Parents are questioning a prominent private Detroit Catholic high school's decision to allow the school's Muslim students a separate prayer room.
A handful of Muslim students at Brother Rice High School asked administrators if they could use a separate room to pray in. The school's president, John Birney, said yes to promote inclusion, WXYZ reports.
"We have somewhere in the vicinity of five or 10 of the boys who want to do this on a regular basis, but I also just found out we have a Tibetan Buddhist in our school who also uses the room," Birney said, WJBK reports. "I guess the way I would view it is we're a Catholic school; we continue to teach the Catholic faith and continue to celebrate our faith but we have other faiths here."
The school says there are about a dozen Muslim students in the student body of around 800 boys.
Still, some parents are upset by the move and are contacting administrators as well as using social media to lobby against it.
One parent describes the prayer room as "unconscionable" and believes it undermines her child's Catholic education that she pays for.
Birney claims the decision is rooted in Catholic beliefs and is not an unusual one, stating other Catholic universities and hospitals in their town also have created space for other faiths.
"Is it consistent with what the archdiocese teaches? The answer is yes," Birney said.
"There is, perhaps, a misunderstanding of what the Catholic faith teaches, something that I've become more aware of myself just in the last week," he added.
Birney argued for the move further by referring to a statement issued Dec. 10 by Detroit's Archbishop Allen Vigneron about respecting different religions and the importance of freedom of religion.
"Fifty years ago, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught that the Catholic Church treats with respect those who practice the religion of Islam," the archbishop said. "And for these past 50 years, Catholics and Muslims in southeastern Michigan have enjoyed warm relations marked by a spirit of mutual respect and esteem."