Pastor angry over airport footbaths - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Pastor angry over airport footbaths

Hope Baptist Church Pastor Jerry Hillenburg Hope Baptist Church Pastor Jerry Hillenburg

Jeremy Brilliant/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A proposal to install special foot washing basins for Muslim taxi cab drivers at the new Indianapolis airport is angering one local pastor.  

An airport project spokesman says the idea is out of concern for the health and safety of the drivers, but a west side pastor sees it as state-sponsored religion.

During the Sunday sermon at Hope Baptist Church, Pastor Jerry Hillenburg blasted what he described as a secular government "that is condemning Christianity, lifting its support on the government's dime to the religion of Islam. "

At issue is a wash room which is designed specifically for Muslims to sit down and wash their feet before they pray.

A proposal calls for such a facility to be built in the taxi drivers' lounge at the new Indianapolis International airport, since 80 percent of cabbies are Muslims. Providing the ablution room, as it's called, goes beyond religious tolerance, says Hillenburg.

"It is the establishment of a religion to take taxpayers' dollars on taxpayers' property and build a building that will support that religious entity during its times of prayer and has simply no other purpose," says Hillenburg.

"I think this is about a dislike for Islam, it's about a distrust for Islam, a belief that American Muslims that are here are foreign, " says Shariq Siddiqui, who heads the Muslim Alliance of Indiana.

He says Muslim groups never asked for the wash room. But he says it makes sense to have a place to get cleaned up.

Hillenburg, whose son died fighting in Iraq, believes Americans are "caving in to Islam. It is absolutely unconstitutional and positively discriminatory," Hillenburg said. Siddiqui countered, "But the real issue here is Islamophobia; it's not about the Constitution."

Both sides agree about one thing: religion in America, they say, is under attack.  An airport spokesman says taxpayer money would not be used to build the drivers' lounge. The money, they say, comes from airport usage fees.

There is no timeline for deciding whether or not to build the basins.

Powered by WorldNow