REPORT: University of Chicago removed pews from 88-year old chapel to accommodate Islamic prayers

Campus Reform Reporter
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University of Chicago (UC) administrators permanently removed pews from an 88-year old chapel on campus in order to accommodate Islamic prayers, according to a local news report.

A photograph of the chapel before the pews were removed last year.

Chicago NPR affiliate, WBEZ news, reported on May 23, the pews, which are now part of display at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, were “removed in order to provide Muslim students a place to pray.”

Literature describing the artwork that was created by UC Director of Arts and Public Life Theaster Gates, also describes the removal of the pews as symbol 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,” according to an official description of the exhibit which includes a “set of repurposed pews from the University of Chicago’s campus church.”

A spokesperson for UC also appeared to confirm the reason for the pews’ removal in a statement emailed to Campus Reform on Friday.

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

Allen, however, said the primary purpose for the change, which was part of a broader renovation, was to “accommodate the installation of a Boroque-style organ.”

The UC Muslim Student Association (MSA) also announced in its 2012-2013 edition of The Complete Muslims Guide to UChicago that Friday prayers would be held in the chapel once renovation was complete.

“Bond Chapel is where Friday prayers will be held once construction is over,” it says.

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

Follow the authors of this article on Twitter: @josiahryan, @oliverdarcy, @timpdion.