Chicago church pews removed to provide Muslim students place to pray

The 88-year old Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago has been permanently renovated at the direction of the school’s administration in order to accommodate Muslim students.

UC Bond Chapel
University of Chicago’s Bond Chapel before removal of pews.
A number of pews were removed from the chapel and became part of a Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s Kovler Atrium exhibit. A Chicago area NPR station, WBEZ, reported on the exhibit and noted that the pews were “removed in order to provide Muslim students a place to pray.”

Literature describing the exhibit referred to the gesture as a sign of religious tolerance.

“The pews were recently removed from the chapel in order to offer Muslim students a place to pray, a symbolic gesture of religious tolerance,” a Campus Reform report quotes the official description.

A University of Chicago spokesperson commented on the pews’ removal in an email to Campus Reform.

“The benches were removed… to make Bond Chapel a more appropriate comfortable space for its many uses: ceremonial, spiritual, and artistic,” said Susie Allen.

She added that the primary purpose for the change, however, was to commence a renovation to “accommodate the installation of a Baroque-style organ.”

The university’s Muslim Student Association welcomed the change, and announced in its own student guide that Friday prayers will be held in the chapel.

“Bond Chapel is where Friday prayers will be held once construction is over,” The Complete Muslim’s Guide to UChicago said.

“Insha’Allah, Jumuah prayer will be held in Bond Chapel every Friday this quarter,” reads another announcement on the MSA Chicago website.

On the one hand, the university’s move can be viewed as the desecration of an 88-year-old place of worship. On the other, it could be viewed as a lesson in religious tolerance to countries such as Saudi Arabia where Christian churches are forbidden.

There are two problems with the latter explanation.

One, I sincerely doubt that Muslim countries would take UC’s gesture as a lesson, but would more likely view it as a sign of Muslim domination.

Two, by removing the pews to make room for Muslim prayer, the university making less room for Christian prayer, which was the purpose in building the student chapel 88 years ago.

H/T Campus Reform

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