Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oregon Senate Agrees With House That Teachers Can Wear Religious Garb

According to the Oregonian, yesterday by a vote of 21-9 Oregon's state Senate approved House Bill 3686 repealing an 87-year old ban on teachers wearing religious dress in the classroom. Beginning in the 2011-12 school year, teachers will be allowed to wear head coverings or other clothing in accordance with sincerely held religious beliefs. The state House of Representatives has already passed the bill, but it now goes back to the House because of two changes in wording made by the Senate. Opponents of the bill argued that a classroom should be a religiously neutral environment. (OPB News.) The new law (Sec. 659A.033(5)) does not require schools to accommodate religious garb if it "would would constrain the legal obligation of a school district, education service district or public charter school to: (a) Maintain religious neutrality in the school environment; or (b) Refrain from endorsing religion." [Thanks to Steven Green via Religionlaw for the lead.]

UPDATE: On Feb. 23, the House by a vote of 48-7, with 5 not voting, repassed the bill with the Senate amendments in it. It now goes to the governor for his signature. The Oregonian reports on the final vote, and the questions about the bill raised by even some who voted for it. Opponents predicted the bill will lead to numerous lawsuits.