Two parties in a lawsuit over a metro-area charter school's alleged promotion of Islam want the school to reimburse them for more than $1.4 million in attorney fees and costs.
In court documents filed Wednesday, the state education commissioner asked a federal judge to order Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) to pay $480,877 in litigation costs incurred by the state. Islamic Relief USA, the nonprofit organization that oversees TiZA, asked for $961,922.
The school, the commissioner and Islamic Relief are entangled in a lawsuit filed against them in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. The ACLU, which has since settled with Islamic Relief and reached a tentative deal with the commissioner, claims that TiZA has violated the Constitution's First Amendment by promoting religion.
A judge ruled this spring that TiZA must hold harmless the commissioner and Islamic Relief for claims arising under the school's contract with Islamic Relief.
The payments sought by the state and Islamic Relief are "cripplingly high," and the school will "strongly consider" an appeal if the court awards them, said Mark Azman, an attorney for TiZA. Wednesday's claims are also premature and should be decided by a jury rather than a judge, he said.
Islamic Relief also has sought reimbursement from the school for $267,500 that the organization agreed to pay the ACLU as part of its settlement.
The ACLU has called for TiZA to reimburse public money it received while allegedly promoting religion.