WICHITA, Kansas — A university in Kansas is under fire after it made alterations to its Christian chapel to accommodate Muslims.
According to reports, the Grace Memorial chapel at Wichita State University was renovated this past spring after Muslims on campus stated that they wanted a better place to say their prayers. The student Senate passed a resolution approving the change.
“Be it resolved that the Student Senate of Wichita State University recognizes the importance of inclusion and an interfaith prayer space and supports the renovation of the Grace Memorial Chapel into a flexible, faith neutral space,” the resolution read.
In March, university President John Bardo asked that a committee be formed to decide how to best carry out the request of the students.
Two months later, workers removed all the pews in the chapel and replaced them with chairs so that Muslims can move the seats and spread out their prayer carpets on the floor. The altar was removed as well.
The changes were satisfactory with most students, but when word of the alterations were made public this past week, many outside of the university expressed concern.
“The Muslims are ecstatic,” alumna Jean Ann Cusick posted on Facebook, according to The Wichita Eagle, sparking much discussion on both sides of the issue. “Sumpin’ not right here.”
“Who do you think the Muslims in this country would back if ISIS ever invades or starts their terroristic acts against the United States of America?” one commenter wrote. “Sad to say it won’t be us.”
“It’s a more flexible space now,” another stated. “To me, there is nothing wrong with being accommodating, and it hurts no one.”
Bardo soon posted about the matter on his own Facebook page, asserting that Mrs. Harvey Grace—after whom the chapel is named—wanted the chapel to be open to all faiths.
“I’ve heard over the past several days from alumni and other friends of the university who are concerned about uses of Grace Memorial Chapel and the removal of pews,” he wrote on Tuesday. “The uses of the chapel today remain consistent with the original intent of the donor and with these guidelines first approved by President Emory Lindquist in January 1964…”
However, he said that because of the concerns expressed, he has asked Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Eric Sexton to “develop a process for the Grace Chapel committee to hear ideas and concerns from students, faculty, staff and the community about future uses and furnishings for the chapel.”
“I don’t think that change (the renovation) was undertaken with enough consideration of the feelings of all elements of the campus and broader community,” Bardo stated. “Our goal should be exactly what Mrs. Grace set out to do in her gift, to have an all faiths chapel that is welcoming to all religious groups on campus.”
There are currently 15,000 students enrolled at Wichita State University, with 1,000 identifying as Muslim.