Fashion Police ... Should your child's teacher wear a turban or other "religious dress'? New Oregon law says no.

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    Jul 19, 2009 8:08 AM GMT
    "Should your child's teacher wear a turban, a hijab, a kippah or other "religious dress'? The state of Oregon doesn't think so. The Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act, now awaiting the governor's signature, requires all employers to let workers wear religious items with one exception: "No teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher."

    The proposed law has set up a classic religious liberty battle between the First Amendment's Establishment clause, which tells government not to favor (or disfavor) one religion over another, and the Free Exercise clause, which tells government to leave the religious alone. The new law also reflects the increasing difficulty of accommodating a widening variety of religious faiths in a pluralistic society.

    Organizations representing Sikhs and Muslims claim the new law would unconstitutionally limits their religious freedom. They are asking Gov. Ted Kulongoski to veto the bill. "In effect," argues the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, "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 would also be subjected to the ignominy of having to choose between religious freedom and a teaching career in the State of Oregon."
    But Oregon's Department of Education argues that public schools are obligated to maintain religious neutrality: "The underlying policy reflects the unique position that teachers occupy," spokesman Jake Weigler told the Oregonian. "In this case, the concern that a public school teacher would be imparting religious values to their students outweighs that teacher's right to free expression."

    Not quite, argues the Council on American-Islamic Relations: "Those who wear religiously-mandated attire are not proselytizing; they are practicing their faith, a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Concerns about religious neutrality in schools can be adequately addressed through professional codes of conduct," spokesman Ibrahim Hooper says in a statement.
    Oregon already bans teachers from wearing "religious dress." The new law allows other workers to wear religious items while maintaining the ban for teachers only. The Oregon ban was tested in the 1980s when a Sikh teacher was suspended for wearing a white turban and white clothes to class.

    "In its 1986 decision Cooper v. Eugene School District, the Oregon Supreme Court . . . upheld the state law, (writing) that "the aim of maintaining the religious neutrality of the public schools furthers a constitutional obligation beyond an ordinary policy preference of the legislature," the First Amendment Center reports. Courts also have upheld a similar law in Pennsylvania.

    Turbans, kippahs, headscarves and other items of clothing obviously qualify as "religious dress." But what about crosses, Stars of David, the Hindu tilaka (forehead marks), or other religious symbols that are less apparent? What about "religious dress" that isn't at all apparent, such as undergarments worn by Latter-day Saints or long hair or bears worn by some for religious reasons? Who gets to decide?

    On the other hand, most schools have basic dress codes for teachers and students. If schools can ban tank tops or gang symbols, why not turbans or religious symbols"

    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/undergod/2009/07/oregons_fashion_police.html?hpid=talkbox1

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    Jul 19, 2009 8:13 AM GMT
    Personally, I think if kids are exposed to differences in dress and culture from an early age, they dont react to them as foreign. They are just part of life and no big deal....as long as the teachers arent using their dress to push their religious views. And "pushing," I thinks needs to be distinguished from an explanation to the children when they naturally ask about the differences in dress.

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    Jul 19, 2009 1:19 PM GMT
    Er... I think this has more to do with xenophobia than actual fear at religious indoctrination. Especially since Christianity doesn't require a dress code. And since when did the turban become a religious dress? Sure Sikhs wear them to keep the hair in check (since they are forbidden to cut their hair, like how Hasidim Jews don't cut their earlocks), but it's not unique to them. It's cultural to a lot of other people rather than religious. Same with hijabs and the hair covering of married Orthodox Jewish women. Muslim students and teachers wear them here and it's not a big deal.

    And yes, I agree about religious indoctrination. As long as they're not teaching anything about religion on matters not concerning religion, why would it be a problem?

    Covering the children's eyes will only make them blind to diversity and thus intolerant.
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    Jul 19, 2009 1:51 PM GMT
    What an interesting article. I find myself torn between both stances. On the one hand, I agree that all people should have the freedom to dress as they want. On the other hand, I think that in a state sponsored educational system, it is the right of the state to define "separation of church and state", especially when working in a public environment who may or may not be sensitive to the religious practices of other faiths. I think I fall on the side of let 'em wear it though.
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    Jul 19, 2009 2:11 PM GMT
    onions on your belt?
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    Jul 19, 2009 2:12 PM GMT
    HotToddy saidWhat an interesting article. I find myself torn between both stances. On the one hand, I agree that all people should have the freedom to dress as they want. On the other hand, I think that in a state sponsored educational system, it is the right of the state to define "separation of church and state", especially when working in a public environment who may or may not be sensitive to the religious practices of other faiths. I think I fall on the side of let 'em wear it though.


