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Houston, TX - Texas Orthodox Basketball Team Wins Fight To Play

Published on: March 1, 2012 01:58 PM
Last updated on: March 1, 2012 07:52 PM
By: AP
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Houston, TX - Organizers of a Texas state basketball tournament relented Thursday and agreed to reschedule a semifinal game involving an Orthodox Jewish school after parents filed a lawsuit over the original game time, which conflicted with the Sabbath.

The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, had rejected Beren Academy’s requests to reschedule the game that was to be played at 9 p.m. Friday. Beren players observe the Sabbath between Friday night and Saturday night and won’t play basketball during those hours.

A group of parents with boys on the team subsequently sued TAPPS and sought a temporary restraining order requiring the agency to reschedule the game.

After being notified the lawsuit had been filed, TAPPS director Edd Burleson said the association would reverse course and allow Beren (23-5) to play Dallas Covenant at 2 p.m. Friday. Should the Stars win, they’ll start their championship game no earlier than 8 p.m. Saturday.

Richard Rohan, the Dallas attorney who filed the lawsuit, said the 14-page complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas about 9 a.m. Within two hours, TAPPS agreed to accommodate Beren without a court order, he said.

The suit was filed against the Mansfield Independent School District because that’s where the game was originally scheduled to be played, Rohan said.

Rohan’s firm filed the suit after it was suggested by Washington, D.C. attorney Nathan Lewin, a well-known champion of civil rights who has frequently sued on behalf of Jews facing discrimination over the Sabbath and other issues.

Lewin said Thursday he was contacted about 10 days earlier by the father of Beren captain and point guard Isaac Mirwis and informed of a potential problem over the playoffs.

“I thought if we got to court there was no judge in the world who would uphold (TAPPS),” said Lewin, whose clients have included former President Richard Nixon, ex-Beatle John Lennon and actress Jodie Foster. “No way a remotely fair judge would say this makes any sense.”

The lawsuit caught Beren officials off guard. Headmaster Harry Sinoff and coach Chris Cole only learned of the suit on Thursday morning, and both said they regretted that the situation reached the level of legal action.

“It’s a mixed emotion,” Cole said. “We feel like we’ve earned the right to play. Our focus all week has been trying to get TAPPS to reschedule the game times to accommodate us. At the same time, this was not the course of action that we wanted.”

The complaint argued that the team was “being denied, solely on account of their religious observance, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete.” It called the tournament “an irreplaceable opportunity” and said depriving Beren the chance to play represented “irreparable harm ... because of their Jewish religious beliefs and observances.”

Burleson said earlier this week that association bylaws prevented TAPPS from moving the game time. Beren, a TAPPS member since 2011, advanced to the semifinals by beating Kerrville Our Lady of the Hills last week.

Cole made the awkward call to TAPPS on Thursday morning, stressing that the school itself did not file the legal action. Beren, with an enrollment of 247 students, immediately held an assembly in its gym, where rabbi Avi Pollak informed all the students that the game was back on.

“You could see some excitement in the hallway,” Cole said. “My phone started going crazy.”

The dispute generated national media attention, and Cole joked about the need to close Thursday’s practice to the media, a common practice among college and professional teams. But he also displayed frustration that the ordeal dragged on for a week.

“I feel like if (the decision) could’ve been done on Thursday, then it could’ve been done on Monday,” Cole said.

Mirwis, one of the named plaintiffs, said the excitement about getting to play was mixed with relief that the hectic week was almost over.

“Our focus right now is to play basketball, and we’ve got to keep out any off-the-court distractions that might affect how we play,” he said.

Guard/forward Isaac Buchine, also named as a plaintiff, said bowing to TAPPS’ initial schedule and breaking the Sabbath to play the semifinal game was never considered.

“It’s something that we’ve grown up with, it’s something that our parents have taught us from such a young age, which made it a lot easier for us,” he said.

The Beren controversy comes a year after another Orthodox Jewish school, the Texas Torah Institute of Dallas, competed for the 2A championship of a different state athletic league, the Texas Christian Athletic Association. That game was moved from Saturday afternoon to Saturday night through an agreement worked out by the association and the institute’s opponent, Allen Academy of Bryan.

Allen, coached by former Baylor coach Dave Bliss, won the game, which ended around 11 p.m.

Bliss said Thursday that, while his school wasn’t excited about playing late into the night, moving the game to accommodate the Dallas Jewish school was the only logical option.

“I didn’t even think of doing anything different,” he said.


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Read Comments (19)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Mar 01, 2012 at 02:00 PM Anonymous Says:

Mi kamocha yisroel . Who said the the Ebeshter isn't a sports fan??? Kol hakovod to all who held firm to their principles and worked "within the system" to achieve this wonderful outcome.

2

 Mar 01, 2012 at 02:04 PM Aryeh Says:

That's a really great ending to an amazing story! Kiddush Hashem and they ended up getting to play! I hope that others are inspired to stick with our principals. Maybe one day, they will postpone the World Series!

3

 Mar 01, 2012 at 02:10 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Aryeh Says:

That's a really great ending to an amazing story! Kiddush Hashem and they ended up getting to play! I hope that others are inspired to stick with our principals. Maybe one day, they will postpone the World Series!

