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Sikh News Oregon Teachers May Get OK To Wear Religious Clothing In Class

Vikram singh

Feb 24, 2005
Teachers are likely to win the right to wear religious clothing such as turbans, yarmulkes, crosses and headscarves in public schools when the Oregon Legislature meets in February, elected officials say.

Oregon's prohibition on allowing teachers to exercise their faith by covering their heads or wearing other religious garb dates to a shameful anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant period in state history and is overdue to be changed, House Speaker Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, said Monday.

Hunt plans to introduce a bill to repeal the 1923 law and said he is optimistic it will pass, given the broad spectrum of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who support the change.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state schools Superintendent Susan Castillo sent every lawmaker a letter last week urging them to end the ban on religious dress for teachers.

The 86-year-old law has not been tested in court since the Eugene School District won a 1986 Oregon Supreme Court case that upheld its firing of a Sikh teacher for wearing a turban, or dastaar, as her faith requires.

Few Oregonians were aware the state had such a ban -- one of only three in the nation -- until the Legislature passed a law earlier this year allowing all workers except teachers to wear religious dress at work in most instances.

The 1923 law on teacher dress was passed when Kaspar K. Kubli, an open supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, presided as speaker of the Oregon House. It was included in the Alien Property Act of 1923, which prohibited Japanese Americans from owning property in Oregon, and was designed to prevent nuns and priests from wearing their habits or vestments in classrooms.

Hunt said the old law has a modern-day impact. Some Muslim and Sikh Oregonians have been told in recent years that they can't apply for teaching jobs or can teach only if they remove their head coverings, he said.

Hunt said he will push to "allow teachers to have the same religious free exercise rights as every other Oregonian."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which has long supported the ban on teachers' wearing of religious clothing, said the Legislature should not end it without enacting additional protections for Oregon students.

"We are urging the Legislature not to rush," said David Fidanque, executive director of the state ACLU. "Just repealing the statute could cause real problems in maintaining the religious neutrality of schools in Oregon."

The Oregon Education Association has not taken a position on the issue, communications director Becca Uherbelau said. "Generally speaking, we support the religious freedom of our members."

During an off-year special session, fewer bills are considered in the Legislature than during a regular biennial session. Even so, Hunt said it is a priority to end Oregon's ban, particularly because teachers in some school districts are allowed to wear yarmulkes or crosses, while in other areas, they are forbidden. He has found no examples of a public school teacher being permitted to wear a Sikh turban or a Muslim headscarf, he said.

"Any time you are dealing with a balance between free exercise of religion and the anti-establishment clause, the question should be, is the teacher using that clothing to proselytize children? Clearly that should never be allowed," Hunt said. "But is a teacher allowed to teach and comply with the tenets of their faith, whether that is taking holy days off as vacation days or wearing the dress that their faith requires? That should clearly be allowed in Oregon today."

Fidanque said the ACLU fields many complaints that public schools and teachers do too much to promote Christianity, particularly in rural Oregon. Families of students who belong to minority religions or are nonbelievers are afraid to speak up, he said. Lifting the ban on religious dress could lead some Christian teachers to wear Jesus T-shirts or take other steps to evangelize at school, Fidanque said.

"This is not a statute that impacts only minority religions. It affects all school employees," he said. "There are people of faith who feel as a matter of their faith that they must advance their religious views. ... We want to have a broader discussion with the Legislature about the importance of maintaining the schools as a place of religious neutrality. All students and their families should feel welcome, and that's as important, if not more important, than teachers' freedom of religious expression."

Oregon teachers may get OK to wear religious clothing in class | Oregon Education - OregonLive.com

Mai Harinder Kaur

Oct 5, 2006
British Columbia, Canada
This is ridiculous. It is almost laughable. 47 states have no problem. Only Oregon, Pennsylvania and a third state - I don't know which one - feel the need to protect our children from a turban or a yarmulka or hijab or even a cross. I usually support the ACLU, but in this case they are wrong. :u):

By prohibiting religious garb - a law from an intolerant, racist past, the antithesis of what the ACLU stands for - our children are denied the teaching of qualified, devoted teachers, as well as depriving the teachers of a job. Personally, I believe that exposing our children to different beliefs is a good thing. If some start evangelising, that is a different issue to be handled separately, probably at the federal level.

:happykaur: :happysingh: Horrors!


Chardi kala!



Vikram singh

Feb 24, 2005
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