    I would agree with this, but we're not talking about preaching the religion, but practicing it. It shouldn't be the state's responsibility to preach religion, but it also shouldn't be their job to moderate religious dress.
  • Latenight30

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    Jul 19, 2009 2:13 PM GMT
    Caslon12000 saidPersonally, I think if kids are exposed to differences in dress and culture from an early age, they dont react to them as foreign. They are just part of life and no big deal....as long as the teachers arent using their dress to push their religious views. And "pushing," I thinks needs to be distinguished from an explanation to the children when they naturally ask about the differences in dress.


    Such is the reason for an education?
    My mother taught for years from primary thru college age and middle school was her favorite, she always appreciated the differeces you see in a University setting. Same thing here, Little Billy needs to not be so sheltered. It might make him more open and recpetive and less hateful like his parents.
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    Jul 19, 2009 2:22 PM GMT
    Sedative saidEr... I think this has more to do with xenophobia than actual fear at religious indoctrination. Especially since Christianity doesn't require a dress code. And since when did the turban become a religious dress? Sure Sikhs wear them to keep the hair in check (since they are forbidden to cut their hair, like how Hasidim Jews don't cut their earlocks), but it's not unique to them. It's cultural to a lot of other people rather than religious. Same with hijabs and the hair covering of married Orthodox Jewish women. Muslim students and teachers wear them here and it's not a big deal.

    And yes, I agree about religious indoctrination. As long as they're not teaching anything about religion on matters not concerning religion, why would it be a problem?

    Covering the children's eyes will only make them blind to diversity and thus intolerant.


    What Sed said.

  • Menergy_1

    Posts: 737

    Jul 19, 2009 2:29 PM GMT
    Funny that in this thread there serendipitously icon_cool.gifappears an ad for "east essence" site, showing 3 women in what I assume are fashionable Mid-East headdressesicon_cool.gif
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    Jul 19, 2009 2:34 PM GMT


    I agree with the gov't in the sense that a public school is not the place to practise religion, which is what wearing a turban is.

    Let's see, how about public schools where the teachers are nuns? They remove their habits, but wear them in private schools - been doing that as far back as I can rmember.

    Sikhs and muslims could take a page from that. We know both Sikhs and Muslims that DO NOT practice clothing-is-religion, yet somehow they're devout.

    How can that be?

    There's also the issue of other religions, such as Wiccans, of whom we know a few, that could show up NAKED to teach, as for some, that is practicing their religion.

    -Doug
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    Jul 19, 2009 3:19 PM GMT
    Let's get rid of religion first, we'll worry about fashion later.
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    Jul 19, 2009 3:24 PM GMT
    No Doug, not the same.

    It's not so much religion as a sense of ethnic identity. The problem is that Christians and much of the westernized world do not have clothing codes woven into their culture/religion. So yes, hijabs and turbans would seem funny to them.

    It's more lopsided when you consider that western religions don't have dress codes. Nuns do, but they aren't forced to remove their habits. Probably in your schools, but in ours and in a lot of other countries (especially Catholic countries) they DO retain their habits even when teaching in public schools. And even then, they don't exactly scream 'BE Catholic' to the children they're teaching ABC's to. And that's a different matter entirely anyway, since Nuns aren't exactly everyday people. These people are. And it's forced conformity. Sterilizing children's capacity for tolerance even before they exercise them.

    When a muslim woman wears a veil, she isn't doing it because she's a fanatic. She's doing it because it's part of her culture. It's everyday to her. As normal as a western woman putting on make-up. Asking her to stop that is like asking a western woman to start shaving her head because male bus passengers don't like having hair blown all over their faces.

    I think it's more because parents still treat children as extensions of their own views. If they disapprove of foreign customs, they immediately assume that their children would feel likewise. Also with the problem that people always attempt to fit their own feelings about things on other people. If Mrs. Jones doesn't like the feel of always having a veil over her head, she immediately assumes that Mrs. Hassan doesn't either. If Mr. Thomas finds turbans bulky and funny-looking he immediately assumes that Mr. Singh does too. And that both Mrs. Ahmad and Mr. Singh were forced by their religions to wear them.

    And anyway, more or less, it's a lie. If you don't let your children see fully how people from other cultures are, you aren't exactly preparing them for the real world. In the same way that keeping gay teachers in the closet simply because parents are afraid of gay teachers, keeps children from realizing that ordinary people, people they might look up to, are actually different from them in ways that their parents might disapprove of. But certainly not different enough for them to not realize that they are all the same. Children are far less narrow-minded than their parents.

