March 3, 2010 (Washington, DC) - Earlier last week, the Oregon Senate joined its House of Representatives in voting to strike down Oregon's ban on religious dress for public school teachers.
The Sikh community is to be congratulated for its activism on this issue thus far. In total, 73 legislators in Oregon received 9676 messages from just under 1400 community members using the Sikh Coalition's online "contact a legislator" system. Your activism has made a difference and may soon make history!
Though this is a major step forward for religious minorities in Oregon, more work needs to be done before a final victory can be declared:
Oregon Governor Must Act
Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski must sign the bill (HB3686)into law before it to goes into effect. The Governor has not yet declared whether he will sign the law or not.
Oregon Administrators Must Develop Guidelines
Even if the bill is signed into law by Governor Kulongoski, its effective date is July 1, 2011. In the meantime, administrative officials, alongside stakeholder organizations, plan to create detailed rules and guidelines about religious rights for teachers. This rulemaking process must be monitored carefully to ensure that the intent of HB3686 is faithfully carried out.
Sikh Teachers Should Pursue Teaching Jobs
Although HB3686 contains an effective date of July 1, 2011, The Sikh Coalition urges all aspiring Sikh teachers in Oregon to pursue employment opportunities with the public schools of Oregon. Although we will all celebrate passage of HB3686 in the Oregon legislature, the true measure of success will be the ability of a Sikh teacher to wear his or her dastaar in the classroom for the first time in the history of Oregon.
With the community's support, the Coalition will continue to see this issue through over the coming year until Sikh teachers are working in Oregon classrooms. As always, the Sikh Coalition calls on all Sikhs to stand up for their rights and fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.