A lawsuit between the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and a charter school it has accused of promoting Islam will proceed under orders issued Wednesday by a federal judge.
District Court Judge Donovan Frank rejected several arguments made by lawyers for Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA), who have sought to dismiss the ACLU's claims.
The ACLU argues that the K-10 public school, with locations in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine, has violated the U.S. Constitution by creating a "pervasively sectarian" environment. School officials deny breaking the law and say they have reasonably accommodated students who wish to exercise their religious rights on campus.
The ACLU has called for TiZA to refund public money it has received, citing violations of the First Amendment. The school may also have to pay millions of dollars in legal costs incurred by its authorizer and the state education commissioner, which were also named in the suit.
Both the commissioner and TiZA's authorizer, Islamic Relief USA, must be held harmless for claims under the school's contract with Islamic Relief, Frank ruled Wednesday.
The judge dismissed claims made by the ACLU against several TiZA board members in their capacity as individuals, but left intact claims made against them as school officials.
Frank also declined to throw out an argument that TiZA director Asad Zaman has received improper financial benefits that should be refunded. For example, the ACLU says that Zaman ran the school part-time while receiving a full-time salary as well as payment to attend a master's program at the University of Minnesota.
The judge also rejected TiZA's argument that the suit should be dismissed because of a paperwork filing lapse that led the Minnesota secretary of state to dissolve the ACLU in 2006.
A trial in the case is likely this summer.