February 5, 2010 (Washington, DC) - As Oregon considers whether to repeal an antiquated ban on religiously observant teachers in its public schools, seventeen (17) interfaith, civil rights, and Bar association organizations, led by the Sikh Coalition, issued a group letter yesterday urging Oregon's legislature to overturn the ban and give equal opportunity to religious minorities in the state.
Click here to read the group letter initiated by the Sikh Coalition
Click here to read a press release by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Oregon's controversial ban on religious dress originated in the 1920s as an anti-Catholic measure and was supported by the Ku Klux Klan at a time of overt hostility toward racial and religious minorities. Other laws enacted at the same time discriminated against Japanese consumers and Latino business owners; those other laws have since been repealed, but Oregon is currently one of only three states in the United States that forbid teachers from wearing religious dress in the public schools. In a historic effort, Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt is spearheading an effort to finally repeal this outdated law in the Oregon legislature.
How Oregon Law Impacts Ajeet Singh
To put Oregon's law into perspective, consider the effect it would have on Ajeet Singh. Ajeet is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and an alumnus of Teach For America, a prestigious community service organization that strives to eliminate educational inequity in public schools. Ajeet served as a history teacher for the neediest students at the toughest public schools in Brooklyn, NY, but his students broke achievement records for the annual state examination. Despite Ajeet's demonstrated track record of excellence as a teacher, he would be prohibited from working as a public school teacher in Oregon because of his Sikh identity.
Click here to read Ajeet's written testimony to the Oregon legislature
Sign Our Petition
If you support the cause of equal opportunity, and if you want students of the 21st century to have access to the best and brightest minds, like Ajeet Singh, without discrimination on the basis of religion, please sign our petition to the Oregon legislature today. It is time for Oregon to embrace diversity and end the state's discriminatory ban on religious minorities.
Calling All Sikh Public School Teachers!
If you are a current or former teacher (or substitute teacher), and if you have ever taught in an American public school while wearing your dastaar, tell us your story. Please contact Rajdeep Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (202) 747-4944.
The Coalition will continue to fight for Sikh rights wherever that fight may take us. As always, the Coalition encourages all Sikhs to fearlessly practice their faith and stand up for their rights.