Ohio Bill Proposal Would Protect State Athletes’ Religious Freedom of Expression If Passed


An Ohio state Senator proposed a bill last week that would protect religious freedom of expression for athletes in the state.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right and civil liberty in this country,” State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), who introduced Senate Bill 288, said.

In SB 288, the proposed bill would eliminate the rule about athletes getting special permission from the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) to participate in events while wearing items reflecting their religious beliefs, according to Gavarone’s press release.

This bill’s idea came about after Noor Alexandria Abukaram was barred from a high school cross-country event in October 2019 because she wore a hijab.

“My hope is that through this legislation and Noor’s story we will be able to ensure that no one, regardless of religious affiliation, has to choose between playing a sport or their religious beliefs,” Gavarone said.

At the time of the race, the OHSAA told the Toledo Blade that Noor was disqualified because she did not submit the proper paper work.

“Cross country runners may participate in competitions with religious headwear, provided the runner has obtained a waiver from the OHSAA and submitted to the head official before the race, since it is a change to the OHSAA uniform regulations,” OHSAA said.

However, after the situation received national attention, the OHSAA changed their rules about athletes wearing religious headwear while competing. Furthermore, OHSSA president Jerry Snodgrass apologized to Noor after she was excluded.

“To Noor, her family, her teammates, the Northview community and those who were offended by this rule and her disqualification, we greatly apologize,” Snodgrass said. “Having a rule in place for those who wear religious articles is wrong, and we are taking immediate steps to have our Board of Directors modify this outdated regulation so that this does not happen again.”

Now, referees can approve religious headwear without athletes submitting a waiver, according to the Associated Press.

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Zachery Schmidt is the digital editor of Star News Digital Media. If you have any tips, email Zachery at [email protected]
Photo “Noor Abukaram and state Senator Theresa Gavarone” by state Senator Theresa Gavarone.







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One Thought to “Ohio Bill Proposal Would Protect State Athletes’ Religious Freedom of Expression If Passed”

  1. William Delzell

    I hope that also includes athletes who have such other faiths as Islam, Judaism, Pacifism, Unitarianism/Universalism, Quakerism, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Atheism, conscientious objectionalism, and so forth. This bill should not confine itself to conservative- and right-wing fundamentalist religions.