When it’s possible and reasonable, accommodation in athletic competition should be made for religious beliefs at the high school level.
For example, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has allowed private schools that observe the Sabbath on Saturday to participate in the state high school basketball playoffs by tweaking the schedule so those teams can avoid playing at times when their religions prohibit taking part in athletic contests.
So why shouldn’t the WWVA volleyball team be allowed to compete for a state title without having to violate the religious beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist school in College Place?
That’s the question parents of volleyball players from WWVA (Walla Walla Valley Academy) as well as two other religious schools – Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island and Puget Sound Adventist Academy in Kirkland – want the WIAA to answer with action.
They sent a letter Sept. 8 to the WIAA and the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction threatening legal action and requesting a change in the volleyball tournament format to allow for schools that observe Saturday as the Sabbath to participate.
Let’s hope this matter doesn’t linger in court.
In some instances, it might not be possible to alter game and competition times to accommodate various religious concerns. However, in most cases that can be done by being flexible. This has been the approach with basketball when games are switched in the playoffs from Friday evening to Friday afternoon.
In the case of volleyball, accommodation could be relatively easy by adding another day or even half-day to the state tournament.
The WIAA needs to make the necessary changes so these three schools and others can fully participate.
Action needs to be taken soon so coaches, players and parents can know if they are eligible for postseason play and they can prepare accordingly.
This is an excerpt from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.