"I hope that others are inspired to stick with our principals"

Agreed. We should support our school administrators. The principal of the school stuck to his principles.

4

 Mar 01, 2012 at 02:18 PM ShmorPicha Says:

I think its a great thing that this school did but they dont deserve this kind of special treatment. They were told before they joined this league that they would be playing on Saturday if it got to the finals. It sets a bad precedent for the league and doesnt really look good on Jews in the local market.

5

 Mar 01, 2012 at 03:00 PM yosefben Says:

Reply to #4  
ShmorPicha Says:

I think its a great thing that this school did but they dont deserve this kind of special treatment. They were told before they joined this league that they would be playing on Saturday if it got to the finals. It sets a bad precedent for the league and doesnt really look good on Jews in the local market.

I disagree with it being "special treatment" and how could an attempt to honor HaShem's precepts in such a legal, honest and respectful manner be a "bad precedent"? I am not a big sports guy but think the setuation shines much light on ALL Yids and the reason we are in this world. Thes made my day!

6

 Mar 01, 2012 at 03:07 PM Anonymous Says:

I love sports but I feel like making the goyim go through all this trouble just looks bad for us yidden.

7

 Mar 01, 2012 at 03:08 PM mythoughts Says:

While I'm happy for these kids I don't agree with the outcome. You can't go into a situation that you know will conflict with Shabbos and expect major accomodations to made for you. It sends the wrong message and is just wrong.

8

 Mar 01, 2012 at 03:10 PM Eyes upon Texas Says:

With clear eyes, let us articulate that a basketball league for religious schools, mostly Christian, refused to easily accommodate our minority religion of Judaism. Only judicial intervention forced them to the basketball court. Instead of playing Friday night, the game is Friday afternoon. We just saw a very poor demonstration of sportsmanship on the part of the Texas league. "Its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game", we used to say, and many still do. "How you play the game" means easily agreeing to a start time that is mutually convenient. Kol ha'kavod to that Texas mayor, and the pro basketball coach, who spoke out publicly at the right time.

9

 Mar 01, 2012 at 03:46 PM Yochi Says:

To be clear, my understanding is that the administration of the school made a careful choice not to take legal action. It was 3 of the players and their families who went to court.

10

 Mar 01, 2012 at 04:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
mythoughts Says:

While I'm happy for these kids I don't agree with the outcome. You can't go into a situation that you know will conflict with Shabbos and expect major accomodations to made for you. It sends the wrong message and is just wrong.

Why don't you agree? If it was Ramdan they would not play pr if it was xmas day. There is no reason not to make this accomendation

11

 Mar 01, 2012 at 04:34 PM shredready Says:

Reply to #2  
Aryeh Says:

That's a really great ending to an amazing story! Kiddush Hashem and they ended up getting to play! I hope that others are inspired to stick with our principals. Maybe one day, they will postpone the World Series!

maybe if we can ever field a baseball team that is makeup of observant Jews

12

 Mar 01, 2012 at 04:42 PM mishpat Says:

The TAPPS press statement began, :" Unlike many people,TAPPS does follow the law.' Isn't this ta very strange way to start an admission of defeat? Who or what could he possibly be referring to ?

13

 Mar 01, 2012 at 04:43 PM anon1 Says:

take note, a fact that it is not widely published but TAPPS did reschedule a while back to accommodate seventh day Adventists,which is why the beren school thought they had a chance to be accommodated.

14

 Mar 01, 2012 at 06:11 PM Butterfly Says:

In this day and age you have to fight for your rights!! This time you WON!!

15

 Mar 01, 2012 at 11:53 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #14  
Butterfly Says:

In this day and age you have to fight for your rights!! This time you WON!!

and why was this their RIGHT?

It's nice that they got a chance to play, but they had no RIGHT to do so. They signed up with a clear understanding of the rules, but when they were unhappy with the way things worked out suddenly the rules are no longer fair.....

16

 Mar 01, 2012 at 11:54 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

Why don't you agree? If it was Ramdan they would not play pr if it was xmas day. There is no reason not to make this accomendation

how do you know they wouldn't play if it was "ramdam"? and what is an "accomendation"?

17

 Mar 02, 2012 at 03:03 AM anon1 Says:

Reply to #15  
Anonymous Says:

and why was this their RIGHT?

It's nice that they got a chance to play, but they had no RIGHT to do so. They signed up with a clear understanding of the rules, but when they were unhappy with the way things worked out suddenly the rules are no longer fair.....

see my #13 where seventh day adventists were williingly accomodated by tapps

18

 Mar 02, 2012 at 07:36 AM concerned_Jew Says:

I understand both sides of the story. but since it was a league for religious school why can't relgious schools respect each other's religious needs and make the accomodation. I think they were right to make the accomodation and it is a shame that they had to be forced to do so. They should have worked it out without it going to court. In a civil society that respect all faiths you try to works these things out in a reasonable manner. I'm glad for the kids that they have a chance to really win the big trophy. Sometime you have to fight for things and if you don't fight on some of these issues they get worse so why not fight when you are first being violated rather than wait until they take it a step further and further violate or exclude you?

19

 Mar 04, 2012 at 08:16 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
anon1 Says:

see my #13 where seventh day adventists were williingly accomodated by tapps

so? what does this have to do with this teams "rights", as you call them?

20

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