Oakwood Adventist Academy vs. Alabama High School Athletic Association
The Oakwood Academy Mustangs of Huntsville, Alabama, had fought their way this year to the semi-finals with a chance at winning the state title. This was, in fact, the winningest season for the basketball team of Oakwood Adventist Academy, the nation’s oldest Black Seventh-day Adventist school.
As Seventh Day Adventists, however, the Mustangs must observe the Sabbath that begins on sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. When the schedule for the semi-finals was released, the Mustangs were slated to play at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon – agonizingly close to sundown, but still daylight … and still the Sabbath.
Then the Mustangs caught a break. Other teams agreed to switch out their times with other teams, avoiding scheduling a game during the Sabbath. This seemed to be a good, all-around solution to everyone except the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), which refused to accept a switch that was acceptable to all teams.
The Becket Fund for Religious Freedom is now representing Oakwood Adventist Academy before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeking a permanent injunction against the association discriminating against religious requests.
“It’s bad enough that AHSAA would intentionally exclude a religious school for honoring the Fourth Commandment,” said Eric Rassbach, senior counsel and vice president of the Becket Fund. “But it’s worse when the exclusion is entirely unnecessary — like most Americans faced with this issue, the schools had worked out a simple, common-sense solution. But the bureaucrats said no. The First Amendment demands much more.”