Our Opinion: Running into an act of civil disobedience

News Tribune editorial

Was local runner James Vignola following the path of civil disobedience when he participated in a pro-life relay?

“Civil Disobedience” was the title of an 1849 essay by Henry David Thoreau. The concept refers to the intentional disregard of established laws, standards, procedures, etc., for the purpose of protesting, eliminating or changing those rules.

Among the most celebrated practitioners were Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

We’re not suggesting Vignola’s action rises to that level; he did not risk death, injury or incarceration.

But the underlying principle is the same.

The 15-year-old Helias Catholic High School freshman acknowledges he acted with full awareness of the consequences.

Here’s what happened.

Vignola participated in the LIFE Runners A-Cross the Country Pro-Life Relay, which is considered a “non-school competition” by the Missouri High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

MSHSAA’s eligibility standards for high school athletes state: “You may not practice for, or participate with, a non-school team or in any organization non-school athletic competition and for your school team in the same sport during the school sport season.”

As a result, Vignola has been found ineligible to participate as a member of the Helias team.

He knew the consequences before he laced up his shoes for the pro-life rally. “I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said, “and my conscience was telling me to do it.”

Responses have been numerous and varied. Some respondents believe the MSHSAA standards are reasonably designed to protect the health and enthusiasm of high school athletes. Others contend the standards and/or penalties should be re-examined, changed or eliminated.

That’s the purpose of civil disobedience — an action to prompt discussion that may lead to change.

James Vignola has succeeded in doing that.

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