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Jewish Basketball Team Refuses to Play on Shabbos
A state association has again voted down a request by a Jewish Orthodox school in Houston to move the start of its scheduled boys’ basketball playoff game this weekend so the team wouldn’t violate its Sabbath. [Update: Team will play on Friday afternoon]. 

The Beren Academy advanced to the 2A semifinals of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial School’s boys’ basketball tournament, but its next game was slated for 9 p.m. on Friday.

The Beren students, bound by their religion, recognize the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. The school appealed to TAPPS to change its game time, but the TAPPS board unanimously voted down the appeal, citing a bylaw.

The story gained national attention, and the TAPPS board met again on Wednesday, but voted 8-0 to keep this weekend’s schedule intact.

Beren coach Chris Cole did not immediately return a phone message left Wednesday night.

TAPPS released a statement, saying it was merely following its Constitution and By-Laws with its decision. Director Edd Burleson said Tuesday that TAPPS had previously informed Beren that scheduling conflicts may occur, and TAPPS reiterated that on Wednesday.

“The Athletic Director (Cole) stated that he understood and did not see that as a problem, since he just wanted their players to have an opportunity to play in a `district,”‘ the statement said.

TAPPs cited a rule that states that schools “must notify the TAPPS office in writing if their team will not participate in all playoff games in which they qualify as scheduled by TAPPS. If for any reason, the team cannot follow the schedule as provided by TAPPS the school shall remove itself from the playoffs without penalty so that the next highest ranked team may represent the district in the playoffs.”

Cole said Tuesday that he was hoping TAPPS could make an exception without disrupting the tournament. Burleson said TAPPS had to stick to its bylaws, despite a flurry of e-mails and phone calls in the wake of the national recognition that the case generated.

To sign a petition requesting that the tournament accommodate the boys' observance of Shabbos, click here.

Update: The Beren Academy Boys Basketball team has just claimed a big victory off the court which will allow them to go for one on it. 

The tournament has agreed to a rescheduling that will allow the Jewish team to play on Friday afternoon.


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