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Maryland Law to Allow Religious Garments in College Sports

Executive Director for the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program, who studies religion, racism, and justice – recalls his own experience of fighting for inclusion as a turbaned Sikh athlete. 

Growing up in Texas, the director says he and his brothers were often denied the right to play college and school sports because of their turbans, a religious head covering worn by men of the Sikh religion. It was his story that welcomed the US state of Maryland’s Inclusive Athletic Attire Act, also known as House Bill 515, which came into legal effect on July 1. 

According to CNN, “The law requires the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, governing bodies of a public institution of higher education, county education boards, and community college trustee boards to allow student-athletes to modify athletic, or team uniforms, to conform to their religious or cultural requirements or preferences for modesty.”

Under the law, modifications to athletic or team uniforms can include head coverings, undershirts, or leggings worn for religious reasons. 

House Bill 515 states that “any modification to the uniform or headgear must be black, white, the predominant color of the uniform, or the same color worn by all players on the team.”

However, any uniform modifications must not interfere with the student athletes’ movements or pose safety hazards to others or themselves. The bill also says that uniform modifications must not cover any face section unless required for the athlete’s safety.

In a press release issued by the Maryland office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Zainab Chaudry said, “Our lawmakers have fundamentally leveled the playing field and improved the lives of thousands of children in our state. Maryland ranks among the worst states in America regarding juvenile justice… This progress is long overdue, and we all thank the bill sponsors and every lawmaker who voted on the right side of history on these measures.”

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