School prayer issues involve all religions in publicly funded institutions. A settlement arose out of a lawsuit that disputed the teaching of Islam in a public charter school in Minnesota.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota announced a settlement with state officials in 2011 following its 2009 lawsuit that alleged the promotion of prayer and Muslim practices at the Tarek ibin Ziyad Academy, which has campuses in the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
. The charter school taught children in kindergarten through 10th grade.
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Although charter schools have different regulations than public schools, they are still not permitted to teach religion because they are tax funded. In 2008, a substitute teacher charged that the school offered courses on Islamic studies and sponsored a religious assembly that opened with a prayer.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit after investigating the issue and did not receive cooperation from school officials. The ACLU asserted the school was “replete with religious instruction,” according Americans United.
Along with the religious practices, the suit accused the school of sharing space with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, which violated the First Amendment. The suit also named Islamic Relief USA as a sponsor of the academy.
A former member of the Muslim American Society said the academy violated open-meeting laws and had questionable connections to Islamic groups, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press
. The school spent some $250,000 in legal fees during the lawsuit.
Islamic Relief, the school sponsor, agreed to pay the ACLU more than $260,000 in attorney’s fees. The settlement also involved education officials in Minnesota who agreed to monitor charter schools more closely to make sure religious promotion is avoided, according to Americans United. It was reported that Islamic Relief would have to stop supporting the school, although it denied any wrongdoing.
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