In late February and early March, Houston (Texas) Beren Academy, a small Orthodox Jewish school, received national attention after it was forced to forfeit a state semifinal rather than play on its Sabbath, only to eventually play in the game after legal wrangling forced the Texas Association of Private Parochial Schools (TAPPS) to adjust its schedule to accommodate the team.
Throughout the soap opera-like developments of Beren's struggle to play, TAPPS officials were widely criticized for their rigidity and unwillingness to accommodate a school's religious beliefs, a stance which seemed to fly in the face of TAPPS founding principles to accommodate Christian schools. Despite such public rebuke, TAPPS Commissioner Edd Burleson has repeatedly insisted that the stance taken by his association was correct, and that TAPPS has no obligation to accommodate schools of faiths outside Christianity.
"We shouldn't have accepted [Beren] in the first place," Burleson, who feels that TAPPS should be a Christian-only entity told the Dallas Morning News. "What else would you want me to say? Want me to come up with some politically correct gobbledygook? I can't. I'm telling you that's how I feel."
Yet, rather than engender support and loyalty from the schools who are safely within those demographic confines, Burleson's comments appear to have further upset at least one key TAPPS constituent: The large Texas Catholic Conference.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, TCC officials insisted that TAPPS must be open to more diversity, or else the schools would consider leaving the athletic body for Texas schools. Considering the fact that TCC schools comprise roughly 20 percent of TAPPS entire membership, that is a significant threat.
It's a threat that Burleson appeared to take quite seriously, too, meeting with representatives from TCC member schools and insisting that their concerns over a lack of diversity would be heard. Yet that meeting came just days before he spoke to the Morning News and offered up a much more limited vision for the organization moving ahead.
As a result, the TCC may seriously consider breaking away from TAPPS, as an official statement to the Chronicle made abundantly clear.
"The comments attributed to Mr. Burleson in the media (Sunday) come as a surprise," the group's statement read. "At a meeting with representatives of member schools last week in Belton, Mr. Burleson reportedly conveyed his intention to listen to the concerns of member schools and resolve these issues - he even scheduled a second meeting in two weeks to discuss it further. If today's comments are accurate, they are dramatically different from the impressions he gave a week ago.
"The Texas Catholic superintendents' position remains the same. If the concerns are not satisfactorily resolved, Catholic schools will reconsider their future affiliation with TAPPS."
Burleson and the TCC appear headed for a wild, wild West-style face off, and it's awfully hard to figure which side is more likely to bend their vision of what TAPPS should be. Perhaps the only thing that is certain is that if things stay the same, TAPPS won't continue as constituted for much longer.