This past November, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) received a formal letter of regret from the Lehigh Valley Youth Soccer League (LVYSL) for denying Harshaan Singh Athwal the right to play soccer while wearing his patka (Sikh religious head-covering).
The first incident occurred on November 4, 2006 when Harshaan Athwal was denied from playing in a youth soccer match because the referee felt his patka was a safety risk for players of the opposing team. Additionally, on November 11th, Harshaan was again denied from playing in a match by a different referee, who cited that the jura, his knotted hair on top of his head, could physically harm another player....
In response to SALDEF’s letter, LVYSL President Bernie Bennett sent a letter on November 17th stating, “It is the league’s fondest wish that every youth be allowed to participate in the beautiful game, regardless of race, religion, gender nationality, economic status, athletic ability, or any other classification.”
Finally, on November 20, 2006 the State of Pennsylvania Referee Association issued clarifying guidelines relating to religious head coverings. Reiterating the need for religious exemptions they wrote that the, “Secretary General of the United States Soccer Federation has given permission to those bound by religious law to wear such head coverings, usually a turban or yarmulke.” [SALDEF Press Release]
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