Governor signs repeal on teachers’ religious dress; ban will lift in July 2011

Posted on April 2, 2010


By Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian

April 01, 2010, 1:08PM

With supporters of religious freedom looking on, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill this morning that will end Oregon’s ban on teachers wearing head scarves and other religious attire.

The ban won’t lift until after the 2010-11 school year. The rationale for the delay is to give leaders of the state’s labor and education agencies plenty of time to write detailed regulations for carrying out the new law.

The governor, who declined to comment on the issue while it was before lawmakers in February, called changing the law “The right thing to do.” Some lawmakers in both parties opposed the bill on the grounds that schoolchildren might feel oppressed or proselytized by their teacher’s religious headcovering or other similar attire.

Kulongoski forcefully disagreed. “Repeal is consistent with Oregon tradition that honors individual beliefs, values diversity, and promotes tolerance,” he wrote in an official letter that accompanied his signature on the bill.

But he emphasized the importance of very clear statewide rules, to be written under the leadership of the Oregon Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor and Industry, to tell schools how to balance religious liberty for teachers with students’ rights to a religious neutral schoolhouse. [more]