In a startling turn of events, Houston's Beren Academy will compete in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools' 2A state tournament today. The Orthodox Jewish day school's boys' basketball team was set to forfeit its semifinal game because the scheduled start time conflicted with the observation of the Jewish Sabbath. But after lawyers representing three Beren players and their parents applied for a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court on Thursday morning, alleging religious discrimination against TAPPS and the Mansfield Independent school District (host of the state championship), the organization amended the game's schedule.
Originally scheduled for 9 p.m., tipoff has been moved to 2 p.m. today. If Beren beats The Covenant School of Dallas, the state title game will likely be played Saturday at 8 p.m. or later, according to Stars' coach Chris Cole. Beren students observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
According to MyFoxHouston.com, a celebration erupted in the hallways of the school (which boasts an enrollment of just 67) when players learned TAPPS had relented a mere three hours after receiving word of Beren's legal move. "The dynamite had been building all week long, and today someone walked in the room with a match," Etan Mirwis, father of team captain Isaac Mirwis and one of the leaders of the charge against TAPPS, told reporter Sally MacDonald. "[My son] did not want to be ten years from now talking about how he might have once been a part of a state championship team."
Lawyers for Beren players and parents noted that TAPPS had previously made accommodations for Burton Adventist Academy in Arlington, according to the Houston Chronicle - even though Burton wound up paying the cost of reserving the original venue and a second venue. (Seventh-Day Adventists observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.)
On Wednesday, the TAPPS executive board voted unanimously to deny a Berens appeal to reschedule games, prompting the legal action.
"We were delighted [TAPPS] had a change of heart," Cole told the paper. "At the same time, we're a little disappointed it came down to a lawsuit. A lot of the reasons that we were given the past four or five days was that it was just too hard to do, that there was too much to take care of. To be able to do it at the last minute, I think it shows that it can be done. And it could have been much easier on everybody."
"When Beren's joined years ago, we advised them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals," association director Edd Burleson told The New York Times earlier this week. "In the past, TAPPS has held firmly to their rules because if schedules are changed for these schools, it's hard for other schools. If we solve one problem, we create another problem. If the schools are just going to arrange their own schedule, why do we even set a tournament?"
"The [temporary restraining order] was not filed, since TAPPS agreed to allow Beren Academy to compete in the State Tournament, rather than have the tournament delayed by a court hearing," read a statement on the TAPPS website Friday morning, above a notice indicating that the association's office is closed today. "The attorneys representing both parties agreed that the TRO would not be filed as long as Beren Academy could participate in the tournament, while honoring their Sabbath."