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.
“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