A prestigious Catholic high school in a ritzy, estate-filled suburb of Detroit now features a prayer room for Muslim students to pray.
Brother Rice president John Birney decided to permit the use of a reflection room inside the college prep school as a Muslim prayer room at the request of Muslim students.
Birney said he granted the request because he wants the Catholic school to be inclusive.
“We have somewhere in the vicinity of five or 10 of the boys who want to do this on a regular basis,” he told WJBK.
There’s also a Tibetan Buddhist student who uses the reflection room for religious purposes.
“The question was ‘Is there a place that I can pray?’ The answer that evolved was yes,” Birney told Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ.
“We have this ‘sacred space’ available for you if you want it,” he said he recalls telling the Muslim students.
“This focus on, ‘It’s Muslim,’ I guess the way I would view it, we’re a Catholic school,” Birney told WJBK. “We continue to teach the Catholic faith and continue to celebrate our faith but we have other faiths here.”
Birney, who has a Master’s degree from the University of Phoenix, said he is certain his decision to allow Muslims (and a Buddhist) to pray within the confines of the Catholic school is in line with the religious doctrine of the local archdiocese.
“In fact, the bishop last week issued a statement about respecting other faiths and the importance of freedom of religion,” Birney told the Fox station. “We checked with all the Catholic universities in the archdiocese. They do this. I found out yesterday, in fact, all the Catholic hospitals in town do this.” (RELATED: Prayer Rooms For Muslim Students Are The Big New Thing At Christian Colleges Now)
However, when Birney spoke to the local ABC affiliate, he sounded a bit less authoritative.
“I need to talk to experts in the field before we finalize what we choose to do,” the Brother Rice president told WXYZ.
“We are Catholic in the sense that we share the good news, we are not Catholic in the sense, ‘Hey if you’re not Catholic don’t bother coming here,'” he also told the ABC station.
Birney added that he believes some people don’t understand Catholicism as well as he does.
A group of parents has complained about Muslim students using the reflection room for prayers to Allah. One angry parent called the use of the Catholic school’s facilities for Muslim prayer “unconscionable.” No students have complained, according to administrators.
It’s not clear how the parents learned about the use of the reflection room by Muslim students.
Parent John Everley, who has sons at Brother Rice, said he agrees with Birney.
“I see the parents; they’re worried,” Everley told WJBK. “They see things out there but the worst thing is to separate and assume the worst about everyone.”
Like all students at Brother Rice, Muslim students are required to complete the same Catholic curriculum.
Tuition and fees at the elite school cost $12,100 per year. There’s also an iPad fee of $250. Parents with multiple sons attending the all-boys school receive an unimpressive $500 discount for each addition child.