ACLU suing charter school that caters to Muslims

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, a Twin Cities charter school they allege is promoting the Muslim religion while being publicly funded. 

ACLU is also suing the Minnesota Department of Education for failing to properly investigate the school. 

The Star Tribune's Katherine Kersten must be celebrating after she raised questions about the school in her column and blog. ACLU says their investigation was prompted by her column.

The school, known as TIZA, has one campus in Inver Grove Heights and another in Blaine with about 430 K-8 students total. Most of the students are Muslim. The school receives state funding, which is expected to total $4.7 million for the current school year. 

More from the Star Tribune:

TIZA said in a written statement on Wednesday that the school is nonsectarian and in compliance with federal and state regulations. 

But the ACLU claims the school is using federal and state money to promote religion in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

"TIZA has received millions of dollars of taxpayer money to support what is, in essence, a private religious school," said Charles Samuelson, state ACLU executive director. 

Minnesota law requires that charter schools be non-sectarian in their programs and policies. It allows charter schools to lease from religious organizations, but only if other suitable space is not available, the space rented was built as a school and the state approves of the lease.

According to the lawsuit (PDF), the school has prayers on the walls and teachers participate in student prayer. The school has also allegedly used their Web site to find others to lead prayer and requires students to dress to conform to the Islamic religion.

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