Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Fordson High School, Dearborn, Mich.
A high school hall-of-fame and Christian wrestling coach in Dearborn, Mich., claims he was muscled out of his long-tenured coaching job by the school’s principal, a devout Muslim, because the administrator was furious over a student wrestler who had converted to Christianity from Islam.
Gerald Marszalek has coached wrestling for 35 years at Dearborn Public Schools, amassing more than 450 wins and, in addition to being added to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, was named “Sportsman of the Year” by the All-American Athletic Association.
Despite Marszalek’s success, however, Principal Imad Fadlallah of Dearborn’s Fordson High School ordered the administration not to renew the coach’s contract, allegedly in retaliation over the student’s conversion and to continue a campaign of flushing Christianity out of the school.
“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,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Marszalek. “Failure to renew coach Marszalek’s contract had nothing to do with wrestling and everything to do with religion.”
Marszalek is suing both the principal and the school in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan, seeking back pay, injunctive and declaratory relief, damages, and to be reinstated as coach of the wrestling team.
According to lawsuit documents, Principal Fadlallah’s retribution against the Christian coaches serving Fordson High began in 2005, after Marszalek’s volunteer assistant coach, Trey Hancock, led a non-school sanctioned and independent summer wrestling camp. Hancock, who is also pastor of the Dearborn Assembly of God and parent to one of the wrestlers, reportedly shared his beliefs at the camp and baptized a Muslim Fordson student into the Christian faith.
That fall, Fadlallah fired Hancock and ordered the volunteer coach not to have further contact with the student wrestlers.
“Subsequently, in full view of students and faculty,” the lawsuit states, “Fadlallah approached the young Fordson student who had chosen to be baptized a Christian at Hancock’s summer wrestling camp, punched the student and advised the student he had ‘disgraced his family’ by converting to Christianity from Islam.”
According to a statement from the Thomas More Law Center, Dearborn is one of the most densely populated Muslim communities in the United States. An estimated 30,000 of its 98,000 residents are Muslims, and roughly 80 percent of the student population of Fordson High School is Arabic, many of whom are also Muslims.
Fordson Principal Imad Fadlallah
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges, Fadlallah then banned Hancock from entering the school, ordered Marszalek to “keep Hancock out of the building” and even banned the Hancock family from helping out at school concession stands, even though Hancock’s son was an All-State wrestler on Fordson’s team.
On or about Thanksgiving Day 2007, Hancock came to the school to register his son for an activity, an offense against Fadlallah’s orders, the lawsuit claims, which led to a vocal confrontation between the principal and Marszalek, who was allegedly accused of failing to enforce Hancock’s banishment.
When the 2007-2008 wrestling season concluded, the lawsuit states, Fadlallah instructed the school’s athletic director to be rid of Marszalek too, by refusing to even process the Christian’s yearly renewal application for the coaching position, saying, “Gone. I want him gone. No appeal.”
Another assistant coach, who had made no application for the head coaching position, was chosen by the school to take Marszalek’s place.
According to the lawsuit, however, Marszalek’s treatment by Fadlallah isn’t isolated, but part of an intentional eradication of Christianity from the school.
“Fadlallah, since assuming duties as Fordsons’ principal in 2005, has systematically weeded out Christian teachers, coaches and employees and has terminated, demoted or reassigned them because of their Christian beliefs,” the lawsuit continues. “Fadlallah has publicly stated ‘he sees Dearborn Fordson High School as a Muslim school, both in students and faculty, and is working to that end.’”
David Mustonen, a spokesman for Dearborn Public Schools, told the Detroit Free Press earlier today that the district had not yet seen the lawsuit and would therefore have to review it before making any comment.