Magazine article The Christian Century

Oregon Lawmakers May Repeal Ban on Teachers' Classroom Religious Garb

Magazine article The Christian Century

Oregon Lawmakers May Repeal Ban on Teachers' Classroom Religious Garb

Article excerpt

Teachers in Oregon are likely to win the right to wear religious clothing such as turbans, yarmulkes and headscarves in public schools when state lawmakers convene in February, elected officials say.

Oregon's relatively unusual prohibition on teachers' religious garb dates to a shameful anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic period in state history and is overdue to be changed, said state House Speaker Dave Hunt.

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.

State labor commissioner Brad Avakian and Oregon schools superintendent Susan Castillo recently sent every lawmaker a letter urging them to end the ban on religious dress for teachers.

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

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

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