Georgia could get a black eye this week when 500 high school students from around the country come to Atlanta to compete in the National High School Mock Trial Championship.
The competition, being held between May 7 and May 9, is being hosted by the Georgia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. But controversy is brewing because of an unwillingness to accommodate the request from an Orthodox Jewish school from Brookline, Ma. to not compete on the Sabbath.
So far, the Mock Trial organization has refused to work with the needs of the Massachusetts state champion, the Maimonides School, by moving only two of the 150 trials from Saturday to Friday. The students of Maimonides, an Orthodox Jewish School, observe the Sabbath on Satruday.
A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, sent me an email about the controversy that he had received from Jewish leaders.
Media packets are going out with the following headline: FREEDOM OF RELIGION ON TRIAL IN ATLANTA: Jewish students are fighting for their day in court.
This is not the first time that the Mock Trial association has faced a similar situation, according to information in Robinson’s email.
In 2005, when the championship was being hosted in North Carolina, the New Jersey state champion asked for a similar accommodation. The Torah Academy of Bergen County did get its request, but the National High Schol Mock Trial Championship was furious and resolved to never accommodate Saturday Sabbath observers.
On May 5, 2005, before the first day of the North Caroline event, the organization adopted that resolution.
Now the Attorney General of Georgia is concerned about the current decision of the organization, and the attorney general’s office has asked that the Georgia Bar and the championship accommodate the Maimonides students.
The Anti Defamation League is expected to get involved. Plus, the students are being represented by two prominent Civil Rights attorneys from Washington D.C. — Nathan and Alyza Lewin.
It would seem that in the international home of Civil Rights and the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., we could be more sensitive to the traditional religious restrictions of those who come to town.