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Texas religious schools excluded from sports

Published: Tuesday, March 20 2012 10:40 a.m. MDT

Roni Buchine, 14, practices with the Beren Academy boys' basketball team Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, in Houston.

AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran

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The boy's basketball team at Robert M. Beren Acdemy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, won its regional championship to advance to the state semifinals in Dallas. But when the tournament schedule was announced, it didn't look like the team would be able to make the trip. Beren students observe Shabat and do not play sports from sun down on Friday evening until sun down on Saturday night. Their game was scheduled for 9 p.m. on Friday.

The school filed an appeal to change the time of the game with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS), the group that organizes the tournament. But the executive board rejected the appeal arguing that making an accommodation for the Beren team would create hardship for other schools, reported Mary Pilon for the New York Times.

The school withdrew from the tournament. “The sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world,” Rabbi Harry Sinoff, Beren’s head of school, said in an interview with Pilon. But angry parents filed a brief with the court demanding TAPPS reschedule the game. TAPPS relented and allowed the game ot be played earlier in the day, reported ESPN.

This isn't the first time TAPPS has been less than accommodating with non-Christian religious schools. In 2010 Iman Academy SW, an Islamic school in Houston, applied for membership to TAPPS. In addition to the application form, TAPPS officials required the school to fill out a questionnaire that included questions such as:

Historically, there is nothing in the Koran that fully embraces Christianity or Judaism in the way a Christian and/or a Jew understands his religion. Why, then, are you interested in joining an association whose basic beliefs your religion condemns?

It is our understanding that the Koran tells you not to mix with (and even eliminate) the infidels. Christians and Jews fall into that category. Why do you wish to join an organization whose membership is in disagreement with your religious beliefs?

Iman Academy SW filled out the questionnaire but was denied admission to TAPPS, reported the New York Times. In addition to the survey sent to Iman Academy SW, TAPPS sent questionnaires to other schools asking if they felt comfortable including a Muslim school in their league. The New York Times reports that of the schools responding, 63 percent said they did not think it was in the best interest of TAPPS to include an Islamic school in their league.

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