Paying for this?

There's a school in Minnesota where students gather for prayer each day and stay after school for "Islamic studies."


That's not so remarkable. America is home to many private and religious schools.

The thing is, Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, or TIZA, is neither private nor "religious." It's a public charter school.

School officials claim the prayer is student-led and initiated. That's odd, considering the school was once K-5 -- meaning it supposedly had a bunch of 5- to 11-year-olds with the chutzpah to lead a school in prayer.

It's a ruse, of course, to dupe taxpayers into funding an Islamic school.

"TIZA is skirting the law by operating what is essentially an Islamic school at taxpayer expense," writes Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten. "If TIZA were a Christian school, it would likely be gone in a heartbeat.

She's right -- and courageous for exposing the scam.

Charter schools, as Kersten notes, may do things differently than other public schools, but they are still public schools and must adhere to laws prohibiting the teaching or endorsing of one religion over another.

"TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school," Kersten writes. "It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is 'establishing Islam in Minnesota.' The building also houses a mosque. TIZA's executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

"Students pray daily, the cafeteria serves halal food -- permissible under Islamic law -- and 'Islamic Studies' is offered at the end of the school day."

"The prayer I saw was not voluntary," one of the school's substitute teachers told Kersten. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."

Belatedly, the Minnesota Department of Education is looking into the school's practices, as is the ACLU.

Of course, as Kersten points out, the investigation would have come a lot sooner, and the ACLU would have been much downright intoxicated with zeal, had this been a Christian school.

The school needs to be de-certified. They can have an Islamic school if they want. But they have no right to reach into taxpayer pockets to pay for it.

Not in the United States we used to know, anyway.