    And the point is they aren't preaching their religion by wearing religious dress, nor does it affect their teaching capacity or the learning capacity of their students. It's practicing yeah, but quite harmless (unlike the example of naturalist Wiccans). A Sikh professor in a turban could be teaching quantum physics, so why would it bother his students if he was wearing a turban?

    I question the real reason for this. 'maintaining religious neutrality' seems like a pretty flimsy excuse for 'look like Christian men and women'. If they truly want to maintain neutrality to stunt children's emotional growth, then they should just make all teachers wear masks or something.
  • phunkie

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    Jul 19, 2009 3:41 PM GMT
    Sedative saidNo Doug, not the same.

    It's not so much religion as a sense of ethnic identity. The problem is that Christians and much of the westernized world do not have clothing codes woven into their culture/religion. So yes, hijabs and turbans would seem funny to them.

    It's more lopsided when you consider that western religions don't have dress codes. Nuns do, but they aren't forced to remove their habits. Probably in your schools, but in ours and in a lot of other countries (especially Catholic countries) they DO retain their habits even when teaching in public schools. And even then, they don't exactly scream 'BE Catholic' to the children they're teaching ABC's to. And that's a different matter entirely anyway, since Nuns aren't exactly everyday people. These people are. And it's forced conformity. Sterilizing children's capacity for tolerance even before they exercise them.

    When a muslim woman wears a veil, she isn't doing it because she's a fanatic. She's doing it because it's part of her culture. It's everyday to her. As normal as a western woman putting on make-up. Asking her to stop that is like asking a western woman to start shaving her head because male bus passengers don't like having hair blown all over their faces.

    I think it's more because parents still treat children as extensions of their own views. If they disapprove of foreign customs, they immediately assume that their children would feel likewise. Also with the problem that people always attempt to fit their own feelings about things on other people. If Mrs. Jones doesn't like the feel of always having a veil over her head, she immediately assumes that Mrs. Hassan doesn't either. If Mr. Thomas finds turbans bulky and funny-looking he immediately assumes that Mr. Singh does too. And that both Mrs. Ahmad and Mr. Singh were forced by their religions to wear them.

    And anyway, more or less, it's a lie. If you don't let your children see fully how people from other cultures are, you aren't exactly preparing them for the real world. In the same way that keeping gay teachers in the closet simply because parents are afraid of gay teachers, keeps children from realizing that ordinary people, people they might look up to, are actually different from them in ways that their parents might disapprove of. But certainly not different enough for them to not realize that they are all the same. Children are far less narrow-minded than their parents.

    And the point is they aren't preaching their religion by wearing religious dress, nor does it affect their teaching capacity or the learning capacity of their students. It's practicing yeah, but quite harmless (unlike the example of naturalist Wiccans). A Sikh professor in a turban could be teaching quantum physics, so why would it bother his students if he was wearing a turban?

    I question the real reason for this. 'maintaining religious neutrality' seems like a pretty flimsy excuse for 'look like Christian men and women'. If they truly want to maintain neutrality to stunt children's emotional growth, then they should just make all teachers wear masks or something.


    I wanted to answer Doug, but Sedative has done a good job.
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    Jul 19, 2009 3:42 PM GMT


    heheh, Sed, we're looking at this from the opposing arguments taken by the organizations involved..

    'Organizations representing Sikhs and Muslims claim the new law would unconstitutionally limit their religious freedom.'

    Practice of religion really has no place in secular schools.

    As for christians,

    'The problem is that Christians and much of the westernized world do not have clothing codes woven into their culture/religion.'

    ...but they did, and it wasn't til the last 40 years that that changed in for example, the mainstream catholic faith, where nuns are no longer told to wear their habits.

    This doesn't take into account various christian Orders that do in fact wear clothing specific to religion - but not in secular schools.

    Had the organizations opposing Oregon's gov't and wanting a veto stated that it was purely about cultural identity, then the whole argument would be indeed different, and with that in mind, cultural dress should definitely be welcomed.

    What needs to be looked at is that if this door is opened, you will see pastors, priests and monks wearing collars and black robes in public schools.

    Putting the shoe on the other foot, how many muslims or sikhs would keep their kids in a school where wiccans (see prev post) and christians were practicing their religions by demonstrating attire, or lack of it, lol, when teaching?
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    Jul 19, 2009 3:50 PM GMT

    Sedative said, "Nuns do, but they aren't forced to remove their habits. Probably in your schools, but in ours and in a lot of other countries (especially Catholic countries) they DO retain their habits even when teaching in public schools."

