When a Jewish law student taking the Colorado bar exam discovered that the first day of the test was scheduled on Tisha B’av, a traditional day of observance and fasting, she asked the Board of Bar Examiners for an alternate test date. The Board first denied her request, then later stated that they would simply “entertain” her request at the next board meeting. This left the student without a practical resolution, as that meeting would take place just months before the exam. That’s when she decided to contact the ACLU of Colorado.
Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass immediately wrote to the Board of Bar Examiners and demanded that the law student’s religious practices be accommodated. He noted that other states that had scheduled portions of their bar exams on Tisha B’Av such as California, New Jersey, Illinois, New York and Missouri all were allowing students observing that holiday to reschedule that portion of the exam. Pendergrass argued, “It hardly needs saying that the future lawyers of our state, who will be taking an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Colorado, deserve to know that their own constitutional liberties and freedoms will be respected by the very board charged with their admission.”
The Board subsequently agreed to provide the law student with an accommodation by allowing her to take the portion of the bar exam that conflicted with Tisha B’Av on a different day. Pendergrass responded, “We welcome the decision by the Board to not force this student to choose between her religion and her profession. In the future, we urge the Board to provide clear guidelines for requesting an accommodation, ensuring that all potential attorneys know that their freedom to practice their religion–a fundamental right in our democracy–will be duly respected.”
Taylor Pendergrass , ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney
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