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Peaceful Protest Against Oregon Senate Bill Banning Religious Freedom in SchoolsTim King Salem-News.com
A "peaceful protest against Oregon's Ban on teachers headcoverings" takes place Wednesday, July 22nd at 4:00 p.m.
(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.
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.
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