MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - The ACLU is suing the Minnesota Department of Education for spending millions of dollars on a Muslim charter school, the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, that imposes strict conditions on the clothing for female students and teachers and enforces other Muslim rules on prayer and food. Minnesota's charter schools are public and must be secular, says the ACLU in Federal Court.
"The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota supports and promotes the free exercise of religion, including exercise expressed through schools founded upon Muslim or other religious practices," the complaint states. "This complaint is based upon the use of public funds to support such practices."
The ACLU also claims "that the leasing of space by Muslim organizations to TIZA and the resulting transfer of state funds intended for the support of charter schools to such Muslim organizations through excessive lease payments also violates the Establishment clauses and Minnesota Stat. §124D.10."
It also sued Islamic Relief, a California-based nonprofit that sponsors the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA). The ACLU claims Minnesota plans to give the Muslim school $3.8 million in this academic year.
The ACLU also claims that that TIZA's CEO is overpaid - that he is paid more than $100,000 a year as CEO and another $90,000 or more as its executive director.
It objects that the school encourages teachers and students to pray for 30 minutes each Friday. Students who do not want to pray are given "quiet time" or "study hall" and the lost instruction time is not made up, according to the complaint.
"TIZA prohibits girls, but not boys from wearing short sleeves," the complaint states.
The complaint continues: "TIZA requires girls in grades kindergarten through second grade to wear skirts that extend below the knees or trousers; girls in grades three through five to wear ankle-length skirts or trousers; and girls in grades six through eight to wear a skirt or jumper with pants underneath or a 'full-length dress (jilbaab).'
"TIZA requires female teachers to be covered from neck to wrist and ankle.
"TIZA advances, endorses, and prefers Muslim dietary practices by serving only food permissible under Muslim dietary laws.
"TIZA advances, endorses, and prefers Muslim religious practices through its provision of school transportation. Although school ends at 3:30 p.m., buses do not depart the Inver Grove Heights campus until 4:30 p.m. MAS-MN offers a Muslim studies program at the Inver Grove Heights campus every day from 3:30 to 4:30. A majority of TIZA's students are enrolled in the Muslim studies program."
The ACLU also sued Minnesota's Education Commissioner Alice Seagren, saying, "The Commissioner is charged with approval and oversight of charter schools and with certification of schools' entitlement to state funding. The Commissioner has certified funds for TIZA despite its constitutional infirmities."
Here are the defendants: Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy; Islamic Relief USA; Alice Seagren individually and in her capacity as Minnesota Commissioner of Education; Minnesota Department of Education; Asad Zaman individually and in his capacity as directors of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy; Asif Rahman individually and in his capacity as director of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy; Mahrous Kandil individually and in his capacity as directors of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy; Mona Elnahrawy individually and in her capacity as director of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy; Moira Fahey individually and in her capacity as director of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy; Mohamed Faird individually and in his capacity as director of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy.
The ACLU is represented by Peter Lancaster with Dorsey & Whitney.
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