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Tennessee lawmakers confuse mop sink for Islamic foot-washing sink, prompting concern

Tennessee lawmakers confuse mop sink for Islamic foot-washing sink, prompting concern

A floor-level utility sink recently installed during a $16 million (US) renovation of the State Capitol Complex replaced a standard-level sink. This caused great concern for some legislators, who thought a sink designed for Muslims to wash their feet in prior to reciting their prayers had been installed in the men's restroom outside the House Chamber.

Senate Clerk Russel Humphrey was approached about the sink, stating,

“There was concern about why it had been modified.”

The sink was part of an overall renovation project aimed at replacing or upgrading some of the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems.

The Tennessean reported that Humphrey stated,

“I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men’s restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use. It is, in layman’s terms, a mop sink.”

Humphrey would not identify the legislators by name, or further elaborate about their concerns that Muslims might possibly be observing their constitutionally guaranteed rights. He stated,

“I certainly wouldn’t want to quote a member inaccurately about what they may or may not have said.”

However, Republican Senator Bill Ketron had confirmed he spoke to Humphrey about whether or not there were religious reasons for the mop sink. Apparently, the issue was brought up by another Republican Representative, Judd Matheny.

Ketron stated,

“I just asked the question about what was the intent of that. And it satisfied my curiosity after it was presented to me.”

Matheny apparently had no recollection of Keton's statement, saying,

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not ringing a bell.”

According to many Islamic traditions, Muslims are required to wash their faces, hands and feet before praying. This is similar to the ritual of feet-washing practiced by many Christian denominations.

However, it is unknown if a Christian foot-washing station would have prompted a similar reaction.

It should be noted that both Matheny and Ketron were two major sponsors of a bill introduced in 2011 that would have, if passed, made it a felony to follow some versions of the Islamic code known as Shariah law.

H/T to The Tennessean

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
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