A federal lawsuit has been filed against a Michigan high school and its Muslim principal, charging that a respected wrestling coach’s contract was not renewed because of anti-Christian bias and his association with another coach who ran a wrestling camp where a young Muslim converted to Christianity.
Gerald Marszalek had coached wrestling for 35 years at Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan. According to the Thomas More Law Center, which filed the suit, he had achieved a “legendary status” in the wrestling community through his numerous victories and his students’ success in being accepted to collegiate programs.
He was elected to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame and named “Sportsman of the Year” by the All-American Athletic Association.
The coach had garnered more than 450 wins. According to the Chicago Tribune, his attorney Brandon Bolling said Marszalek wanted to complete “one last season” to try to achieve 500 wins.
However, Marszalek was not allowed to reapply for his coaching position.
The lawsuit alleges that the school’s Muslim principal Imad Fadlallah unjustly blocked the application. The principal was particularly upset when an assistant coach of Marszalek, Protestant minister Rev. Trey Hancock, held a summer wrestling camp at which a Muslim camper converted to Christianity.
The camp was not connected with either the school or Coach Marszalek.
“Principal Fadlallah was so upset by the conversion that he punched the student and informed him he had disgraced his family,” a Thomas More Law Center press release says. Fadlallah was found innocent of the charges at a Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education meeting last May.
Dearborn is one of the most densely populated Muslim communities in the United States, with about 30,000 of its 98,000 residents being Muslim. An estimated 80 percent of students at Fordson High School are Arabic and mostly Muslim.
The Law Center argues that Principal Fadlallah sees Fordson as a Muslim school both in students and in faculty.
The principal ordered Coach Marszalek to ban assistant coach Hancock, a volunteer, from the high school and all wrestling events. The assistant’s son was an All State wrestler on the team, allegedly making the order impossible to enforce.
He also ordered that Hancock’s son was not to be acknowledged at wrestling meets and barred the Hancock family from helping out at school concession stands during events.
The suit alleges that the principal did so because “as a Muslim, he disagreed with Hancock’s Christian beliefs, practices, expressions and associations.” It also claims untoward treatment of Marszalek and other coaches because of their Christian beliefs.
When the wrestling season concluded, Coach Marszalek was not allowed to reapply for his coaching position. The Thomas More Law Center charged that this was a “clear violation” of teacher’s union rules but the union did not assist the coach.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center commented on the lawsuit, charging:
“We are getting a glimpse of what happens when Muslims who refuse to accept American values and principles gain political power in an American community. Failure to renew coach Marszalek’s contract had nothing to do with wrestling and everything to do with religion.”
John Artis, former superintendent of Dearborn Public schools, told the Chicago Tribune that the coach was an at-will employee who reported to the principal. He said discrimination on the basis of religion had no role in the coach’s dismissal.
“There were a number of things tied into that. ... A tough decision had to be made,” he said.
The lawsuit charges violations of both the U.S. and Michigan constitutions and statutes including Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights laws. Marszalek is seeking back pay, damages and reinstatement as wrestling coach.