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Jul-22-2009 02:15printcomments

Peaceful Protest Against Oregon Senate Bill Banning Religious Freedom in Schools

A "peaceful protest against Oregon's Ban on teachers headcoverings" takes place Wednesday, July 22nd at 4:00 p.m.

This woman in Tehran is wearing a hijab.
This woman in Tehran is wearing a hijab.
Photo courtesy: Roya Barette

(SALEM, Ore.) - A protest this afternoon in Portland will address Oregon's ban on religious dress among teachers in the state's schools. An interfaith group will hold the peaceful protest to draw attention to a law that could have, but ultimately failed to... allow teachers religious freedom on the job.

The protest over SB 786 will be held in Pioneer Square, beginning at 4:00 p.m.

At issue is Oregon Senate Bill 786, which actually expands religious freedom for employers, but failed to address an old provision from the 1920's that bans head coverings and hijabs on Oregon teachers. These are traditional items worn by Muslim people as part of their history, religion and culture.

It is an unusual move in a state like Oregon, which often supports freedom enhancing legislation, and finds the ability to resolve matters like this. Groups unhappy with the provision being deleted from SB 786, say leaving the teachers out amounts to stripping away religious freedom.

Geoff Sugarman with Speaker Dave Hunt's office, says there was too much polarity between some legislators on this particular aspect of Oregon law. Dave Hunt was the chief sponsor of SB 786.

He also explained to Salem-News.com today that this law from the 1920's was sponsored at that time, by the Ku Klux Klan.

Praising the progress SB 786 does make in other areas, Hunt said, “With the diversity of religions in Oregon, and the many different ways people celebrate their faith, it makes sense to have clear guidelines for both employers and employees to follow,” said Hunt.

The religious clothing aspect in schools, is the one part of this that the legislature was hesitant in passing.

A spokesperson for a group organizing the protest tonight at Pioneer Square said "We will be protesting this Bill before the Governor signs the bill."

They aren't the only Oregonians who are displeased; the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)—the oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, urged Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski to veto this bill that "effectively rubber-stamps" a state law that forbids public school teachers from wearing any form of religious clothing. (see: National Sikh Organization Rejects 'Gaping Hole' in Oregon Discrimination Bills - Salem-News.com)

The Sikh's, traditional fighters of terrorists for literally hundreds of years, have come under attack by Americans over their turbans and the perception that they are somehow Arab and connected to the attacks on the United States.

Sugarman said a recent meeting between several of the groups unhappy about SB 786 was held yesterday. The groups came away with a broader understanding of the dynamics of 786 are.

History

Oregon's teacher garb law was enacted nearly a century ago by sympathizers of the Ku Klux Klan for the purpose of suppressing Catholics.

According to the Oregon Blue Book, a state publication:

"The Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a warm reception from many Oregon communities in the 1920s as Catholics and minorities suffered both blatant and subtle bigotry. The Klan, FOPS, and Scottish Rite Masons sponsored a bill, passed in 1922 in the general election, to compel all children to attend public schools. The overtly anti-Catholic measure threatened to close all parochial schools and military academies. The state Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 1924 and the U.S. Supreme Court concurred in 1925. The Ku Klux Klan found a strange champion in the Oregon legislature. Kaspar K. Kubli, speaker of the House of Representatives, happened to possess winning initials and became a rallying point for efforts to drive through the Alien Property Act of 1923. The law prohibited Japanese from purchasing or leasing land in Oregon. The legislature also passed a law forbidding wearing of sectarian clothing, namely priestly vestments or nuns' habits, in classrooms."

Other Aspects of SB 786

SB 786 – the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act – intends to ensure that employees of Oregon businesses will be able to practice their religion freely. The bill requires that employers must provide accommodation for religious beliefs provided it does not impose an “undue hardship” on the business. The bill passed on a 38-21 vote and now moves to Governor Ted Kulongoski for his signature.

The protest against the passage of Senate Bill 786 in its current form, happens Wednesday, July 22nd, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Pioneer Courthouse Square is located in Downtown Portland.

-----------------------------------------------------
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), the first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several other awards including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Nicole Lasher January 15, 2010 11:10 pm (Pacific time)

In this and other laws, Muslims are unfairly singled out for discrimination. However, it's the bell tolling thing. Today they go after Muslim women (easy target of the month) but tomorrow, they'll be telling people they can't wear dreadlocks, cowrie shells, anything with an elephant, bindi, toe rings, nose rings, gold earrings, and so on, because they're all religious symbols for some religion in the world. Americans need to be very careful what they're complaicant about before the teachers will be required to bare their arms, wear miniskirts, and show cleavage to prove their secularness.


Anonymous July 22, 2009 9:16 pm (Pacific time)

great job Michael...this shows even more how the federal government controls the indoctrination camps they call the public education system.

Editor: You know, I just read comments from your IP and you have been taking some jabs at us.  Well, we have more important things to do, OK?  I think from now on I'll hit the "flush" button when your comments come in, so save us all the time and go bother somebody else, OK? 


Michael Peabody July 22, 2009 10:20 am (Pacific time)

I read Tim King's article from this morning with great interest. Unfortunately it creates the misperception that Oregon teachers are now being banned from wearing religious dress. The fact is that this unfortunate legislation has been on the books for many years. SB 786 in fact extended religious liberty requirements to employers but left the teaching prohibition intact.

In 2007, the Oregon legislature did not pass a bill that removed the teaching prohibition as part of a Workplace Religious Freedom Act, so a carve-out was added as a matter of political expediency to make sure that these rights were added to the rest of the workforce. As far as teachers are concerned, SB 786 changes nothing.

I certainly hope that teachers gain the right to wear religious dress and that clean-up legislation will be passed next year to resolve that issue but vetoing SB 786 will not help anybody.

Editor: The points Michael references were corrected in this story, we apologize for having the initial information off track.  


Daniel Johnson July 22, 2009 7:09 am (Pacific time)

Religion is a divisive force in society. Has been for thousands of years. Those who want the freedom to emphasize religious differences are doing Oregon society no favors.

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©2017 Salem-News.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Salem-News.com.


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