to the benefits CUA provides to other student groups.
The Office also wants him to reply to suggestions that he may have lied to cover up his true motive. The allegation is that "an attempt was made to cover up the animus in such a decision against Muslim students, based solely upon their religion, by falsely claiming that the reason for the discrimination was that CUA 'should [not] be sponsoring an organization that is not Catholic,' whereas the University does in fact have a student organization for Jewish students."
The Human Rights Act generally prohibits denying students equal access to university facilities based upon factors like religion, sex, or sexual orientation unless there is a "business necessity": i.e., without the discrimination, the entity would literally go out of business.
"There is no way that Catholic University can show that it is a 'business necessity' to discriminate against Muslim students by denying them access to the same benefits other student groups enjoy, especially since many Catholic universities, including nearby Georgetown University, permit associations of Muslim students, and courts have held that any such denial cannot lawfully be based even on the most deeply held religious beliefs," says Prof. Banzhaf, who has won more than one hundred discrimination cases under the Act.
In addition, it is alleged that CUA does not provide space -- as other universities do -- for the many daily prayers Muslim students must make, forcing them instead to find temporarily empty classrooms where they are often surrounded by Catholic symbols which are incongruous to their religion. Furthermore, it appears that Muslims on campus may even be forced to do their meditation in the school's chapels or in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – hardly places where students of a very different religion are likely to feel very comfortable.
The fact that the university apparently lied about its reason for discriminating against Muslim students -- claiming that it should not be sponsoring a student organization which is not Catholic, while all the time sponsoring an organization for Jewish students -- shows its "consciousness of guilt," knowledge that discriminating against Muslims but not against other religious groups like Jews was wrong, argues Banzhaf.
He notes further that the denying Muslim students the opportunity to form a student group on campus could hardly be based upon any fundamental Catholic doctrine since Georgetown University not only has such a Muslim student group, but also provides its Muslim students with a separate prayer room and even a Muslim chaplain.
Garvey is also asked to address allegations that his sex segregation of dormitories, although apparently evenhanded, nevertheless discriminates against women. For example, a similar policy at Notre Dame, where Garvey may have gotten the inspiration since he was both an undergraduate and later a professor there, reportedly results in a “gross disparity” which discriminates against women, treating them as “second class citizens.”
Strangely, although the Office of Human Rights has been investigating discrimination on the CUA campus for several months, and the matter has generated hundreds of articles, several editorials, and even a comment by a U.S. Supreme Court justice, neither the President nor anyone else speaking for the University has sought to explain to the public, or even to CUA's own students, why it believes that its discrimination does not violate the Human Rights Act.
"Perhaps this new demand by the agency formally investigating the matter will finally force CUA to publicly explain itself," suggests Banzhaf.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Creator, Banzhaf Index of Voting Power
Founder, Natl Center for Law & the Deaf
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
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John F. Banzhaf III is a Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School [http://banzhaf.net/]