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.
Today, I welcomed Noor Abukaram & her family to the Statehouse. Noor was disqualified from a cross country race last year because she wore her hijab.
I asked her to help me introduce SB 288 to ensure that no one has to choose between playing a sport or their religious beliefs. pic.twitter.com/MKEHOSQF8k
— Senator Theresa Gavarone (@theresagavarone) February 26, 2020
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who wear religious articles is wrong, and we are taking immediate steps to have our Board of Directors modify this outdated regulation so that this does not happen again.”
While much was misrepresented about a very unfortunate situation at last week’s OHSAA District CC meet, I am proud of our staff that immediately began working on correcting a wrong. Please note the attached. pic.twitter.com/3iRlsvz95L
— Jerry Snodgrass (@Jerry_Snodgrass) October 26, 2019
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.