Wichita State University’s Grace Chapel in Kansas recently had its pews removed, sparking rumors that the restructuring is part of a Muslim takeover of the facility.
However, Rev. Christopher Eshelman, a former campus Methodist minister, told The Wichita Eagle that he and a few others had the idea for the chapel changes about three years ago:
I certainly suggested it, advocated for it. I don’t know that I’m the only one that suggested it, so I’m not trying to say it was all my idea, but I was certainly one of the people who said, "What if we did this?"
We just kept broadening the circle and having these conversations. Eventually it became kind of a student government issue.
Another Christian, former student body president Matt Conklin, sponsored the chapel changes, Eshelman said.
“Eventually, it was approved,” Eshelman added. “Everything went beautifully for six months and then … some people took offense and then it blew up.”
A Facebook post by Jean Ann Cusick, a graduate of Wichita State University and donor, reportedly called the chapel changes an “accommodation” to Muslim students. Her posting went viral on conservative websites.
"But what happened at Wichita State wasn’t so much a renovation as it was a Christian cleansing," Fox News' Todd Starnes wrote in an op-ed. "Anything remotely related to the decor of a Christian church was given the heave-ho."
Christian Today noted Starnes op-ed as a source and noted, "Right in the American Heartland, in the state of Kansas, a minority group of Muslim students have succeeded in taking over what used to be the Christian chapel of their university to the dismay of the school's majority Christian population."
However, Eshelman countered, "I want to emphasize: Never in my conversations or experience did I have a Muslim insist on anything for that space. There were no demands.”