Interesting religious accommodation claim

David E. Guinn davideguinn at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jan 23 15:38:52 PST 2002

Interesting religious accommodation claimIt seems to me that she should not prevail.  If bowing is religious and judo is a religion then rights of association should prevail precluding the state making judgments about what should or should not be practiced in that religion.  The only question would be whether amatuer sports are so entangeld with state regulation that the state should not be allowed to sponsor judo (which I strongly doubt.)

If the sport is secular and the act has no religious significance, then she has not standing to assert that it violated her beliefs as a religious act.

As a former martial arts practitioner, bowing was never considered a religious act but an ideological/cultural one strongly linked to the discipline of the practice.


David E. Guinn, JD, PhD
5032 N. Glenwood Ave. #3
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-7223

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Volokh, Eugene 
  Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 1:45 PM
  Subject: Interesting religious accommodation claim


  Judo champion refuses to bend in lawsuit 

  Sport's bowing rule violates rights, says Newport freshman 

  Friday, December 7, 2001 


  Leilani Akiyama, a national judo champion from Bellevue, strives to end her matches in minutes or even seconds, slamming her

  opponents to the mat. 

  But the 14-year-old's toughest fight -- her court battle to make optional the ceremonial bowing that takes place before 
  sanctioned judo tournaments -- has taken years. 

  It may soon be over. This morning, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik hears arguments on whether the case, which 
  began five years ago, should be thrown out on legal grounds. If the case survives, trial is set for April. 

  After her initial complaint was removed from King County Superior Court, Akiyama and two fellow judo students, including

  her older brother James, filed suit in early 1997 in federal court against three U.S. judo groups, as well as the International Judo


  The plaintiffs claim that the forced bowing to inanimate objects, such as judo mats and pictures of the Japanese martial art's

  founder, is religious in nature and violates federal and Washington state discrimination laws. 

  Court-ordered arbitrators have ruled three times against Akiyama. But two of her claims -- that the practice violates the section

  of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits unfair denials of access to venues open to the public, as well as the

  Washington Law Against Discrimination -- are still alive. . . . 

  John Holm, Akiyama's stepfather and judo instructor . . ., who teaches 35 students at his judo club in Renton, says the bowing largely stems from customs of Shinto, an ancient

  religion indigenous to Japan. Shinto is based on custom, reverence for ancestral traditions, and living and acting according to the

  guidance of the gods. 

  Akiyama's mother, Mariko, a native of Japan, is Buddhist and doesn't want her children to be forced to practice Shinto rituals,

  Holm said. 

  He also said some Muslim and Christian students in his class have the skills and would like to compete in regional and national

  competitions but will not because it offends their beliefs. 

  "Bowing is a prayer act, and Muslims can only pray to Allah," Holm said. "It's just unfair." 

  Attorneys for the judo groups deny that Akiyama and the other plaintiffs have been forced to bow to mats or other inanimate

  objects in order to compete. Rather, bowing to opponents, judges and referees is an important tradition, they say, and shows

  respect for the sport, its instructors and its founder. 

  "It's not religiously driven or motivated," said Seattle attorney Dirk Ehlert, who represents the judo groups. "That's not what this

  is all about." . . . 

  Bowing is "a custom like the hand-shaking that boxers do," said Portland lawyer Richard Muller, who is counsel for one of the

  judo organizations. "It's one of the things that makes the sport civilized and not crude." . . . 

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