H/T Dorrie: bold entry comments by Dorrie
Justice Department sues on behalf of Muslim teacher, triggering debate
By Jerry Markon, Tuesday, March 22, 5:42 PM
BERKELEY, Ill. — Safoorah Khan had taught middle school math for only nine months in this tiny Chicago suburb when she made an unusual request. She wanted three weeks off for a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The school district, faced with losing its only math lab instructor during the critical end-of-semester marking period, said no. Khan, a devout Muslim, resigned and made the trip anyway.
Justice Department lawyers examined the same set of facts and reached a different conclusion: that the school district’s decision amounted to outright discrimination against Khan. They filed an unusual lawsuit, accusing the district of violating her civil rights by forcing her to choose between her job and her faith.
As the case moves forward in federal court in Chicago, it has triggered debate over whether the Justice Department was following a purely legal path or whether suing on Khan’s behalf was part of a broader Obama administration campaign to reach out to Muslims.
The decision to take on a small-town school board has drawn criticism from conservatives and Berkeley officials, who say the government should not be standing behind a teacher who wanted to leave her students.
The lawsuit, filed in December, may well test the boundaries of how far employers must go to accommodate workers’ religious practices — a key issue as the nation grows more multicultural and the Muslim population increases. But it is also raising legal questions. Experts say the government might have difficulty prevailing because the 19-day leave Khan requested goes beyond what courts have considered.
“It sounds like a very dubious judgment and a real legal reach,” said Michael B. Mukasey, who was attorney general in the George W. Bush administration. “The upper reaches of the Justice Department should be calling people to account for this.”
His successors in the Obama administration counter that they are upholding a sacred principle: the right of every American to be free of religious bias in the workplace. “This was a profoundly personal request by a person of faith,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, who compared the case to protecting “the religious liberty that our forefathers came to this country for.” [Oh, spoon it on thick, will ya?]
The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to maintain good relations with Muslims — while endorsing tough anti-terrorism tactics. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has called protecting the civil rights of Muslims a “top priority,” and his department has filed other legal actions on behalf of Muslims, including a corrections officer in New Jersey not allowed to wear a head scarf at work.
Perez denied any political motive in the Berkeley lawsuit, saying it was pursued in part to fight “a real head wind of intolerance against Muslim communities.” People in the rapidly growing Muslim community in Chicago’s western suburbs praised the Justice Department’s involvement. [You think they’d man up and tell you to sit down?]
“It rings the bell of justice that they will fight for a Muslim wanting to perform a religious act,” said Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan, resident scholar at the Islamic Foundation mosque near Berkeley. “That certainly can win the hearts of many people in the Muslim world.” [So what? They’re sworn to bring down the U.S. It’s in the U.S. that this kind of thing loses the Americans’ hearts] . . .
Khan arrived in November 2007 at Berkeley’s MacArthur Middle School, . . . She supplemented the math curriculum for sixth through eighth grades and helped prepare students for state tests. . . .
The support for Obama’s Justice Department is . . . mixed. Government lawyers, said longtime village President Michael A. Esposito, are “targeting a small community.”
“The school district just wanted a teacher in the room for those three weeks. They didn’t care if she was a Martian, a Muslim, or a Catholic,” said Esposito, a political independent. “How come we bow down to certain religious groups? Why don’t we go out of our way for the Baptists or the Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
Khan, 29, who grew up in North Carolina and Arkansas, was happy in the job, said her lawyer, Kamran A. Memon. But she longed to make the hajj, one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, which Muslims are obligated to do once [in a lifetime! It didn’t have to be that week]. It would not have fallen on her summer break for about nine years.
“This was the first year she was financially able to do it,” Memon said. “It’s her religious belief [but not a Qur’anic or Sharia stipulation] that a Muslim must go for hajj quickly [so she couldn’t go before now? She’s 29] . . . that it’s a sin to delay.” Khan declined to comment.
In August 2008, Khan requested an unpaid leave for the first three weeks of December that year. The district said the leave was unrelated to Khan’s job and not authorized by the teacher union contract, according to court documents. Khan resigned in a letter to the school board.
“They put her in a position where she had to choose,” Memon said. [No, she could have put off the trip.] “Berkeley has qualified subs. She didn’t feel her absence would cause any problem at all. [That isn’t a determination she gets to make; her employers decide.]
Thomas More Law Center Enters Oklahoma Mosque Controversy
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tulsa, Oklahoma police captain Paul Fields refused to order his officers to attend an Islamic propaganda event staged by a local mosque with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, Captain Fields, a 16-year police veteran, has been stripped of his command and is now the subject of an internal investigation.
TMLC announced today it has joined Tulsa, Oklahoma attorney Scott Wood to defend Captain Fields’ constitutional right not to become a propaganda prop for the local mosque. As you know, TMLC is heavily involved in litigation defending the religious freedom of Christians as well as countering the infiltration of radical Muslims in America.
The Mosque event, dubbed, “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day,” had nothing to do with any official police function. It clearly fell outside of the police department’s policy on community policing, and based on comments made by police department officials in a closed door meeting, it was not “community outreach” as it has been previously portrayed in the media. Rather, it included a mosque tour, meetings with local Muslims and Muslim leadership, observing a “weekly prayer service,” and lectures on Islamic “beliefs.” The event was scheduled for Friday, March 4, 2011 — Friday being the “holy day” or “Sabbath” for Islam. In fact, the event was originally voluntary, but when not enough officers were willing to attend, it became mandatory.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for TMLC, commented: “This case is an astonishing example of a double standard. If this were a Catholic or Protestant prayer event, no one would have been ordered to attend, and no one would have been punished for refusing to attend. It is a prime example of government officials over-stepping their authority when it comes to government intrusion on an employee’s constitutionally protected freedoms.”
The photo at the right shows Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan at the event shaking hands with CAIR Oklahoma Director Muneer Awad, the very person who filed the federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s anti-Sharia constitutional amendment, which was approved by 70 percent of the state’s voters (It is unknown if Chief Jordan knew of Awad’s identity at the time of this handshake). CAIR was listed an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial.
Moreover, the Law Enforcement Appreciation event was held just five days after the Tulsa mosque hosted a dinner featuring Imam Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In a written response to the order from his superior, Captain Fields stated that he considered the order to be “an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with [his] personal religious convictions, as well as to be conscience shocking.” He also told his superiors that he would not require any of his subordinates to follow the order “if they share similar religious convictions.”
Captain Fields is fighting back. TMLC and local attorney Wood have filed a civil rights action against the City of Tulsa, its chief of police, and its deputy chief of police, alleging that the City and its officials violated Captain Fields’ fundamental constitutional rights by ordering him to the mosque under penalty of adverse employment consequences.
Robert Muise, Senior Trial Counsel for TMLC handling the case, stated, “The City of Tulsa Police Department and its highest ranking officials are not only willfully blind to the threat that sharia (Islamic law) poses in their own community, they are willfully blind to the fundamental rights that our very own Constitution provides to its American citizens, including Captain Fields. In effect, as the Amended Complaint sets out in greater detail, the City’s police department and its officials are unwittingly complicit in the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘civilization jihadist process,’ to the detriment of one of its most loyal and competent police officers.”