Friday News Roundup: Oregon Allows Religious Garb for Teachers

What to wear and where to wear it? This week, Oregon becomes the 48th state to allow teachers to wear religious garb in classrooms, and a British judge says Sikhs should be able to wear their ceremonial daggers, or Kirpans, in public spaces. But first, a plug for Tanenbaum!

We’re proud to announce that our very own Religion and Conflict Resolution team has published and article in the online version of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. The article, “I am a doing woman” details the important work of Osnat Aram-Daphna and Najeeba Sirhan, two of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action working in the Galilee. Check it out!

Now, onto Oregon. In a 51-8 vote on Wednesday, Oregon became the 48th state in the union to allow public school teachers to wear religious attire in classrooms (the only two remaining states are Nebraska and Pennsylvania). Proponents of the repeal argued that public school teachers should have the same rights as any other employee based on the Workplace Religious Freedom Law that was signed last fall. Those against the repeal said it maintained prevented impressionable young students from indoctrination.

  • David Fidanque of the ACLU argued, “Lifting the ban on religious dress could lead some Christian teachers to wear Jesus T-shirts or take other steps to evangelize at school.” (The Daily Vanguard reports.)
  • Representative Sara Gelsner countered, “The many faiths and cultures alive in our state are what make it unique….To deny Oregon’s students exposure to that diversity is to deny them a comprehensive education and only encourage narrow-mindedness.” (The Democrat Herald reports.)

Oregon took a step in the right direction by repealing this ban. It’s only fair that public school teachers be treated like every other employee and allowed to wear their religious attire at work. Opponents of the repeal want to maintain religious neutrality in schools, but that doesn’t mean keeping religion out of schools period; it just means not favoring one religion over another. As long as educators don’t indoctrinate their students, they should be permitted to express their religion and culture through clothing.

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund commends the House for passing the bill and The Oregonian gives us an interesting piece on why some of Oregon’s believers choose to wear religious garb.

In other news, Britain’s first Asian judge says  Sikhs should be permitted to wear their ceremonial daggers, or Kirpans, in schools and other public places. Considering the U.K.’s problem with knife crime, is this a justifiable accomodation for a religious minority? Philosopher Rebecca Roache discusses the topic in BBC News Magazine.

As always, for more of the week’s top stories, check out our website. See you next Friday!