Uniform Exemptions Wear Thin

The controversy of church and state separation is back on court. Not IN court – but ON court – as in a basketball venue.

Last year it was a female Muslim USF player who wanted to play attired in her hijab (head scarf), a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. After considerable flap and bad national publicity, USF agreed to petition the NCAA for an exemption to its uniform rules.

The case became moot when the student quit – the team, the university and Islam.

Now the issue is back — at the Amateur Athletic Union level. It’s centered around a Hillsborough County middle school Muslim, Briana Canty.

She was initially not allowed to play in an AAU tournament in Orlando because she insisted on wearing her hijab. Eventually, after her mother had complained and the Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations had interceded, the AAU relented. The 12 year old played in her hijab.

Three points.

Freedom of worship is a constitutional right. The right to express it any time, any way, any where is not a corollary. It’s more a function of cultural acquiescence and common sense.

Second, if everyone were allowed a sartorially symbolic extension of their religion when suiting up for secular play, the games would degenerate into sectarian follies. Here a yarmulke, there a crucifix. Would the line be drawn at Roman collars? Hair shirts? Burqas? Saffron robes?

The last point: There’s a very good reason why it’s called a UNIFORM.

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