Blatant Religious Discrimination in Texas Youth Athletics

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Houston's Iman Academy SW has over 500 students, increasing academic prestige and an established soccer team.  In 2010, the school sought admittance to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (known as Tapps), a group that organizes athletic competition among more than 200 schools in the state. Iman's application was denied, on grounds that are transparently racist.

TAPP sent Iman a questionnaire with the following questions:

– “Historically, there is nothing in the Koran that fully embraces Christianity or Judaism in the way a Christian and/or a Jew understands his religion. Why, then, are you interested in joining an association whose basic beliefs your religion condemns?”

– “It is our understanding that the Koran tells you not to mix with (and even eliminate) the infidels. Christians and Jews fall into that category. Why do you wish to join an organization whose membership is in disagreement with your religious beliefs?”

– “How does your school address certain Christian concepts? (i.e. celebrating Christmas)”

This questionnaire could not have been any more offensive or misplaced. Tapps may have once been an organization for Christian schools, but it now serves non-Christian schools as well. Sending a questionnaire like this would be outrageous even if Tapps were still Christian, but this incident even worse because Tapps generally acts neutrally.

Two other Islamic schools have been given similar questionnaires by Tapps, but refused to fill them out. Iman Academy filled theirs out, but was denied admittance. “We didn't see how it had anything to do with Tapps or our kids and sports,” Cindy Steffens, an administrator with Iman Academy SW, said.

Associate director of Tapps Bryan Bunselmeyer said last that he had no comment about the questionnaires or Tapps' dealings with Islamic schools.

This week, Tapps was brought under the spotlight for another discrimination incident. The organization refused to reschedule a state semifinal boys basketball game for an Orthodox Jewish day school, which could not play at the scheduled time because its players observe the Sabbath. After public outrage and legal pressure, Tapps caved and rescheduled the game.

For shame. Tapps is an organization in Texas, a state in the United States of America, which ensures free exercise of religion and free speech. They better start acting like it.

Ed.: Title changed from “Blatant Racial” Discrimination in Texas Youth Athletics” to “Blatant Religious Discrimination in Texas Youth Athletics”

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

4 Comments

  1. a few comments
    I definitely agree the content and overall tone of the TAPPS questions are entirely inappropriate and ignorant.

    The NY Times article says nothing about the TAPPS decision to reschedule the basketball game to being “in response to legal pressure.” As a private organization with voluntary membership that told the Orthodox Jewish school tournament schedules would conflict with the Sabbath, I am not sure what their case would be.

    The point that TAPPS serves “many different types of schools” … a quick look at TAPPS 5A and 4A teams shows (after a brief glance, at least) all Christian Schools. The Times article mentions 63% of members were against an Islamic school joining.

    It may be a good idea to make it more clear which sections are lifted directly from the Times piece, as well.

    Interesting case, thanks for bringing it more attention.

    • Response
      Thanks for the suggestions. I changed some content and clarified a few facts in the article. To the legal aspect, the NYT article does in fact say the following:

      “Under legal pressure, Tapps ultimately rescheduled the game for Friday afternoon.”

  2. Grant Brooke on

    Wrote
    As an Alumni of Hyde Park, I wrote them suggesting they find extra ways to reach out to Iman Academy (and the schools that didn't respond). Perhaps BOR readers who are graduates of area private schools should do likewise?

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