Teachers banned from wearing religious symbols
Oregon has become the third state (joining Pennsylvania and Nebraska) that specifically prohibits teachers from wearing “any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher.” The state legislature recently passed the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act that was signed into law by the governor in July, 2009.
The new law allows workers in Oregon to express their religious views by wearing turbans, yarmulkes or hijabs, for example, while at work. Exceptions are made for safety requirements or undue hardship on an employer. It also protects a worker’s right to observe religious holidays without fear of losing their job.
Not included in the law are teachers in public schools. Because they occupy a unique position with impressionable children, the exclusion of teachers from this religious freedom act keeps religion out of the classroom.
Would you be offended if your teacher wore a religious cross to school, or a yarmulke (a Jewish skullcap)? Would those symbols alone send a message to you about religion or your teacher’s ability to teach? Would you think differently of a teacher who brought his or her personal religious beliefs into the classroom? What does separation of church and state mean to you?