By an overwhelming majority, the Oregon House of Representatives has voted 51-8 to repeal a Klan-era ban on teachers wearing religious dress in the classroom. The law, originally an anti-Catholic measure, was implemented with the support of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. It bans Muslim public school teachers from wearing headscarves, Sikh men from wearing Turbans, and Jewish men from wearing yarmulkes. Oregon is one of only three states to prohibit religious dress in the classroom.
The bill is now headed to the Oregon Senate.
For a second year in a row, House Speaker Dave Hunt has led the charge in favor of workplace religious freedom. In July 2009, the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act was passed but left in place the ban on teachers who wear religious garb. This ban, found in , which had been used to effectively exclude Sikhs from teaching in the public schools, has been the subject of intense debate between advocates who feel that the law unjustly prohbitied people of faith whose religious garb from teaching in public schools and others who were concerned that this might lead to proselytism of students.
Greg Hamilton, the President of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association, lobbied for this bill as well as last year’s successful Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act.
More on this to come soon, but for now here are some more stories on this bill: