Catholic U "Regrets" Muslim "HOLY WAR" Flap, But Doesn't Address Issues

Catholic U has issued a statement expressing regret over a complaint, now being formally investigated, charging that it unlawfully refused to permit Muslim students to form a student association like the Jewish one which already exists on campus.
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Catholic University
Holy War
Student Assiociationm Discrimination


Washington - District of Columbia - US

Oct. 31, 2011 - PRLog -- Catholic University's President John Garvey has issued a statement to faculty, staff, and students expressing regret over a complaint, now being formally investigated by the Office of Human Rights [according to Fox News], charging that he unlawfully refused to permit a group of Muslim students to form a student association like the Jewish one which already exists on campus.  

   But Garvey failed to explain why his university believes it is legal under the Human Rights Act to do so, and instead seeks through possibly misleading statements to direct attention away from the legal issues, suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who was attacked by name in the apology statement, and who has won more than 100 similar illegal discrimination proceedings before the Office.

   Meanwhile, many pundits seem to be in a media frenzy over the proceeding -- one which is now being reported abroad -- terming it a "HOLY WAR" [Sean Hannity], seeking to link it to allegedly jihadist organizations [Monica Crowley on Fox], arguing that it would establish an "enclave of Islamic law" and that CUA is being sued for being "TOO CATHOLIC" [Rush Limbaugh], calling Prof. Banzhaf everything from an anti-catholic to a "neo-pagan" [Archdiocese of Washington], and even suggesting that he is seeking to have CUA take down all the crosses in its classrooms or to construct a mosque on campus.

   Garvey suggests that it's not illegal to deny Muslim students the right to have their own student association because: "no Muslim student at Catholic University has registered a complaint with the University about the exercise of their religion on campus."  But the action which is alleged to violate the law is the refusal to allow Muslim students to form their own organization, not their right to exercise their religion.  In any event, one would hardly expect that any one of the small number of Muslim students on an overwhelmingly Catholic campus would file a complaint, fearing that it might affect anything from scholarship aid and grades to relationships with Catholic students.

   Garvey also suggests, although its obviously not a legal defense, that "Banzhaf has created the perception that it is our Muslim students themselves who are offended by the symbols of Catholicism on our campus, and that they object to the absence of worship space set aside specifically for them."

   Aside from never misrepresenting that nature of the legal complaint, Banzhaf notes that the basis for the legal charge, as well as for the language quoted in the complaint tending to show that Garvey's denial of equal rights to Muslims was based on "animus" towards Muslims -- in addition to quotes from an NPR interview suggesting that Garvey lied about issue -- was straight from the WASHINGTON POST.  

   The allegation in the complaint that Garvey violated the legal requirement -- established in a decade's old case involving another strictly private religious university (Georgetown) -- that a university could not refuse to permit a student group to form and operate, no matter how strong its religious objections, likewise came directly from the same WASHINGTON POST article:

   Interestingly, in that article, Garvey says that he refused to permit Muslim students to form an association because "their beliefs run contrary to church teaching."  He provided virtually the same reason when he told NPR that he didn't "feel that as an institution the institution should be sponsoring an organization that is not Catholic."

   Yet, what he completely failed to state or explain, in his letter or in his NPR interview, is why CUA did permit Jewish students -- but not Muslim students -- to form their own student organization, or why his private Catholic university, in contrast to so many others, doesn't provide prayer space for Muslims, permit a Muslim student association, have a Muslim Chaplin, or provide halal meat on campus so that Muslim students don't have to drive as far as Potomac to obtain it [according to the WASHINGTON POST].  The complaint suggests that Garvey may be lying and/or otherwise covering up his real reasons.

   Professor Banzhaf explained that he filed the complaint in his own name, rather than including any student names, because that is what the Human Rights Act both permits and encourages. Indeed, his right to file formal legal complaints – triggering investigations and eventually orders of compliance -- without naming specific victims has been repeatedly upheld in his more-than-100 successful complaints about discrimination against women, as well as complaints about discrimination against blacks, Jews, the deaf, etc.

   However, Prof. Banzhaf has advised Garvey that parallel legal proceedings could be brought in court.

   In such a case, one or more students could be named as plaintiffs, although he would seek to keep their names secret (John Does) to protect them against any possible retaliation from the university, or to avoid jeopardizing their relationships with other non-Muslim students on campus.
   In none of his prior successful proceedings -- forcing dry cleaners and hair cutters to stop discriminating against women, bars to stop discriminating against men, the Cosmos and Metropolitan Clubs forced to admit women, etc. -- did he ever name individual names in the complaints.

   Interestingly, the Friday edition of THE TOWER, the university newspaper, features an article entitled: "Muslim Students Deserve a Worship Space on Campus."
   Articles in prior editions also reported that the overwhelming majority of students oppose being forced to live in sex-segregated dorms, preferring to be able to choose mixed-gender dorms if they desire, and that the CUA campus has been covered by graffiti saying "Life is Co-Ed" in protest against this separate form of discrimination which is also being actively investigated by the Office of Human Rights.

   As to the charge which triggered the investigation by the Office of Human Rights -- (1) that Garvey refused to permit Muslim students  form a Muslim student association, like the Jewish student association, to pray and discuss religion, solely because they were Muslims, AND (2) that such an action constitutes unlawful discrimination based upon religion and therefore a denial of fundamental human rights -- Garvey's statement says simply and without any explanation: "That charge is completely without foundation."

   However, Banzhaf notes, that's exactly what his opponents and many pundits opined about his more than 100 legal actions for illegal discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, and disability which were successful, as well as the many successful legal actions against tobacco companies, fast food companies, soft drink companies, Sprio T. Agnew, etc. which -- while often branded "frivolous" -- likewise were successful and won hundreds of millions of dollars.

Professor of Law
George Washington University Law School
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8414

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John F. Banzhaf III is a Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School [] where he is best known for his work regarding smoking obesity [], etc.
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