On Tuesday, I discussed the principled decision of the Robert M. Beren Academy, a Jewish Day School in Houston, to forego a chance to win the Texas state parochial and private school basketball championship because their semi-final game was scheduled to be played on Friday night, thereby violating the Sabbath. The team’s willingness to put their religion above sports honored their Orthodox Jewish faith and served as a sterling example to the nation of what religious values really mean.
It is highly unfortunate that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which sponsors the state tournament, couldn’t have seen their way to moving up the game’s start to allow it to be completed before sundown on Friday. But a state court has now stepped in to rectify this injustice. After a number of parents of the boys on the Beren Stars team sued the association over its willingness to discriminate against a Jewish school, a judge on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order requiring the group to reschedule the game. In compliance with the judicial fiat, the game will now be played at 2 p.m. on Friday–with Beren on the court.
The role of faith in the public square has become an issue in the presidential campaign recently, but no candidate has done more to advance the cause of freedom of religion in this country than a Houston-area Jewish school. The Robert M. Beren Academy had won a chance to play in the state’s parochial school basketball championships semi-finals this weekend. But since their game is scheduled for Friday night during the observance of the Sabbath, the team will not compete.While the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools is facing some justified criticism for its refusal to make any accommodation for the Jewish team, the honor the school will win for standing up for their principles far exceeds any glory they might have gotten by playing the game.
The Anti-Defamation League has weighed in on the controversy and asked the organizers of the championships to bend a little and find a way to reconfigure their schedule to allow the Beren Academy their chance. The group’s position is the same rules should apply to all schools, but Beren’s win in the state quarterfinals was made possible because their opponent, Our Lady of the Hills, which is a Catholic school, were willing to move the starting time up last Friday to the afternoon before the Sabbath started. But because the private and parochial school group is a voluntary rather than a state-run outfit, the Jewish school cannot legally demand a reasonable accommodation. The association’s decision seems hard-hearted. But if they choose not to budge, it must be acknowledged that sometimes there is a price to be paid for loyalty to faith and principle. That’s disappointing for the kids at Beren, but it’s also something for them to be proud of.