Religious Freedom in the US

According to this CNN article there are actually states that would prohibt someone from teaching at a public school if they insisted on wearing religious clothing, such as a scarf, skullcap, or a cross. This is disturbing. I wonder which states these are.

Short List of states from research so far:
Pennsylvania, Oregon

Excerpt: Pennsylvania and Oregon have laws that prohibit teachers from wearing religious clothing to schools. Both laws have been upheld in court challenges brought under the First Amendment and Title VII, the major anti-discrimination employment law. The courts reasoned that the statutes furthered the states’ goal of ensuring neutrality with respect to religion in the schools.

I support separation of church and state, but this is going a little far. I feel refusing to allow their teachers to practice their faith actually sends the wrong message to the children.

0 thoughts on “Religious Freedom in the US

  1. Hagrinas

    I can understand how courts could come to that conclusion. We want neutrality when it comes to religion.

    Last May (or thereabout) thirteen students showed up to a school on class picture day. Each one wore a shirt with a single letter. When they assembled, their shirts spelled out “Jesus Loves you.” The school told them to either change their shirts, wear them inside out, mix into the crowd so that the letters are not in a particular order or be excluded from the picture. They sat that one out and sued. The courts have to consider how they can uphold the school’s actions in this case, and at the same time allow Jews to dress in a way that expresses a religious viewpoint. That’s where the problem lies.

    Of course, it’s not that simple. First of all, there is nothing in Christianity that requires anybody to wear a “Jesus loves you” shirt either individually or as a group. Nobody stopped anybody from engaging in a required religious practice.

    In the case of a Jew who kept his head covered, it’s not the same. Such an action would make him recognizable as a Jew but would not be advocating any particular religious belief. Jews don’t all believe the same things about all things. There is simply no statement. While he would be recognizable as a Jew, a black teacher who went into the classroom with black skin would be recognizable as black. It may mean that he has particular views, but not necessarily.

    Also, Judaism does not hold that all non-Jews must or even should become Jewish. There is no rational basis for saying that by wearing head covering, a teacher is advocating that students belong to a particular religion. Jews don’t believe that if you are not Jewish, you are subject to eternal damnation for it. Also, unless Judaism is a majority religion, it’s senseless to say that one could conclude that the state expects it of anybody when the clear majority do not adhere to it. Did the same court ban Christian teachers from wearing crosses?

    So in the case of head coverings, I could see the court’s point if they banned head coverings with a specific religious message. If there was writing on a form of head covering, it would be a legitimate concern. But one can get around that problem simply by allowing hats. An ordinary hat or scarf is not advocating a particular religion, yet a ban on them clearly denys some religious practices. Even with a traditional yarmulke, it’s still nothing more than a particular style of hat and does not in and of itself have any religious significance aside from the fact that its owner has his head covered with something. It could just as easily belong to a bishop or to the Pope.

  2. John

    Actually…when it comes to everyone but teachers…many courts have said that a ban on all head coverings of any type is preferable to one that singles out religious head covering.

    (Many public places have bans on all head coverings…seemingly to keep out gang members, or to force gang members to wear non-gang-related clothing. Courts have said this is fine even though it prohibits some religious faiths from practicing their faith in the process…since the establishments have a reasonable concern they are trying to counteract. (or at least reasonable enough for the courts))

    Only with teachers have the courts held that specifying religous garb is ok. Crosses were included in the bans for both states. Of course, Christians aren’t commanded to wear crosses, it’s just a symbol of their faith. Muslims and Jews are commanded to cover their heads. (I’m not sure if Muslims are commanded to wear any specific head covering. I think Orthodox Jews could meet halacha requirements through wearing any hat, though I am not positive on that point.)

    I still think it sends the wrong message to the students. Instead of sending a msg of diversity, it is sending a message of religious intolerance.