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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ACLU on religious dress ban: Let's talk

We blogged yesterday about the bill in the Oregon legislature removing the ban on public school teachers' wearing religious dress in class. We noted that the local ACLU affiliate is opposed to lifting the ban. An alert reader points us to this statement, in which that organization says it's open to further discussion on the issue, but not for action in the current "special" session of the legislature.

UPDATE, 5:39 p.m.: The bill passed the Senate easily today, and assuming that a couple of differences in House and Senate versions can be ironed out, it will soon be on the governor's desk.

Comments (15)

I'm with the ACLU on this.

There are some pretty strange and lethal things out there which are considered 'garb' by religious practitioners. The most egregious which leaps to mind is the kirpan required of each and every male Sikh. A blanket allowance of all religious garb in public classrooms would place adult males with large daggers concealed on their persons in public classrooms.

I don't think this is the desired outcome.

Ergo, I think a rush on this is distinctly not in order and the ACLU has a point in deferring until a more considered approach can be taken.

I saw a woman wearing an Islamic head scarf (black) and combat fatigues with black boots today. She was waiting for a bus across the street from Capitol Hill Elementary about 45 minutes ago.

Quite a fashion (if not a political) statement.

My new religion would require bicycling nude...

I think public schools should remain nuetral. No overt display of religious affiliation by teachers or students..that includes crucifix's and any other items expressing religious beliefs.

If people in the teaching profession want to express their religious beliefs by the garments and accessories they wear, they should find a job in a private parochial school that is based in their chosen religious belief system.

Is that simple enough? It worked fine in the 60s when I attended a catholic school and the nuns wore full gowns and habits.

When I went to public schools, I never knew my teachers relgious affiliations because it wasn't something I need to know.

I really dont see the issue. If what they are wearing comes up, they already discuss religion in class as a history topic. (At least my kids did at Cedar Park MS and Sunset HS.)
Wearing a head scarf, yamulke, or a gold cross around your neck doesnt scream "convert" to kids.

As for the "hidden daggers" the Sikh have, so what? Has there been a "Sikh teacher insurrection" lately? Besides, concealed weapons in schools are legal with a permit in Oregon anyway.

When I went to public schools, I never knew my teachers relgious affiliations because it wasn't something I need to know.

We dont need to know if they are having a "sexual identity" crisis either, but that's protected.

I draw the line at sacred underpants.

I could care less what the teachers are wearing so long as they are not pushing their particular brand of religion. Besides, what are we protecting the kids from by restricting teacher garb? They can see it all on cable tv and the internet anyway.

The House of Representatives already concurred in the Senate amendments, 48 to 7. So now the bill goes to the Governor.

Note also that the statute to be repealed has a rather nasty history. It was originally adopted in the 1920's by the KKK-dominated Oregon Legislature as an anti-Catholic maneuver. Another statute passed around the same time, the Compulsory Public Education Act (requiring all students to attend public schools) was so bad that it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1925 in the Pierce v. Society of Sisters case, a staple of constitutional law textbooks' discussion of substantial due process.

They can see it all on cable tv and the internet anyway.

Or on the kid sitting next to them...

If I can crosspost a comment I left at his blog, here's my gripe about the ACLU's obsession with school dress codes:

As a longtime ACLUer and former state ACLU board member, I have to say how sorry I am every time the ACLU gets sucked into debates about school dress codes (for students or teachers) where all parties agree to ignore the real civil liberties violation, that of a government-mandated institution of state-directed indoctrination (a/k/a "public schools") in a carefully chosen orthodoxy.

Trying to fight for a tiny dab of freedom in a system built on coercion to inculcate a state orthodoxy is absurd.

When the ACLU is ready to challenge compulsory education laws then I'll care about whether the government dictates what the government agents giving the state-approved indoctrination to the students are allowed to wear. Until then, I could care less.

If you read any of the number of good books on deschooling and the failures of the factory models of schooling ("Dumbing Us Down" is a good place to start, or "Weapons of Mass Instruction," both by John Taylor Gatto) you soon realize that you're not alone in your frustration that schools are designed to pacify kids, not to wake them up or give them the tools they will need to be in charge of their own lives.

And I speak as a child of a highly praised, full-time three-decade public school teacher and someone who has more so-called "educational attainments" and degrees than most carloads of people in an HOV lane.

ACLU's statement reflects the kind of tortured reasoning that national ACLU employed recently when it filed its amicus curiae in the campaign finance case: it agreed that corporations are essentially persons who are entitled to unlimited free speech. That carried "civil liberties" to new heights.

Yes, alas, the ACLU appears to have become a example of the famous dictum that a liberal is someone who won't take his own side in an argument --- standing up for the free speech of corporations while failing to notice what that does to real, honest to God people ...

I'm still a member but I've cut waaaaaaaaay back on giving.

I think that the law was originally put in place in the 1920's because some folks were concerned about proselytising by Catholics. In those days religions were pretty easily identified as someone who went to church or synagogue. Today, no one is allowed to say that some religions are hokey and made up. Therefore Jedi is the 4th largest religion in UK, ahead of Sikh and Judaism. We have gov't paid Klingon translators. Can a Klingon or Jedi convert be denied his traditional, integral religious talismans and weapons? How about Flying Spaghetti Monster adherents?

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