    ...we're talking about Oregon. If a school permits christian nuns' habits and clergies' collars, then of course they should accept other religious expressions of garb.



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    Jul 19, 2009 3:57 PM GMT
    Well, here in the US, in spite of occasionally acts of harassment...hey, we have 350 million people, somebody is gonna act out, Muslims are quite well integrated into society, unlike in Europe, esp France (I think). People wear their different ethnic clothing, such as turbans and scarfs. I remember one bank teller who wore her head scarf at the time I was reading "No god, but God." I would hold discussions with her about what I was reading. I can remember esp. her momentary confusion because I was mispronouncing ulama, and it took her a moment to realize what I was talking about.
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    Jul 19, 2009 3:57 PM GMT



    When I was young, we used to have world cultural days and world religions days where all us kids would dress up according to our backgrounds with the help of our parents etc. This was back in '65 in elementary school.

    We'd also like to point out that there are a few concerns with even cultural dress in school, using the burka as an example. Security issues - the teacher could be anyone - not necessarily the teacher hired. How would you tell?

    Any school can bring in guest speakers for religious studies - classmates can wear religious attire in many public schools. However this about teachers and teaching.

    The opposition to the gov't is not stating it's to expose their culture, they are interested in practicing their religion while in teaching mode, according to their statements.
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    Jul 19, 2009 3:58 PM GMT
    What Caslon & Sedative said.

    I'd add that minority religions are no more "flaunting it" by following their culture than gay people are when they hold hands or have a rainbow flag on their backpack.

    The elimination of a religious/cultural imposition (and that is what it is) doesn't mean that other standards (e.g. barring nudity) can't exist (just as religious freedom doesn't mean that someone can perform a human sacrifice).
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    Jul 19, 2009 4:00 PM GMT


    Good point Caslon... and it's the same here, even the RCMP can wear turbans.

    Like the bank teller though, they are not teachers in schools.
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    Jul 19, 2009 4:02 PM GMT
    That's repulsively xenophobic.

    If you're against gay marriage, don't marry a gay person.

    If you're against hijab, don't wear one.


    What the fuck is it to you, how does it affect your life, if two gay men marry each other or if a woman wears a hijab around her head?

    If this keeps up, the west is going down a dangerous path.
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    Jul 19, 2009 4:03 PM GMT


    caesarea4, gay is not a religion, nor is it my culture. That's like saying your skin colour or eye colour is a religion or culture.
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    Jul 19, 2009 4:03 PM GMT
    meninlove> they are interested in practicing their religion while in teaching mode

    They are interested in (passively) FOLLOWING their religion, as they do at all other times.

    Devoutly following one's religion should not be confused as proselytizing.
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    Jul 19, 2009 4:04 PM GMT
    hockeynick79 saidLet's get rid of religion first, we'll worry about fashion later.


    Hear, hear!!!! icon_mad.gif
    That would be the greatest gift this world could have. Abolishing all religion and the dolts that follow it like blind sheep. icon_biggrin.gif

    But stories like this bloody kill me. Aside from my anti-religious/god(s) feelings, if these morons wants to wear their religious costumes then it must be in private religious schools where these fools can pay to send their little buggers to be taught by these dolts.

    There is no place for this in the public school systems that Our tax dollars fund! They may not be actively proselytizing students, but these costumes they wear will naturally peak a child's curiosity. (Even public school kids.) icon_wink.gif
    It might possibly spark an idea for these little sponge heads to want to learn more on their own about the religion!!! AUGHH!!!! I have no problem with them learning about another race's culture. But their religion? Never. ALL religion is a cancer.

    Cheers,
    Keith
    icon_twisted.gif

  • DCEric

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    Jul 19, 2009 4:07 PM GMT
    HotToddy said"separation of church and state"

    Please show me where in any document of legal standing that there is separation of church and state. Nothing in the Constitution says that church and state must be separated, just that each individual has the right to practice their religion.
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    Jul 19, 2009 4:07 PM GMT
    Caesarea4> I'd add that minority religions are no more "flaunting it" by following their culture than gay people are when they hold hands or have a rainbow flag on their backpack.

    Meninlove> gay is not a religion, nor is it my culture.

    That was not the crux of the comparison.

    I'm not sure why we should let children (or anyone) assume that others by default are identical to the majority (be it straight or Christian) rather than members of diverse groups within the population.