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Jul-14-2009 20:30printcomments

National Sikh Organization Rejects 'Gaping Hole' in Oregon Discrimination Bills

“There is a gaping hole in the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act” - Rajdeep Singh Jolly, SALDEF’s Director of Law and Policy
Image from the Sikh faith: a group of people known for fighting terrorists for centuries. Image courtesy:

(SALEM, Ore.) - Today, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)—the oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, urged Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski to veto a bill that effectively rubber-stamps a state law that forbids public school teachers from wearing any form of religious clothing.

The Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act SB 76 , which was passed by the Oregon legislature last May, contemplates greater religious freedom for employees but exempts public schools from its coverage.

This is because Oregon law forbids individuals from wearing “any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher.”

Even if the bill is signed into law, observant Sikh Americans would still be barred from working as teachers in the public schools of Oregon because of their religiously-mandated dastaars (turbans), and observant Jews and Muslims in the state would also be forced to choose between religious freedom and a teaching career.

“There is a gaping hole in the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act,” said Rajdeep Singh Jolly, SALDEF’s Director of Law and Policy.

“On one hand, it says that an employer can’t fire you because you wear a religious headcovering; on the other hand, it effectively says that the school board can fire you because you wear a kippah or a turban. This isn’t workplace religious freedom; this is a farce, and it reminds all of us just how precarious religious freedom really is, even in 2009, and even in the United States. ”

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imran August 5, 2009 10:43 am (Pacific time)

Rules of Fools Acts of Fools

Vic July 16, 2009 9:25 pm (Pacific time)

And what about "In God We Trust" on all our currency?? What a blatant lie. We trust in weapons, brute force and murder...God has no place in this country. Actually by the looks of things, there either is no God, or it just doesnt care. Thirty or so children under the age of 5 die every minute of every day from hunger related illness....where the hell is the much-heralded "God of Love"? The faith-healing folks in Oregon City trusted God...and now they have a dead daughter to show for their faithfulness.

July 16, 2009 5:03 pm (Pacific time)

we escaped our third world countries because of no relegin freedom and here we r .

Daniel Johnson July 16, 2009 3:49 pm (Pacific time)

There was a case in Ontario ten or 20 years ago where a Sikh protested the province's motorcycle helment law. With a turban he couldn't wear a helmet. The law was upheld.

Michael Peabody July 16, 2009 10:15 am (Pacific time)

This protest ignores the fact that if SB 786 is vetoed, employers, including public schools, will be able to continue to prohibit religious garb in the workplace. Oregon has an existing law on its books that prohibiting all teachers from wearing any religious garb. The current statute reads: ORS 342.650 Wearing of religious dress prohibited. No teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher. [Amended by 1965 c.100 §387]) SB 786 leaves this existing provision alone yet provides religious people with the ability to wear religious garb in other workplaces that unreasonably prohibit religious garb. Employers can make a determination that such dress may violate occupational safety standards however it will expand rights for those who are often discriminated against due to their religious garb. SB 786 is an expansion of rights not a contraction. Should Oregon revisit the prohibition on religious dress for teachers? Yes. But doing so does not require the denial of rights of other workers in a variety of industries. SB 786 is a tremendous step forward in the right direction.

Vic July 16, 2009 7:27 am (Pacific time)

Freakin ridiculous...another law for us sheep to abide by....what about "one nation under God...when are we going to remove that from the fascist pledge of alliegance? Teachers cant wear religious garb, but millions of schoolkids are forced to recite this ridiculous pledge daily that sounds like it was written by Mussolini himself...

MP July 15, 2009 10:33 pm (Pacific time)

The benefit to this bill is that it will help in every other employment area aside from schools. It is far better than what currently we have. Let us support tihs bill and not destroy the good. We can modify it later.

Vic July 15, 2009 3:58 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel..(11:58 post) that was great !

Daniel Johnson July 15, 2009 12:44 pm (Pacific time)

I just talked to someone in the NW Command of the Royal Canadian Legion and he says that turbans are, indeed, till prohibited on Legion property. The only exception is when the facilities are rented for weddings, etc., they don't try to regulate.

Daniel July 15, 2009 11:58 am (Pacific time)

The catholics should remove their crosses , the sikh their turbans , the jewes the scull caps and funny haircuts , the Hindus the dot on the forehead , the Mennonites the dark clothing , black hats and beards . The masons the flashy rings . Then we can ALL look like white born again Protestants , REAL Americans . Freedom of religion and speech are great as long as you keep it to yourself .We dont want to expose our children to diversity of thought . Lets wake up people , people are killing each other all over the world because they look different , lets all wear Mao outfits so we all look the same . Oh and you people of color you better bleach your skin so you look like one of us . When every body looks and acts the same we can all live in harmony .

Daniel Johnson July 15, 2009 8:08 am (Pacific time)

I agree completely with JB. About 20 years ago we had a problem with Sikhs. In downtown Calgary there is the Canadian Legion--a semi-official club for veterans and their families. One of the rules they had was that everyone had to remove their hats when they entered the building. This meant that for Sikhs to use the facilities they would have to remove their turbans. This they refused to do. Enter major hypocrisy. You may have heard of the Calgary Stampede which has been an annual event since 1912. Over the last half century or more it has become largely a symbolic event with everyone encouraged to "dress Western"--cowboy hats, boots, etc. Now, here's the kicker. They allowed cowboy hats during Stampede week. No wonder the Sikhs were livid. That's the whole story because I don't know what ever became of the issue. There certainly were and are Sikh veterans who served in the Canadian forces. But I haven't heard a word about it since. I'll have to look into it one of these days just for my own curiosity. FYI JB: in case you haven't read it I covered this issue in an earlier piece I called "Stockholm Religion"--

JB July 14, 2009 8:43 pm (Pacific time)

Let's wake up people. This is why people who don't see eye to eye are killing each other all over the world. Keep America America before we start having this happen over here. Freedom of religion is great but keep it to yourself and the people who agree with you and do it in your place of worship.

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