DEARBORN, Mich. - A former high school wrestling coach has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Dearborn Public Schools and a high school principal who is Muslim, the Detroit Free Press reported. The coach alleges that his contract was not renewed due to his association with an area Christian pastor and a student's conversion to Christianity, the report said.

The suit alleges that Jerry Marszalek, longtime wrestling coach at Fordson High School, was not allowed to reapply for his coaching position because of his association with Trey Hancock, an area Christian pastor and volunteer coaching assistant who had a son on the wrestling team, the Free Press reported.

A Muslim student apparently converted to Christianity while attending a summer wrestling camp run by Hancock which was independent of the school program, according to the Free Press and a press release from the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor. The law center and a Livonia legal firm filed the suit.

The suit alleges that the district and Fordson Principal Imad Fadlallah violated Marszalek's rights to free speech and exercise of religion, and Michigan laws against discrimination.

A spokesman for Dearborn Public Schools told the Free Press the district had not seen the complaint and would not comment before reviewing it. Fadlallah could not be reached immediately for comment, the report said.

In an interview last year about the ongoing dispute, Hancock told the Free Press that he never mixed religion with sports, the Free Press reported, while Marszalek said that Hancock "knew the difference between church and state."

SOURCES:
Detroit Free Press, "Christian coach files suit against Dearborn schools," July 27, 2009

Thomas More Law Center, "Lawsuit filed against Dearborn Schools and Muslim Principal Over Firing of Christian Wrestling Coach," July 27, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Howell schools aren't alone in debate over values in the classroom," May 24, 2007

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