Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News & Views, July 2009
Oregon Bill Reinforces Ban on Muslim Teachers, Ask governor not to sign pending legislation prohibiting hijab
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/18/09) -
CAIR joined America’s Sikh community in expressing concerns about legislation awaiting the governor’s signature in Oregon that purports to broaden religious freedom, but would prohibit teachers from wearing religiously-mandated attire such as an Islamic head scarf, or hijab.
[Media Advisory: Muslim students at Portland State University have planned a rally today from 4 to 6 p.m. (Pacific) at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland to express concerns about the legislation’s denial of the religious rights of teachers.]
A section of the “Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act” states:
“No teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher. A school district, education service district or public charter school does not commit an unlawful employment practice under ORS chapter 659A by reason of prohibiting a teacher from wearing religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher.”
SEE: Sikhs Protest School Exemption in Oregon Religious Freedom Bill (Oregonian) National Sikh Organization Rejects 'Gaping Hole' in Oregon Discrimination Bills The End of an Era to Keep Religious Identity Out of Public Schools
“This legislation forces Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and others to choose between their faith and entering the teaching profession,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “Those who wear religiously-mandated attire are not proselytizing; they are practicing their faith, a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Concerns about religious neutrality in schools can be adequately addressed through professional codes of conduct.”
He said the legislation also raises the question of whether a Christian or Jewish teacher wearing a prominent cross or Star of David would face removal from his or her teaching position.
“Would this legislation prohibit a Mennonite teacher from wearing a bonnet?” asked Hooper. “Who will determine what is religious attire and what is a personal fashion choice.” He said a Muslim teacher who is a cancer survivor might be prohibited from wearing a scarf following hair loss from chemotherapy.
Hooper added that the Oregon legislation contradicts President Obama's recent statement in support of the right to wear hijab.
In his June address to Muslims worldwide, President Obama stated: "[F]reedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion...That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."
CAIR has consistently defended the right of Americans of all faiths to wear religious attire in the workplace, in schools, in courtrooms, and as customers in public venues such as banks. This year, CAIR chapters in Oklahoma and Minnesota helped block proposed legislation that would have prohibited wearing hijab in driver's license photographs.
CAIR’s Michigan office recently called for clarification of a new administrative rule adopted by Michigan's Supreme Court that, if broadly interpreted, might allow judges to demand that witnesses remove religious head coverings during testimony in their courtrooms.
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED:
1. Contact the governor of Oregon to make him aware of your concerns about the legislation he has promised to sign. Ask him to back new legislation that would repeal the provision barring the wearing of religious attire by teachers.
Click here to send a letter right now to Governor Ted Kulongoski. A sample letter is provided for you, or you can edit the text to add a personal message.
Governor’s Citizens’ Representative Message Line: 503.378.4582 Fax: 503.378.6827 Also: Hans Bernard Deputy Legislative Director (503) 986-6544, email@example.com Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor Theodore (Ted) R. Kulongoski 160 State Capitol 900 Court Street Salem, Oregon 97301-4047
2. Sponsor one or more copies of the Quran to be sent to the governor of Oregon and state legislators by going to the “Share the Quran” campaign web site and encourage others to do the same. Sponsorships and donations to CAIR are tax deductible and zakat eligible. All sponsors receive a CAIR membership.
CAIR ACTION ALERT #582:
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