We wrote most recently about the ACLU Minnesota (MCLU) lawsuit pending in Minnesota federal district court against the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy here this past Sunday. TiZA is a K-9 charter school operating on public funds. The MCLU alleges that the TiZA infringes the First Amendment prohibition against the establshment of religion. One might say that it is an Islamic school in all but name, except that the name is of course Islamic.
TiZA brought a motion to dismiss the MCLU lawsuit on the ground that the MCLU lacked standing to bring the case. The motion stalled discovery. TiZA has an extraordinary passion for secrecy. It seeks even to keep its teachers from publicly discussing the school, a practice that does nothing to allay suspicions regarding the school’s modus operandi.
Today Minnesota District Judge Donovan Frank denied TiZA’s motion to dismiss, holding that the MCLU has standing to assert the establishment clause claims under relatively straightforward Supreme Court precedent. TiZA’s efforts to avoid the obvious are evidenced most visibly in footnote 1 of Judge Frank’s opinion with respect to the the MCLU’s assertion that TiZA advances, endorses and prefers the Muslim religion over other religions:
TIZA objects to [the MCLU]’s references to “Muslim,” claiming that the term describes a people, not a religion, and suggesting that [the MCLU} had failed to identify a specific religion of which it complains. [The MCLU] explains that it uses the word “Muslim” as an adjective to mean “of or relating to Islam, its followers or their culture.”
Lest there be any misunderstanding, Judge Frank adds: “For purposes of the motion, the Court accepts [the MCLU’s] current use of the word ‘Muslim,’ intending no disrespect to any party.”
The MCLU is represented by Dorsey and Whitney attorney Peter Lancaster. In a brief telephone conversation today, Lancaster told me he felt the parties had now reached the interesting part of the case. Intending no disrespect to any party, he said he was looking forward to seeing school documents and taking the testimony of school officials bearing on the MCLU’s claims.