A Minneapolis charter school has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues taxpayer money is being used to promote religion, in violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.
The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) "advances, endorses, and prefers the Muslim religion over other religions or nonsectarian approaches in connection with school activities and fosters entanglement between government and religion," the lawsuit says. It seeks injunctions forcing the school to correct the violations and to "refund to the state of Minnesota the pro rata portion of student aid TIZA has received for its students."
The school has around 430 students in kindergarten through 8th grade, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. It received $3.8 million in state funding this academic year. Most of the students live in poverty, the lawsuit notes, yet they do score well on standardized tests.
Still, school officials have tried to keep its administrative practices a secret. Administrative handbooks stress "requirement that information about the operations of TIZA be withheld from the public" and threatens to fire violators. That, the suit says, is inconsistent with running a public school.
TIZA is run by officials at the Muslim American Society's (MAS) Minnesota chapter which control the curriculum and land on which the school is based. This creates conflicts of interest for school administrators, the lawsuit says. In addition,
MAS' stated goal "shall be to attain the pleasure of Allah (God)" and identifies its mission as "to present the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims."
Muslim prayer sessions are held during school hours and religious material is posted on classroom bulletin boards, the lawsuit says. Girls adhere to a stricter dress code than boys and women faculty are required to be "covered from neck to wrist and ankle."
The lawsuit describes the school's namesake, ibn Ziyad, as "a Muslim military leader who conquered portions of what is now Spain and Portugal during the eighth century.