The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said it will file suit today against a publicly funded charter school, alleging that it is promoting the Muslim religion and that its directors are using a holding company to illegally funnel taxpayer dollars to a Muslim organization.
The suit was to be filed this afternoon in U.S. District Court against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, known as TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education, which the ACLU says is at fault for failing to uncover and stop the alleged transgressions. The suit names the department and Alice Seagren, the state education commissioner, as co-defendants.
The department investigated the Twin Cities school last year, and the school said it had taken corrective actions in response to concerns about the practicing of religion in the school. TIZA officials have previously said they are in compliance with federal and state regulations.
In May, Asad Zaman, TIZA's director, said the state inquiry vindicated the school's position.
"I now have proof that this is not a religious school," Zaman said at the time. He is one of the defendants, as is Islamic Relief USA, a California non-profit organization and TIZA's sponsor.
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. The state ACLU said that the suit was being filed after a lengthy investigation by the organization.
"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.
The school, which has one campus in Inver Grove Heights and a smaller site in Blaine, had about 430 K-8 students last year, most of them Muslim. The public charter school, founded in 2003, receives per-pupil funding from the state that the ACLU said is expected to total $3.8 million for the current school year.