Sikh Advocacy Organizations Join Together to End the Ban on Sikh Teachers in Oregon

Oregon Governor Signs Legislation Ending 87-year-old Ban on Religious Dress for Public School Teachers

Sikh Advocacy Organizations Join Together to End the Ban on Sikh Teachers in Oregon

After almost of year of campaigning, SALDEF, UNITED SIKHS, and the Sikh Coalition were pleased by the signing of HB 3686, effectively ending the ban on teachers having religiously required dress in school. The campaign began in the Summer of 2009, when SALDEF initiated a campaign to overturn 87-year-old legislation originally supported by the Ku Klux Klan; legislation which had resulted over the years in Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish teachers being banned from teaching in schools while wearing religiously mandated dress.

Earlier this morning at the signing, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill stating that he will make sure that the bill has “uniform application across the State of Oregon” and that it will be interpreted correctly to address the discriminatory concerns.

Legal Teamwork

UNITED SIKHS, SALDEF, and the Sikh Coalitions’ legal teams worked together and:

♦ engaged in numerous strategic discussions with various representatives of the Oregon legislature,

♦ engaged the Sikh community, and other faith leaders to in joint support of the historic effort, and

♦ prepared and gave testimony before the Oregon legislature on the issue.

SALDEF’s Northwest Regional Director, SatHanuman Singh Khalsa, testified before the Oregon legislature stating, “As a Sikh American and a proud public servant, I support an immediate repeal of ORS 342.650.  I am a living testament to the American promise of equal opportunity, but this law is a throwback to the separate but equal doctrine.  As a Sikh, my turban is as integral to my identity as the color of my skin.  If I were a teacher, I could not, as required by this law, leave my turban at home to go to work.”

The Sikh Community’s Voice is Heard

In January of this year, UNITED SIKHS, SALDEF, and the Sikh Coalition asked the community to write to Oregon legislators to sign onto House Bill 3686. Earlier this week, we asked you to call the Governor’s office. The Sikh Community’s Voice is strong and was heard.

“Being active and involved in progressive change in America is a vital part of realizing the American dream. The foundation of Sikh philosophy is egalitarian and its great that so many Sikh Americans engaged in passing this legislation,” commented Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney for UNITED SIKHS.

For a previous press release on this advocacy effort, please visit: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-06-01-2010-00.html

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