Orthodox ballers sue Texas school school district

JTA

In a suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the captain of the Robert Beren Academy basketball team, along with teammates and parents, sued the Mansfied Independent School District for violation of religious freedom.

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The suit stems from the refusal of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools to reschedule tournament games this coming weekend that conflict with Shabbat. The games were due to be played in facilities owned by the Mansfield school district. The association, known as TAPPS, is also named in the suit.

Beren’s plight has made national headlines this week as the school twice appealed to TAPPS, and was twice denied, to have the games rescheduled. The team, which with a 24-5 record is playing the best basketball in in its history, had earned a spot in the state semifinals on Friday night. The championship game is scheduled to be played on Saturday afternoon.

Following the second denial on Wednesday, the Beren players initiated legal action seeking “a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief” that would permit them to compete in the tournament.

The team is represented by prominent Washington attorney Nathan Lewin, a veteran of religious discrimination cases who has represented many Orthodox clients.

A news release announcing the suit notes that TAPPS does not schedule games on Sunday in deference to the Christian sabbath.

“TAPPS and MISD are engaging in religious discrimination by deliberately preferring Sunday Sabbath observance over Saturday Sabbath observance,” the release charges. “They are using MISD’s public facilities in executing this discrimination. TAPPS and MISD have no compelling governmental interest in refusing to reschedule games so that they do not substantially burden the Beren basketball players’ and their parents’ free excercise of religion.”