Posts Tagged ‘church and state’

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Even Islamic Relief USA sours on TiZA

September 5, 2011

Even attorneys for Islamic Relief USA and the ACLU say that, “TiZA has operated the school in a manner that has had the effect of transferring millions of dollars of public money to related Islamic organizations.”

After reading that, few could harbor any doubts about TiZA, a Minnesota madrassa that spent more time funneling taxpayer money into Islamic causes than it did educating children.

From the Star Tribune (h/t RoP) on Aug. 3:

TiZA opts against appealing closure

SARAH LEMAGIE , Star Tribune
August 3, 2011

A metro-area charter school battered by years of controversy over claims that it promoted religion has decided not to appeal a state decision that forced its closure earlier this summer.

The board of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) voted Tuesday evening not to ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reverse the state Education Department’s denial of an application that would have allowed it to stay open.

“I think it’s fairly obvious that TiZA is recognizing that it has been forced to involuntarily cease operations,” Shamus O’Meara, an attorney for the school, said after the vote. “Its students are transferred into other schools. The staff has found employment with other schools. Prospects to have an operating school this fall or at any time in the future are bleak.”

In Tuesday’s resolution, which the board passed on the advice of its attorneys, it also said that TiZA will proceed with orderly closure and dissolution under a bankruptcy petition that court documents filed by the school have previously described as an attempt to reorganize.

The state had issued closure instructions to TiZA shortly before a new law took effect on July 1 disqualifying the school’s former authorizer. Summer classes ended abruptly and the school’s director advised families to seek new schools — but TiZA also filed a bankruptcy petition under Chapter 11, which businesses typically use when they want to restructure rather than liquidate.

TiZA, which had campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine, served about 540 students, most of whom were Muslim.

O’Meara said that Tuesday’s vote signals the school’s attempt to effect an “orderly winding-down” of operations. He added that the decision is likely to “dramatically” affect a longstanding lawsuit brought against TiZA by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, which claims the public school has violated the Constitution by promoting religion. Since the school no longer exists, “We would expect that the ACLU would recognize the obvious and allow the parties to move on with their lives,” he said.

The board’s vote decreases the likelihood that the First Amendment dispute will go to trial, said Peter Lancaster, an attorney for the ACLU.

“I think it’s the right decision, and I also hope that the school will agree to have a trustee to help with the orderly dissolution,” he said.

The ACLU, state education commissioner and the school’s former authorizer, Islamic Relief USA — all three of which are creditors in the bankruptcy case — have already called for the appointment of a trustee to oversee the school’s remaining assets, partly because of what they have called “fraud and dishonesty by TiZA.”

In a recent court filing, attorneys for the trio of creditors described the school’s bankruptcy motions as “a transparent effort to benefit those in control of [TiZA] and its employees at the expense of the other creditors.”

“TiZA has operated the school in a manner that has had the effect of transferring millions of dollars of public money to related Islamic organizations,” they wrote. “Its history creates concern that it is seeking bankruptcy relief to continue that pattern, allowing TiZA to further dissipate its assets to related Islamic entities and individual Muslim participants in school operations.”

The ACLU, state and Islamic Relief have also asked a bankruptcy judge to lift an automatic stay on litigation that kicked in when TiZA filed for bankruptcy, freezing the ACLU lawsuit.

The education commissioner and Islamic Relief were both named as co-defendants in that suit, although the ACLU has since settled with Islamic Relief and reached a tentative deal with the commissioner.

In that suit, the state and Islamic Relief are seeking a combined total of more than $1.7 million in legal costs from the school.

The ACLU says it could be entitled to reimbursement of attorneys’ fees that currently exceed $3 million if it proves that the school violated the Constitution, although whether the organization will ever actually see any of that money is “hard to say,” Lancaster said Tuesday.

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Jesus the tax reformer. Muhammad the tax collector.

December 24, 2009

This Christmas, Money Jihad examines the striking contrast between the attitudes of Jesus Christ and Muhammad toward taxation.  

The Christmas story begins in a manger in Bethlehem.  Why Bethlehem?  Because of the Roman census and taxes.  Joseph’s lineage traced to Bethlehem, so that is where his family was due to be counted in the census of Judea (Luke 2:4).  In antiquity, a primary purpose of a census was to establish the tax amount due to the state, in this case to Rome. 

Rome depended heavily on tribute—taxes paid by the subjects of conquered provinces—to fund its imperial growth.  The Romans could not collect all taxes personally, and outsourced the collection process to local publicani, or tax farmers, who would bid for the collection rights, pay the Romans upfront, and then collect enough from their own countrymen not only to cover their expenses but to line their bulging pockets. 

The tax farmers of the Roman provinces became stinking rich in the process.  They were subject to little regulation or control by any civil authority.  This was the context of tax collection at the time of Jesus. 

Matthew, also known as Levi and traditionally considered to be the author of the Gospel of Matthew, was a tax collector.  We do not know how personally corrupt Matthew was, but his reputation seemed to be no different from most tax farmers at that time.  That all changed one day when Jesus found Matthew, and Matthew found Jesus (Matthew 9:9).  Many depictions of Jesus summoning Matthew show the tax collector working at a desk, focused on his tax rolls with gold coins on the table: 

The Calling of St. Matthew

This painting by Hendrick ter Brugghen is especially helpful in showing the utter confusion of Matthew at being selected by Jesus.  His perplexed expression and head-scratching gesture say, “You mean, me?  A tax collector?”  It was a surprising choice in an era when tax collection was frequently equated with harlotry and sin. 

When the Pharisees asked why Jesus would eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners, he answered, “Those that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). 

In other words, Matthew was not selected because his profession was “righteous,” but to bring him to repentance and salvation.  Neither was Matthew selected for his abilities to collect revenues for a new Christian state, because Jesus would never impose any taxes. 

Later, when the Pharisees tried to ensnare Jesus by asking him if it were lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus answered, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”  (Mark 12:17).  Thus Jesus acknowledged the civil authority of the state.  At the same time, Jesus rejected profiting from the house of God, as when he famously drove the money-changers out of the temple in Jerusalem. 

Metzger & Coogan’s entry on the publicani in the Oxford Companion to the Bible says, “Most of the time we hear of the humble and despised publicans, whom Jesus made a point of treating, as he did other outcasts, like human beings who could be saved.”  If Jesus had any message for the tax collectors, it wasn’t “how much can you rake in?” it was “go and sin no more.” 

In addition to saving mankind, Jesus ushered in a new way of looking at taxes:  he acknowledged the power of the state to collect it, but he worked to reform individual tax collectors by abandoning their sins, and Jesus never profited from taxes himself. 

Muhammad, on the other hand… Read the rest of this entry ?