Parents questioning prayer room for Muslims at Catholic high school

A sacred space at one of the most prominent private schools in metro Detroit may be creating a religious divide.

- Is there room for reflection for non-Catholic students inside the prayer room at one of the most prominent private schools in metro Detroit? The question came up because a group of a dozen parents found out a reflection room was being used by Muslim students for their own prayers as well.

The Muslim students that go to the all-boys college prep school in Bloomfield Hills asked administrators if they could use the room for their own prayers. School president John Birney says, in the spirit of inclusion, he said yes.

"We have somewhere in the vacinity of 5 or 10 of the boys who want to do this on a regular basis, but I also just found out we have a Tibetan Budhist in our school who also uses the room. So, sometimes, this focus on, "It's Muslim," I guess the way I would view it, we're a Catholic school; we continue to teach the Catholic faith and conitnue to celebrate our faith but we have other faiths here," Birney says.

The decision to allow the handful of Muslims and the Budhist student to pray in the space is consistent with Catholic teachings, according to Birney. He's done his homework, too.

"Is it consistent with what the Archdiocese teaches, and the answer is yes. In fact, the Bishop last week issued a statement about respecting other faiths and the importance of Freedom of Religion. We checked with all the Catholic universities in the Archdiocese, they do this. I found out yesterday, in fact, all the Catholic hospitals in town do this.

"The people that are going to Brother Rice, they're already accepting the fact that we have to live in this world together as Christians, Muslims, whatever; and if they're around Brother Rice and see people that will walk the talk and are good people, and it's not all about them, it helps everyone," says John Everley, whose kids attended Brother Rice. "I see the parents; they're worried. They see things out there but, the worst thing is to separate and assume the worst about everyone."

"There is, perhaps, a misunderstanding of what the Catholic faith teaches, something that I've become more aware of myself just in the last week," Birney says.

No students have complained about how their fellow students use the reflection room. The group of parents has lobbied on social media and contacted adminsitrators, but thus far nothing will change. 

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