Earlier this month, the New York Times reported (and subsequently editorialized on it) that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (Tapps), an association that regulates sports events among private, mainly Christian schools in the state, refused membership to Iman Academy SW, an Islamic school in Houston that sought membership to the organization in 2010. Basically, a group of high school kids, who also happened to be Muslim, wanted to play soccer and were refused.
They were refused on the basis of the school's answers to a questionnaire. Apparently, Tapps had learned its lesson the hard way - the association had already drawn national attention earlier in March when it refused to reschedule a state semifinal boys basketball game for an Orthodox Jewish day school, which could not play at the scheduled time because its players observe the Sabbath. Under legal pressure, Tapps rescheduled the game for Friday afternoon. The Orthodox school, Robert M. Beren Academy, defeated the Covenant School 58-46 to advance to the state title game later in the week. So much for turning the other cheek.
The young ingrates of the Beren Academy basketball team
Now, what sort of questions would a reasonable person expect to find in a questionnaire designed to canvass the suitability of a school's athletic program for membership in an athletic association? First off, the presumption is that a school applying to a consortium of private schools will be a private school.
But beyond that, there are things the association might want to know about a prospective new member: how many students in your school's athletic programs? proportion of male to female athletes? segregated or coeducational teams? proportion of the school budget dedicated to sports programs? These are the sorts of questions which seem reasonable to ask and which didn't seem to get asked. Rather the questionnaire, according to the Times article, included these questions:
- Historically, there is nothing in the Koran that fully embraces Christianity or Judaism in the way a Christian and/or a Jew understands his religion. Why, then, are you interested in joining an association whose basic beliefs your religion condemns?
- It is our understanding that the Koran tells you not to mix with (and even eliminate) the infidels. Christians and Jews fall into that category. Why do you wish to join an organization whose membership is in disagreement with your religious beliefs?
- How does your school address certain Christian concepts? (i.e. celebrating Christmas)
- What is your attitude about the spread of Islam in America? What are the goals of your school in this regard?
None of it was at all about the game, nor about the students involved. “We didn’t see how it had anything to do with Tapps or our kids and sports,” noted an administrator of Iman Academy SW. But the questions do reveal a mind, of sorts, at work here - a fearful, timid, hand-wringing mentality conjuring up a set of questions that could not possibly be answered to a private satisfaction unencumbered by notions of fairness or any transparent standards of inclusion. There were other, more honest questions the Tapps geniuses may have well asked, ones beginning in theological confusion, working through denial, suspicion, anger and all the typical stages of true religious bigotry. For example, how about this questionnaire?
Theological confusion: Our Bible commands that you should love your enemy as yourself. We are your enemy. According to the Bible (our Bible) we are permitted to hate evil and shun evildoers. We hate you. Why can't you even like us?
Wishing they would just go away: You do realize, of course, that many of the balls sanctioned for use in Tapps sporting events are made of pigskin? Feeling as you do about pigs in general, would you really want to play with something made from the skin of an animal you regard as unclean?
Fear and suspicion: Would you willingly allow one of your players to blow himself or herself up on the playing field if you thought by doing so your team would win the game?
Trick question: True Christians believe that Israel is the promised land of the Jewish people and that the world can only end in Jesus's triumphal return when their land is restored to them and they all reside in it and not in Texas. You do not believe that the Jews have any claim to Israel. How do you intend to resolve this so that Texas can be free of Jewish influences and can welcome the Second Coming and the Judgment?
Sanctimonious defensiveness: The Bible says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19) Both the Bible and the Constitution make it very clear that this is a worthy and laudable enterprise, not to be compared with the intentions of the Islamic tradition. Knowing this, how could anyone possibly interpret Christianity as seeking "world domination"?