Friday, July 17, 2009

Religious Clothes in Oregon Schools

I'm really surprised that it took me so long to hear about this. And even now, all I can find is how Sikhs are protesting this law, but now how Muslims are--except that I am hearing about it through Muslims which means Muslims are doing something. Someone forwarded me the CAIR note about this, plus I also saw it today over at Muslimah Media watch on their Friday News Links today.

But anyway, what's past is past. Let me explain what's going on (for those of you just hearing.) The Oregon senate has passed a bill which prohibits teachers in public schools from wearing religious clothing. That can mean a Sikh's turban (which is why they are upset, naturally), but could also mean a hijab, and probably many other things. Here's the text of the bill (see Section 4):
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.
Now, before we go up in arms, make sure you read the rest of it. The bill actually includes several provisions for religious observation, including attire, and taking time off for holidays, even time for daily prayers. So the bill is supposed to protect religious freedoms of employees. That's good. But why not teachers? That's the problem with the bill, that the religious freedoms of public school teachers are being denied here, and specifically the freedom of dress.

In a way, this is even keeping certain people out of a particular job, based on their religion. Muslims, Sikhs, even some Jews, would not be able to take jobs as public school teachers in Oregon at all because of this, which opens up another problem.

The bill now needs to be signed or vetoed by Oregon's governor. If you want to send him a letter voicing your concern over the bill, (especially if you actually live in Oregon, or nearby), you can send one via CAIR.

12 comments:

UnBeguiled said...

"the religious freedoms of public school teachers are being denied here"

That is false. The expression of the teachers religious views is being restricted during a particular time, that's all.

This is just a question of where to draw the line on religious expression. Suppose I was public school teacher and I was also a member of a religion that taught that wearing clothes was a violation of natural law. Should I be permitted to teach naked?

According to your argument here, requiring me to wear clothes to school would be denying me my religious freedom.

But that is absurd.

You and I can have a reasonable disagreement about where to draw the line concerning restriction of religious expression. You might be surprised to learn that I agree with you in this case. Let them wear Turbans. Let the teachers wear Burkas or scarves.

But your claim that restricting religious expression of public school teachers is equivalent to denying them their religious freedom is absurd.

Yusuf Smith said...

It's not a matter of expressing their religion. It's a matter of doing what their religion says. That's why women wear hijab.

In any case, one suspects that this law might promptly be struck down as unconstitutional, as laws restricting religious expression usually are, and the courts even exempted Muslim women in niqab from the federal laws banning the wearing of masks in public.

UnBeguiled said...

It's not a matter of expressing their religion. It's a matter of doing what their religion says.

And this pedantic distinction is relevant how?

It's not, of course. Suppose "my religion says" that I cannot wear clothes, ever. Do you seriously think a law requiring me to wear clothes as a public school teacher would be unconstitutional?

Of course not. So as you see, this is a question of where we draw the line.

It is not a simple black or white case as you two are mistaking it for.

Just because a person's religion instructs them to behave a certain way does not give that person the right to behave that way in all situations. My naked school teacher example should make this clear.

Amy said...

unBeguiled, Wearing hijab is not an expression of Muslim woman's religious views, nor is wearing a turban an expression of a Sikh man's religious views. They are commandments of these religions, and therefore religious practices, not just "expressions."

So the very practice of the person's religion has been restricted, which means that their religious freedom is being denied.

Moreover, your naked example is hypothetical, whereas the instances to which I am referring are based in reality. And a hypothetical situation is not equivalent to reality.

Wearing a hijab, wearing a turban (for men in the Sikh religion), this is not just religious expression. These garments have purpose.

Amy said...

Yusuf, I agree, the bill seems in principle to be unconstitutional, by specifically denying these rights to teachers.

UnBeguiled said...

I wrote:

Just because a person's religion instructs them to behave a certain way does not give that person the right to behave that way in all situations.

Do you agree with that statement or not?

Amy said...

Of course not.

UnBeguiled said...

OK.

My religion instructs that I never wear clothes.

So according to you I should parade around naked at all times, including at my job as a public school teacher.

Amy said...

No, you're drawing an incorrect conclusion there. I don't agree with the first statement or the conclusion you tried to draw from my disagreement. Neither is correct, and I don't think it's funny to joke about religion.

Sometimes the instructions of a person's religion do give them the right to behave a certain way, regardless of the situation, just because it's an instruction of the religion. And sometimes that is not the case. Not that this discussion has anything to do with my post.

My view is that the law should not prevent anyone from wearing religious garb.

Being naked, of course, is quite the opposite of wearing religious garb, isn't it?

UnBeguiled said...

Now you are just being pedantic.

The situation is not black and white as you wish it to be.

You are all in favor of denying my religious freedom to go around naked.

So why are you allowed religious freedom and I am not? That does not seem fair.

Amy said...

I'm being pedantic now? Sounds like an accusation to throw around to try to undermine the validity of my argument without engaging in any substantial discussion.

I certainly don't consider the situation to be black and white--which is pretty much what I said in my last comment.

And the difference between my religion and yours is that mine is real, and you made yours up for the purpose of this argument. Reality vs. hypothetical: and they aren't equivalent.

UnBeguiled said...

"mine is real, and you made yours up"

Well, you are half-correct at least. That's progress. Chow