Do schools respect student-athletes’ modesty and religious freedom? Resolution encourages uniform accommodations
Resolution encourages schools and universities to allow religious clothing or headwear and accommodate athletes’ concerns for modesty
Inspired in part by the Norwegian beach handball team — which protested requirements that they wear bikinis as uniforms — the Utah House passed a resolution to recognize modesty and religious freedom rights for student-athletes.
Utah first lady Abby Cox and Muslim Civic League executive director Luna Banuri joined HCR16 sponsor Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, on the House floor on Thursday to speak in favor of the bill.
“Were there a competitive advantage to wearing a bikini, I’m sure the men would be wearing one also,” Pierucci said.
HCR16 encourages schools, cities and other youth programs to review uniform policies to be more accommodating of religious freedom and modesty.
During a committee hearing on the bill on Tuesday, Banuri said that this is an ongoing problem for Muslim girls in sports. Her colleague, Shaarif Sameer, read a testimony that described a West High School basketball player who was permitted to wear her hijab, but only if it matched the colors of the team’s uniforms. Meanwhile, other girls on the team were allowed to dye their hair a variety of colors.
“Why does she have to go to meet these requirements?” Sameer asked.
The Utah Muslim Civic League has received other similar complaints, Banuri said, but she spoke in favor of the bill as one that would benefit all communities of faith.
“We would like to support this bill and wholeheartedly ask the committee to consider it because this is not about one faith only,” she said. “It is about many other faiths that are represented in the state of Utah.”
She said it deals with the physical, mental and emotional health of children by allowing them to participate in sports in a way that makes them feel comfortable.
Pierucci told the House of another girl who was cut from a varsity team after trying to explain an agreement she made with a previous coach who allowed her to wear a hijab.
“I was incredibly surprised, disturbed and concerned to learn that there are children and young people in our state who are being told that they cannot wear religious headwear like a hijab while participating in sports without a waiver, or an approval to alter their uniform to meet their own modesty standards,” she said.
The Utah High School Activities Association doesn’t require waivers for uniforms anymore, but Pierucci said there are cities and other youth organizations that still do.
“Anything we can do to make sure that all students feel comfortable participating in these activities and sports is a great idea,” said Chase Clyde, who spoke on Tuesday on behalf of the Utah Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.
The resolution also has support from the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank in Salt Lake City.
The House passed HCR16 unanimously after several representatives echoed their support for accommodations.
“I think this is such a great message that we give to our women and our young women in the state,” said House Minority Whip Karen Kwan, D-Murray.
Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said he likes the focus on uniforms, but would like to see future legislation address accommodations so athletes can avoid having to miss activities that are held on observed Sabbaths.
HCR16 was sent to the Senate for approval.