Accommodating Religion to School Activities – State Rules in Favor of Religious Academy.

Jun 13, 2003 11:11 AM EDT

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon State Appeals Court ruled Oregon education officials must accommodate to the religious practices of students in preparing sports tournaments, June 12.

The dispute between the Oregon School Activities Association and Portland Adventist Academy arose because of conflicts in scheduling the consolation round for the annual statewide boys high school basketball tournament; Seventh day Adventists, whose Sabbath runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday are not able to participate in the tournament, which is played on Saturday afternoon.

Charles Hinkle, who represented the academy, called the case groundbreaking, saying it was "the first we know of where a court has ordered a school activities association to make accommodations for religion."

Jonathan Radmacher, an attorney for the association, was optimistic the board would find in the OSAA's favor again.

The case began in 2000, when students of the Academy asked the OSAA to change the schedule should they reach the playoffs. The OSAA rejected the plead, saying that they will be ineligible if they did not appear on Saturday. The students appealed to the Board of Education, but lost again. Students and parents then took the case to court, citing a state law barring religious discrimination in state-funded school activities.

The academy was ineligible for playoffs both in 2001 and 2003 because of the scheduling requirements. In its ruling, the court said the board left unresolved whether a reasonable accommodation was possible by changing Saturday game times or venues, allowing a forfeit, or other options.

By Pauline J.