Monday, April 27, 2009

National Mock Trial Championship Refuses Religious Accommodation For Jewish School

According to a posting yesterday on the blog Teaneck Progress , the National High School Mock Trial Championship is refusing to accommodate Maimonides High School of Brookline Massachusetts by rescheduling the school's rounds so they do not take place on the Jewish Sabbath. Maimonides, as winner of the Massachusetts Bar Association's statewide competition, is entitled to move to the national competition. This year the nationals are being hosted by the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia on May 6-10, with the schedule calling for actual competition rounds on Friday and Saturday. Accommodation apparently would have required moving two of the rounds from Saturday to Friday. Reportedly both the attorney general of Georgia and the Anti Defamation League have expressed concern over the competition's refusal to grant the requested schedule change.

In 2005, accommodation was made for a New Jersey Jewish day school, but competition organizers voted to refuse accommodation in future years. Following the 2005 incident, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation and the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers created an alternative American Mock Trial Invitational to permit state high school champions with weekend religious obligations to still enter a national competition. Also in 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the NHSMTC to accommodate religious beliefs of students. (See prior posting.)

UPDATE: Here (via Blog of the Legal Times) is the full text of a letter from counsel for some of the Maimonides students and their parents to the U.S. Justice Department asking it to investigate and take action to remedy the accommodation denial.