Adventists given relief for Sabbath rest

rest on the sabbathPortland, Oregon’s major daily newspaper The Oregonian picked up on an interesting religion/law/sports story involving an Adventist school, the Sabbath and organized sports. The story appears to be seen locally as small potatoes but has some compelling implications.

A court issued an order requiring the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) to schedule basketball tournament games that accommodate the Sabbath traditions of the Portland Adventist Academy. The article notes that “many Adventists observe the Sabbath and do not participate in games” scheduled between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday.

I appreciate the reporter’s effort to qualify the statement that “many Adventists observe the Sabbath.” It is never good to assume that all Adventists believe the same thing, but the story could have included more detail on what this particular academy and its community believes and practices:

Jon Stride, the attorney for the Portland Adventist players, said Friday’s decision means the OSAA will, if Portland Adventist’s boys or girls team advances to one of the games in question, shift the starting time.

Stride said circuit court Judge Henry Kantor’s decision indicated the Oregon School Activities Association did not provide “sufficient evidence that providing this accommodation” — moving the game times — “would cause undue hardship.”

Tom Welter, executive director of the OSAA, could not be reached for comment Friday. Earlier, he said any decision about possibly appealing Friday’s decision would rest with the association’s executive board.

Portland Adventist in general has not participated in OSAA basketball tournaments in the face of what the suit called a requirement to swear to participate in every scheduled tournament game — even those scheduled during the Saturday Sabbath.

The Sabbath is probably the most important characteristic of Seventh-day Adventists. This fact is probably a significant reason the judge ruled the way he did. The Sabbath tradition is one of the church’s 28 fundamental beliefs and derives its moral obligation out of the Ten Commandments. Participation in any form of organized sports is out of the question for adherents of this faith, which creates a problem in a society where many high school athletics involve Saturdays full of basketball and other sporting events.

The story also misses out on explaining the significant legal implications of this order. Since it is a preliminary injunction, the legal consequences are not yet final. However, this judge is signaling that other religious organizations with similar scheduling conflicts based on their core religious beliefs might also find a friendly gavel in his courtroom.

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  • Asinus Gravis

    Is it too far afield to wonder what the ruling would be for a Muslim school that wanted the schedule to avoid having games conflicting with any of their five regular prayer times each day?

  • Chris Bolinger

    A court issued an order requiring the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) to schedule basketball tournament games that accommodate the Sabbath traditions of the Portland Adventist Academy.

    This is a huge deal. I can’t believe that the story is seen locally as small potatoes.

    Stride said circuit court Judge Henry Kantor’s decision indicated the Oregon School Activities Association did not provide “sufficient evidence that providing this accommodation” — moving the game times — “would cause undue hardship.”

    Just a hunch: Kantor has no idea what is involved with organizing a basketball tournament, especially the state high school basketball tournament. The lawyer for the Portland Adventist Academy is an instant legend. I am in awe.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    Would that Catholic schools advocated for scheduling their athletic events to avoid Sundays, or even the Paschal Triduum. I still remember the time when a Good Friday rehearsal was gutted because the track coach called for an extra practice that morning at 9AM.

    I don’t know that I’m in awe so much as a little envious of the Adventists.

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    I appreciate the reporter’s effort to qualify the statement that “many Adventists observe the Sabbath.” It is never good to assume that all Adventists believe the same thing,…

    No, it usually is not a good practice to assume, especially with individuals. However, I would imagine this school as an institution follows the teachings and practices of the Seventh Day Adventist Church especially in regards to the Sabbath. In this case that deduction can be made (and, no doubt, could be found on the school’s web site or handbook, easily obtainable).

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    The story also misses out on explaining the significant legal implications of this order. Since it is a preliminary injunction, the legal consequences are not yet final. However, this judge is signaling that other religious organizations with similar scheduling conflicts based on their core religious beliefs might also find a friendly gavel in his courtroom.

    So, Saturday could be out as a day of sports for high schools. Might as well remove Sunday as a possibility as Christian groups may be found to oppose sports activities on Sunday as well. Would there also be bans of sports scheduled on Rosh Hashannah, Hannukah, the Eids, Ramadan, et. al.? This could be something to keep our eyes peeled on to see what effects this and subsequent rulings have. And might it someday reach the Supreme Court?

  • http://blog.muchmorethanwords.com gfe

    It’s an interesting legal issue. The same language — “undue hardship” — is also found in some laws, such as those requiring employers to accommodate employees’ religious practices. So you could end up with decisions that vary depending on the particulars. For example, it might not be an undue hardship for a winter basketball tournament to switch some games around on one day to avoid the prohibited times. But it might be an undue hardship to reschedule matches at, say, a summer tennis tournament where the days are longer and athletes have more than one match a day and more than one round of play could be affected.

    Where the article falls short, way short, isn’t in its treatment of religious issues, but in failing to provide any legal background. It took me less than a minute of research to find out that this issue isn’t a new one. In fact, this very issue has already come before the Oregon Supreme Court, although apparently there hasn’t been a ruling yet. You can read about it here. The American Civil Liberties Union has argued the case for the students.

    I can’t tell from the article how the current case is related to the case that already has been argued in the state Supreme Court. That’s a huge shortcoming of the story.