WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government sued a suburban Chicago school district Monday for denying a Muslim middle school teacher 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 Berkeley, Ill., denied the request of Safoorah Khan 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 — about 15 miles west of Chicago — in 2007. 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 federal 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.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
The San Diego Rescue Mission opened its doors to the homeless community on Saturday for its annual Thanksgiving celebration.
A man died after his body caught fire, police said Saturday. At 11:30 p.m. Friday, police received a call regarding a person on fire in a field near 5200 Pacific Highway in Mission Bay Park, according to the San Diego Police Department.
Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, local business owners and first responders teamed up for an all-to-real feeling hazard drill on Saturday.
A 5-year-old girl who was abducted from New York by her 32-year-old mother, who does not have custody of the child, was found safe Saturday in San Diego, police said.
Before Saturday, Marine veteran Joshua Ray, his wife and six children had just one vehicle to use for all of their family business, and Ray had to take the train from Oceanside to San Diego every day to get to work.
A sea of pink will travel through San Diego starting Friday for the Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day. The 60 mile journey kicks off early Friday morning and ends Sunday evening at the final destination – the celebratory Closing Ceremony.
A man arrested on suspicion of committing a murder in Imperial Beach earlier this week remained jailed Saturday.
Spencer Abbott had two goals and two assists after missing two games and Eric Fehr scored twice in his debut with the San Diego Gulls in an 8-3 victory over the Tucson Roadrunners Friday night.
On Friday, a fourth woman came forward with disturbing allegations of sexual assault by a San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Malcolm Young, the rhythm guitarist and guiding force behind the bawdy hard rock band AC/DC who helped create such head-banging anthems as "Highway to Hell," ''Hell's Bells" and "Back in Black," has died.