Shooting Hoops, But Missing the Point

The basketball team of the Beren Academy in Houston, Texas received some good news today: they will not have to forfeit a playoff game scheduled for Shabbos, because the league would reschedule it. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) originally would not change the time for the game, set for 9 p.m. on a Friday night. However, after several players and parents filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging a violation of religious freedom, TAPPS quickly changed its mind. (Click here for the full story and here for the papers filed in court.)

In a statement issued by the Beren Academy, the school made it clear that it opposed taking legal action, but was thankful that the conflict was resolved. Signing on to the complaint was a difficult decision for some of the plaintiffs, as well. According to one parent, “We talked about, does God really want us to do this? Are we going to look good or poorly in his eyes? It came down to the gut.”

Several of the plaintiffs’ lawyers also commented on this hesitation:

“There was resistance to our bringing the lawsuit. We’re sorry that there are members of the Jewish community who are reluctant to challenge bias and prejudice as a result of this. But this case shows that sometimes legal action is necessary to get a result.”

“Either way, we could see this was going to serve as a great life lesson for the kids.”

What kind of lesson did this teach the children? What did it show to the world?

It is indisputably admirable that the basketball team made national headlines with their unwavering commitment to the sanctity of Shabbos. But what did filing a lawsuit achieve? 

Although I am certainly in no position to judge those who were involved in this situation, I am not sure that the correct decision was made. There are, of course, occasions when taking legal action is necessary to protect the rights of observant Jews to freely practice their religious beliefs. But is it really necessary to challenge every alleged “bias and prejudice” against Jews? Is it necessary to sue over a game of basketball?!

We live in a country that is perhaps more accommodating of our religion than any other in the history of this 2,000-year exile. Nevertheless, we must not feel that we have to be equal in the eyes of the other nations. The Torah demands that we strive for Godly perfection, not for absolute religious equality.

As the parent quoted above pointed out, the only question on our minds should be:

“Does God really want us to do this? Are we going to look good or poorly in his eyes?”


1 Comment

Filed under American Law, Halacha / Jewish Law, News, Shabbos

One response to “Shooting Hoops, But Missing the Point

  1. Gavriel

    As a law student who has recently moved to the Houston area, I witnessed this entire incident first hand. While my personal beliefs are such that I do not feel a lawsuit is the proper action for something as petty as a basketball game, I feel the author is slightly off. My assumption is that the author is from the East-coast, or else a large Jewish city like Chicago, LA or the like. I used to live in Baltimore and have personally enjoyed the level of accommodation afforded to us. Yet the same cannot be said in Houston. The people of this city are in no way are they anti-Semitic, yet my wife was mocked and subsequently turned down from a job interview at a major hospital after she told them that she could not come in to work on Shabbos. Other nurses my wife has spoken to are afraid to leave their current job in search of another unit as they fear being rejected because they can’t work on Shabbos. While the law suit that Beren threatened is not likely to help other Yiddin achieve the level of accommodation that we seek, it does, however give some perspective on the situation as a whole.

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