U.S. Sues School District Over Muslim Pilgrimage

BERKELEY, Ill. (CBS) — The U.S. Department of Justice is suing a west suburban school district for not allowing a Muslim teacher to take leave to go on a religious pilgrimage.

Safoorah Khan was asking for unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a central part of her religion.

In a civil rights case, the department said the school district in west suburban Berkeley denied Khan’s on grounds that her requested leave was unrelated to her professional duties and was not set forth in the contract between the school district and the teachers union.

In doing so the school district violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate her religious practices, the government said.

Khan wanted to perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia which every adult Muslim is supposed to make at least once in a lifetime if they are physically and financially able to. Millions go each year.

Khan started as a middle school teacher for Berkeley School District 87. In 2008, she asked for almost three weeks of unpaid leave to perform the Hajj. After the district twice denied her request, Khan wrote the board that “based on her religious beliefs, she could not justify delaying performing hajj,” and resigned shortly thereafter, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District court in Chicago.

Berkeley School District compelled Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, the lawsuit said.

The government asked the court to order the school district to adopt policies that reasonably accommodate its employees’ religious practices and beliefs, and to reinstate Khan with back pay and also pay her compensatory damages.

In November 2008, Khan filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found reasonable cause that discrimination had occurred and forwarded the matter to the Justice Department. The case is the first brought by department in a project to ensure vigorous enforcement of the 1964 act against state and local governments by improving cooperation between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the department’s civil rights division.

A message left for the school district seeking comment was not immediately returned.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Jsmith7777

    God bless America and it’s freedom of religion. Apparently, that means you are free to choose a religion only. Freedom to practice it must be in some other country. Canada?

  • John

    Is there a reason she could not have gone in the summer on her break???

    Or does this pilgramage have to be done at a certain time of year??

    • fatima

      yes the Hajj takes place on a particular date each year… based on the lunar calendar. you can go to mecca and make a smaller pilgramage whenever during the year, but the actual Hajj can only be attended when it’s Hajj time basically :)

  • new way of life

    get use to stuff like this, americas cutlure has changed more in the last decade than it had in 100 yrs…… i not happy about it one bit !!! is what it is –

  • JAB

    Do you think the Native Americans appreciate what we have done. I would say we changed their world a lot more than anything anyone else could do to us now.
    Extermination, forced onto lands no one wanted until now when we find minerals or precious metals.

  • John R.

    Actually if the guy said he was going to Disney World there’d be no problem.

  • MeltingPot

    America is not all about jesus anymore, people, so get over yourselves

    • Rich

      Two things MeltingPot:

      1) yeah, if that’s true, hows that worked out for us?(and everyone else in Europe)
      2) I’m also betting that you’re a supporter of this supposed “separation of C/S”?
      If so, then …are you AS vocal when our tax dollars are spent suing over a RELIGIOUS case!?

  • Kenneth

    I am ashamed that our Justice Department is filing suit here. The article below is about a Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for believing in Jesus Christ. Is anyone out there paying attention here in America?

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Catholic Online) The Pakistani Christian post is one of several news sources carrying the horrific story of the death sentence handed down against a Christian woman named Asia Bibi (Christian woman sentenced to Death on accusation of Blasphemy) They reported:

    “A Christian woman named Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by District and Session Courts after year long trial on accusation of blasphemy filed by Muslim villagers of Ittanwali, where she was residing from generations. While working in farms with other Muslim women, Asia Bibi was dragged in religious dialogues on June 19, 2009, when Muslim women termed her an “Infidel” and Christianity a “Religion of infidels” and pressed her to embrace Islam. Asia Bibi who is married and have two children, defended Christianity with her little knowledge and told Muslim women that Christianity is only True religion on which Muslim women made a roar and accused her defiling Prophet Mohammad”.

    “The Muslim men working in nearby fields also gathered and attacked Asia Bibi on which she fled to village in her home. The angry Muslims followed her and took her out of home and started beating her. They tortured her children also but meanwhile some one informed police. The police took Asia Bibi to police Station and filed FIR against her under section 295-B and C of Pakistan Penal Code but showed it a protective custody to other Christians of Ittanwali village. Section 295 B and C PPC are subject to life in prison or death sentence but it is first judgment in history of Pakistan when a woman is sentenced to death.”

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