[Thursday], Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the repeal of a Ku Klux Klan-inspired law that forbade Oregon teachers from wearing religious dress in public schools. Under the 87-year old law, which was passed to prevent Catholic nuns from teaching in public schools, Orthodox Jewish teachers could not wear yarmulkes, Sikh teachers could not wear turbans, and Muslim women teachers could not wear headscarves.
The Oregon legislature moved to repeal the law after The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a coalition of interfaith, civil rights, and bar association organizations urged the immediate repeal of the discriminatory Oregon law in a letter to state legislative leaders.
”The Becket Fund was indispensable in getting this KKK law repealed, especially by discrediting some of the wilder legal claims made by opponents of the repeal,” said Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy at The Sikh Coalition, a national Sikh civil rights organization. “Sikhs across the country are thankful for The Becket Fund’s stalwart defense of religious freedom for all.”
Led by the Oregon ACLU, many supporters of the ban on religious clothing claimed that allowing public school teachers to wear religious clothing would lead to the indoctrination of children in the classroom. In her Washington Post online column, Becket Fund Legal Fellow Asma Uddin took the ACLU to task for supporting a KKK law by using KKK tactics.
“Nebraska and Pennsylvania should follow Oregon’s example and repeal their religious clothing bans immediately,” said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund. “Anti-Catholic laws like these are Jim Crow’s lesser-known cousins, and they make everyone, not just Catholics, less free.”