State of “the day of rest” in 2012

A recent story about the Beren Academy basketball flap reveals a happy ending, that the games will be rescheduled to accomodate the Jewish observance of the Sabbath on Saturdays (which actually runs from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset).

Several people of prominence, including Houston mayor Annise Parker, former Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, and Senators Rodney Ellis and Dan Patrick pressured TAPPS (the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) into making the required schedule changes.

From the article:

Ellis and Patrick had placed phone calls to TAPPS officials and crafted a letter expressing frustration at the handling of the matter and urging reconsideration. The letter characterized the matter as “a controversy that never should have taken place,” noting that the other schools involved had expressed a willingness to re-schedule that that Beren had agreed to pay the costs of securing an alternate venue.

I agree with the Senators, in that the controversy should never have had a chance to form. However, my agreement is for reasons likely quite different than those of the Senators and other supporters of the Beren Academy basketball team.

First, a bit about religions and their various “day of rest” observances, as noted in Wikipedia’s “Sabbath” article. Perhaps best known to most of my readers is the Christian Sabbath, observed on Sunday (called the “First-day Sabbath” in the article). Then, there is the Sabbath observed on Saturday, by not only Jews, but several other denominations such as Seventh Day Baptists and the more widely known Seventh-Day Adventists.

As if two different Sabbath days weren’t enough, there are also some Muslims who observe Friday as a rest day (Jumu’ah). Some Muslims only treat this day as a prayer day, but some do treat it as a rest day. The Bahá’í also keep Fridays as a day of rest (from Thursday at sunset to Friday at sunset).

Add all these together, and you now have three separate days on which a day of rest is observed on a weekly basis by different religions (four if you count the Thursday after sunset of the Bahá’í). And you can start to see the very real problem of an inflexible “day of rest” provision prescribed by religion. It’s not that big of a leap to see a Muslim school, a Jewish school, a Seventh-Day Adventist school, and a (first-day Sabbath) Baptist school making the state semi-finals at some point. What would TAPPS do then?

I do agree in general with the concept of one day of rest out of the week. However, I don’t think it needs to be necessarily the same day every week, week in, week out. I recently saw a TV show (PBS’s American Experience) on how the Amish have changed their way of life over the past few decades, doing things today that would have been unheard of as recently as thirty years ago, such as working in “English” factories. (Interestingly, Wikipedia’s article is completely silent on whether or not Amish observe a day of rest, let alone which day.)

The idea of setting aside the same day out of every week as a day of rest is a great idea, but I feel that inflexibly hanging onto it no matter what the consequence is a bit outdated. It may have worked decently in 1812, maybe even 1912. Problem is, we’re in 2012, and even the Amish have figured that out.