Press release by Labor Commissioner of Oregon and Oregon House Speaker’s Office.
Speaker, Labor Commissioner applaud victory for workplace religious freedom
SALEM, OR- Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) and State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, chief of Oregon’s Civil Rights Division at the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), joined fellow supporters of House Bill 3686, the repeal of an 87-year-old ban on religious dress in Oregon classrooms, at a formal signing ceremony today at the State Capitol.“Today, we affirm and accept that Oregonians of different faiths can work and live and be educated together,” said Speaker Hunt. “Teachers now have the same religious free-exercise rights as every other Oregonian. This law protects Oregon’s Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion while strengthening religious neutrality in our public schools.”
During February’s special legislative session, Hunt led the effort to extend workplace religious freedom to Oregon’s teachers, who have been precluded from wearing religious garb for almost 90 years, since an out-spoken supporter of the Ku Klux Klan was Speaker of the Oregon House in 1923. Avakian, a civil rights attorney by trade, was a key supporter of the effort.
“Correcting this law is a clear victory for the constitutional rights of individuals,” Avakian said.”The prohibition on religious dress was originally enacted to marginalize specific Oregonians, has continued to do so for too long, and will not be missed.”
HB 3686 leaves intact existing laws that give school districts, education service districts, and public charter schools the tools they need to maintain a religiously neutral work environment. Oregon now joins the vast majority of states in protecting the personal expression of its teachers. To facilitate implementation of the repeal and further ensure religious neutrality in Oregon classrooms, BOLI will be working with the Department of Education to convene a workgroup to determine the best policies and administrative rules to implement after the repeal.