Basketball tournaments on the Sabbath

Alan Brownstein aebrownstein at
Sun Mar 4 15:59:51 PST 2012

Eugene is correct that the more private the program, the less obligation there is to accommodate others. But I wasn't focusing on the TAPPS program. I was trying to respond to Marci's more general question. The tournament organizers in the Oregon case I referenced were state actors. In other cases, state institutions may provide much of the funding for tournament events, provide access to public venues where games are played and generally facilitate and support the tournament. The greater the state involvement in the tournament, the more appropriate the basis for a religious liberty argument.  

Even in a private situation, say a commercial context, I think it is fair to talk about religious liberty being burdened if employers refuse to hire members of a particular faith or motels will not rent them rooms etc. If the employer's decision is grounded on his or her own religious beliefs, religious liberty may be on both sides. If religious practice and belief are not justifications for a refusal to accommodate, but economic or administrative convenience concerns are the basis for denying an accommodation, I have no trouble talking about religious liberty (or religious equality) being weighed against economic liberty or other private interests. 


From: religionlaw-bounces at [religionlaw-bounces at] on behalf of Volokh, Eugene [VOLOKH at]
Sent: Sunday, March 04, 2012 2:17 PM
To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
Subject: RE: Basketball tournaments on the Sabbath

I wonder whether "religious liberty" is exactly the right term here, where we're talking about access to a privately provided program, and one that is hardly essential for life or livelihood.  The question isn't just whether Orthodox Jews are free to live as good Orthodox Jews, or even are free to get broadly available benefits of the welfare state that are important to survival (such as unemployment compensation).  Rather, the question is whether other private parties should adapt their behavior -- their exercise of their own liberty -- to accommodate Orthodox Jews' felt religious obligations.  That's an interesting question, and the answer might well be that they should so adapt their behavior, if it's a low-cost adaptation, out of hospitality or kindness or application of the Golden Rule or some such.  But I think that talk of "liberty" here is not very helpful.


From: religionlaw-bounces at [religionlaw-bounces at] On Behalf Of Alan Brownstein [aebrownstein at]
Sent: Sunday, March 04, 2012 12:33 PM
To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
Subject: RE: Basketball tournaments on the Sabbath

I don't view these issues as absolute "Yes" or "No" questions. I think tournament organizers should take the religious beliefs of participants into account, but there will be situations where the cost to others of particular accommodations will be too high for the requested accommodation to be granted.

Some accommodations are relatively low cost. If two semi-final games are going to be played Saturday afternoon and evening, why shouldn't the organizers accommodate the needs of a religious school's team that observes Saturday as the Sabbath and schedule their game for the evening rather the afternoon? Some rejections of accommodations create unnecessary burdens for religious schools. In the Oregon litigation I referenced earlier, the tournament organizers refused to allow the Adventist School's team to play in any tournament games unless they would commit to playing every game scheduled even if it fell on the Sabbath.

Other harder cases may involve higher costs. Even here, however, sometimes there may be creative solutions that mitigate burdens or spread costs. If we value religious liberty and are concerned about the exclusion and isolation of religious minorities, we should take accommodation problems seriously -- although that does not mean that the accommodation will always be granted.

Alan Brownstein
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