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Op-Ed

God or football? Hmm….

January 10, 2022

Damages can be difficult to calculate — especially when they're delicious.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

I know religion is a sensitive topic so I won’t make light of most beliefs aside from the ones about vaccinations (did they have those in the Bible?), demonic conspiracies (is a “Soros” a three-headed dragon?), and the apocalypse (should we really be encouraging total destruction of humanity?).

OK, I’ll make light of a lot of religious beliefs. Don’t be angry with me — if I offend you, there’s no need to do anything. You know I’ll be punished by the supernatural source of your choice.

I bring you now a fascinating calculation of damages question provided by a lawsuit recently filed in federal court in Ohio against the Canton City, Ohio, School District and its Board of Education on behalf of a high school football player (K.W.) and his parents who claim the kid was forced to violate his religious beliefs.

How do you assess the proper compensation for having to eat pizza?

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff and his father converted to “the Hebrew-Israelite religious faith” and were not supposed to eat pork or “pork residue.” The kid is 6-foot-5, a star athlete and an expected starter on the football team. Coaches and school employees allegedly knew about his dietary restrictions.

Last May, after skipping a mandatory weight-training class because of a slight injury, the football coach decided to discipline K.W. by making him sit in the middle of a gym and eat a large pork pepperoni pizza. The coach said K.W. could take off the pepperoni slices but there was still pepperoni “residue” on the pizza.

It gets weirder. The coach also made the rest of the team do sprint drills and strength exercises and told them they couldn’t stop until K.W. finished his pizza. K.W. was then “subject to threats from his teammates.”

This is yet another example of why I’m so glad I’ve always been too flabby and uncoordinated to even be considered for any sort of team. What sort of character is this supposed to be building?

K.W. was also told he might be kicked off the team if he didn’t eat and that could have jeopardized the high-profile college football future that he wanted.

So K.W., “against his religious beliefs, was forced to eat the pork grease pizza.” It definitely sounds less delicious when you describe it that way.

I have impertinent questions. Be ready to be offended.

If you truly believe in your religion and maybe think you’ll be smitten by God or whatever if you break a rule, shouldn’t you not break the rule? Does football trump faith?

I know K.W. is just a high school kid under some intense peer pressure, but, in hindsight, he should have walked out and then sued instead of eating and suing.

But the real question I have is, as I said before, what are the damages for pizza eating?

In your usual race/religion lawsuit, someone loses a job or a promotion or asks a court not to be forced to bake a cake or get vaccinated. Here there was lunch.

Yes, there was emotional distress, but what’s it worth? The suit says $3 million in compensatory damages and another million in punitive damages. So much for the football program that the kid wants to be part of so that he can get into a good football school. Imagine the threats from teammates if the team was no more.

K.W.’s lawyer may want to rethink this.

Thick skin? In other weird religion discrimination news, another recent federal suit filed in Kansas City, Missouri, claimed the operators of an indoor firing range called Frontier Justice wouldn’t allow a woman to wear a hijab while shooting. Baseball caps were fine, but not hijabs.

Why?

According to the suit, “Manager Danielle explained the reasoning behind the policy was that shrapnel can cause her hijab and skin to burn.”

I’ve never been to a firing range, but if there’s shrapnel flying around, I’m definitely never going to one. I’m also a little unclear on why bare skin is safer than hijab-covered skin. Is there some science I’m not aware of?

The complaint went on to quote a Google review that said “The reasons that the owner gave for why it would not allow Muslim women on their range is because they cannot identify them while they wore their scarfs.”

Is it because they’re keeping score?

That range’s management needs to work on its excuses.

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