Washington D.C. (April 2, 2010) – Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed legislation April 1, reversing an 87-year old law preventing public school teachers in the state from wearing religious clothing and articles of faith.The repeal of the long standing law now allows observant Americans from Sikh, Jewish, Muslim and other faith groups who wear religiously mandated clothing to teach in public schools.
In the summer of 2009, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the nation’s oldest Sikh civil rights advocacy organization, initiated a campaign to overturn this discriminatory legislation. Over the past several months, SALDEF worked closely with the Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt, along with a broad coalition of Oregon faith groups and individuals to engage in outreach to Oregon legislators, provide testimony at House hearings, and mobilize community support for the repeal of this law.
“For the first time in 87 years, an observant Sikh, Muslim, Jew or Christian will not have to decide between their faith and their profession,” said Sathanuman Singh Khalsa, Northwest Regional Director of SALDEF, immediately after the signing of the bill by the Governor. “These are the moments in our collective histories that mark progress. It was truly an interfaith effort.”
Last week, SALDEF initiated a final letter writing campaign urging community members of all faiths to write to the Governor to sign the legislation. Supporters wrote thousands of letters in support of the repealing of this law dating back to the Ku Klux Klan era of the 1920’s.
“SALDEF has worked consistently to defend the right of all Americans to wear religious attire in the workplace, in schools, in courtrooms, and as customers in public venues,” said SALDEF Associate Executive Director Jasjit Singh. “We congratulate the State of Oregon on the repeal of the ban on teachers’ religious attire and look to legislators in Pennsylvania and Nebraska to follow Oregon’s lead of respect for religious freedom and diversity.”