Feds Sue District for Denying Teacher's Muslim Pilgrimage
Instructor was forced to quit to perform Hajj
By Nick McMaster, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2010 5:32 PM CST
Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

(Newser) – The Justice Department is suing a Chicago school for not allowing a Muslim teacher an unpaid break from work to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, AOL News reports. Math teacher Safoorah Khan asked for two weeks off in 2008 to visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The school denied her request because "the purpose of her leave was not related to her professional duties," court documents show.

Khan ultimately quit and went on the pilgrimage anyway, filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission along the way. "Because Berkeley School District denied her a religious accommodation, the district compelled Ms. Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, and thus forced her discharge," the Justice Department's case says. Khan wants to be reinstated and is seeking unspecified damages.

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Kenneth Dobson
Dec 16, 2010 6:36 AM CST
Kenneth Dobson | December 16, 2010 6:06 AM I am a very considerate person who feels that everyone in the US has the religious freedom to worship whatever they choose to call God or a 'Higher Power'. Hopefully, the choice of a Higher Power will be one that makes you a better person; treating everyone with respect and kindness. I find this very offensive though. We have lost a sense of ourselves here in the US. We were founded with Christian principles here in the US. We became great with those principles. Now, we are being forced to accept everyone else's beliefs and accomodate them accordingly. If we do not, lawsuits are filed, taxpayers money is spent on lawyers, and valueable time wasted in our court system. In the end, the plaintiff walks away with millions in compensation. I am ashamed. I want to see someone 'man up' here. I want someone to throw this out of court as frivilous. I want someone to realize that this woman did, initially as she should have done...quit her job to seek more appropriate employment. Nobody forced her to quit. The school system simply told her that they cannot accomodate her request. I have a 7 year old and a 5 year old in public school and this seems very reasonable. They need the attention of the same teacher throughout each school year unless there are uncontrollable cicumstances such as the birth of a child, family illness, or other emergency. Teachers have the best schedule I can think of. If it does not accomodate your personal schedule then don't teach. "Dearest God...please bless the United States of America again. We are a good country with great people. We have difficulties to resolve. We are not perfect. But we still love You and I ask You in prayer now to watch over my kids, watch over my family, watch over my neighbors, and watch over my fellow Americans so that we can live within Your grace once again." I am not very religious. I believe in God...and I am scared of where we are going.
amp94040
Dec 15, 2010 12:11 PM CST
This is the biggest non-issue that is going to waste tax payer money for years. No one in the school district is saying she cannot practice her religion. She is free to practice Islam and work as a teacher. And according to her religion, she only has to make the Hajj pilgrimage once in her life. It did not have to be the year after she started working as a teacher. When you take a job, especially a teaching position, you are agreeing to certain conditions. As a teacher you are agreeing to instruct students throughout the course of the school year, you are not allowed to take vacation. In most cases, it is a ten month salaried position. With the exception of sick leave, the time off consists of a 7-10 days for winter break, 7-10 days for spring break, roughly 7 holidays, and 8-10 weeks off in the summer. She accepted the employment terms when she became a teacher, and if she wants to attend the Hajj, all she has to do is wait a few years when the Hajj will occur during her summer vacation. She is just seeking attention by filing this claim. Any sensible judge will throw out this case.
MommaTora
Dec 15, 2010 9:54 AM CST
I wonder why this isn't being compared to the pharmacists being dismissed for not dispensing medications their religions don't approve of? I believe both demands for religious leniency place(d) too much burden on the company.