MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Kay Ivey is seeking answers after a high school basketball team said it was forced to forfeit a playoff game that fell on the Sabbath.
The state athletic organization responded that it was following rules and couldn’t make a schedule change for the Seventh Day Adventist school.
The men’s basketball team at Oakwood Adventist Academy in Huntsville had advanced to the regional semi-final game that was set for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 19. The Adventist Church, unlike most other Christian denominations, observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday.
School officials told news outlets they had asked to switch to the 7:30 p.m. game slot — and the other schools had agreed — but the Alabama High School Athletic Association would not allow it.
“We’re not asking to change a venue, we’re not asking to change a date,” the school’s athletic director, Calvin Morton, told WHNT. “We’re just simply asking to change a 4:30 time to a 7:30 time to accommodate our religion and our faith.”
Ivey questioned the athletic association’s decision.
“I am writing to express my profound concern — and to get some answers — about the alleged treatment of Oakwood Adventist Academy,” Ivey wrote in a letter to the athletic association.
Ivey offered solidarity in a separate letter to the school principal.
“The idea that a team like Oakwood could be denied a chance to compete based upon its faith __ without even the most modest of accommodations __ is deeply disturbing,” Ivey wrote.
In response, Alvin Briggs, executive director of the athletic association, said the group was following the rules that member schools, including Oakwood, agreed to abide by when they joined.
“Granting an exemption or making an exception for any reason, every time one is requested, would be chaotic. The member schools write the rules and expect the AHSAA to govern their rules and policies consistently with both public and private members,” Briggs wrote.